Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google+ for Writers and Authors

The social media site Google+ can help writers promote their work three ways: by letting writers interact with online groups frequented by potential readers, by increasing writers' visibility in Google searches, and by allowing writers to host free online video calls using a feature called Hangouts.

Note: Google+ recently got bad press because of management reshuffling that has led to predictions that the site might disappear. Other pundits believe the site will stick around but in a diminished form. The tips below use features that will likely remain intact regardless of management changes at the company. (Six months ago, pundits predicted Google would shutter a product called Feedburner -- this has yet to happen. I use Feedburner for this blog)

Posting to Google+ Groups

I am not a fan of spending time on social media sites trying to develop a huge number of followers. The main reason: The sites can change their rules, hold your followers hostage, and force you to pay to reach them. (For more on this, see my article on Facebook Pages for Writers) As a result, I prefer to spend my time connecting with people in social media groups.

Google+ has a lot of offbeat groups you won't find on Facebook or Linked In. For my fiction and humor, I found a group called Cynical Singles filled with funny, smart people with bad attitudes. For my nonfiction (marketing for writers), I found a group called Literary Agents Hate Kittens, which is also filled with funny, smart people with bad attitudes.

Tips on Posting to Google+ Groups
- Search for groups the same way you do on other sites: search on your topic, verify that there are lots of active members, look for intelligent posts, and read the group's rules to make sure it's OK for you to post links to your work.
- When posting one of your articles or blog stories to a Google+ group, make the post longer than what you'd typically post in Facebook or LinkedIn groups. For Facebook and LinkedIn, I post the headline and a link -- and that's it. For Google+, I include half of my article with a link at the bottom that directs people to the rest of the story. Google+ allows for longer posts.
- When someone comments or gives your post a +1, give their comment the same, comment on their comment, and follow them -- you may have found yourself a fan.

When posting one of my pieces to a LinkedIn group, I copy and paste the headline and article url, and LinkedIn takes care of the rest.

Ditto with posts to Facebook groups.

When posting to Google+ groups, I copy half to two-thirds of the article and include a link to the rest of the piece at the end of the post. (see red arrow)


Boosting Your Visibility in Google Searches

Google and Google+ have interrelated features known as Social Search, Google Authorship, and Author Ranking that claim to make you more visible to search engines. The features are relatively easy to implement by tweaking your Google+ profile (easy) and tweaking your blog or Web site (a little more involved.)

Definitions and Details

Social Search: When one of your followers on Google+ performs a search, relevant articles created by you will appear higher in their search results.

Google Authorship, Author Ranking: Articles written by you that appear in a Google search will include your photo and information from your Google+ profile.

For example:

I implemented Google Authorship by connecting the bio used in my blog to my Google+ profile.

With Google Authorship implemented, my smiling face appears in searches. Does that mean people are more likely to click my stuff?

Note: I implemented these changes a while ago and have noticed no increase in search traffic. Would my traffic have dropped off had I not implemented them? Don't know. But I'm the superstitious type and prefer to appease Google search algorithms.

More than you want to know about these topics and how to implement them:

From Google

From Social Media Examiner

From Search Engine Journal


Google+ Hangouts

This features lets you easily create free video chats, which could be useful for talking to book groups or other gatherings of potential readers who are on Google+. A feature called Hangouts on Air, lets you create lectures, webinars, and other events that can be broadcast to the general public. Setting up Hangouts on your Google+ account requires a Web cam, downloading some software, and some fiddling around. Hangouts on Air adds another layer of complexity because the feature uses your Youtube account.

Note: I have not used Hangouts extensively, but plan to in the coming months.

An opening screen for setting up a Google+ Hangout. Here, you choose who you want to invite to your video Hangout. You can invite up to 10 people. Adding more people requires a feature called Hangouts on Air and your Youtube account.

A Hangout in action: It will take some work to make a Hangout look professional, but tools (red arrows) can help. If you got a mug like mine all the tools in the world might not help.

Instructions for setting up Hangouts

Interesting Uses for Hangouts


More on Google+


More on Social Media for Writers

Using Groups to Find Readers

Building a Writing Platform: My Results for 2013

Why Facebook is Not Your Friend

Google+ Art at top of page: By B!ttu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Web Marketing for Writers: Best Sites, Blogs, Resources

Thirteen web sites to help writers save time, increase their audience size, and  boost their online presence. These popular web sites cover blogging, social media, and publishing trends.

