Book blogging is hugely popular. Seems like everyone has a book and an opinion to share. All that competition may make it seem difficult to keep blog traffic flowing to your particular blog, but there are ways you can ensure you are getting the most out of your efforts.
Below are some tips I have discovered over the years that help get you noticed and to increase your blog traffic. You may already know about most of them, but it never hurts to review. There are twelve tips, one for each month of the new year. Hope they help, particularly if you made New Year’s resolution to spruce up your blog!
(Photograph by Darren Lewis at PublicDomainPicture.net)
1. Keep your blogging address consistent, if possible
Have you ever clicked a link for a blog and it wasn’t there? Did you try to find it? What about if there’s a link to a new blog site, did you click through? Depends on the circumstances, but probably not. Nothing kills traffic faster than bouncing around the Internet like a ball.
If you are setting up a blog for the first time, the lure of free blogging platforms may be impossible to resist. Keep in mind, though, that free platforms may change their policies in the future or may not provide all the services you need. If you have to change platforms or decide to buy a domain, you will probably lose traffic during the move. You may also lose comments and/or content, depending on the circumstances. Consider getting the domain right up front and finding a reliable server. Having your own consistent domain is an easy way to hold onto your current traffic and keep on building. Added benefit: you can have a website or two as well as a blog.
Do you know that savvy Internet users actually buy what is called “aged” domains? They look for domains that have been used in the past, no matter what the topic, and are now up for sale. The idea is that the domains will create a certain amount of traffic because of their prior use, decreasing the time it takes to start up. Consider looking for an “aged” domain, if you can find an appropriate one, all the better.
If you have to move, be sure to do everything possible to notify your community (see below).
2. Turn on smart, SEO-friendly URL’s
What does that mean? Left to its own devices, software will create URL’s that are seemingly random series of letters and numbers. Smart URL’s, SEO-friendly-URL’s etc. are add-on programs that transform those addresses into words that humans and search engines can understand. Depending on the software you are using, it usually only takes a minute to activate. Turning them on can both save you hassles in the future (because you can actually tell one link from another by reading it), and increase traffic because the search engine can use those words to send searchers to your site.
Note: Usually smart URL’s are created from the title of the post, so choose your titles carefully.
3. Implement a plugin that counts traffic, such as WordPress.com Stats.
Although this may seem obvious, you need to see your traffic counts to be able to increase it effectively. Each way of monitoring traffic will be slightly different, so be sure to understand exactly what is being counted.
4. Organize your blog better than your closet.
Take a look at the physical layout of your blog. Try to view it from the eyes of someone who just arrived and is looking for a particular bit of information. How easy is it to find the search box? Do you have a search box? What about categories and recent posts? I’ve noticed that Blogger platform blogs often make it difficult to find “home” or the most recent posts if you arrive at an older post via a link or search engine. Go to an older post. Can you navigate to the front of your blog with ease or do you have to spend time scrolling around looking for recent posts?
If you are frustrated when you want to find a certain post in your own blog, it is time to organize. Creating tags and categories that help others find information quickly and easily is a real art, but it can be definitely worth the effort. Often the categories you created when you first set up your blog no longer fit (kind of like those clothes in the back of the closet) because blogs change with time. Search engines use these words to send visitors to your site as well, so it is important they accurately reflect your content.
Consider using static pages to give summaries and overviews, too. Take a look at blogs you admire and be aware of what it is about the physical layout that works (and what doesn’t) and then shamelessly adopt.
It is currently free, quick, and easy to sign up for social media. Once you have set up your Twitter account, search for terms like “book,” “kidlit” or “writing” to find tweets about topics you find interesting. Select to follow a few people at first to get a feel for the substance and style of tweets. Note: Twitter can get overwhelming if you follow too many active people at first. If you haven’t tried it before, ease in slowly.
Your Facebook experience will really be what you choose to make of it. Do you want to include all your friends and colleagues, or only a few relatives? You decide.
Once you have the accounts set up, there are ways to have your blog posts and tweets sent automatically to Facebook. Right now you need to prove that you are the owner of a blog through Networked Blogs, and once you have done that you can have the feeds sent automatically to your pages. Whenever you post on your blog, a summary/teaser appears on Facebook. Been meaning to do this, but haven’t taken the time? Don’t be shy to promote your blog at first. It may surprise you who is interested in a particular topic. After you’ve introduced it as wildly as possible, you can target your promotion in a more focused way.
6. Participate in book carnivals and memes.
Once you have your best face on, go out and meet your community by participating in carnivals and memes. See some for children’s book bloggers in the Resources for Youth Librarians page.
A blogging carnival is like a magazine, where people submit relevant posts to one site to be gathered into a single post. A meme is a looser gathering of posts gathered on the same topic, usually weekly. Most of the time a link is provided, with limited information about the post’s content.
Even if you don’t participate, carnivals and memes can be a great way to find other bloggers working in the same area.
7. Leave comments on other blogs.
Be sure to take time to read and leave comments on the blogs of other participants. It can be a fun way to meet new people and some will become regular correspondents.
8. Set up Google Alerts
Google alerts are easy to set up and can be used in two ways. First, set up alerts for your blog name. This helps you find links to and reports of your blog in yet another way. Once you find them, be sure to read a few posts, and if appropriate, leave a few comments.
Secondly, set up keyword searches for your main topics, which is a fantastic way to keep on top of what is happening in cyberspace.
9. Try new things.
Consistent content is important, but it is so easy to get stuck in rut, posting on a certain schedule about certain topics. Why not try out something new? Invite over a guest blogger. Post a photo essay. Write a poem and publish it for the world to see. See if you spark interest. If so, it may carry you in a whole new direction.
Publishing a particularly polished and well-researched post on an interesting topic may also attract traffic, even if it isn’t the main thrust of your blog.
10. Add visual interest to your posts and create traffic at the same time.
Have you ever done an image search to find a book review? If not, it can be a useful way to find the right book fast.
When you add the cover of the book you are reviewing to a post, make sure to give the file the same name as the book. That way search engines looking for the book can pick up your post.
You may be surprised that an image may attract people to a certain post. For example, a post about spider books near Halloween may attract more visitors if you include a visual of a large, scary-looking spider. For a long time the most popular post on this blog contained an image of Cheerios cereal. Go figure!
Adding an image to your post also makes it easy for readers to pin it to Pinterest.
11. Keep ahead of current events
Did you know that the searches for the keyword “trees” goes way up in December and again in April for Arbor day? Keep your radar tuned for upcoming events and holidays and plan accordingly. Chose books to review or create relevant book lists that anticipate those events.
12. Allow time for traffic to build.
Sometimes the search for traffic is just a matter of allowing time for people to find you. Visitors are more likely to return if they come to visit you site because they enjoy your content and voice. Allow at least six months for a new blog to attract attention, and in the meanwhile be sure to work on producing consistent and useful content.
So, there it is, all the wisdom I’ve gleaned about book blogging over the past four years.
Do you have any suggestions for book bloggers? How about any questions? Now is a great time to practice leaving comments 🙂