I’ve written advice for bloggers on my own blog:
But here I thought I’d write something that is not so much advice for good blogging, but what I think are actually essential for having a blog that does not annoy me. Much of this is from the perspective of trying to follow blogs using a newsreader, share them in lists, and read vast numbers of them in one sitting. Obviously, others may have very different priorities, but I would recommend following these suggestions if you want to encourage others to read and share your blog.
1) Include a working RSS Feed
An RSS feed is what makes a blog a blog (rather than a website with a diary on it). Do not panic if you are unfamiliar with this, it is fitted as standard on most blogging sites, so you will have one if you are on WordPress, Blogger/blogspot etc. That said, it would be helpful if there was a link to it on your blog, so look for something like this
Also check the RSS feed is working. Does the title of your blog come up as “untitled” or “blog” when you subscribe to it? Does it actually update properly?
2) Have share buttons.
These are the little gadgets for sharing your blog. These are what the ones for blogspot and wordpress look like:
At the very least you should have a way of sharing your blog on Twitter, Facebook and at least one blogging platform. One of the worst offenders for lack of share buttons is blogger/blogspot blogs using The Orange Cogs Of Death. See Point 6 below.
3) Have an “about” page. This is the page that tells readers about your blog. It will be set up automatically and can be edited like a normal post on WordPress. On other platforms you may have to create a page yourself. This is a vital part of making it clear what your blog is for. Make sure you describe what you do, what you intend to blog about and what country you are living in.
4) Don’t publish falsehoods. Some people must spend their time at work making stuff up and can’t stop when they get online. Others are the type of ideologue who believes that lying or being misleading is a perfectly acceptable way of promoting your cause. Others simply don’t fact check anything and unintentionally pass on falsehoods. You will get caught out if you are deliberately dishonest online, even if people don’t tell you directly that they are aware of it. As for fact checking, check all statistics and quotations from the original source. Websites, books, newspaper articles and episodes of QI are not usually reliable sources without a clear statement of where they got their information from. Quotations are particularly likely to be unreliable, particularly if attributed to Einstein or Plato or featuring on a motivational poster. Use Wikiquote or Quote Invesitgator to check quotations.
5) Don’t just repeat what you’ve heard elsewhere. By this I mean, consider how original you are being. You need a certain amount of original content, so be careful. Sometimes you do want to just express your opinions. Often those opinions are informed by what you’ve heard elsewhere, and sometime you can’t even remember where you’ve got them from which leads to unintentional plagiarism. But try to stop and think about how you reached your opinions, and if you were informed heavily by other sources. Ask yourself whether they need attribution and whether your audience are already familiar with what you are about to say. It’s hard to draw a strict line here, but if the content of your posts is actually what you were taught on your PGCE, read in this morning’s newspaper or were told at your last INSET, stop and think again.
6) Make posts readable. This covers a variety of errors. Check you are not doing the following:
- Unreadable colours. People can zoom in on typefaces or change fonts but colours are a pain to change.
- Ridiculously long posts. If somebody can’t read it in 10 minutes, it’s way too long.
- Lack of Smartphone accessibility. There are settings you can use to make your blog readable on a phone, and you should be familiar with them. But the single worst offender on this is The Orange Cogs Of Death, i.e. blogger/blogspot blogs using the theme that makes people see this:
7) Rarely delete or reblog your posts. Once your posts are up keep them there unless they are genuinely posted in error. People should not be having to work out where the post they followed a link to went. Also, be restrained in reblogging your old posts. Links to old stuff are a good idea, particularly if your blog is growing, but new posts should vastly outnumber reblogs of your own material.
8) Make it easy to access old posts. A search function, an archive and a list of recent posts should be standard on a blog. If somebody was looking to find a post of yours that they enjoyed a week ago, would they be able to find it?
9) Have actual posts. An obvious one perhaps, but some blogs seems to make it very unclear what is a page and what is a post. If your website is not a blog, make that clear. If it includes a blog alongside other features, make that clear. Posts should all be clearly dated. Ideally they should have a title and author too.
10) Don’t overuse exclamation marks. Okay, everyone makes mistakes with punctuation and spelling. We are not our own best proofreaders. But I, personally, find the excessive use of exclamation marks unforgivable. They don’t mean “hey, look at this”. (The other one that winds me up most is misuse of the word “literally”.)
Thanks to everyone who made suggestions for things to include in the blog. I can’t thank people individually as most ideas were suggested multiple times. I will update this post over time, so please suggest additions.