The Making of a Popular Blog Post

I follow a Twitter account that purports to give people advice about social media and how to use it to make your blog or web page get more visitors. They had a post this morning about making your blog post go viral. And I read the whole blog post. It told a lot about why making your blog post go viral is good for your blog or your business or whatever. But the one thing it didn’t tell you was what they promised on Twitter they would tell you: how to make your blog post go viral. You had to buy an ebook from them to get that info.
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! They missed the point of blogging there! A blog gives out interesting or useful information for free. It doesn’t just promote some ebook at the audience. And promising something in your blog post title— and in a Tweet or other social media about the blog post— just makes readers mad. Don’t promise what you aren’t willing to deliver!
To create a popular blog post, first think about your reason for having a blog. For novel writers, it is often to attract readers who might be moved to buy that writer’s books. But they aren’t going to buy because some stranger whose blog they just landed on shills his book at them! No one likes to be advertised at when they had anticipated reading a blog post that might be interesting.
Other bloggers blog to express their opinions about politics or about their religious or anti-religious faith. Or about which recent movies really suck. Or why Star Trek is better than Star Wars. Whatever. To create an interesting blog post, you have to think about what kind of people will be interested in what you are blogging about. And don’t say ‘everyone.’ No one attracts an audience of everyone, and to think what you write appeals to everyone might make it harder to the readers you have a real chance of catching.
Your blog headline must raise curiosity in your readers, and your blog post must fulfill those readers. If you write a blog post on the ten best ways to create story conflict, you have to give those ten best ways. All ten. For free. Because that’s what blogs do.
When you write a post, think about this: why are you qualified to write about that topic? If you have been writing and reading how-to-write books for years, you have a good background for writing posts about writing. If you just decided on becoming a writer a few days ago when this year’s NaNoWriMo began, you probably don’t have knowledge to share yet. Though you can share your experiences as a newbie writer.
Your blog headline must be well thought out. There are loads of things on the internet that will tell you how to write better headlines. But you can also tell by your own reading habits. What headlines have made you click on  a link in social media and read a whole article or blog post? And you must also think— is this potential headline an accurate one, considering the content of the post as a whole?
These days a blog post must have a picture. It doesn’t even matter that much what the picture represents, so long as it doesn’t contain nudity or anything gory. When in doubt, I’ve used random pictures of one of my cats. It’s better than no picture at all.
I’ve seen some blogs— recipe blogs, often— that are filled with video ads, pop-up ads, and pictures and videos to the point that I, with my second-hand computer, can’t even stay on the page long enough to read the post. Maybe these bloggers are somehow making money from all the people who get onto their page and then immediately jump off. But I tend not to go back to blogs that threaten to crash my computer with loads of visual stuff. I’m a reading-oriented person— I can actually read a blog post, I don’t need a video. And no one needs multiple pop-up ads.
The popularity of your blog posts will depend on whether you can write well enough that you are not a pain to read. This means you need to possess the kind of skills that used to be taught in the schools— like correct spelling and English grammar. You also need to have a readable writing-voice. Mostly that means being yourself and avoiding bogging your work down with big words to show off how many big words you know. Read the work of some popular bloggers in your niche. They usually have a friendly, easy style, and they also may be able to organize their subject material in some logical fashion.
What about controversy? Sometimes the way to get online attention is to mention controversial issues. And I do that myself sometimes, so I don’t discourage that. But I believe that if you want your blog to be popular, you’ve got to be relatively civil in disputes. Others may get attention by calling Jane Fonda a traitor. Or, more commonly, calling her a f—king traitor b-tch. But a lot of folks out there don’t believe that kind of harshness is appropriate, especially against a woman. Better to say that Jane Fonda has been not that loyal to the United States. No name-calling needed.
The next step after writing and posting your blog post is to link to it on social media. Now, when people are on Twitter they are not constantly stopping to follow links and read blog posts or articles. But I have noticed that when I share on Twitter my blog posts get more reads and my blog gets more traffic. Since I am on WordPress . com, I can set my blog to post to Twitter automatically. I can also tweak the Twitter post by adding hashtags and such before I click ‘publish.’ But since Twitter is like an ever-flowing river, people that follow me on Twitter may not be on when the Twitter post goes up. So I use Buffer to plan some Tweets of my blog posts over the hours of the day. I have heard it is recommended to Tweet your blog post a couple of times on the day you publish, and then a few times over the next several days. Buffer makes doing that easier. I also Tweet some older blog posts from time to time.
Facebook, on the other hand, is not so friendly to the automated Tweets from WordPress or from Buffer. And Facebook has made Facebook pages— like a Facebook author page or a page for your blog— almost unusable if you lack money for constant Facebook ads. I do post on my Facebook sometimes— but it doesn’t seem to make any difference in my blog stats. I also use newer social media like Gab and MeWe, but I don’t have enough followers in either place yet to make much of a difference.
Here is the REAL secret for getting more blog readers— post good posts. More than once. And feel quite free to post more than once in a day if you have more than one thing to say. Just make sure it might be of interest to your reader base, not just another buy-my-books advertisement disguised as a blog post. You can MENTION your books, but please, don’t try to make your blog readers choke down a post that’s just an ad. Remember, your readers want to read what THEY are interested in. They need to get to know you and your blog, and even when they do, it’s better to be more subtle, less hard-sell, when you mention your books.
For most of us, building up a blog readership and/or an author brand will take time and work. We can’t create a viral blog post at will. In fact, in my experience, the most popular blog posts are never the ones I predicted would interest anyone! So keep on blogging. In time it will pay off.
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I often use this space to share some of my social media accounts to get a new follower or two. But with this post, I want to know more about YOUR social media. Please drop a comment on what social media you use to promote your blog posts, and feel free to share a link to your social media account. I will certainly consider following you, and hope other readers do likewise.
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Changes to this blog

