Thursday, March 29, 2012

Four Essential Blogging Questions

Veteran freelance writer Jennifer Brown Banks of Pen and Prosper joins us today in the final post for the Good Friends Old and New Blogoversary series. Jennifer is one smart lady, and I count it a blessing each time she shares her wisdom with us.




Before You Hit "Publish" - Four Questions Every Writer Should Ask

by Jennifer Brown Banks     
                                                        
“Knowledge is power.”---

Blogging blindly can be counterproductive and a waste of time for you and your potential audience.
And I should know. As someone who does a good deal of online surfing, daily, weekly, yearly, I encounter quite a few spots where I am convinced that some owners have no clear direction where they’re going or where they want to take their readers. And though I do enjoy the occasional “joy ride,” I don’t typically like it in my reading travels.

Unfortunately, when this happens, it sometimes comes across as if these individuals are more perfunctory than passionate in their blogging efforts. Or for some, perhaps it’s just the inability to objectively assess how posts are being received. Don’t make the same mistake.

Quality blogging is what we owe readers in exchange for their time, loyalty, and interaction. With a mind-boggling number of sites from which to choose, it really is a compliment when they spend time with us and our thoughts.

Blogging is not just about being “heard”; it’s about building connections. It’s about constructing a sense of community and facilitating lively discussion and debate.

With this in mind here are the four most important questions you must ask yourself before sharing your words with the world.

1. Who is the target audience? Some Bloggers make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Their topics are very broadly based with no real focus or consistency. Readers never know what to expect from week to week. There’s no real connection. Approaching blogging in this manner is akin to traveling far, unknown distances without a road map. Though you may ultimately stumble upon where you want to be, it will take much longer, and provide a lot of unnecessary detours on the road to success.

Are your intended readers baby boomers? Writers? Stay at home moms? Your out of town relatives? Your target audience determines your tone, language and level of intimacy. Identify it and embrace it!

2. What's your blog's image? How do you wish for your blog to be viewed? Is it serious? Playful? Spiritual? Persuasive? Professional or recreational? Your colors, design, theme, voice and presentation should reflect this.

3. What's your purpose? What is your contribution to the blogosphere? How would you like to be “received.” Is your purpose to entertain? To gain support for an important cause? To share your writing knowledge? To make money? To make a difference? Of course, on various days it could be some or all of these goals. But, the less confused you are overall about your intentions, the clearer your readers will be.

4. What's the take away value? At the conclusion of your post, what will readers take away as a “parting gift“? Will you leave them with deep thoughts to ponder? Resources to pursue? An answer to a plaguing problem? A smile to brighten their day? Make sure that their blog experience is complete by considering and addressing these key questions.

You’ll find that these four questions are applicable regardless as to your niche or theme. Keep them in mind and follow them as the ultimate blueprint for building a successful blog!

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, pro blogger, relationship columnist, and word nerd. She teaches classes at the Coffeehouse for Writers and blogs at Pen and Prosper. Her blog was recently chosen as a finalist for Write to Done’s Top 10 Writing Blogs in 2011.

Thank you, Jennifer! :)

What grabs your attention when you visit a blog? What's your most valuable tip for great blog posts?

Final call for the Blogoversary Giveaway! Deadline to enter is Friday, March 30 at midnight. Click here for details.

Happy weekend,
Karen

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

48 comments :

  1. Karen, thanks for hosting Jennifer. I couldn't agree more. While I think many blogs have an aim, there are those that are not about relationships, but platform.

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  2. What a great post!

    I would love to have an expert take me aside and sort out my blogging direction! For the last month I've participated in the March-photo-a-day challenge and used this for my blog inspiration. I've tried to fashion every post to suit my fiction world, all things romantic and yesteryear. It's been exhausting, but it's had its blessings too, although I suspect more for me than anyone else.
    I know there must be something I can do better, and I'm looking to shift direction in April with a few new strategies, ... but my question is: How do you discover what your 'take away' is when you're not sure you have one?

    Blessings
    Dotti :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. These are great points.

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  4. Good thoughts for all bloggers to consider.
    My focus is to entertain and inform, and my blog covers movies, music, tech, and my fellow bloggers. I only post three days a week so that each one can be something of quality.
    And blogging is definitely about making connections and building friendships!

