Sunday, February 22, 2015

How to Improve Your Foreign Service Blog

Some time near the end of 2014, I came across an article on the Government Executive website titled "8 Tips for Managing a Federal Blog." While The Passport Stamp Collector blog is not an official blog (federal or otherwise), it is listed as a Foreign Service blog by both AFSA and the AAFSW websites. So, I thought I'd see how well I could apply the tips (because FSCE is a federal government job, after all):
  1. Do Your Research - Know Your Industry: I'm guessing that you found this blog because you like to travel and you're looking for information on federal government jobs abroad. You may have already taken the next step and are looking for information about entering the US Foreign Service either as a Foreign Service Specialist (FSS) or more specifically as a Foreign Service Construction Engineer (FSCE) like me. If that's you, check out my FAQs about FSCE post.

    You might also be a fan of Kacey's writings about Foreign Service life as a "trailing spouse." It's okay if you are, it won't hurt my feelings. I'm a fan too, besides, she's the better writer anyways.

    It's also possible that you're currently in the military and looking into what's involved in the military to civilian transition to the State Department, how that works with VA benefits, or other issues unique to veterans. You may be one of my family or friends that want to keep up to date with our last minute travel. Of course, you may have just stumbled across this post somehow and now I have only a few more seconds to capture your attention...


  2. You Want Readers - Readers Want Relevant Information: Yes! Of course I want you to read my blog. You've probably noticed there are advertisements scattered throughout this website. Please click on them, it goes into my coffee fund. In return, I will keep trying to provide transparency into what life is like in a relatively obscure federal government career field: Managing the construction of American embassies and consulates overseas.

    I also post occasional product reviews on things related to international travel, like how to know whether your GSM 4G LTE international world phone will work in a different country or whether you'll blow out your electronics when you plug them into the wall (even though you used the right international power plug adapter). Check out our Recommended Reading page for a good starting point on the general content themes.

  3. It's All About the Headlines: I am guilty of having learned this too late, as my most popular post about my Foreign Service Oral Assessment experience has a URL title that could have been more targeted but now I'm hesitant to change it and risk having to rebuild its ranking from scratch. You might see some of my earlier posts have more whimsical URLs, which amused me at the time I wrote them. But they don't show up so well in search engines, so no one finds them in the search engines. Lesson learned. When I wrote this, my post on "Buying Suits at Goodwill" was the number one search result on Google for "buying suits at Goodwill" (and that's even with a typo in the URL!)

  4. Edit, Edit, Edit: I'm an engineer, and we're not well-known for our writing skills. But we are known for our attention to detail. I review these posts frequently to find errors, but sometimes one slips through unnoticed when I'm on a sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled typing spree. I also liked using this site to check for broken links because it made finding and fixing the errors easy.

  5. Make it a Team Effort: We've got this one covered. What makes it work is that Kacey and I have two different perspectives, but together we provide you with a more complete picture. There are also a few other FSCE specific blogs other there like My Life as a Foreign Service Construction Engineer and Grace on Pace, in case you want a second opinion.

  6. Optimize Every Blog Post: The best example I can point you to is that post I mentioned earlier about my Foreign Service Oral Assessment experience. It now includes a timeline of the process up to that point. Apparently, people want to know what to expect and when to expect it. Who would have guessed? So I updated that page with the entire Foreign Service Specialist timeline from application to orientation training and it now floats around the #4 position when you Google Foreign Service Specialist timeline which isn't bad considering the top two are State Department pages. Even so, I'm finding it a bit like Jimmy Fallon's "Word Sneak" segments to casually include keywords like "passport", "travel", and "government jobs" into my posts. Oh, right. I just did that, didn't I?

  7. Create a Content Engine: I'm still grappling with how to do this effectively. For the most part, that's what I use my Foreign Service Construction Engineer (FSCE)Entering the Foreign ServiceForeign Service Career, and Foreign Service Life labels for. I also offer up tips and lessons learned on PCS Planning every so often (but usually after a move).

  8. Have Fun and Don't be Boring: If you haven't checked out our Foreign Service (FS) Experience page yet, now is the time to do so. You'll see that the Foreign Service lifestyle can be quite fun if you're up for it and probably as far from boring as you can get.
Ok, so that's the list on how to get more traffic to your site. If you're looking for ways to take your site to more people (i.e. Marketing and Branding), consider following a digital marketing blog like Nomvo.com to increase your impact.

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