Thursday, February 4, 2010
Ten Steps to Effective Blogging
THE FOLLOWING IS A GUEST BLOG POST BY AUTHOR MARVIN WILSON
IMPORTANT NOTICE-MARK 2/20 ON YOUR CALENDAR. OUR GUEST BLOGGER WILL BE KATHLEEN GAGE-SHE WILL POST ON KEY THINGS AUTHORS MUST DO...SHE WILL BE AVAILABLE TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS ON THE BLOG!
NOW BACK TO MARVIN:
Ten Steps to Effective Blogging
So, you’ve started a blog. That’s great. No, really, it’s important nowadays, if you are an author, to have a blog. But remember one very important thing about blogging. Just having one doesn’t mean anyone is going to go to it. There are millions of blogs out there in the Blue Nowhere, so thinking that just publishing a blog is going to get you traffic, page views, followers, and ultimately help you sell more books, is akin to using needle in the haystack logic. It’s like publishing a book as an unknown author and thinking just because it’s there people will flock to buy it with no self-promotion on your part. Not gonna happen.
When I first put up a blog, some five years ago, I was absolutely thrilled when someone actually visited it and … even left a comment! It was a circle-this-day-on-the-calendar type of event. Take the wife out and celebrate. Today my primary blog has regular visitors from around120 countries across the globe with new “unique” visitors all the time, gets over 200 hits, close to 100 visits, twice that many page loads, and receives an average of 20+ comments per day. Not bad. Certainly not the kind of traffic a blog written by a household name famous blogger gets, but enough to make a significant impact on my book sales. How did I make this happen?
I thought you’d ask, as have many other novice author/bloggers, so that’s why I put together this crash-course post on how to get your blog spiffed up, running on all cylinders, and most of all … noticed, with regular readers. After all, that’s what we want, right? Lots of loyal readers who enjoy our style of writing, look forward to our posts on our blogs, and as a result will figure investing in our books is a good idea.
So let’s get started. Follow these ten steps to the letter, and I guarantee that within months you’ll have a popular blog with an abundance of readers.
1. Post regularly. I put up a new post every day. Most popular blogs do this. You can get away with say, three posts per week, but no less. Otherwise, people will not log onto your blog regularly. Why should they? It’s the same old same old when they do. An aside fringe benefit to daily posting is, it is excellent discipline and practice for a writer. You have to come up with something interesting, even shoot for brilliance, each and every day, and on a different subject every day. It keeps your muse sharp and available. When I’m feeling particularly brilliant, I write several posts in a single day and store them. That way, when I get a day where I have that dreaded “deadhead” feeling, I have several good posts I can use to keep the blog moving and my readers happy. Oh and also important in this topic, keep your posts reasonably short. Blog-hoppers have a maximum five minute attention span. Read your post and time how long it takes. If it takes more than five minutes to read it, cut it down or people will either not bother to read it at all, or just skim read it and not get all the content. This post, for instance, is way too long. I’m only doing this for a special interest group who will (I hope) find it of enough interest and value to read the whole thing. If I were doing this on my primary blog I’d make it a series and only post a couple tips per day.
2. Have a theme for your blog. People do Google searches for blogs on topics of interest to them. Search engines seek out blogs for people looking for specific subjects. You want to attract people who are interested in good books, and people who like to read books in your preferred genre. You don’t have to have a blog mission statement that is limited to just books, although you can do that, but you might include reviews of other books, invite other authors to be featured on your blog, or post writing tutorials, or post about interesting developments in the industry. Use your imagination, figure out what you can write posts well about that is of enough interest to you to keep you inspired to write about it. And you can be somewhat eclectic if you have several such areas of interest and expertise. My blog statement includes lots of humor, all things literary, promoting spiritual growth, and even an occasional political/social/economic rant. Also – your blog name should be the same as your url. That way people will find it easier to remember and return to your blog. If you blog is titled, let’s say for example, My Meandering Muse, your url should be http://mymeanderingmuse.com
3. Provide value in your posts. Nothing is more annoying than a blog that does nothing but tout the author’s own books and/or products. It’s all about relationship marketing, hmm? Nobody wants to be “sold” something when visiting your blog. Soft sell them on you by becoming a source of valuable information and entertaining reading. Your posts should include links to interesting sites, new and exciting software and/or other programs of interest to your readers, how-to information, notices of events happening they’d like to know about, trends in the industry – whatever. Tell a humorous story that makes them laugh occasionally. Your blog is not all about you. It’s about your readers and providing value to them. Do that and they will love you and wind up buying your books.
4. Get your blog looking good. Even with stock blog services like Wordpress and Blogspot, there are tons of custom themes available to make your blog have a distinctive appearance. Do a Google search for “free custom layouts for blogger (or wordpress)” – pages of sites will come up, with thousands of themes to choose from and how to information on installing the html code into your blog. Experienced blog-hoppers yawn when they log onto a blog for the first time and see a standard, boring, regular ol’ layout with no pizzazz to it. In addition, if you use wordpress, which I prefer for a lot of reasons, having used WP and blogspot, you can, for a small fee, upgrade and have the “wordpress” taken out of your url. This looks more impressive to the professional blogging community. Url’s with “blogspot.com” or “wordpress.com” in them are considered small potato blogs. It looks best and most impressive to have simply,Your Name Here– trust me on this one.
