An author blog gets Google’s attention
by Anne R. Allen
Should all authors blog? Of course not. We’re all different and we write for different audiences. There are lots of ways to establish an online presence. Anne Rice does a good deal of publicity from her Facebook page, and Stephen King is big on Twitter. Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert communicate with fans on Instagram.
Would a blog work for you? It might. Blogging is the best way to make friends with Google (otherwise known as SEO or Search Engine Optimization.) That means readers can find you through search engines. In other words, a blog helps readers find you and your books.
But I’ve Tried Blogging and Failed Miserably!
You’re not alone. Most blogs are abandoned after 3 months. If you try to follow all the “blogging rules” a blog can stress you out very quickly.
But you can succeed if you keep in mind that an author blog is totally different from a business blog. 90% of the advice on blogging is for monetized business blogs. So it doesn’t apply to you. As an author, you can make a blog whatever the heck you want it to be.
Author blogs can be “slow” (posting once a week or less) and FUN.
So you didn’t fail. You were slow blogging. 🙂
If your abandoned blog is still out there, you can start it up again. It’s better for SEO if you revive the old one rather than start a new one.
How Can I Work on My WIP if I’m Blogging Every Day?
You can’t. And you shouldn’t
Here’s the thing: most blogging advice is aimed at the bloggers who plan to sell advertising and monetize a blog as a business. They make more money if they blog daily.
But as an author, you’re blogging for name recognition and publicity for your work. Money will come later when you sell your books.
Author blogs can post infrequently and only need to appeal to your target book readership, not vast hordes of consumers. Your blog should be a fun, readable source of entertainment or information of interest to your demographic, not a hard-sell advertising machine.
An author blog only has to take a few hours a week — not the huge time commitment you’ve heard about. Ideally, you want to post once a week, but you can write those posts in one marathon session, and then post them to a schedule. Or don’t. Post once a month if you like.
Just make sure you respond to comments in a timely fashion. Comments can be the most important part of your blog. Those commenters are your potential customers.
But Why Should I Give My Hard Work Away for Free?
Your time is worth money, absolutely. An author blog does involve providing the public with free content. But those snippets of content are ads for your writing.
A blog gives you a base of operations for your marketing and establishes your brand. It allows you to communicate with readers and potential readers. It’s also a website you can establish free or inexpensively. And here are 8 more reasons why a blog helps an author succeed.
Compare the time you put into a blogpost with the cost of other publicity and marketing, and an author blog looks like a pretty good deal.
And it’s easier than you think. Author bloggers don’t need to build a huge audience. Business blogs are all about numbers because the more hits they get, the more money they can draw from advertisers.
Unfortunately, a lot of authors read blogging advice and take expensive blogging courses, and don’t realize those aren’t about author blogging.
Authors just need to know basic SEO, which is easy to learn. (And cheap. See below. 🙂 )
All that other stuff just causes stress. And hey, we have enough stress already. We have to deal with endless rejections (yeah, they pretty much never stop. The bigger you get, the more people want to knock you down.) Plus there are always nasty reviews, difficult editors, evaporating agents, writers block, and a whole lot of other things those business bloggers don’t have to worry about.
Author Blog vs. Business Blog
I don’t mean to disrespect business bloggers. They work amazingly hard. I tried to monetize this blog about six years ago and it nearly killed me. Literally. I hardly had time to sleep or feed myself. I had to give up writing fiction entirely.
Business blogging requires knowledge of advertising strategies and the specialized art of copywriting. Business bloggers need to be able to pack a piece with keywords, know the best strategies for SEO, plus keep up with all of Google’s ever-changing rules and algorithms.
Author blogging is so different from business blogging that I wish it had a different name. Maybe we could call it “A-Blogging” as opposed to “B-Blogging.”
The word “blog” is a newish invention anyway. It’s a contraction of the term “Weblog,” which was invented in 1997. The short form, “blog” was coined by a man named Peter Merholz, who whimsically broke the word “weblog” into the phrase ” we blog” in the sidebar of his weblog in 1999. “Blog” was first formally used as a verb a few months later by the legendary Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium. (no. not the whisky guy)
The original blogs were personal diaries. It wasn’t until the late 2000’s that they became big business advertisers and newsmagazines.
