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Writing Is Not Blogging

hand holding pen writingBy Guest Author, Cynthia of  Wine, Woman and Travel.

More and more print writers are publishing their content online, but when they start touting themselves as bloggers… I cringe and cannot help feeling a bit resentful.  A brilliant writer does not necessarily a brilliant blogger make.

For three years I blogged professionally for a top producer of Port wine, so it was absolutely incumbent on me to blog for results – to bring in regular readers, to raise the profile of the blog and our brand on the internet, and hopefully, ultimately, to change readers’ buying habits to favour our products.

Writing vs. Blogging

So, what is the difference between writing and blogging, and how can that change readers’ habits?

Writing for print publication and blogging both depend on fundamentally interesting, well-written content as a basis for success.  What sets blogging apart is the degree to which a blogger can create and control their own follow through, rather than depend on a publisher’s marketing department and critics for promotion, and the blogger’s opportunity to interact directly and promptly with readers.

Blogging takes great writing and then enhances it for several purposes:  first, to implicitly promote itself on the Internet by optimizing the content to rate highly on search engines, second, to make your writing an even greater resource to readers by linking to valuable related content, and finally by inviting direct and nearly real time engagement with your readers.

This is where many print writers utterly fail to become bloggers – they simply post material written in their usual print style for stand-alone, one-way consumption by readers, and make no effort whatsoever to leverage the context of the Internet.

The Tasks That Turn Good Writing Into Good Blogging

Once I had written an article for the wine producer’s blog and was happy with the text, the writing was done and the blogging began.  This work easily adds a few hours to the process of publication, but makes all the difference in reader appeal and search engine optimization.

Review the text for keywords:  these are the words or phrases people type into search engines for which you want the search engine to send them to your content.  Ideally, one or more of these words should appear in your article title and the first line or two of text, but managing this so your opening lines aren’t repetitive is a bit of an art.  I tried to balance the use of a range of keywords over the opening lines of consecutive articles, varying between product names, brand names, the names of key people as well as general subject matter keywords.  Remember that search engine ranking depends a lot on consistency and continuity, so you don’t have to use all the words in every article, but do be sure you use them regularly and repeatedly over the course of time.

Photo editing:  Select images that are relevant to the content and will engage the reader’s interest, compelling them to settle down and read your story.  The photos must be edited not only to make them visually appealing, but also to meet the technical specifications of your blog site.  In addition, descriptive photo titles which include keywords will ensure search engines catalog your photos and they turn up on image searches for your keywords – posting “img1234.jpg” will get you nowhere.  Image searches are increasingly appealing to Internet users, and a good blogger will leverage this to entice readers into the blog.

Hyperlinks:  Review your text again for linking opportunities.  Search engine ranking depends in part on the degree to which you link out to other high quality sites, as well as on top sites linking into you.  Since I was blogging about wine, I routinely linked to our dedicated brand websites for general information or the technical details and tasting notes for specific wines, or I might have linked to professional wine critic’s sites, if they had reviewed the wine in question or written about the firm or region in general.  An article about viticulture might include links to a site that provided weather or more technical viticultural data for the region.  An article about our wines being featured at an event or a restaurant included links to those websites.

Don’t forget to link back to your own related content – if you have been writing for a year or more, you have great content that should not be overlooked by new readers, and back links are a great way to draw them in.  For example, if my current article was about the launch of a new wine, I would link to prior posts about the vintage harvest, or the specific vineyards from which we picked the grapes for this wine.

Gratuitous links to standard reference sites for generic words are not particularly helpful for purposes of either SEO or building your relationship with your readers.  If you link to high quality content that relates to your subject matter, provides valuable additional or more detailed information, and is of genuine interest, your readers will learn to trust you, your writing, your recommendations, and ultimately, your products.

Comments:  The comment function is one of the unique features of blogs versus other kinds of websites, which encourages genuine engagement with your audience.  Managing comment activity on a mature blog can be time consuming, so think about your content and your commitment to engaging with your readers, and create a Comment Policy for your blog.