5. Add some gadgets. Gadgets drive traffic to your blog. Both blogger and WP have scads of free gadgets in their standard dashboard offerings. Plus you can do Google searches for additional interesting gadgets. Add a statcounter and check it often – track how much traffic you are getting and from where. Put a flag counter up in the sidebar. Add a translator gadget for foreign visitors. Put up a picture of your book cover (yes, this kind of soft sell self-promo is okay) and have it hyperlinked so when people click on it they go to the book’s buy page. Start a blogroll where you list with links some of your favorite blogs that might also be of interest to your readers. Just look into this, you’ll be amazed at how many gadgets are available. A word of caution here, don’t overdo it. Some blogs get so gadget crazy they look cluttered and detract from the post itself. Find a good balance for your style and readership. Again, it’s all about, value, value, value … select gadgets that will be of interest and/or assistance to your readers.
6. Link your blog to all your social networks. If you are not Twittering, Facebooking, Goodreading, Linkedining, all those amazingly powerful tools available to help get your name out there, shame on you, you should be. If you are, good for you, if not, start right now, and have your blog url linked and fed into your profile page. People go to your facebook page, see a snippet of your blog post, find it interesting, click on it, and BAM! – You have another visitor to your blog. This is how we roll, peeps. Get with the program.
7. Cross link your blog to multiple other sites with hyperlinked words and/or phrases within your posts. If you post about a particular author, or book, or blog, or interesting website, or whatever, put that mention in bold and hyperlink it with the site’s url so when people click on it they can go right to the subject matter you are posting about. This accomplishes two good things. One, it adds value to your post, the convenience of being able to click and go with ease if they want to find out more about the subject. Two, search engines will recognize the links on your blog and people visiting those other sites may be attracted to your blog as well. Bingo was his name-oh … more traffic for your blog.
8. Ping your blog. There are several good pinging services available for free. My favorite one is http://pingmyblog.com On this site you can key in your blog name, your blog url, select “all,” click on “agree to terms,” click on “Ping My Blog,” and presto – your blog gets sent out to dozens of powerful search engines all around the planet in a snap. After I started pinging, within two months my blog traffic increased threefold. And it keeps growing. Every time you publish a new post, ping your blog.
9. Visit other blogs and comment on them. Do a Google search for blogs with topics of interest to you. Visit them, read the posts, and this is most important … leave a comment! Not just some wimpy “Great post!” or “Love your blog!” kind of rubbish, compose a real comment with some content that lets the author of the post know you actually took the time to read the post and have something of interest to add, share, or ask a question about. You are a writer, hmm? Write like one. An important axiom to remember here: comment unto others as you would have them comment unto you. One of the first things I do when checking out a new (to me) blog to see if it might be a good spot to host a stop on one of my virtual book tours, is check to see how many comments the blog gets on average. If it’s less than 10 per day, I pass. You want comments, and a boatload of them, all the time. This is imperative, along with high traffic volume. I always click on the statcounter and see what the traffic volume is like. Traffic and comments are the two largest indicators of a successful blog. So again, how do you get traffic and comments? Become a visitor and commenter on other blogs. Once you get noticed as a regular reader on several blogs who leaves well written and interesting comments, not only will in most cases the authors of those blogs start visiting your blog, their readers will start noticing you and hop on over to check your blog out as well. Also important here, when you leave a comment, make sure and either hyperlink your signature with your blog url, or put your blog url under your signature. Just one link, please. You look blatantly self-promoting if you list all your twitter, facebook, myspace, primary website, and blog links. Keep it to one, no more. The best most professional way to do it is to hyperlink your signature. Here is the html code for doing that, using my name and blog url – which you simply replace with yours to make it work for you.
Marvin D Wilson">Marvin D Wilson
Substitute your blog url for the blue characters (blog url) and your name for my name, and this formula will allow you to hyperlink your signature, making it easy for people to click on your name and go directly to your blog.
10. Once you have your traffic and comments up to a respectable level, host other authors and bloggers as featured guest posters on your blog. If you hear on another author’s blog that he/she is planning a virtual tour soon, offer to host a stop for him or her on the tour. If you like a certain blogger who posts on topics of interest to your readers, offer to let them do a guest post on your blog. They will in most cases offer to return the favor at some time or another, and both of you benefit, as your readers will learn about them, and visa versa. If you are fortunate enough to land a really popular author and/or blogger as a guest, you will be exposed to many new blog-hoppers as their fans will visit your blog and some of them will like yours and become regular visitors of yours.
In closing, I would advise you to get ready to roll up your sleeves and do a lot of work. Getting a popular blog going is not an easy task. It requires discipline and determination. You will at first find it a monumental undertaking, but take heart. It gets easier. Once you get some momentum going, it will become second nature to you, and feel as easy and natural as fixing your morning coffee. The benefits are many. You will make new friends. The blogging community is full of wonderful, friendly, and interesting people, who love to help each other out. You will experience the joy of logging onto your blog after not having been there for a couple hours and seeing several new comments and your traffic for the day is skyrocketing. And most importantly for us authors, eventually you will see a dramatic increase in your book sales, and when you release that next book, you will have a waiting readership that loves your style of writing and will buy your next novel.
And in the end, that’s what we all want, hmm?
Statcounter - http://www.iwebtrack.com/free-web-page-counter/stat-counters.htm
Twittering – http://twitter.com
Facebooking – http://www.facebook.com
Goodreading - http://www.goodreads.com/
http://pingmyblog.com – http://pingmyblog.com (wink and lol)