Entries Tagged 'Blogs' ↓

Why You’re Losing Your Blog Subscribers (and what to do to keep them)

Last week I did a major clean-out of my blogroll, mostly because I am losing Google Reader this summer.

Honestly, though, this has needed to happen for a while. I spend very little time on Google Reader anymore anyway, and most blogs have other ways for me to consume their content now, rather than RSS feeds.

A whole bunch of the blogs in my Google Reader didn’t make the cut. If yours was one of them, here’s why.

losingsubs
1. You don’t update regularly.

This is the numero uno reason why I unsubscribe from blogs. If you’re not going to update your blog on a regular basis (even if that regular basis is once a month), I’m not going to keep following it.

2. Your blog is boring.

That sounds harsh, I know, and I don’t necessarily mean that your blog is boring to everyone. It’s possible that it’s just boring to me because I don’t understand it or it doesn’t apply to me.

On the other hand, it’s possible that your blog is boring to everyone. Check on that.

3. You have no option to subscribe via email.

I used to make fun of people for demanding a subscribe-by-email option. “Come on, you luddite. Get on the train and learn to use RSS.” Well, I take it back. You need a subscribe-by-email option. You just do.

Why?

Do you know what I’m replacing Google Reader with? Nothing. That’s right. I’m not going to read blogs via RSS anymore. I’m getting the ones I care about enough that I don’t want to miss anything delivered straight to my inbox via email subscription. The rest of them I will catch when my friends post links to Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

There were a few blogs that I would have gladly given my email address to and let them into my inbox on a daily basis, but there was no option for me to give it to them. This makes my marketing brain asplode. It’s not hard, people. You can do it through free services like WordPress and Feedburner. Even better, you can own your email list if you use something like Mailchimp (free up to a certain number of subscribers) or Aweber (not free, but worth some money if you’re serious about email).

Let me give you my email address. If you don’t, it’s like I walked into your store and begged you to let me give you my money so that I could purchase your thing, and you refused.

4. You don’t have a subscribe button.

All that stuff about email said, you still need RSS. And, for the love of Pete, stick a Subscribe button up somewhere so I don’t have to guess what your feed address is.

5. Your tagline sucks. (Or you don’t have a tagline at all.)

Here’s a scenario: I am going through my subscriptions deciding which ones to keep and I click through to your blog. I see a mish-mash of posts on your site, but none of them are things that speak to me, and I wonder why I subscribed to you in the first place. Oh, and the title of your blog is your name.

I need a tagline. Your tagline should tell me what your blog is about so that I remember why I subscribed. By the way, your tagline should not be, “Just daily musings on my life, lol,” because that tells me nothing. What do you write about most commonly? What can I expect to find? Don’t make me hunt for your intro blog post or About page. Make a tagline and stick it somewhere prominent.

6. I don’t know about your blog.

I love blogs. I follow lots of them. But if I don’t know about your blog, I can’t subscribe to it, can I? That means you need to tell me about it. You can tell me in person. You can post it on your Facebook profile or Twitter. You can email me. You can leave a comment on this post if you want. Whatever. Just make sure I know about it.

And that goes for other people, too. If you want people to read your blog, you have to tell them about it. Post your links when you write a new post. If your blog is new, say, “Hey I have a new blog, in case you want to subscribe.” Easy, but lots and lots of people don’t do it and then get all butthurt when no one reads their blog.

So, this whole post is a little tongue-in-cheek, guys, and none of these things are deal-breakers, but if you want my advice (which you should, because I am awesome), spruce up your blog a little with the above tips and hold on to those subscribers.

Give Your Site Some Google Juice

Google Juice // goo . gel . jooce
The magical and mysterious value Google gives to your site, based on links from good sites, unique content, and the age of your site. The more juice, the higher your site’s ranking in Google searches.

So how do you get some? Here are some tips:

  1. If you are on WordPress, install the All in One SEO Pack. If you’re a beginner, it even works right out of the box, easy as pie.
  2. Write a great summary. Your website (even if you’re not on WordPress using the All in One SEO pack) probably has a place for you to put in a summary. Write a great, to-the-point, 145-155 character summary of your site, using the keywords you really want to target.
  3. Use descriptive titles. Again, think about your keywords when you’re writing your titles. How do you want people to be able to find you?
  4. Create content! If you have a blog, churn out the content. I’m not sure if Google recognizes this, but people do, and you get more links if you churn out more content– and I know Google recognizes more links.