You can write your content to invite comment or not; many print writers are guilty of posting “one way” content – didactic without inviting discussion.  Writing for a high-quality branded product that had an image to sustain, I deliberately avoided contentious subjects on the blog, as the firm did not want controversy to become part of the product image.  But even without touching controversial subjects, you can conclude your article with questions or a comment that invites response, just as you would in conversation.  And as in conversation, if someone comments, it is good manners and good blogging to at least acknowledge, if not directly and substantively reply to readers’ comments.   If for some reason you do not want to engage in conversation, it may make sense to turn off the comment function (even temporarily) or set it for only a short window of response time after publication.

Marketing Activity:  As a blogger, you can do your own marketing, not only implicitly by managing your SEO, but by promoting your content through other channels.  Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the obvious and long established venues, and WordPress makes it easy with an auto-posting Publicize feature, but having used both automated and manual social media posts, I found the strongest reader response comes from manual posting.  You can write a text or attach a photo that invites interest on its own merit, so people not only click the link to the blog, but converse with you on that channel and re-post or re-Tweet your message to new audiences.  If your subject matter lends itself to good visuals, then Pinterest could be a strong option for promoting your blog through stunning or intriguing images.

All of these activities which change good writing into good blogging by leveraging the “web” of information and connectivity on the Internet take time and effort, but if you are looking for results – a strong readership following, engagement with your audience and promotion of your product, whether your product is your own writing or a tangible, saleable object – then they are just as important as the quality of your writing.

Have you written for both print and Internet?

What changes have you made in your writing style to adapt to being online?

Read also: How a Dream Blogging Job Found Me

59 thoughts on “Writing Is Not Blogging

  1. “A brilliant writer does not necessarily a brilliant blogger make”.
    You’ve just turned my view of blogging upside down.
    Thanks. I’m probably looking at it the right way up now.

  2. Excellent points, many thanks. And of course, appearing on TT’s blog gives you extra credibility… : )

    Your note about adding keywords to photos and images is especially valuable. I suspect many people don’t bother to do that, thereby missing out on a chance to help search engines find them.

    I think adding a footer is a good investment. I have one with a small photo and short bio. It gives the blog a certain consistency, and makes it a little more personal, I think.

    • Hi Mark, thank you for your kind remarks. I agree with you about the footer, particularly for those whose blogging activity supports or promotes their professional activities – whether as writer, illustrator, chef, clothing designer… it can draw attention to their professional skills and services. Some WordPress themes will automatically add your User Profile at the end of each post, others will need some kind of manual intervention to create this type of footer.

  3. Thanks for this very interesting post, Cynthia.

    We certainly have something to learn here, and I will forward it to my co-authors. A lot of these tips are quite realistic to implement with the skills of a writer – it just takes being aware of it and spend a couple of extra minutes.

    But there’s one I stumble upon all the time: photos. I think I’m a decent amateur photographer and quite enjoy it, so I would love to use my own photos, but they very often don’t cover my needs as a blogger. This is because my blogging as a professional covers a much wider range of topics than those I actively work with as a researcher. I find the process of figuring out a photo I can use without breaching copyright, and going through the process of getting permission takes too much time, since blogging is not a central part of my professional activity. But I’m sure there must be a dummy’s guide to posting photos in blogs somewhere?!

  4. Thank you so much. Your insight and information has helped me immeasurably while trying navigate this new (for me) type of self expression. I really value your help … thank you, again!

  5. Pingback: What Next? | Wine, Woman, Travel

  6. I have an Opinion Column in a women’s online and print newsmagazine, and have my own blog. It’s a bit tricky sometimes luring in new followers with only my column articles. So, I use what I call “bait posts” on my blog. I check the search engines daily to see what the biggest search terms currently are, then pick one or two that are closely related to what my article topics are about. Since I write on politics and social issues, I usually have no problems finding close matches or even an occasional
    bull’s-eye. I then write a post and set a back link in it to the column article (at the site and my blog) I want to lure them to. Since I’ve been doing this my blog stats have risen about thirty-percent, and has even resulted in more outgoing (blog) link clicks to my articles at the magazine’s website.

