What’s Your Blog Identity?
A WordServe client wrote me:
I’m always trying to figure out what magic widget I need to put on my blog and my website to encourage people to be followers. It would be a HUGE BENEFIT to clients if you could get some techie to give a clear easy answer to this: best practices for increasing blog followers.
I think this writer perfectly captured something we all think about blogging: Shouldn’t this be easier???
Hard truth: There is no magic widget! Building blog traffic is a lot of work.
But since you asked, here are my four “easy answers” for increasing blog followers:
1. Educate yourself continually.
I follow these blogs:
Daily Blog Tips
You can also read Mike Hyatt’s frequent advice on social networking. I especially like this post: Why I Stopped Reading Your Blog.
2. Give your blog a recognizable identity.
People need a reason to come back to your blog repeatedly. They have to know what they’re going to get—you’ve got to create an expectation in readers’ minds, make them subscribe and want to come back because they know they’re going to get something specific from you. There needs to be a unifying theme to your posts. You don’t really need a tagline or even a “topic,” you need an identity.
You should create a blog identity that allows you the most possible freedom in your post topics while still being within your identity; you should also choose a focus that you are VERY prolific in. What kinds of topics can you write about the easiest? What topics just flow out of you, no problem? That’s where you want to focus your blog.
3. Write interesting content.
You’ve created a blog identity, but now you have to write great posts. Coming up with fresh, unique material on a regular basis can be challenging—that’s why I recommend you choose a blog identity that will be easiest for you to write. Remember that every day offers numerous ideas for blog posts—things that happen in your family, at work, in the news—everything is an opportunity for you to respond, reflect, share wisdom or simply connect with readers. I find it helpful to keep a Word doc in which I write down every single post idea that comes to me. I also keep a running list in my mobile phone to capture those ideas I have on the fly. That way when I sit down to write the blog, I’m never caught with a completely blank page—I have dozens of ideas just waiting to be written.
4. Make it easy for readers to come back.
On my blog sidebar, I have a category that says “Subscribe to this Blog” and gives one-click choices for subscribe via email, RSS, Yahoo, or AOL. Below that is the widget for Google Reader. This is how the majority of readers access my blog.
You’ll also want to learn to use Twitter and Facebook effectively to drive people to your blog—yet avoid being perceived as a marketer. (I like this post: 10 Reasons I Stopped Following You on Twitter.)
Bottom line: If you dedicate several hours to reading online about building blog traffic, you’ll be able to create a workable strategy for yourself. Don’t try to do everything. Just pick what seems feasible for you, then set out to do it for 6-12 months and measure the results. For example:
1. Clarify your blogging identity.
2. Create a blogging schedule and stick to it.
3. Add subscription widgets to your sidebar.
4. Tweet/FB each post in addition to your other Twitter/FB updates.
5. Visit other blogs and leave comments.
6. Stop worrying and just do it. Your main focus each week should be on writing your books.
Have you created an identity for your blog?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
I have created a similar blog post not so long time ago. What It is interesting for me is that some of the points you wrote about were still valid back in 2011.
[…] What’s Your Blog Identity? by Rachelle Gardner […]
magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers’ base already!
Right now it seems like Movable Type is the preferred blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?
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I definitely agree that blogs need a good tagline. At least, as a new site visitor, it should be painfully obvious upon landing what the website is about.
1. Decide what your blog is about.
2. Decide why reading/subscribing to your blog matters to people.
Find a snazzy way to sum that up in as few words as possible and you’ve got yourself a killer headline!
Thank you! I’ve been looking for blogging advice from someone other than product marketers for a long time. This is specific and helpful.
It’s possible that you could create an identity that wouldn’t work very well with your target market. Think about your audience and try to anticipate how they would respond to a particular identity.
I would love to stick to a set time to blog but I find I have to have a really good reason to do it – e.g. to be inspired to write something worthwhile. Sometimes I start off on a topic but it ends up something far better. Love it when that magic happens!
