Blogging tip #8: Paragraph Breaks

As one of the biggest grammar geeks on the planet (my 3rd favorite book is Eats, Shoots & Leaves), this next tip was actually really hard to follow when I first started writing on blogs, but it is an important one and I have seen very interesting blog posts completely fail because the author ignored this tip.

The internet is a fast-paced place where people will hit Google in one second, type a search phrase and then bounce from search result to search result in a matter of seconds, doing a lightening quick eye scan to see if the article is useful or interesting.

While there is no hard rule for where a paragraph should break, the most common definition is that a paragraph break comes after you have completed a single thought. That could take one sentence or it could take ten, but typically it will take at least three or four sentences.  The problem is that three or four sentences can create a very large and imposing block of text that is not well suited to the quick to come, quick to scan and quick to leave web user. As you can see in this paragraph I have written right now, a few sentences can quickly become a large blob of text.

So the tip is simple: throw out the idea of a paragraph when writing a blog post and shape your writing in a way that makes it easy to scan and see what the main points of your blog post are.

Forget the idea that you must break the paragraph at the end of a complete thought and write for usability and visibility.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging tip #10: Hyperlinking on Keywords

This is one of the most important tips I can give you for better blogging. So put down your iPhone for a minute and pay attention!

A Google search for the phrase “click here” reports back a whopping 1.2 BILLION results. Quite the popularity for an almost completely useless search term.

The thing about Google (and I will write about this a lot more in this blog tips series) is that Google has a lot of trouble understanding meaning of words and instead relies a lot more on the code you use around the words you write in a blog post. Through this code analysis Google can figure out what your blog post is all about.

One of the most important pieces of code Google looks for is the words and phrases that contain a hyperlink.

Hyperlink  code looks like this: <a href=”www.thewebsite.com”>The words you are hyperlinking to</a> and Google makes the assumption that the words and phrases you put hyperlinks on are more important and relevant to the article than other words.

So this tip is a simple one: put your hyperlinks over words and phrases related to your blog post instead of phrases like “click here” or “read more here” etc. So for instance, if you have a report you want to highlight and people to download, put the link to the report over the title instead of over a phrase like “download the report here.” It would look something like this instead:

Download a copy of the entire report here: The Most Interesting Thing You Will Ever Read in Your Life

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging]

Previous tips in this series:

Blogging Tip #1: Write a ongoing blog series

Blogging Tip #2: Cross-Posting

Blogging Tip #3: When you get it wrong, eat big and fast

Blogging Tip #4:  Write like you have a million readers

Blogging Tip #5: Try Video, it’s King

Blogging Tip #6: Beware of Epic Server Fail

Blogging Tip #7: Link karma

Blogging tip #8: Paragraph Breaks

Blogging tip #9: Meme tracking

Blogging tip #9: Meme tracking

An “internet meme” is defined as something that spreads quickly on the internet.

Normally a meme will take the form of celebrity gossip, a funny new video/image, big sports news, tech news or a breaking disaster story. With social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Reddit, the speed with which these memes are shared is greatly enhanced.

These memes come and go in a matter of hours on the internet, with millions of people paying attention one minute, then quickly moving on to the next meme.

So while the world of internet memes is full of bald Britney Spears, Justin Bieber news and the lastest iPhone gossip, there is also a lot of opportunity to try and jump on a meme and write a blog post that relates in some way to it. The best way to do this is to find a meme that you think you can add further information or context to.

So if you’re a hair product company and Justin Bieber’s new hairstyle is going nuts on Twitter, do a post on the “ten things you can do to make your hair Bieber-licious.”

It takes a bit of creativity to jump on these memes, but if it is done right and you are in fact adding to the conversation the pay-off in additional targeted traffic to your website can be huge.

Here’s a few ways you can track internet memes:

Google Trends Hot Searches – updated every hour this site shows you the 20 hottest searches currently on Google.

Tweetmeme – following the most recent “retweeted” posts on Twitter.

Yahoo Buzz – ranks what the world is searching for on Yahoo at any given time.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging Tip #7: Link Karma

Links are the commerce of the blog-o-sphere.

Links are important if you want your blog to gain higher prominence in search engine rankings, which will in turn drive more targeted traffic to your website.

And links from very high-trafficked blogs, like the Huffington Post or Boing Boing, have the potential to send a crushing amount of traffic to your site in a short time and also help establish your reputation as a legitimate source of information. Links from big sites like this are also seen very favorably in search engine algorithms.

One of the best ways I have found to gain links is to be very giving when it comes to the links you put on your own blog to other blogs and websites. I (and many others) call it “link karma” in that the more links you give, the more you are likely to get links in return. I come across blogs all the time that only link back to their own previous posts, which tells me a few things about the blogger, namely that they are not likely to link to me if I link to them and that they really think their blog is the only source of information worthy of referring to on the entire internet.