    I find trying to incorporate current, top search terms into my post headlines draws lots of traffic also. This week alone I made page one (for my Putin post) on both Yahoo and Bing using this method. It quadrupled the views.

    Not sure if this is nothing new (I’m only at this a few months) but it seems to be working.

  7. On the other hand, bloggers have too much control over their own content and there’s too little external discipline to force them to confront their own shortcomings as writers and as participants in a market. 99.999% of bloggers aren’t actually writers, they are just short form self publicists.

    • In fact, the blogopshere was not originally a market at all. However, like anywhere else where those with money making motivations invaded, it became a marketplace.

      • It is a market. just not one where people sell soap powder or insurance, It is a market where people broker their own egos, their own delusions and their own desires for mini-celebrity and local self importance. And that is even more competitive than any commercial market.

        • At its worst, this is probably true. But like anything, I hope people won’t condemn the entire blogosphere on the basis of a small part. There are some truly altruistic writers, who either are hoping to genuinely help others with their experience and advice, or are writing simply for the love of writing whether they achieve fame and a following or not.

    • Wow, does your comment cause mixed feelings, all very strong! On the one hand, I agree whole heartedly, but I also trust that the really lousy pointless stuff out there will not get read much, and ultimately the so-called writers and their blog-based mission of self-aggrandizement will peter out. Think about it – how many blogs have you come across only to spot that the last entry was in 2010?

      But then I think, well, to some extent, why not use blogging as a marketing tool – heck, that was fundamentally my job writing for the Port producer. For a year and a half I used that blog as a story-telling platform. There are a lot of good wines out there – just as good as ours are. So, many consumers are looking for a way to differentiate and a reason to choose our wine or someone else’s. That’s where telling the stories behind the wine is important – explaining who we are, how we do business, how our wines are made, showing the properties, the processes, everything – so consumers can decide if all of that sounds interesting and appealing, and maybe represents a set of values that appeal to them. As a result, they might choose to buy our wines. Or not. But at least we gave them a basis for decision making beyond price or pretty label.

      I actually quit that job because a new marketing person moved in and effectively shut down the story telling aspect and insisted that the blog be used like a road-side billboard to post a series of blatant advertising pieces written in meaningless marketing-speak. I posted some stories despite all this, and did all I could to prove my point statistically, but ultimately there was no convincing the brand manager this was not what blogging was about and these tactics would in fact alienate our existing readers as well as any potential readers (or consumers!). So, I chose unemployment in a country in severe financial crisis, rather than compromise my professional standards and reputation by going along with the marketing manager’s so-called vision for the mis-use of the blog.

      • Cynthia,
        I chose not to say much above in my response to largemargeuk’s comment as I write for an income and I cannot discuss what I write or for whom. Suffice to say it has no relationship at all with what I blog about. In the early days, the blogopshere was the platform for freedom of expression. There were fascinating ideas to explore in a global town hall atmosphere and I enjoyed interesting discussions with people from all over the world on a wide variety of subjects. Then came the invasion by wave after wave of money whores who changed the nature of blogs, blogging and the blogosphere forevermore. The town square atmosphere was replaced by the marketplace mentality and all was lost to commercialism. My response to what happened to the blogosphere when the dollar bill reared its ugly head and was resurrected over and over again is more’s the pity.

        • The global town hall still exists in pockets – certainly on your two blogs, and I can think of a few more blogs where I have found that. I agree the blogosphere is crowded now with a lot of less interesting content, but where someone is writing passionately and well, readers do gather and community happens. It’s perhaps more rare that at the start, but it’s still out there and a joy to find.

    • Hi Diana, I agree not all bloggers are writers, many use a blog as a framework for presenting other kinds of content, particularly photos and works of art, but I personally have no experience of working with that kind of blog / site, so can not offer guidance to those people. If you mean a lot of people post poorly written content… well, yes, but that is their prerogative. And whatever my opinion may be, I try to not be judgmental about how people express themselves.

      • “I try to not be judgmental..” Hey Cynthia, I didn’t mean to come across that way. =) It was a short statement with possible implications but I was just putting it out there that the reverse holds true on the distinction that was made. Informative post.

