Blogging takes up a lot of time. To arrange a decent post takes at least an hour depending on how long the post is. For posts that require lots of research, it can take several days of research and gathering links before actually composing the post in the WordPress editor. Still, we are told that the best way to blog is to do it consistently. For busy bloggers, those with jobs and children and basically a life outside of the internet, blogging consistently is a real challenge.
You Don’t Have to Blog Everyday
The assumption that you have to publish a post every day is not entirely accurate. While posting every day is cool, that’s not ideal for everyone. Keeping a consistent blog is important but you don’t have to publish a post every single day in order to be successful. Be disciplined but do not obligate yourself to other people’s schedules. Just choose 2-3 days out of the week that you would like to dedicate to updating your blog.
Schedule Your Posts
Not every post has to be in real time. One of the biggest time savers for me is scheduling posts. This requires a bit of discipline since I have to get started days earlier depending on when I want the post to publish. For my Black History Fun Fact Friday posts, these are always scheduled days ahead because it requires research, fact-checking, and accuracy. To schedule your posts, here’s what you do:
Dashboard > New Post > Write out your post
Once you have written out your post, added tags and all that good stuff, scroll over to the publish section of the screen. It should be in the top right-hand corner. Next, to publish immediately, click on edit. The calendar will come up and you can choose when you would like the post to publish and the time. Keep in mind that the time will be in accordance with the timezone you have set. I am on USA Eastern Standard Time but my settings are Central Standard Time because I have moved to another state. When scheduling posts, I keep this in mind. (For those of you in the United States, it helps to choose a scheduling time that is convenient for people in other countries too. Scheduling my posts midnight my time means it will publish sometime in the morning in other countries. I have found this to work well).
Publishing quality posts is important but the quality posts usually take up the most time. You may get something good every so often, but not every day. (I have not published a poem in awhile). That’s why I think establishing segments can help. A segment is something special you have going on that occurs at the same time or day every week or every month. My No Whining Wednesday and Black History Fun Fact Friday are examples. I’ve been slacking, but segments like these help to keep this blog updated and it may help you as well. It will give you something to look forward to and if you are a super busy blogger, will help you to be consistent with your posts at least once or twice a week. I find it also helps with branding. People will get used to your segments and look forward to them. They may even follow your blog specifically for that segment alone.
Choose from the most used tags
Tagging your post can be time consuming, especially if you’re OCD like me where everything has to be perfect. You don’t want to just use any tags but you also don’t have a lot of time to publish this post. Well, once you’ve been blogging a while, under the tags you will see something that says “choose from the most used tags.” These are tags you use often.
You can click on these tags quickly to tag your post with the generic tags (like, blog, wordpress, writers, etc.) and then spend the rest of your time adding authentic tags, or tags that are specific to your post. You can also blog from your phone if that saves time, which leads to my next point.
Install the WordPress App
I am not always at home when my posts publish but I am capable of responding to comments quickly and visiting other blogs because of the WordPress app. It took me a minute to actually catch on (I used to do it the long way by just checking my email) but once I did it has made blogging for me easier by cutting down on time. You can instantly see who has commented on your post and who has liked your post using the app. Am I the only one who still pays attention to post likes? Probably so but this helps me to get to know my readers more actually. I know who the active followers of this blog are and the followers who no longer participate. I am aware of those who used to comment all the time and now do not and I know who the new subscribers are who have taken on that role. I even know some of the followers who have been here since day one. This leads to my last idea.
Pay attention to the posts people are really engaged in, the posts they enjoy most and interact with the most. This will cut down on a lot of time spent drafting something no one wants to read. I mean, I don’t spend a lot of time caring about what people will think of my posts, to be honest, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to think about others from time to time. It’s your blog and you can write what you want and you should but blogging’s not fun without engagement. If you wrote a poem everyone liked, you may want to start to incorporate more poetry into your blog. After all, it’s about being of service to the people and not just in service to yourself.
I was listening to Lynn Serafinn during the Publishing Success Summit and she spoke about social media layers and how this influences a writer who strives to build an author platform through the blog. I read complaints from many writers who want to start blogs but are not sure what to blog about.
