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 #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]