English 106 Blog Assignment

This assignment has a number of components:  The Proposal, the Blog Itself, the Google Adsense Application Process, and the Final Project Report on the blog's effectiveness.

The Proposal

The proposal needs to identify the overall topic (or category) of the blog, and how this topic will be narrowed down and focused for your specific audience.  In general, the narrower and more focused, the better for your topic!  A good blog topic should be:
  • Unique.  This doesn't just mean you haven't plagiarized.  It also means that there are not a million blogs already out there with exactly the same kinds of content.  The same category of topic is ok, as long as you can differentiate yourself in some way with your unique content.  (Your unique take on things, your unique angle, your unique focus, etc.)
  • Relevant.  Consider these questions: Why would an internet user want to read your blog (instead of somebody else)?  Why are they searching for this topic in the first place?  What exactly are you giving them that will be useful to them?  If you have a clear and solid answer to these questions, then chances are good that your topic is relevant.  Relevant content means it's useful and relevant to someone else.  If someone is searching on the web and they come to your blog, you want their search to end at your page!  This happens when you're giving them something of relevance and substance that is immediately useful to them.
  • Targeted.  This means aimed directly at a specific kind of internet user.  A good blog is reader-centric, which means that it clearly and immediately delivers on your readers' expectations or desires in some way.  The clearer you can picture your readers (your "target audience"), the easier it is to focus and narrow your topic to hit this target.
You'll also need to think about your audience in detail, and about yourself in detail.

Ten Required Elements of the Proposal:

Topic:

  1. What is the general category of topic that your blog will address?
  2. How will you narrow this down to a topic that is focused and distinctive?
  3. What will you call your blog?  (Put a lot of thought into this after answering the first two).  Explain in detail the rationale for your choice of blog name.

Audience:

  1. Provide a detailed description of who your target audience is for this blog.
  2. Provide a detailed description of what your target audience will be searching for when they find your blog.  (Why are they looking?  What do they want to do?)
  3. Is your targeted audience broad or narrow (or broad in some ways but narrow in others)?  Briefly explain your rationale for focusing your target audience in the way you have.

Author:

  1. What makes you qualified to write about this topic?
  2. What additional work or research will you need to do to write the best content you can about your topic?
  3. How does your topic relate to a possible future career choice for you?
  4. Briefly explain your interest in (and passion for) this topic.  (Note:  Don't BS on this last one!  I genuinely want to help you find a topic that interests you a lot!  Your interest level in your topic will make the difference between an awesome semester and a tedious one!)
A complete, printed rough draft of your Proposal is due in class on Friday, January 26.  Email the final draft to me by the start of class time on Monday, January 29.  Please consider the class reading "Effective Document Design" when deciding on the appropriate format and layout of this document.  The design of this document will be part of its grade

The Blog Itself

Class blogs will be created on Google's Blogger platform.  This is very easy, and integrates well with other Google products.  If a student desires to go beyond this (register a domain name, find a host, use a CMS program, create a website, etc) that should probably be ok.  Check with me if you would like to use a different platform.

Creating a blog is a lot of work, and this work needs to happen consistently throughout the course of the semester.  How much content will you need to produce?

Number of Blog Posts:

At the bare minimum you will need at least two blog posts each week once you start your blog in Week 3, although for a successful blog, you will really want to aim for more than that.  Some experts recommend a new post every day, since visitors are more likely to bookmark your site if they know they will be greeted with fresh content each time they come back.  Some experts say every other day.

You will need at least 15 blog posts by March 19.  On March 19 you will be submitting your blog for approval to Google's Adsense.  Google reviews applications carefully to insure that their ads only go onto high-quality sites, and to insure that your site is focused and targeted clearly (so they can serve up targeted ads for your readers).  It is highly recommended that you have established a consistent pattern of posting relevant, targeted, and unique content by the time you submit this application.  "Consistent" doesn't mean one post on the first day of your blog, and 14 posts a week before you submit.  Consistent means steady and reliable.  I also recommend that you have at least 15 blog posts.  This is a bare minimum.  The more quality, relevant, content-rich posts you have, the greater your chances of success will be.

Length of Blog Posts:

This is a tough one to nail down, since the optimal length for your posts will depend a lot on your topic, readership, etc.  Also, it can be quite healthy to have post lengths that vary from post to post.  A short post might just be a paragraph or two, and a longer post might be longer and require some scrolling.  Occasionally, it might be fine to have a really short post, like a linked or embedded Youtube video and some text that explains why this link is relevant to your specific readership.  But too much of that can be a problem.  Remember, you want to attract readers to your site because of your quality content, not send them away to other sites because they have quality content!

Here are some things to consider when you decide on a blog post's length:
  • Each blog post should have a rationale or "mission."  This is the reason why you are putting it on your site in the first place, and the reason why you think your targeted reader will benefit from it.  Is the post long enough to accomplish its mission?
  • Each blog post should be able to stand alone.  Remember that a search engine might send a visitor directly to an individual blog post, bypassing the front page of your blog.  Is the blog post complete and self-standing?
  • Will a visitor feel fulfilled and satisfied by this post, or will they feel cheated?
  • Will a returning reader (who bookmarked your blog) feel fulfilled and satisfied by this post, or will they feel cheated?
The course instructors will periodically review your blogs to see if you need to beef up your content, or streamline it.  Feel free to ask at any point if you are wondering.

A Note About Work-Load:

This will seem like a lot of work.  Here are some things that will make it more manageable:
  • Most of the assignments in class will be constructed in such a way that you will be able to recycle them as posts to your blog.  Case 1, 2, and 3 specifically will be directly linked to posts to your blog.
  • Spread your blogging out for sanity.  Writing a single blog post can be a fun, easy, and spontaneous activity, and it needn't take longer than an hour.  In this case, slow and steady will win the race.  If your normal work habit is to procrastinate for long periods of time and then try to do everything at once, you might consider trying to make a schedule.
  • Choose a topic you love, and an audience you can relate to.

The Google AdSense Appliation Process

Applying for AdSense, and lising ads on your site, is an easy, built-in function of Blogger.  You can read about it here.  Once your ads are on your page, you will want to come up with a coherent strategy for displaying them, and you will need to be able to articulate the reasons behind this strategy.

The Final Project Report

At the end of the semester, you will using tools like Google Analytics to do analysis of the traffic to, through, and from your blog.  You will also be analyzing the effectiveness of different posts or posting styles.  You will also be experimenting with and analyzing different strategies of promoting your blog, generating back-links, retaining return visitors, etc.

The Final Project Report is a presentation of this analysis, along with a more general "What I learned from this experience."  This final report will take the form of a 20 minute power point presentation and a written report.

You will highlight:
  • What your blog is.  What strategies did you use to identify a market and refine or develop your focus?  Did the focus change from the start of the semester to the end?  How is your blog unique, relevant, and targetted?
  • Show some information that you got from Google Analytics about your blog traffic.  What did the numbers tell you?  How did you act on what the numbers told you to improve your blog's performance?
  • What strategies have you used to promote or increase traffic to your blog?  How have you tested these strategies?  What have you learned?
  • Other tips or tricks you can share with your classmates that you have learned in this process?
  • Stepping back from the blog itself, what have you learned about "Content Engineering" (as opposed to just "Writing") from this experience?  How might you apply this in your future career?
Feel free to incorporate the material you generated for Case 2 and Case 3 directly into this final report!  Both of these cases were designed to let you do this:  They both asked you to analyze your blog with different methods, and use that data to improve your blog.   Although be aware that your final report needs to go beyond these two cases.

Return to the syllabus.