Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More Blogging Tips for Writers: 5 Ways to Boost Traffic


Here are five tricks for boosting traffic to your blog. The tricks include simple ways to use keywords to entice Google into sending folks to your posts. This article is intended for writers with basic to intermediate computer skills.

Make Friends with Google by Adding Keywords


Google is a very big and powerful company. If you are nice to Google, it will send Web surfers to your blog. Be nice by sprinkling a few Google-friendly search terms, known as keywords, around your blog.

Keywords are words that people commonly use to search for Web articles about a certain topic. This Loneliest Planet blog is about book marketing and self-promotion for writers,  But are those the words -- the keywords -- other people most commonly use to search for those topics?

Four Ways to Find Keywords

1) Type your topic into Google's search box and it will show you a list of popular related terms that people are searching on.*

*Note: I swiped this tip from the good folks over at The Book Designer.

2) Use keywords being employed by popular sites and books on topics similar to yours. Here's how:
- Go to the keywords tool on a Web site called Abakus.
- Enter the url of the other popular site you whose keywords you want to copy.
*Notes: The site's instructions are in German -- don't panic! Just pop the url into the top box on the site. The results will be in English as in this example.

*This tip swiped from an excellent book called "Online Book Marketing" by Lorraine Phillips

3) Check your Web analytics tool to see which keywords people are already using to get to your site. The screenshot below shows common search terms people are using to find my comedy site called. "Chronic Single."

4) If you still have the energy, enter the keywords you've collected from the steps above into Google's Keyword Tool. This tool will list other popular words and phrases as well as how often people used them in searches. In general, you want use the most popular words.

A Word about Keywords for Fiction
My novel-in-progress is about a a chronically single guy who takes a trip around the world looking for the woman of his dreams. The book also includes some funny sex scenes. So, my book covers at least four topics: world travel, dating, chronically single people, and erotica. I could use those words to start my search for keywords.


How to Use Your New Keywords 


- Use the word or words in your title, first paragraph, and labels of blog posts.
- If you're using Blogger, use the keywords in the description of your blog, 
- Use the keywords in your social media profiles.
- Feel free to use more than one keyword; singular/plurals.
- Don’t over do it! Use the same word up to three times in article. (once is better than nothing.) 
- If you pack your blog with keywords, not only will it read like it written by an idiot, you may piss off Google and hurt your blog traffic.

Can't Get Enough on Keywords? Check out:


Keywords Basics: A great article by the folks at Bookdesigner.com


Keywords for Beginners: Funny, useful article on my first encounter with SEO and keywords. 

A blog written for keywords geeks: SEO Moz

Art Attribution for top image:
By EFF (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quick, Dirty Blogging Tips for Writers and Authors

Six tips for enticing readers to click on your blog when they see it posted around the Web or in social media groups. The tips range from beginner to more advanced. I've also included some links and tools for enhancing your blogs with images.


1) Headlines: Short and to the point

Remember readers are scanning posts in social media groups and their inboxes. If a headline is too cutesy or hard to understand, most folks will move on.

Include the catchiest info in the first few words of the headline. Anyone viewing their inbox in a reduced screen or a cell phone will only see part of your headline. Let them see the best part.

2) First Paragraph: Summarize the contents of the post.

If you are posting your blog to social media groups, your post will likely appear with the top image on your blog with the first paragraph. If the first paragraph is too clever and unscrutable, scanning readers will move on.


3) Include a piece of art at the top of your blog

Again, if you are posting to social media, the site will grab your top image.  Select images that will look good when they are reduced to thumbnails when posted to social media. A clever image that is small and involved will be unrecognizable when reduced.

Do not use a caption on the top image! I use Blogger for my blog and whenever I include a caption on the top art, something screws up in my posts to Linked In, etc. Linked In will grab the caption instead of the first paragraph. There goes the first paragraph I spent time polishing.

Find free, legal images at Creative Commons.

Crop images with a free, relatively, easy to use program, such as Irfanview.

