Blogging is an art and a skill that many practice – but only a few master.
Luckily for us, great bloggers often like to write about blogging, so that the rest of us can learn from their success and expertise.
We scoured the web for what professional bloggers have to say that might be applicable to educators and blogging with students. Here are our five favorite pro tips for writing better posts, getting more comments, and helping your students get the most educational value out of their blogs.
If you have any other tips that you think would be helpful for students, please share them in the comments!
1. Turn Your Blog Post Upside Down
This first tip comes from well-known ProBlogger Darren Rowse. What he means by “turn your blog post upside down” is that rather than the focus of a post being on your own thoughts, have the comments and discussion be the real meat or purpose of the post. This can be as simple as asking the reader a question, or prompting them to share their thoughts early on in your post
You can even put the question or prompt in your headline. Post titles like “Twitter or Facebook: Which Is Better for Engaging Students Online?” or “How To Flip Your Classroom: Leave Your Tips Here” invite readers to leave feedback for the author.
If you engage readers early on in your post rather than waiting until the end to ask for thoughts, you can increase the number of comments you will get on your posts. For new bloggers, getting feedback in the form of comments is one of the most exciting parts of blogging!
2. Write What You Love
If students are blogging for a class, then chances are the decision to start a blog was not made of their own volition. There’s also a good chance they may not be free to choose the subject of their blog. When possible, it is, however, a great idea to let students write on a subject about which they are truly passionate.
BlogHer author Mariel Sunday Wangsgard accurately states that, “[m]aintaining a blog is a lot of work, and if you don’t love [insert topic here] enough to write about them several days a week — until the end of time (or you quit) — don’t start. If you don’t have the passion for your topic, you don’t have much to offer your readers… and, they will soon be gone.”
Students may have a captive audience since their classmates are often required to read what they write, and so losing their audience may not be a huge concern. Take me at my word, though, when I tell you blogging will be a much more enjoyable experience for both author and audience if the students are excited about what they are writing!
Leave room for personalization and creativity when assigning students topics to write about. Even if students will be required to write about specific class-related topics, there may still be opportunities to let them insert a bit of what they are passionate about into their blogs.
3. Produce Your Own Media Content
There are four great reasons to have students create their own media – which includes, photos, videos, slideshows, vines, animated gifs, and more.
First, media makes a blog more interesting. Newspaper, magazine, and online publishers understand the value of an intriguing photo. As publishers, your students should also understand how to enhance their writing with well-placed media.
Second, when teaching students about copyright, fair use and media, what better way to avoid any copyright issues than to have them creating their own media instead of using someone else’s?
Third, learning basic photo, video, or audio editing skills is something that students will be able to apply in other classes and other aspects of their careers as they progress.
Finally, as tip author Jim Belosic points out in the original post, using media wisely can help improve the SEO of a blog. This may not be instantly applicable to your students’ class blogs, but it is a good general blogging lesson and can significantly increase sharing of and engagement on a blog post.
4. Write Catchy Headlines
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen student blog posts with horrible, terrible, no good headlines. I understand that sometimes it is a necessity that for the sake of organization – and the grading teacher’s sanity – blog posts be named things like “Assignment 21” or “Reflection Essay 12/20/14.” Yet, when possible, it is a wonderful idea to have the students focus on writing good headlines.
Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local, originally shared this tip with the intent of helping bloggers get more clicks on their posts. For students, though, writing good headlines is better used as a writing exercise than a way to get site traffic.
Asking students to write good headlines not only forces them to focus on the main point of their post, it also challenges them to distil that idea down into a few select words. Writing catchy headlines can be a challenge. In fact, it might be more of a challenge than writing the rest of the post!
5. Make Posts Social
This is a great tip for any classroom that is not restricted by policies requiring class or student blogs to be fully private.
This tip was originally shared by Mike Bal, director of social media and content at Single Grain, who suggests using social content like embedded social posts and prewritten tweets to maximize your posts share-ability. Yet, you don’t have to go that far to make your posts more social.
Simply teaching your students how to add social sharing plugins or social widgets to their blog will help them better understand the process of content distribution and learn the important role that social media plays in sharing their work with a wider audience.
Those are our five pro blogging tips to share with students. Now it’s your turn! What is the one tip you think students should know as they begin blogging? Let us know in the comments below.