8 tips to have a successful blog

A popular platform building method for writers is to host a blog, whether that blog is about their book or a subject related to their book, publishing or writing. But there are thousands of other blogs out there on the same topics. (Well, probably not the topic of your books but there are many blogs about other authors and their books.)

Anyone can start a blog. But building a successful blog take commitment and time. You need the commitment to regularly update your blog just as much as you need to have the time to do write the posts and upload them. And building a following of readers doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. This is why a vast majority of bloggers give up within the first year.

There are plenty of websites out there with tips on how to start a blog or how to be successful. I have taken some to the tips that I found to the most useful to come up with this list.

8 tips to help you create a successful blog

  1. Make a good first impression – Your opening page – and really all of your pages – needs to be appealing and easy to use. You need to balance the text with images so it eye appealing to viewers. Be sure to include an “about you” page as well as a way to contact you. (I get very frustrated to find sites that offer something such as to host a guest blog but you cannot find the way the requirements or even a way to contact them.)
  2. Don’t advertise your blog until you have some posts under your belt – You only have one chance to make a first impression. If people come to your blog and see very little content – say 1 or 2 posts – there will be little incentive to come back. Give them a reason to become a subscriber to your blog. Because of this, I suggest you don’t start advertising your blog until you have at least 5 meaningful posts.
  3. Make it easy to subscribe to your blog – Be sure the link to your RSS feed is easy to find (think top of the page). Subscribers are the lifeblood of your blog so you want it easy for people to subscribe. And don’t forget to offer an e-mail version of your RSS feed.
  4. Leave comments on other blogs in your niche – One sure fire way to get followers is to make intelligent comments on another blogger’s post. By being a contributor to other people’s blogs, you will be building name recognition. But don’t make the mistake of dropping your blog’s name and link in every comment. Prove that you are worthwhile and others will naturally check out your blog.
  5. Put your blog URL in your signature on forums and in your e-mail signature – I know I said not to do this on other blogs, but it never hurts to list your blog’s URL in your signature lineforums (where you are making good, insightful comments) or in your e-mail signature.
  6. Make it easy to share the page – Add Facebook, Twitter and other social media buttons so that readers who like your contact can share it.
  7. Be consistent – If you are going to blog, make sure you post regularly. It doesn’t have to be daily, but I would suggest at least a few times a week. You want people coming back to your site and not having up-to-date information is a sure way to kill your site.
  8. Write quality content – Write information that is useful that people want to click, read and share. The more useful and intriguing your post, the more often it will be shared. And if you write quality information, people will want to keep coming back to your blog. And don’t focus on just the posts. Be sure to write catchy headlines as these are like advertising for your posts. Good titles mean search engines will find you and send more traffic. Useful titles also can entice readers to read your stuff.

So if you are an author and wanting to start a blog to build your platform, go ahead and do it as long as you have the time to commit. And it is easier to maintain an author blog than a blog or website on just one book or one series of books you wrote. Your fans will then only have one place to find you content rather than multiple places to check.

Author website or blog: Do you need one, both or neither?

Nowadays authors need to make sure they have a visible internet presence but do you need to have a website or a blog? Do you need both or have the lines between these two blurred enough that only one is required?

First off, why do you need a web presence? Nowadays reader expect to connect and find out more about authors on the internet. Your website is how they can do that. It allows you to promote yourself and your books to them and provides them a way to contact you. 

So which should you have – a blog or a website? (And before anyone says anything – yes, a blog is technically a website. The difference is that a blog is typically update more often than a traditional static website.)

Blog

blogBlog is short for web log and is a frequently updated website consisting of blog posts arranged in reverse chronolgoical order. When readers come to your site they see your most recent post first.

A blog can include static pages in addition to the current posts. (I have 2 static pages on my blog – “About Me” and “My Books.”)

Positives:  Blogs are typically updated regularly (daily or weekly – it is up to you) which give readers a reason to return. Blogs also provide an opportunity to interact with the author by allowing them to comment on posts.

