Two years ago, the expected norm for word length for a blog
was 300 words. Supposedly, readers didn’t want to read more than that at one
time. Two years prior to that, it had been 500 words. Once again, things have
changed, and it seems with the lack of printed news, more people want to read
more reliable content, so the number of words jumped to 1,000 per post.
However, that changed the definition of a post, which is similar to the length
of a memo in office speak.
Truth be told, it’s all about search engines, specifically
Google. As I gathered articles to write this bloggish article, I found that to
say what I wanted to say will probably take two posts on this blog unless I
want to write a short book on the subject, which I don’t.
It’s not all about length; however, length is the MVP when
it comes to leading the team of words to success. There are a host of factors
to consider as you look at your posting campaigns. Most people have over 5,000 words
of general information on their websites, including About, Bios, Publications,
Blog, etc. in addition to words that suggest the reader sign up for the blog,
newsletter, products, etc. My list of factors to consider when writing includes:
Purpose: Here is
where the first list of questions comes into play. Are we talking substance as
in this is my purpose for writing this post, or are we talking marketing as in this is my
purpose to write this post. For most posts by writers or anyone promoting a
business, both should be the answer.
A. Why go to the trouble to write anything and waste your
time and the time of potential readers and your followers if your piece has no
substance? Like drafting a good book, you should always ask yourself three
questions before starting to write, then ask the questions again when you are finished.
1. What do you want the
reader to see?
2. What do you want the
reader to know?
3. What do you want the
reader to learn?
B. If you can say what you need to say in 150 words, do it.
If you need more than 1,000 words, then do that. I tell my students if they
regularly blog in short splurts and decide to write a lengthier piece, tell the readers up front: This post is different
and this is why.
C. If you have Internet presence, there must be a
reason you opted for it. Usually that reason is to spread brand awareness, educate, build a
social engagement process (emails, newsletters, Facebook or Twitter followers, likes
and retweets), and sell products - books, shirts, short stories, invitations, or
services such as plumbing, personal training, editing, painting, workshops,
about the way you send a quick email to a co-worker - business tone, short, and
to the point. But when you email your BFF, you tend to write in a
conversational tone with emoticons and funny or sad stories - personal. Generally,
I find writers and others in their school of thought such as agents,
publishers, publicists are in two schools of style online, and their style
definitely influences the length of their posts.
1. Polite but all business with a point to make about services,
products, workshops, topics such as genres, finding an agent, new books, etc.
Use links and clickthroughs often. More advertising. More sophisticated look to
the site and the posts. http://www.foliolit.com/
is a good example.
2. Friendly with a personal tone and pictures of them and
recent events. They make points about the same things as those in 1 above but
more casually, more prone to strong language and opinions. They also use links
often. They “atta girl” others in the field more often and refer to others in
their field, frequently hosting another writer. Some are very sophisticated sites
and some very laid back. A lot has to do with their success thus far and
funding restraints or money to invest back into their business. http://fundsforwriters.com
is a good
example. She started small and her weekly newsletter exploded over time as she became a well-published author and a brand that is well known in writing circles.
Format: I’m including one last comment about style
here. If you use infographics, the number of words to introduce the post topic
is usually short, under 100 words. There may also be similar verbiage with each of the
infographics used. The same goes for videos.
Never underestimate the impact of formatting with online
posts. Readers, by and large, are scanning your post, even if they are your
regular follower. After all, we can’t say something every week that appeals to
everyone, although that would be brilliant wouldn’t it? It is important to put
a lot of thought into your heading. It will be the first and sometimes only
thing that grabs the reader’s interest. Be honest but be VERY creative!
I teach my students to use subheadings liberally. Bold them. Underline them. Italicize them. Enlarge them. Use all CAPS
and all lowercase. Change the font mid-article. Like the good fairy
godmother, sprinkle images here and there. Use Color. Follow
journalism rules for writing with short paragraphs and clear sentences.
Why do any of this? Because differences draw the eye to
them; therefore, potential readers can scan your article to see what they need
to know, what interests them, and if they want to recommend it to others - a
nice bonus. Take readers on a journey with you. Don’t drag them along with
posts that look and sound like everyone else. Dare to be BOLD.
targeted readers have a lot to do with your style. If you write to the sci-fi
audience, you can have fun with different takes on language and colors. If you
write to the gothic horror audience, a lot of red and black and ghoulish types
of words will give your posts a twisted difference. If you write to the romance
audience…I bet you can figure out that one all on your own.
Check out http://www.jungleredwriters.com/
one of my favorite sites. Their tagline “7 smart and sassy crime fiction
writers dish on writing and life. It's The View. With bodies.” The colors and
format of the various posts are each unique and spot on for their mystery
followers. Look at our tagline for Lyrical Pens and you will learn about who we are.
Frequency: If you
have spent the money and time to develop an online presence, use it to your
advantage. Never post less
than once a week and twice is better. Naturally if you post less frequently, you
might want to add more information. But two shorter posts in a week will keep your products on their mind. There is a fine line between boring and
blasting them. Tiptoe along it carefully.
Yes, it is important
to get recognized by search engines and moved to the top of the heap on their
lists, but the most important thing you can do for your reputation and to treat
your readers with respect is to write quality material. I did not say perfect.
I said quality.
Before posting, type your posts in Word
or whatever software you use first. Correct typos, grammar, and spelling. You
can write in fragments; grammar police won’t drag you “downtown.” But you
must make an effort to be cogent in your thought process, have a plan and
If you are unsure
how to start, copy and rewrite posts from sites you particularly like. It isn’t
plagiarism, and it’s a smart way to develop craft fairly quickly. Study the formatting
of the sites you like.
- What caught your eye?
- What made you stop and read?
- Were there
- What is the POV?
the style casual, terse, friendly, etc.?
- Can you tell their
theme and did they deliver their message? I despise online come-on’s and
when you get to the posts, it is bogus, never getting to the false heading they
grabbed you with.
I enjoy hearing some
of my favorite sites say occasionally, “I couldn’t think of anything to say
this week, and then I did… or read… or saw… and I was back in the game.” It
makes them quite real to me. And best of all, it puts my little gray cells in
gear, and I suddenly have an idea to share with my readers.
What are your
favorite sites and why?
Write Like You Mean It!