CMST 202

Hi, my name is Dan Erickson. I teach communication at Yakima Valley Community College. Recently, I’ve developed a course for students to learn the basics of blogging and social media as a way to develop an online presence. The course is a great starter course for anyone who is interested in creating websites and blogs.

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CMST 202

Introduction to Online Writing focuses on developing blogging and social media skills. These skills are becoming more and more desired in today’s workplace. It’s also a good opportunity for students to learn some basics about entrepreneurship. Students learn how to create a blog. They may choose their own themes and topics. Students will also learn how to use social media to promote their blog. Click here for info on course materials.

What This Site Is About

I’ll simply be using this site as a teaching tool. I operate two self-hosted blogs: www.danerickson.net and www.hipdiggs.com, but I’m using the free WordPress platform in the classroom. By setting up this blog, I’ll be able to understand and address issues students face with their own blogs.

If You’re Interested In Blogging…

You can sign up for the course. Currently, the course has a face-to-face component, so you’d have to be local to the Yakima, Washington region. In the near future, I hope to offer CMST202 completely online. The course is still in the developmental stages. You can contact YVCC for more information.

Why Take A Course About Blogging And Social Media?

  • It will improve your writing skills.
  • It will improve your computer skills.
  • It will improve your networking skills.
  • It will strengthen your resume.
  • It is fun to learn new skills.

I Hope To See You In One Of My Classes Soon!

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Writing Your About Page

Before we discuss writing the about page, I’d like to take a moment to familiarize you with the WordPress dashboard:

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Click On “My Site” To Get Started

In WordPress, once you click on “My Site” in the upper left corner, you should see the following menu:

  • Your blog
  • View site
  • Stats
  • Plan
  • Blog Posts
  • Pages
  • Themes
  • Menus
  • Sharing
  • People
  • Plugins
  • Domains
  • Settings

We’ll be discussing some of these items in more detail in future lessons. For now, I’d like you to click on each of these. Read and explore.

Setting Up Your About Page

The about page is one of the most visited pages on a blog. It’s important that you create an excellent about page. You want people to know who you are, what your blog’s about, and what you can do for them.

  1. On your menu, go to “pages.”
  2. There should be a sample about page: You can simply edit the sample page or delete it and start a new one.
  3. You should use a combination of subheadings and paragraphs: When you’re in the edit mode, simply click on the “paragraph” in the upper left to find your options.
  4. You need to include a photo: Remember to make sure that your photo matches your Facebook and Twitter profile photos. To add a photo, you simply click on the photo icon just left of the “paragraph/subhead” option. After you click on the icon, you should be able to drag and drop a photo. This will be the start of your media library. Once the photo is in the library, just click “insert” into post. There are a few editing functions, too. Play around a bit.

Writing Your About Page

  1. Start with a friendly introduction of yourself: Keep it simple. Just a few sentences will do.
  2. Tell us about your blog: What is the topic of your blog? How often will you post? What will your articles cover?
  3. Tell us what you can do for your readers: What do you have to offer? Will you help them in their relationships? Will you share recipes? Do you have a product or service?
  4. Include links to your social media: You should always include a few links on each page and post. Include links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. In the future, you can include links to your blog’s most popular posts. You could also include links to other blogs and articles that inspire you.
  5. Keep your about page short, but not too short: 300-700 words is a good length. If you feel the need to add more, you can create a “more about me page.” For reference, this post is 512 words.

Going Beyond The Basics

I’ve given you some basic pointers, below you’ll find some links to other articles on writing an about page.

Some About Page Examples

5 Basics Of Online Writing

Online writing is different than old-school journalistic writing. It’s different than academic writing. It’s not fiction, poetry, or essay. Sure, all of these elements may be found in online writing, but there are some basic rules that apply to blogging.

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Keep It Short, Simple, And Scannable

Peoples’ attention spans are not the same as they were 20 years ago. Technology has taken its toll. Most online readers want content that’s quick and easy to read. They also want content that adds some kind of value to their lives. If you waste your readers’ time, they may not become return customers. So here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Keep Blog Posts Short, But Not Too Short

Generally speaking, blog posts should not exceed 1000 words. There are exceptions, but if you write a long post, it definitely needs to be well organized and broken into smaller pieces. Most posts range from 400-800 words. Any shorter, and the post can feel as though it lacks. Again, there are exceptions, but for this course, your posts should be a minimum of 400 words.

