What I Learned in May
In March and April I concentrated on trying to keep my total word count up by writing a number of long posts (1,000 words or more). However, I changed my focus in May: I tried to go short by focusing on topics that I could develop adequately in the 500–750 word range. I still consider that to be the sweet spot for me in blogging. As a result, my total word count was down almost 5,000 words from April, but my average post length was 573 words, which is in the range (albeit at the lower end) that I was aiming for.
Sometimes life interferes with writing a blog post every day. Last month I learned to keep a couple of short post ideas in the hopper to be completed on days when time is short. This means having research done and photos planned and uploaded ahead of time..
I’ve been getting better at incorporating some personal element into posts, usually how I came upon this topic or why it interests me. But I’m still short on storytelling, or building a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s something I’ll have to continue to work on.
May’s Research on Blogging
Working from the premise that online readers scan content rather than carefully reading it, Pam Neely offers:
two primary approaches to improving reader engagement. The first is to make your content scannable. Ie, to work with readers’ existing online reading habits. Second, create content so good that at least some users will actually slow down and take the time to read it word for word.
Approach #1: Make your content scannable
- Use the inverted pyramid structure.
- Use short paragraphs.
- Use subheaders.
- Highlight keywords.
- Use scannable lists.
- Add images or video.
- Use short copy elements like photo captions, call outs, and tweetables.
- Write simply and clearly.
Approach #2: Create content so good that readers will slow down and engage with it
- Write a killer headline that draws people in from the start.
- Write for a specific audience.
- Show a contrary point of view.
- Show an unusual point of view: “Try borrowing ideas, frameworks or approaches from other industries.”
- Offer new information
- Use quizzes, polls, or other interactive tools.
- Ask for comments.
Neely’s first set of suggestions is straightforward. In addition to just plain writing well (suggestions 1 and 8), using structural elements such as subheads and lists is easy with WordPress. I even installed a plugin on my two self-hosted blogs that allows me to highlight tweetable content, and I’ll experiment with that next month.
But where I most need to concentrate is on her second area, creating content that readers will slow down and actually read. By the end of each month I usually have a bunch of open browser tabs featuring articles that I meant to engage with myself. Here, for example, are a couple that have been open for at least two weeks:
Both of these articles deal with topics with which I have personal experience and on which I have strong opinions, and I kept meaning to write a blog post about my reactions to each one. In the future I will undertake such posts when I come across the opportunity instead of waiting until some later time (that never seems to arrive).
Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but notice that Neely posted this article on the Scoop.it blog on May 18, 2015, and as of May 30 there were no comments. Maybe other people were, like me, too busy thinking about their own content to engage with hers.
My Statistics for May
Number of posts written: 31
Shortest post: 250
Longest post: 1,300
Total words written: 17,775 (down about 5,000 from April)
Average post length: 573 (down about 150 from April)
Distribution of posts across my three blogs:
The total of posts here may not equal the number of posts written last month because I occasionally publish the same post on more than one blog. However, I have included each post only once in my total word count.
Last month’s featured post: