I’ve not been posting much at all on this blog, but it hasn’t been forgotten.
I did have to focus upon completing my novel, Distorted Perceptions, and other key projects. However, the main reason why I’m not posting much this year is the extent to which I’m struggling with health issues, and extreme life circumstances.
The direction of the blog may well shift over time, but the intention is that it will continue for as long as I myself am able to.
I’ve self-published some short writing craft books: Links below. All Ebook versions are free.
I had problems with my Instagram app, but it seems to be resolved – touch wood. But I have been finding it difficult to keep up with posting on social media in general – and yes, I’ve also been blogging considerably less.
Hopefully, I’ll find more time and energy for both blogging and social media, in the future. There’s only so much I can do, however – especially with ongoing health issues.
Paula Writes is still very much alive, but posts will probably not be as frequent as they used to be.
Most bloggers, on occasions, struggle to find inspiration and ideas for posts.
It definitely helps to keep some sort of list, of potential future ideas. Most of us are guilty of trying to hold various thoughts and ideas in our memories, but this isn’t always reliable, so it’s advisable to have a back-up, of some sort.
Of course, lists are all very well, but we do need to generate the ideas, to begin with.
Some do occur to us naturally, but we can’t depend upon this, if we hope to produce regular content.
It’s also very hit or miss, in terms of how great the resulting ideas will be. They will tend to be somewhat random, which may work out well – but not necessarily.
Creative inspiration can be wonderful, but sometimes leads us to write posts that don’t actually serve our target audiences. Posts, in fact, that very few people may end up reading and appreciating – which is hardly an ideal situation.
So, if we can’t rely upon pure inspiration, how should we come up with post ideas instead?
Here are a few suggestions.
Google, Bing, and other search engines.
During the process of keyword research, I tend to naturally find many ideas for possible future posts.
If you’re not doing keyword research, or don’t have a clue what I’m even talking about, read my post on the basics of blog SEO. It contains important information, that you definitely need, as a blogger.
I haven’t yet figured out how to most effectively use Reddit to generate serious traffic, although I’m aware that this is possible, and many content creators are using the platform with amazing results.
But Reddit is great, for other reasons. It’s basically a huge forum, divided into infinite smaller forums, or Subreddits, as they are known.
Find Subreddits relating to your niche, and browse through the questions that are being asked. Some of these will provide you with instant blog post ideas – and ones that you already know are likely to be of interest.
Pinterest group boards are another excellent place to discover potential blog topics.
If you actively use Pinterest, you’re probably already on at least some group boards. If not, I would suggest that you join some, as they can significantly increase traffic to your blog.
It’s best to join niche specific boards – and, the very fact that these boards relate to your particular niche, means that they are highly likely to give you ideas, when you notice what other group members are Pinning.
It isn’t necessarily ideal, in every instance, to directly copy a blog post idea. Often, putting your own twist on the original idea will prove beneficial.
Pinterest, more generally, can help, but group boards in particular.
You Tube is another excellent source of blog post ideas.
For Author Bloggers, such as myself, there’s a vibrant AuthorTube community. But, whatever you blog about, there’s probably some sort of You Tube equivalent.
Of course, other blogs can also inspire you, and social media sites, such as Instagram and Twitter.
And also Facebook – most particularly, if you join groups, relating to your areas of interest.
Facebook groups can be effective in a very similar way to Reddit, given that both are communities, in which questions are regularly asked and answered.
Of course, there are many more ways in which to generate blog post ideas.
Real life sources, such as talking to others, and reading books and magazines, should not be overlooked.
And, as for the internet – well, it’s a vast resource. The possibilities are endless.
Mindmaps, it’s worth noting, can be extremely useful, both to come up with, and organise, ideas and thoughts.
Hopefully you will find a few ways that work for you, and help you to find awesome ideas for future blog posts. At that point, the hardest part will be deciding where to start, and which posts to write first.
Not entirely sure what people mean by the term “personal brand” – or wondering whether you even need one at all?
Well, here’s the thing. You already have one. We all do.
