Rules to Better Blogging - 25 Rules
At SSW we encourage our employees to actively keep blogs about their achievements, discoveries, interests, and ideas. The biggest problem with putting up an article is that once it's up there it's there for the world to see. Do you express yourself properly in blog posts?
This set of rules aims to help you efficiently write clear, effective blogging articles. In some cases, you might be interested in seeing our Rules to Better Technical Documentation for comments on how best to express your technical problems.
When blogging on a large topic, you have 2 options:
- Option 1: Write a very long blog post
- Option 2: Write a series of shorter blog posts (Recommended)
To help understand why option 2 is recommended, let's break it down into pros and cons.
Pros Cons All content is available in one post (only one place to look) You will get less views for longer posts It takes longer to write, you might lose motivation
Figure: Option 1 Pros/Cons - One Long Blog Post
Pros Cons You will get more views for longer posts The content is spread across multiple posts Readers tend to prefer short posts Easy for readers to find the specifics details they are looking for Comments are more targeted on the topic It takes much less time to write a short post, so less likely to lose motivation Motivation to blog frequently, after all, people are waiting on you to finish the series
Figure: Option 2 Pros/Cons - Series of Short Blog Posts
If you want to get your ideas across, it will always be easier for the reader to understand a shorter blog post and it will always be easier for the writer to create a shorter blog post.
So next time you have a large topic, be sure to write a series of shorter blog posts (option 1). You will be doing yourself, and your readers, a big favour.
A blog is still a website that you want people to visit, so it’s important to consider the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX).
Have a look at Jakob Nielsen's advice on the Top Ten Design Mistakes for advice on how you can improve your blog UI.
The RSS or 'subscribe' button is a place on your blog that alow visitors to easily receive your blog's updates.
Blogs that have a visible 'subscribe' button will certainly receive more returning visitors.
Tip: For Wordpress, there are plugins that make it easy to insert the 'subscribe' button in your WP blog. We recommend:
If you find yourself developing a decision process to make a choice, that process should be documented in a rule. If you are explaining how you did something to solve a problem, you should record that in a blog post.
Any time you find yourself writing a long email, ask yourself whether it should be recorded in a blog post, rather than just in an email, where everyone who might find it useful can see it, not just the people on the email chain.
Tip: For good SEO, the blog post should point to a rule and vice versa.
For example, you could add something like this to your post: "This blog post is consistent with the good example on the rule XXX".
Likewise, the rule should point to the blog post.
Hint: If you the extra mile, you will end up with one or more rules + a blog post, and your email will need just a link to them.
Every time someone does a talk/records a video, it helps spread the word about your content if your video keeps getting shared.
If you have a blog, a good idea is to add a simple post to tag your new video. It gets double Google juice if you:
- Have a good description of your video on YouTube; and
- Your video is linked in a blog post using popular keywords for the content/topic you have recorded about.
Here's a simple example:
You could go the extra mile and explain your whole talk for an even better result. This gives you an opportunity to communicate and explain your thoughts to your audience, besides using all the relevant keywords you can in a single blog post.
Plus, you have the added benefit of having visual/audio content through the video, as well as written content. That way, you are really catering and communicating to all types of learners, readers or consumers your audience might include.
Whether you are converting an email to a blog post or writing it from scratch, always invite and instruct discussion.
Although people may not comply, it helps them adjust from the world of email only.
It is easy to think that "Content is King"; it is a well-known quote from an article by Bill Gates in 1996. But incorrect content is not very useful, so we think that " factual content is king".
You should always:
- Fix up your mistakes, and
- Strike through content that is now been superseded, and add a comment. E.g. "This is now not an issue as it was fixed up in TFS SP1"
In this age of misinformation, it is easy to get swept up in online hype and share stories/posts that everyone else seems to be sharing. This, however, can get us into trouble as it can perpetuate said misinformation and impact how a situation is viewed by the general populace.
It’s important to not only check that what you share on social media is correct, but also, that your opinions are based on fact.
What if your view differs from popular opinion? It's OK to have a dissenting opinion, and it is OK to play devil's advocate, but you should:
- Acknowledge when you're not an expert in a particular area
- Acknowledge when you're unable to verify what you’re saying
Here are some helpful tips to aid in fact verification:
- Go to Snopes.com or use other fact-checking sites
- Look at the author and what they’ve published in the past... notice that they will have a bias one way or the other
- Look at other authorities and see what they say
What's equally as important as fact-checking is building your own public profile and becoming an expert in a specific area.
