Thursdays with Amanda: 7 Ways to Grow Your Blog Readership
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.
Thanks for tuning in to my ongoing discussion on author platform! We’re on post two of a three-post miniseries on building your platform through blogging. (If you missed it, last week we talked about the components of a great blog post). This week, we’re going to look at some things you can do to improve traffic and blog searchability. (Is that a word? you ask. Thanks to Google, yes).
Seven Ways to Build a Platform Through Blogging:
1. Title it right – Google is structured so that the title of your blog post helps determine its position within searches. The more searchable terms/keywords that a title has, the more likely it is to be pulled up in a search result. Confused?
Think of it like this…When people do a Google search, Google, in its infinite wisdom, pulls out what it deems to be the keywords of that search. You can throw an entire sentence at it, and it will pull out the proper nouns, nouns, and possibly verbs. It then moves across the Internet to find a match for those terms, and relies heavily on page titles to do so. This is why it’s key to avoid vague blog post titles, such as “Introducing my new book!” and “Happy to be home!”. These will get you nowhere because the words within them are overused. They aren’t specific enough. Still confused? Stay with me here…
Let’s say you do a blog post on your next book, which is about a cowboy winning the heart of a school teacher. You want to name the post “My next book!” but realize that would be Google suicide because the odds of your post coming up when someone searches for “book” are like a zillion to one.
So, you do a bit of research and figure out that search terms like “Modern Cowboy” and “Cowboy Bachelors” are all popular. Then you ask yourself, If I was interested in modern cowboys and romance, what would I type into Google?
You develop a blog post entitled “5 Ways to Attract a Modern Day Cowboy.” This will draw readers who are interested in cowboys, romance and potentially, your book. It’s also much more searchable than your original title idea because it’s packed of appropriately grouped search terms. Plus, numbers posts rock (5 ways to, 10 secrets of, 15 thoughts on…). These are hugely popular and will ensure that if people stumble across your post on Google, they’ll actually click through.
2. Link to other sites – Another way to increase SEO (search engine optimization) is to link to other sites within your post. It’s ideal when those sites then link back to you, but it’s not always feasible.
Also, avoid the tendency of anchoring the link on the word “Here.” For example, “Check out our agency website here.” This is bad, because the word “here” isn’t a good search term (I mean how often have you Googled the word ‘here’?). Instead, anchor the link to key search terms. The link will tell Google that this particular term has added information tied to it, so it will make your post move up on the overall searchability side. Here’s an example of a link done right: “Learn more about how to become a freelance writer.”
How many people do you expect search for “how to become a freelance writer”? Lots.
3. Go out and get ‘em! – So many bloggers think that you can just slap up a post and then sit back and wait for the masses to come running your direction. But growing a blog is like getting a date for New Year’s…you don’t just put on a suit (or dress) and sit in your house, waiting for people to throw themselves at you. No, you make yourself available. You go to the coffee shop, the church function, the bar, eharmony.com and wherever else people go to find other singles these days. Then, you strike up conversation. You form a relationship. You get your name out there.
Blogging (and all of social media, really) is the same way. You have to get out there and find other blogs with readerships similar to your own. Then, you make friends. You post comments (always providing a link to your blog!). You do video responses. Whatever it takes to get those readers to notice you, click through to your blog, realize that they like being there, and ask you out on a date.
4. Use the tools you’ve been given – If you have Twitter, Tweet a link to your latest post as soon as it’s up. If you have Facebook, share it in your status bar. If you StumbleUpon, then like your post and add it to the StumbleUpon queue. If you use Pinterest, Reddit, Digg and other less outdated sites, then use them to share your latest post. But YOU MUST BE CONSISTENT. I attracted a few readers to my blog through StumbleUpon, but they wouldn’t read unless I added my latest post to the queue. So keep this in mind: readers are lazy. If they get used to finding your blog through Twitter, they’re going to rely on you to share those links. You stop sharing; they forget your blog ever existed.
5. Include pictures and visual stimuli – Okay, so you’re drawing readers to your blog, but how do you keep them there? Pictures help keep the reader reading. They offer a visual break and can make long posts seem shorter. Be sure to use these in all/most posts! Also, block paragraphs of no more than 2-4 sentences are best.