  8. Thank you for the clarification – I also love the photo editing points you made here. Now I understand tagging photographs and the importance of it.

  9. Yes – I write for print and I blog. But the two are entirely different, I agree. And I don’t blog about my print work – at least not much. If I blog about my novels, it’s generally more to the tune of specific concepts or ideas, not the actual story.

    I have been tempted to start a blog entirely about my story, but if I did, it still wouldn’t be “the novel” itself. And, realistically, I think a forum would be better suited than a blog site. (And I do have a forum for my novels already). I think the temptation to use WP for stories is generally the desire for feedback, which makes perfect sense. But it’s not really blogging – it’s dumping a chapter or a section into a blog and hoping someone will talk with you about it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, but it’s not blogging. It’s using a blog to get your stories out. Frankly, it might be better to put them in ebook format and dump them on Amazon, then blog about what you did and what your ideas were. Point people to the book. Don’t dump it into the blog.

    • Interesting array of ideas about using blog or forum formats as a way of promoting – or just playing with – paper-published content. Thanks for the insight!

    • Thank you Cate. Blogging can be anything you want – but if you are looking for specific results – a loyal following, a dialogue, and perhaps product visibility and sales, then it does take more effort and strategy. I admit to being a bit less rigorous on my personal blog than I was on the Port wine blog I wrote professionally.

  10. A lot of this would have looked like ancient Greek to me (which unfortunately I am not fluent in)
    prior to becoming a Timethief groupie. LOL! I just went through your informative article and went check! check! check! Don’t think it has been easy though, I have to really think and concentrate
    to understand all these new concepts. I believe they call it “reading: :)
    Sunday is my little shoutout.

    • Hi Sharon, I’ve seen your work on Ravelry, lovely to meet you here too! I know I got on my feet blogging thanks to TimeThief and all the resources on One Cool Site, but as you say, it takes concentration at first. It will become second nature after a while though, promise!

  11. Yes, blogging does require for a writer to take extra steps forward in self-marketing by writing and illustrating a post in an engaging or captivating manner. Very different from writing a novel or a book chapter.

    It’s amazing how the plainest title sometimes (not always) can get a lot of reader hits. One of my posts on ..crossing the Canada-U.S. international border by bike, hiking…gets enough. Hmmm. Wonder why..

    • Hi Jean, I’m not surprised your article about border-crossing gets hits – think about it, lots of people who will be travelling are probably googling “canada US border” to find out any requirements… and instead find your blog, which must be a very nice surprise for them, and much more fun than any tourist advice site! It is always worth stopping to review the search engine referral statistics to see what words and phrases have been working well, and whether those can be leveraged again in future.

  12. To me the difference is that blogging includes a sense of community and continuity. I look forward to my favorite blogger’s posts in a “serial” manner. I know what they’ve been thinking about and I can respond not just to the post, but to what they’ve written in the past and how they’ve framed the subject.

    I also need remedial “keyword” training, but I am still getting readers and some google hits. I can not figure out how to use keywords in a way that does not feel contrived. I hate when I read a post that feels either stuffed or front loaded with potential SEO phrases.

    • Hi Jamie Ray – “community and continuity” sums up beautifully one of the key differences between blogging and print writing. As a blogger, I always look forward to the comments from followers, and enjoy the ongoing exchange – on the Port wine site, particularly, I caught myself thinking as I wrote, “can’t wait to see what So-and-So says about this.”

  13. TT – you are fantastic.
    The first step in trying to accommodate my poetry/writing onto a blogging platform has been perusing your site!

    Checking over technical aspects I have read through – such as –

    Avoiding 404 error pages by not playing around too much after a post has gone live.

    SEO; tagging as accurately as possible (nightmare for me still – scared to put misleading tags!!); categories etc

    Including more images to enhance the experience, yet keeping it ‘clean’ without too many distractions with widgets – yet having the ‘needed’ ones. (Having to have the copyright text bugs me, seems so stiff – but it is 101 these days I gather)

    Following your advise regarding back-links and ALL links – trying to find that way to link to reputable sights of similar interest and/or informative sights that will enhance on the topic written about – quite tricky with metaphorical verse but do-able if I include some background as to WHY I wrote it – or WHAT triggered the writing.(perhaps a life experience within a certain topic) An area that requires loads of thought and I believe experience in the blogging platform.

