Streamlining Your Blog: Lessons Learned During the Blog Hop

Dvorah-Lansky-authorby D’vorah Lansky

During our community wide Blog Hop we had 78 authors submit their posts. This was a celebration to share what each author learned during our Book Marketing Challenge, and how they would be applying these strategies to their books. By writing the articles the authors were able to see, in writing, how much they had learned and retained and by reading the posts by other authors, everyone was able to absorb even more. During the Hop, we “hopped” from site to site, reading posts, sharing comments, asking questions, and joining in the conversation. Hundreds of comments were posted and some great connections were made.

virtual-cafeWith my professional background as a WordPress blog designer and developer, and as an educator who teaches authors how to streamline their blogs of maximum effectiveness, I must say that I was both alarmed and delighted by what I saw, on the 75+ blogs I visited.

  • I was delighted by the quality of the articles and the interaction between readers and blog owners
  • I was alarmed by how many blogs were missing out on opportunities because of a few simple things that were NOT included on these blogs

As part of our ongoing “Virtual Cafe Blog Series” I’d like to share my findings, what (in my humble opinion) works, and what can be tweaked and improved, and  invite you to join in the conversation.

Tips to Streamline Your Blog for Maximum Reader Engagement

1. Have a warm inviting environment and an Attractive Blog Header Image: When readers visit your blog, you want them to feel drawn in and eager to explore your site. The first way to create interest is to have a colorful graphic banner, at the top of your site.

2. Make sure your photograph and book cover image are visible. To create a connection with your audience, display your head shot photograph and your book cover image on your home page. These can appear in your header graphic or you can have it as part of the first article at the top of the page. The main thing is, you don’t want the reader to have to scroll to find your photo or info about your book, you want all essential aspects to appear “above the fold” on your site.

Blogging

3. A Few Navigational Tips: Here are important items that you can easily adjust, to make a visit to your site more enjoyable for your readers and more effective for you. Many of these were covered during the first few days of the Book Marketing Challenge.

  • When hyperlinking an image, text, or URL, make sure that you check the box for the hyperlink to “display in a new window.” What this does is opens the hyperlink in a new tab while leaving the page open to your site. If you don’t check this box what happens is, when someone clicks on a hyperlink they click away from your site.
  • When adding images to your site, there is an option to “link” the image to a URL of your choosing (then going back to set it to open in a new page.) A second option is to set the URL to the URL of the image (media) itself, and a third option is to set the URL to “none.” Unless your intention is for visitors to click on your image and land on a page you want them to go to, the best option for images is the “none” option. Otherwise, when someone clicks on an image on your site, the default is for them to be taken off of the page they are on, and onto a page that JUST has the image on it.
  • When you compose your blog posts you have the opportunity to list your post under a specific category. This helps with search engine optimization and makes it easy for your readers to find content. What I found during the blog hop was that many blog owners do not use categories, which means that their posts show up in a category called “uncategorized.” What that tells the viewer is that you are a new blogger, that you don’t care, or that you are not detail oriented.
  • When you leave comments on blog posts, you have the opportunity to add your branding and create a connection with other site visitors. You do this by adding a “Gravatar” so your photo shows up on other peoples’ blogs. To set up your gravatar, go to www.Gravatar.com. Make sure to list the email address that you’ll be using when you register your blog comments, on blogs across the internet. When you do this, your photograph will automatically appear when you post comments.

4. Publish key pages to your site so visitors can easily access your content. By including key pages on your site you make it easy for your readers to find out more about you, your book, and your work. You also provide them with a way to contact you, access your media page, and read endorsements and testimonials from your readers.

Rather than describe in detail what an effective author blog can and should look like, I’d like to share a living example, by one of our very own authors Jan Moore. In her Blog Hop article, Jan Moore provides an inspiring recap of her Book Marketing Challenge experience, and her blog is a perfect example of how to create an effective and welcoming environment for visitors. www.WorkOnYourOwnTerms.com

jan-blog

Time to Take Action and Time to Join in the Conversation

As part of our “Virtual Cafe Blog Series” you are invited to scroll down and share your thoughts, questions, ideas, and observations. From there, head over to your site and apply these strategies to streamline your blog, and make it more magnetic. Here’s to your success! D’vorah

lookinsideD’vorah Lansky, M.Ed., is the bestselling author of several books including Develop Your Author Platform. She has been marketing online since 1994 and has been working exclusively with authors since 2007. D’vorah teaches online book marketing practices to authors across the globe.

