Writers Who Blog: Spread Your Net Wide

I got a Facebook memory a few days ago that made me smile. It was a post I made about reaching my first 100 blog followers. While I don’t post nearly as much as I used to, what I did in the beginning gave this blog a good boost and has established a system where the blog receives views and new subscribers daily. I am thankful.

I credit a lot of things to that (to include the support of fellow bloggers who share my posts).

I also credit the diversity of what I post and this is what I want to talk about today for those of you who are writers looking to use blogging as one of your author platforms for networking and meeting new readers.

Everyone has to find that thing that works for them. If you are struggling, consider spreading your net wider by diversifying your content.


This isn’t my first blog. This is actually my third blog.

I started my first blog in 2012 and my second blog shortly after that. I named my first blog after my first novel, The Aftermath, and the second one “A House of Poetry,” I dedicated exclusively to poetry. Neither of these blogs did very well, and I eventually deleted the second one after transferring the poems over to this one.

These blogs were dedicated to one kind of content. On my poetry blog, for instance, I posted poetry and nothing else. I did not talk about myself, my life, my likes or dislikes. Every post was a poem. Some of them got good feedback but mostly, the blog sat there. Lonely. Thirsty. Empty.

When I started this blog, I changed my perspective on blogging. While I did not do a good job with naming it (named this blog after a book I was writing…authors…not a good idea…chances are you will write other books…name your blog after yourself), I decided I would widen my net and diversify my content. Every day I was posting something different. News, music, random thoughts, poetry, quotes. I took part in challenges (like Colleen’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday) and took the Writer’s 101 Blog Course offered by WordPress.

I was posting five and six days a week, following other bloggers and commenting on their blogs. I met blog and author friends I am still in touch with today. I reblogged other people’s posts and promoted them on my social media. I followed the blogs of people who had been blogging for a while and applied their advice. Jason Cushman’s Opinionated Man blog was a huge help in understanding things like hashtags and such.

In the beginning, I was obsessed with growing my blog. I was nominated for blog awards so much that after 13 nominations I stopped doing the Blog Awards (you can still find them on the blog awards page up top).

Before I knew it, three months had passed, and I was over 300 subscribers in.

After a while, I switched it up and started sharing blog tips with others so new bloggers can level up their blog too.

I also started sharing writing tips based on my experiences that may be helpful to others and publishing book reviews.

I was eventually included in Reedsy’s Best Book Review Blogs list where I remain today.

My rate in the beginning was about 100 subscribers a month.

As the blog grew I did away with the WordPress part and upgraded to a plan that would allow me to use a dot com domain name for a bit more professionalism (I was never interested in going self-hosted).

Writers, Spread Your Net Wide: Diversify Your Content

I don’t have millions of followers, of course (I still consider this blog one of the little guys …I should be much further along by now hahaha). But what set the stage for this blog’s foundation in the beginning was being myself, posting about more than just my writing, interacting in the blog community and celebrating every step of the way. Most importantly, I actually enjoy blogging so I was learning and having fun.

Now, I have to say it. It’s important that writer bloggers are authentic. A different topic every day was something that worked for me but that doesn’t mean it will work for you too. Post consistently and be authentic with your content. Talk about the things you like, your life, the things you are passionate/knowledgeable about. Don’t try to mimic someone’s style or repost information from other people too much. Be yourself.

What I’m saying is, there is more to blogging than drafting a post and hitting the publish button.

If you are struggling with your author/writer blog, consider diversifying your content. Spread your net a little and try to understand how to blog outside of posting your stories. What are tags? How do we use them? How does pictures enhance the post? Is my follower button visible so people can follow me? Am I following anyone else? Have I supported someone else blog? How does my blog platform (in this case WordPress) work?

…and so on

Just something to consider.

4 Simple Ways Not to Headline Your Blog Post

Blog Posts

I’m writing you on my phone as I am in the midst of travel. This is my second city this weekend, transitioning from The Windy City to Memphis TN before back home again. So you’ll have to excuse any grammatical errors in this post. I’ll edit this later (don’t judge me).

