February 19, 2010

Blogging blunders bugging me 'cause the fix is so easy

It bugs me that people don't get the power of language, especially when choosing a name for a web site or blog. What you say, what you choose, matters unless you like being lonely, no one reading your blog, and no one visiting your web site.

If you have a name for something, you have a shorthand for what that something is. But it has to be the right name, one that people will use because when you say it they know what you are saying and can easily repeat it back. The name needs to fit their habits, not yours. It needs to be consistent, with the English language and with your organization.

Power of three

This rant, like most, is prompted by the power of three - three web sites that don't get why choosing a name, a URL is important. So let's be specific without being embarrassing.
  • If you're blogging, make your blog title says something.
  • If you're blogging on the web, make sure the web address is "normal" and attractive to search engines.
  • If you're blogging, do it for more then becoming a part of the trend.


Title tempts readers

Your blog title matters because it should tell us what we will find within the blog and, hopefully, it will help us find the blog.

Two Girl Scout councils blogs - GS Blog and Our Blog - got outed on my Facebook stream this week.

I dislike the GS Blog title for three reasons:
  • It tells me too little.I already guessed that it would be about Girl Scouts since it was a Girl Scout council telling me about it.
  • A blog is a tool, not a title. Most of us don't read a blog because it is a blog but because of the information within - this title doesn't tell me what to expect.
  • It assumes too much. I know GS is Girl Scouts, I don't think that's what the average person calls us, thus that's not what they type in at a search engine.
The blog improves at the site, fulfilling a promise to give you the background of the council and sharing good links. I will say that the blog itself uses photos in a compelling away and most entries are written "blog style," not cut and paste press releases.


Make it easy to find

I carry less love for the other title, Our Blog, for the reasons above. But there's also the problem of identity. Two different people told me about Our Blog and then gave me the wrong blog addresses. One said the title was Our Blogs, indicating the address was xxx.org/ourblogs. The other neglected to say the URL had a B to start the word blog -- xxx.org/Blog

The organization already offers major challenges with its base web site address (too many s's - go ahead say a word with s's and see if you don't have to say "s as in Sam" to the puzzled and inconsistent use of the word southeastern). But now it complicates matters by requiring users to hit the caps key for Blog in the address. That's unusual for users and search engines (apparently even the one on the site, which won't let you find the blog by typing in Blog or blog.)

Capital letters in web addresses are unexpected by users and search engines. If you type a lower case word in a search, most will return addresses with the lowercase word AND the uppercase word.  So blog gets me results with blog and Blog but Blog only gets me results with Blog.

I'm sure the webmaster will add a redirect page from xxx.org/blog to its xxx.org/Blog. I even expect that the site search will be updated so that typing in the word blog or Blog will get you to the blog. But why not follow the conventional styles of the web. It's up to content creators to serve content consumers if we want the content read.


Be consistent

This blog also hits another pet peeve of mine - the lack of care to a page title. So, in this council, the "page" Our Blog sits on has a title of GSXXX Blog, which I like better then the blog title.

Page titles are important to me because:
  • They help me find my way to the page via search engines IF the titles match the content and use English the way I speak it.
  • They help me navigate back to a page via web history IF the titles match the content.
  • They give me, a scanner, a way of knowing what to expect on the page.


Tell me enough

At least the page title has the council's initials because I can't quite tell who the our is in Our Blog.

 Our Blog is launched with this Facebook comment:
"Snippity snap, we have a blog! There are 7-8 of us bloggers right now, talking about everything from board updates to program updates to xxxx strategic planning! Check out our thoughts and ideas:"
Seriously, I don't mean to be harsh but this just raises more questions for me. Let's start with who are the bloggers so that I know why I should care about their thoughts and ideas. I didn't expect to have a list over on Facebook, but I did think I'd find an intro to the eight who will start of this adventure in the blog itself.

They get points for including people's names and job titles in the blog posts themselves (but those titles are another rant for another day because they tell me little.)


Tell me what's coming

But, just as quickly, let's move into what I can expect to find if I take the time to subscribe. Remember the Facebook comment.

There's this from the first entry:
"In an effort to get information across to you quickly and with the utmost transparency, we've decided to start up our very first blog!

Stay tuned as staff, board members, and volunteers update this blog with up-to-date content!   Girl Scouts 4 Life!"
That gets me back to the question of why are you blogging. In these days of multistreams of information, it is important to define what will be found where and use the tools for what they are best at doing.

If you're blogging because it is easier to publish content on a blog then on your site, perhaps someone should look at removing the web site obstacles.

If you're blogging to become transparent, then I expect to find opinions and background and lots of insight while I still have a chance to influence. Giving me the tools to share a blog post isn't enough; give me a place to react, to ask, to share my opinion.

 If you're blogging just to blog, please don't.


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