Last time we looked at just how valuable a blog can be to your author platform. It's a great way to build relationships with readers, deepen existing connections, and get visitors onto your email list.
If you don't already have one, you might be wondering how you go about setting up a blog. And if you do already have one, you want to know when to post and where to promote your posts.
After all, blogging can feel like howling into the void at the best of times. You want to make sure that your potential readers can actually find you.
So let's go through these in a logical order.
How to set up a blog
There are lots of different blogging platforms for you to try. Blogger and Wordpress.com will give you a good taste of blogging for free.
Medium is free and has the advantage of a built-in sharing network. With Medium, you can also submit your articles to publications, which will share to them their followers. It’s great for extra exposure and Medium is a great platform for writers anyway.
But a blog and a website don’t need to be indistinguishable. Your website can be your blog. Or you can have a link to your blog in your website’s menu. Keeping your blog updated is a good way to provide fresh content and keep Google happy.
Some bloggers use Squarespace for its simplicity, clean design, and drag-and-drop design. It’s what I chose when setting up this website.
You can use Wordpress.org which requires you to buy your own URL and web space. You install Wordpress at your own domain, which is why it’s called self-hosted Wordpress.
The beauty of Squarespace and self-hosted Wordpress is that you can use them as your author website, as well as a blog.
All platforms have their advantages and disadvantages. The most professional options are definitely Squarespace or Wordpress.
But if you just want to try blogging before you commit to it, then post a few articles on Medium and see how you feel about it.
Or take the plunge and buy a URL. Point it to a blog on Blogger or Wordpress.com. That way, all you're paying for is the URL which you will need for your author website anyway.
Speaking of URLs, don’t go for anything fancy. Obvious is good. So if your author name is Tallulah Fandango, then see if tallulahfandango.com is available.
If you'd like more information about a self-hosted Wordpress website and blog, then author Icy Sedgwick will be offering an online course to get you up and running. Sign up to be notified when it will be available here.
When to post
Some authors avoid blogging because they don't have time to post something every day. That's a good thing because daily posting is only really useful if you want a one way ticket to Burnout City.
Google does like regular content. But that's regular within your own schedule. So you might only post once or twice a week. Just make sure you post on the same day every week. That way, regular readers will know to come to your blog for content.
You're also far more likely to keep it up if you know that you need content every Wednesday.
There's no hard and fast rule about the time of day you should post. Time zones tend to get in the way of that. But just make sure you keep to a regular schedule.
It can be a good idea to develop a basic editorial calendar ahead of time. Sit down and brainstorm some topics using the previous post as a guide. Buy a planner, or just open Google Calendar.
Map your post ideas against the dates in the calendar. If any of them are time sensitive, plot those first. For example, if you've got spooky content about Halloween, write it down against the dates in October.
Editorial calendars can be a lot more comprehensive than this. Copywriter Lacy Boggs has a comprehensive series of posts about editorial calendars on her blog. But it's best to keep it simple when you're just starting off.
It's also a good idea to write two or three posts at a time. You can schedule your posts in advance, so if you can't write a post that week, you've still got something going live.
Where to promote your blog posts
There are two prongs to the fork that is promotion. You can concentrate on putting the content in front of people, which we’ll cover in a moment.
But you can also optimise your content so that people find it organically. It's called Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO for short. It's a huge topic so we'll just touch on it here, but there are still some things you can do to make sure your blog gets found.
Think what visitors might be searching for. So if you’re writing about fantasy fiction, then they might be searching for ‘fantasy films in 2017’. Make sure you use that phrase in the title of your post, as well as a heading and sprinkled throughout the article.
If you're using Wordpress, you can also install the Yoast SEO plugin. It'll walk you through SEO at a basic level. But it's great for adding a meta description to your posts, which shows up when you share posts on social media.
Google keeps changing its algorithms so don’t worry too much about specific keywords. It can even come up with synonyms now. So if you write a post on ‘strange places to visit in London’, your post will still show up if a visitor searches for ‘weird places in London’.
And speaking of promoting on social media...
I'll let you in on a little secret. You don't need to be on all of the social media platforms. There's really no need.
But you DO need to be on the platforms that your readers actually use.
So if you write fluffy chick-lit, there's not a huge need to post your articles to LinkedIn. But Pinterest will be ideal for you. (Plus Pinterest is a lot of fun)
And authors are trying to use Instagram, which is fine, but remember it's primarily a photo sharing platform. It’s far better to use Instagram to build your personal author brand.
Twitter and Facebook will probably be your biggest friends here.
Twitter chats are an ideal way to promote your posts. Find hashtags that are suitable for your genre and post your links using the tag. Just make sure you retweet posts by other people using the hashtag.
A good rule of thumb is to retweet 4-5 articles by other people for every one of your own links.
You can try the #amwriting, #storycrafter and #writetip hashtags to connect with other writers. It’s a great way to make new writer friends and get moral support.
But #MondayBlogs and #SundayBlogShare are a good way to get involved with the Twitter blogging community. Share tweets that your target reader might find interesting.
Always remember that you’re blogging and using social media to find readers, not just other writers.
Follow people who you think might be interested in what you write. Use the search bar to look for their interests - it doesn’t just have to be about what they read. If you write science fiction, search for those with ‘science’ or ‘tech’ in their bio. Or a related term, like ‘geek’. If you write horror, then I guarantee horror fans will mention it in their bio!
Facebook Pages are great for building a community around a topic. But they can be difficult to build from scratch.
So try Facebook Groups instead. Find some groups related to your topic and join them. Remember to comment on other users' posts and share their links as well as your own. Always follow the rules of any Groups.
The more you share the content of others, the more others will share yours. And remember that you need to add value to your reader’s life. So share posts that will entertain or inspire them. If you share posts they like, they’re more likely to read your posts too.
You also need to check who is visiting your blog
You'll be able to see how useful your social media promotion is by checking your blog's analytics.
It sounds scary but it really isn't. It's just a means of checking how many people have viewed your posts in a given timeframe. Analytics also let you see where people are coming from, and how long they spend on your site. It will also let you see which social media platform provides the most visitors.
That way, you know where to focus your efforts at first.
You can view your top 10 posts per time frame too. That in itself is a goldmine of information. Say your top 10 is made up of 2 book reviews, your website’s ‘about’ page, and 7 articles you wrote on fantasy films/novels/TV series.
That tells you that your genre-specific content is more attractive to readers, so you can maybe post fewer book reviews.
If you know what people enjoy reading, you can create more of it.
Using analytics is another post entirely. But for now, make sure you set up an account with Google Analytics. There's a plugin for Wordpress that lets you connect your account with your blog.
You can also use Google Analytics if you're still using Blogger, and both Medium and Wordpress.com have their own analytics.
But whatever you do, don’t let your fear of blogging hold you back.
Even in an era of so-called “content shock”, blogging remains a brilliant way of connecting with new readers. And as a writer, you’re ideally placed to produce excellent content that will entertain them - and persuade them to read your books!
Please feel free to post any questions below if you’d like to know more about any of these topics.
Authors, need help with your blog, website or social media strategy? My Book Marketing Toolkit includes direct feedback and ongoing support.