Creating a blog identity is a big part of my plan for the year. I have enjoyed the cyber conversations more than I imagined possible.
Writer’s block is another factor to consider when your blog is suffering an identity crisis. If you are struggling to stay on topic or to even find topics to write about, while it is inviting to stray and find maybe something that is popular or will get a post up, resist the temptation to stray.
I’ve always wanted to start a blog, and some months ago, I did it. I enjoy writing it, even though I know, that there are about 3 people reading it. I am too shy to ‘advertise’ for my own blog, nor do I want to seem ‘important’ if I advertise. I don’t know, that whole trying to get followers-thing feels just uncomfortable to me, even though I’d love to have more people reading my blog… Blogging is a lot harder than one can think.
>Thank you so much for this excellent post. I struggle with my blog, and you've given me a lot to think about and implement.
>Creating a blog identity is a big part of my plan for the year. I have enjoyed the cyber conversations more than I imagined possible. I guess the BIG question for me is what can I say that is uniquely me on a continual basis.
I need to find my voice:)
>Thanks again for a great post. I'm floundering a bit with my blog and your key points will help me get back on track.
>I actually try to think more about the persona of the reader I am trying to write for, than about what my own blog persona is. I have a pretty well-developed voice as a blogger (been at it since 2003, which is practically Pre-Cambrian in internet years), but what I always need reminding of it what my ideal reader might want to read. When I try to write for her, I do pretty well. 🙂
>Sorry. Rachelle, I mean! 🙂
>Rachel, excellent advice as usual. I would love to stick to a set time to blog but I find I have to have a really good reason to do it – e.g. to be inspired to write something worthwhile. Sometimes I start off on a topic but it ends up something far better. Love it when that magic happens!
Just posted on my blog about the Brisbane floods (my home town) and our beautiful monster of a river. I really intended writing about writing, but this devastating flood has been consuming us all mentally, physically and emotionally this over the past 10 days. http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/after-the-flood-brisbane-january-2011/
>I have watched my blog grow by leaps and bounds over the two years since I began. When I started out, I took a hard look at why I continued to go back again and again to my favorite blogs and aside from the typical reasons (relatable writing, a little eye candy), I was sucked in by blogs who posted very frequently.
I always post 5 times a week, occasionally more. I enjoy blogging and the actual writing is not terribly time-consuming. Now that my blog is gaining popularity, it is becoming very time consuming to manage the traffic. And, I'm also beginning to pursue "real" writing, so my blog competes for the time I need to dedicate to that.
It's also interesting to see those who make the point that writers are potentially putting themselves out of business by blogging. I've often wondered the same thing.
I could go on and on! But I won't.
Thanks for this post, especially the part about focusing on the book. I needed that.
>I'm convinced. I can no longer deny the importance of blogging, as much as my spontaneous self hates the idea of regimented writing. The most difficult first step will be doing exactly what this blog is about: coming up with an identity broad enough to incorporate my many interests and passions. Anyone have a creative exercise to accomplish that?
>Perfect timing on your post! I'm creating a new blog for my writing and your hints are most helpful. I have visited many of the blogs from your followers and they are amazing. Coming up with a unique identity isn’t easy, but then again, the same can be said for writing. Thanks to you and your readers for the tips!
>Super ideas from Rachelle and everyone. I struggle(d) with a blog identity. I don't want to be pigeon-holed into someone who writes only about "brokenness," because I also write about the Bible (including brief, frightening jaunts into Greek and Hebrew), use humor in my weekly newspaper column, write prolifically in my professional life for a local hospital, and I am sketching out a couple novels. So, after toying with a few different headers, I decided to go with, "Amy: Writer," to capture it all, and use tabs to allow readers to find out more about me. I am a writer, plain and simple, and because I enjoy life, I enjoy writing about many things. Besides the fact that since no one pays me to write my blog, it's my very own place to be me . . . which includes throwing in a totally random subject if I want to.