 

Comments

  1. As part of our “Virtual Cafe Blog Series” you are invited to scroll down and share your thoughts, questions, ideas, and observations. I look forward to participating in this conversation.

    • Stopping by to have a coffee and read the article. Great reading and helpful. I realise I have much to do to keep up with all the various social media platforms and networking. I wonder if my gravatar works as I didn’t understand how to ‘link’ it to appear by my comment 🙂

      • GREAT question PaTrisha-Anne. To get your photo to show up – which it does… You need to register the email address you’ll use when you comment on blogs. FOR ANYONE who does not yet have a Gravatar, you can register and link to a photo at: http://www.Gravatar.com

  2. A great summary of what our blog needs to accomplish! Thanks so much for the tips list.

    • Hi Kate, I thought you’d enjoy this as you have been blogging for quite awhile. If you’d like, post a link to your blog here so folks can see another excellent example of a branded book blog.

  3. Okay…now we’re cookin’. Adding what is missing and fixing what is wrong with my blog will be today’s job as my first step in building my author’s platform. You are so right about Jan’s blog – a picture of what a good blog template looks like makes it much easier to jump in and make changes. D’vorah, have I told you recently how blessed I feel to know that you are willing to be mentor and friend and cheerleader? I am grateful beyond words and I know good things will result in walking the same path for this time.

    • Hi Pam, I’m so glad you found this article helpful. Your site is coming along and I can’t wait to see what you are up to. Thanks for your kind words, I’m honored and thrilled to be of support! Please let me know (via email) whether or not you received my replay to your email yesterday. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the reminders D’vorah! It’s always good to revisit and tweak a blog to make it more friendly and welcoming.

    • Thanks Moreen!!! Please post your blog URL as well, as this is another great example of what I’ve outlined above. Moreen, can you go over to http://www.Gravatar.com and register your email address that you use to login to this site? Be sure to link it to an image, then come back here and watch your gravatar image appear.

  5. This was great! I didn’t know about “none” for the URL for images so I corrected that. I also added “categories” to the sidebar. I’ll be a better blogger going forward with these tweaks! Thanks so much!

    • As beautiful as your site is Donna, I’m thrilled that you found useful tips in this article. Feel free to share a link to your blog, as another great example of a branded author blog.

  6. Gina says:

    Great article, D’vorah! This is a good checklist to use to audit one’s site. I’ll be going through my site and double checking that the links open in new windows! One thing to note is that not every theme (the look and layout of your site) allows you to add a header. My current theme doesn’t, but I’ll be changing the theme soon to incorporate my new business logo. Of course, if anyone needs help implementing these tips, please feel free to contact me at Gina@writingandeditingtoday.com.

    • I know Gina, I run into this header issue from time to time as well. There are work-arounds by adding the URL to the header image and editing the specs in the CSS editor. But it can be a bit tricky. Let us know what theme you change to and feel free to share a link to your blog so people can see what you are up to.

  7. Mili says:

    I realised I forgot to post a photo on the side that links to my book’s sale page. I’m not sure my banner would look good on my blog. Will have to test it out…

    Should we add the bit about us at the bottom of each post, even though there is the About Us Page and the blurb on the side? I understand doing that on a guest post, but should we do it on every one of our own posts, too?

    • Great question Mili! When people read an article on your blog, you want to have a way to gently connect with them and tell them a bit about you. A very few number of readers will go from a blog post to the About page – so why not capture the moment.

      I recommend a 100 word signature section that tells a bit about you, your book, what you do, and provides a call to action.

      Example: D’vorah Lanksy, M.Ed. is the author of Book Marketing Made Easy and producer of the Annual Book Marketing Conference Online. She works with authors in helping them to develop their online presence. If you are interested in …. (something related to your work or focus of the article) go to http://www…. to receive a free collection of tips on… (or other giveaway that your audience would adore.)

