Blogging can be tedious, especially for writers. We typically have our regular 9-to-5 job, nail-biting deadlines — whether they’re self-imposed or mandated by an agent or editor, they’re very real and very pressing — social media marketing efforts, newsletters, general marketing plans, guest posts, interviews… I think you catch my drift. The point is, it’s hard to carve out time to manage an author blog. But I’m here to tell you why you should.
Why creating an author blog is important
Even if you land a publishing deal with one of the bigger houses, you’ll still be expected to do some marketing on your own. And one of the best ways to stand out from other authors in your genre? A clean, easy-to-access, digestible blog. A good blog can:
- Provide a humanized experience to your author brand. It’s important that you’re followers get a sense of who you are—not just what you sell.
- Tons of SEO goodness. A properly formatted and active blog shows Google you’re serious. And you want Google to take you seriously so you climb higher up the search engine rankings. (Because unless you’re J.K. Rowling, it’s very likely not everyone knows who you are, so when they search “fantasy romance author”, you’ll want to show up.)
- Thought leadership, thought leadership, THOUGHT LEADERSHIP. Did I say that enough? No? Thought leadership. There. It’s kind of important. If you can establish yourself as a credible source to your audience, then they’re that much more likely to share you with their friends, and their friends, and their friends… You get it.
Okay, okay — you’re convinced. A blog is a necessity. Now comes the hard part: what the heck are you going to include on it. Don’t fret, I’ve got some ideas to help smooth out the process of managing your author blog.
5 tips for a solid author blog
From thought leadership to SEO goodness, an author blog is a must. Here are a few things to consider when building out your online presence.
Pick a platform.
Come up with a list of topic ideas.
Write ahead of time.
Link to other credible sources.
Ready to get started? Then, keep reading.
1. Pick a platform
There are a bunch of different platforms you can use to create a blog. In most cases, you don’t even need technical experience. WordPress tends to be one of the more popular platforms, and it’s fairly easy to manage (it’s what my site is built on).
For the most amount of control, I highly recommend building on something — like WordPress — that you own. Purchase a hosting plan and set up a blogging platform so you own the goods.
Why? Because I’ve heard horror stories of people blogging on free platforms… only to lose their stuff because the site in question makes a change, or perhaps no longer supports long-form content. The point is, if you’re in control, you get to make your own decisions.
2. Come up with a list of topic ideas
The easiest way to do this is to create an editorial calendar and establish a cadence. It doesn’t have to be fancy — I’ve created a few of them for different sites, all using Google Sheets. Include things like:
- Article title
- Due date
- Publish date
You could get more robust (I certainly have) and include things like mediums (i.e., blog post, newsletter, podcast, etc.), where it’s going to live (i.e., “Mary’s blog” if you’re getting heavy into cross promotion), keywords, etc.
And speaking of keywords…
They’re really, really important. Remember that SEO goodness I referenced earlier? A lot of it has to do with how well your blog is targeting your audience — and that has a lot to do with whether or not you’re using the right keywords. Google has a free keyword research tool that I highly recommend you use to do some research when coming up with topics.
Can you tell what keyword I selected for this post? Hint: it’s in the title, in the first paragraph, in at least one heading, and naturally incorporated throughout the article. As it should be. (Keep reading and I’ll tell you what it is.)
A quick tip: Pick a keyword that is in the 1k to 10k range. If you pick something with a search volume of, say, 1 million, you won’t rank. Or rather, it’s HIGHLY UNLIKELY you’ll rank. If my keyword is “shoes”, I’m never going to outperform Zappos or Amazon.
3. Write ahead of time
Isn’t this every author’s dream? To finish your words WAY ahead of schedule and turn a perfectly polished piece of art? If we could all be so lucky. But in this case, you should write whenever you can and create a backlog of articles you can publish regularly.
Posting twice a week is heralded as one of the best types of consistency in regular blog posts. But between the aforementioned 9-to-5, deadlines, projects, etc., that might not be feasible. Pick a cadence that works for you and stick to it.
You don’t have to be a robot, turning out articles just for the sake of articles. Don’t burn yourself out by pushing too hard, only to give up on it and lose the goodness all together.
4. Use images
Images are great. They break up big blocks of copy. They make an article easier to digest. And who doesn’t love a good picture? Now, you don’t have to bankroll your blog with your own personal collection. Stock photos are fine, but there are a few things you want to keep in mind:
- Only use reputable sites. You absolutely cannot just copy an image from Google and call it a day. Images may be subject to copyright, and dealing with a cease and desist is a hassle that is easily avoided. Instead, look into sites like Unsplash or Pixabay.
- Include citations as needed. If you’re going to use stock photos, you might need to include a citation. Check to see if they’re required when you download the image.
- Resize your images. Sometimes, when you download a full-size pic, the resolution and pixel size is out of control. You can still get a high-quality photo out of an image with, say, a width of 640 or 720 pixels. (This might be different for your feature image, as it will resize depending on your site design.) Resolution should be 72.
- Rename your images. “Image2012953170.jpg” is NOT a good file name. All file names should include the keyword you specified for the article. It helps with said SEO goodness. If you have the ability to access your meta data, make sure your image alt tag also incorporates the keyword.
Clear as mud? If you take anything away from images, just make sure you don’t steal them from Google, make ‘em small (for faster site-load times), and rename them. Easy peasy.
5. Link to other credible sources
But wait, Maxym, I want to be the thought leader! You told me I should! Why would I send people away from my author blog?!
Deep breath. Providing relevant, credible links is actually a good thing for a number of reasons:
- It shows that, when you don’t know it all, you’re willing to point your readers in the right direction. And that inspires trust. Which makes you still relevant and a prominent thought leader.
- It looks fantastic for SEO. No one likes a monologuer — Google included. If you can demonstrate that you’ve done your due diligence by finding relevant sources for readers to continue their education, then you’re gold.
- Backlinks, yo. If you start linking to other people and crawl up the rankings, then people will start linking to your author blog. And getting linked by another relevant site? You guessed it — fantastic for SEO.
If you can, try to link to at least one other page on your site that makes sense. In this case, I might point you to my previous post on creating a website, as it’s a bigger component to blogging.
A strong author blog starts with you
Cheesy, I know. But it really comes down to how much effort you’re willing to put into it. Since a lot of marketing has fallen to the author these days, though, I highly recommend at least a semi-frequent author blog. That way, you have a platform to host book release blogs, guests posts, interviews — and as such, be featured on other’s author blogs in return.
And for the coup de grâce, this article’s keyword is… author blog!