More and more print writers are publishing their content online, but when they start touting themselves as bloggers… I cringe and cannot help feeling a bit resentful. A brilliant writer does not necessarily a brilliant blogger make.
For three years I blogged professionally for a top producer of Port wine, so it was absolutely incumbent on me to blog for results – to bring in regular readers, to raise the profile of the blog and our brand on the internet, and hopefully, ultimately, to change readers’ buying habits to favor our products.
Writing vs. Blogging
So, what is the difference between writing and blogging, and how can that change readers’ habits?
Writing for print publication and blogging both depend on fundamentally interesting, well-written content as a basis for success. What sets blogging apart is the degree to which a blogger can create and control their own follow through, rather than depend on a publisher’s marketing department and critics for promotion, and the blogger’s opportunity to interact directly and promptly with readers.
Blogging takes great writing and then enhances it for several purposes: first, to implicitly promote itself on the Internet by optimizing the content to rate highly on search engines, second, to make your writing an even greater resource to readers by linking to valuable related content, and finally by inviting direct and nearly real-time engagement with your readers.
This is where many print writers utterly fail to become bloggers – they simply post material written in their usual print style for stand-alone, one-way consumption by readers, and make no effort whatsoever to leverage the context of the Internet.
The Tasks That Turn Good Writing Into Good Blogging
Once I had written an article for the wine producer’s blog and was happy with the text, the writing was done and the blogging began. This work easily adds a few hours to the process of publication but makes all the difference in reader appeal and search engine optimization.
Review the text for keywords: these are the words or phrases people type into search engines for which you want the search engine to send them to your content. Ideally, one or more of these words should appear in your article title and the first line or two of text, but managing this so your opening lines aren’t repetitive is a bit of an art. I tried to balance the use of a range of keywords over the opening lines of consecutive articles, varying between product names, brand names, the names of key people as well as general subject matter keywords. Remember that search engine ranking depends a lot on consistency and continuity, so you don’t have to use all the words in every article, but do be sure you use them regularly and repeatedly over the course of time.
Photo editing: Select images that are relevant to the content and will engage the reader’s interest, compelling them to settle down and read your story. The photos must be edited not only to make them visually appealing, but also to meet the technical specifications of your blog site. In addition, descriptive photo titles which include keywords will ensure search engines catalog your photos and they turn up on image searches for your keywords – posting “img1234.jpg” will get you nowhere. Image searches are increasingly appealing to Internet users, and a good blogger will leverage this to entice readers into the blog.
Hyperlinks: Review your text again for linking opportunities. Search engine ranking depends in part on the degree to which you link out to other high-quality sites, as well as on top sites linking into you. Since I was blogging about wine, I routinely linked to our dedicated brand websites for general information or the technical details and tasting notes for specific wines, or I might have linked to professional wine critic’s sites if they had reviewed the wine in question or written about the firm or region in general. An article about viticulture might include links to a site that provided whether or more technical viticultural data for the region. An article about our wines being featured at an event or a restaurant included links to those websites.
Don’t forget to link back to your own related content – if you have been writing for a year or more, you have great content that should not be overlooked by new readers, and backlinks are a great way to draw them in. For example, if my current article was about the launch of new wine, I would link to prior posts about the vintage harvest or the specific vineyards from which we picked the grapes for this wine.
Gratuitous links to standard reference sites for generic words are not particularly helpful for purposes of either SEO or building your relationship with your readers. If you link to high-quality content that relates to your subject matter, provides valuable additional or more detailed information, and is of genuine interest, your readers will learn to trust you, your writing, your recommendations, and ultimately, your products.
Comments: The comment function is one of the unique features of blogs versus other kinds of websites, which encourages genuine engagement with your audience. Managing comment activity on a mature blog can be time-consuming, so think about your content and your commitment to engaging with your readers, and create a Comment Policy for your blog.
You can write your content to invite comment or not; many print writers are guilty of posting “one-way” content – didactic without inviting discussion. Writing for a high-quality branded product that had an image to sustain, I deliberately avoided contentious subjects on the blog, as the firm did not want a controversy to become part of the product image. But even without touching controversial subjects, you can conclude your article with questions or a comment that invites response, just as you would in conversation. And as in conversation, if someone comments, it is good manners and good blogging to at least acknowledge, if not directly and substantively reply to readers’ comments. If for some reason you do not want to engage in conversation, it may make sense to turn off the comment function (even temporarily) or set it for only a short window of response time after publication.
Marketing Activity: As a blogger, you can do your own marketing, not only implicitly by managing your SEO, but by promoting your content through other channels. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the obvious and long-established venues, and WordPress makes it easy with an auto-posting Publicize feature, but having used both automated and manual social media posts, I found the strongest reader response comes from manual posting. You can write a text or attach a photo that invites interest on its own merit, so people not only click the link to the blog but converse with you on that channel and re-post or re-Tweet your message to new audiences. If your subject matter lends itself to good visuals, then Pinterest could be a strong option for promoting your blog through stunning or intriguing images.
All of these activities which change good writing into good blogging by leveraging the “web” of information and connectivity on the Internet take time and effort, but if you are looking for results – a strong readership following, engagement with your audience and promotion of your product, whether your product is your own writing or a tangible, saleable object – then they are just as important as the quality of your writing.
- Blogging takes great writing and then enhances it.
- Review text for keywords.
- Photos must be edited and optimized.
- Descriptive photo titles include keywords.
- Use linking opportunities.
- Create and publish a comment policy for your blog.
- Use Publicize for auto posting.
Have you written for both print and the Internet?
What changes have you made in your writing style to adapt to being online?