Monday, September 29, 2014

Marketing for Writers: Blogging Best Practices

How often should you blog? How long should your posts be? How do you get more people to sign up? If blogging is taking too much of time and not delivering the traffic you want, this article can help.

Length and Frequency

Several years ago, the conventional wisdom for blogging was that frequent, shorter posts were best. Now, you're better off posting longer, more in-depth articles weekly -- or even monthly -- than daily short bits. My blog posts typically run 500 words to as many as 2,000.


Here's why longer posts are better:

- Google now prefers longer posts, which means more chances of your work appearing in search results.
- Longer posts of 250 words or more let you demonstrate your expertise and really get into a topic.
- Longer, meatier posts are more likely to be linked to by other sites. 
- In my experience, readers are more likely to sign up after reading a longer, more thorough post than a shortie that just skims a topic.
- Writing, fewer longer posts also prevents burn out. Some months I only post once, but I've noticed that people will still sign up for my blog if they like the article and see that I've written plenty of meaty stuff in the past.

Some anecdotal evidence in favor of long posts: Facebook now allows posts of up to 12,000 words, Google+ allows posts of up to 20,000 words, and LinkedIn now allows you to post long articles using its new publishing platform. (This doesn't mean you're going to write articles that long or post them solely on these social media sites. You always want to post your article on your own site first.)

Waste Less Time

After you publish a new blog post, you're probably promoting it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and any other sites you frequent. You should be posting links to your post on appropriate groups and using hash tags to reach people interested in the topics you write about. (If you need convincing, see these articles on social media marketing for writers.)

But how do you know if your efforts are paying off? Measure. Most blogs include the ability to measure your Web traffic and tell you where the traffic is coming from. This capability is called Web analytics. If not, you may want to consider a free tool, such as Google Analytics (overkill for most people) or Statcounter (simple to use).

Regardless of which tool you use, here are some things to be looking for:

1) How people are finding you -- which social media sites are pulling their weight. In this snapshot of my blog, most visitors are finding my blog by searching on Google (red box and arrow) or by seeing my posts in groups on Google+ or Facebook (blue arrow and box). I also post my articles on sites such as, which is also generating some traffic. Twitter is generating the fewest clicks. I need to reevaluate my Twitter strategy and either change something or ditch the site.

Using Statcounter, I can track how visitors are finding my blog.

2) The types of articles that are generating the most clicks
Obviously, you'll want to cover that topic more often. But if you have an article that is getting lots of traffic month in and month out, consider updating parts of that article and adding fresh links to other articles on your site.  You'll want to treat that article as a minitiature home page, a portal, a way that many visitors are coming to your site. Don't change the title or anything else that would affect the url for that page. Other pages are probably linking to it.

For example, my novel includes racy scenes that take place in Southeast Asian massage parlors. In 2007, I was traveling in Vietnam and met a French sex tourist who proceeded to provide unsolicited tips on how to find a prostitute. Soon after, I wrote a politically-incorrect article called "Prostitution for Dummies." Five years later, this article is still getting a lot of traffic. Recently, I tweaked the article to include links to my naughty short stories and novel excerpts. Note: This article will be offensive to some people. Do not click, if you are offended by this kind of thing. "Prostitution for Dummies"

Hook Readers with Summary Ledes and Subheads

On the Internet, readers tend to skim articles and blog posts. Two good ways to hook a skimmer:

- Use a lede that summarizes your post. 
When you post a link to Facebook or Google+, the site often displays the first paragraph, forcing readers to click to read more. If your lede is cutesy or confusing, you may lose readers.

- Use subheads and bold text-- even for creative writing and fiction.
Highlight an interesting bit of dialog or turn of phrase to get readers to stop and read the context. In the article below, the author highlighted a snippet of dialog: "How are satellites bad for women?"

A Simple Trick for Getting More People to Sign Up

Most people visiting a Web site know to ignore that outer columns of the page, which are filled with ads and other promotional stuff. If that's where you put your sign up box, you're going to be ignored. Last year, I began adding my sign up box to the end of every new blog post. My sign ups have increased five-fold. (The sign up box is at the end of this article, under "Sign up to have my Marketing for Writers blog delivered to your inbox free each week:")

Include the Right Image at the Top of Posts

With all the free art and image editing tools available, there is no excuse for not including a decent piece of art at the top of every post.

- Free images are available at Creative Commons
- You can crop them with a simple, free tool like Irfanview
- You can create your own graphics using Powerpoint. (create a slide, save it as a .jpg and upload it to your blog. (I used Powerpoint for the image/infogrpaphic at the top of this blog.)
- Make sure your top image is a horizontal rectangle -- it will look better when you post to Facebook groups.

 More Articles on Blogging

 - Six Tips to Boost Blog Traffic
- Web Marketing for Writers: Best Sites, Resources

- Building Your Blog (recent presentations I gave on social media and blogging)

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