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  5. Excellent points. I used to have a better plan for blogging and find myself lost right now--thanks for direction:)

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  6. Theresa,

    How true! Especially when some of the hosts don't even respond to comments left. :-)

    Thanks so much for stopping by and weighing in.

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  7. Theresa,
    You are welcome! Jennifer makes great points. Relationships are key - without them, we have o audience, I think. :)

    Dorothy,
    I wonder if you aren't more on track than you might think. To me, your blog reflects your interests and personality, and it's a way I've gotten to know you better, which I've enjoyed. Take away value, to me, can include food for thought, a question, or something to look forward to in the future (like your book!). Perhaps writing out some goals might be helpful as you move ahead?

    Carol,
    Thanks for coming by! I know you have a super busy schedule this week, so I appreciate it!

    Alex,
    Connections - definitely, and you are a great example of that. I nominate you the poster blogger; we could all learn from your example! Thanks for your thoughts.

    Terri,
    I think too, that we sometimes can use our blog to reflect and brainstorm too as our writing develops. Blogging friends often have such great input for us, you know?

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  8. Dorothy,

    Good to have you here. I appreciate the feedback and the compliment. Blogging can be daunting these days. There's so much to do and to consider.
    Please note, for informational purposes, I do provide Blog Consults for those seeking to take their blogs to the next level in 2012, and I teach blogging at Coffeehouse for Writers.com. Interested? Email me @ Jenniferwriter@yahoo.com for details. Thanks again!

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  9. Karen,

    It's always a pleasure connecting and sharing with you. Whether it's at my spot or yours. You have such an "open" and generous
    spirit. :-)

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  10. Hi Carol,

    How have you been? Thanks so much for adding to the mix here.

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  11. Thanks for these helpful and practical questions.

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  12. Alex,

    Thanks so much for sharing. It seems you have a good handle on things at your blog. Much continued success to you.

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  13. Hi Terri,

    Glad I could be of help! Don't give up. :-)

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  14. Glenda,

    You are quite welcome! Thanks for your input.

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  15. Jennifer - Thank you for this well-written and insightful post about blogging. I admit I think I'm a little bit of a wanderer, and I haven't really targeted my audience all that well. I didn't know what I was doing when I started my blog, and I've meandered a bit from one style to another . . .I have to think over what you're advice and think about how to apply it.

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  16. Hi Karen and Jennifer .. always good to read these pointers and recalibrate our own thinking ..

    I think I write anthologies on my own - often wondered which route I should take - still time to think before I'm ready for that path ..

    Target audience, blog's image, the purpose and what's to take away .. so important to realise ..

    Thanks Hilary

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  17. The focus of my blog has changed several times. Once I finished my YA series two years ago, I shifted to publishing and promoting tips since I had so many authors and writers following me. Works well now since I'm editing my next book which is on that very topic.

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  18. This post reminded me of all the effort I put into deciding the most important theme for my blog a year ago - "seeing things in new ways" - and how little I've followed through... i love that theme, I just need to put more work into it.

    thank you for the reminder!

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  19. This is good stuff! Very thought provoking. May be some good questions to post to one's own blog readers for insight and direction from those who read. I'll have to think on that.

    Thank you, Karen and Jennifer.

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  20. Karen and Jennifer, this was so informative! Thank you so much for the help. I'm coming back for more!!!

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  21. Tyrean,

    You can do it! Thanks so much for adding to the mix. :-)

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  22. Hi Hilary,

    Thanks. I value this input.

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  23. L. Diane,

    This is good to hear. Thanks for sharing.

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  24. Margo,

    Follow through is important. Glad I could help with the reminder. :-)

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  25. Rhonda,

    Good points. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  26. Cheryl,

    I'm glad there was great take-away value for you.

    And I'm happy to see you've joined my blog for even more gems! :-)

    Thanks and welcome to my "blog family."

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  27. Hi Karen...

    That was very good---very helpful. Thanks.

    Blogging is great fun for me and brings a lot of joy.

    I hope readers of my blog go away with a smile. I like to spread a little sunshine as I share certain aspects of my life.

    As a writer, I love meeting other writers, too.

    What grabs my attention when visiting a blog? Well, usually it's a common interest I share or an informative post and almost always with good photos. I also like posts that make me laugh.

    My most valuable tip for blog posts? Well, be genuine. Be honest. And be short.

