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June 11, 2009

Does your blog content suck and why?

image Last week I was going through my RSS feeds (the ones described in one of my previous posts Using Yahoo Pipes and Google Reader to Read Only the Important Stuff) and saw the following lame post (NOFOLLOW still used despite the PageRank sculpting changes:)). My short and unconstructive critique is: LAME. My long and “a little bit” constructive (but sarcastic) critique could be something like this:

  • Dude, check the language first! I am not a native English speaker (to be honest I have never being taught English) but I am pretty sure the Queen of England will look quite confused if she reads your post.
  • One sentence != one paragraph! Make them at least two in a paragraph – people should be able to take a breath every 10 secs or so.
  • Related to the previous one - period in English Grammar doesn’t denote the end of paragraph but the end of sentence. I see you know what comma is! Now is time to read the next lesson from English Grammar for Dummies.
  • And last but maybe the only one people will care about. Why the hell are you increasing the carbon footprint of the planet with your useless post? What is the added value of your words and why should people read them? What is your point? Google is great and Microsoft is evil? Yeah, like we’ve never heard of that one before. Didn’t you hear that we moved to the phase where both companies are evil?

 

Anticipating people’s reaction I will say that deterioration of content quality is old news. Allowing everybody to do what previously only professionals were able to do (like blogging and journalism) is reason for the worsened content quality - old news again. But we as bloggers are responsible for that content and should make sure that more than one person (me, myself and I) benefit from our content.

 

Here are couple of reasons why I think lot of bloggers publish content that sucks:

  • They publish content almost every day. It is true that search engines like “fresh” content but bloggers should ask themselves what “fresh” means. Is it, “fresh” by date or “fresh” by perspective?
  • They write for SEO and not for humans. Their posts have no flow and no story, and are published because they want to get traffic for certain keywords. Yeah! I think this is the way blogs are abused. But the books teach us that we should have blog to direct traffic to our sites.
  • They are not passionate about the topic. They HAVE to write something in order to have “fresh” (by date) content, and choose topics that are already covered, or they are not so interested in, or don’t understand deeply enough, or… or… or… The point is that if you are not passionate about the topic your write, you will produce poor content.
  • They hurry to publish “something” about the latest news. There are few bloggers who get the information first hand. The rest of us are either under NDA and cannot spread the news or just hear the news from somebody else. Every day I see in my RSS feeds tens and even hundreds of posts  that repeat the same information.
  • Their language is poor. I cannot give better example than the post above. But blog post doesn’t need to be so horrible to be considered poor by your English teacher. Using simple words and sentences; not making your point clear; not engaging with the reader – all this makes your content boring.
  • They blast their new post on every social networking tool they know. social networking became like the email spam – Facebook has 200M users so lets send to all of them my new blog post! It is annoying when you go to targeted community or niche social site and you get irrelevant content. Take for example Sphinn – there is so much spam that the moderators can’t keep with it. (BTW, here is a link to the Sphinn submission of the post above – I am wondering why Sphinn moderators still keep this one active).

 

Few questions we should ask ourselves before writing a new post (and I am warning you – this is already written on the web, and “yes” I am most probably repeating somebody’s words, but… I’ll do it anyway:)):

  • Is the post you want to submit something people care about? Don’t understand this one wrong – to care about something doesn’t mean to be the latest news that everybody is talking about. Blogging is not always about the news and I see it more as tool to help and educate others than the vehicle to submit the latest celebrity news.
  • Are you adding value with your post? Sure, you can express your opinion about everything on the Web but… Is your opinion something that others will appreciate? Or question? Or trigger conversation? Or just educate somebody? 
  • Are you spending enough time researching your new topic? You cannot always write your posts on the fly (or maybe you can but you are exception). In order to get depth and breath in your post you need to spend some time in researching. Try to find out what other people think about the topic; link to their posts and start conversation.
  • What is the best place to promote your post and engage with your target audience? Depending on the topic there are different communities you can engage with. Target the right one and don’t blast your post randomly.

 

And here are few we should ask ourselves after we write the post BUT BEFORE we hit Publish. The best way to do it is to save a draft, go to sleep and re-read the post on the next morning.

  • When you read your post again, do you still think it should be published? After thinking for some time you may decide that your post is irrelevant, or not written well, not interesting enough, or just too… hmm… you. Well, if this is the case either delete it or rework it.
  • Try to imagine your readers and their reaction. Anticipate their comments. Do you expect comments at all? Prepare yourself to answer their questions or reply to their comments. Is your point solid or weak?

 

Hitting Publish is just the beginning. Your blog post can die immediately (as most of our posts do), can live for awhile, or can become sticky. Of course we all want the last one but most of us are still looking for a way to get there. When the time passes you should ask yourself – Did my post bring me closer to my goal (whatever your goal is)?

 

Now I will go back to the beginning. You may be wondering why I linked to my post about Yahoo Pipes. My goal when creating those was to filter content I am not interested in. It seems now I am back to zero – after using them for few months I am still getting posts like the one above. It is time to start the next round from the battle against content overload.

Comments

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Madhav Tripathi

Thanks for criticizing my post, I have taken so much care when writing this comment, you helped me in many ways which I can not mention here.
Actually I am not native English speaker or writer and everything I am not going to tell you here, but you should make clear one thing you are against me or my grammar mistakes or my subject of post.

ToddySM

@Madhav,

If you read my post carefully you will see that I criticize both - your English skills as well as the topic you write about. I have to admit that because the language it is hard to gasp what you want to say in your post. But even after few readings I can say that I don't see any value in your writing.

My suggestion to you is if you don't feel comfortable writing in English try in your own language. Then you can concentrate on the topic and will be able to convey your point of view better. However you should still add value - just saying "I like Google and don't like Microsoft" is not something people would be compelled to read.

In all the cases I admire your courage to contact me though :)

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