Do You Want to Write a Blog?
Helpful Advice for Word Press Bloggers
When I decided to write seriously, I began by writing a blog (the modern word for a web log!) This was a brilliant way to learn what people like to read, how to express myself concisely, and experiment with different styles. As I grew more experienced, my blog became one of the platforms I used to advertise and sell my books. I consider myself an apprentice, because my IT skills are somewhat raw, but I am improving constantly. In case you are considering starting a blog of your own, or if you are not an expert when it comes to all things computer-related, I thought I would pass on what I have learnt so far.
I use a WordPress blog. I tried using a couple of others, to compare stats, and I trust WordPress to be fairly accurate. When I posted the same blog, at the same time, on a couple of sites, some told me it had been read by 50 people instantly. I felt this was inflated, and the WordPress stats of a handful of readers over time was more accurate. But look online, a different site might suit you better.
When you start writing a blog, you will receive lots of conflicting advice, so you need to make a few decisions. I was told my posts (the pieces of writing that my followers see) should be short—no longer than fit on one side of A4 paper, because readers will only scroll down once. However, I found that some of my direct information posts (like this one, or one about recovering from a craniotomy, or how to train a dog, or how to teach a child to read) were very long and were shared many times. My personal view is that something that is imparting knowledge, can be longer, because people want to know how to hatch an egg, or whatever. But simple newsy, fun posts, should be fairly short.
When to post and how often? You need to try a few variations and check your stats. I find that Monday mornings tend to get most viewings, and very few people seem to read blogs on Fridays. (I have this image of people sitting at their desk Monday morning and looking for something to delay that awful start to the week! Fridays they are already in party mood, so no time for reading.) Time zones are tricky, I try to catch the Sunday late night of one zone and the early morning of the next. But varying the days and times can also attract new readers.
You add a post via the dashboard, which has a menu of options including adding a new post. Initially, I was confused by posts and pages. A page is basically something that sits on your blog in the place you have put it; I use pages on my home page, and they are things people might return to over time (like my ‘How to’ section). Posts are articles that are sent to all your followers, and they are listed in date order, so three months later they are hard to find.
If you write, you need readers, so you need to encourage traffic to your site. Obviously, you can tell all your friends and family (most will ignore you). You can post things on social media; I find Twitter and Facebook a good source of readers. The most popular posts tend to be those directly aimed at a specific group. If I write an article about having a brain tumour, and post it on a Facebook page for people with that condition, it will be read hundreds of times. A recipe needs to go to the relevant page, a religious article to another. This one will, I hope, appeal to writers, so I will find Facebook pages for authors, and use appropriate hashtags for Twitter. You can also hope to be picked up by search engines (like Google). I recently met my internet-marketing-child, and he gave me a few tips:
When you write a post, there are several options that help your work be noticed by other computers. Most obvious is the title box—use this by writing words that are key to your article, as well as attractive when posted on social media. You will also notice the paragraph drop-down box. This gives the option of other headings—use them. Search engines notice these, so use key words to entice readers.
There is also a ‘publicize’ setting. Here you can add automatic links to social media, so everything you post will automatically be posted on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Decide what you want to use—I think too many posts on Facebook mean people stop seeing them, but Twitter seems to have more random readers.
Next you will find Tags. There is a decision to make here. When you post something, the WordPress site notices your tags, and pushes your article towards potential readers. The more tags you use, the further down the WordPress list your article will move. If, for example, you have ‘travel’ as a tag, then WordPress will send your post to anyone who searches for travel. But if you have also added: ‘Cornwall’ ‘seaside’ ‘beach’ then WordPress will decide that ‘travel’ is only a small part of your post, and something that has travel as its only tag will be more visible. However, that is only part of the story. Other search engines (Google) also notice your tags. The tag of ‘travel’ cannot possibly compete with the huge travel companies that also want to be seen by Google, so your little article will appear on page 3,794 of a search for travel. But if you have added a few niche tags, like ‘camping in Scotland with a toddler’ then when someone puts that into the search bar, your article will pop up on the first page of results.
I tested this theory (never completely trust my family). I have a blog for my books (The Cobweb Press) and this blog (Anne E. Thompson). I posted the same articles, at the same time, on both blogs, one with several tags and one with a single one. The post with several tags received more views (and my apologies to the few people who follow both blogs and therefore received two identical emails!)
You will also notice, when you post something, that a Permalink appears. You can edit this too, adding words at the end for a computer to find. Make sure they are key words about your post.
I mentioned followers. Having followers is very exciting! They sign up to follow your blog, and are emailed every time you post something. However, there is a whole world of bloggers out there, and like other social media, some people only ‘follow’ because they want you to follow their own blog—they do not actually intend to read what you post. I know this, because some people will ‘follow’ my blog for a short time, then ‘unfollow’ when it is not reciprocated, only to ‘follow’ again at a later date. If you spend a lot of time on social media, reading and liking and following other blogs, then you will build a long list of followers yourself and each of your posts will end with a string of ‘likes’ from fellow bloggers. However, I think it is more representative of your time on social media, than the quality of your writing; I wanted to learn what people actually wanted to read so I decided not to spend oceans of time on social media. I like to think that most of my followers, whilst they may not read every post, do actually like to dip into my blog from time to time and read what I write.
When people click the ‘like’ button it makes me smile, every time. However, it isn’t always representative of number of readers or appreciation. I have had articles (like: ‘how to have a brain tumour’) which was shared over 100 times (implying people found it helpful) but only received 2 ‘likes.’
When I started to write, my mother begged me to add photographs. I told her no, I am trying to improve my writing, pictures are irrelevant. What I have learnt is that pictures help to break up a post, they make it look nice, and they add rather than detract from the words. Use photos. They also help to attract people to your blog.
Press the ‘Add Media’ tab, and upload your photos. Then add links so search engines find them. You have the option to add ‘Alt Text’. Here you should write where the photo was taken, or key words, the same in the Title space. The ‘Caption’ will actually appear in your post, so fill in words you want your readers to see. The ‘Description’ box is seen by computers set up for people who are visually impaired, and anything you write here will tell the ‘reader’ what the photo shows.
In order to sell my books via my blog, I needed people to be able to contact me. I was warned to not add an email address, as this will be sent oodles of spam. Instead, you can add a contact form. This is self-explanatory when you click the tab, and means people can contact you directly. I do still receive some spam (who are these people and why bother?) but mostly only bona fide readers wanting to buy books contact me.
If you want to add a link to another article, use the little picture that looks like a paperclip. It took me a long time to find this! Follow the instructions on the tab, and you can add nice tidy links.
I hope you find these tips helpful, do add your own tips in the comments.
Enjoy writing, and thank you for reading. Please pass on to anyone who might be interested, and if you click the ‘like’ button you will make my day!
Next week I will be writing about modern-day slavery, and trying to discover which shops use slaves to make the clothes we buy in our high streets. Would you buy a cheap pair of jeans if you knew they were made by a ten-year-old forced to work long hours in a factory? Which shops can we trust to behave responsibly?
Love, Anne x
Have a look at my books, they make great gifts! Amazon Link Here!