      Hope this helps! Ohhhh, this might be a great place for everyone reading this to post your 100 word signatures – for practice and as a way to get to know one another.

  8. Sharon Smith says:

    Hi D’vorah. I’m so pleased I stumbled upon this article. I know I need help with my new blog. Will you be announcing articles for the Virtual Cafe Blog Series by email or do we need to check this site?

    • Hi Sharon, so glad you found this helpful! Yes, I will be announcing the virtual cafe blog posts. My goal is to publish an article, video, or interview each Friday. I’ll send out an invite via email. Sharon – did you receive something from Amazon from me? Just sent it out, per your request. Much thanks!

  9. Liesel Teversham says:

    D’vorah, great article and great tips as usual!

    I have 3 websites and struggle a little to maintain all of them. The biggest learning here for me is to add the “none” for the link to the images unless I want a reader to hop over to another article linked to that image.

    My header is also not perfect, on my latest website/blog and I’ll work on that in the coming week. I look forward to more tips and tricks! Thank you for all the learning!

  10. Peggy M McAloon says:

    I have a question about the PR tab. I don’t have one, so I keep tossing all the PR info under the Books tab. I haven’t noticed PR tabs (not that they aren’t there) on blogs. Is this something that is recommended?

    • Peggy, I think that most folks would have this under a “Media” tab. It is really helpful for readers and media experts to have access to this type of content.

      • I am sorry, but you’ve lost me here 🙁 What exactly do you mean by “Media” tab?
        D’vorah, this post is so insightful! I really need to apply all the changes you told us about… Thanks a million!

        • Kateryna, I’m glad you found this article helpful! Media tab…. is the same as a media “page.” It’s where you list your speaking engagements (past, present, and future) – links to your articles and guest blog posts, and any other PR content.

  11. Always something to learn. I’m missing the 100-word signature for my blog posts. I’ve learned to never assume people will click beyond the place they landed, so give them all I have right there.

    • Chris, I’m glad you found this helpful. That 100-word signature can get you a lot of book sales as well as visitors to your site.

  12. Well, I never thought of explaining the image choices. Great catch! I do that automatically, but many of my clients may be unaware. It’s one of those little things that makes a big difference – for SEO as well.

    Thanks a bunch

    Theresa 😎

  13. Thanks for the tips, D’vorah! I immediately went and updated the info on my Gravatar, as I hadn’t done that in more than a year! So thanks for the nudge.

    Thanks, also to you, for nudging me in the way of conducting my own virtual book tour for my chocolate travel book. It’s all set to begin next Monday, June 23rd and will run until June 30th. Very excited, as your tips helped me line up a great array of hosts.

    • You are so welcome Doreen! Can you post a link to your tour page so folks can see a wonderful example and help promote your book.

  14. Thanks for these tips! I have one to add which is a faux pas I did and I think it is the reason I didn’t receive any comments yet! Make sure you set your discussion to accept comments!

    In WordPress, that is done through Settings > Discussion. I also found that I need to go into Quick Edit and click on allow comments. Duh!

    As a favor, I would love to have someone go and comment on my post so that I know it is working now. http://shoot-to-sell.com/why-you-should-blog-its-not-just-about-marketing/

    Also if anyone is on WordPress and encounters problems with this, let me know and I can help you.

    Thanks, Dvorah for having this community!

    • Left a comment on this link. Hope it went through okay. Enjoyed your blog post too!!

  15. I have another SEO tip I see people not use to their full potential. When you name your images you are going to post, use your keywords in naming them. For example if your book is on Latin Dance and those our your keywords, name your image “LatinDance.jpg” rather than “BookImage.jpg”.

    We have found that these also show up in the Google Images search. You get a link back to your site when your image shows up there.

    Here’s an example of how we got found this way – and made a bit of coin. We have a photo on a website for my father-in-laws books that was named RalphWaiteDad.jpg (It was a photo of him with Ralph Waite.) CBS found it through googling “Ralph Waite” and they notified us that they would like to use it for an NCIS episode. They used it and paid us $500!