Setting up a blog is easy. You don’t need any computer or programming expertise. You will simply use blogging software such as Blogger or WordPress. If you are on a tight budget, a blog can be established for free.

Negatives: You have to update it regularly (or lose readership of your blog) which can take time away from your writing. I had been posting three times a week and had to drop it down to two in order to focus on my latest novel. You will also need a topic to write about unless you plan to just update readers about your exciting life as an author. (Not something I recommend unless you have a very exciting life or can make it extremely interesting.)

Website

websiteA website is a static group of pages containing text, images and videos accessed from the same domain name.

Positives: Easy if you want to put up one-time information that won’t require updating on a regular basis.

Negatives: Unless you know HTML or have webcoding software, you will have to have someone else design, maintain and update your website. You will have to pay for your domain name as well as a site to host your webpage.

Website offer only one-way communication. While you can inform your readers, they cannot comment which means no reader/author interaction.

Website with a blog

As I said, the lines between a blog and a website are blurring. You can easily design a website that incorporates a blog.  I designed a WordPress-based site for my husband’s law firm that has a static front page as well as three other static pages. It also includes a blog regarding recent court decisions. His website was done through WordPress.org verses WordPress.com where I have my blog. (The difference is .com is hosted on WordPress’s website and includes wordpress in the address while when using WordPress.org you need your own domain name and web hosting site.)

WordPress.org actually offers a comprehensive content management system that allows people to build sites with their software even if they don’t want a blog. Quite a few companies or groups have done their website through WordPress – The Rolling Stones, Carleton University, BBC America, and Best Buy Mobile – to name a few. The benefit of using WordPress is you can publish content such as text, audio and video and have it done in minutes. If you had a traditional static website it could take hours to build a page and hours to update which can cost you time (or money) each time.

So while you can to decide to do a website OR a blog, it might be best (easiest, cheapest and more time efficient) to have one site that does it all. But really the most important thing is that you DO need to have at least one of them so readers can at least learn more about you and your books.

Liven up your blog post with photos

Nothing is more boring than opening a blog and seeing a bunch of black letters on a white background. People are attracted to nice-looking sites and having a picture or image (or two) to break up your copy improves not only the look of your site but can draw readers in.

So where do you find these photos or illustrations?

CIMG10361.) Take your own photos – The easiest place to get pictures is to take your own. This especially easy if you are writing about family-oriented topics such as kids, cooking, or crafts.

I have taken a few photos to accompany my blog posts – blurb on the back of a book, my kindle, my kids, our dog and even one of my dragon statues. And of course I always take pictures to accompany my recipes (featured the first Wednesday of each month).

2.) Find them on the internet – You can also search for royalty-free images on the internet to use. LEGAL NOTE – you need to use ROYALTY-FREE photos and illustrations or get permission to use the images before you use them to avoid copyright infringement. Always check the site you are downloading images from to see if there are any use restrictions, especially if you are using them on a commercial site.

There are so many places to get non-copyrighted images, there is no excuse for stealing someone’s copyrighted work.

One of the easiest websites to use is Flickr.  You can find millions of images on this site. To find ones available for your use, do an advanced search. Scroll down the page and select “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.” Be sure to review the guidelines before using any of the images as some are not for commercial use and some require attributing the image to the photographer.

You can also check out Stock.XCHNG which offers free stock photos if you create an account.

I have only once used this option and that was to add a picture of the San Antonio Riverwalk to one of my quotes.

twitter3.) Take a screen shot – Another way to get an image for your post if you are talking about perhaps your ranking or another personal website would be to take a screen shot (by pressing the “print screen” button on the upper-right part of your keyboard and then pasting that image into image-editing software and saving it as a jpg.) I did this with pricing your novel and my experience with KDP posts as well as a few others. (The one on the right was a cropped screen shot for a post on Twitter.)