I thought about this and how beneficial it may be for some authors to come up with a strategy. Well, I hate to use the word strategy because it makes it sound too much like a plan when what we blog about should be a natural extension of us. However, there may be some who really do need to develop a system. They want to use the blog to help their writing but they aren’t sure how to blog or how to use it as an author. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about author blogs or what makes one. (I have my own opinions on that. I’ll share them later). Instead, let’s explore something to which we’re all familiar.
How many of you have seen Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor? I’m not a Tyler Perry fan but this movie had a great message: You never leave 80 for 20.
Briefly, here is what the movie is about:
Judith is a therapist who works at a matchmaking agency owned by Janice and is married to Brice, whom Judith has known since she was six. After obtaining her masters Judith is unfulfilled and dissatisfied with her job and anxious to start her own marriage counseling business, but Brice tells her to wait until they are more financially stable. Meanwhile, Judith meets Harley at work, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur who wants to invest in Janice’s business. He attempts to seduce Judith as they work late on matchmaking surveys. When Harley questions the absence of sex in the surveys, Judith says she does not believe in premarital sex. Harley thinks Judith’s sex life is boring and Judith, now questioning her sex life with Brice, tries to improve it.
Long story short, when Judith changes her hair and makeup for her birthday and Brice fails to notice the change or remember her birthday, Judith is more inclined to give into Harley’s advances (though she is unwilling to admit it). She receives flowers that she believes are from Brice but are really from Harley who appears and notes her change in appearance – something she didn’t get from Brice (hope you’re seeing where I’m going with this). Janice sends Judith to New Orleans with Harley to finalize a deal with shareholders, telling her to flirt with Harley, but also to be careful. Judith’s co-worker, Ava gives Judith a makeover and in New Orleans, Judith and Harley complete the business deal and go dancing and sightseeing. On the way home, Harley seduces Judith in his private jet and the sexual tension between them is solidified when Judith gives in. She has the affair.
The moral of the story is that Harley is 20%. Yes, the sex is good but there isn’t anything of substance that would denote he is husband material. After the making out there is basically nothing. This isn’t to say that Brice is perfect either but Judith could have communicated with Brice how she likes it and kept the 80% she was getting from him while working on the 20% she wasn’t getting. At the end of the day, you never leave 80 for 20 people.
Everyone’s got flaws, but you don’t leave someone with at least 80% of their stuff together for someone who just looks good but head is in the clouds, also known as 20. Anyway, it looks good and probably feels the same but after that, there’s nothing left. No mind. No aspirations. Nothing.
In blogging, it helps (or at least it has helped me) if 80% of your time is spent networking and providing value. Writing is good but building a blog takes a little bit more than that. How do we measure a blog’s success? That depends on the individual. One thing is for sure, writing is just 20%. To learn to blog is to do much more and that much more is largely rooted in one word: Network.
Comments – When they come, respond back to them! Yes, on comments left to you on the blogs of others too.
Negative Feedback – It happens. Not everyone is going to agree with you. If you publish a controversial post, be prepared to stand on it.
Carve Out Some Time – Be ready to put the hours in that are necessary to achieve your blog goals. If you want to increase your number of followers/subscribers, it’s going to take you blogging more than once a month. I may not have many subscribers myself but I will tell you, with my integrity in tact, that I have earned every last one of you! I put mad hours into this blog. As expressed in The First 300: How I Reached 300 Blog Followers in 3 Months, I started this blog publishing three posts a day for six days. Yes, I only took one day off from blogging and not because anyone forced me to. Of course I’ve slowed down now but I can only afford to do that because of the foundation I’ve laid in the beginning.
Work on Your Tags – The tagging on my older posts are just sad. Don’t be like me. Jason over at Harsh Reality has some great advice on tagging. He recommends 15 Tags (includes a category. Categories act as tags) and is a mixture of unique as well as generic tags. Generic tags are tags that are used the most by bloggers like blog, blogging, bloggers. Unique tags are tags that are exclusive to your post, tags you make up or tailor to your content. Because of this theme, my tags show up at the top of each of my post. Look at them. In each of my post you’ll count 14 tags. My 15th tag is my category. Or, you’ll count 13 tags if I chose two categories and so on (the lesser my tags, the more the categories. Remember, categories count as tags). To learn more, visit Jason’s posts on tagging. I’ve followed his advice since the beginning and it has worked for me thus far. No, I don’t have the link. You have to do some of the work.