Think of an author blog as being more like one of the original “weblogs.”
But I Don’t Know Anything About Tech!
I started my blog as a total technomoron. I’m a Boomer. I’m so old I remember when hand-held calculators were cutting edge technology.
Bonus points if you remember the commercial jingle:
Gee, they’re really neat…
They have big green numbers,
And little rubber feet.
When I started my blog in 2009, I could send email, shop online, do a Google search, and that was about it. But I figured out how to have a successful author blog without the help of even a resident teenager. I learned how by trial and error.
Lots of error: I made the mistakes so you don’t have to.
These days I recommend new writers start with a free WordPress blog. If you decide you want a “self-hosted” blog later on (the ones you pay for) It’s much easier to switch from one WordPress blog to another. Wix is also a good choice for a free blog that’s user-friendly.
Yes, I needed some help from the wonderful Barb Drozdowich when we made the move from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress, but most people can handle the WordPress free or Wix on their own.
Blogger still exists, and it’s easy, but there’s no tech support.
Mostly starting a blog is easy. And it’s not hard to learn the basics of blogging.
The harder part is maintaining your momentum.
Here’s the Secret to Keeping that Author Blog Going:
It’s all about reaching YOUR readers. Not everybody and their grandmother.
And you’re a writer, remember? Quality content is what you do. And what should you blog about? Anything and everything that will appeal to your readers.
Catherine Ryan Hyde, who has sold something over 3 million copies in the last few years, blogs about her animals, astrophotography, and traveling. Her readers love it. For more detail about what to blog about see my post, “What Should an Author Blog About?”
You don’t need to advertise anything on your blog but you. So write about anything that appeals to the kind of people who would like your books. You don’t need to choose a niche like a business blogger. You don’t have to limit your topics to doughnuts, or pet tricks, or writing. (In fact, don’t write about writing — most readers don’t care. 🙂 Do what I say, not what I do.)
Write your passion. What is interesting you this week? A film? A book? A walk in the woods? Blog about it. That passion will keep up the momentum.
Do I Need a Newsletter AND an Author Blog?
If you’re working on your first or second book and you’re just making your way into the marketplace, you probably cringe when people say… “you must have a newsletter! Write your fans three times a week or they’ll forget who you are…”
And you say, “where do I find these people to sign up for a newsletter?”
The answer can be, um, start a blog.
Personally, I prefer a blog to a newsletter anyway. Mostly because I hate having author newsletters clogging up my inbox. The only ones I still get are ones that come infrequently and offer me something: free or discounted books, stories, recipes, and news that a favorite author is visiting my area.
I prefer reading novels to reading author newsletters, and I think I’m not alone in that.
On the other hand, some people call this blog a “newsletter” because its notice arrives in their inbox every Sunday. The biggest difference between this and a newsletter is that new readers can discover it. Social media brings us new readers every week.
And here are some other things that make a blog superior, IMO:
- A blog can be read on a webpage, not just in an email program, which may be harder to read.
- A reader can delete that Sunday notice and still come visit the blog and read our content any time you want. We’re not clogging up your email inbox.
- Blogs have comments, where readers can interact.
Newsletters are great if you already have 1000s of readers who want to know all about your fabulous life. But if you want new people to discover you, it’s much better to be out there on the Internet where Google can find you.
by Anne R. Allen (@annerallen) August 1, 2021
What about you, scriveners? Have you ever started a blog and abandoned it? Do you have a blog you update regularly? Irregularly? Have you been afraid of blogging because there seemed to be too many rules and too much stuff to learn? Did you ever have a calculator with big green numbers and little rubber feet?
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors
Named one of the “Best Blogging Books of All Time” in 2019, and “Best SEO Books of All Time” in 2021 by Book Authority, this is an easy-does-it guide to simple, low-tech blogging for authors who want to build a platform, but not let it take over their lives.
And the ebook is only $2.99
and it’s available in paperback for $9.99 at Amazon