I’ve always worried that this blog has been a little unfocused. I’m about to change that. It’s still going to be a somewhat personal blog, sharing what is going on in my writing life.

But with all the writing blogs out there, I want to stand out by focusing this writing blog on three kinds of writers-like-me:

1. Writers who are conservative or conservative-libertarian or ‘superversive’ and who have to deal with SJWs (social justice warriors) trying to stamp out hatred and bigotry by being hateful and bigoted about US.

2. Writers who are Christians (Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Orthodox, LDS, and other Jesus-followers) or Jews— in the traditional understanding of the words ‘Christian’ and ‘Jew’— who write fiction that they hope is pleasing to God. Or fiction that is at least not a mortal sin.

3. Writers who are struggling with problems such as Asperger Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and other problems that can interfere with getting writing done.

I’m going to be changing and updating the sidebar and pages of this blog to reflect the new focus, and I welcome suggestions from readers as to what you want to see more of on this blog.

I’m also busy with another project, which will take some time away from my work on this blog. I will be announcing what that other project is on this blog. At some point.

Blessed Sunday to you all!

How I do my email newsletter

I’ve read all the advice books about promoting books and building your ‘brand’ as an author and they say we all ought to be starting an email list with aWeber or MailChimp to collect email addresses in order to send out newsletters to our ‘true fans.’

And so I signed up for MailChimp and added that incredibly annoying popup to this blog and got a few signups. And then went a long time without sending out a newsletter, until last December.

The good thing was that only one person unsubscribed, and five opened the newsletter, so it wasn’t a total failure. Most people who get email newsletters never open them.

And so, on to this month’s newsletter, which is called Antimatter Insiders or some such. I wrote it up this morning, and scheduled it to be emailed out to whoever is on the list early Monday morning.

According to the books I’ve read, you should not use your newsletter for a lot of ‘buy my book’ advertising. You are supposed to write things that your readers will find of value.

So in this month’s newsletter the main article was on a little secret I discovered about blogging. I also mentioned Jon del Arroz’s new book, and instead of trying to sell one of my poetry books, I showed a way that newsletter readers could read my more expensive book for free. And of course there was a cute kitten picture.

Interested in the newsletter? Go to http://eepurl.com/FN2hr before Sunday is over with and you can get the newsletter for yourself. Remember, there’s a kitten picture!

