This blog post is written to support a piece of my Year of the Author Platform workshop that’s running for Queensland Writers Centre today, breaking down the anatomy of an individual blog post for the participants. However, since I’m a waste-not, want-not kind of guy, I’m sharing it here in case anyone else gets some use out of it.
Since my readership consists of folks who are enormously smart about this sort of thing, I’m also going to use this as an opportunity to grab some feedback. Is there anything I should be telling these folks that I didn’t? Any resources you’d recommend? We’ve got a team of hungry aspiring writers who are eager to siphon your brainjuices, folks, so feel free to throw your two cents in once we hit the comments.
Alright, here we go. Strap yourselves in folks, ’cause we’re going to get meta.
Things to Pay Attention To Above This Text
There’s a handful of things to pay attention to above the first paragraph of this post. The title is the obvious one, but it’s also worth paying attention to the category that appears just above the title, “Blatant Self Promotion.” Categories are a way of sorting web content on an individual site and tend to be very broad – I’ve used this one ’cause I’m also being a bit cheeky and using one Platform building activity (running a workshop) to direct people towards another platform building activity (checking out my website). (Note for people visiting later: Categories may change as I overhaul my site in a couple of months.)
Category may not appear above the post in your individual site – its a function of the site design I picked for Petermball.com – but it’s definitely an option on most wordpress builds and it’s a surprisingly powerful tool (which, admittedly, I’ve mishandled on this site for the most part).
2) BY AUTHOR
Another thing that’s worth checking is the “By Author” section. This is a little thing, but its worth checking that you’ve created an account that syncs with your author name, rather than using the default names that blogging platforms tend to create. There’s nothing weirder than going to an author site and seeing everything being posted by “admin.”
Of course, if you’re reading this after the weekend of the 25-26th, the above paragraph will make less sense as I tend to keep “by Author turned off on my website. This is because I’m usually the only person whose writing and posting things to this blog.
3) WEB ADDRESS
This will only work if you’ve logged directly into the post, so if you’re reading this from my home page, click on the title of the post and come on over to the permalink.Once you’ve done that, note that the web address attached to the post uses the title as part of the direct link: http://www.petermball.com/2013/05/25/the-anatomy-of-a-blog-post
WordPress doesn’t do this as a default, it’s an option you have to set. If you don’t, then your blog posts tend to be identified by a number, which is far less sexy. This is one of those little things its worth double-checking, just like the Author, because it makes your site look a little cleaner.
4) POST TIME
All going well, this has gone live at 11:45 on Saturday morning, the 25th of May. I haven’t gone near the computer in order to make this happen, since we’ve been discussing blogging styles for the last two hours, which I’m calling out here ’cause I really want to highlight the power of scheduling posts in advance.
Things to Pay Attention To in the Body of the Post
5) THE HEADERS
See how I’ve broken things down with sub-headings through the post? These are a function of using the Heading HTML Code, which tells a computer that certain things should be be displayed differently (for the human readers) and read differently (if you’re a robot scanning the web for content). Header’s become your key words and phrases when it comes to telling places like Google what your post is about. This is a really nice breakdown of how it works.
You’ll need to figure out how to set up headers on your blogging software of choice, but it’s generally in the dropdown options under “Paragraph” when you’re drafting.
6) THE LINKS
I tend to throw a whole bunch of links into a post, pretty much any time there’s something relevant or worth following up on. There’s a bunch of reasons this is a good idea, based on the discussions we’ve had about in the workshop about blogging authority and being a useful internet citizen.
7) THE REQUEST
Scroll back to the second paragraph of this post and you’ll notice that I’ve put a request for comments in there. This is because I like comments, ’cause comments have the potential to be useful as an added resource in a blog post like this, and because it gives people an incentive to keep reading.
8) THE SUMMARY
So one of the second-last things that’ll occur at the end of this post is a summary of what people have just read, reminding them why this sort of thing is useful.
Things to Pay Attention To at the End of the Post
9) THE REQUEST, REDUX
So that request I made for comments at the top of this blog post? I’m going to reiterate it down in the bottom, just to make it clear that I’m really, really happy to hear people’s feedback on this topic.
10) SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS
There’s a whole range of options for linking this post, quick and easy. I’m favouring facebook, twitter, and email, but the other options are there in the Share This section of the link salad at the end.
These aren’t a standard for every blog yet, but dear god, they totally should be. Part of my day-job for the Australian Writer’s Marketplace involves curating a bunch of writing and publishing links for our twitter stream, which gets a fair amount of click through. It’s a job that needs to be done fast, which means that posts I’m on the fence about including get dropped off if they don’t have the easy social media links to work with.
11) USING THE ARCHIVE
It’s a pretty basic thing, but when you hit the bottom of this post it’ll give you a link to the post that occurred before it and the one that’ll come after it. Basically, it’s there to encourage the reader to keep exploring and to make it easy for them to do so.
The young sibling of Categories. Basically a chance to really break down some of the key components/ideas in your post and make it easier to see. I tend to have a bit of fun with my tags, but if you click on What I Did With My Weekend you’ll see how it works.
The Thing You Can’t See
And finally, there’s the invisible part of this blog post: meta-data and SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. Your site generates a fair amount of this automatically for you these days, but it’s worth being aware that they exist and have the potential to impact on the way search engines find data.
And that’s it….the anatomy of a blog post
One of the key things I’m stressing in today’s workshop is that blogging is both a publishing tool and an unfamiliar form for most writers, and when you’re setting out to learn how to write blog posts it’s rather like learning the form of a short story or a poem. You learn how to write these things by learning how to read them – looking at the way people have utilized narrative and form.
Blogging is just like that. Certain traits have built up over time because they work, but they also become invisible once you’ve learned them. This is an attempt to highlight some of the thing we don’t always think about, so the YoAPpers (as they’re known around the office) have a list of things to start paying attention to when they find blogs they like. It’s a checklist for figuring out why things that work may be working, or why the posts that don’t work are failing.
It’s not the whole story, but it’s a baseline. If I’ve missed anything, let me know.
More importantly, if you’ve got some hard-won advice you’d like to pass on to new bloggers, add it into the commentary and I’ll pass it along.