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How a Blog is like a House


Photo Credit: Julie Jordan Scott

A blog may be like a home, but a number of posts have been written about how a blog – or a site – should be welcoming. It has to invite a person to enter. It has to attract the audience, the one person, the blogger seeks.

Those things are true, but they neglect a simple fact: a home is a house long before it becomes a home. The “hominess” is the result of a person living within a house and adding one’s own touch or flair to the dwelling. That doesn’t mean the house should be neglected in favor of style and decorative elements; quite the opposite. A home loses its allure when the paint fades or the foundation cracks. No one wants to live in an environment where the pipes spring leaks or where the floor is susceptible to becoming a sinkhole. People want to live in a place where they can rest in safety, where they can be comfortable.

Always check the foundation.

What is the foundation of a blog? It’s the underlying structure of the blog. It’s how the blog – the site – is arranged and organized. It’s the purpose, the why. Without that organization and understanding, the house becomes dysfunctional. Rooms are used for purposes that they are not meant. The house becomes a labyrinth. Its confusing structure catches a person unaware; the person becomes so lost within the blog that he or she cannot find the purpose behind it nor can he or she understand how to navigate from one part of the site to another.

Examine the walls.

The next component of the house are the walls – the things that find their roots in the foundation and hold up the roof. The walls of a blog are the actual posts. The posts are built upon the underlying foundation. They support the purpose of the blog, whatever that may be. For one blogger, it may be teaching his or her audience a new cake-decorating technique. For another, it could be sharing practical ways for becoming a better speaker. In both cases, the walls – the posts – must support those underlying purposes. If they don’t, the walls fall. The homeowner has to start again, this time keeping his or her purpose, the foundation, in mind.

Consider the roof.

Once the walls have been established, the roof can be addressed. The roof brings the four walls together. It unifies them. It gives cohesion to the walls and completes the work begun by the foundation. While the walls primarily act as an extension of the foundation, they also point toward the roof. They work toward a common goal, whether that be the goal of more e-letter subscribers, visits to the blog, or book sales. The roof is, in a way, the bookend of the foundation. The foundation is incomplete without the roof just as the roof is incomplete without the foundation. They need each other, and they need the walls that bring them together.

Now, build a house.

What joins the foundation, the walls, and the roof? A house can’t be built with only a concrete slab and some plywood and bricks. Other tools and supplies are needed. The different components of a house are brought together through piping, nails, and support beams. Such things in a blog are the things that the audience rarely sees or considers. It’s things like themes, which tie back to the purpose found in the foundation and the goal found in the roof. It’s consistency in writing blog posts. It’s things like grammar. Those things – and others – support the foundation, walls, and roof and bring those three things together. They are the glue, the cement, the nuts and bolts, the nails and staples.

The house already exists, and it has problems.

Of course, it’s not always that simple for the blogger. Not every blogger gets to start with a newly built house. Some bloggers have to work with pre-existing ones. Often, the conditions of that house are not ideal. Perhaps the foundation has sunk on one side of it. Maybe one of the walls is sagging. The roof could have a leak. Maybe some of the nails are missing, or a previous owner stretched the limits of a support beam. The house could have been vandalized. Maybe it has been left empty for so long that it requires not only maintenance but also the tearing down of walls so that they can be rebuilt. What does the blogger do in that case?

The blogger has one of two choices: he or she can ignore the issue or address it. Neither of those choices are preferable; the first only prolongs the inevitable, and the second means labor and inconvenience. Once the concern has been identified, though, something has to be done. That could mean adding support piers where the foundation has sunk. It could mean replacing windows and doors or adding insulation. Any of those acts has repercussions. Altering the foundation could result in nothing happening, but it’s equally likely that some sheetrock could crumble or that some plumbing could start to leak.

It’s also true that houses start to show their age after a certain amount of time. The house will need repairs. It could be time for a fresh coat of paint. The roof might need to be replaced. The walls could have started to crumble and need to be reinforced in some way. Maybe the homeowner now has a family and needs to add a room or two, that is, if the homeowner chooses to stay in his or her current house.

Blogging is no different; blogs start to show their age, too. The foundation may develop problems. Maybe the site needs a new look to bring it up-to-date and to keep it competitive with other sites. It could be that new goals – a new roof – are needed, particularly if the existing ones have been reached. Perhaps the posts need to grow and mature in order to support both the foundation and the roof.