    Also, post photos to go along with your writing.

    People don't have a whole lot of time these days. I'm always honored when people take time out of their busy lives to visit my blog and when people leave comments, I'm over the moon! Susan

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  29. You said it, Jennifer—it really is a compliment when people take the time to visit our blogs. As always, I appreciate your blogging tips and your enthusiastic voice. I take your advice to heart, and kind of view you as the (way more attractive version of the) coach in Rocky—you want to push us to be our best but refuse to nudge us there by sugar-coating realities. We all need the coach from Rocky in our lives. :-)

    Thank you for hosting Jennifer, Karen. Blessings to you both.

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  30. Jennifer,
    It's always great to have you here! I think your post struck a chord, thanks for sharing with us! :)

    Glenda,
    So glad you could stop by! Thanks a bunch!

    Tyrean,
    One reason that I like your blog is because it seems a reflection of you. It's been nice getting to know you that way!

    Hilary,
    Your blog has a unique personality, I think, which really has appeal. I'm always learning something new there! :)

    Diane,
    I think this is a common thing, don't you? As our focus evolves and shifts, so do our posts.

    Margo,
    I like that theme! That's a good one. It has so much potential!

    Rhonda,
    Jennifer always provides good food for thought, you know? That's a good idea - getting input from our readers, too. :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  31. Cheryl,
    So glad you found it helpful. Jennifer always has good things to share!

    Susan,
    Glad the post struck a chord with you. I'd have to say, your blog has a lovely personality, and a balance of those photos and info you speak of. :)

    Janette,
    I agree, Jennifer does have an encouraging and enthusiastic voice! We do need good coaches, you're right!

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  32. Good thoughts for us bloggers to consider. Sometimes we lose our focus and forget the reason we started blogging.

    Thanks, Jennifer for the post.

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  33. I usually notice the blog title. I enjoy witty and cute ones. I found out this morning from another blog that mine may need some help to attract more people. Thanks for your tips. I can always use advice.

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  34. Karen -I have to add that I just love that picture of the old type writer. I would love to just reach in, grab it, and play with it for awhile.

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  35. Rachna,
    I agree with you. keeping these points in mind is a big help!

    Nancy,
    I love the picture of the old typewriter too. :) We have it easier now with computers and all, but there is something interesting about the "old way" of doing things. Glad you found these points helpful!

    Warren,
    Good to see you. Thanks for coming by!

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  36. In closing, I'd like to extend a big, collective thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to read and post a comment.

    I greatly appreciate it!

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  37. Hi Karen & Jennifer -

    Excellent post! One of the cardinal rules of devotional writing is the take-away. I believe this applies to other writing endeavors as well. No one wants a reader to walk away saying, "So what?"

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  38. Such a logical and straightforward post. I try to keep these questions close at hand to help rein me in when I get spunky. LOL. Seriously, following these simple rules has made all the difference to my blog. Thanks, Karen and Jennifer. Excellent post!

    ps. sorry I'm late.

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  39. Susan,
    Glad you liked it! I agree, take away value is crucial for anything we write. :) Appreciate your thoughts.

    Joylene,
    You're not late! So glad you could stop over and weigh in. These tips really help keep a balance, I think.

    Jennifer,
    Thanks again for coming by and sharing with us. You are always welcome here!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  40. Some wonderful advice! Wish I'd had it before I started blogging. I'm already such a mess not sure I can get it whipped into shape.

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  41. Annie,
    Glad you enjoyed Jen's post! I'd say you are on target with your blog audience - no mess at all. :)
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  42. Oh, what I would have given for that advice when I started my blog three years ago! I had no idea what I wanted to do or say...I've kind of drifted into my "offer up a smile and a slice of writing" theme. Most of my visitors are fellow writers, so I've ended up where I wanted to be. There's always more to learn, though. Thanks for this post!

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  43. Lisa,
    I know, me too! I had no clue when I began blogging. Live and learn, right? So glad you stopped by!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  44. Thank you for this, Karen. I realize I need to do some thinking and working on my blog.

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  45. Shanda,
    Jen has great tips, doesn't she? Glad this will be of help. :)
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  46. These are great tips for blogging! Thanks for the wonderful advice :)

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  47. Livia,
    Jen makes some great points, doesn't she? Thanks for coming by!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!