    • Hi Kim, thanks for this great tip. I never thought of renaming he photos I am using in my blog posts – one never ceases to learn something new!
      Cheers
      Gudrun

  16. Nancy Smith says:

    The blog I had for the blog hop was not created to showcase either my published book or my forthcoming book (which has not yet been named). During the first week of the challenge, I realized that I need to decide on a different web situation because I don’t seem to have much control over the free WordPress option that I’m currently using. I may need to have two different websites but that’s a big commitment — a lot to think about! Without having a full-court marketing effort, I knew that things were missing. For example, I don’t yet have any freebie to use to get names on a list! My headshot & bio are at the bottom of the page, but at least they are on each page. I’ll get there eventually — Oh, and I didn’t categorize my post because it was one of a kind and didn’t fit other things on my blog so I just let it ride. Looks like I need two websites and not sure if I can maintain them — I’m already behind!

  17. Nancy Smith says:

    PS — So I copied the tips onto a page of their own so I can track my progress! Thanks for your help!

  18. I am guilty of having my photo and bio quite a ways down on the page. On my blog for girls, I thought the girls would prefer to read articles by a younger, cool gal and my photo is definitely not!! Well, I AM an older, cool gal though!! LOL..But I will change that soon. I am writing a series now on my author blog about writing life stories and will definitely add a signature on each post so readers will know about me and that I have some credibility in the writing world. Depending on the response to this series, I may decide to try a Tips on Recording Your Life Story book or How to book. D’vorah you are an inspiration to me to keep trying new things. Thanks!

  19. I am in the process of setting up a blog on my personal website. I do have 2 personal blogs on blogspot. The one on my PWS will be specifically for me as an author. Your article couldn’t be more timely! In fact, D’vorah, nearly everything you ever share seems to be TIMELY for my professional life! Thank you. Keep enjoy one of the prettiest states in the country…..signed: I used to be an east coast girl but now I’m a rocky mountain girl stuck in the midwest. 🙂

  20. Thanks for the helpful tips D’vorah! I know I have a lot to learn plus I’m not always the most computer savvy. But I’ll keep plugging away. Also wish I had more time. (sigh…) 🙂

  21. So glad you posted this, D’vorah, and with your usual tact and good humor.

    We also noticed several things as we went through the blog tour–most especially the lack of sharing buttons, as we were sharing each post on GooglePlus.

    It’s not difficult to share without the button, but having one right there to simply click on makes things much simpler–and who doesn’t like simplicity? 🙂

  22. So what do you all consider more important, a website or a blog site?
    Which do you think gets more visitors? What if you have a blog like section on your website, will that take the place of a blog site? It’s hard to take care of both and to keep them updated while trying to juggle writing and promoting!

  23. Wow what great information for improving my blog and marketing strategies. Where is the Author Central Page on Amazon? My book has been up a couple of weeks and my ebook will be there any day now but I have searched and can’t find those words anywhere?

    • Hi Susie, when I clicked on your name to get to your website, it came up with an error message. Maybe you need to check your link?
      Cheers
      Gudrun

  24. I had never thought of adding 100 word signature to my blogs. Here is my first attempt!

    Susie Cochrane, B. Msc is the author of The Wisdom in the Silence Within. Susie works with individuals ready to live a more happy and successful life. If you are interested in taking the next step to creating the life of your dreams please visit http://www.susiecochrane.com to receive your free download of 3 Steeping Stones to Inner Truth.
    And now to add to the bottom of all my posts! Thanks for the great tip D’vorah.

  25. Just got my site all updated yesterday and got some great feedback on the facebook group. I kept adding and adding stuff to it so this gave me a good excuse to do some reorganizing. My official blog links to my website so I am going to go over there and make sure everything is in order as well. Thanks for all your help and keeping me on track as usual!

  26. Wow! It seems as though all I have been doing is trying to work the social media thing and figuring out how to publish in Kindle &Create Space, which has been a nightmare because I have been trying to get a children’s picture book up and running (ironically, Dvorah it is a Dog book which you mentioned in the live seminar). I am not really sure how I am going to come up with regular posts about the life of a dog, as unique as I think she is! I hope that once I get all of the basics set up how I need them to be (web site, Facebook page, etc.) that I can finally do some writing, as it seems that I have not been able to do any writing due to keeping on top of the social marketing that has to be active! Whew!