Becoming an expert and a source that people can trust isn’t something that happens overnight, it's something that you must continually work on. Here are some helpful hints to get you on your way:
- Pick several topics and stick to them (be consistent). It’s better to home in on subject matter, rather than being a jack-of-all-trades, master of none
- Use the above fact-checking tips and tricks. Make sure you know what you’re talking about, but also that you understand that other people's opinions may differ
- Engage with people. Initiate discussions, reply to comments, talk to people who have dissenting opinions
If someone gives you feedback and you think it is worth incorporating into the content, you should always name them at the top of your blog post. This makes them feel good and gives your post more credibility.
Make sure that the follow-up and aggregate Twitter and Facebook users as well. Make all your readers feel included and you will create loyalty within your readership.
Technical people need a little bit of a free leash in order to be creative. This will benefit the company they work for by demonstrating how technical your staff are, by driving more traffic to your site, and making your staff happier.
Figure: Bad example, employees must post to the corporate blog.
Figure: Good example, Allowing employees to post to their personal blog is a win, win situation. But they should do the Gold Plating after hours
Tip: Get your employees to add an “SSW” category to their blog so you can aggregate their posts onto the corporate site.
There is always the need to Gold Plate a blog post. And this is good. But if you are posting to your blog during work hours you should avoid this. You can always open it up after hours to add this.
As long as there is nothing confidential or NDA in the content, any discussion point should be made public. Transparency is the name of the game. The more transparency you have between customers, management, and your technical employees the better. This fosters trust and a closer working relationship.
So keep jewels from being left in your inbox. Remember that you are inviting replies, and that the gold in this process.
Note: If the discussion is not worth a blog post, then tweet it and link to the rule.
Probably the best reason to blog is when you have made a mistake, especially if you were pulled up for it by a peer. Post about the mistake you made, why you made it and how you are going to try and avoided it in the future.
Turn a rant into a tip…
When you update your blog post, use the word "UPDATED" clearly (in capitals and in red for example). The date should also be added, if relevant.
UPDATED: 1 August 2010 [summary of what you changed]
You should also apply this technique to youtube videos you record too.
Most companies have intelligent people who make some relevant and useful points for the greater community or industry, while writing internal emails. Those emails should be published to the company blog for the following reasons:
- It provides great content for Google to index
- It raises the profile of your company around the topics discussed
- It shows the industry that you have intelligent and forward thinking staff
The prefix is used to give context to your blog posts (or other type of content), so users know what to expect.
Example 1: Use " CODE:" when your blog post is about coding or " VIDEO:" when it has a video.
Northwind Traders with Entity Framework Core
Figure: Bad example - Post title with no prefix
CODE: Northwind Traders with Entity Framework Core
Figure: Good example - Using a prefix in the post title
Example 2: Use prefixes (based on the content) for grouping and a better scanning:
Configure your SSW Email on your mobile (for Android users) Configure your SSW Email on your mobile (for iPhone users) Mobile Phone Answering Message Install the Control4 App on your phone (Sydney Only) Configure Skype for Business (Not for China office) Configure Skype Link your Azure & Azure DevOps (was VSTS) benefits to your SSW Organizational Account Request Access to VSTS Projects Do you know how to find stuff? Setup and Create a timesheet in TimePRO Setup your HR Records (Not for Work Experience) Your details on payroll system CRM - Add your details to CRM How to find an employee’s phone number? Make a small code change on SugarLearning.com (Developers only)
Figure: Bad example - Data list with no prefixes
Phone - Configure your SSW Email on your mobile (for Android users) Phone - Configure your SSW Email on your mobile (for iPhone users) Phone - Mobile Phone Answering Message Phone - Install the Control4 App on your phone (Sydney Only) PC - Configure Skype for Business (Not for China office) PC - Configure Skype DevOps - Link your Azure & Azure DevOps (was VSTS) benefits to your SSW Organizational Account DevOps - Request Access to VSTS Projects Intranet - Do you know how to find stuff? TimePro - Setup and Create a timesheet in TimePRO CRM - Setup your HR Records (Not for Work Experience) CRM - Your details on payroll system CRM - Add your details to CRM CRM - How to find an employee’s phone number? Exercise - Make a small code change on SugarLearning.com (Developers only)
Figure: Good example - Using a prefix in data
We all know the feeling after a long day... Exhausted, we wander the internet, lazily looking for content to consume easily. For many, this normally takes the form of watching videos after trailing through their Reddit, Twitter, & other social media platforms. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your blog post title and content stand out to this demographic.