My Sonja Foust, Romance Author site currently ranks very well when searching for the phrase “romance author” on Google. It’s because I’ve been around a while, I use the All in One SEO Pack, I title my pages and posts descriptively, and I’ve used “romance author” in the title for my page and in my summary. So give it a try, and get yourself some Google Juice!

Generating Post Ideas

One of the most common problems with writing a blog is generating enough content to keep on blogging! Even if you’re a daily journal type blogger (like me), sometimes there just isn’t anything new to say. So what do you do? Well, I think blogging is a pretty personal thing, and you’ll have to come up with your own solution, ultimately, but I can tell you what I do.

1. Always remember What Not to Post. This can be hard, especially if the only things you have to post about are on your personal list of Things I Will Not Post About. But do not stray. You’ll regret it in the long run.

A hand-drawn mind map
Image via Wikipedia

2. Brainstorm some post ideas. At first, especially if you’re writing a topical blog, the ideas will be fast and furious. Capture as many of them as you can, maybe in a Word Doc, maybe as a draft post, but don’t use them all right away. Schedule them for regular intervals. After the first round dries up, you’ll have to practice some other techniques for generating post ideas. One of my favorites is mind mapping. Pro Blogger takes you through the mind mapping process for generating blog post ideas.

3. Make an editorial schedule. You’ll probably want to do this first, before you’ve even launched your blog, but if you have an established blog, it’s never too late to implement. My schedule is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I have a list of blog ideas covering as many weeks in advance as possible. I’m not completely tied to the list, in case something cool happens that I have to blog about instead, but at least I avoid blogger’s block completely, and always have something to write about! I use an Excel spreadsheet to do this, but you could use anything you like: calendaring software, Word doc, or even just draft posts in your blog platform.

How about you? How do you keep on keepin’ on with your blogging? Give me some more ideas in the comments!

What Not to Post

Back in the early days of blogging, circa December 2000, you could pretty much get away with saying anything, because nobody knew what the heck a blog was anyway. Wanna trash your family? Sure! Want to complain about your job? Right on.

But, people, you can’t do that anymore! Blogging is in the public now, and your blog is not hard to find. If, like me, you’re using your blog as a marketing tool, it’s all the easier for people to find it and to link it with you.

All of that means that you need to think about your blogging a little more, and be a little careful about what you’re saying. I can see some of you writhing under the restrictions already. If you’re the kind of person that has to say what you have to say, and damn the consequences, this is going to be hard for you. You might consider starting an anonymous blog (although what’s the fun of a blog if you can’t share it with the people you know?) or a password-protected blog.

For those of you that are braving the public and attributable blog, though, here are my suggestions on What Not to Post:

  1. Anything you don’t want your boss to read.
  2. Anything you don’t want your mom to read.
  3. Embarrassing photos of anyone who could beat you up.
  4. Stories involving your friends that they didn’t say you could post. Otherwise, they’ll end all conversations with you with the phrase, “But don’t put that on your blog!”
  5. Stuff you’ll wish you could take back later. Teh Internets remembers everything.

Good and scared now? Then my job here is done. ;) Go forth and post!

SEO Guide for the Rest of Us

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the webmaster world. Basically, SEO is a process by which you make your website more easily searchable by the big searchy types (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and get a better rank on those search results pages. SEO experts will have you believe that you need said experts to optimize your site for you or you are DOOMED to a crappy page rank and no search engine hits ever, so help them God.

That is not necessarily true. I know I’m going to have angry SEO experts sending me nasty emails for this, but I think Search Engine Optimization is largely a racket. You do not need an entire company to make your site searchable. You just don’t.

There are many things you can do on your own to make your site searchable, and, at the same time, make it a better site for your visitors.

