by: Yann Gourvennec

The do’s and don’ts of Internet Blog writing

blogloavantlapluie-detail.jpgWriting in a blog is not very complex, but there are a few guidelines which should be respected as much as can be. This list of do’s and don’ts of Internet blog writing can be used as a Vademecum (literally in Latin ‘come with me’, a manual which you can take with you at all times) for expert Internet writers. It could also be treated as a Charter describing which rules to follow, and each expert should confirm that they have read these guidelines.

  • One: do not try and sell your products. Writing on the blog has to be natural and have to be closer to the spoken language. Avoid using cheap marketing arguments at all costs. Don’t even think about listing the qualities or benefits of your products. A blog, let alone an expert blog, is not made for this, but to establish expertise through examples.
  • Two: publish as much as you can. The more articles you will reduce and deliver, the greater your promotion on the web. A professional corporate blog which starts will only have a few articles referenced/indexed within Google, whereas an older blog or website will already have hundreds or more.
  • Three: avoid typos and spelling/grammar mistakes at all cost. this is a very common mistake. A lot of bloggers think that because you’re in a hurry you don’t have to worry so much about spelling or grammar. But this is a very bad habit. Mainly if you have a corporate blog and you are projecting a corporate image. The writing has to be natural, which doesn’t mean that it has to be bad. And if your articles are very pertinent and interesting but badly written, you will attract many impertinent and unpleasant comments on this. Being a corporation also helps as it should enable you to get others to proof read your text. However, I strongly recommend that you avoid rewriting expert text to give a communications flavour to it. This would be very unbecoming.
  • Four: layout is important. It is advised to use Microsoft Word or another word processor in order to check your spelling. However, if you copy and paste text from word into the blog, I would recommend that you start copying it into notepad first in order to clean the text from all unnecessary Microsoft word formatting. Another way of doing this, is to use Firefox and its very convenient language packs which enable you to check your spelling directly into the entry box of your blog.
  • Five: keep your articles brief. Blogs are not for long articles. Websites are more adapted for very lengthy articles. However, you could still post a large article on a blog and then use the “see more” function which will break up the text into different pages in order to make the reading easier. It is also possible to break up your article into several instalments, which will have the advantage of forcing your users and visitors to return to the blog.
  • Six: straight to the point. You had rather publish small or medium-sized articles 2 to 3 times a week than one or two large in-depth ones per month. You can also choose to publish your articles in instalments, it’s a good idea if you want to have returning visitors. Google likes it when the frequency of updates of updates on your blog is high, because it will entice its bots (technical name for the search engine indexing robots that come and index your pages) to visit your blog more often… and your visitors too!
  • Seven: summarise and bulletise to maximise on-screen readability. Don’t hesitate to add a downloadable pdf file for readers who wish to print out your stuff and read it.
  • Eight: keyword presence in titles, tags, categories and page copy. First 10 lines are most important. Use emphasis to highlight important keywords.
  • Nine: headlines are taglines! here are some recommended titles for your posts:
  • X tips and tricks to improve your corporate security, etc.
  • X tips and tricks to reach 50% benefit/ROI, reap X million $, etc.
  • X things you should know/do before …
  • X steps/golden rules to achieve …
  • Golden rules for Excellence in …
  • Do’s and don’ts of this or the other
  • Check-list for …
  • X tools to improve your Internet/Corporate network security etc.

Once more, think about your important keywords, because they should be found in your titles.