Last year, I wrote an article on 5 Creative Ways to Headline Your Blog Post.

Today, I feel compelled to follow up. No, I’m not a blog expert. I am however tired of seeing poor blog headlines. A blog is not your personal diary. A blog is public. Yes, this means hundreds and thousands of people are potentially reading it. Yes, this means you may want to rethink your presentation. No, having thousands of followers doesn’t mean you’re doing it right either.

I know people blog for fun, that’s cool. I also know people blog privately. I don’t understand that. Blog and private just aren’t compatible. Nothing online is private, not even what you think you deleted. Think of a newspaper headline. Your blog is today’s newspaper. Its also your first impression.

#1. Capitalize

At minimum, be sure to capitalize the first letter in your first word and the first letter in your last word.

Ex. I love Cookies

I tend to capitalize the first letter in all of my words (with the exception of a “to” here or a “the” there). It looks neat and professional this way.

Ex. I Love Cookies

#2. Spelling

If you proofread nothing else, proofread your headlines. If words in your headline aren’t spelled correctly its a bad first impression to the rest of the article. Blog Headlines are the first thing that draw readers in. In every post I open daily, it begins with my interest in the title. What makes me click onto the blog site? The title alone begs me to ask one question: “Why should I read this NOW?”

#3. Ditch The Hashtags

I know I’m gonna get a lot of flak for this but it is what it is and like I say, there are no rules for blogging. At least not that I know of. However, too many Hashtags in a headline are annoying.

Hashtags are great when it comes to sharing on social media, yes, but when you read news articles online, rarely do they include hashtags. It just looks extremely unprofessional in my humble opinion. Hashtags don’t belong in blog titles, they belong in the tag section of the post. Will they drive more attention? For social sites like Twitter, sure. Like I said, I’m no expert so I’m not saying it doesn’t work. Yes, your post title will come up if someone searches that hashtag. Possibly. And yes, word on the street is that hashtags help with auto tweets. The question is, however, if it works, just how effective is it?

I have not, to date, discovered data that indicates usage of hashtags in the blog title increases the visibility of the post beyond the tags we already have. Understand what I am saying here. I am not saying they don’t increase visibility. I am saying that thought Hashtags makes it useful for social sharing, there is no data that I’ve seen that indicates this these Hashtags (those in the headline) produces a better result  than tagging your blog post the traditional way. That is, attaching them to the tag portion of the post in the WP dashboard. The problem is not one or maybe even two hashtags. The thing that makes them so unattractive is the four, five, and six hashtags as the headline to a post.

Four, five, and ten hashtags in a blog post is a turn off. One hashtag is OK if you must include tags.

I know we use them to draw more attention to our blogs, but coming up with attractive blog headlines is part of the experience and using hashtags just seems like a cop out, especially for writers. Writing is what you do. Come up with an attractive blog headline for your post instead of a bunch of sloppy looking and unexciting tags.

#4. Too Lengthy

Entire quotes, complete sentences, and whole paragraphs don’t belong in blog post headlines. Its extremely unattractive to readers and makes us exhausted before getting to the article. The purpose is to create blog headlines that make us click on to your blog site. If you’ve given us the entire post in a title, what’s the point? Keep in mind also that even if we like the quote, we can do this through the reader. This means though liking the post, we have not visited the blog which defeats the purpose or at least to me.

I don’t just want you to preview me, I want to gain views by producing quality content that compels readers to click on to my blog site. If readers enjoy their visit with me, I hope to gain subscribers. I am not here to play games. I am here to win. Are you?

Before The Week Ends: Quality Connections

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It’s no secret. I pretty much blog like a madwoman so I actually have days I take off, which is the weekend pretty much with only very few exceptions. And although I should really be cleaning right now, I’d like to share something before we dig in for the weekend. Something that is on my heart, and that I also think is very important both for Indie Authors as well as anyone running a business or trying to run a business. This subject matter is concerning social media connections. And as always there is the disclaimer that this post is based on my experience and is not necessarily professional insight. For the record.