4) Remember to add labels and fill out search descriptions

Blogger allows you to add labels to posts and create a search description that will appear when your article appears in a Google search. If you're in a hurry, just rewrite the first paragraph of your blog.

 5) How long, how often?

According to conventional wisdom from years past, bloggers were supposed to post short articles daily. What a waste of time. I've found that writing longer, more useful post weekly or even twice a month generates traffic and entices people to sign up.

6) Include a sign-up box at the end of your blog

 No magic here: putting a box where readers can easily find it increases sign ups. I went from one sign-up a month to as many as 20 a month.

Attribution for image: By 百楽兎 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GPL], via Wikimedia Commons

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Promote Your Writing: Events, Readings, and Fringe Festivals

Special events, such as readings, offer writers an opportunity to generate PR, make fans, and maybe even get discovered by an agent or publisher. (Ha!) Events can also be a huge waste of time and money if no one shows up. This article includes tips for drawing an audience in an unfamiliar city plus my cost and benefits from a recent endeavor in two unfamiliar cities

Tips for drawing an audience (beyond people you already know)

- create a basic online press kit with photos of you and a description of your event.
- submit your event to every online calender and local newspaper listing you can find.
- contact college alumni groups and other organizations to which you belong in the city of you'll be in.
- ask Facebook and Twitter contacts for help getting the word out in your target city. (This was somewhat useful for me.)
- search your Linked In contacts by city and send them a note asking for help getting the word out. (this was pretty useless for me, but maybe you'll have better luck.)
- Arrive early in your target city and prior to your event, visit similar or compatible events and hand out pocket-sized flyers to people attending or exiting those events. (Yes, this is tacky and gross, but it can work. Events to consider: other writer's readings, plays, library events, book festivals, events related to the topic of your book.)
- Looking for a pre-organized event? Consider a fringe theater festival in the U.S. There are also festivals in Canada and in other countries. (If you've never done this before, leave at least three months to prepare. More on this below.)

My Recent Endeavor: A Fringe Theater Festival

Listing for my show on the Web site for Capital Fringe, the D.C. fringe festival.

I assembled scenes from my novel-in-progress, The Loneliest Planet, into a play and performed seven shows at fringe theater festivals in Portland, Maine and Washington, D.C. 

Like many fringe festivals, these two events are not juried, which means if you can pay the fee, you'll most likely get to perform. The festivals typically provide you with a theater, box office help that manages your ticket sales, and some promotion to the local media. In D.C., reviewers from local media came to my show -- a mixed blessing.
I'm a writer, not an actor, and I was able to pull off a one-hour. memorized play based on my novel. Time-wise, I spent about an hour a day for three months writing and memorizing the play.

Remember a novel is about 10 hours of material. My play was one hour, so there was some serious rewriting involved. But if I could do it...

Here are the costs and benefits from my recent efforts at the two fringe festivals:

- acting coach/director: $1200
- entry and related fees for seven shows: $25 Portland, $600 D.C.
- travel, food, etc: $1000 (12 days)
- printing: postcards, flyers, programs: $270
Total: $2,600 (includes $500 I received from ticket sales to my show)

- mentions and listings in show programs and local media in both cities: 14
- reviews from theater critics, which resulted in separate articles: 3*
- pull quotes from the reviews that I can use on my Web site, query letters to agents, and in press releases:  "Literary," "Funny," "Raw," "Ross himself is a natural performer."
- emails from people who saw my show: 39
- SEO for my novel-in-progress, "The Loneliest Planet." Previously, when I Googled my title, only a movie by that title appeared. Now, I appear on the first page of Google search results.
- my cut of ticket sales to my shows: $500. Performers who sell out their shows can earn enough to cover their costs. I didn't come close to selling out my shows.

*Other Notes:
- My reviews were mixed: I've never acted before and was petrified for my first show, which happened to be the show that all the reviewers attended. One of the more positive reviews for my show, which I called "The Chronic Single's Handbook."
- Some performers sold books, t-shirts, and DVDs to attendees of their shows.
- I did not get discovered by an agent or publisher.


 More articles on reading and performing your work


Photo: Copyright 2013 by Paul Gillis Photography

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