Transportation 03544.) Use a clip art disc/subscribe to a clip art site – You can find a large collection of images and illustrations on such sites as Dreamstime, iStockphoto and BigStockphoto where you can buy credits or a subscription to download their images. I used a these sites to create my book trailer for Summoned but have never paid for images for my blog.

One of the cheapest ways to get thousands of images for your blog is to buy a royalty-free clip art disc. I have an older set of eight discs called ClickArt that has 1.5 million images. fightNow while some of the images are already outdated (this came out in 2008 but technology advances fast), I still find quite a few good images to use. The one above is from my Pantser vs. Plotter post and the one on the right is from a post on writing fight scenes. I also used it on writing your first draft, developing minor characters and many more but honestly there are too many other posts to list since this is where I get a majority of my images. bad reviewI even sometimes edit an image in Corel Draw to create an image to fit my needs as I did for the importance of book reviews and  handling bad reviews (shown to the left).

Too many photos and illustrations can slow down the load time of your page but adding these items can certainly make your blog more interesting.

Starting a blog as a marketing tool

One of the keys to selling your novel is to get your name before the masses. The more you participate on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter the more people will begin to know you and in turn know about your books. Rather than tweeting out about your book, you can use your blog as a way to gain an online presence and build your audience.

Today, readers expect to find more about an author online. A blog is a cheap and easy method to allow readers to learn more about you and to see you as a real person. It is more than a website. It is a current, updated connection with your readers or fellow authors around the world.

Starting a Blog

1.) Decide on your topic – Now if you are famous and have a big fan base, you could just keep a blog of your daily happenings but most of us will need to pick a topic for our blog.

You can write about anything that interests you but try to keep your topic narrow. You want people to consider your blog a great resource, a site to bookmark and return to, something worth talking about and not just a brochure for you as an author.

If you are worried about having to keep up with a blog, you can decide to solely feature other authors as there is never a shortage for authors looking for sites to appear on.

2.) Sign up with a blogger provider – Your main choices would be to use Blogger or WordPress. Both offer free blogs that are easy to set up. You can upgrade to a paid version to get more blog designing options and features but I have found plenty of stuff on their free versions.

You will need to pick a name for your blog. This name will be part of your web address, so I would suggest choosing your name. For example, mine is susanleighnoble.wordpress.com.  (For a small fee, I could have registered my own domain name and gone with susanleighnoble.com.)

Now this doesn’t mean you have to use this name on your actual blog as the title. You are free to have whatever you want as the title at the top of the page. As you can see, I choose Into Another World as the title for my blog. (To find the reason behind this click here.)

After you have named your blog, you will be able to choose from countless template designs to set up your actual blog and make it unique. Remember you don’t necessarily need anything fancy. Just aim for a clean, professional site.

3.) Begin blogging – Once you write first post and publish it, you are on your way. Just make sure you give your readers a reason to keep coming back. Post regularly. That doesn’t mean you have to post daily but set up the days you want to post and keep up with it.  I have the following schedule.

Monday – Parenting

Tuesday – Publishing/Marketing

Wednesday – Quote of the Week

Thursday – Writing Advice

Friday – Featured Author

Find what works and still with it. Then spread the word about your blog (check out using Triberr)  and writing projects on the various social media sites. Before you know it, you will have a following and an even larger potential reader market.

Crafting better post titles to draw in more readers

I wrote about Triberr recently and since every day I log in and approve the other blog topics I tweet about, I see quite a few blog post titles. And sorry Triberr tribe mates but I see some really bad ones.

Your blog post’s title is basically your headline for your post. It needs to draw the reader in.  Just like choosing an awesome book cover for your book can make the difference whether someone picks up or clicks on your book, so it is with your post title. Your headline is the equivalent of your cover for your book. Making it enticing will ensure that readers will read your post. Write a boring, complicated or confusing title and it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the post – very few people will ever read it.

