Blog Strategically: How to Get it Done and Get it Read

How to blog strategically for long-term results

by Janice Campbell

“What a waste of time,” grumbled a writer at a recent conference. He was responding to yet another speaker’s suggestion that a blog is one of the simplest and best marketing tools for an author or freelancer. I’ve gotten used to hearing complaints, excuses, and grumbling whenever blogs are mentioned, but I’ve also noticed how fast the whining dries up the first time a fan or client approaches, and starts a dialogue by mentioning, “I read on your blog…”.

How to blog strategically.

For every writer or editor who sees the blogosphere as the anonymous, overwhelming clacking of a billion voices, there’s another who is quietly and effectively using a blog to communicate with readers and clients, and another who uses a blog as a thought-catcher, catalog of ideas, or a place to judge interest in a possible article or book topic. A blog can be used in any way you choose, but the two most important things you need to do are to get it done and get it read.

Get it Done

1- Decide the purpose of your blog. Do you want to establish a rapport with readers? Sell books? Get new clients for your writing or editing services? Your decision will help you determine your tone and what you write about.

2- Decide when and how often you’ll post. I recommend no less than once a week, so that your readers will have something to look forward to. Try to post on the same day each week, and remember that mid-day Tuesday-Thursday is usually the best time to post. People are often to busy to read blogs on Monday, and on Friday, they’re looking forward to the weekend, and not ready to do anything extra.

3- Decide what to write about. If you’re going to post once a week, you’ll need 52 short articles. Get a calendar with all major holidays marked, and begin listing topics on your chosen blog day. You can use a holiday as a springboard for posts; offer news about your book sales or your business; review other books your readers might find interesting; share news from the publishing or freelance world; whine a bit about your current project (this is recommended only if you do so in a funny way); share a great quote or poem; and so much more. If you’re stuck for a topic, post something you wrote long ago, write a response to someone else’s blog, or just post an inspiring quote.

Get it Read

1- Feedburner: Your blog posts can be send directly to subscriber mailboxes using Feedburner, a Google service. Add your blog feed, then click on its title to get to the screen where you can “Analyze, Optimize, Publicize, Monetize, and Troubleshootize” your feed. Take a little time to look at the options offered, and use these free tools tools to send your feed to where it can be read.

2– Blog Carnival: A blog carnival is a gathering of blog posts on a single topic such as writing, business, or organization. Search the blog carnival site for carnivals you’d like to contribute to, then click on “Submit a Post,” and fill out the brief form. Your post will be included (at the carnival owner’s discretion) in the next issue of the carnival. If you choose an active carnival that is posted regularly, this can bring your blog to the attention of many new readers who may in turn share it with others.

3- Incoming Links: Links are the lifeline of any website, and blogs are well-positioned to benefit from them. If you have a NAIWE blog, you already have a head start on incoming links, but you’ll want to gather more by announcing each of your blog posts on social media. Some of the simplest and most useful links come from sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, and Delicious. You can use as service such as Hootsuite or Edgar to pre-schedule updates so that they’re optimally spaced. (To view the social media sites listed above, just type each name into your browser bar and add .com.)

There are other ways to get your blog read, including blog tours, guest blogging, webrings, and blogroll exchanges, but the first three options will get you started.

Great Blog Examples

It’s a good idea to study successful blogs to see what makes them work. Remember, though, that each of these blogs has been up for a long time, so there’s enough content to draw readers. You can’t start with a hundred posts, but you can start with one, and build from there. Little by little, bit by bit, you’ll create a site that connects you with readers and clients, and meets the objectives you set when you began planning. Here are five blogs that offer very different examples. Enjoy reading, then plan your own and get started.

Seth Godin writes a long-standing blog that supports his non-fiction writing career. He’s created a vast following for his interesting posts, and that’s translated to great sales for each of his books. Here’s a good sample post: When a stranger reads your blog.

Copyblogger is where blogger Brian Clark shares his expertise in frequent, information-packed posts. He also hosts guest bloggers, which a good way for a blogger to add fresh content without having to write it all.

QueryShark is the blog where agent Janet Reid shreds reader queries. It’s definitely blood-in-the-water writing, and it gives you a strong taste of Reid’s personality and working style. She does it all in a spirit of helpfulness, and you’ll learn a lot by reading it. For Reid, it’s not just an act of charity or wicked fun–it’s smart marketing that draws potential clients like flies to a sticky bun.

Rachelle Gardner, another literary agent, offers a kinder, gentler tone on her blog on all things related to publishing. Her site is professional, attractive, and consistent.

Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is an avid blogger, and his posts are always meaty and thought-provoking. He writes about publishing and life, and manages to promote his company, his speaking services, and his author’s books in a low-key, entertaining way.

The Cozy Chicks blog is a great example of group blog. Seven writers of cozy mysteries have teamed up to create a blog that helps to market their work while building rapport with readers and fans. It’s an excellent way to share the blogging load and have fun in the process.

