Public Sociology Assignment: Blog Writing Best Practices

Public Sociology Assignment: Blog Writing Best Practices

Introduction to Blog Writing as a Sociology Assignment

There are a variety of formats for blog writing. Just consider all the web pages that we look at regularly. Lists, recipes, reviews, and most other internet content we consume are all examples of internet writing or blogs. These forms of content may seem very different, but in reality they share many similarities. For this sociology assignment, students will write sociological blogs while learning some of the best practices in blog writing for the internet.

Keywords and Search Terms

Good internet writing includes a few elements, regardless of the topic or intended audience. The most important element of internet writing is selecting a search term or phrase. Social media is a good place to share content in closed networks (friends, family, colleagues), but for others to find the content, we need to ‘optimize’ our writing for search engines. This optimization begins with selecting a keyword or phrase.

According to the most recent reports, Google accounts for 86% of search engine traffic. Bing comes in second place, accounting for around 6%. Therefore, most blog writing caters to Google.

A good keyword or phrase should be between 1-5 words, but it should be as short and concise as possible. Google’s computers will extend that key phrase to include similar searches when applicable. I suggest that for this assignment students stick to using “sociological concepts/theories” as the search term. For an example, let’s use the term “intersectionality.”

Performing a search of the keyword on Google is a great initial step. This step will help with understanding what kind of content already exists on the topic, allowing writers to fill in any voids on that topic that might exist online. 

Successfully Using Keywords

For keywords to work successfully for search engine optimization (SEO), writers should include them in specific locations throughout their blogs. While some of those locations are handled by website managers behind the scenes, there are plenty of strategies writers can follow to ensure Google and other search engines are successfully reading their keywords. Below is a list of locations where keywords should be included, with examples for “intersectionality” as the keyword:

  • The Blog URL – The URL is often out of a writer’s control and publishers usually handle this component of a blog.
    • E.g., AppliedWorldwide.com/intersectionality
  • The Blog Description – The description shows up in the blog’s search snippet and social media cards. Publishers often handle this component as well.
    • E.g., Applied Worldwide co-founder Stephanie Wilson applies the sociological concept of intersectionality to the pain crisis in the healthcare industry.
  • Blog Title – Writer’s have a chance to take initiative with SEO here by ensuring their keyword is in their blog title, particularly near the beginning of the title. Keeping titles at roughly 60 characters is also best practice.
    • E.g., Intersectionality and the Mismanagement of Pain in Medicine
  • Blog Introduction – Google reads the first paragraph of a blog as the introduction. Writers should always include the main target keyword somewhere in the first paragraph of the blog.
    • E.g, Intersectionality is a sociological theory coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and discussed by several others…
  • 50% of Subheadings – A well written blog includes frequent subheadings to guide its readers. About half of those subheadings should include the target keyword.
    • E.g., Definition and History of Intersectionality
    • E.g., Intersectionality in Pain Medicine
  • Blog Body – Writers should be sure to use the keyword throughout the blog.
    • E.g., Work “intersectionality” into the sentence structure rather than “intersectional” when possible.

Linking is the second most important variable for SEO behind keyword optimization. When writers include hyperlinks in their content, it shows they are communicating with other online content and search engines like that communication.

In internet writing, there are internal and external links. Internal links include links from the website where the writing is published (in our case, these are links to other Applied Worldwide webpages). Website managers usually handle this step by adding appropriate links upon publication. Although, writers can take initiative by searching a site for relatable content they can link in their blogs.

External links, on the other hand, are links to any other website. A great way to include external links is to hyperlink any articles, blogs, websites, or other references cited throughout a blog.

I also like to link to other web pages that I think are valuable but maybe not mainstream. This might include non-profits, NGOs, and any websites that are .org. It is good to link to content on professional organization websites like the American Sociological Association, Sociologists for Women in Society, or Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology. You may also link to news sources, but, obviously, choose trusted news sources. 

Structure and Subheadings

While including keywords in subheadings is one way to optimize internet writing for search engines, focusing on the frequency of subheadings is another.

Specifically, writers can optimize their content by ensuring sections are no longer than 300 words. That means there should be a subheader at least every 300 words. And remember, around 50% of your subheaders should include your exact keyword or phrase.