Why all this focus on a blog as a house? Because it’s only after addressing foundational and structural issues that a house can become a home. It’s only then that a blogger can concern himself or herself with style and with adding that bit of personality that makes a site his or her blog.

Rethinking the Structure of Your Blog


The traditional blog structure has always bothered me a bit on some sites. I’m admittedly anal retentive and borderline OCD about some things, and one of those things is the clarity of navigation on a website, blog or otherwise. If a website has poor navigation options or I can’t understand the logic behind the structure, I probably won’t frequent the site. It’s like a damn corn maze trying to read some blogs. And not in a “fun activity with your family” sort of way. In a “get me out of this damn corn maze” type of way.

I realize that I’m much more upset about poor navigation than most people since Columbus, but almost everyone can agree that a site with great structure makes more sense that a site with poor structure. Good structure to your website is also a plus for search engine spiders. This is something that has been weighing on my soul at After Graduation since I rebranded and relaunched earlier this year, because I wasn’t completely happy with the blog navigation options.

Then I read You’re NOT Only As Good As Your Last Blog Post from Jordan Cooper, and I think he hit the nail on the head as far as what I’ve been thinking but unable to put into words or even coherent thoughts. Blogs everywhere are at a disadvantage because they’re structured like…well…blogs. And that’s not the best option for every website, because great content gets buried to make way for new content.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I follow Mashable to read about social media news and tips. Mashable is just like every other blog in the world in the fact that they sometimes have blog posts that go above and beyond, but they typically have normal blog posts. Not bad, not even boring. Just not award-winning. As bloggers, we’re writing hundreds of posts per year, and not everything is going to change the world. That’s ok.

I also read Cracked.com regularly, just for entertainment reasons. Again, they have great posts on a daily basis and occasionally, they’ll post something above and beyond that really blogs me away.

These are both blogs, but if you take a look at the sites, you’ll notice that Mashable looks more like a typical blog while Cracked.com does not. Why? Because Cracked.com has realized something important – the timestamp on their posts doesn’t really matter. Whereas Mashable covers industry news, Cracked.com’s blog is mostly evergreen material. That doesn’t mean that old posts on Mashable are never relevant, and that doesn’t mean that Cracked.com never talks about anything time-sensitive, but if you on a sliding scale, Mashable is near the “time-sensitive” end and Cracked.com is near the “evergreen” end.

The traditional look to a blog is perfect for time-sensitive topics. This can mean news, but doesn’t necessarily have to be. For example, if you run a blog about gardening, you probably talk about topics as they’re relevant to the growing season or if you run a blog about books, you probably review new releases. The problem? Most blogs are far closer to the evergreen side of the scale, yet few has adapted. Almost everyone uses a Mashable-type of structure, rather than a Cracked.com “magazine” look.

Take a look at your content. Is most of it as relevant today as it was months or even years ago when it was first posts? Someone who runs a tech blog might say no, since their old content is out-of-date. Someone who writes a fashion blog might say no, since trends change over time. But for someone like me, blogging about freelance writing at After Graduation, the answer is yes. Almost all of my posts are as relevant today as they were when they were first posted.

I suspect that most bloggers fall in the 50-50 range. That’s where I’d put this blog, actually. Half of the time, your posts will reference current events, cover news stories, or otherwise make the most sense soon after being posted. The other 50 perfect of the time, the posts are evergreen and can last for years. When this is the case, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to the type of structure you use, as long as you have clear navigation in the form of categories, tags, and the like.

But I think that a number of you out there are like me and my own blog, posting mostly evergreen content. Like Jordan’s post says, it doesn’t really make sense to have your work buried with a chronological set up. That’s the problem I’m struggling to solve right now on my own site – is the typical blog structure a good idea?

I’m beginning to think it is not. You can have a site map and you can have a “best of” or “popular” page, but that doesn’t change the fact that many good articles are getting buried for the sake of updates. At the same time, a more static website doesn’t necessarily make sense either. After all, you want your regular readers to be able to find new posts quickly, and if you don’t have a blog set up at all, time-sensitive posts make no sense.

Right now, I’m developing a new plan for After Graduation that combines an article bank for my evergreen posts with a normal blog for my time-sensitive posts and journalism posts. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter, though. Is a typical blog structure working for you? Why or why not?

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She doesn’t actually have anything against corn mazes.

Image credit: Karsten Eggert

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