 

Yeah, this is me. Picture was taken in a photo booth in Heidelberg, Germany, near the Heidelberg Woolworth store. Author photos are not a sign of author vanity— I’m vain enough, but I hate how I look in photos— but a way to connect with your readers as a real person.

‘Unprofessional’ for a writer to use a free blog or website?

Here is where I have to disagree with the ‘experts’, specifically Joanna Penn. She says that using free blogging services— wordpress.com and Blogger in my case, is ‘unprofessional’ and that discerning viewers can tell a free website and, evidently, look down on you for it.

Even people who have plenty of money might choose to not spend more of it on paid blog services and domain names and such. And also, it might be a sign of solidarity with poor, disabled, and other disadvantaged writers and aspiring writers who haven’t made it big yet.

If you are a writer or aspiring writer with Asperger Syndrome [autism spectrum disorder], you have according to some statistics an 80% chance of being unemployed— even though the Asperger Syndrome diagnosis (when they still had it) rules out retardation and extreme low-functioning. It’s hard to get even the most menial job when employers take one look at you and see you as ‘odd’ and ‘shifty’ because you can’t make eye contact correctly!

Writing was one of the recommended careers for Aspies according to one book I read, and the prospect gives a lot of us hope. But being told you have to spend money on just starting a blog….. There are better things to save our limited funds for.

There is also the case of homeless aspiring writers who are bloggers. I’ve read of a case where a homeless girl wrote a popular blog about her homeless life and eventually got a book deal. She wrote her blog, I assume, with a free blogging service, and used the computers in public libraries.

I reject the notion that you need to pay for your blog and for a domain name to be serious about being a ‘professional’ writer. I have seen writers who have tried to save money on a domain name and turned their free blog into something less functional. If your words are good, people won’t notice your blog isn’t a paid one. If your words are not yet good because you are still learning, people won’t notice your blog’s free status either because they will either criticize you (a good thing) or just look down on you.

How New Author Bloggers can get Readers, Part 1

Imagine you just started your author-blog yesterday. You wrote a blog post that is really fine-and-dandy. But it will probably be a while before you start getting discovered by readers. What can you do, right now, to get your posts read?

One thing that has worked for me is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group or IWSG. It is a monthly blog hop for writers which has really blossomed in to something big. It takes place the first Wednesday of every month. Here is where you sign up. http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

It’s a very LONG list of participants. And they weed out the people who forget to participate regularly. Now, just this list of subscribers is gold, because it is a list of active author bloggers.

Best Practices for IWSG Participants

     Your Post

The group is about sharing your insecurities as a writer. DON’T write a post that sounds like a blurb from your book. Write something that shares a little of yourself, and how you are not quite 100% confident about your writing. But— here’s an important hint— don’t sound TOO insecure. You want other people to have some confidence in your writing. So don’t write an ‘everything I write is utter dreck’ post because that encourages people to believe it! Write something about one little thing that is giving you trouble. Or that you worry about. As in my own case: I’m working on a zombie apocalypse story, and I finally have a good name for my Hero: Eirik, a Viking form of Erik. But in this case his birth name was Frederick. It’s great, and Frederick has resonance with me because I had a grandfather Frederick. And my other grandfather had the middle name of Friedrich, German for Frederick. But then I realized— the name Eric is close to Rick, the hero of the zombie TV show The Walking Dead. What is my subconscious mind trying to do to me?

Visiting blogs

The number one thing that the IWSG does for you is gets you to visit other people’s blogs. And the one thing you have to do is to write comments on blogs. Any blogs. All blogs. Except porn/erotic-romance writer’s blogs, of course. (Their writing world is not our world.)

Comments can and should be short, but they should show that you have actually read the blog post in question. ‘Nice post’ does not cut it. ‘Nice post about your cat’s flea infestation’ does.

There are four kinds of blogs on the IWSG that it pays to comment on:

  • The ones at the very bottom, who have just signed up and who may not be used to getting comments on their blog
  • The ones at the very top, who are regular participants and who get lots of comments on their IWSG posts (make yours memorable.)
  • The ones in the middle, who don’t get the attention that the bottom and top do
  • Your regulars. These are the people who, after a few months of participation, you think are good matches for you and your blog. Perhaps they are writing in your genre, or they share your worldview, or maybe they are just funny or have great content or share cute pictures of their cat. Make a list of these blogs you like and be sure to visit them each time.

