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What Makes A Good Blog (John Wilpers)

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What Makes A Good Blog (John Wilpers)

  1. 1. What makes a good blog? Tips from two successful professional bloggers Merlin Mann & JA Konrath World’s Best Blogs Internship, John Wilpers Media Consulting, Jan. 30, 2009
  2. 2. 1. Good blogs have a voice <ul><li>Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute — even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person? </li></ul>Merlin Mann’s Nine Tips:
  3. 3. 2. Good blogs reflect focused obsessions <ul><li>People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can’t stop reading and writing about it. They make and consume smart forebrain porn. So: where do this person’s obsessions take them? </li></ul>
  4. 4. 3. Good blogs are the product of “Attention times Interest” <ul><li>A blog shows me where someone’s attention tends to go. Then, on some level, they encourage me to follow the evolution of their interest through a day or a year. There’s a story here. Ethical “via” links make it easy for me to follow their specific trail of attention, then join them for a walk made out of words. </li></ul>
  5. 5. 4. Good blog posts are made of paragraphs <ul><li>Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums, it’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog. </li></ul>
  6. 6. 5. Good “non-post” blogs have style and curation <ul><li>Some of the best blogs use unusual formats, employ only photos and video, or utilize the list format to artistic effect. I regret there are not more blogs that see format as the container for creativity — rather than an excuse to write less or link without context more. </li></ul>
  7. 7. 6. Good blogs are weird <ul><li>Blogs make fart noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger’s obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader’s. If this isn’t happening every few weeks, the blogger is either bored, half-assing, or taking new medication. </li></ul>
  8. 8. 7. Good blogs make you want to start your own blog <ul><li>At some point, everyone wants to kill the Buddha and make their own obsessions the focus. This is good. It means you care. </li></ul>
  9. 9. 8. Good blogs try <ul><li>I’ve come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there’s the other 98%. They’re still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That’s why “good” is getting rare. </li></ul>
  10. 10. 9. Good blogs know when to break their own rules <ul><li>Duh. I made a list, didn’t I? </li></ul><ul><li>Yes. I did. Big fan. </li></ul>
  12. 12. 1. Content is King <ul><li>It's what brings people back. It's what draws new readers through search engines. If you share important information, experience, and wisdom, you'll build a readership. Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind is great one-stop-shopping for everything happening in the mystery world, and it is wildly popular as a result. </li></ul>JA Konrath’s 12 Tips:
  13. 13. 2. Lists, Tests, Bullet Points <ul><li>A text-heavy blog is a turn-off. Pay attention to negative space. People like to absorb information in bite-size pieces. The easier it is to digest and read, the more return visits you'll have. </li></ul>
  14. 14. 3. Stay Focused <ul><li>Stick to one topic per entry, and make sure this topic is different from previous topics so your readership doesn't get bored. What is the reason for your blog? Do you have a reason? Tess Gerritsen blogs about the ups and downs of being a bestselling thriller author. She doesn't water down her content with opinions about last night's episode of the Sopranos, lists of her favorite foods, meme tags, or life stories unrelated to publishing. </li></ul>
  15. 15. 4. Ask Questions <ul><li>A blog isn't a monologue. The best ones ask questions to provoke feedback. First Offenders is very good at this. Solicit opinions, ask for input and advice, and people will offer it. </li></ul>
  16. 16. 5. Be Friendly <ul><li>This is the community watering hole, and you are the bartender. Be welcoming, friendly, and accommodating. Answer questions, be polite, and be genuinely glad people have shown up. </li></ul>
  17. 17. 6. Be Controversial <ul><li>Arguing is good. Disagreement is good. As long as everyone remains civil, encourage debate. Lee Goldberg walks the line between entertaining, informative, and controversial, and his traffic shows it. </li></ul>
  18. 18. 7. Link to Other Blogs <ul><li>Go to and sign up for free. It will let you see where your traffic is coming from. This is often an eye-opening experience. The more sites that link to you, the more hits you'll get. If you want to see who is already linking to you, visit </li></ul>
  19. 19. 8. Free Stuff <ul><li>Periodically hold contests or give away free things. Everyone loves free things. </li></ul>
  20. 20. 9. Keep Yourself Out of It <ul><li>Unless the focus of your blog is your personal life, your personal life doesn't have much of a place in a blog. My focus is about the publishing business. As such, I don't blog about my children. In contrast, Melanie Lynne Hauser writes books about a single mother who becomes a super hero after a horrible Swiffer accident. Melanie is constantly blogging about her family because her books are all about family. </li></ul>
  21. 21. 10. Strive for Perfection <ul><li>An occasional typo is harmless. Every other word spelled wrong is annoying. Most blogs have spell-check. Use it. </li></ul>
  22. 22. 11. Limit Self-Promotion <ul><li>Sure, I hope everyone who reads my blog runs out and buys a copy of Whiskey Sour (or clicks on the Four Pack of Jack link to the right--four stories for only 49 cents!) But if you do this all the time you've become a commercial, not a blog. MJ Rose's blog is about self promotion, so she occasionally uses her own books as examples. But she also uses many other examples. Which brings me to the last point. </li></ul>
  23. 23. 12. No Blog is an Island <ul><li>Besides linking to other blogs, you should reference other blogs in your blog entries. We're all in the same writing community boat, and giving shout-outs to your peers is classy and helpful. I encourage everyone reading this to check out the blogs I've mentioned in this article. And if you find them to be helpful, informative, or entertaining, consider buying their books. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Let’s look at some good ones <ul><li>Great content, lots of links, contests, events…. </li></ul>
  25. 25. More good ones <ul><li>Great subject, hed, art, related stuff …. </li></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>Great nav, links, twitter/e-mail/RSS options, comments </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>Good, simple pic, links, more on jump, short & sweet </li></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>Great use of photo slide show where words won’t do </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>Stunning header, great photos, useful calendar, easy nav </li></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>Well organized, big pic, lots of options, friendly writing </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Simple, compelling art; up-front “about me;” Twitter </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>More compelling art; lots of links; great blog roll </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>Creative design; video; cool roll approach; comments </li></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>Great art, played large; </li></ul><ul><li>Short & sweet posts; </li></ul><ul><li>Invitation to participate; </li></ul><ul><li>Contact info up front; clear date; </li></ul><ul><li>Links off; </li></ul><ul><li>Wonderfully conversational writing </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>Dramatic banner/presentation; Flickr stream; RSS feed </li></ul>
  36. 36. <ul><li>Great org.; Short, punchy; easy sharing; lots o’links; pic bank </li></ul>
  37. 37. <ul><li>More great org.; Big pic; links; invite to join in; creative teases with pix </li></ul>
  38. 38. <ul><li>There is the rare blog gets by on great content alone </li></ul>
  39. 39. Here’s what NOT to do
  40. 40. <ul><li>No point; no art; no interactivity; nonsense writing </li></ul>
  41. 41. <ul><li>Narcissitic; stupid; gratuitous obscenity; pointless </li></ul>
  42. 42. <ul><li>More self adulation; no art; no links off in his posts; no offer to get involved </li></ul>
  43. 43. <ul><li>Beyond-belief idiotic; stupid quotes and saccharine photos from an unknown blogger; self importance taken to new levels </li></ul>
  44. 44. <ul><li>No links, other than his friends; </li></ul><ul><li>No art; </li></ul><ul><li>No blog roll; </li></ul><ul><li>No invite to participate; </li></ul><ul><li>Convoluted writing; </li></ul><ul><li>Unclear subject; </li></ul><ul><li>Unclear mission; </li></ul><ul><li>Perfectly awful design </li></ul>