How and when to publish a blog.
Blogging makes it easier for government to talk about its work, share information and connect with people who have a common concern.
Blogs work best when they have a specific purpose. Generic corporate blogs aren’t as effective as they don’t give people a reason for visiting them.
Use blogs for:
- describing any work you’re doing or thinking about
- outlining new practice or theory in a particular area
- sharing ideas and what you’re learning
- inviting opinions on plans or developments
Don’t use blogs for:
- generic news announcements
- duplicating information already on GOV.UK
- publishing content that users don’t need or aren’t interested in
- content that should be published on GOV.UK - if the blog disappeared tomorrow, users should still be able to find essential information about government services, statutory guidance and policy updates
Replace your newsletter
Blogs help make information accessible and are easy for people to engage with. They’re also an excellent replacement for newsletters because:
- they’re open to everyone
- they can be found by people you may not think of as your primary audience
- they can reduce duplication by not replicating content published elsewhere
- they routinely get more traffic than newsletters
- users can sign up for updates in different ways (eg email, atom feed)
- people’s inboxes won’t be overloaded
- users can respond to what you’re saying and contribute to the discussion
Getting and managing a blog
GDS provides the WordPress platform for government blogs. However, the decision to create a new blog is largely down to the GOV.UK lead for your organisation.
Find out how to request a new blog.
Every blog must have a named owner, who will be the main point of contact with GDS.
Blogs are part of your department’s digital content. As such, your department’s digital team has overall ownership and responsibility for their department’s blogs.
The blog owner must:
- agree to posting regularly (blogs that aren’t updated at least twice a month will be archived)
- manage the blog on WordPress
- co-ordinate, schedule and check content quality of blogposts before they’re published
- help and train contributors to publish their work
- establish moderation principles, and ensure contributors keep to them
- manage user accounts
- evaluate the blog’s performance using Google Analytics and other available data
- promote it, eg by tweeting about it
Departmental digital teams should:
- promote the GOV.UK blogging platform within their department
- discuss and approve all requests for new blogs before they go to GDS
- submit all requests for new blogs to GDS on behalf of blog owners
- maintain an active relationship with all blog owners in their department
- provide editorial and technical support to their bloggers
- check content quality of the department’s blogs
- maintain the availability and security of the blogging platform
- manage and prioritise requests for change and additional functionality on the platform
- provide guidance to digital teams on requesting a blog and using the platform
- set up new blogs and administrator accounts
- create Govdelivery accounts for individual blogs, so users get an email alert each time there’s a new post
- manage the community of blog owners across government
- provide tools and resources for blog owners
Style and tone of voice
There are some additional things you need to consider when writing a blog.
Tone of voice
Blogging offers a very personal way of engaging with people. Entries are linked to named authors who put a face to what might otherwise be perceived as a faceless organisation. It’s this personal dimension that, for users, adds credibility and a sense of openness.
This means you should write as you speak. Write as an individual, not as an impersonal organisation or team. You should still follow the style guide but this doesn’t mean you can’t be warm, candid or personal. You should be all of these things.
Blogs can - and should - spark conversations. This means being accountable for the things you write and responding to any comments you receive. If you engage in dialogue, both on your blog and on other social networks, it’ll improve your users’ experience and help you learn more about them.
After you write a blog, read it out loud to check it’s written the way you speak. Once you’re happy, always have someone else review it.
Creating and editing blog posts
Government blogs are hosted on Wordpress. When you get a blog, GDS will send you your account details.
Wordpress doesn’t require special training and looks very much like Word, with buttons at the top of the content section that allow you to format text, add bullets, edit links etc.
For government blogs, there are some additional things you need to consider.
Author profiles and photos
Blogposts must display your full name (eg John Smith), not your username (eg johnsmith02). To fix this, edit your user profile. You should also write a sentence or 2 about yourself on your profile page. If necessary, you can create a ‘guest author’. Posts can have more than 1 author / guest author.
You can add author an image by:
- signing up to Gravatar and creating a profile image for yourself
- uploading a profile picture cropped to 150 pixels × 150 pixels for guest writers
Title, introduction and sign off
Summarise the post in 65 characters or fewer. This will ensure Google displays your full title, and also make sharing on Twitter easier. Although it’s a blog, don’t try to be clever or play on words - the title should make sense in search results or when read out of context.
The first 40 words of your blogpost will be displayed on your blog homepage. It will also be featured in update emails sent to your blog subscribers. To increase clickthroughs, introductions should summarise the blogpost and outline the issue being tackled or described.
