Writing/Post Writing

Writing Style & SEO Adherence

DIY Blogger Writing Style

DOES SEO GUIDE YOUR WRITING OR DO YOU GUIDE THE SEO?

Too often when writing a post, writer’s get tangled up in too strict adherence to SEO and stray from their carefully crafted writing.  Writing style suffers and the balance of good writing and good reading suffers.  In the end the voice is inconsistent, the audience is forgotten, the format goes awry, the topic is veered from, and the editing is comprised of things that only Google cares about.

We all do it.  I use the Yoast SEO free plugin.  When both lights are green it lets me know that the post will (possibly) come up higher in the rankings.  One green light indicates that the keywords are used the proportional number of times to the number of words in the post. A second green light indicates that there is only a certain percentage of passive voice. It also lets me know when my sentences and paragraphs are too long.  Too long for what? Too long for the average reader.  Frequently I am compelled to shorten something, break a beautifully written paragraph apart, and hope that the lights turn green. When writing is solely based on SEO, and not on the voice, audience, topic, format, and edits, the article can frequently lose its cadence, tone and purpose.  Drawing the line is hard.  Does one succumb to the green lights and settle for a post that might be better to read and is not going to rank as highly in the google search? Tough call. As with most answers, it is not a cut and dry conclusion.  Food Blogger, Mommy Blogger, Racecar Blogger, whatever your subject matter may be, this piece is intended to help understand how to maintain your integrity as a writer

1) Everyone has a VOICE – what does it sound like?

A speaking voice is not a written voice, yet they are both called a voice.
A written voice is the way that the writing sounds to a reader. 
A written voice needs to be in sync with the style of the blog. It has a feel, a tone and a theme. It has a style. The voice of the blog needs to reflect the style of the blog.  Whether casual, formal or somewhere in between, the language, writing style, verbiage and colloquial language used are a reflection of the message and image that the blogger (you) is trying to convey to the reader (audience).  Language that draws the reader in and evokes some sort of a connection to what is written is key. A reader creates a voice with “sound” in their head based on the words that the writer has written. Keep in mind when writing what emotion or connection to the post the reader should be feeling.  Read the post out loud.  Read it “aloud” in your head and imagine what it sounds like.   Would you read it if you came across this piece? Think about how that voice draws the reader in. Many writer’s prior to posting, have someone else read the post both to themselves and aloud.

Going a bit more in depth into developing a voice is determining if the voice is going to speak in first, second or third person.  First person and second person can weave and be less formal.  I want to share my post with you. You are talking directly to the reader.  Third person is the most formal and keeps a little distance.  Food Blog posts tend to stick to first and second person.

And finally, is the voice feminine, masculine or neutral.  This might be something that just evolves, comes naturally, or that evolves due to the nature of the blog. It is personal preference and has to blend in with your overall look and feel that you have created and developed for the blog.  Choose some blogs that you read and think about why your read them. Read a passage out loud and see how it sounds to you.

2) The AUDIENCE is Seated – Who is Out There?

They enter the theater and are ushered to their seats.  The red, velvety fabric is soft on their legs.  Who are they? You want to peak through the curtains, but in cyberspace, you cannot do so. You came up with your blog because someone had a need and you could fill the niche, so who is that person? Not who is your whole audience, but who is the target audience, the one person for whom you write.  You may have a few or you may have thousands of subscribers, but you cannot write to each and every one of them.  Create one. Think about whom your perfect audience is.  Give this person a name, give them 5 characteristics, and then write to that person.  When you write your post, think about that person and “talk” to them.  What they need to know about this subject matter and why they need to know it will help you to write the piece.  Some writers rip a photo out of a magazine, others draw a composite sketch.  If you know whom you are writing to, you can make your piece more personalized.  With a photo or likeness of your perfectly designed reader, you can talk to them out loud and bounce your ideas.  Perhaps no answer, but sometimes answers come in saying things out loud, seemingly to no one.