Being visited

Remember to visit back on the blogs of your commenters. I’m really insecure about doing that because visiting back feels too much like social interaction and as a person with Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder) that’s difficult and scary.

Mark the Date

It’s easy to forget about the date of the IWSG, which is the first Wednesday of the month, so mark it on your calendar and put a note on the wall of your writing room. It’s a very worthwhile effort for those with new or rarely visited blogs.

 

When platform building just doesn’t work

I know the advice for writers is to build a platform, build an audience. But the problem is that as soon as a learn how to do something that builds my platform, something changes and my strategy no longer works.

For a while I thought that blogging was dead and I should post everything on Facebook or other social media. But then they made changes to Facebook and all the strategies failed.

This makes me feel like a failure in general. Like nobody is interested in what I have to say. Which is probably true because I’m weird. But really, it is just that all the social media change their rules to make more money, and we lose all our effective platform building strategies with each change.

And so I fall back on my blog. It’s always been at the core of my platform building. I started blogging when blogging was new. And it is still a good place to express my ideas and get them out to people who might like it. Or like to bully me because of it.

The one thing I think of is that I need to figure out how to attract the right sort of people to my blog. It does no good to ME to have people read all or part of a blog post if they hate Christians/Catholics and only read books by atheists. Or people who don’t really read books at all, when there are so many movies and video games to entertain them.

And another aspect of ‘platform building’ – I need to do more to promote the books of my author friends. I don’t know whether to do more review posts dedicated to one book, or maybe a ‘book roundup’ that introduces 5 or so books. Because I don’t really like blogs that are just book review after book review.

 

Are Facebook Author Pages now Worthless and Not Worth Doing?

Once upon a time, Facebook pages were good. I had one on a controversial topic that got a lot of attention and followers, and I had a Facebook author page that got a bit of attention because I followed other author-pages as my page, and got some interaction by looking at my author-page’s feed and interacting.

Then Facebook decided to monetize their pages. If you weren’t willing to turn every post into a Facebook ad, they showed your post to fewer and fewer of the people who had liked the page in the first place. My Facebook author page became more like talking to myself.

Another bad change: there was no longer a news feed specific to my author page, consisting of posts from pages I had liked as my page. This was my main strategy to grow all my Facebook pages! I’d like a bunch of pages related to my page— in the case of the author page, other author pages— and look at the feed, share stuff, hope some of my posts would get shared in return.

OK, I know that some internet bullies were starting Facebook pages to do their bullying with, making it harder to deal with them since if their page was disciplined for abuse, they would usually not lose their account— that fate seems to be reserved for Christian and/or conservative page owners who don’t bully but do express ideas  that Facebook doesn’t care for.

I have searched and searched for tricks to make my Facebook author page’s posts more visible, but I have concluded it is more work than it is worth at this point.

What are alternatives? I have my personal Facebook account, but I use that for contact with family and one of my Facebook ‘friends’ interfered with a discussion I was having with my sister-in-law about her actually notifying me about when the family Thanksgiving dinner was taking place and if I was invited instead of putting it as a message I wouldn’t see. ‘Friend’ accused my of having a ‘pity party’ whatever that means. I guess I’m not allowed to like being excluded from things because family members take my Asperger Syndrome ways as signs I don’t want to be included.

I’ve thought of started a new Facebook account to take the place of my page. I don’t know if that would be a good idea. My family might not respond if the new page is for family, and I have a lot of friends on my current account.

Then there is the idea of using my Twitter account to replace my Facebook author page. I syndicate my page posts to Twitter and use Buffer to promote the posts as well, and it works. But I don’t like the amount of hate and bullying there is on Twitter. Plus, I know people who have had their accounts suspended for expressing conservative or Christian thoughts, or for being retweeted by the President.

Since I want to build up this blog to help sales of my current and future books, I’m looking for new and better strategies, now that Facebook has ruined the Facebook author pages for the sake of more money.