Your personal brand is the way that you present yourself, and the associations that others have, when they hear your name. Reputation – image – call it whatever you like – but you definitely have a personal brand.
The only question, then, is whether or not you actively and consciously take control. Taking control, as in, taking steps to ensure that your brand – your projected public image – is something you’re happy with.
Some people struggle with the concept of personal branding, because they view it in a negative light – or simply don’t feel that it’s appropriate to refer to people as “brands”.
I mean, we aren’t jars of Marmite, or cans of Heinz Baked Beans, right? But personal branding isn’t about that. It’s not about labelling ourselves, and what we do, in a limiting way.
And there definitely doesn’t need to be anything cynical about this.
A central aspect of personal branding has to do with our core values and beliefs, and those can be incredibly positive, and powerful.
Personal branding isn’t simply about defining who we are, as individuals. It’s about the people out there – those we’re hoping to reach, and connect with.
Ultimately, for writers, that’s going to be readers – and I don’t refer primarily to casual readers, although they’re also valuable, but more so to those who will return. Buy any books that we publish – read our blog posts, on a regular basis – support us, in any way they can.
We can call them fans, although it’s probably more helpful to think it in terms of building a community.
Some authors will actually have a customer avatar – one ideal reader.
This is a fictional person, not unlike the characters in our stories, except that this particular invented person reflects our ideal reader – someone with whom our work is likely to resonate.
It can be easier, and more effective, to “speak to” Charlotte, aged twenty-three, from London, England, than to – well, anyone who happens to be listening.
And, no, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your message won’t reach – and appeal to – Ellie, aged seventeen, or Jason, aged fifty. But Charlotte – or someone very similar to Charlotte – will be much more likely to respond positively to online content, created with her in mind.
Another important aspect of personal branding is consistency.
Of course, when it comes to blogging, and posting on social media, it’s important to be consistent, in the sense of posting regularly.
But consistency also applies to profile images, types of content shared – and beyond that, the colours and fonts used in our graphics. It can take time and experimentation to find the right style, to reflect what we offer.
And, with regard to colour – learning, and keeping in mind, the principles of colour psychology, can be beneficial.
Personally, I’m definitely experimenting with the colours I use, at the moment. In terms of fonts, I use Lucida Calligraphy, Lucida Bright, and occasionally, Lucida Handwriting, on the majority of my online graphics.
Individual projects may need particular, individualised attention – such as, specific branding for each novel or book series.
A novel can have its own identity, and yet, should still be identifiable as part of our brand, as a whole.
The subject of author brands is vast, and I’ve only touched upon it here. I’m still very much in the early stages of figuring this out for myself, but would encourage you to learn as much as you can about personal branding in general. This should help you to gain a deeper understanding of the various aspects, and you can then apply what you’ve learnt to building your author brand online. Oh, and offline too, of course.
Others don’t plan at all. In truth, I’ve approached it both ways.
For the most part, I would plan out a writing craft post, or anything more involved.
I tend to use mind maps, and sometimes lists, to help sort out what would otherwise be a chaotic and overwhelming mass of information, in my poor, overloaded brain.
Planning often helps to break up the task of creating a new post, into manageable portions. It makes the process easier.
And yet, I need to contradict myself, on that point. Sometimes it doesn’t make it easier. Sometimes the thought of having to plan a blog post in advance can actually make the task feel daunting.
Sometimes I simply need to write, if I’m going to at all. Which, yes – is what I’m doing right now. Making it up as I go along? Yes, precisely. Scary, right? But actually, not so bad.
And I need to forget all the “rules”, and the fact that posts need to be a particular length, for SEO purposes.
Being honest here – 700 to 1000 words is difficult for me, even if that is viewed as pretty much a minimum. I try not to overthink it though, as posts find their own natural length, and each one is different.
Maybe I can even push aside the thought that what I’m writing might not be valuable to my target audience.
My what? I write for anyone who cares enough to read my words. Oh dear, shouldn’t I have some specific demographic in mind? Well, technically, yes. But, if you’re reading and appreciating my blog posts – hey, you’re my target reader.
Is this all just ramble? Perhaps. If it is, so be it.
