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What makes a good blog?

Victoria Tomlinson posted this on

Word cloud for blogs

I ran a training day for a group of consultants last week, as the first stage of building their profile. Their homework was to print out a blog they follow and then tell us all why they like it. It’s a great way to get people thinking about blogs and how to make them work.

I thought their comments were a reminder for us all – bloggers new and experienced! So here is what they liked.

  1. The blog has a clear focus

Everyone talked about this in different ways – they all like it when a blog covers a clearly defined topic and sticks to it. They know what to expect.

  1. No jargon, easy read

The posts should be written in plain English, no jargon and easily understood. They are easy reads. But the point was also made that this doesn’t mean the writing is in any way ‘dumbed down’. They were just written clearly so anyone could understand them.

  1. Snappy headings

They need good headings that make you want to open them and read more.

  1. Opinion mixed with authority

People talked about the authority of the blogger in different ways and clearly this is important. Some mentioned a blogger being an author and speaker, another about being a leading cricket commentator, another is the cyclist who is cycling thousands of miles. The blogger needs to feel credible. The group also liked an element of opinion coming through – not to rant, but having a view on an issue in a professional way. Daniel Goleman’s blog on EQ was mentioned for this. Other comments were made about wanting to see evidence – combining facts with the opinions.

  1. Updated regularly

Everyone talked about the content needing to feel fresh and topical, you don’t want to go to the blog and find nothing has been updated for three months.

  1. Practical tips

These consultants were all chaps so no surprises, we had a cycling diary blog, cricket analysis, a general sports blog. They liked the practical tips that were given – ‘how to cycle 100 miles without falling off your bike’ (I made that up but that sort of thing)

  1. Video clips

Everyone loved video clips. One consultant mentioned my colleague on the day, Julian Rawel, and his blog on big data and artificial intelligence– which has a video clip included, summing up the key points in the blog. The person choosing this blog was impressed that Julian didn’t refer to any notes in his 6-minute clip! (These comments have inspired me to try harder on our video clips – just doing some would be a good start)

If you are having problems viewing this video clip please click here

  1. Free downloads and infographics

This comment also made me think about our blogs – there were several comments about how peope love getting something for free on the blog. Downloads and infographics were both mentioned.

  1. Relevant to my problems

Everyone mentioned having some kind of empathy with their chosen bloggers. They felt they understood them and were giving tips and views that were relevant to problems or where they were at. Someone mentioned a techy blog which looked at the question ‘Will Windows 10 work?’

  1. Clear signposting

The blogs are written so that the reader knows what to get and there is clear signposting through the blog. We had quite a discussion around reading blogs on mobile phones, most people skim a blog quickly and want to take in information at a glance. Very few people these days sit down on a Sunday evening to ‘read a blog’. Most are read in passing and have to be well structured to get your attention.

  1. What they don’t like in a blog

The things that our group didn’t like in blogs were

  • Jargon
  • Advertisements
  • No visuals
  • Hard to find and find your way through the blog
  • Too long (but again we discussed this and a few long blogs are OK if they have really good content)
  • Too technical
  • Updates too slow
  • Too salesy
  1. How to research what your customers want to read in your blog

As part of this exercise, I split the group into pairs and asked them to imagine their business had decided to open an office in Abu Dhabi. What questions might they search for on Google? They came up with questions around researching the market for their services, how much does office space cost, how do you employ people locally, finding an agent, what is the quality and cost of living, schools, life for families etc.

I then showed them the blog that Jenny Hunt of the Gateway Group writes – we have our UAE license through them and I think Jenny writes really good blogs for her clients and potential clients. You will see she is thinking about what questions people might search for on Google with her headings and is answering a lot of these questions (these are just a selection of what she writes).

This is a really good exercise if you are wondering what to blog about – to get your head into your customer’s head and think what they might search for. I explain more about this process in this blog on Think like a Search Engine.

How to write a top ranked business blog

Our ebook on How to Write a Top-Ranked Business Blog also has inside secrets of writing a blog for your customers and Google.

What do you think makes a really good blog – anything we’ve missed on this list?

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