One of the hardest and most rewarding things I ever did while working for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was to start a blog. It took me five years to get it off the ground. I wrote about that experience in this blog post.
I worked hard to get a library blog because I knew it would be a transformative and powerful communication asset.
A blog allows your library to tell your own story, create brand awareness, and promote your library to your own audience for free, without having to deal with the rules of someone else’s platform.
If your library has a blog, you will want to make sure you are doing everything in your power to grow your audience. In this post, I want to share the best practices I’ve learned from years of blogging.
Before you post
Create an editorial calendar for your library promotions that includes your blog post ideas. I wrote a two-part guide to help you through this step.
A calendar will let you see all the promotions your library is doing in one glance. It will help you schedule posts that amplify your other marketing messages.
You can use your calendar to formulate due dates and publication dates for blog posts. You can also plan the promotion of your library blog posts on other channels, like your email newsletters and social media platforms.
The three main genres of library blog posts
The best blogs are a mix of these three types of blog posts.
Promotional posts: Most library blog posts are promotional. They focus on telling readers about an event, service, or collection item available at the library.
Promotional posts tend to be shorter. They also need to be frequently updated as services and collection items change.
Example: Jacksonville Public Library uses their blog to help their community find information on their website without having to create special landing pages for events and services.
Opinion posts: These posts demonstrate what the library stands for. They center on questions people have about libraries but are afraid to ask. Opinion posts also celebrate the strengths of libraries and the opportunities for improvement.
Opinion posts are compelling and allow your library to cement your voice and your position in a way that your readers and cardholders will remember. It’s great when a library takes a stand. People will respect you for it.
Example: The Stark Library CEO and Executive Director took a clear stand against racism in this recent blog post.
Authoritative posts: These posts demonstrate your library’s expertise in a subject. For instance, a post that highlights your library’s award-winning family history department is an authoritative post.
Example: Check out the My Librarian(s) Favorite Resources series on the Chapman University: Leatherby Libraries blog.
The Ugly First Draft
If you’ve been asked to write a post on your library’s blog, your journey begins with what my favorite marketer Ann Handley calls The Ugly First Draft (UFD).
Your first job is to get all your ideas down in whatever format they escape from your brain. Write your draft without worrying about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or phrasing.
Open a Word document and try to keep typing until you can’t think of anything else to say on a subject. If you are a skilled typist, look away from the screen so you’re not tempted to focus on spelling or grammatical errors.
Revise to create the perfect library blog post
Write short paragraphs, not short posts. It’s a myth that short blog posts will attract more readers. If your blog post is long but compelling, you’ll have no problem holding the attention of your readers. A longer post that is well written and contains keywords will do better in Google search than a shorter post.
However, you should break up your blog post into shorter paragraphs. Short paragraphs are easier to read and understand. They open white space on your blog, which makes your post more inviting.
Writing experts recommend paragraphs of no more than 150 words. I started writing shorter paragraphs about two years ago and saw a big boost in my metrics.
Be deliberate with your keywords. In the blog text, you need to include keywords for search.
You’ll notice I use the phrase “library marketing” and “library promotion” frequently in this blog. That’s because people searching for help with library marketing use those two phrases most often. Try Keywordtool.io. It does an amazing job of helping you to narrow your target phrase.
Put your keyword phrase in title, header, and body of blog post at least two times but more often if it makes sense.
Include images. Images can help you craft your message and tell your story. They also help to break up the text of your blog posts.
Use images to explain concepts or enforce the emotion you are trying to create.
Link to other content from your library. Your blog post can funnel your readers into engaging with your library. If you are talking about a specific service or a part of your library’s collection, include links embedded in your text to help readers find more information.
Make sure your links open in a new tab. There’s nothing more annoying that clicking on an embedded blog post link in the middle of a post and then having to tab backwards to read the rest of a blog post.
Create engagement opportunities for your reader. Use your blog posts to start a conversation with your readers. Ask a question and invite readers to post their answers in the comment.
Your library can also embed a social media post in your blog so readers can post a key point to their social media. This gives your post the potential to reach new readers.
Spend a lot of time on your headline. A good headline should give your readers a hint at the copy that lies ahead without giving away the whole story. It should trigger an emotional response that includes an irresistible urge to read more.
You can get lots of tips for headline writing in this blog post.
Incorporate several rounds of edits for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. Run your blog posts through an online editor to catch errors. Ask your co-workers to edit your blog as well.
Print your blog post out and read through it, word for word, out loud. Doing this will force your brain to pay attention to the extra attention to what you’ve written. Your brain will often fill in or gloss over errors when you silently read. But if you read your post out loud, those errors become obvious and can be fixed before publication.
Four more tips for library blog success
Use your blog as a networking tool. Ask community leaders to write guest posts. Reach out to school administrators, policy makers, influencers, and other nonprofit organizations. Or use your blog to interview someone.
Once you publish, send a link to the contributors or interviewees. Ask them to share your post with their audience. This will amplify your message and expose your blog to a new audience of readers.
Example: The National Library of Australia interviewed fashion designer Nicky Zimmermann in this blog post that led to lots of media exposure for the library.
Post consistently. The best way to maintain web traffic to your blog is to make sure people are always waiting for an article to go live.
Decide how many posts you can create a week and which days you’ll post on. Then stick to your schedule.
Promote your blog posts on other platforms. Most of your readers will not just stumble upon your post by accident. You need to make sure they know that your library has published a post.
Promote your posts on your social media platforms, in your emails, and in patron interactions.
Your blog can also be used instead of a press release to pitch a story to a member of the media.
Evaluate your post metrics. Check in once a month and enter your metrics on a spreadsheet so you can track results over time.
Compare views, watch time, and bounce rate for your posts. You can also compare post length.
Your metrics will help you to continue to improve and update your blog based on your audience’s needs and wants.
Does your library have a blog? I’d love to see it! Share a link in the comments!
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