Social Media Resources


Jonathan Loomer Digital
An excellent resource for using Facebook to market your work.

Social Media Examiner
Lots of good marketing advice for small businesses, such as writers and authors. Also a good source for keeping up with changes to Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Social Media Today
A little hypy and geeky for the average writer, but worth checking in on periodically.

News, tips and tricks for using LinkedIn, which can be a good tool for non-fiction authors.



The authority on using a blog to market your work, build an audience, and get people to buy your stuff. Lots of articles on how to get started with a blog.

Another geeky resource that is unecessary for the average writer, but still a great source of information on search engine optimization, social media, and other forms of online marketing.

Orbit Media 
Another good resource offering advanced tips on using your blog to attract readers.

Other Web Marketing Resources for Writers


Publicity Hound
Joan Stewart offers tips and advice for promoting yourself online and off. She also offers advice on dealing with and attracting coverage from mainstream media

Jane Friedman
A great source for trends in marketing and publishing in general.

Anne R. Allen
My personal favorite, Anne Allen and co-blogger Ruth Harris offer straight talk on what works and what doesn't for online marketing and social media. The constantly ask: Are you wasting too much time on social media?

The Book Designer
One of the best resources for self-publishers.

A list of blogs looking for content. The site is organized by topic: Writing about flowers, dogs, comedy? Find a blog that will post links back to your blog. A good way to increase the exposure of your web site or blog.

Authority Publishing
Good book marketing tips for non-fiction writers.

Most Popular Web Marketing Posts from this Blog


- Facebook for Writers: Gripes, Tips (Part 1)

- Twitter for Writers: Strategies for 2014 

- Building a Writing Platform: My Results for 2013

Top art attribution: Trophies by Wammes Waggel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

LinkedIn for Writers: Tips, Recent Changes

LinkedIn can help you promote your writing two ways: By letting you connect with potential readers in Groups and allowing you to email all or some of your Connections. This post will discuss using Groups for promotion and recent changes that can render them useless.

What's New on LinkedIn

- When you post an Update, only a fraction of your Connections will see it.
- LinkedIn is releasing a blog-like feature that lets some users post updates that reach a much broader audience on the site. At present, this is a very exclusive club.
- Piss off the moderator of one Group and he can ban you from posting in his Group -- and any other group you belong to. (Yes, you read that correctly. More on this below.)

Though I have about 2,000 Connections, only about 50 see my Updatess.

Posting in Groups

Posting links to articles you've written in appropriate Groups can entice readers to your blog or Web site. Here's how to do it without pissing off Group moderators.

1) Find Appropriate Groups
If you're writing non-fiction, search LinkedIn for Groups interested in your topic. I write about marketing for writers, so I've found Groups created for writers looking for tips on how to promote their work.

For fiction writers, the process is trickier. LinkedIn is a business-to-business site. In writing your novel, did you learn anything that may be of interest to business or non-fiction types? If you wrote an historical novel, maybe you learned about a particular historical period. If you write about science fiction, maybe you learned about about astronomy or physics or technology. Search LinkedIn for groups on these topics.

My novel involves travel. I found some travel groups, but they were mainly travel agents and knew more than I did, so this didn't work for me. Hence, I do not use LinkedIn to promote my fiction.

2) Evaluate the Groups
- Is the Group active with different people posting and commenting? (If a group has only posts from one person, say, the Group moderator, skip it.
- What are the rules? Does the Group allow people to post links to their blogs?
- What are other members posting? If they're posting just a headline and an article link, then you can, too. If others post a description of the article -- or even most of the article -- in the "Add more details" box then should do as they do. Often, a Group's rules will specify what you can post and whether it can go in the Discussion section. If blog posts must go in the Promotion section, the Group may not be useful.
- If you post a link to your blog, check back the following week to see if it went live. In the Group, click on your picture or the "Your Activity" link. Then look under "Discussions You've Started." Nothing there? Look in "Pending Submissions."

Note: Posting to writing groups and asking people to buy your book is not a good way to sell books! But it is a good way to be labeled a spammer.

3) Pending Submissions: When You've Pissed Off Someone
If week after week your posts are sitting in "Pending Submissions," you may have been black-balled by a moderator who didn't like your post or considers you a spammer. If people are "Liking" your posts and commenting, you're in the right place.