Because occasionally, I. Am. Random.
Here's the thing: writers who follow hard after their craft are so furiously trying to measure up and follow rules, I feel like an individual's blog should reflect their craft, yes, but also allow them the freedom to express themselves in occasional fun and random ways. If that means throwing in a silly post about my new quesadilla maker which makes a publishing president forever "flush" my blog, then I guess that person loses out on a good quesadilla recipe.
Blogs are good. Blogs are necessary. But blogs should also be a multi-faceted reflection of the depth of an author's personality.
What's the saying: all writing and no play makes an author a dull girl?
Perhaps it can be a balance. (Not that I've found it.)
And anyway, I really just want to write books. (#6)
(((oh dear. I think I just heard a giant flushing noise.)))
>Thank you for sharing this! I have been struggling with my "identity" for awhile. I'm trying to get on track and your tips and articles will be very helpful.
>Good advice! I keep polishing as I go and I think I'm catching on.
>Thanks for sharing Mike Hyatt's helpful post, Rachelle.
My blog is about books, reading, writing and…tortoises! I tend to be on the shy side and blogging helps me come out of my shell, so to speak. 🙂 I enjoy doing it and I hope my readers/followers get some takeaway, whether it's ideas or thoughts about the writing process or great book recommendations.
>Great input for a new blogger like myself! I have bookmarked the links you provided and will be taking your advice!!
>My blogging identity tracks my journey as a fairly new writer. Other than getting halfway through a novel and quitting a few years ago, this is my first time completeing a novel and sending out queries for it.
I realize agents want us aspiring writers to have a platform, but sifting through so many blogs and writing a consistent one myself can end up taking hours away from actually writing good fiction. So I try to only hit a few big-baller writing blogs – like Rachelle's.
As for why should anyone read my newbie blog??? I have no idea. I barely know what I'm doing. Maybe they can relate with where I am at in the process. Or they obviously have a ton of time on their hands. Either way, I'm not totally comfotable writing a blog, but that doesn't stop me from babbling like I'm Kelly Ripa after a double-mocha.
>Wow, another great blog Rachelle! And Mike Hyatt's site is awesome, down to earth advice, in your face 🙂
The goal with my blog is to leave the reader with a thoughts trigger and to keep my writing SHORT!
>My blog is the A Clever Whatever. It's whatever fascinates me at the moment.
Some of it's funny, some if it's about writing. Currently I'm doing book cover design on it.
Do I expect everyone to love my blog? Heck no.
But it has flavor. And it has cool cover pictures.
It's the best I can do. I tried more serious blogs and just aren't for me.
>These are great, but what draws me back to blogs is the voice. Are the genuine, funny, kind, self-depricating? I have to like them. Or they better give me some good info that I need.
>As always, great advice! Your blog is a great resource.
>My blog's main focus is on sharing tips on writing that I've found helpful, and occasionally I also review Christian books. I love doing research and condensing what I learn into easy-to-understand morsels of information, so I thought it would be easier for me to refer back to my own posts than continually sort through the hundreds of bookmarks I have on writing topics. Apparently other people are using it as a resource, too, as my readership now averages well over 100 hits per day–even though I don't blog regularly. Better yet, I've met some wonderful people through blogging.
>Thanks, Rachelle and Tim for addressing this issue of blogging overload. I know Donald Maass thinks blogging "scratches that itch to write" and advises writers not to spend time on personal blogs. I tend to agree: I often spend (waste?) hours just reading and responding to blogs. Some blogs are amusing until you read that one post that you don't agree with–then what happens? Too much time and risk for me. But Rachelle, yours is like a cup of coffee for me so please don't give it up.
My Q is: If so many wanna-bes & published writers are blogging, then why should we bother buying and reading REAL books, especially their books? We're all developing a bad case of ADD, myself included. I think bloggers need to ask themselves: What's the point? Who cares and why? (Just like for any book or novel)
>Hi Rachelle- This is SUCH a helpful post… I feel like I've been floundering with my blog for so long and this really gives me some resources and ideas to get back on track. Thank you!
