NYC Chapter focuses on ‘Building a Better Blog’

By Linda Bloom, NYC chapter president

Panelists discussed “Building a Better Blog” with the RCC New York Chapter during a Sept. 22 meeting at the Interchurch Center.

To be a successful blogger, you have to tweak the writing process to improve interaction with an online readership, a panel of communicators told the New York Chapter of Religion Communicators Council.

“As writers, we like figures of speech, but search engines don’t like figures of speech, they like direct speech,” explained David Tereshchuk, a journalist and contributing correspondent for PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

Objectivity is not a requirement. The Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, who writes a blog directed at women of faith called femmevangelical, said that offering a strong point of view helps attracts followers. “I also find that the more political I get, the more my readership grows,” she added.

Occasionally, “sheer luck” can boost a blog’s popularity. Teri Tynes, who is joining the communications staff at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York, had an average of 50 daily visitors to her blog’s website when a New York Times columnist quoted her review of a museum. “I woke up and there were 1,000 hits overnight,” she recalled.

The Sept. 22 panel, “Building a Better Blog,” was moderated by Mat Tombers, a multi-media veteran, consultant and lecturer on the role of media in society. His blog is “Letter from New York.”

Build it and they will come

Coincidentally, all three panelists said job or career transitions provided a timely opportunity to develop their presence on the blogosphere.

Tereshchuk started his blog when a free newspaper, AM New York, invited him to write a column on media criticism. After he parted with the paper, he took “The Media Beat” with him as a blog of his own and was invited to cross-post on The Huffington Post.

About eight years ago, Tynes, who recently served as digital communications manager at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, began keeping a journal as she walked around New York. Online, her practical yet literary observations became known as “Walking Off the Big Apple.”

Crumpton said she had worked in advertising world for 15 years before enrolling at Union Theological Seminary. She started a blog with “theological thoughts” in 2011 and became more organized as she started blogging for The Huffington Post. She also blogs for Patheos.

While blogging can be a creative endeavor, Crumpton has learned that poetic titles don’t add up to page views. “They (readers) are not going to take the time to read it if the title doesn’t resonate and give you very clear, specific keywords about what you’re going to find within the blog,” she said.

And how long a blog will they read? There was no particular consensus among the panelists. On his own site, Tereshchuk made some calculations correlating total word count with peaks in readership. As a matter of mathematical fact, he’s concluded, “the best length is 610 words.”

Readers do like blogs that fit the “news you can use” category or, as Tynes calls it, “the things they would be inclined to cut out and stick on the refrigerator.”

One of her most popular posts has been “Museums in New York Open on Mondays,” which Tynes wrote because she couldn’t find that information compiled together online.

From left, David Tereshchuk, Jennifer Crumpton, Mat Tombers and Teri Tynes offered blogging tips to the New York Chapter.

Takeaway tips

In a nutshell, here are their blogging tips:

  • Decide who your audience and why they would be interested in what you are writing about.

  • Don’t be too general in your topic. Internet audiences are segmented.

  • For the best search engine optimization (SEO), tell readers in the first couple of sentences what the blog is about and include keywords related to the topic and audience.

  • Write titles or headlines that are direct and short.

  • Using titles with numbers or lists attract attention.

  • Keep paragraphs short – two to three sentences.

  • Use social media to attract additional readers. Jumping on a trending topic is fine as long as it makes sense for your blog.

  • If possible cross-post or guest post on other blogs or web sites.

  • Post regularly, a few times a week if possible.

 
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