I read a lot of blogs. There’s some heady work out there. For example I just read a (yet another) great blog by John Tomsett on student-centred leadership. A subject close to my heart particularly given the work I did at Clevedon with the brilliant John Wells on student focused learning.
How do they do it though? John certainly has a great formula with his blog posts with his, ‘I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about…’ introductions which then move in to the other sections but how do you approach how you blog?
I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on what I think can make a good blog post.
Photo Credit: Victor Huftier Photography via Compfight cc
Have something to talk about
Some people I know often feel the need to blog. They feel the need to put something out there. I think that may be the wrong way to approach blogging. For me blogging is about sharing and / or reflecting. Many of the posts that I write are ones which are focused on sharing ideas and thoughts or an attempt to help people with something (often to do with technology). I found in my experience, that some of my more reflective posts have been the ones that have resonated the most. Either way – having a clear focus for your blog rather than just a ramble is a good place to start.
When you’re writing it is, in my experience, very helpful to use lists – you can do this in your posts through the use of headings. For example, in this post I will be giving 5 examples of things you can do to write powerful and purposeful blog posts. Try it. It also really helps to break up the flow of the blog and to section it out in to different areas. If you have lots of text in your post it can be difficult for some readers to keep their train of thought and so the use of headings can be particularly useful.
Recap your list at the end
So at the end of this blog post I will reiterate the key points, namely the five different things that I have covered. This helps to cement the different elements to the blog post that you were covering in more depth underneath the different headings. Of course the recap isn’t always useful. If you’re just using headings as points throughout the journey of the post and aren’t part of a learning point through the post then it doesn’t always ring true. The idea of the list is still a good one though – you can just recap the main points from throughout the mainstay of the blog. It is true that a good summary at the end helps and so I recommend doing it.
Go the extra mile
In a number of posts I read, people refer to things that are external to the blog post itself. The names of websites, a new great app, a fantastic blog post, so forth and so on. Why not hyperlink them? It’s a relatively simple process which your readers will find incredibly useful. Readers will often want to follow up on the links / resources etc that you post, so why not make their lives a little easier by popping that link in? It’s worth it. I’d also recommend, if you don’t already, engage with other like minded bloggers on Twitter. You will, over time, get people commenting on your blog, but they don’t always. I always find that I get much more engagement with what I write about and do in other spaces such as Google + and Twitter. Do it. Not only will it help you with your reflections in your blog posts but you will learn so much more too. Highly recommended.
Use interesting, relevant and beautiful imagery (and credit!)
There are a number of great sites out there (such as sxc.hu and compfight.com) that have simply beautiful images, designs and photographs on them. They are royalty free and can really help to bring a blog post to life. They can also help to make your post more attractive, highlight key points and inspire readers. I also try to include my own images, in particular diagrams that I have created myself. What I would say here is that I would recommend taking the time to create something that is visually stimulating or appealing. You can always do something quickly but if a job is worth doing, isn’t it worth doing well? The other thing to remember is accreditation. You really should credit your sources. So for example, even if someone else has done that work for you – make sure you reference them in your work. It’s only polite after all, isn’t it!? The sites I mention above give you the credit details for the different images and in fact, with Compfight, they even give you the HTML code that you can copy and paste right in to your blog so that you can do that very easily and have it linked back to where you can find the original image. Here is an example from the image that I have used as the main image for this post: Photo Credit: geoftheref via Compfight cc
My final comment on using images is that really – try not to use too many! If you do, it can be far too much and turn people off. Use them to illustrate a point by all means, but unless you’re a photographer, there’s no need to over egg it!
So, in summary – for my mind, there are five key elements to a great blog post:
- Have something to talk about
- Use headings
- Recap with a list at the end
- Go the extra mile
- Use interesting, relevant and beautiful imagery (and credit!)
I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for this. Very useful. Two questions
1. How long is too long? I know you can’t give a definitive answer as it will depend on the post but is there a rough guide to how long should a post be?
2. Which blogging site would you recommend and why?
Thanks for leaving a comment.
I would say to keep it to around 1000 words, certainly no more than 1500.
In terms of platforms, I use WordPress but I know many others think very highly of Blogger. I like WordPress as it gives you much more flexibility.
Have recently discovered @staffroom (http://staffrm.io/) where you’re limited to 500 words (plus an image) and I find that a good discipline – succinct isn’t normally my strength, and I know the Twitterverse likes succinct!
(Tried for a hyperlink there, Mark, and failed! I know I’ve learnt how to do it. but….)
Thank you for this guide. I want to blog and wasn’t sure how to go about it. I will follow your steps.
I use Postach.io it’s free and you can compose your thoughts in Evernote before putting them out there. It lacks the flexibility of some of theoother blogging platforms but for me convenience wins out!
thanks, I do blog from time to time, think I should more, but get intimidated by the quality of some of the other great edublogs out the.
I wouldn’t let that stop you Mary. Be brave!
Thanks for this useful guide. I’m about to embark on my first blog so it has come at a good time.
Thank you! I’d love to hear how you get on!
Just what I needed to read! Some very helpful stuff in there. The thing I worry about is treading old ground and people saying ‘Yeah, yeah, we know about all this.’
Who are you blogging for Stevie? People could read this post and think that, but then there are others who may not. I try to blog like no one will read it and if they do, they might find it useful. I’m always amazed and humbled that people think anything I have to say is helpful or relevant, but I still do it 🙂
What’s your blog address? I’ll read it!
HNY to you – Mark
Very timely, I have just started my first blog (it’s one post old!) and you make some good common sense pointers. I’m writing for me really but I think I have most of what you said covered, but headings I could definitely use better…
Hi Kieron – thanks for taking the time to comment. Always learning! Have you got any other pointers for success?
Well Mark, as I say, I have only just started so I’m still learning really. I’m busy collecting advice from other people. But I’m already clear in my mind that I do this for me first, and if others like it, that’s great.