    Making sure I am as accessible as I possibly can be to respond to comments to encourage interaction.

    I am yet to work out how to incite responses to the types of posts I write – and will look into that.

    What started as a way to embrace my passion – is quickly becoming almost a full-time job, and I look to this site for finding that professional approach -yet I am a bit more colloquial in style to suit my site.
    All said and done – it is a huge adaptation to just writing up some inspirational words and pressing ‘PUBLISH’

    Checking checking and previewing LOTS to see if it works for me BEFORE publishing.

    Heck – I am even keeping up to speed on more topical issues to keep my writing a bit fresher (I hope)
    But – it IS like having a new baby in the home – extremely time consuming- I am learning now that I can have a surge and schedule posts :D (yes – I am a REAL novice!)

    Thank you for all the help you lay out so well for us all.

    • Hi Belinda, You are certainly on the right track, and TimeThief’s work here on One Cool Site is the perfect reference. It looks as if you have been blogging for just three months – it does take time to get established, both with search engines and your readers. Many people follow a blog silently for a while until they feel ready to comment – they want to get to know the writer and feel comfortable before speaking up – again, very like real life in watching or listening to people before introducing yourself or joining a conversation. You are off to a strong start with your content, good luck with it!

      • Hi Cynthia,

        Thank you so much for such encouraging words!
        Makes so much sense what you are saying – learning FAR too much already for my brain to process all at once. I guess THAT is the nature of blogging: an endless influx of information, and as the blogger, we need to keep up the pace as best we can ;)

        I trust all is well with Timethief

  14. This is such valuable information! I must admit that I still don’t get the whole keyword thing. Is there a good source for near-idiots like me–something like “Keywording for Dumbies?”

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Hi Kathryn, Greetings from Portugal! Keywording can be tough to get right – if you follow the hyperlink on the word “keywords” in the text above, you will find an article of TimeThief’s which is an excellent starting point – she explains the basics, there is a great short video and lots more links for further information.

  15. Excellent piece about the differences between the two forms. I often forget to pay attention to the SEO side of things as I write, particularly with the inclusion of keywords in content.

    • Thanks, Isaac, glad you enjoyed it. I struggled too for a while. The “aha” for me was realising the two different contexts and their different requirements. I wouldn’t put out a print piece without double checking my spelling and grammar, and now I wouldn’t put out an internet piece without double checking spelling, grammar… and everything listed above. I have heard print writers sneer at bloggers – they obviously never tried it, and don’t appreciate the demands!

  16. Excellent article. I love how you say that blogging is “enhanced writing.” You are so write. :D

    It is about the social, the connections, the interactivity. It’s about leaving room for the reader when you write. It’s about writing in a format that makes the text readable to the reader, no matter what device they are using. Short paragraphs, headings to pull the reader through the text, links to connect the parts and pieces, and follow through.

    Well put. Brava! Thank you.

    • Thank you Lorelle. Yours is one of the sites I recommend to starting bloggers for fundamentals and reference. Now if only the marketing people would read it!

      • Lol! If you want marketers to read you hve to speak their language. Short sentences and ad-speak. :D
        Actually, thats a good point. Write to your audience needs and in their native tongue.

  17. This is really fantastic, thanks! I started posting my writing to my blog here on WordPress in February and have had the marketing in the back of my mind, haven’t focused too much on it. I wanted to see if I could stick to the writing first, and now that I have, I’m ready to do more of what you mentioned. The photo naming is truly new to me–I never thought about the titles or naming at all and how that relates to search, and appreciate that tip as something any of us can start doing ASAP. Great post once again, thanks!

    • Hi Robin, and thank you. You are off to a strong start with your blog – just keep writing and keep learning! My old posts do not practice everything I now know or preach here… it’s a learning curve, just one I always hope to shorten for fellow bloggers when possible.

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