As a continuation of last week’s post about blogs vs articles, I recently read an article that purported to show the differences between a blog post and an article online. Let’s look at some of the elements they listed:
Article: Casual writing style on a blog post, scholarly in an article.
MC: If you are writing on a travel blog about your vacation or recent mission trip, you could be casual with lots of photos and comments on the fun you are having and give some historical information about the site without being scholarly. However, if you are writing an article for an online encyclopedia about deserts in Egypt, a scholarly style is in order without your comments about the fun you had sliding down a sand dune in Egypt with your children. Note I said scholarly; I did not say boring.
Article: A blog post is primarily your opinion about the topic; whereas, an article post is more factual and doesn’t allow for your opinion.
MC: Don’t be fooled. Readers want to know what the topic will do for them, and they depend on your help to see that.
Followers are Key: Readers expect more from those they follow. They expect well-researched information, but they want more from you. They want your opinion. They can find a list of facts in any encyclopedia or a quick Google search. If you want them to follow your site regularly and recommend it to others, they must “tune in” to find out what your take on the subject is. They want to know what you think, feel, and opine about the facts based on your experience. A few clicks and they know whether you are regurgitating a list of facts or interpreting the list to assist them to understand the topic. And, yes, they want to be up close and personal.
Caution: Giving out personal information may come back to haunt you. You’ve seen the cops and robbers television shows that send shivers up your spine. Use some practical safety guidelines when giving out family information like home address, children and grandchildren names and pictures, your social security number - gotcha ya! Be smart about what your share with the world you cannot see.
As a freelance blogger and newsletter writer for a wide variety of clients from plumbers to physicians (although what they do is similar in construct: analysis and treatment), I do research on a specific topic with a request from my client. Coupling that information with client personalization: opinion, their services that address the topic, coupons, specials, recipes, etc. all in the same vein, is the difference in whether someone signs up for their site and cashes in the coupons they offer. I could regurgitate facts from Internet research, but the post would be dry as dirt and far too technical for their average client. When I write for IT companies, I include the products—software, hardware, apps—they have tried, along with information on what worked and what didn’t meet their expectations and the hype. These are the experts readers turn to when making purchase decisions.
Article: Grammar and spelling correctly are optional on a blog and optimal in an article.
MC: Ridiculous on sooo many levels.
Do you honestly believe that misspelled words and grammar mistakes, which aren’t intentional like using the word “sooo”, improve your professional appearance online? However, having fun with regional idioms and words you create like I wrote last week with “bloggish” make you as the writer more human and win followers, which is the name of the game. One thing I have always liked about Hope Clark on her Funds for Writers sites is the casual and friendly pictures she posts of herself, her dogs and chickens, her gardens. They bring her to life on the page. I learned quickly to respect her weekly editorials and referral sites for freelance work, contests, grants, etc., but it was her smiling face that lured me in that first year. I’ve been following her for ten years!
Article: A blog post has no interviews; an article has research and interviews from experts.
MC: This no longer applies. They both have interviews and research.
Interviews build credibility for the owner of the blog/website and the person being interviewed. You gain respect for your contact capability and insider knowledge. The expert, well, you know that part.
Create a list of questions to draw from. Use four to six of them that speak to the expert’s specialty. Be sure and include “insider” questions such as what is your favorite writer, quote, book, food, or vacation - anything that makes them more human and humane. Think this doesn’t work? Look at any magazine on the newsstand. Almost 100% of them have at least one interview. Pull questions from those lists to make your list reader-friendly. If you are knowledgeable, readers will keep coming back.
Article: A blog always focuses on SEO’s (search engine optimization); an article doesn’t.
MC: The assumption here is that search engines don’t care about keywords in an article; they let the length do all the work. Not absolutely true.
When Google tightened down on keyword stuffing, some people assumed keywords were a waste of time. If your piece is to promote your new fiction book about preppers in the United States, and you don’t use the title of your book, the words preppers or United States or better yet, preppers in the United States, frequently in the article, particularly the title of the post, how are browsers going to find your piece? I won’t go into the standard way of calculating keyword density here, but there is a basic formula to use. If you want more info, go to http://www.bestseoideas.com/seo-factors/keyword-density-formula-calculation-for-google-seo-6 or http://www.ehow.com/how_2341682_calculate-keyword-density.html. If you type calculating keyword density into your browser, you will see hundreds of other sites as well.
Responding to Comments
Never ignore a comment to your post or article. Never.* Unless you don’t care about what your readers have to say or think it’s stupid, or your disagree so vehemently, you snatch out a handful of hair when your read it.
Take a few minutes to think about what you want to say and then type. A simple “Thank You.” isn’t enough. Come on, you’re a writer, you can think of at least one sentence to explain what you are thanking them for.
Example 1: “Mahala, I agree with your comments about freelance blogging. My experience is….”
“Thank you, Marilyn. I had a similar experience when….”
Example 2: “Mahala, I completely disagree with your comments about freelance blogging. The people I wrote for were rude and never wanted to pay me more than $10 for a 300-word post! What a waste of my time!!! You shouldn’t encourage writers to take that kind of money.”
“Thank you for your feedback, Marilyn. I’ve also talked to potential clients who wanted to pay low fees, some as low as .0001 a word. I never work with people who aren’t willing to pay a respectable fee for the research and time it takes to create a professional piece. Best of luck with your freelance work.”
If James Scott Bell, Rhys Bowen, James Patterson, Hope Clark, Stephen King, and other very busy and popular authors can take the time to respond to hundreds of comments weekly, I can do my part in my slip of the world. And, yes, I know that these authors may pay a person to do the responding for them, but what does that say about them? They respect their readers enough to pay out of their own pocket to ensure that each comment gets a personal response.
*Except for obvious spams, which we were inundated with several years ago. This brings up another point. Always, always, always have administrative control over the posting of comments, so that a comment is never posted online for the public to see unless you approved it. It’s a control mechanism that comes with every reputable blog and website vendor, and you can opt in or out of the control.
Headlines (aka as titles)
One final thing about headlines to encourage readers to click on your post/article. In September 20, 2013, Marcy Kennedy, author of Strong Female Characters wrote a guest article on http://writersinthestorm.com, an excellent site with valuable information. It did a beautiful job of explaining how to write killer headlines and why that is important. I mentioned this last week, but it bears repeating. Go to their archives to read the rest of the article. The example on bacon is wonderful. This is the idea Marcy explains:
The Shocking Truth About Doctors (vague) What shocking truth about what? Overweight cardiologists? Anesthesiologists who steal from patients under anesthesia?
The Shocking Truth About What Your Doctor Might Be Doing to Harm Your Health (specific)
Marcy reminds writers to follow with a piece that gives the reader an obvious benefit. What’s the takeaway from the piece? In a piece like this, it obviously needs fact-based research with article references to back it up. This goes back to my post last week. What do you want the reader to see, know, and learn after they read your piece. See previous post in Archives on Blog Post vs Article/August 26, 2015.
If writing headlines send you around the bend (Southern for drive you crazy), go back to the magazine section of the library or newsstand and look at the covers. Magazine marketers are experts at writing headlines, so we will buy their magazine.
Drop me a comment about your experiences with your freelance and personal writing of blog/site posts and articles!
Write Like You Mean It ~ Mahala