Blogging can be an effective way to communicate long-form content online, either as yourself or on behalf of an institution or business. Blogs often combine written copy with visual content such as images or videos. Most blogging websites are easy to find and use, making them an accessible and personal way to reach your audience.
We use various blogging platforms across the University, from Faculty blogs on WordPress or Jadu to our Medium and Shorthand accounts. Leeds is also a founding member of The Conversation, which can be a great way of getting your writing in front of a large global audience.
We’ve pulled together this guide to identify our existing blogs, provide an overview of blogging best practices and signpost to external resources that will help with your blogging journey.
Do I need a blog?
Are you aware of an existing platform you can publish through?
Yes: Try to contact the owner of the blog or website to see if you can submit content and contribute to it.
No: Consider a few more of the following options to help decide if setting up a new blog is a solution for you.
Do you have content you would like to publish regularly and time to dedicate to maintaining a blog on an ongoing basis?
Yes: A blog can require a lot of work to set up, maintain and create content for, so make sure you have a content plan and block out time for writing, editing, publishing and promoting it.
No: Consider alternative ways of sharing your content such as authoring an article for someone else’s blog, publishing an article in The Conversation or publishing an article to your own LinkedIn audience.
Do you have a plan for how to share your content once it is published?
Yes: Sharing your content in your email network or across social media will help people find your work.
No: It can take time for a blog to build traction through organic traffic, most traffic will be driven by third-party channels, so it's worth making a plan for sharing your blog. Getting other websites or blogs to feature your link helps search engines find your page, as well as get it in front of a new audience.
The Conversation is an independent news website which sources content from the academic and research community. Its tagline, “academic rigour, journalistic flair”, underpins an approach where experienced editors work with researchers (from PhD researchers to professors) to commission, shape and publish 600-800 word pieces.
Content is published under Creative Commons and many articles are also republished across UK and international mainstream media. In ten years, more than 400 Leeds researchers have published almost 700 articles – the most popular has now notched up more than 1.6 million reads and 20 others have been read between 100,000 and 269,000 times.
Medium is a social publishing platform that is open to all and home to a diverse array of stories, ideas and perspectives. Check out these Medium blogs by Simone Buitendijk and Policy Leeds. For more information, please visit our in-depth Medium guide.
If you have a Medium blog and think that one of your stories is suitable for the University’s publication, contact the Digital Communications team.
WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS). Check out these WordPress blogs by NEXUS, Link to Leeds and Community Engagement for Anti-microbial Resistance.
LinkedIn is a social networking tool that focuses on professional networking. Read more about how to publish articles on LinkedIn and watch this step-by-step tutorial on how to blog on LinkedIn. Check out the LinkedIn blog by Leeds Institute for Fluid Dynamics.
How to write a blog
- Stories can be as long or as short as you like - there's no length restriction.
- Some blogging platforms (eg Medium) display an average read time next to articles.
- Medium suggests the ideal length of a blog post is seven minutes or 1,600 words, however our data shows that reads shorter than this can perform even better.
Titles and subtitles
- Titles should be clear, brief, and preview what the story is about.
- ‘Click-bait’ titles often work well, however, these don't always match our content style and could risk undermining the University’s tone of voice.
- If you do choose to adopt this style of title, think about whether it's right to do so and whether it fits the importance of the content within.
- Subtitles are auto-generated in Medium based on the text at the start of the story, but you can alter this in the story settings.
- Keep it simple: Blogs have a broad audience with different interests – avoid complex or specialised language and acronyms but if you do need to use them, explain them so that all readers can access your content easily. You can use tools like the free Hemingway app to test out your language and see if it can be simplified.
- Create a clear structure: Digital content isn't the same as print content. People encounter and read it differently – they scan it, so you need to write it differently. Divide it into smaller chunks with subheadings. Make the headings meaningful so they tell the reader something about the information in that section. Ideally, use paragraphs of no more than two sentences and sentences of no more than 20-25 words with a single idea in each. This helps create a clear narrative that people can easily navigate. It helps you get your message across too.
- Get straight to the point: Most people don’t have time to navigate lots of copy to find out what you’re trying to say. Get to the point quickly. Think of an inverted pyramid and put the most important or impactful information first, the broader detail later. For example, cover the key findings of your research first before you cover the background.
- Edit: Editing is as important as writing. Aim to be concise, but you don’t have to cut it back so far that the language has no personality.
- Personality: Give your writing a more personal and human tone by using active, not passive, voice. For example, instead of: ‘The University has an active relationship with students’, say: ‘You can get involved’. Readers like to get an insight into the writer’s perspective or feel they're learning something from them.
- Showcase collaboration: The University strategy makes clear that as an institution, we're striving for a culture of collaboration, equality, inclusion and diversity. Does your article support this? If you’ve collaborated with others, try to give a fair and accurate reference to their involvement.
Your audiences may have diverse needs so make sure everyone can read your article. Remember to:
- Avoid using italics which can be hard to read. Don’t use underline to add emphasis as it makes text look like a hyperlink. You can use bold sparingly on a word or few to add emphasis but don’t overuse it, and never use it for headings.
- Add headings using the heading style as this helps users of assistive technology to scan your article.
- Avoid indicating position by saying ’above’ or below’. Use ‘previously’ and ‘following’ respectively instead.
- Make sure link text (the highlighted words that become a link) is descriptive enough that you could know where the link leads without the surrounding content, for example: University campus green spaces. A good rule of thumb is to reflect the title of the destination page in the link text.
- Never use a plain URL, for example: https://www.leeds.ac.uk/info/4000/around_campus/129/green_spaces
- Never use click here or read more.
- Indicate whether it’s a file link. Use (PDF), (Word doc) etc. For example, download the checklist (PDF).
- Give images descriptive, concise alt text. Aim for descriptions under 125 characters. Do not use include ‘image of’ or ‘picture of’. Ask yourself whether your alt text could effectively communicate image content to someone listening on a phone call.
- Make sure that diagrams or images with information in them are easy to read on screen and the text in them doesn't appear too small. You need to be able to describe what they show too, either in alt text, or using the copy on the page, for people using assistive technology.
- Using images in your article will help you catch a reader’s attention and keep them engaged.
- You should always use alt text when embedding images, describing the image clearly. You can also use alt text to credit the image creator if needed.
- Images within the article could be photography, graphics and designed assets. Please try to use high quality images and remember, if your image conveys information such as an infographic, you must include a description of this either in the alt text option or in the body text of the article to make sure it’s accessible to readers using assistive technology.
How to drive traffic to your blog
Although people can find your content organically, we know from our data that sharing our article widely is the most effective way to increase engagement with it, so have a plan. Share the article with partners, researchers and social media followers.
Make sure that your content is SEO-friendly. Including keywords in your content can help boost your search engine optimisation ranking (how high up you appear in Google search results). Where possible, use high-ranking, low competition, long-tail keywords.
Some platforms may also allow you to add tags or meta descriptions in the advanced settings, these are usually optional but inputting these properly will help with SEO.
Medium also offers user-friendly analytics so you can see whether and how readers have engaged with the article and which of your methods for sharing it have been most effective.
We've put together a collection of courses on LinkedIn Learning to help you get started with blogging.