Now while I got the idea for this blog subject by looking at my Triberr feed, your post title matters not only because it appears there but other social media sites, as links from other bloggers, in RSS feeds, search engine results and on your own archive pages. Don’t just assume followers of your blog will see this title. Write it with other readers in mind.

Decent/Good titles

Advertise your KDP Select Days with The Masquerade Crew

Creating a book trailer on a budget  (mine)

How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog

6 tips for writing outstanding blog titles

Why I didn’t hire a proofreader for my novel (mine)

Bad/Need work titles

Catching Up, News, New Releases & More

Holy Mama! The TGE goes on

Get it While the Getting is GOOD!

ROW80: The first November check-in

Quote of the Week – Oct. 31 (mine)

These bad examples don’t tell the reader what the blog is about. Nothing about them draws you in or would make someone want to click on them. Now as you note, I listed my title for my Quote of the Week under bad/need work titles. I happen to label each weekly post the same thing just like on Fridays when I list “Featured Author: Your name here” as the title to my post. I do this for consistency and for ease of titling them posts. I leave the other three days to write better headlines to draw in the readers.

Now a few tips to help you out when designing your own post titles.

Length

Your best bet is to keep your headline short and simple. Not only is this easier to read and comprehend but also many search engines only show about 65 characters so if you have a long title all of it won’t appear in the search results.

While only a handful of words (think 10 words or less), these are the most powerful words that you will write because most of your readers will decide whether to read your post based on these words. If your current headlines are 10 words in length or more, have a look at how you could cut these down to make them more powerful and to the point.

Let the reader know what is in it for them.

When crafting your title, consider what benefit your readers will get out of reading this post. Are you giving them tips? Offering them something for free? Of course using the word “free” in your headlines is a proven method of getting people to take notice.

  • 6 ways to improve your writing
  • How to double your blog traffic
  • Free this week only – The Search (a short story)

Writing good headlines and titles is a skill bloggers need to learn. So take the time to write the best title with your target audience in mind and you will increase your blog traffic.

Joining Triberr to expand the reach of your blog

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about joining author groups for support. In my post, I briefly mentioned Triberr which I joined in August. I had a reader comment about not really understanding Triberr, so I thought I would devote a post to it.

Triberr is a free resource for bloggers to drive traffic to their blog using Twitter. Triberr users become members of “tribes” comprised of bloggers with similar interests.  The idea is that your tribe supports each other by retweeting members’ blog content and thus expanding your reach to potential blog readers. (more on this in a second)

To get started, of course, you must sign up for Triberr. To join a tribe, you must receive an invitation from the tribe “chief.” There is a section called “bonfires” where you can find people who are looking for tribes or tribe members.

Once you have joined a tribe, you connect your RSS feed (a format for delivering regularly changing web content) to that tribe. Then any new posts that you put on your blog will be available for others to tweet. Their posts will also be available for you to tweet. You can preview and approve each tweet before it goes out. Triberr schedules your approved tweets to go every 20 minutes unless you change the setting to have them spaced further apart.

So you say how is this going to help me? Well, it is all about reaching more people. If I were to tweet about my blog, I will reach my 2000 followers. But with Triberr, my message can reach every one of my Tribe mate’s followers too. With my tribe, my reach has been expanded to 126,800 people. Of course, this is assuming that every one of my 20 tribe mates actually tweets out my message, which is rarely the case.

But the nice thing is you can easily see which members shared your message and even how many people have clicked on the short link to that post.

Of course, I started Triberr about two weeks after I started my blog so it is hard to say how much of my blog traffic is generated from Triberr versus my own tweeting.  But I do like that I have the potential each day to reach thousands of other people who might be interested in what I blog about.

The key to remember is that Triberr is a tool, and it works best when all members of the tribe are active and supporting each other. If that happens, you have the ability to get greater reach for your blog. But don’t get caught up in the numbers. Remember that you are working on connecting with others and the best way to do that is to offer quality content on your blog.