Unfortunately,  if a moderator doesn't like your posts and black-balls you, any posts to her Group -- or any other Group -- will sit in "Pending." The moderator of each Group will have approve your post for it to go live in their Group. In some Groups, however, moderators never check "Pending Submissions" and you're screwed. 

What can you do?
- E-mail each moderator, mention that your posts are "Pending" in their Group, and ask if you've you done anything wrong. In my experience, you will never hear either way.
- You will likely Not be subjected to Pending in all Groups. If you're stuff isn't posting in one Group, you may want to leave that Group.

More than you want to know on this topic. 
The technical term for being black-balled is that you're a victim of Site-Wide Moderation or SWAM.

- Another expert weighs in (LinkedIn Insights article)

- A LinkedIn Group devoted to this topic (note the Moderators warning about posting blog links in his Group!)

Are LinkedIn Groups Working for You?

As with any promotion tactic, the proof is in the Web traffic.

LinkedIn is working for me -- for now.


Art attribution: Top image by Koreshky at en.wikibooks [Public domain]

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

6 Tips to Boost Blog Traffic

These six tips will help improve traffic to and within your blog. The tips include suggestions for enhancing navigation around your site, finding and choosing images, and a great suggestion for adding more e-mail subscribers.

Improve Navigation Around Your Blog

Most people who read one of your blog posts, never see the home page. Typically, they'll come to read an article they found in a Google search, saw on a social media post, or clicked in an e-mail forwarded by a friend.

Navigation refers to how visitors find articles on your blog. If you've written a lot of blog posts, most visitors will never see them.

Here are two ways to promote articles once people visit your blog:

1) Index or Category pages

These are pages you add to your blog that include lists of related articles. You should be able to group most of your posts into five or so major categories. These categories can be listed along the top of your blog as tabs. Tabs labeled as "About" and "More Articles" are not very enticing to most readers. Be more specific. On the top of this blog, my tabs include: Self Promotion for Writers, For Bitter Singles, Erotic Humor, Travel Humor, Trip Around the World.

When you click on, say, the Trip Around the World tab, you arrive at an Index or Category page that lists articles about my trip around the world.

Note: This Index page is not particularly pretty, but it lets readers know what kinds of other content I have. (click on the image below to enlarge it)

Clicking the Trip Around the World tab brings visitors to an Index page 
listing articles on travel articles.

You can also create Index pages that are not linked to a tab -- just create these pages as regular blog posts and include links to related articles. In the example below, if you click on the Travel Humor tab, you come to a list of funny travel articles. Within that list, you can click on "Revelstoke" and see a list of stories about my trip to Revelstoke, Canada.

2) Include listings of related articles at the end of every blog post. 

This is the writer's version of "if you liked this article, you may like these other articles." Go to the end of this blog post for an example.


Pick Good Art

You need a nice image, photo, or graphic at the top of every blog post! Why?
- Blog articles will look more professional
- When you post a link to your blog on social media, it will look more appealing. (There's research claiming readers are more likely to click on links accompanied by a photo.)
- Images are available for free.


3) Find free, legal images on Creative Commons

4) Crop and edit those images using a free, easy-to-use tool like Irfanview

5) Chose rectangular images -- they will look better when you post to Facebook or Twitter. More than you want to know about social media and rectangular images.

If the top art in your blog is a square, linking to it in Facebook will produce a small image (top example of microphones) Using a rectangular image will often produce a Facebook post with a larger image. (bottom example with Facebook image)

Note: if you're blog post consists of a video or audio clip, be sure to add a piece of art to the top of the post -- youtube thumbnails don't always appear when you post blog links on social media sites.

Add More Subscribers

6) Embed e-mail sign up/subscribe boxes in every post

I used to get two to three people signing up for my blog when I had the subscribe box in the upper right hand corner of my blog page.

Most visitors ignore information, such as the subscribe box (red arrow), in the outer columns of the page.

When I started inserting the sign-up box directly into each blog post, my sign-ups jumped to 20 per month. (For an example, see the sign up box at the end of this post. If you haven't already signed up, please do!)

  More Articles on Blogging

- 18 Months of Social Media: One Writer's Progress Report

- Building your blog: My recent presentation on blogging and a list of resources

- Blogging for Writers: Tips, Tools, and Tricks (old but still relevant)

Art Atribution: Street lights image by Indolences (Indolences) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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