Blogging: Keep ‘em coming back for more!

The best way to get your visitors to return to your blog is to reward them with your writing.

All the available social networks and blog marketing tools will do little to increase return visits to your blogs unless you first polish your posts. Follow these suggestions to improve your posts, and readers will keep coming back for more. Keep in mind that you are competing with millions of people for your readers’ attention. You’ll need to reward your visitors by giving them well written posts. (The bold italicized terms in this article link to my earlier posts and are not necessary to understand this post; they serve only to provide a greater depth of information on the various topics)

Online writing is a unique, hybrid form of communication because it combines the benefits and challenges of mass communication and interpersonal communication (see Communicating Online: Opportunities and Obstacles). Understanding this uniqueness will help you tailor your writing to your target audience.

Here are some helpful tools to polish your post successfully.

1. Most importantly, make sure you have something to say. All the writing tips in the world can’t help the writer without an interesting or provocative topic. Posting writing without a clear purpose may cause readers not to return. It’s difficult to get new readers, but it’s even more of a challenge getting disappointed readers to return. (If your well of inspiration is running dry check out: Overcoming Writer’s Block).

2. In the first sentence or two of your post, tell your readers what’s in it for them – explain how your post will make a difference in their lives.If your readers can’t find anything that impacts them right away, many will leave after the first paragraph. Consider How to use News Values such as impact, timeliness, prominence, and novelty when determining your posts potential value for your readers.

For those who stay past the first paragraph, remember: you’ve made your promise; now it’s time to deliver.

3. Write to express, not impress. Put the thesaurus away. If you’re writing to inform or to entertain, prefer the simple to the complex. Write like you talk. (say “use”, not “utilize”; write: “I was aware of”, instead of “I was cognizant of”).

4. Brevity is an important goal because readers prefer conciseness. The average sentence should be about 15 words. Avoid wordiness (instead of writing members of the group, write group members). Also avoid redundancies (instead of writing the children completely surrounded me, just write the children surrounded me). Unnecessary words can detract from your meaning. If you have difficulty with this, try pretending you had to pay for each word that you included.

5. Avoid terms that can cause confusion. (i.e. “She was young;” young is too vague – it means different things to different people). Remember words have denotations and connotations, so avoid ambiguous terms. Instead of saying that she was young, say: she was nearly 8 years old. There are also many commonly confused words in the English language. Be aware of the meaning of all your words. Further and farther, fewer and less, and accept and except are just a few of the common errors found in careless writing. (See Commonly Misused Words)

6. Say what you mean. If your purpose is to convey information, eliminate euphemisms. Euphemisms are meant to soften the blow of a potentially offensive or blunt idea, such as “collateral damage” for unintended civilian deaths. Euphemisms can cause loss ofclarity. (Read about editing out euphemisms in Layers of Revision). If your post lacks clarity, it’s doomed. Readers won’t spend time on posts they can’t understand.

7. Use examples and anecdotes. When explaining something complicated or something your readers might not have experienced, give an example. For example, explain that learning to use CSS to design a webpage is like learning how to play a sport or a musical instrument; first you must learn the rules, then you must practice to improve. Similarly, an anecdote is a very short story included to elaborate on and emphasize the facts. Instead of saying the girls were mischievous, consider using an anecdote to show us. Limit anecdotes to one (or two at most) per post. (See: Writing is like Baking a Cake)

8. Punctuation matters; people do judge a book by its cover (See: If Punctuation Marks were People). If you have spelling and grammar mistakes in your writing, people will lose confidence in you. They will question your facts and assumptions if they catch that you were careless with your pronouns and commas (See: The Problem with Pronouns)

9. Use vivid description. Keep in mind the maxim: Show, don’t tell. Don’t tell us that Billy was happy with his new puppy; show us. Readers appreciate it when you use your senses to describe details. They want to hear, see, feel, smell, touch and taste what you’re describing. (See: Think visually).

10. Proofread: take the time to polish your post. We often find errors when it’s too late. Edit your posts prior to publication. You don’t have to be a walking, talking grammar book, you just need to know when to turn to one. (Check out: English Handbook for the Game of your Life)

The best way to get visitors to return to your blog is to make them happy. While social networks and search engines are useful as treasure maps, your posts are the treasures –the pot of gold at the end of the Google search. Follow these tips to polish your posts, and let them shine.

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About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is an Associate Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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