As you write more pieces, and you start to learn more about whom your actual audience is, you may have more than one target audience and blog posts may have slightly different tones depending on whom you are directing the piece to – just make sure you keep the voice and the theme of your blog in mind (i.e. keep the other parts of the theme such as formal or informal, casual, person, etc.…). Go through the same process of naming this person, giving them characteristics, and write your post to that person.  (two or three target audiences is one thing a football team worth is another). Don’t go overboard.

This all relates to your voice.  You talk to different people differently and the same applies to writing.  Blog posts are written for someone.  You want readersand your readers will be attracted to your blog because it resonates with them.  They might come to the blog because they are interested in your subject matter, but they stay because they like how you speak to them.  Tone may change a bit from piece to piece, but your overall voice has to resonate with the reader or the connection is lost.  Sticking to the format and theme will help to maintain that continuity.

3) FORMAT is another name for a blog’s style – when does what go where?

You now know what and how you want to say it, and you know whom you want to say it to.  The next question is, what is the format going to be. Format means the actual layout of the post.  Writing is a process and to do it well requires a structure.  Each post is a short story.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It starts with the inspiration to write it, it has descriptive material to bring the idea to life, something happens to that idea, and then the idea is brought full circle to give it completion.  The layout of how that information is going to be presented is the format.

Write down the size headings that are used for the main heading and sub-headings.  Decide what style will be used for bulleted and numbered lists.  Determine what size and where photos will align.  List what colors are used for the headings and text.  Keeping this consistency from post to post will give the reader a “muscle memory” of you blog.  Readers come back because they relate to your information and they feel they can trust you.  There is comfort in consistency.

This is called a style guide. Things to ask yourself when creating a guide are things like, font, size of type, colors, indented paragraphs at the start of each one.  The style guide should incorporate anything that will be done repetitively in each post.  You may have two or three different types of posts and each one should have a defined style guide AND they should all have some similar formatting to them that fits in with the overall theme and style of your blog.

The most important sentence in the entire blog is the first one.  It has to captivate the reader and grab them or they are gone.  This will be the most edited sentence of the entire post. If you have ever heard the statement, “you had me at hello,” then you will understand what I mean. If not, it means that you only get one chance at a first sentence.  Make it a good one.  Sensationalism does not make for good reading over and over, make that first sentence one that makes the reader want to know more.  Look at the opening sentences of your favorite books, blog pieces, or a magazine article for ideas on ways to write an opening sentence.

With a starting structure, you can tweak it to the needs of the information being presented.  As you do this more and more, the posts will take on a cadence and a rhythm. Take a look at the blogs that you subscribe to, not for content at this point, but for whether there is a consistency to the format of their posts, and what resonates with you.

Note that many themes have set style templates already included.  Most are designed that you can make stylistic changes in the customization window.  If you need to have the CSS or HTML changed, you may need a developer.  I am all about DIY and usually find that there are several solutions to adapting something to the style that I want.  After all it is why I chose the theme that I use.

Purpose of Photography in Posts

Photographs and illustrations are elements that can help to inspire, describe, or illuminate a post or a part in a post. For an informational piece about raising children, an inspirational photo might be chosen, such as children playing in a garden.  A teaching post, like a recipe post, would have steps of going through the process to help the reader see what and how to do the technique or step.

Common Post Components:

  • Informational Post
    1. Introduction about the post’s subject matter
    2. Where the inspiration came from to write the piece
    3. Either questions or statements as sub-headers to bring the main points to the reader’s attention
    4. A conclusion that brings the reader a sense of purpose and how they can apply this information to something in their life (be that family, work or self).
    5. This type of post may or may not have photographs.
  • Teaching Post (How To Do Something)
    1. Paragraph or two to explain what the reader will learn about
    2. Tips and tools
    3. The steps with photographs to describe and illustrate the process
    4. FAQ – a list of questions that a reader might have when doing this projectAn outline for a post might look like this:
  • Intro – state the idea
    1. Actual idea stated with a captivating sentence
    2. Inspiration for idea
    3. What the angle is of the idea for the remainder of the post
  • Middle – Three main points that the reader should know about this idea
    1. Main idea one
      1. Each point has two to three pieces of information to support it
      2. Each point is described in detail to the reader
  • Each point needs to relate to the reader, and how the reader will use this information
  1. Main idea two
    1. Each point has two to three pieces of information to support it
    2. Each point is described in detail to the reader
  • Each point needs to relate to the reader, and how the reader will use this information
  1. Main idea three
    1. Each point has two to three pieces of information to support it
    2. Each point is described in detail to the reader
  • Each point needs to relate to the reader, and how the reader will use this information
  • End – Conclusion means bringing it all together
    1. Encourage the reader to use this information and apply it
    2. Engage the reader to connect with you
    3. Show the reader how everything you have told them relates to why you brought the idea to their attention in the first place.

 

Example of a recipe post FORMAT: 

Eggplant, Drama Queen of Vegetables (TITLE – this would be in the title box of the post and is reformatted, not right in text as it is for the example)

EGGPLANT CREATES DRAMA (heading #3)

(paragraph text)I thought eggplant hatched ducks when I was a child.  Clueless as to when I moved on from that notion, I do still think of ducks every time I cook an eggplant. Whether the duck thing created an aversion to eating it, I do not recall, but I cannot remember a time when I did not eat it.

Go figure, but my children used to freak out when eggplant was on the menu.  I do not think it was the duck thing, but I am sure that I told them the story.  Not sure if it was the texture, taste or the aroma (although they referred to it as the odor), that filled the kitchen, but they would not touch it. Once they discovered Baba Ganoush, they changed their tune.  It is still not their favorite food, but they no longer wince when they smell it cooking, and they seem rather happy when it is in the form of Baba Ganoush.  But ever on the search to create new recipes, foods are often served in different forms in the Bleuberet kitchen.  When I sliced and fanned out the eggplant for this recipe, there were some oohs and aahs, and it got eaten.  Perhaps it was that it looked a bit fun, or maybe they thought it would become Baba Ganoush, whatever it was, they did not turn their noses up, and they ate it.

How do you prepare eggplant before cooking? (heading #4)

(paragraph text)Wash the outside, as you would any vegetable.  It does not have to be peeled, but it is something that many recipes call for.  The skin can be eaten and will break down a bit with cooking.

How do you cook eggplant in the oven?

(heading #4)

(paragraph text) Roast, bake or grill.  Baking takes a little longer, and roasting will make for a slightly crispier outside.  It is always best to use a bit of oil so that the eggplant does not dry out

How do you bake slices? (heading #4)

(paragraph text)Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Lightly oil it and lay the slices out in a single layer. Season, salt and pepper on both sides. Bake at 350°F/175C until golden and soft enough to bite. If using eggplant as a pizza topping, this is a great way to prep it. Using straight slices of uncookedeggplant on pizza will not give them enough time to cook and they will leach water onto the pizza.  Soggy pizza is gross.

How do you prepare it for grilling?(subheader 2)

(paragraph text) Sliced, seasoned, oiled so it does not stick to the grill or use a grill basket.  Other than a small dice, any way that eggplant is prepared for roasting will work for grilling. Grill times will vary based on size and how they have been sliced. Rounds are fine, but it is much more dramatic to slice them lengthwise (and brings it back to the drama thing).

What does salting eggplant do? (header #4)

(paragraph text) Contrary to popular belief, eggplant does not need to be salted before cooking.  Salt can do two things with foods like eggplant. First it can draw out water and make less water leak out when cooking.  My experience is that when it is salted it gets a little rubbery and is harder to bite.  Personally, I find that roasting or grilling helps to draw the water out.  Second is that many say that the salt helps to make the eggplant less bitter.  If an eggplant is that bitter, it is probably not going to get any less so with salt.  Make sure that eggplants are firm to the touch when purchasing and this means that they are more than likely ready to be cooked and will not be bitter.  Old, soft, squishy, probably bitter.  Salt it right before cooking and the salt will flavor the eggplant.  Salt is a flavor enhancer and it certainly will help here.

