I am taking this opportunity to write down my experiences in writing blog posts. Hope they will benefit other authors. The focus of this post is on two areas: Markdown and SEO.
a. Using Markdown for writing and formatting
I prefer to use Markdown for writing my posts. If you are not familiar with Markdown, the following links/ resources may be useful:
- Markdown on Wikipedia
- Markdown- Daring Fireball
- Styling Guide for Markdown
- more resources on Markdown – Github
b. Basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
I am in no way a SEO expert. But, I have used and benefitted from many posts, video tutorials and other sources that have helped me in optimizing my writing for the Internet. I will mention my first hand experiences in the examples I will provide.
Writing happens for two sets of ‘eyes’ these days. One is the intended reader, the human. Other is computers, specifically search engines. Keep this in mind while reading the below
Recommended Best Practices
-Draft the post in markdown is possible. In the footnotes, you will find a list of markdown apps for your desktop1.
- Length of each post should be atleast 500 to 600, with atleast 4 paragraphs. Ideal length is 750-800 words. In other words, each paragraph should not exceed more than 175-180 words.
A good rule of thumb is: preview your post in a “mobile view”. If you have to scroll up more than three times to read the post, it is probably too long. Many of our posts are over 1,500 words. This was by design. More on that in a separate post.
- Each sentence should not have more than 15 words. 20 is the absolute upper limit. The longer the sentence, the harder it becomes to read.
- Using Mix media: use a mix of images, video or audio in your post. They provide a visual break, and also encourage the reader to spend more time on your webpage.
- Use atleast one H2 tag, rest should be H3 or lower. Otherwise, they section headings might appear too big particularly in vanilla
- Use atleast three internal links, and atleast three outside links. A great example of sites taking advantage of “internal seo” and “external seo” are Wikipedia and Quora.
- Define a keyword, and try to use it in the title as well as the first line of your post. In the main body, you can use combinations or alternative of keywords in your writing.
For example, if your post is on KVM versus OVZ, then the title could be
“Which VPS do you prefer: KVM or OVZ?”
“what is a good tutorial for learning Markdown?”
Let us take the first example: KVM versus OVZ.
The first line could be
“If you are new to the world of Virtual Private Servers (VPS), you may want to familiarize yourself with the terms KVM and OVZ.”
The body of the article could include keywords like
“openvz vs kvm vs xen”
“kvm vs openvz differences”
“openvz vs docker”
try and use as many of the above in your article as possible.
I used a simple google search and scrolled to the bottom of the results to find the above keywords. You can see in the screenshot by clicking on the arrow.
Images can be your hidden tool to get some more viewership and ultimately comments for your posts. But they can be your friend as well as a foe. Remember the following:
In Vanilla, simply posting the link to an image can cause a copy of that image to be created on the server which hosts the forum software. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid images that are copyrighted.
The image of “blog” used in the above example has a Creative Commons License, and is used from Pexels.com.
b. Use Alt Tags
Alt tags are nothing but description of images, which help the visually impaired to understand what the image is about or what it represents. It is also important from SEO perspective.
i. You can upload or link images
Using markdown: the code for image and Alt Tags is very simple:
!(Link to Image "Description of Image")
The “Description of Image” part is important. It can also be used to describe some other features of the images.
The above image of Blog was uploaded from my computer, but was ‘attached’ to vanilla forums. Let us take the example of Lowendspirit Forums.
Therefore, the image reads as follows:
!(http://talk.lowendspirit.com/uploads/editor/03/oqjbaydgc8hy.jpg "Image showing the letters "blog" from Scrabble set. Source: pexels.com, used under Creative Commons license")
You can choose between 60 and 80 characters for Alt Tag. Descriptions can also be something like
Image showing the words "Blog". Used in Post on LowEndSpirit.com. June 2020"
ii. Using a third party site like Imgur or a CDN.
I prefer to use occasionally Droplr; otherwise I upload the images on our media site and link them- that way, I can change or update the images without having to update the post every time. For example, the image for carrd.co homepage, used in my post on Pagebuilders, is served from
https://cdnus.imfast.io/WebHosting/carrd/Carrd-co-Homepage-AVyas-May2020.png @ympker in his post about Mobirise pagebuider, used a service called gyazo. I added the Alt description when I put the final touches to his post.
!(https://i.gyazo.com/b58f599d411473420b753741fa259de4.png "screenshot of Pinegrow webpage builder.")
iii. “Hot Linking Images” My recommendation is to use this sparingly, because most site hosts may frown upon this practice. the reason is simple- loading images requires resources. Some websites may even block hotlinking. the below image, randomly chosen,
actually is hotlinked to the Wikipedia page
Note: I have not added the Alt tag for the image if you view the code.
Video or Audio
If you simply paste the link to YouTube or Vimeo, the page will automatically preview and load. For other services, you can play around with the options given in the markdown guides. Similar for audio
Mixing HTML and Markdown
Not All Markdown apps or sites are created equal. Stick to the basics, the same post may render differently in Grav and Vanilla. If that happens, use a mix of HTML and Markdown.
Summing it all up
Checklist for your post
- Title has 6 to 7 words, max, 60 characters
- Length of post is upto 800 words (min, 600)
- Atleast 3 to 4 paragraphs with Subheadings in H3 tag or
- 3 Internal links, 3 external links minimum
- use a mix of text, audio, images and video
- Images have Alt tag
- Use HTML where raw markdown may not work
- Do a simple keyword search. Use 4 or 5 combinations of the keyword(s) that you use
- Preview your post on Mobile
- Check the copyright status for images.