    • Jayne, writing blog posts about the “life of a dog” is only one topic area. You can write about how you came to write the book, you can share nonfiction tips about raising dogs, feeding dogs, importance of exercise, ways to pamper dogs… AND you can even take your pretty puppy on a tour to sites of other dog owners – who are sure to have stories to tell! What ideas do our other readers have and what ideas does this bring up for you Jayne?

  27. Pamela says:

    There is so much interaction here it’s hard to keep up.
    Anyways, my takeaway from this post is that I need to stop procrastinating and finish updating my website with the banner and a few other changes. I actually have a new banner (https://www.dropbox.com/s/3e53a229l7jl1ai/website_header2.jpg) to replace the one I currently have. I also have corresponding headers for FB, Twitter and Google+. I just need to get it done.
    One thing I’ve been considering is changing the theme since I don’t like it that much. Any suggestions on a good theme would be welcomed.
    Thanks.

  28. Thanks Dvorah for this great information. My website has been my blog/therapy website for the last 10 years. I am going to close my private practice by the end of this year and am going to focus on writing and publishing books, so there is quite a bit of tweaking necessary. Your tips were very helpful – and those in the comments posted here too.

  29. One of the things I didn’t do right away, that I did now was to post a listing of “latest blog posts” in the sidebar of my site. That directs readers to current content without having to scroll through pages and pages of past posts. I also have a search feature on my website, so they can quickly find what they are looking for. Dvorah’s comment about categories was right on the money. Don’t overlook that.

  30. Thanks so much, D’vorah. This article really helped because you gave us such specific details to address. I’m implementing what you taught us so that by later today my blog will conform to your instructions. Thank you again! I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in just these few days. It’s wonderful!

  31. Thank you for the tips D’vorah! Implemented all. I have been thinking of changing my banner for a while but there is so much to accomplish not just here but in other venues of my life that I am moving towards the bottom of my list.

  32. Oops, I scrambled the end of my above post; need to be more careful when typing…

  33. Slightly late with this–just catching up on my reading and see D’vorah asked me to post my book blog. Here it is: http://GoForwardDownsize.com. Comments welcome.

  34. I am finally caught up. Not sure if this is too late, so I will post something on Facebook later. I don’t need to be told that my author blog and website need a lot of work.I have made some changes. However a couple of things, I am reluctant to add an Endorsement Page, as I don’t have anything to put into it yet, the photos i am using are out of date and I am in process of getting new ones; no point in in registering. I have a banner but there is a mistake on it so it has to go back to the designer. Having said all that, I think I have to switch to WordPress, which I can do through my host Netfirms but oh dear more ‘techie’ work. I do not have an Amazon Author Page but have a book and stories on Kindle.

  35. I just wrote a whole long piece about where I am at etc and I just got an error message. I’ll try Facebook later.
    I really enjoyed the article, which I omitted to say in my earlier comment. I do have a, but. Most of the information I find i can apply easily to nonfiction but I am I would like more examples of how to adapt it to fiction.

  36. Marie Iannotti says:

    Hi, D’vorah. I’m late to the party, as usual. I really appreciate all the concise, actionable info you offer. I noticed you don’t date your articles or the comments. Do you recommend leaving date stamps off?

    Also, what do you think of “Start Here” pages?

    • Hi Marie, I do recommend leaving date stamps off as it makes your site more “evergreen.” Also – a “Start Here” page sounds like a brilliant idea! What would you post on your page?

      • I have wondered about that date stamp too. I love that Dvorah’s blog post don’t have it. I’ll have to check to see if it’s an option when I do my next post. Can I go back and remove from older posts?

  37. Dina Colman says:

    Thank you for the insights, D’vorah. My blog is at http://fourquadrantliving.com/blog My photo is on my home page, not my blog page – though my book cover image is on every page on my website. I do always opt for opening a new page when I have a link on my blog so that the viewer doesn’t get taken away from my site.

    I also noticed that about your blogs not having a date stamp as well. I think it’s good advice. My content (healthy living) is evergreen, so I think that would work, too. It also takes off the pressure of how often you are blogging. Thank you for all that you do!

Speak Your Mind

*