Beyond these examples, be sure to look at the blog feed of the NAIWE member blogs.

Janice Campbell is Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. She has been writing, speaking, and coaching since the 1980’s.

 

20 Secrets to Blogging Success by Carol Tice

By Carol Tice

Carol Tice, NAIWE Blogging ExpertEver wonder how successful bloggers got where they are? If you’d like to start or improve your own blog and turn it into a really useful tool for growing your business, below are 20 tips I’ve distilled from my own experience in growing this blog into a Top 10 Blog for Writers.

I recently did a free blog-review day, and took a look at about 30 different writers’ blogs. This gave me a good sense of some of the common mistakes new bloggers make.

The tips from 1-13 will help you use your blog as an audition piece to get freelance blogging gigs. Tips 14-20 concentrate on ways to turn your blog into a money-earning business of its own.

This tips are my own opinion, based on what I’ve learned from guest-posting on sites including Copyblogger and Write to Done, and from my participation in A-List Blogger Club.

1. Your blog has a great name, tagline and URL. Your URL matches your blog name, and between the name and tagline, it’s easy to understand what your blog is about.

2. You write great post headlines with key words. Work hard on your headlines – they are your hook for luring readers to your site. Learn how to write compelling ones by reading the Psychotactics report Why Do Some Headlines Fail?

3. You write strong opening paragraphs. Remember that many search engines will show the first few sentences of your post – so make them catchy and include key words.

4. You understand blog style. Blogging truly is its own format. It’s different from a magazine or newspaper article. Blogs need to be scannable, short, informal, and to the point. The posts contain links to other useful, related information, both within your blog site and on other credible sites. Good blog posts use short sentences and paragraphs. Using bulleted or numbered lists is also a great way to get your blog noticed.

5. You understand blog mechanics. There are some basics you should learn to make your blog posts appealing and useful to readers, including how to enliven links properly, add photographs, code images, and link to sales carts.

6. Your design is uncluttered and inviting. For instance, you don’t have a black background, tiny typefaces, a lefthand sidebar or multiple righthand sidebars.

7. You have a great About page. Typically, your About page will be the most-visited page on your site. Tell a compelling story there about who you are and why you’re blogging.

8. Your posts focus on what your blog’s readers need to know. Many bloggers just post about whatever’s on their minds. Great bloggers are constantly asking their audience what they need to know, through polls or contests – and then delivering exactly that.

9. You post consistently. Even if you only post once a week, you post on the same day of the week, at the same time of day. That way, readers can come to rely on you.

10. You stick to a niche. You pick one topic and blog exclusively about it. If you have multiple subject areas of interest, start multiple blogs. With the plethora of blogs out there today, the more focused your niche is, the better you’ll tend to do.

11. You have testimonials. Particularly if you’re looking to get hired off your blog, be sure to include raves from customers.

12. You have a “Hire Me” page. If you want gigs, don’t be shy – let visitors know you do work for others. Have your clips well-organized on your blog site on a static page, and make sure clips are clickable links to your stories. If they’re not online, get your clips turned into PDFs and load them onto your site.

13. You engage your audience. Good bloggers aren’t know-it-alls – they ask readers for their point of view. You also ask readers to be guest posters occasionally, to give them the spotlight. Showing good engagement on your blog can help you get gigs moderating others’ blogs for pay.

14. Your content is easy to share. Your social-media share buttons for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. are easy to find and use. You also use them yourself, promoting your blog posts in social media.

15. You guest post and leave comments on popular blogs. Circulating on other blogs is a great way to draw new readers to your own blog.

16. You make it easy for visitors to subscribe. Ideally, your subscription form should be simple and visible “above the fold” – ideally, right at the top of your sidebar. Don’t make readers hunt for it.

17. You have a funnel of products to sell. Top-earning bloggers have a variety of products at price points from low to high. For instance, a $9 eBook, a $47 ebook, a $97 course, and a $500 bootcamp. The lower-priced products act as marketing tools that motivate readers to want to buy your higher-priced products.

18. You know how to affiliate sell. Once you attract an audience, you can sell products they would find useful. On this blog, I have taken the approach of only selling products and tools I personally use and recommend. It’s a way to sell with integrity that works for me and doesn’t feel sleazy.

19. You don’t clutter up your home page with too many ads. If your ads aren’t earning much, take them down. They’re a turnoff for viewers, and you probably won’t earn much. An alternative is to group them on a separate Products I Love page.

20. You persist. It takes time to build a following, often a couple of years. Keep at it and don’t give up before it pays off.

Parting gifts

Thanks for tuning in for this presentation! For free tips on how to earn more from your writing, visit the Make a Living Writing blog. Subscribers receive a free report — 40 Ways to Market Your Writing.

Through Feb. 7, you can also visit this secret link on my site to get a special discount offer on my Webinar, How to Break In and Earn Big as a Freelance Writer.