2. Use Subheadings, Bold, And White Space

In the top left corner of your toolbar, you have access to a variety of subheadings. Use these to help break up content. Use bold for main points on numbered or bulleted lists, but don’t overuse bold. White space is aesthetically pleasing. Make sure you use a little white space. Italics work for titles of books, movies, and songs. Never use underline. Readers will think it’s a link.

3. Use Numbered And Bulleted Lists

Lists help readers to follow you post easily. Lists keep your content organized. Use numbered lists for step-by-step instructions or reasons to complete a task. Use bulleted points for list items that don’t require much elaboration. You can use the numbered-list function in the toolbar. The toolbar function does not leave spaces between items on your list. For lists with longer points, I like to create them manually to add some white space. This post is a manual list.

4. Give Readers Something They Can Use

If your blog does not offer valuable information readers will not come back. You need to offer your readers something they can use. Teach them something that will help them become more successful. This means you need to know your niche and your readers. What do they need to know? This post teaches students the fundamentals of online writing.

5. Include Helpful Links

Links are helpful to your blog in many ways. First, some links to other blogs that give your readers more information are always appreciated. It also lends you credibility. Internal links can help keep readers on your blog. Include a combination of both internal and external links.

You can always dig deeper and learn more. Search the Internet for best methods of writing blog posts, but keep these basics in mind.

Adding Links In WordPress

A good blog makes use of links. You want to link to quality, related content that your audience will find interesting. You also want to link to your own content to keep people on your site for longer durations of time.

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Adding Links In WordPress Is Easy

  1. Highlight the words you want to use as a live link: Don’t just cut and paste website addresses onto your page. That looks ugly. Turn words, phrases, and titles into links.
  2. Click the link icon on your toolbar: A little box will appear. Simply add your link in the upper space of this box. It’s best to cut and paste. That way you’ll make sure to avoid making any errors.
  3. Save a draft and test it out: Once you add your links, save a draft of your post and preview. Test your links to make sure they work.

I recommend keeping your internal and external links balanced at about 50/50. Link to sites with similar content to your own. Link to definitions and explanations. Link back to your own earlier articles. Don’t overdo links on any one post.

How To Put To A You Tube Video In Your Post

This is even easier. You simply paste the the YouTube link directly into your content in the edit mode. It should magically appear in your post. If you want a link to the video rather than the video itself, then use the method above.

9 Parts To Great Blog Posts

I believe the best bloggers have original and unique voices. It’s good to stand out in the crowd. That doesn’t mean anything goes. There are some basic parameters. Your audience has some general expectations.

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This post is based of a post I originally wrote for Hip Diggs.

When you go to your dental hygienist you expect to get your teeth cleaned. You don’t expect open-heart surgery. Blogging is similar. People come to a blog expecting certain forms of communication.

Great Blog Posts Follow A Formula

Click the bold links for other bloggers’ insights on writing great blog posts.

  1. Write a great headline: Headlines are the first thing your audience sees. 80% of potential readers will pass your post by if your headline is poor or mediocre. Use strong words that offer your audience a benefit. Make it urgent, useful and unique. Start with a boom!
  2. Craft a strong opener: Once you’ve written an effective headline, you need a strong lead. You need a hook to follow your boom. Great leads use quotes, questions, startling statements or stories. Just give the reader something to hang onto. Make them want to keep reading.
  3. Choose an image to matchI like a minimalist approach. I keep the photos relatively simple with some room for white space. I take the time to find photos that have a minimalist quality, yet work with the articles. Your photo can be direct or metaphorical. Just make sure it matches the topic of the post. I use Pixabay to find a variety of free images.
  4. Refer to personal experiencePeople relate with our stories. When we base our writing from real experience it comes alive. Hip Diggs’ posts are all based from personal successes and trials. One way to write more effectively is to write more like you talk. Simple. Direct. To the point. Boom!
  5. Offer some guidanceThis is at the heart of every effective blog post. Give your readers information that they can use. This section of this post is doing exactly that. I’m giving you step-by-step instructions on writing dynamite blog posts. Boom!
  6. Keep it short and simpleMy posts are usually between 400 and 700 words. Many readers feel intimidated by lengthy posts. People are busy. They want a post that they can scan quickly for valuable information. Keep it simple.
  7. Use simple words and sentencesToo often writers try to impress. They want others to know how smart or creative they are. So they get fancy with the words and sentences. Don’t. Keep it simple and readable. Don’t write poetry for a business audience. Don’t write fiction for a medical community. But don’t write over the heads of your audience members either.
  8. Offer links to related sourcesUse both internal and external links to sources that relate to your topic. Make sure the links take the reader somewhere they can get useful information about a specific topic.
  9. Provide a closingGreat blog posts give the audience a takeaway. In this post you’ve learned the basics of writing great blog posts. The takeaway is using this new knowledge. You now have the ability to gain your audience’s attention and give them something they can use. Boom! That’s gold.