Visible Follow Buttons – I’ve been preaching this same “sermon” for probably about a year now but it’s only because I run into it probably every day. I’m trying to follow someone’s blog but I can’t find the follow button. That means guess what? I’m not following you. Go to your WP Dashboard > Widgets and add a follow button. Make sure it’s the one that says “Follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts via email”. The other one will just allow people to follow you through the reader.
About Page – Although I am starting to wonder how many people pay attention to the about page (people tend to follow a blog after liking a post that caught their attention, hoping to receive the same kind of content) be sure to complete your about page. It just looks professional and helps those who do read about pages to know more about you. (Tip: Read a blogger about page. You’d be surprised to find many of your questions about them answered).
INTERACT – This is in all caps for a reason. If you’re interested in building a blog that does well, be sure that you’re interacting with others. Try to leave comments that aren’t so phony. OK, let me define “phony”. It’s OK to be short, but to really start to get to know people you’re going to have to say more than “Great post!” There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you find something that really moves you, dig in as my mother used to say. Give us full explanations on why you feel a certain way. This allows your personality to come out and for others to be prompted to respond. This is how relationships are formed, through communication.
Easy to Read – The easier your blog is to read, the better. Stay away from brightly colored text that is hard to read and clutter. Don’t just throw your blog furniture all over the place. Too many widgets are distracting.
Providing Value means (but is not limited to):
– Well written and consistent content (Aka blogging as often as possible)
– Following other blogs (and re-blogging others)
– Responding to comments (both on your blog and the blogs of others)
– Promoting and helping others
– Writing about life in general (not just your writing)
– Keeping your blog updated, clean, easy to read, and easy to follow (so like, have a follow button!)
Is there a word that sticks out to you? Right. Others. Blogging isn’t about just focusing on content far as publishing posts are concerned (which is why it’s about more than just writing. Sorry, but blogging does have a lot to do with the technical things as well. Views, stats, subscribers, tags, photos, etc.) it also means that most of your time is spent on engaging your readers and helping others.
In short, it may help if authors learn to blog because it will help (or at least it has helped me so far) to reach a new readership. I also believe in the importance of building trust and that authors should do this first before expecting new readers.
The reason you spend most of your time (80%) understanding blogging and doing it effectively (if you’re trying to build a blog that is. If you don’t care about blogging or think it’s a waste of time then this obviously does not apply to you) is because people must grow to like you enough to trust you and no one needs a Best-Selling book or fancy certificate to understand that. In fact, I’ve learned that learning how to blog (which I am still doing myself) is just understanding people in general. What are they trusting you to do? They’re trusting you to deliver valuable content without constantly selling to them. If people think you’re just trying to sell your book to them, they won’t trust that your content is genuine. No matter how relevant, they will ignore your service because they think you’re just out to make money.
Serafinn identified four layers of social media and we all know that when baking a cake or pie or anything that has layers, we know that the good stuff is somewhere in the middle, not at the top.
Lynn didn’t name the layers in her interview so I took the liberty of doing so. You know, so this is a bit more fun.
Layer 1: The Crust
– The crust is the top layer and it is oh so good! But, it is also usually too good. You see, the crust doesn’t usually have any nutritional value to it whether that’s the buttery crust on an apple pie or crust on the lasagna (you know that’s where all that cheese is!). Per Serafinn, the first layer is made up of people who don’t know you at all and don’t care about you or your writings. The crust looks good but that’s about it.
Layer 2: The Sauce
– I call layer two the sauce. Like layer one, the sauce doesn’t do much. Although it may provide a bit more than the crust only because there are probably bits of onions and green peppers in there somewhere. The second layer is the people who follow you on social networks and know you only slightly. Maybe they liked your Tweet or Facebook Post.
