A few Dirigo blog style guidelines04/22/2013
Okay, your new website or rebranded site is almost ready to launch. How to maintain it? Below are a few guidelines that are fairly universal. For all content, and especially blog content, create a maintenance plan, what we call a content or editorial schedule and stick to it (notwithstanding changes that may be needed for breaking news stories or other timely issues).
There are lots of editorial calendar tools out there. We used Divvy HQ when it was still a baby. It works especially well when there are multiple staff (including the client) that work on the blog and/or social media too. I admit that I'm partial to plain ol' Excel. Most of us have it in our software repertoire and it's pretty easy to use.
Whenever you use, develop fresh content (don't copy or plagiarize content already available on the web or in other mediums). Use your blog to show thought leadership that will be recognized by peers for having progressive and innovative ideas. To break up content, I like to acknowledge special days or observances as they may be relevant to your sector. Take today, Earth Day 2013—great topic for the automotive vertical especially if you have a hybrid model or a vehicles with terrific gas mileage for sale.
This is my favorite blog, Mashable—the content is fabulous and the layout is great on the eyes. The Masable blog was redesigned into a responsive layout (adjusts well to a users' screen resolutions) in December 2012. The look and feel appeals to me. The design is popular. It’s trendy—but not overly so. It’s graphically rich. It’s the future. It is modeled on Pinterest. Who doesn't love Pinterest? This is a layout that appeals to an ever-growing tablet/smartphone market. And, of course, I love the design of the Dirigo blog too.
Oftentimes folks draft web pages or blog posts in a word processor, like Word. That's great, but before you paste into your content management system (CMS), please, please, please paste the copy into Notepad or a similar text editor to strip away the junk that word processing software sometimes add, then paste from Notepad into your CMS editor.
- Avoid using caps in copy, especially in the H1/title (no need to scream at readers; consider using italics in title but avoid using underline as users' have been conditioned that words underlined delineate a link to another page).
- Keep H1/web and blog post titles to the most succinct (aka shortest) length possible. Do your keyword research so that you get as much SEO benefit as possible. Lately there's been lots of online chatter about Google cutting headlines off at 70 characters. Regardless of how many exact characters are viewed by search engines, pieces with longer headlines won’t get as much traffic as shorter ones. Search engines reward content that is clicked on by users. Keep 'em short!
- Avoid using excessive single and double quotes (this is really distracting).
- Name one author per blog post; if your CMS allows for uploading an image or avatar of the author, do it! Be sure to link content to a Google+ profile using rel="author"
- Add hyphens (or dashes) between words in the URL or permalink (it really aids user readability). Be sure that a search engine can accurately decipher the context of your content; take the term: mens exchange—a search engine could read it as men-sex-change if you don't add the dashes; mens-exchange.
- Keep your URL/permalink succinct, don't use punctuation in the URL/permalink (and limit in title/H1), and decide if you are capping only proper nouns or just the first letter of the first word.
- Decide if you are using a comma before the word in a series of words: like green, red, and yellow (or green, red and yellow).
- Place periods and commas inside of single and double quotes (and question marks and exclamation points outside).
- If you include URLs in web or blog body, very selectively hyperlink as you don’t want to give away your outbound link juice; if you do hyperlink (outside of your own website), consider opening a blank tab (or you could link away and use the rel=nofollow so search engines won't crawl the link but users can easily navigate).
- The good blogs contain lots of visual stimulus like Mashable; some folks like to read, some like to view images, some like to watch video, and some want all of the above (if you can't get an image on the page, consider using bullets or numbers to break up the text).
- Avoid using Part I, Part 2 in titles/permalinks (and if you do have multi-part pages/posts, be sure to link between pages on your site to aid the user's experience.
- Include the topic background copy below the first ~50-100 words, get to the meat of the topic at the beginning (and keep the reader on the page as long as possible); though, if it makes the most sense to put the background up front, then do it!
- If copy was originally written for a non-web use (eg print), give it an edit for web readability.
- Avoid catchy phrases in titles that probably work well for print—oftentimes catchy words or phrases are lousy for the web, especially if you are striving to gain SEO value.
- Avoid, at all costs, tag stuffing—use the few that fit the copy; tailor tags based on the relevance of the copy (not the same eight or whatever number you always use). Alt tags should be used to assist the ADA community.
- Use the OG type and URL and canonical URL, plus OG title and meta description (this is complicated but let's say that these help the page in getting indexed/returned on the search engine results page and also helps with pulling in graphics when one posts to social channels).
- And don't forget to categorize your blog post.
Allow comments! Blog comments make a blog interactive. The most popular blogs have engaged interactive communities who voice their opinions frequently. It's the social aspect that makes the blog such a powerful component of the social web. Thought leaders frequently publish blog posts on trends and topics influencing an industry or directed internal to an organization. Through clarity of purpose and effective communication, they can and do effect change.
Happy blogging (and web writing)! Let me know if you have questions!