Random thoughts and feelings have their place.
Even unplanned blog posts have their place.
Hopefully, more writing craft posts to come, in the near future. Need to start planning…
Firstly, SEO – or Site Engine Optimisation – is a vast and complex subject.
I’m simply aiming, through this post, to cover, as the title states, the basics. There are many resources out there, that can help you to better understand SEO, and how it can help you to increase traffic to your blog.
When people talk about search engines, they refer primarily to Google.
This is understandable. I mean, we even talk about “Googling” something, making the brand name into its own verb. (“Hoovering”, anyone?)
However, many people, myself included, still use Bing, on occasions.
And there are other search engines to keep in mind, such as Yahoo.
It’s also worth remembering that, in addition to being social media sites, both You Tube and Pinterest are powerful search engines.
If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, specific to Bing, You Tube or Pinterest, that information is out there. Just Google it – or maybe utilise one of those alternative search engines…!
The starting point with SEO is to write quality content, that meets the needs of your target audience.
If you’re not doing that, then SEO can’t really help you.
When you produce poor content, even if you do gain visitors through search, they aren’t likely to remain on your site for long – meaning that you will have a high bounce rate, and search engines won’t be inclined to show your content to future visitors.
Keywords are vital for SEO, and there’s definitely an art to constructing keyword optimised titles.
The process begins with keyword research and, whilst this can potentially be a long and agonising process, for which multiple tools are used – it doesn’t necessarily need to be.
Many people use Google Keyword Planner, and I have occasionally delved into the free version of BuzzSumo.
However, Google itself provides much of the information that you need. Experiment with typing in potential keywords and phrases, and seeing what results come up.
Notice the suggestions that Google’s autosuggest facility offers – as in, when you type in a word or two, and a space – right before you press enter. Sometimes, these suggestions provide invaluable inspiration.
Equally, the related searches section, near the bottom of the page, can give further ideas.
The process of keyword research definitely helps you to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts – in addition to ensuring that you use the best keywords possible, in those posts you’d already planned to write.
Identify relevant long-tail keywords.
These will tend to be phrases, maybe three to five words each, and very specific and targeted.
For example, I write fiction, but the term “fiction” is incredibly broad. “Historical fiction” narrows it down somewhat, and “modern historical fiction”, still further. Or even, “writing modern historical fiction 1980s”.
The disadvantage of becoming too specific is that there may not be sufficient search volume for a particular phrase. It’s generally advisable to look into both popular and long-tail keywords.
Your keywords, and variations of these, should be included in your headings, and sprinkled throughout your text.
But don’t overdo it. This is known as “keyword stuffing”, and search engines penalise sites that do this.
It isn’t always easy to find the right balance, but what you’re aiming for is a piece of writing that sounds natural. Write with the reader in mind, first and foremost, but with an awareness of search engine requirements. That way, you should be fine.
Optimise your images.
If, like many of us, you have a tendency to name image files poorly, when saving them initially, you will need to alter this. I have often had to do this myself, within WordPress.
The title needs to explain what the image is, even if there is text in the image itself – because search engines can’t “see” your pictures, or read the text within them. Separate individual words with hyphens, in your image titles.
Including variations of your main keyword phrase in the Alt Text can also help with SEO.
Links are important.
There are internal and external links, and both can help with SEO.
Internal linking is linking within your own site. This is great, as it helps visitors to navigate the site – and encourages them to stay on there for longer. In my own posts, including this one, you can see examples of hyperlinks, leading to other pages within this blog.
I do also occasionally include outbound links, to relevant external sites.
It’s worth noting that anchor text – the text in your hyperlinks – is taken into consideration by search engines. If your keywords appear in anchor text, this tends to be positive. Avoid linking a phrase such as “See this post”, because that doesn’t tell search engines anything.
Backlinks from other sites to your own can be invaluable, and people place varying amounts of emphasis, on the importance of gaining backlinks. Links from high authority sites, and/or those relevant to your niche, are definitely the ones that will benefit you most, both in general, and for SEO purposes.
People tend to think of social media and SEO as distinct from one another.