Layer 3: The Noodle
– Now we’re starting to get somewhere. I call the third layer the noodle. It’s bound to provide a lot more substance than crust and sauce. At least the noodle will coat your stomach. The third group is your casual blog visitors. They know you a little bit more than the second group because they read your blog every so often.
Layer 4: The Meat
– Now we’re deep into it and get to take a mouthful of that delicious meatball! The final layer is the layer we want to pay attention to. They are our regular blog readers or people who support us consistently. They are always liking, commenting, and sharing our content, they have signed up to our email lists, and may have even bought a book. These are the people who trust us more than the other three groups because they read us consistently. They are the meat. This isn’t to say they know you in the deeper sense of the word considering it takes so much more to really get to know a person but they are trying and on the surface of knowing, these are the people who at least trust you more than the other groups to deliver. This is the layer we want to grow because it means that they will support us during that 20% of the time that we are pushing our books.
Writers looking to build a readership through the blog should focus on building trust with the fourth layer by providing valuable content on a consistent basis. This means that you should do more than post excerpts and chapters of your book. Even if you’re a great writer blogging is more than that. By networking, commenting, sharing, and sharing other things about ourselves we are giving people enough to grasp at our personality or become interested in who we are as a person. This will lead them to genuinely care about our writing. How so? You are concerned about people you care about. The more people get to know you, genuinely as a person (not that phony stuff), the more interested they are in your work because they are interested in you.
Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July 15-16, 2017. For updates on this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.
Before I shut down for the weekend I have to share this. I’m sitting here going through some of my older posts (the ones with 0-5 likes) and my tagging is just sad. Like, it doesn’t even make any sense. I love looking back on my work and seeing where I can improve. So, here’s 7 tips on tagging I acquired from some friends in the blogging world as well as somewhere in this brain of mine. I caution I am not an expert and these tips are just based on my prior knowledge and experience (so far) with blogging:
1. Try to mix your original tags with some general tags. General tags are tags that are often used such as: Blog, Blogger, Blogging, WordPress, Google, General, Poetry, and Writing (for book promo also use Amazon, eBook, and Self-Publishing). Original Tags are any tags you want to use or tags that are unique to your blog such as your blog name (I often use pbs for Pearls Before Swine).
2. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box. Make sure your tags have something to do with the post BUT this doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and add tags you think may drive more traffic since its mentioned in your post. For instance, one of the tags I chose for this post is: “Spelling”. This post is not going to teach you how to spell, but it does say something about spelling. I could have also used “Grammar” or “Grammatically Correct”, or “Punctuation”. I also tagged this post “Follows” and “Support” because they are similar in theme to “Likes”
3. Make sure your spelling is correct in the tags! LOL
4. If you’re going to use less than 15 tags, make them count. It will be best to use commonly used tags, such as Blog, General, and WordPress. Otherwise, it’s best to stick to at least 15 -17 tags. I think any more than that is overkill because…well, just because.
5. Remember that categories count as tags.
6. Keep your tags short and simple! Remember that old saying that if you sell books the way you buy them you’re more likely to increase profit? If you go to Amazon to buy a book, then your book should probably be on Amazon as well. Or, if you are more than likely to purchase an ebook, your book should probably have an ebook version as well. The logic is that you’re a reader first and if you have certain buying habits as a reader then chances are other readers have the same habits and so you use your reader habits in your marketing strategies. Well, if you tag the way you browse the net it may help in the same way. People google the way that they think and have a tendency to use the same keywords over and over again. This means some tags are just taking up space because no one is going to use them. What’s the chances of someone finding “Ilovemymothersomuch”? That’s a tag that doesn’t make any sense. I would tag it “Mothers” instead because if I needed to google articles about a mother’s love that is what I would type in.
7. As a bonus, here’s a Tag Support Chart I acquired some time ago from a fellow blogger. It displays some commonly used tags separated by days. I don’t always follow the suggested actions that go along with the tags but I do use them. I’m still learning how to tag properly but this chart has been VERY helpful in that process (Tags I often use are: Blog, Blogging, Blogger, General, Writing, Google, WordPress, and I add one of the tags in the chart along with some that have to do with the post itself):