Eggplant Dip or commonly known as Baba Ganoush? (subheader 2)

(paragraph text) One of the most common dips made with eggplant is (linked text-blue + link) Baba Ganoush.  It is simple to make, has a wonderful smoky taste, and is always a hit at a party.  Make enough and it can be the main event.  It is tahini sauce, roasted eggplant, lemon juice, EVOO and garlic.  Add a touch of salt and pepper to taste and break out the pita or pita chips. 

Is eggplant considered to be a super food?(subheader 2)

(paragraph text)Technically it is not found on the superfood lists, but according to(linked text-blue + link) Mercola.com, “eggplants contain fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, and B6, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, magnesium.”  Sounds pretty superfood to me.  With all these amazing nutrients, this one made the(linked text-blue + link) Mending + Healing = Comfort menu.

Other ways to enjoy eggplant:

Eggplant and Smoked Mozzarella Stromboli (linked text-blue + link)

Eggplant Parmesan from Bon Appétit (linked text-blue + link)

Malai Baingan from Two Sleevers (linked text-blue + link)

 

Photo Collage  (photos formatted to specified size and placement)

 The Recipe (shortcode or recipe written into post)

Ending notes and tips (additional info the reader needs to know)

 

Look at what others do

Look at the posts in these blogs to get an idea of the consistency that they use to format each post.  Each post follows a similarity in style to the one before.  Look at their early posts, and like, Bleuberet, they may not be totally consistent from the get-go.  It is a process and over time, you will develop your own style and style guide.  It may take months of tweaking to arrive at the point where these bogs are, but be patient, it will come.  I call it evolving.

Examples of consistent formatting:

https://www.theroastedroot.net

https://www.loveandlemons.com

https://pinchofyum.com

4) STICK to Topic – where is this going?

Outline, outline, outline. The first sentence is the idea that you want to write about. Many posts start out about one thing and end up in a place that the reader never intended to be.  If you write an outline and fill it in with your ideas before you add the content (fill in the paragraphs), the chances of following the topic from beginning, middle to end are better.  An outline frequently starts with the conclusion line being the second line that is filled in. Perhaps it is not the quintessential wrapper-upper that will be written before the “update” posting button gets hit, but it is a way to remind you where you are going with the topic and why you wanted to bring this information to the reader. Understanding the finish helps to bring about the start and the how-to-get-there parts.  Having the beginning and ending available to look at as your write out the post will help to remind you why you are writing about this topic and keep you in the direction of where you are going. Outline, outline, outline. I cannot stress that enough.

When writing is thought of as a process, not just an expository, cathartic event, a specified topic can be more readily adhered too.  Both casual writing (2ndperson, informal, colloquial language) and formal (3rdperson, mostly passive voice, informative or descriptive) can benefit from a process – outline, outline, outline.  Each post that you write is meant to convey information to a reader, the reader wants to walk away with something that they can personally use or apply in their life.  A concisely written piece gives you a better chance of connecting with a reader.

5) READ, RE-READ, AND RE-READ – how does it look?  

The post is written.  It followed the format from your style guide.  It has its header, subheaders, photos, and text.  Your pointer is on the update button.  Not so fast.  The hardest part of writing is editing.  Just as the writing of the post is a process, so is the editing.  Editing is more than reading through a piece to find typos. Editing means going through each word, sentence, paragraph, and part to make sure they all relate to your topic. And doing it several times.