It’s Your Turn: Write Your First Blog Post!

Building A “Work With Me” Page

So far, you’ve only created an “About” page on your blog. It’s lonely. It could use a little company. There are many options for your second page.

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Before we discuss the “Work With Me” page, let’s look at other options.

There are many types of pages you could add to your blog. Here’s a short list:

  1. Add a store: If you have products to sell, either your own, or as an affiliate, you may want a storefront.
  2. Add an all-posts page: This is simply a page that lists all of your archives. See an example at Hip Diggs.
  3. Add a contact page: A simple contact page is an option. I choose to add contact information on my “About” or “Work With Me” page. See an example at The Creative Side.
  4. Add a favorite links page: You could add a simple page that explains and links to some of your favorite blogs.
  5. Add a speaking page: If you’re a public speaker, or you’d like to start speaking, you could add a speaking page. Here’s an example at Becoming Minimalist.
  6. Add a press page: Michael Hyatt talks about this in his book, Platform. He refers to it as a Media Kit page.
  7. Add an FAQ page: You might want to add an FAQ page to fend off loads of email questions.
  8. Add a subscription page: Some bloggers like their subscription box in plain sight in the sidebar. I prefer mine on a separate page. Here’s an example at The Creative Side.
  9. Add an events page: If you’re a musician or entertainer, you may want an events calendar. Here’s Taylor Swift’s event page.
  10. Add a testimonial page: A testimonial page can help support your products or services.

Why Start A “Work With Me” Page?

Often, when you first start blogging, you haven’t yet created a product for your readers. But if want to treat your blog like a business from the start, you need to offer something. Most everyone has something to offer. Perhaps you could tutor others in math. Maybe you can teach music lessons. Or maybe you can be a fitness coach.

A “Work With Me” page should include some of the following information:

  • A photo of you. If you can, get a photo of you working with others.
  • What can you do to make my life better? Tell me how your services will simplify life for me. How will you help me get what I want or need.
  • What are the consequences of not working with you?
  • Tell me exactly what you have to offer. Be specific, but not too specific. I have a separate page for more specifics about coaching.
  • Make the price look like a great value.
  • Show me some testimonials from happy clients.

Examples Of “Work With Me” Pages

 

Writing Headlines That Turn Heads

If you want anyone to read your article, you’ve got to grab them with a headline that turns heads. There are some secrets to writing great headlines.

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Writing great headlines is an art.

Advertisers and journalists have been writing headlines since long before blogging existed. Great bloggers study their methods. Let’s see what some of the best bloggers out there have to say about writing headlines. Make sure to click on the links to read their articles.

Jeff Goins says:

  • Use numbers
  • Use interesting adjectives
  • Use unique rationale
  • Use what, why, how, or when
  • Make an audacious promise

Copyblogger says:

  • Be useful to the reader
  • Provide him with a sense of urgency
  • Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow unique
  • Do all of the above in an ultra-specific way

Problogger says:

  • Use power verbs
  • Employ colorful adjectives
  • Arouse curiosity
  • Build lists
  • Use the magic words
  • Pick up the newspaper

Michael Hyatt says:

  • Grab attention
  • Screen and qualify readers
  • Draw readers into the body copy
  • Communicate the “big idea”
  • Establish credibility

If you really want to know more…

Check out this book: Advertising Headlines That Will Make You Rich: Create Winning Ads, Web Pages, Sales Letters And More

Adding Categories And Tags

Categories and tags serve two purposes. First, they help keep your site organized for your readers. Second, they help search engines to find your content.