I would be very careful playing the numbers game with social media. Obviously you want more interactions, but don’t get frustrated, embarrassed, or beg if you do not have lots of Twitter followers, IG followers (I am staunchly against that app where they promise you thousands of followers. I want my connections genuine)  or Facebook Likes. The reason I would not force these connections is because you just don’t want a whole bunch of people following you, but what you want is quality connections. By quality, I mean people who could really help you in achieving your goals. What is 4,000 Twitter followers worth when 3,000 of them are family members and friends? Don’t get me wrong, family is very supportive but they are also a conflict of interest. Since they’ve known you since forever and they love you so much you cannot count on them to really be honest about your work because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They also want to see you make it, which is great, but you need more than mom and dad on your bandwagon to really make some noise.

You need a community of support that is more than just your family members. What is 2,000 email subscriptions worth when you only have a 2 percent open rate? Open rate, it’s the percentage of people who actually open your emails. This is easy to track using Mailchimp. I don’t have a lot of subscriptions to my email list personally and I love that. Not that I do not want it to increase, but I want it to increase with quality and value. For now, I’m OK with not having many email subscribers (by subscribers I do not mean to this blog, I mean to my personal email list). I enjoy the close knit family I have currently signed up (by family I do not mean blood related, I mean those who support me. I call them family because they are. If you signed up, you would be family too. Not shameless plugging, just saying) because the open rate of the emails is still in the 30-40 percentiles which are great for only about fifty or so subscriptions. This means that most of the people who are signed up are actually opening and reading the newsletter as opposed to 1,000 subscribers of which only ten are engaged.

This same thing can be true of social media across the board. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook and I don’t get overly excited about the numbers. The reason I don’t get overly excited is because though people are there and obviously find something worthy because they like the page consistently, the interaction is low. This I can compare to the email list. If my Facebook Page was an email list I would only have a few opens. For this reason, Twitter is my favorite place right now. It’s my favorite place not because I have tons of followers. It’s my favorite because the interactions are high. People are actually engaging and the people following me are either readers, authors, editors, or professional business people (Note to Authors: Careful befriending JUST authors. Authors are not going to buy your books, readers are).

We live in a world where people ravish in the idea of being Internet Famous. But  what we have to understand is that bragging is not branding. Having lots of followers and likes doesn’t mean anything if they are not coming from the right sources. What you want, more so than numbers is quality connections in an ethical / professional atmosphere. This means you want to leave what your sister in laws baby cousin Tracey did at the club last night out of your business accounts.

Blog Photos: I Scared Myself Away From My Own Post

OK, you may want to sit down for this one.

A couple weeks ago (or was it last week?? LOL), whenever it was, I had a blogger to comment on a post I wrote asking me to go into more detail concerning photos in a blog post. I never consider myself a “blogging pro” or “advice giver” so her question made me feel very positive about the post as feedback often does. Here’s her question and my response:

Q. Can you share more about your thought that sometimes pictures can take away from a post?

My response:

Sure. Pictures are a great way to compliment a blog post but photos in blog posts is about strategy and not just decoration. If the pictures don’t tie in well with the article it can take away from the written content and become a distraction. Photos chosen should have the potential to reveal something about the post even if there were no words because images set the tone for the post itself. Sometimes I decide not to include pics because I want the focus on the words and a photo in this sense can just be distracting. All in all bad image choices can have a great impact on how people see our blogs. 

This morning I did not intend on writing this post, but after scrolling through the reader I experienced something that validates just how important photos are in a blog post. I scared myself away from my own post.