 

  • Not sure how to spell something-use a spell checker.
    1. MS WORD and most publishing programs have spellcheckers built in
    2. If writing in post directly, download an app to do this inside of WordPress
    3. Run a spell checker app and use a dictionary to double check.Spellcheckers are sometimes wrong. Example: if you are using a word from another language it may/will misspell it.
  • Not sure that a word means exactly what you want it to-use a dictionary.
    1. Put a link on your dashboard menu for Merriam-Webster Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com) which has a dictionary and a thesaurus (this covers points 2 and 3).

 

 

  • Not sure if the whole piece followed through on its purpose-use another reader.
    1. No link for this, you will have to talk to a human being.

 

  • Not sure if the format follows your style guide-use your guide as a reference aid.
    1. Print it out and use it as a checklist each time a post is written.

Components of successful editing:

  • Editing takes patience.
  • To do it well, you must be able to accept constructive criticism and not take it personally.
  • Refer to the outline.
  • Cut out unnecessary word, sentences, and paragraphs.
  • Put yourself into the reader’s seat.

Maintaining Integrity as a Writer and Getting Your Google Ranking through SEO

Writing about a subject that you are passionate about is seemingly easy, but doing it well takes a lot of work.  If you want to have a successful blog and keep your readers, you need to be able to convey that passion to your readers in a concise way. The more you write, the easier the process becomes.  My process is not necessarily your process.  It is a starting point to help you think about the structure of your writing and to format it in a style that works for your blog.

Google ranking is key to all of us, it is what gets our blogs higher up in the rankings and gets the posts seen.  The primary purpose of doing a blog is (should be) to share something. The other purpose is that it is frequently monetized.  Informational or monetized or both, Google matters.  BUT if that is all that matters to you as a writer, then ask yourself, am I sacrificing my integrity as a writer to yield to the two green lights of SEO?

This is how we/I have addressed and answered this question at Bleuberet.  We started as a jam company when I tired of feeling like the enamel was peeling off my teeth from the amount of sugar in jam.  I work with grade A berries, they cost more, but they are picture perfect in taste, look and feel.  They can be eaten straight from the box.  That is the quality that I adhere to for the ingredients that go into the jars.  So, when I started the blog 6 months ago, in the format that it is now in (I won’t bore you with the learning curve), I looked at my writing about food in the same way that I chose jam ingredients. The way that this relates to the integrity of the writing and the SEO is thus, I want to see a green light on the SEO keywords on every single solitary post. Period.  I do not/and will not succumb to the rigidity of the SEO’s readability green light for a couple of reasons. 

The readability light on the YOAST SEO plugin tells you how much you have used passive voice and makes you think that writing in the passive voice is a huge no-no.  Passive voice somehow became passé and we began to be taught that everything and every sentence must be written in an active voice.  That is not humanly possible, and quite frankly does not always make for a good read.  Engaging well-written sentences does.  I would rather read a passive piece that is well-written than an active voice that misses the point.  You? This brings me back to my initial question (always bring the reader back to the topic) of are you writing in your style or the style of SEO.  I have settled on a blend of both.  Most SEO plugins have an orange light.  I strive for this.  I follow their “recommendations” of adding internal and external links to other articles, videos, and references, but I do not succumb to shortening paragraphs or sentences or eliminating passive voice if I feel they are integral to the piece. And frequently I feel that the program is arbitrarily choosing its green, orange or red ranking lights.

GREEN ON SEO KEYWORD, RED ON READABILITY

SEO Checklist 2

 

TWO GREEN LIGHTS:

SEO Checklist 2

GO FIGURE!

Bottom line – write your post to the best of your ability, use the tools in a way that fits with your sense of style, and be true to the style that you want for your blog.  Use SEO keywords effectively, strive for that green light on the keywords, BUT decide what is right for you, your post, and your blog because in the end if you don’t feel good about what you have produced no one else will either.  You are in control and should guide the SEO so that it works for you, but does not interfere with you as a writer.

And how did the SEO do on this post?

Green light on SEO and Red on Readability.

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