Thursday, April 17, 2008

Financial Blogging - Part II: Writing

Knowing what to write about can sometimes be a challenge so keeping a mental or written plan can help provide structure for your blog. The following questions should be answered with your own blog in mind.

How Frequent Should Postings Be?

Consistency in posting is more important than absolute number of posts. No point doing three one day and none for the rest of the week. Never post less than one a week, you want to keep your brand front and center; if the quality of your (infrequent) posts is good you will only frustrate your readership as you leave them wanting more; if those handful of posts are poor, then your readers will never be back.

It's best to start with five posts a week, doing one a day. The timing of your posts should be done to maximize your potential audience. For financial blogging this usually means a post summarizing the days action after the market closes, but before the next day's open. Traders frequently conduct their research in the evening, so having your post available for them will help attract readers and keep them loyal. Try and keep a regular posting schedule so readers know when to expect a post.

Bloggers commenting on the latest news as it breaks need to be more involved in keeping track of information and getting out their opinion as soon as it is feasible. This is not something a beginner should try because of the dedication required to keep on top of what is going on. In such blogs the aim is for frequent, short commentary pieces.

The logical posting schedule is Monday to Friday, but as the data below suggests, Sunday night is prime-time for financial blogs while Friday is a bit of a dead-zone. Schedule your first post to be available for the weekend, but take Friday off.

The timing of your posts should coincide with the market you are following; blogs concentrating on U.S. markets will likely see heavy readership between 9am and 10am and later in the evening between 9pm and midnight. A lunchtime peak at midday will grab some attention. The same patterns are likely across other markets, so if you are in one part of the world writing on a market in another, make sure the timing of your posts suit your target demographic, not the region your in.

How Long Should A Blog Post Be?

A matter of preference and dependent on the subject. As the expression goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words" holds very true for financial blogging. An annotated chart of a stock, or market, provides context and avoids the bland descriptive 'market z went up x%'.

Problogger suggests your reader should be able to cover the content of your post inside 1m 30secs (looks like this post will violate that rule!). A daily post with about 200-250 words should be sufficient for most topics. Individual stocks may require more depending on the depth of analysis; however, longer articles should be broken up with tables and figures where possible which will help improve flow and reduce the length of the post (e.g. a stock's earnings with respect to its competitors would make a good chart).

What Can I Write About?

A simple plan provides focus and can be a useful starting point for ideas. HeadlineCharts is a good example of a structured blog; on Monday he discusses sector strength, on Tuesday its interest rates and the U.S. dollar, and so on through the week - but the topic of the day is the same depending on what day of the week it is. Graham Jones details a blogging plan, but a financial blogger's might look something like this:

Monday: Review of what I read (one line comments with link to articles)
Tuesday: Stock of the day
Wednesday: Portfolio update
Thursday: Stock of the day
Friday: No post
Saturday: Review of last weeks market action + expectations for next week (could be two separate posts)

Within the context of the plan, the blog could be personalized with book reviews, music interests, movie reviews, sports commentary, or whatever strikes your fancy. Although I would limit this to less than 20% of the total blog's content. It is important your blog has a marketable theme to attract regular readers.

How Do I Separate Myself From The Herd?

Personal Opinion. In the field of financial blogging everyone has the same information, the same news, and the same stocks making new 52-week highs and lows. It's important your blog provides your spin on what's happened and looks for the angle others may have missed. Following a less watched market gives you greater flexibility in this regard, but comes with a smaller audience to target.

To start with you will probably try and comment on as much as possible, but over time you will notice patterns in your foot traffic as certain topics gain greater popularity over others (Google Analytics can tell you the main search phrases for traffic to your blog and which articles attracted the most traffic). With this information you can focus on those areas which attracted readers and less on those which did not.

I'm Stuck For An Idea, Help!

If in doubt, write a post about what another blogger, or other bloggers, wrote. Blending ideas into a single piece will help stimulate conversation as trackbacks attract readers (and the blogs author's) to your site. Just be careful not to rip articles word for word. It's your ideas readers are interested in, not those of another blogger - they'll get them at the true source.

What Should I Watch For?

Bad spelling! One or two slip-ups are tolerable, overall bad spelling is not - use that spellchecker.

All round good advice: ProBlogger
Marketing your blog: CopyBlogger
Early post on 'How to Write a Better Weblog': A List Apart
Seth Godin keeps it succint.
DearJohnThain wrote an excellent post directly relevant to financial blogging

Dr. Declan Fallon, Senior Market Technician, the free stock alerts, market alerts, and stock charts website