Blogging is a unique writing genre. It is far different than any academic writing that you have done in the past and it has limited connections to typical nonfiction writing. For those that enjoy non-fiction or creative writing, blogging does not align with your typical style either. The uniqueness of the blog makes it a difficult genre to begin writing in. If you are interested in writing a blog of your own, there are a handful of things you must understand. By no means will this cover the entire genre of blogs. Rather, this will serve as a simple introduction to the basic elements of a blog.
How Blogs Connect to SEO
The term “SEO” is likely new for anyone that has not blogged or written for the web. SEO is short for search engine optimization. Basically, SEO is the tool that orders search results on search engines like Google. These results are determined by an algorithm and are based on the content of your blog.
For example, below you can find the search results that appear when you google, “What are the best SEO practices?” The search results that appear first have the best SEO (these are the first results that appear after ads).
Why does SEO matter? If your blog has poor SEO users will not be able to find it. It does not matter how good your content is if nobody can read it.
It was important to lead off with SEO as the certain elements that appear later in this post will discuss ways to improve SEO. Now that you understand the importance of SEO we can move on.
The Style of Blogs
Possibly the biggest difference between blogs and other writing genres is the style. Blogs are far more conversational, simple, and direct than other genres. This style can be achieved through high readability and proper tone. Word choice also plays an important role in style by assisting in readability and tone.
Readability is how easy it is for a reader to understand the content of a blog. A high readability score means it is easy for users to read and understand the blog’s message while a low readability scores mean the opposite.
Readability is determined by a variety of factors. A text with high readability has simple word choice, active voice, short paragraphs, and more.
How do I Know if My Blog has a High Readability Score?
Determining the readability score of your blog is easier than you think. There are a handful of services that provide readability services.
The Hemingway Editor is a popular online editing tool that can help improve readability. The Hemingway editor provides a readability score and highlights areas of the text that can be improved. After you make edits, your text should see an improved readability score.
Yoast SEO is another popular tool that provides a readability evaluation. Yoast SEO scores different elements of your work on a red, orange, and green scale. If your content is in green, the readability score is high.
The tone of your blog plays a crucial role in your blog’s style. The majority of blogs have a far more personable style. The relationship between the author and the reader is much closer than in most genres. In Letting Go of the Words, author Janice Reddish gave insight on how to accomplish that relationship. Firstly, authors should directly speak to the audience by using the word “you”. To further the relationship, the words “I” and “We” should also be used.
Blogs should have a variety of tones. Most blogs are personable, but that does not cover the full extent of a writer’s tone or style. The other styles that you use in a blog should be specific to that blog. If your blog is meant to be humorous, your tone and style should reflect that. If your blog is supposed to be educational, your tone should reflect that. You have to determine your purpose before you can determine your tone or style.
Word choice plays a role in a blog’s style, readability, and tone. These traits all connect and work together. With that being said, word choice deserves its own spot in this section as it is crucial to a blog.
Your blog has a tone and voice. The word you use should reflect that tone and voice. Every word choice that you make in a blog affects the entire style of the blog while affecting the readability and tone. For example, if you frequently use the word “your”, your blog will seem more personable. If you are using simple vocabulary, you will also seem more personable. On the other hand, if you are using complex vocabulary your readability will be damaged and your tone will shift.
Thankfully, there are tools on the internet that help if you find yourself struggling to break free of complex words or phrases. Simple Words and Phrases can help provide simple alternatives to commonly used phrases that are too complex.
Here are a handful of examples of words with their simpler replacement (via Simple Words and Phrases):
- accompany- go with
- discontinue- drop/stop
- evident- clear
- inception- start
- in the event of- if
- represents- is
How Headings Improve Blogs
Headings are not unique to blogs. Plenty of other writing genres use both; however, blogs depend on these elements. Headings serve several purposes in a blog and it is important to understand those if you want to have effective headings.
Headings Provide Structure
Headings provide structure to blogs. I will not go into too much detail here as this is a common concept. Headings are used in a variety of genres to add structure to text. In that way, blogs are similar to other genres. In a simplistic overview, users can scan the headings of a text to direct them to the content they are looking for. From a design perspective, headings also break up text and make the information more appealing. Imagine if this blog did not have headings and was just a page full of paragraphs. You would have probably stopped reading by now.
Headings Should Be User-Friendly
Headings should focus on the user. Your headings should work to help the user navigate and understand the content. This can be done through descriptive headings that are focused on verbs. These types of headings help the reader understand the content that will appear in the paragraph and have them prepared to continue reading. At times questions can be useful too. Questions allow users to scan a blog for a question that they have on a topic. At the same time, do not use questions too often as they are not always descriptive of the next paragraph.
Aside from content, headings should add to the design of your content. Once again, Letting Go of the Words displayed strong ground rules for the design of headings. Headings should be distinguishable from the text, the heading levels should be clear, and you should not use too many heading levels. For example, here are the levels of headings in this post.
As you can see, each heading has a different font size and color. This helps distinguish the heading from each other and the text.
Clear heading allows for the headings to work properly. If headings are unclear it will confuse the audience and make the blog harder to follow.
Headings Improve SEO
Headings play a large role in SEO. The better your headings are the better your SEO. As algorithms look to determine the content of your blog, the headings will play a large role. If your headings contain keyphrases, the algorithm will be able to detect the focus content of your content more effectively. This boosts your SEO. At the end of the day, if your headings effectively inform the audience of the blog’s content and keep the audience on your page, the SEO will yield high results.
Blogs Need Hyperlinks
Hyperlinks are a must-have in any blog. In blogs, hyperlinks can be used to direct the audience to another webpage. This is how blogs cite their sources. Blogs do not have a work cited page, instead, you can click on a link in the text and go to the page that the author got their information from. This type of sourcing is unique to blogs. Citations are the most important way that hyperlinks are used in blogs, but they can also be used to share more information with the audience, along with other things. When using blogs, there are several rules to remember.
Provide Context in Hyperlinks
When including a hyperlink in a blog it is important to provide context. When a reader sees a hyperlink they should know what the hyperlink will take them to and why they should click it. This responsibility falls on the author when they are inserting a hyperlink into a blog. If a hyperlink does not include the proper context, the reader will not click it.
Punctuation in Hyperlinks
As far as the display goes, there are a few details to remember when you insert a hyperlink. First, hyperlinks should not include punctuation. For example, if your hyperlink goes to the last word in a sentence, do not link the period. Similarly, your link should not include italics or quotation marks, even if it would otherwise be necessary. For example:
DO: Here is an example of what to do.
DON’T: Here is an example of what not to do.
DO: I suggest you read To Kill a Mockingbird.
DON’T: I suggest you read “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
These are small details that should be taken into consideration when including a hyperlink in your blog.
Blogs Contain Much More
This is not the complete story of blogs. This is only an introduction to the small details of blogging. This should help you understand the basics, but you have not learned everything. This did not cover any backend coding information like HTML or CSS. It did not cover the title or visual design either. Regardless, this should have helped you prepare yourself to write your first blog.