However, links from social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, can be powerful, from an SEO perspective. After all, Twitter and Facebook are clearly high authority sites.
When it comes to Google Plus and Pinterest, the potential SEO benefits are a major advantage of posting on these particular platforms. November 2018 update: With regard to Google Plus, please see my post, written last month, in which I discuss the planned closure of this – in my view, generally underrated – social media platform.
I also touch upon the subject of Tumblr SEO, in my recent post about Tumblr for writers, so that’s another site to consider.
In practical terms, I would suggest posting your own links regularly, on as many social media platforms as can manage. Also, encourage others to share your content, by including facilities to do so, on your blog.
And one more quick point, before I close: Consider the loading speed of your site.
Fast loading sites tend to rank better in search engines. Obviously, from a user perspective, a site that is slow to load is going to cause frustration.
SEO is so important, and learning SEO is an ongoing process. I’m very much a beginner myself, but hopefully, this information will be of use to some of you. Keep in mind that this was written in June 2018, and SEO is constantly evolving.
I’ve been focusing more than usual upon Tumblr of late, so thought that I would build upon the information given in my Social Media for Writers post.
But, before we get into Tumblr for writers…
Thank you for the positive feedback and interest, that my recent post about Google Plus received. I am fully invested in this network right now, becoming more active, and improving the quality of my content. I have created more Collections, and am adding to some of my key Collections, as and when, instead of just letting them sit there.
Tumblr: Is it a social media site, or a blogging platform?
Honestly, the answer is both. Tumblr is Tumblr, pretty much. Part of getting it, lies in using it. But it does fall somewhere between being a social media platform, and a blog hosting site. Understanding this is important, because it affects how Tumblr works, and how we should approach using the site, if we would like to make it part of our author platform.
Hashtags are effective on Tumblr, for increasing your reach.
As I mentioned in my Social Media for Writers post, I personally use 2 to 4 hashtags per post. The general ones that I recommend for writers are: #writing, #amwriting, #prose, #poetry, and #lit.
I use queues.
It’s kind of scheduling, except that you don’t have to specifically choose the times for each individual post to be sent. Tumblr takes care of this.
You need to set the systems in place, and let Tumblr know how many posts per day you would like to share, and between which hours. Tumblr will then space them out, and distribute them, within your specified time frame.
When you want to queue a new post, simply use the “drop down” menu, on the button that you would click on to post in real time, and select “Queue”, instead of “Post”.
If you can manage to do so, having between 10 and 30 posts sent daily will help your Tumblr following to grow. Simply decrease the frequency, during periods when you’re unable to maintain this level of activity.
Reblogs – which is what shares are known as on Tumblr – can be included in your queues.
The maximum number of posts that can be held in a queue, at any one time, is 300.
So, content: what to post on Tumblr.
Poetry, and inspirational and writing quotes, tend to be popular, and I focus primarily on these, personally. Links are less so. Don’t expect much traffic to your blog, from links shared on Tumblr. Some of this comes back to the fact that many people are actually using Tumblr as a blogging platform, in its own right. In that way, it might come across as equivalent to going on to a WordPress blog, and telling people to check out your site on Wix or Blogger instead. That said, you occasionally can encourage Tumblr followers to visit external links, and I currently do post links to this blog, on my Tumblr page.
This is a new area to me, and I certainly intend to learn more. A major advantage to the fact that many people are using Tumblr for blogging purposes, is that they then become interested in SEO. In truth, SEO for Tumblr blogs is never likely to compare with SEO for sites on WordPress, or even Blogger. However, there are always strategies for improving SEO rankings, and this applies to Tumblr. Google “Tumblr SEO”, and you’ll find some excellent resources, to build upon what I’ve merely mentioned, in this post.
I hope that this advice will be useful, if you’re hoping to use Tumblr, as part of your author platform. It’s a fun site, and very visual. If you enjoy Tumblr, it’s a great place to connect with other writers.
If you’ve benefited from this post, or/and know others who could, please consider sharing it, on any of your own social media platforms. I deeply appreciate your support, and sharing my posts, in this way, really helps me out.