So here’s Sonja’s SEO Guide for the Rest of Us:

Get someone to link to your homepage. A lot of times, that’s your publisher. If you have a profile on your publisher’s site, make sure it links back to your site. Once you are linked from another site, the search engines can automatically find you. This goes for all your other places on the web too. Have a MySpace page? Make sure you link back to your homepage. A blog? Same thing. A word of caution though: beware of big sites whose main purpose is a “link exchange.” If you are linked from a page a search engine has classified as a bad apple, it may actually hurt your page rank.

Put titles on your pages. Look at the top of your browser window right now and you will see a title in the bar at the very top that says Promo-Ho.com or Promo-Ho.com: SEO Guide for the Rest of Us. That is your title and it is very important. If you are using a blog platform, this is likely the blog title you submitted when you set yourself up for the first time. If you are designing a website, your editing program should have a title input space. Never leave that space blank! Be sure your title is concise and appropriate. For example, the title on my author page is Sonja Foust, Romance Author. If you have a particular genre you write in, you might use that instead: Jane Doe, Historical Romance Author, for example. Why are titles so important? This is the first thing people will see when they search for your site as the big, bold, linked piece of text. In addition, search engines look at titles first to judge the contents of your site.

Use as much text as you can. Some web designers love Flash (fancy animations) and graphics and lots of other fancy stuff, and that’s fine to an extent, but search engine “crawlers” (the little robots who circulate around the internet and read every website ever created) can’t read Flash and graphics. If you can make it work, your navigation menu should be text rather than graphics, or at least have an “alt” tag that matches the text of your graphic. (Your web designer will know what that means.) Use as much text as you can in the content of your pages too, rather than pictures, and when you do have pictures, don’t forget to descriptively “alt” tag them.

Have a clear navigation design. This will involve a menu running across the top or along the side of your page, most likely. Every page should be reachable from at least one static (unchanging) text link. Usually, that means the menu on each page should look exactly like the menus on all the other pages. If you have graphics in use for your menu bar, you may choose to do a duplication of your menu bar along the bottom as text, as I’ve done on my site.

Make your content good. Google says, “Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it” (Webmaster Guidelines). Your bio is a good place to do this. “My name is Jane Doe and I write historical romances with mysterious twists,” will do better than, “My name is Jane Doe and I’m a mother of three,” when someone searches for a historical mystery, for example.

Use meta tags. If you’re not a web designer and you have no idea what meta tags are, don’t run screaming yet. They’re pretty easy. Meta tags go in the head section of your document. You’ll have to look at the HTML code of your site, and then insert appropriate tags as explained at Google Help. Don’t fret, though. If this is something you don’t feel like tackling, it’s not the most important thing in the world, despite what some SEO experts will tell you.

If you can follow some or most of those simple guidelines, you’re well on your way to being searchable on the web. Good luck! As always, leave suggestions or other comments in the comments.

Matchy Matchy

If you’ve tackled the project of designing your website, and now are ready to integrate your blog, it’s not as challenging as it might sound.

If you have a domain name, you can even make your domain names match. In Blogger, there are instructions for getting your custom domain here: http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=55373&topic=12451 It includes setup instructions for a lot of common hosts, like GoDaddy. The advantage of doing this is that your blog address is now http://blog.yourname.com instead of http://yourname.blogspot.com.

After that, all you have to do is get your menu links from your website pointing the right places and then format your blog so that your menu bar matches your webpage menu bar. In Blogger you can customize the heck out of your template, so have fun and experiment. Sometimes it takes a few tries, but if you’ve already designed your website, the hard part is over.

Web Resources For Authors

Author Alexandra Sokoloff has put up a great article on web resources for authors. She includes links for writing communities, professional organizations, email loops, blogs, and links on how to set up your own website and blog.

Read the article!

More On Online Book Tours

Author Sandy Lender has some great tips on getting your online book tour set up:

I put together a professional-looking group page on Yahoo where potential hosts of the Online Book Tour could download images, my bio, a short and long synopsis of the book, some FAQs (read: an already-prepared interview), two guest blog articles, a press release announcing what we were doing that they could send to their local newspapers if they wanted to get themselves local publicity (read: pump up their own promotion), and a blog announcement to post on their site to get folks aware that they were having an author stop by.

Read the article!