6. Post regularly – There’s this mentality that more is better. While that’s true, there’s nothing more destructive than when bloggers abandon their active blogs for lengthy periods of time. My rule is to commit to something that is do-able. Start by posting once per week. Post on the same day and preferably the same time. This will develop a readership.
When you feel as though you can do more, expand to two posts per week. But never commit to something that you can’t live up to. As a reader of multiple blogs, it gets old really fast when bloggers commit to things and then never follow through.
Let’s use “Thursdays with Amanda” as an example. Every Thursday and Friday, we see traffic on this blog that is different than the traffic we see on other days. That’s because this “Platform Monster” series is drawing a specific crowd. They know that Thursdays mean a new post, and they come here expecting to hear from me.
7. Reply to comments – To encourage a healthy blog community, it’s best to reply to every comment…even if you just thank them for stopping by. This will keep readers coming back, because they will know that you’re active on your blog and that you want to interact with them/hear what they have to say.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have a tip, idea or question to share, then please do! I’ll be responding to each comment below.
Next week: Blogging as a fiction writer
Thank you for all the great ideas! I am working on proposals for a couple of projects, but it’s all new to me, as I’ve only been published in magazines and compiliation books up to this point. I wondered about using a blog as a teaser for building readership for one of my book ideas and enticing readers on a journey. However, I wondered if I needed to be concerned about copyrights or sharing too much of my book content online when I haven’t had it published yet. Thanks.
You don’t want to give everything away, but it’s a great idea to use a blog to start to garner interest in your theme/idea/hook.
All good tips. And amazing how many of us mess up number one. 🙂
Great tips; thank you! I especially like the recommendation to be consistent on where you dial in and share posts.
Great stuff, y’all! I will do it!
It’s sad when I change an appropriately creative blog title just to get the attention of the search engines (SEO). What’s more frustrating is deciding between a well-written piece and one where I slipped in a keyword or key phrase one more time but which isn’t quite as good. Then I wonder who I’m blogging for: Google or real people?
If you tend to think of your blog as an artistic outlet, then maybe it’s not appropriate for using it to grow platform. Maybe Twitter or Facebook would work better?
Peter: that’s perhaps a false dichotomy, like asking if you need a hammer or a carpenter? Real people use Google, it’s a tool, to find your well-crafted words and ideas.
I’m guilty of linking the word here. Thanks for setting me straight!
I’m a contributor to the Wordserve Water Cooler Blog (Writer’s Digest listed it as one of the top 10 for writers) and this article goes hand in hand with what you’re saying. Thought I’d share. 🙂
Thanks for sharing the link!
On a serious note, I read on ProBlogger how you should send an email newsletter to your readers once a week or so to let them know you posted new Blogs. And add the link of course. I find that my friends not on Twitter or FB return to read with this little reminder. 🙂
Encouraging them to subscribe to your RSS feed is also something to consider.
This is a good post about SEO. I’m working on it for my blog
and will improve my blog post titles to attract my viewers.
At first your post of a few weeks ago when you stated proposed
expectations for an author to attract the attention of a publisher seemed
formidable. Since then, I’ve decided not to let the numbers overwhelm me. One
area I’m focusing on is public speaking.
You had mentioned that an author should perform public speaking
at least 30 times a year. A decade ago I would have cast this bit of advice
aside out of fear.
I had never spoken in public since high school and then only
because it was a required course. For college I took public speaking by
correspondence from a major university: I spoke into a tape recorder standing
alone in my kitchen–this was in the 1980s – and got a B in the course.
At that point I was writing magazine articles but wanted to
write a book. Everything I read, including Jay Levinson who touted Guru
Marketing ideas for authors, said one of the best ways to promote yourself as
an author was to be a public speaker. After years of reading this same advice, I
finally gave up the fight and joined Toastmasters, a national group that helps people
become professional speakers. Look for a local branch online. http://www.toastmasters.org/
I was a TM member for six enjoyable years and learned many
skills. The best advice was: “You may have butterflies in your stomach at the thought
of standing in front of a group for a speech, but we’ll teach you how to make them
fly in formation.” They did that for me.
