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Blogging at NTU

Guidelines for writing your NTU Blog.

Have a purpose

Before you begin blogging, think about why you’re creating this content. What is it’s purpose? Is it to get your work out to a wider audience? Is it to inspire, to inform, or to entertain? It’s important that you’re considering both your own passion for the subject, and your intended audience. What would you like readers to take away from reading your blog?

Commitment

Successful blogging requires dedication. A blog will only ever have a small readership if the content isn’t added to, and themes or stories aren’t developed. By committing to your blog you are giving a clear signal to readers that it’s worth their while reading and looking out for future content. Commitment doesn’t mean updating your blog at predefined intervals – quality should come before quantity. But it is important to keep momentum going and your writing and voice will improve and evolve with practice.

Creating a blog

Where

We would recommend creating your blog on Wordpress.com and paying for the Business plan as this removes adverts and allows you to add analytics.

Look and feel

Theme

Use a one of the many free themes available but try and keep it simple and usable. It is better that the blog is clear and readable rather than over designed. Try and pick a theme that is “responsive” so that it will also display well on mobile devices.

Brand

If you do want the blog to be branded as an NTU presence keep your design simple. Add the logo and maybe use the school / department colour. Less is more! Brand and style guidelines can be found here.

Do not try and recreate the header or make the site look like part of www.ntu.ac.uk.

If you are blogging about a topic or initiative with an approved visual you can use this, but be wary if image dimensions and quality – seek guidance from your marketing contact if you need help.

Analytics

We recommend using Google Analytics to gain an insight into how your blog is used. You will have to purchase the business plan to add the analytics code to your blog. Ask your marketing team to submit an analytics brief to Digital Marketing to set up an Analytics profile and get you started.

What makes a good blog post?

Blogging well isn't just a case of adding your thoughts onto the Internet. It's about a connection, or sharing of information with your readers. Here’s a few tips to get your started:

Consider your audience

It’s a simple thing to point out, but it’s very important nonetheless; who do you want to be reading your blog? Who do you think will be interested in what you have to say?

Consider who they are, when, where, how and why they might be reading your blog, and try and write in a way that speaks to them so they’ll understand and engage with what you’re saying.

It’s also important to remember that blogs can and do remain discoverable in search engines for years, so don’t post anything you might regret in the future!

What is your post for?

Are you trying to get a point across? What is it? It might be useful to make sure you have a purpose in mind when you sit down to write a post, even if that purpose is just to describe something that happened to you recently, or to update staff about a new idea.

Make it the right length

There are several schools of thought regarding how long a blog post ought to be; some people say short and sweet, while others think people like longer and more detailed content.

The simple fact is that it depends what you’re writing about: a simple observation which rambles on for hundreds or even thousands of words is no good, but neither is a short post that doesn’t fully cover a topic or explain what you mean.

Consider the situation your readers might be in. Are they likely to be reading from home, from work or in-transit? Are they using a smartphone or computer? Do they have lots of time or just enough for a quick glance?

Experts suggest that posts of less than 250 words, or more than 1000, do less well in search results; more on this later.

Make it readable

People read digital content differently to how they read on paper – and they’re generally much more impatient online. Whether your post itself is long or short, it will be easier (and quicker) to read and understand if the paragraphs and sentences are short and the words are recognisable. It may be tempting to write in as creative and enigmatic a style as you can, but this could put people off reading and prevent you getting your point across.

“Never use a long word where a short one will do” - George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

There may be complex subjects that require technical language to avoid ambiguity. And we don’t want to water down academic discussion or complex thinking. Try to distil complex subjects into shorter sentences with single propositions to help readers of all types, especially where vocabulary is more specialised.

Using pictures

Pictures which illustrate what you’re writing about can really help to catch your audience’s imagination and attention. You can upload pictures directly into your blog, or hyperlink to them. If you do use pictures taken or owned by other people, make sure you consider copyright and attribute the image correctly.

Tag your images with meta data to help your images become more visible in search engines.

Titles: Attention-grabbing or search engine friendly?

Newspaper sub-editors have had to learn how to write headings for the Internet, which is very different from writing them for print. Clever puns and intriguing statements can catch your eye as you flick through a newspaper, but they’re not the type of thing that makes content findable online. Unfortunately, search-engine-friendly titles can often be a little boring and obvious. It’s completely up to you which style you prefer to use, but make sure you know the difference.

Other things to attract search engines

The title and opening lines of any webpage or blog post are the most important things to help them be found in searches, and the words you use in these headings and opening lines are the ones that search engines will pick up, so make sure you point out what you’re writing about if you want your post to be found.

There are other things that can help, too.

Tags and categories

Make sure you put all your posts in categories, and add keyword tags, as these can help both with SEO (search engine optimisation) and with navigating around your blog if you have a lot of content. Categories should represent broad topics you discuss regularly (e.g. “foreign policy”, whereas keyword tags represent specific subjects within a post (that may or may not be repeated). Try to avoid tags and categories that duplicate each other.

Metadata on photographs

People search for photographs online almost as much as they search for text, so if you use photographs make sure they have proper words in their filenames and descriptions; if someone finds your photograph, they also find your blog.

Links to and from other websites

The more links there are to your blog, the easier it is to find, both for people browsing other websites and in terms of where your blog will come in search results. Having reputable websites and social media influencers link to your blog will give your blog more authority.

More shorter posts

Some people think that it’s a good tactic for SEO to write lots of short blog posts rather than a few long ones; but consider that SEO experts suggest webpages with less than 250 words or more than 1000 don’t do as well in search results.

Topicality

Search engines are now so sophisticated that they update in real time according to what people are searching for, so if you can write a post at the moment of peak interest in a subject it can bump you to the top of search results.

Ask your readers to do things

Marketing people refer to this as a “call to action”. You might be asking people to donate to a charity, fill in a survey, click on a link to another website, or just give their opinion via the comments box. A call to action gives your posts a definite purpose, and encourages interaction between your readers and you. New people to your blog could become social media followers, blog subscribers or just regular lurkers, it’s good to make conversation with readers.

Responding to comments

How you deal with comments is up to you, and will largely depend on the type of comments your posts receive. Some might just need a quick response via another comment, some might not need a response at all, and others you might want to respond to via email if possible. At the least, acknowledging that people have taken the time to write comments is an act of politeness.

Responding to comments can be a good way of building a sense of community and expanding your readership. It can also draw you into discussions and arguments that you don’t want to have. Try not to be baited into antagonistic situations, and remember that you can always delete comments to your blog; your blog is your responsibility, and it’s your privilege, and responsibility, to control what’s on there.

Disclaimer

Please include the following disclaimer somewhere on the blog:

These blogs are the individual views of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Nottingham Trent University.

Let us know

Once you’ve created a blog we’d appreciate it if you could the DMCS team and your School Marketing team know. That way if we do get any requests directed to us about the blog we know who to contact.

Still need help?

DMCS