At the end of every blogpost, you should include:
- a call to action to follow the blog by email
- a call to action to follow the blog author on Twitter
- related posts (which you can add using the ‘related posts’ box)
Use headings to break up the post but make sure they describe the section beneath them. Remember, people use headings to scan a page, so make them meaningful. In Wordpress:
- use <h2> for primary subheadings
- use <h3> for secondary subheadings
To highlight text in a grey box, edit the HTML to read “blockquote class=”noquotes”.
Images and logos
Choosing the right images for blog posts can make posts more effective and engaging.
For photos, use either:
For charts, graphs, graphics etc, use:
On your blog homepage, images must be:
- 620 pixels wide x 410 pixels high
Within blogposts, it’s OK to vary the height of images, but:
- main or featured images should be 620 pixels wide
- secondary images should be 310 pixels wide
You can edit pictures to these dimensions using free tools like pixlr.com if you don’t have graphics editing software.
- have ALT text that describes the image for people who can’t see it or use a screenreader
- be left-aligned for all full-width images (you can do this in the ‘image properties’ box when you click on the image in WordPress)
- have a title if they are a screenshot or convey information (doing this will also automatically make a frame for your image)
- be attributed properly to avoid copyright enfringement
If you don’t have access to a photo library, try using:
- Flickr Creative Commons pages - go to the advanced search section and click ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content’
- Google images - go to search tools and click on ‘usage rights’ to find Creative Commons images
If absolutely necessary (in most cases, they’re not), logos can be added to the right-hand side of your blog title. Logos should be:
- 370 pixels wide × 100 pixels high
- added in Wordpress using ‘Appearance / Logo Options’
Embedding social media
You can embed content into your blog by pasting the URL into a new line (make sure it’s not formatted as a clickable link). This works for:
You can also embed other content types if you format them correctly.
For Slideshare, go to ‘edit post’ and then ‘update’ after you’ve pasted in the URL. This is because the embed codes only get updated when you save a post.
To use Instagram videos, use embed.ly. Paste in the URL of the video and copy the embed code into the ‘text’ tab of the WordPress editor (not the ‘visual’ tab).
For Google maps, you must use the embed code: [map src=”EMBED_URL”].
For Tableau, use the embed code: [tableau src=”EMBED_URL”]. Use the first URL you find when you generate an embed code on the Tableau page - it should look something like: https://public.tableausoftware.com/shared/82SBZZF8M?:display_count=no
Social media links and feeds
To add a live Twitter feed:
- create your own embedded Twitter timeline
- use link colour 2e3191
- contact GDS and ask for the HTML code to be added to a text widget
Social media links
To get social media icons (Twitter, Facebook etc) in your blog’s right-hand column:
- create a new custom menu called ‘Follow us’
- add custom links to the social media you have (we have icons for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Google+, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Pinterest), and save it
- go to widgets and drag ‘Custom Menu’ into ‘Universal sidebar’. Choose the ‘Follow us’ menu
- add a widget title, eg “Follow us on social media”
GOV.UK blogs support Twitter cards, which allow you to add photos, videos and other media to your tweets. For this to work, you need to register your blog with Twitter. The Twitter Cards plugin has a separate tab in the dashboard menu where you can edit different options. You can:
- update the creator and site Twitter usernames
- change the style of cards
- change the generic Twitter logo to either your organisation’s or the GOV.UK logo
Categories and tags
- capitalise the first letter of any categories or tags (eg Agile not agile)
- use categories as your primary navigation (try to use fewer than 10 categories)
- add some text to category pages to describe what they’re about
- tag only if it’s absolutely necessary (eg if there is a user need to group more than 1 post via tags)
Closing a blog
Blog owners can ask GDS to close a blog that is no longer needed or isn’t performing as expected. If your blog isn’t being updated regularly, GDS will contact you to see if it should be closed.
How to close a blog
- Contact the GOV.UK lead from your organisation before closing your blog. You need to decide whether to close your blog entirely (though it will still be live so users can read previous posts) or migrate it and all the posts to another blog, eg a parent department blog.
- Email email@example.com to close your blog. You should include the reasons for closing the blog, when you’d like to close it by and if you’re closing it or migrating it to a parent blog.
- Write and publish short final post on your blog to let your users know it will no longer be updated, and explain why. Include links to where users can find information about the topic on GOV.UK if relevant. Set this as the ‘featured post’.
- Add a call-out box to the top of your blog’s ‘About’ page to tell your users this blog is no longer being updated.
- On the agreed closure date, GDS will take the blog off the all blogs list on blog.gov.uk, disable comments, and disable email alerts and the atom feed. GDS will also inform you of any other steps you need to take.