Today, as the author of 9 children’s books, I have spoken
successfully to large groups of students in several schools across the nation. During
the past year, I had slacked off this aspect of my writing career as I readied
to develop an ebook for kids.
However, since reading Amanda’s blog, I’ve upped my public
speaking efforts and made dozens of contacts to local schools and civic groups,
offering to speak for a nominal fee. Cold calls don’t work so I’ve asked friends
who are teachers for referrals to their principals.
As I speak to schools, I hand out free bookmarks of my books
to every student and ask people to take photos of me with students. These are posted along with my comments on my
website. I make copies of the photos and send them with a thank you note to the
teachers and encourage them to have the students look at the blog and leave
comments. This hopefully creates good will for a return visit and increases
hits to my site.
Several appointments have been made for me to speak and I’ll
continue to work towards my goal of 30 speaking engagements in 2012 (breaking
it down to 3 per month makes it seem easier). At this point I’m not focusing on
huge numbers of people in my audiences, but as my name gets out, I’ll hope to
see that grow.
I’m excited about the opportunities to speak to students about
the exciting life of being an author. I truly mean that last statement—being a children’s
book author is the best thing I’ve ever done.
We’re not always responsible for the reactions to our
efforts, but I think God wants us to make an honest effort to see our dreams
come true. I’m just taking it one step at a time. Thanks!
Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us 🙂
I’ve been posting comments on Oprah’s, Tyler Perry’s, and Michelle Obama’s FB pages…still waiting for them to call me! 🙂
Great tips! I have found that commenting on other blogs and asking other bloggers to guest blog have helped my traffic increase. Come take a look sometime! http://www.writerspenn.blogspot.com
The example is not going to work. It keeps making a link. If you look at the code, the target html code goes between the last ” and the > before the words that are highlighted for the link.
Yikes, Amanda! I’m guilty of the “here” link. Thanks for that. What was I thinking?
Also, if your blog host does not automatically set your link to open another window rather than move from your blog, this is the html I found to insert that opens a second window. That way people are less likely to completely leave your blog on a bunny trail.
Go the the link that is inserted in your html page (on Blogger, which I use, you can switch between compose and html). The html you need to insert is: target=_blank”
Here’s what it looks like before:
Here’s what it looks like with the code inserted:
For some reason this is being underlined as I post but you’ll get the idea I hope. I know all the technical gurus will smile at this but it was a big discovery for me. Hope it helps someone else
Thank you for this!! Very helpful info.
Just out of curiosity, I googled the word “here” and got 11, 840,000,000 hits. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Good advice! But I have a question. How do you handle negative comments? What about commenters who insult you or other commenters? I had this happen and had no idea how to handle it!
As long as the comments aren’t too offensive, I don’t worry about them. The Internet is full of trolls who have nothing better to do than criticize bloggers and such. They’re easy to identify and disregard, and I think all readers will ignore them. What you don’t want to do is engage them. That only fans their flame. It’s what they’re hoping you’re going to do.
If it’s offensive, you can quietly remove it. Helpful?
Thanks, Amanda. This is helpful.
Great tips, Amanda! I especially appreciated your info in #1. Very helpful to know what “sticks” in the search world.
🙂 Google can be a great ally if you know how to use it.
I love this blog, such great tips for writers!
Generally speaking, if a writer/blogger were to put these tips to use how long do you think it would take for their platform to grow to a decent amount?
It’s not a quick fix…nothing really is aside from going viral with something. But I’d say if you were diligent with doing each of these tips (and if you keep in mind the components of a great blog post that I shared last week), you’d have a really solid following within a year.
Good tips. I forgot the importance of #2 and reverted to the lazy way of linking by saying “here”. Duly noted and will correct!
Hah yes, “here” is SO easy.
LOVE this series and it’s coming at the perfect time. Thanks and I can’t wait for next week!
I don’t know about the responding to every comment part, but this is probably my own weird thing. Sometimes I actually don’t post a comment if the author replies to everything because I feel like I’m creating more work for them! Does anyone else feel like that or is it just my own weirdness?
Glad this is helpful, Charity! You can start responding to select comments once your comment number gets up there…but having a general presence in the comments section is really good for your blog 🙂