October 29, 2016

Why series posts are great, and how to write them?

In the first post in this 2-post series on ideal length of blog posts, we discussed how long posts work better towards authority and SEO as compared to short posts. We also discussed how quality matters more than the size of posts. In the present one, we'd discuss in what situations, writing a series is better than one long post, and how it is a win-win idea in certain cases. 

Before we go any further, let's be sure of what we are discussing here. Technically, one dirty joke a day on the blog also is a post series, but we are dealing here with series of valuable posts around a central theme.

Why should I break my long post into a series when it serves great value as a single post?


We'd draw your attention to what we said in the last post in favor of short posts. In brief, in this age of short attention and smart phones, small posts have a better chance to be read, shared and commented upon. So, if your post is long it has an inherent disadvantage in terms of quick readability. Yet, for the sake of many other reasons (May we again refer you to the previous post? Forgive us for that.), you should have some long posts on the blog. Agree?

But how long? 3000 words? 400? 8000?

Yes, some established bloggers can afford to write a few 'epic' posts of that big length because they have so much to share, people trust them and so read their long articles, and they have fans who'd read every word of theirs even if others get bored.

Suppose you are not one of them, and yet you have a great deal to say on a topic, with authority. Should you go for a post as big as a novella?

One option is to go for that long a post, any way. Break it into sections using sub-headings, break monotony with boxes and photos, highlight key points, and so on and so forth. That would make the post more readable but it would be a losing bargain if you compare the effort made with the traffic, shares, back-links and clicks you earn out of that great post.

The other option is to break the long article into pieces and serve them one after the other, i.e. in a series of posts. This seems a very good alternative to posts that have become too long. But it's not that simple. Series should also not be made just to break a long post. Take a decision after understanding the advantages and disadvantages of serial posts:

Go for series when you have a list of standalone posts in mind.

When you have a number of related 'sub-topics' of a big topic in mind, it is better to go for a series of posts. These posts should be self-sufficient in many ways, yet be part of a broad theme. For example, if you are going on a long trip to another continent and will visit a number of places, you can run a series on the trip. Even when you visit a single place that has rich cultural heritage, great natural beauty, a variety of local cuisine and posh markets, you can write a 4-part travelogue on it, isn't it?

Write series when you have many things in mind but do not have time to compose all at once.

Series gives you time to breathe. You do not have to write the magnum opus in one go; you write one part, do research for second, publish first, finish second, do research for third, publish second... 

Series can be very handy for busy experts who can write a post in a short time but do not have time in hand for a long post. Their regular visitors would otherwise miss them for long.

When you write by the calendar or a pre-fixed schedule, series posts is the way.

Don't weekly serials on TV come on a particular day, or daily soaps come at a particular time of the day? The same way, you can run a series of posts on a common theme. On your personal blog, observe a poetry week in which you write one poem a day, devote a month to a hobby, post a photo each day for 10 days, write a summary of goings on in your area every Sunday, run a month-long reading challenge for bloggers...

When you want to give an exercise to readers for many days or weeks, small regular servings work best.

If you carry DIY (=do it yourself) posts or tutorials, think of running a series of posts. For example, in the tutorial series, you can give a lesson and an exercise in the first post. In the next post, give the correct answer and come up with another lesson and another exercise, and the series goes on.

Do posts in a series help SEO or waste it?

That depends. In general, serial posts score well in terms of SEO because individual posts support others in the series due to similarity of content and links. Take care to take actions that we have given in the section on 'what care to take' below.  

Let's repeat that not just number and size of posts matters, it is the quality that primarily determines whether search engines would show up your pages high or low. If you are not convinced, visit our previous post again.

What care to take when writing serial posts on the blog?

The first thing is to properly introduce the series. you can announce it beforehand on the blog, on the first post of the series and through other social media accounts.

Cross-referencing to other posts in the series is a must. You can give an 'intro' about the previous post [as is done in the present post] so that visitors know the context. you can also give the list of all posts of the series at the end of each post to help readers visit them if they want.

You also need to link posts to each other. Link in a natural way, keeping the reader (and not the search engine) in mind. For example, if you run a series on home-made cakes, you may have some posts on types of cakes, best temperatures for different types of cakes, how to prepare flour to make spongy cakes, etc. You could refer to these articles whenever you talk of these aspects in your cake recipes.

Linking should not be too much and intrusive. You should also not use the same keywords as anchor-text for links.

Inter-linking of posts helps in SEO. It also helps you get more eyeballs to different posts, thus improving the chances of more time spent on your blog and more clicks to advertisements on the blog. 

Promote series posts and long posts. They are the gems of your blog, and so try to attract more people to these posts and not the ones you might have written with lesser efforts and those whose relevance has expired.

You can use technical tools to link the posts and let Google know that the series quality for in-depth articles.

Don't have serial posts too frequently because people who have reached your post looking just for a small piece of information might be put off with lack of focus and brevity in inter-linked posts and too detailed information. Have many short and long posts and then a series.

Don't make the series too long. Generally limit the series to 2-4 posts. If you have too many standalone posts, don't give them shape of a series. Rather, give them a label (=tag) and put them under one category, except when the series is long with a purpose (e.g. NaNoWriMo: many people write fiction for a month during NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth).

Don't make the series too rarefied and with different time intervals. If you publish the next post in the series after a month, the value of the series goes. Similarly, if you publish the next post in one week and the next one in a month, it is not a well-woven series. 
 
A great bye-product of serial posts is an e-book. For making an e-book out of the series, collate the posts into a document, give an introduction, make a content page (optional), standardize formatting and convert it into a PDF document or e-book. You can then offer this e-book for free or in return for  subscription etc.  

Best way to write the post series on the blog


A blog series should ideally not be instantaneous (You find that the post is getting long and decide to break it); it should be by design. You should plan the series before starting to publish the first post. The best steps in most cases are:
  • Decide the topic.
  • Break it into segments, one for each post. Refine individual sub-topics and decide their sequence. 
  • Compose working title for each post. You should revise the title just before publishing that post.
  • Think of keywords for each post. Focus the post around those keywords. Check how the keywords together cover the main topic.
  • Make an 'intro' about the series. Let it be the first para of the first post. 
  • While working on the series, keep promoting it through email, Facebook, etc. Announce it at the end of 1-2 posts before the series starts. You can even think of doing a post on the blog itself to announce the coming series.
  • At the end of each post in the series, write about other posts and give links to these. 
  • Think of giving a concluding para at the end of the series if the series has more than 3-4 posts or has run for a long period.