The blogosphere has exploded in the last decade. Everyone who’s anyone has a blog. According to Wikipedia ‘it is estimated that there are more than 172 million identified blogs, with more than 1 million new posts being produced by the blogosphere each day’. It might be difficult to see how academic research can translate into the blogging environment, but blogging about your work can be highly rewarding and worthwhile. There is little point in doing research if it doesn’t have a tangible benefit, so in this way blogging and other forms of social media are a great way of making science more accessible.
You need to be selective in what you choose to blog about, especially if you are dealing with sensitive data. You may simply want to write about the experiences of being a researcher, or you may want to keep it topic specific and write about lectures, conferences and comment on books, papers and current affairs related to your subject and interests. Either way blogging can be an excellent way to develop your own thoughts, just like a research diary, and communicate with others to generate contacts and feedback. For many commercial blogs the process of driving traffic is perhaps more important than the content of the blog itself. Presumably, that is not what you are going for with a research blog however, there is little point in blogging if no one else can find it and read it. Therefore there are a few things you can do to optimise your audience and create an effective blog post.
Ideal blog lengths are probably 300-500 words, although it is understandable if research specific posts are longer.
It is helpful to break up longer posts with sub headings, lists etc.
Titles are very important and should adequately describe the post and include key words where possible so that links are more likely to come up on search engines. Think about the kinds of words people would use on Google to search for your blog topic and include these in the title. Words at the start of titles are thought to be more powerful than words at the end when it comes to SEO.
In text hyperlinks are great for two reasons.
- They help the reader by providing links to further information
- They help the search ranking of the blog
Linking between posts on your own blog is highly effective but don’t add the hyperlink to the word ‘here’ or along those lines, instead ensure the anchor text reflects the content of what you are linking to. Eg, See Chris’s recent post on how to design an academic poster.
Images – be aware of copyright.
- Ideally use your own images (or a friend/colleagues with permission) or a screen shot.
- Search for free images online; http://www.geograph.org.uk// has free geography related images for non-commercial means if you credit the photographer.
- If you find an image you really like you can email the photographer and ask to use it in return for a credit.
- If you are writing about an organisation/event/product you can get images by emailing the press office (it’s their job, they should be happy to help).