Remember, a blog is a social media outlet and whether its in real-life or online, being social means referring to the work of others in conversation, not just talking constantly about yourself.

Written by Kevin Grandia

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging Tip #6: Beware of Epic Server Fail

Written by Kevin Grandia

Did your mom ever warn you to “watch out what you wish for, because you might just get it”?

If she did, she was unknowingly a social media marketing genius, because your mom’s warning speaks to a big issue that I see time and time again. To see it in action go to the homepage of Digg.com right now,  click on any of the stories in the “popular” section and see what happens.  When I did, a couple of the stories kicked back and error code or a “this server has timed out” message.

The reas0n these webpages are not going to the story is because being on the front page of Digg.com and many of the other social media news sites, blogs and forums can send a crushing amount of traffic in a very short amount of time. Here’s what that can look like, I took this from a recent traffic spike we had on one of the sites we manage, EnergyBoom. com when a story went on the homepage of Reddit.com:

If we were not prepared, that spike (sending about 100 pageviews a second at one point) would have completely crashed our servers and all that work that had gone into writing a compelling story would have been a complete waste of time.

A lot of hours can go into creating that perfect “viral” video or blog post and when it pops you want to be sure your servers have the capability to handle the surge in traffic.

Here’s a couple of tips that should take care of this issue:

1. I would suggest that if you are building out a project that could result in a crush of traffic that you ask your web designers if they have hosting capabilities as well as the capacity to handle a large surge in traffic – nowadays with the cost of storage and broadband being so cheap, many web designers do have this capacity. It is better to have your own web team handle your server needs because they are very accessible and you can phone them (if they are good at what they do) anytime you want when you have server capacity issues. You can also discuss with them ahead of time when you think they need to prepare for a ton of traffic.

2. If you do not have a designer that offers this, then I would look for a third-party service provider that offers server space on the “Amazon Cloud.” You don’t need to know much about the cloud other than that it is a service that can host your website and as your traffic grows (i.e. when your site is going viral on Twitter), your capacity to handle that traffic grows with it – this is why the Amazon cloud is also called the “elastic cloud.”

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging Tip #4: Write like you have a million readers

Written by Kevin Grandia

Unless you’re super-famous or already have a large built-in audience, the first year or so of blogging can be a pretty tough slog.

You will see traffic spikes of optimism that come crashing down to days of very little traffic or any at all. This can very disheartening and frustrating and this can lead to a little bit of sloppiness – you might forget to spell check or not tag items or give your posts poor titles, or *gasp* start posting pictures of your cat – thinking that it doesn’t matter because nobody is reading anyways.

But if you keep at it, your traffic will grow and one day you might regretting all of those less-than-stellar posts with spelling errors and photos of your cat in a party hat (not that there’s anything wrong with cats).

So always write like you have a millions readers, because one day you just might.

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging Tip #2: Cross-Posting

Written by Kevin Grandia

Crossposting is a great way to reach new audiences and drive more traffic to your own blog. All it means is that when you write a post, you take it and post it on another blog that you have access to.

Warning: I do not mean that you should go out and start another blog where you simply cut and paste your content. This would be very redundant and has very little value – it is also something that Google frowns upon and may actually  effect your overall page rank.

What I DO mean is to seek out other blogs covering the same areas as you are that you think might be open to posting your content.

What you are looking for is either single-author blogs you really respect or large multi-author blogs whose business model is to amass a very large quantity of content everyday. In either case, email the owner or editor of the blog, introduce yourself and ask if they would be willing to cross-post your content from time-to-time.

If they agree take them up on the offer and either post the content directly if they let you or send them the content you would like to have posted. Ensure that you always are attributed as the author of the article and that there is a link back to your blog.

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]

Blogging tip #5: Try Video, it’s King

Written by Kevin Grandia

There is a saying in social media geek land that goes something like, “On the internet, content is King, but video rules.”

Okay, I might have just made that up, but when you consider that the average person watches an average of 182 online videos a month, I sometimes wonder why I spend any time at all writing blog posts.

There is in fact a lot of reasons why written blog posts are still very valuable for things like search engine prominence and low production costs, but think about how you might be able to integrate some video content into your blog.

It might be something as simple as a tour around your office introducing staff, or if you are in the service industry you can demonstrate to your customers what it is you do. For instance, a plumber could do quick and simple video showing the 5 things to remember when trying to unplug a toilet or a real estate agent could do a tour of home they have listed.

Your video doesn’t have to be a Hollywood production and nowadays even the cheapest cameras shoot in high-definition.

Once you’ve shot a video I would recommend uploading it to Youtube and then copying and pasting the embed code into a blog post.

[This is part of an ongoing series of articles on 50 Simple Tips to Better Blogging and you can check out all the previous tips there]