Context is king – link for victory

Welcome to part six of our “Introduction to blogging” guide for Liberal Democrat bloggers or would-be bloggers. It’s appearing each Saturday between now and Christmas, with all the posts available via this page. The series will then be revised and collated into an e-book, so please do post up your comments as the series progresses. Today it’s the turn of Alex Foster.

When writing for a blog, perhaps the default view I have of my reader is someone who is familiar with my entire body of work, someone who started at the first thing I wrote, and read it through in order. That person would have a pretty good understanding of what I meant whenever I made a reference to something I have previously written.

Life’s not like that, however. Most of my readers have no clue what I was thinking this time last year. Most of your readers too will come to your blog posts from a variety of sources, and may not regularly read your work. If you’re on Lib Dem Blogs, a particularly eye-catching title may draw in readers that haven’t seen your output before. And the more you write, the longer you are around, and the better you work with search engines, the more people will find your blog from bizarre search terms that have nothing whatsoever to do with what you are actually writing about. (Fully three quarters of my traffic is from search engine referrals, and of those, the majority have landed on me from a search about “number one when I was born” which links to a post I wrote three years ago. Either that or pear crumble.)

So given that most of your readers come to your site without much of a clue what you write about, it’s really important to give them a clue often. You can’t ever say things, “as I said yesterday” because your casual visitors won’t know what you said yesterday. Even if yesterday’s post was the last thing you wrote, if your visitor has followed a link to the blog post in full and not to your blog as a whole, they won’t easily be able to find the post.

What you need to do is to refer them to what they’re looking for using a hyperlink. What I wrote the month before last, with a handy link to what it is you referred to, means that anyone who’s landed on your blog and is interested in your topic can follow your train of thought.

Referring back to your old stock of writing is also excellent for keeping your best pieces fresh in people’s minds; and the more links you use, the better search engines will be able to see how your thoughts are structured. That context is all the more important if what you are referring to was written on someone else’s blog or a newspaper article.

Finally, if you notice from your logs, or a third party tool like Google Analytics or MyBlogLog, that people are frequently landing on the same posts from years back, it’s worth going back and editing them a little to help direct your new readers at your new material. I’ve made sure I have Google ads on the pages that are most often read, and have sometimes gone back to add in bulleted lists at the end of pieces to signpost people at other posts.

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