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