  • Ten: High update frequency doesn’t mean your experts should write only for the sake of it.  A list of topics has to be prepared in advance in order to ensure that quality will be maintained throughout the life of your expert corporate blog. Don’t hesitate to quarantine articles which you think are not up to scratch by leaving them in the draft list and updating them later.
  • Eleven: propose subjects which link to other popular subjects to attract new visitors, i.e. even those who wouldn’t normally be interested in it. But avoid entering posts unrelated to your main objective or topic at all cost. Not only would that be irrelevant but it could also be damageable for your brand.
  • Twelve: use so-called keyword ‘fragmentation bomb’ technique by adding synonyms and varying keywords and titles. This will increase your chances of being found and read. I.e. if your subject is about security ensure that not just the security keyword is present but also others such as intrusion, Trojan, encryption, hacking, network protection, data integrity etc.
  • Thirteen: in order to make it easy for your experts to feed your newly created corporate blog, your experts should get themselves organised so as to produce as much content as possible on a regular basis. To this end and recommend that you set up a wiki website for them to keep track of the list of articles that they should write, who does what, at what time, and also when it is going to be published.  As a matter of fact, if you need to deliver many an article, it is probably a good idea that you get your experts to write quite a few of them in advance in order to ensure that the source will not run dry and also to avoid putting too much pressure on the writers. Lastly, if you have blogs in multiple languages, and if some of the content on either of these languages bears relation to the other blogs in other languages in terms of context, then I would recommend that you use translation services in order to make your teams benefit from the content that other teams have written. Do not overestimate the usability of a particular content which is made available in a particular language for another.  As a matter of fact, translation is not sufficient, you would also need to adapt the context of the original post to make it relevant, and only experts can deliver that. Use translation services make the first cut translation and then send the text to your experts said that they can adapt it and change it to their heart’s content.
  • Fourteen: create the event and bring interactivity. You could for instance organise contests whereby you’re asking your readers to write posts and submit them to you so that you would give them an ability to be published on your blog. You could also ask your readers to vote for some of your articles. Contests and suchlike would generate visits an increase reader loyalty.
  • Fifteen: be careful about those pictures! Don’t believe that if an image can be picked up easily from the Internet (via Google images for instance) you would be to use it freely on your blog. This is not true, and if you’re working for a big logo you should be aware that using an image for which you haven’t got the rights would make your company liable for damages. Conversely, I do not recommend either that you use images from the corporate standard database because they don’t give a expert look to the blog but instead make it look like advertising, and this is not consistent with the tone of voice of an expert blogging exercise. Illustrations would do nicely, but more importantly functional and business diagrams, preferably user and expert generated, because they will add to the professionalism of the blog, its readability and the overall understanding. Mainly if your subject is technical. As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, but remember that it’s only true if image usage is right. Professional image databanks (such as Getty or Corbis for instance) are serious about that, and rightfully so. If you want to include an image and your company doesn’t own its own image database, and you want to add professional looking illustrations to it then I would recommend that you use online image databanks like http://www.fotolia.com.
  • Sixteen: about bad language. Bad language should be avoided at all cost, needless to say. Any form of defamation, strong language, criticism, or even downright critical opinion of a competitor, partner, and/or co-worker or peer is just unthinkable. It means that you will have to understand and practise how to deliver interesting and professional opinions without criticising others. Be very careful about that, because writing anything on the Internet leaves traces. And you don’t want these traces to be bad ones. In other words, you have to be careful about the directness of your Internet writing. It has to remain interesting and straight to the point, but not too much. It’s a bit like walking between two walls; the left one is the boundary beyond which Internet writing becomes uninteresting and bland and there is no value. The right one is the limit beyond which too much is said, and could be used against you too. It is absolutely obligatory that each expert adheres to rule number 15.
  • Seventeen: about third party products/companies. Following rule number fifteen, do not draw the conclusion however that you should avoid commenting on other products and any company. Yet, you should ensure that these comments are based on facts and numbers, serious and professional. They should also be proven and undeniable, or otherwise they should open the debate in a fair and open way. Once again, strong language against third party products and all companies should be avoided at all cost.
  • Eighteen: about comments, freedom of speech, openness and pragmatism. In corporate blogging, comments, or rather the fear of receiving comments about one’s Internet writing is usually the source for paranoia. Usually, it’s not so much the experts who are paranoiac, but their management. To an extent, it is normal since it is difficult for management to assess the level of risk which is associated with these external comments. However, if your subject is a niche subject that is really professional and b2b orientated, the main issue they will come across is not that related to having fierce comments, but that of having too few comments or even any at all. Secondly you have to make freedom of speech in your comment available. If it is not open, and it is not free, then it will show and your blog will be so bland that it will attract no visitors and no interest. A little debate is a good thing, and you mustn’t be afraid of other experts or professionals, even ordinary readers voicing their opinion. After all, if somebody disagrees with what is said, doesn’t possibly mean that it’s true. So don’t panic, be open and pragmatic. At the other end, corporate blog managers should ensure that all comments are moderated. Openness and freedom of speech don’t mean that you shouldn’t control anything. This moderation feature would protect you and your management from trouble and it should be enabled. However, moderation doesn’t mean censorship. Only moderate these posts which contain strong language, if your blog content filter hasn’t catered for this already. Delete strong language and comments which are not adding anything to the debate. At the end of the day, having quality comments on your posts is also adding to the quality of the posts themselves, having bad quality comments is withdrawing value from your posts.

Original Post: http://visionarymarketing.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/dos-and-donts/

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