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Yesterday, I wrote a post that included a picture of Flavor Flave. When I scrolled through the reader this morning I was shocked to see that photo front and center on my timeline associated with that blog post (go ahead, take a look). I startled myself because I would not have chosen for that picture to be the one used to feature the post. As I opened with “We all have our favorites…” needless to say Flavor Flave was not a good look. I do not nor have I ever been a fan. I do not take back my thoughts in the article and using the photo in the post did look good when I drafted it because it represents what I was speaking about, but it did not mix well with my opening statements or as an advertisement for the post in the reader.

Did I say advertise? Yes. It may not seem important at the time, but photos in blog posts tend to act as promotional items for our blogs before people actually click to see what the post is about. I wouldn’t say to stress out about it, but whether or not people are clicking to tune into our blogs have a lot to do with the way that people think in general and we all know by now (c’mon, say it with me) “Pictures are worth a thousand words”. Just keep in mind that the first picture used in the post will more than likely be the photo that stands front and center as representative of your post. My little experiment proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that image choices is not just about what looks good, but it is also about strategy because the photography tends to set the mood for the article itself. The photos you use in your post can have the potential to downgrade the quality of the article if it does not blend well with the written content.

Experiment: Conduct your own experiment. Write a blog post and use an image, any image. Go back to the reader and see which one shows up! If your not too chicken to risks a few likes and views, this can help you to see  how the pictures in the post shows up when people are actually scrolling through the reader.

Writing 101 – Assignment #18 – I SPEAK

“Mrs. Yes-ra-el?”

A woman tries to pronounce my last name.

“Ysrayl. Yis-ra-yell”, I tell her.

“Oh”, she looks confused. “Are you Jewish?”

I speak. “No ma’am.”

“Ya…”

She tries to pronounce my first name. I speak.

“Yecheilyah is pronounced e-see-lee-yah.”

She smiles, “That’s cute.”

I speak. “Thank you. It means deliverance and life.”

***

“Is that your real hair?” a man asks me on the street. I used to be confused before I went back to Chicago and discovered loc extensions were a thing.

I speak. “Yes. This is my real hair.”

“I like your dreads,” says someone else.

I speak. “Thank you, but I like to call them locs, not dreads.”

She looks confused. I speak.

Photo By National Library of Jamaica
Photo By National Library of Jamaica

“The term Dread Locs came from the war between British Colonists and the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of blacks who fought and escaped from slavery and established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica. The Britain’s “dreaded” to see them coming down from the mountain because of their physical appearance. They wore their beards thick and their hair kinky. This hairstyle then became known as dread locs.”

“Oh”, she says, “I’m sorry.”

I speak. “Its OK. I’m not offended. This is just why I like to call them locs.”

“Are you Jamaican?” she says.

I speak. “I have been there but no, I am not Jamaican.”

***

My husband and I are at Denny’s. Sometimes we are just in the mood for breakfast we don’t have to cook ourselves. Its not a special occasion, its just our thing. And yes, we got tired of IHOP; we decided to switch it up. I order a delicious looking skillet meal. It comes back with melted cheese, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, egg, the works! It looks delicious but there’s bacon in it too. I call the waiter over.

I speak.

“This has bacon in it but I don’t eat pork.”

“We can fix that,” he says taking my plate back. “We have chicken sausage,” he says.

I love meat but somehow pork always finds its way in the meal. I play it safe with a vegetarian version of the plate.

“OK,” he says and takes my plate.

I really hate sending plates back but I’m not in a mood to be sick today. I have not eaten pork in seven years.

***

I’m visiting Chicago and I’m at my cousin’s house. We are about to eat. I say a prayer. I always pray before I eat. It is something my mom taught me when I was little and I have always done it. My cousin looks at me funny. He’s a Jehovah Witness.

“Ain’t no Allah up in here.”

My hands are outspread, palms facing the ceiling. My head is bowed. I finish my prayer.

I speak. “That’s good because I’m not a Muslim and I do not pray to Allah.”

He is silent. I eat.

***

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For today’s assignment I wanted to expose the quality of speaking. I talk a lot about the importance of being silent but if we are silent when we are to speak it can be just as damaging. In some cases, silence is not enough. We must speak.