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Adding categories and tags is easy.

In www.wordpresss.com, while your in your edit-post function, you’ll see a few options on the left side of your screen. Beneath the publish box, the option for categories and tags is first. To add categories, just click “add a new category” and type your category into the box.

What are categories?

Categories are simply sub-topics of your overall niche. For instance, this course has four categories: Blogging, Writing, Social Media, and  the “Uncategorized” default. Some posts may fall under more than one category.

If you don’t check your category boxes, it will be seen as “Uncategorized” by default. There’s a way to fix that by making one of your categories the default. Here’s how:

You need to go back to your “My Site” menu. At the bottom of the list, find “Settings.” Once you’re in “Settings,” click on the “Writing” tab. In the writing setting you’ll see a drop-down bar that’s labeled: “Default Post Category.” Change the default to you most commonly used category. My default is “blogging.” This way, if I forget to choose a category, it will automatically be put in the”blogging” category. That’s a pretty safe bet for this blog.

What about tags?

Tags are more specific than categories. For instance, this post might be categorized in “blogging,” but I might add the following tags: blogging, writing, WordPress, tags, and categories. Your readers can click on any of your categories or tags to find all articles on that specific topic.

Back in edit mode, you simply click on categories and tags. Then you add tags, each separated by a comma. WordPress automatically remembers your tags for later use.

That’s it. Now you know how to add categories and tags. Check out the WordPress help page on the topic for more information.

Presenting Your Blog

In the final weeks of this course, students will present their blogs to their classmates. If you want to create an online presence, you need to be able to back it up in person.

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Presenting Your Blog

Presentations are an important part of being a blogging entrepreneur. You need to be able to share what you’re doing with others. You need to be able to promote yourself and your work. You need to be able to accept constructive criticism.

The Process

Present you blog in ten minutes. Here’s a list of what I’d like to see:

  1. Tell us who you are, what your blog is called, and what it’s about.
  2. Show and tell us about your “About” page.
  3. Show us a few of your other pages/posts.
  4. Take us to a few similar sites where you find inspiration or information.
  5. Make some comments about ways you can improve your blog.
  6. Tell us where you’d like to see your blog in a year.
  7. Ask the audience for constructive criticism.

That’s it. I look forward to your presentations!

Increasing Your Traffic

If you choose to keep blogging after this course is completed, you’ll likely want to discover ways to increase your traffic. There are many ways to gain new followers.

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Gaining blog traffic is a slow and steady process.

Don’t expect your blog to start getting hundreds of hits overnight. Getting more traffic to your blog is something that takes time and hard work. There are some things you can do to help speed up the process.

  1. Focus on content: People will come back if you provide good content. Give your readers something interesting. Give them something that can help them in their daily lives. Make sure your writing is top quality. Try adding a podcast or occasional video.
  2. Post consistently: You only had to post six times over ten weeks for this course. But if you truly want to build a blog, you should post a minimum of twice a week. Three to five times a week would be better.
  3. Get a self-hosted blog: Search engines seem to prefer self-hosted blogs. Having a self-hosted blog also allows you to have your own domain name. That can be an effective marketing tool.
  4. Give something away: Most bloggers offer their readers something for free. Most often, the free product is a short ebook. This also encourages people to sign up for your newsletter and increases the size of your mailing list.
  5. Guest post: Writing for other sites can help bring new readers to your blog. Choose sites that have a similar of slightly higher readership as your own. You could also write for multi-author blogs. I write for The Good Men Project and Life Letter Cafe.
  6. Build your networks: Don’t just add friends and share your work. Be methodical about who you add. Take time to get to know some of your readers who have similar interests. Build relationships. Don’t try to focus on too many networks at once. Keep it simple and be real.
  7. Study SEO: SEO stands for search engine optimization. There are tactics and plugins you can use to increase the likelihood that Google and other search engines will rank your posts higher than others.
  8. Study your analytics: The more you know about your audience, the more you can create content that they’ll find interesting. Consider adding Google Analytics to your blog.

There are more things you can do to increase your traffic.

If you really want to keep blogging, I recommend that you continually research ways to improve your writing and blogging skills. There’s a world of fun and adventure in store for you.