Writing Quality and SEO

One final area writers should focus on for SEO is the quality of their writing in the content. While some writing standards for SEO are similar to those in academic writing, others differ. Therefore, I compiled a list of writing tips for optimizing blogs on search engines below:

  • Shorter paragraphs equal better optimization. The general rule is each paragraph should be around 100 words. 
  • Sentences should also be relatively short, and generally no longer than 20 words. Of course, including diverse sentence lengths is good practice for writing in general, but good SEO writing requires that most sentences are less than 20 words.
  • There should never be three sentences in a row that begin with the same word. This repetitiveness turns off the search engines, and probably readers. 
  • Search engines like a lot of transition words. Do not overburden the writing with transition words to the point where it does not read very well, but be sure to add them where appropriate.
  • Search engines do not like passive voice in writing. Therefore, writers should avoid passive voice whenever possible.
  • Images and videos improve webpages. Including multimedia content like graphics, photos, videos or other visuals can really help with SEO. 
  • The Flesch Reading Ease Score is the metric used for determining a blog’s readability. Writers can improve this score by using short and common words. Because this practice can be difficult in sociology writing given the uncommon and often long words used in the discipline, the goal should be to find a decent balance. Use the sociology language where appropriate, but be sure to define or explain the jargon in plain language.

Outline of Public Sociology Assignment

Now it is time to actually write the blog!

Below, I share a recommended format for structuring a blog for this sociology assignment. This format is not the only way to write internet content. In fact, it may not even be the best way. However, it is a good way to concisely write quality content for the internet that incorporates sociology. The example below follows the structure I recommend for blogs, which essentially applies sociological concepts or theories to current topics and events.

[Title] Intersectionality and the Mismanagement of Pain in Medicine

[Introduction Paragraph] Intersectionality is a sociological theory coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and discussed by several others, that defines inequality as… In this article I intend to provide further explanation and context into the concept of intersectionality and use its premise to help understand inequity in the treatment of pain.

[Sociological Concept Header] Definition and History of Intersectionality

In this section, writers should include about three paragraphs of definition, description, and/or introduction to the concept. It may be difficult at times to be concise, so be prepared to make a couple drafts. Remember to keep sentences and paragraphs short.

Also, remember to use transition words, and make the tone relatable to a broad audience. This style of writing is obviously different from writing academically for sociology professors, peers, or colleagues. It is more like writing for an aunt, grandma, or younger cousin. Writers should describe the concepts as plainly as possible.

Another tip is to use the last sentence under this subheader to quickly summarize intersectionality and prepare readers to transition to an example, in this case pain medicine.

[Topic or Event Header] Mismanagement in Pain Medicine

After some sort of introduction to the concept, it is time to go into some information about the topic or event.

Writers should use this space to paint a picture of the topic, being sure to use evidence that is compelling. Often, statistics and stories are some of the most compelling evidence. 

Finally, give readers a line or two of transition here. Good practice is to explicitly note that the blog is transitioning to a synthesis of theory/topic. Applied to our example, that may look like the following sentence: It is evident that the mismanagement of pain treatment is a problem that women face in the United States, but how does intersectionality apply?

[Synthesis or Analysis Header] Intersectionality of Pain Medicine

The purpose of this section is to actually apply the sociological concept to the current event or topic of interest. Be explicit and use evidence—it may be appropriate to provide research findings in the section. When writers include research as evidence, they should be sure to speak about the work as plainly as possible. For instance, instead of reporting coefficients from a linear regression model, writers should discuss the relationships between variables in a way they would expect someone without a background in statistics to follow.

[Conclusion] A conclusion is meant to leave readers with a clear understanding of what they have just read. In addition, a conclusion may act as a way to inspire feelings of unity among readers or fire up readers to take action. Regardless, a good conclusion will leave readers feeling exactly how a writer intended, so be sure to spend time crafting the final sentences of the blog!

Final Thoughts on this Public Sociology Assignment

Writing for the internet is different than writing for any other kind of audience. Academic writing usually requires writing for peers and colleagues. Social media writing is more personal and intended for immediate and intimate networks. Internet or blog writing, on the other hand, is a form of writing that is intended to leave a lasting impression on the internet and society.

Internet writing is a mix of art and science. Writers have to be creative enough to produce content that others want to consume, but also have stick to fairly detailed requirements so search engines like Google and Bing can find and promote their work. Part of this strategy requires being aware of Google’s content policies. We generally do not have any problems with sociological content, but the policies are worth reviewing.

If you decide to assign blogs in your sociology class, we are always happy to work with instructors to provide publication opportunities for students! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are interested in working with us.

The Story of @SociologyTheory: Origins and Initial Reviews