One simple way to do this is to prefix your blog post title with "VIDEO – ".
Also, make sure your embedded video is at the top of the post, so users will see right away that there is a video on the post to be watched.
Note: Do not make posts with an embedded video only. It’s important to add text to give readers context. Include in writing what is your video about in at least a few sentences.
Bad example: to sound like you are emotional about this
Good example: to sound like you are passionate about this
Taken from the video "Chris Voss: "Never Split the Difference" | Talks at Google" at 23:50.
Any regular blogger who writes about code knows that embedding code snippets into their posts can be a real pain!
Syntax highlighting, special tags and keeping a track of your code snippets can be a nightmare. As a developer, you're sold on the virtues of source control, making changes then rolling back, forking, and cloning code. Wouldn't it be great if there were a simple way to share a touch of code?
Introducing Github Gists, which makes sharing, embedding and keeping track of code snippets easy. The standout feature of Github Gists is that every code snippet (often referred to by GitHub as a Gist) is behind the scenes a Git repository, which in turn gives you access to all of the benefits of source control.
Upon editing an already published Gist, the previous versions are preserved. As to be expected with any good source control, you can use the built-in diff engine to highlight clearly the changes between any two versions of a single Gist. This sounds like it can get out of hand quickly, but you can easily view all your Gists by heading to https://gist.github.com/username/.
When you upload a video, the most important step is setting a good title and description. However there is a further step to take in order to help others find your video content.
One of the few disadvantages of videos over written content is that Google can't tell much about your video apart from the title and tags you may provide when you upload it. By having your video transcribed and adding the transcription text to wherever the video is shown, you're giving Google specific information about the content of your video.
It also helps people to copy and paste important parts of what's said on the video.
The keywords for the video above are:
- Windows 10
- Micro Framework
However, it is missing important keywords such as:
- Universal Windows Platform
- Raspberry Pi
How to capture all of these missing keywords? You can't just overload your content with keywords, as your content may become flagged as spam.
The answer is to have your video content transcribed. As it provides drastically benefits for the discoverability of your video content, while the organic nature of the written material ensures it is not flagged as spam.
Check the whole transcription on Chris Briggs' blog post: VIDEO – The Internet of Things - Ilija Injac on all things IoT and .NET.
A quick Google search will show a range of services which will make the task effortless. However, professional transcriptions are expensive. If you’re willing to spend a little time cleaning up technical jargon then it is worth checking out:
- speechpad.com - for a better transcription quality
- fiverr.com - for a quicker reply and cheaper pricing
As an example, we have had success with this method as one of our devs, Chris Briggs transcribed all 3 hours of his SSW TV video content for under $90 USD and an hour and a half of his time to fix up jargon.
A relevant featured image is a great way to add a splash of color to your blog and make your content visually appealing.
You will need to ensure that you have the rights to use these featured images. A few options include:
- Purchasing a subscription to a stock image site
- Using a royalty-free stock image site. E.g. unsplash.com or pxhere.com
- Using Google Images that are labeled for reuse:
- Taking your own photos
Ensuring you are not breaching copyright will save you from any trouble in the future.
You should always publish your blog posts to all social media platforms you use. It helps boost traffic and visibility for your site.
Don't simply share the URL and maybe the title, as it won't make people get interested in taking an action. On social media, nowadays, you have an average of 5 seconds to get someone's attention on the feed – sometimes even less than that. So, you should put the effort in carefully choosing a catchy image to make your blog post interesting visually on someone's feed and adapting the content to different social networks. For example, if you use Twitter, you will have fewer characters. A good starting point is to choose a statement or a statistic from your blog post to share on the social media post and give the user a snippet about the content they are about to read.
The combination of a good image and an explanatory caption providing enough (and interesting) information from your content will make the user want to visit your blog to find out more about what you have to share.
Backlinks are a big part of Google's ranking algorithm, and one way to take advantage of that is to make sure that you always comment on people's blogs and include a link. This could be to ask a question, or give thanks to good blogs, but make sure you add a link back to your company website after your name.
Thanks, that worked for me.
Ulysses Maclaren www.ssw.com.au
Figure: Good example - add your signature (your name and URL) when you comment on blogs. And note that "thanks" is more casual than the formal "thank you".
On the management side, you can see if your employees are doing this by googling (in this case) "Ulysses Maclaren www.ssw.com.au" during annual reviews to see how much google juice they are adding to your website.