Taking Advantage of Your Blog Pages

Tidying up the place today made me think about how important it is to produce content that is valuable to our blogs while maintaining integrity. Instead of constantly producing what doesn’t seem to be doing well, why not take advantage of Pages? Pages make it possible to store away content in a permanent capacity without completely doing away with it. A series or routine post that no one seems to really care about can be fun but it can also weaken your blog if its not helping to strengthen it. By weaken I’m not really talking about your numbers because numbers can be deceiving. I’m talking about your ability to reach people.

I have a brother who is really big on this. If he has something that is not working for him he doesn’t see a reason to hold onto it. What’s a $1,000 computer worth that can’t produce? At the same time, bloggers still need to feel good about what they’re posting without worrying about who cares because self motivation is what will keep them writing. As a result, we bloggers have to create a balance between content that is engaging and content that is genuine concerning who we are as individuals. Despite what others think, we must never sacrifice or compromise our individual selves. So, how do you keep on with what’s important to you but that doesn’t seem to be engaging to your readers? Pages my friends is the answer to our prayers. Don’t give up on it, store it to a page.

In this way, you can monitor how many people are still engaging by looking at that page’s views in your dashboard and from there you can make the decision as to whether it is logical to bring back or if it should stay where it is. For instance, I am taking my own advice with Movie Night Friday.

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Movie Night Friday was a weekly segment of my blog I created to help shine light on some of my favorite movies and why I love them. The inspiration came from my attempt to connect more with bloggers by sharing some more intimate parts of myself aside from books. However I recently withdrew from posting the series because I’m the kind of individual who seeks to improve and to grow. That said, because Movie Night Friday was not producing any growth to this blog, I have decided to store it away to its own page. In this way, those of you who are interested can still find it. I may still post a movie randomly so I won’t say you’ve seen the end of Movie Night Friday, it just won’t be an every week type thing.

I am however, contemplating bringing Black History Fun Fact Friday back, which I also moved to its own page for a different reason. Black History Fun Fact Friday was fun and enlightening but it also became taxing. I have not been able to keep up with it and I really hate to half do anything. But since I’ve re-arranged my schedule a bit I am contemplating bringing it back since it is something I know you enjoyed.

Having a page for Black History Fun Fact Friday has helped me to keep my eye on whether or not people are actually visiting the page. As a result, I have noticed that the page has picked up some views and I am now contemplating bringing it back to fill my Friday Night slot. So take advantage of your pages. They are not just for your about page, but they can be utilized in lots of creative ways. Just something to think about.

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Forced Post

Blank notepad and pencil

You feed yourself on unrest, as the words slide through the creative pockets of your thoughts for a chance to make it onto the page. The thirst of its shadow will not leave you to ponder the body of an elegant post. Will not wait for you to soar into the heavens and back down again to at least tickle the funny bone of those listening…. I mean reading these soulful melodies, these crafty closed forms or these smiling similes.

They say that patience is a virtue but dear post, you are obviously far too anxious. Time ticks away the sorrow of accelerated thoughts as this moment is snatched away by the whistling hurry of your footsteps. I can hear the coughing warnings of immature images and symbols just waiting for a chance to spread themselves over the white area of WordPress readers. Didn’t know thoughts could be so open. Fingers just itching to dabble in the beating of keyboards, to fulfill the empty space with black ink and collective letters that makes no sense. They are only there because you need them to be. And where would I sit with these words? With these thoughts scattered all over the bed? Who will clean this up for me? Is it you? Will you vouch for me? Can I count on you to explain the degradation of an unequal post?

While I wish to linger an instant longer within the creative work space of meditations, it is the forced post that entices me to distribute half talent and fragmented passion. So I choose to wait until the creative energy renews itself. For ideas to blossom into something of value before obligating myself to this blog. Why snatch away the inspiration from a beating heart? I have not the water to waste on these words. My cup is only half full. I can’t be spilling stuff all over the place. I will wait.