Wednesday, November 19, 2008

5 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Human–Friendly

NOTE: This post is quite long. I recommend that if you don’t have time to read this now, feel free to bookmark this, or print this out for later.

Blogs. They’re all around us. This thing you’re reading, this is my blog. Everyone seems to be in the blogging business these days. I have read so many blog posts on the Web about how can bloggers make money out of blogging. I have also noticed that so many bloggers are blogging solely to make money, and not to create useful content. I still believe though in the power of great content. That’s why I wrote this entry. With all those big blogs out there being made with search-engine-or-advertiser friendliness in mind, how can we make our blogs different? I mean, it’s not that we don’t like search engines, or advertisers (I also want to make money from this little blog in the future) what concerns me more is, how can we make our blogs more human – friendly? It is we, humans, after all, who read blogs.

I came up with the following list, and I hope they could be of help to you.

1. Content is king. Yep, nothing beats quality content. It’s what people look for in blogs, and it’s what search engines love. It’s what makes people want to go out and “vote,” “digg,” or “bookmark” your blog. Write something useful. Write something informative. A simple How-to article would be great. But don’t just write any how-to, write about something you love. If you love, let’s say, computers, write something like, “How to Perform Simple Networking Between Computers,” or if you’re into gardening, “How to Take Care of Cattleya Orchids.” Make your blog useful. Write something you know that you want to share with the rest of the world. Here’s my tip: Everytime you sit down to write your next blog entry, always ask yourself, “Will this, in some way, help my readers?”

2. Make your blog look like a Web 2.0 site. Just how do you make a Web 2.0 – looking blog? Simple. Check out examples of Web 2.0 sites like Facebook, Feedburner, Twitter, or Digg, and be a copy-cat. Try to copy some ideas that they have on their sites (but never copy their website content). Let’s study the interface. What do you notice? Here’s what I notice, they:

• Use large fonts – Do you notice that most of them use slightly larger fonts than usual? Do you know why? Well, the reason is obvious – accessibility. Like these Web giants, you can make your blog more accessible by first considering your readers. It won’t hurt to be reader-centric, you know. Be aware of their needs. Ask several of your friends to critique your blog. You can’t expect all your visitors to be young and have perfect 20/20 vision, you know. For you to have a larger number of visitors, use larger font sizes. Remember, you’re not really writing for web-bots, you are writing for humans.

• Use short and simple sentences. If Hemingway was able to do it, so can you. Make your content easier to understand. Use short and simple sentences as much as possible, especially if you own a “technical” blog. If say, you’re a rocket scientist and you own a blog about “rocket science,” not everyone will be able to understand your content. Strive to make it more interesting for lay people. How? Simplify, simplify, simplify. Yes, I know, it can be a great deal of work, but people will thank you for your effort.

• Use a simple clean layout. Many people want to have professional-looking blogs, yet they fail to act like professionals. Some bloggers only want to monetize their blogs, and nothing more. They place several annoying ads on their page, flashy distracting images, etc. Is that being professional? Better use a simple, clean layout for your blog. But don’t oversimplify things; you don’t want a boring blog. Again, ask your friends to critique your blog.

• Place vector-like images. Just what do I mean by “vector-like” images? Check out Twitter, or Wordpress and you will know. If you’ve used Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, or the open-source software Inkscape (which I used to create the banner images for this blog), you already know what vector images are. Vector images are so clean to look at. I think Darren Rowse (of Problogger) also uses vector images which he converts into common graphic formats like PNG, JPG, or BMP, and places them in his blog posts. But I’m not sure.

• Use short catchy phrases. Check out Feedburner (e.g."Our name is Feedburner"), Digg (e.g."We've given our Digg shop a facelift...") or Wordpress (e.g. "takes seconds, cost nada," or "we kill spam dead") and you will know what I mean. Catchy phrases make your blog more reader-friendly. ‘Nuf said. :-)

3. Don’t create too many “useless” links. I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea to provide your readers with links that they can go to for additional info; creating “links” after all, is the idea behind the Web technology. But don’t provide too many “useless” links that they become very distracting to your readers. Provide real helpful links. Your blog is not a web portal. Your purpose is to get and keep your readers. You have good content, and you want people to read them. You don’t want your blog driving traffic to other blogs. Make other blogs drive traffic to yours. Again, the key here is to have great content. (I don’t like the idea of blogs exchanging links with each other solely to increase their search engine rankings.)

4. Don’t make a “Trojan Horse” blog. The keyword here is “trust.” Strive to build a trustworthy blog and a trustworthy you. How? Tell people exactly what your blog is about. No hidden agenda whatsoever. No scams. Don’t fool your readers into thinking something that you or your blog is not. Don’t make big promises and claims if they aren’t true. Don’t use your blog as a marketing guinea pig. Create great content. Just be real to your readers.

5. Set proper expectations. I got this idea from Steve Pavlina, and from my previous job. When we were to deal with customers, we were told by the company to always set proper expectations first. Tell your readers beforehand what they are about to read. If your post is long, tell them. If your post has adult content, tell them. If your post has several technical terms or jargons, (and you can’t provide all the help) tell them to do some Google searches for additional info. It’s similar to what happens when a TV program starts, we often see this: “Some scenes are not suitable for young audiences, parental guidance is advised.” Just let your readers know. They will appreciate it. (An example is this post, and my very first post – How to Become an Innovative Entrepreneur.)

I hope that this post was able to help you in your quest towards “blog excellence.” If you found this truly helpful, please tell others to read this post also. Thank you.

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