>"Identity." That sparked a lightbulb over my head and gives me a different way to think about my personal blog. But I agree with an earlier comment that the best tip was the last one — to focus on writing my book. That's definitely the priority. Thanks!
>this entry reinforces much of what i have read online. i have several blogs and readers that are amazing. i am not above asking them what they enjoy about my blog, or even what annoys them. this is all very subjective of course, but telling. it keeps me fresh and reminds me of the direction i intend to go.
>Good Morning Rachelle and All,
I chose to blog on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday and now wonder if that's a mistake. It seems most people blog on M-W-F. So is this a mistake? Does it matter what day you blog on? And when using a pen name does that help or hurt when you are trying to prepare for publication of first book coming out in May?
I feel like I'm a split personality and trying to figure out where I fit in. I guess that's what we're all struggling with when it comes to blogging. Where do we fit in, whether awaiting publication or published?
And it is really important to focus on writing the books first!
>My blog identity has always been me trying to have fun with it. I aimed to make people smile with my blogs and write about the crazy journey of a working Christian mother of three trying to pursue her dream of writing on top of all the craziness in her life.
I didn't do TOO bad with that… I think I averaged 500 to 700 hits a month. (Yes, I know, this isn't good… but this built steadily from about 50 a month so I was pleased!)
A sad thing happened though… my little Annabelle was born in July with a severe heart defect, so my blog morphed into the way I updated everyone about her condition, then morphed into sharing not only about her condition, but how I was dealing with it and what God was teaching me through it all.
I now average over 500 hits a day.
I gotta tell you though… to have my Annabelle better, I'd go back to 500 a month in a second.
But now I AM thankful for it, as I have networked with so many other heart mom's out there through my blog, and have had so many people tell me that my journey with Annabelle has encouraged them in their journey with God, and I can see how God is using a really really bad time in our lives for His glory, and we give HIM glory for THAT!
>Great tips, Rachelle! A writer friend of mine struggled with all of this at the beginning, but eventually created an awesome identify for herself, really got the hang of it, now has readers and even enjoys it. Her blog: http://peggyfrezon.blogspot.com/
It can be done, even for folks who are uncomfortable with blogging at the beginning!
>Great advice! Blogging consistently is hard work. I've created a blog identity called the Menopausal Entrepreneur. I write about the struggles of being an entrepreneur and an author while going through the change of life. Change, most of us can identify with that! I pitched this identity as a book idea to an agent and she made a face and said "too much of a niche!" I disagree. I have a great following! But it's not easy to maintain a blog when there are other writing projects sitting on the desk.
>Great advice! I'm definitely going to keep your tips in mind for my own blog, and thanks for the links too!
My blog identity comes out in my screenname: Neurotic Workaholic, which is exactly what I am. I just make fun of my self for being so neurotic and obsessive, and I try to write about my work (teaching) in a humorous way so that people will be entertained.
>Love the links to outside resources to learn about blogging. Thanks, Rachelle! 🙂
>I alternate between writing tips, pop culture related rants, and recipes/food advice on my blog. I've found that my readership is increasing since I began "giving away" useful bits of information to a couple of different audiences. For example, the vast majority of my Facebook friends are interested in my recipes and rants, but have little to no interest in my writing advice.
>This post couldn't have come at a better time. I used to have two blogs and got rid of one of them yesterday in order to focus on building my identity where I wanted it to grow. Hopefully, it will work.
>I'm afraid my blog is a bit unfocused, though perhaps getting better the longer I do it. I try to make it about the areas of my life that interest me, except leaving politics out of it (I have a friend's blog to post on when I can't resist the urge to write on politics).
At present it's mostly about my writing life. I've been debating myself on whether to give up seeking traditional publishing for the self-publishing route. I also talk about my works-in-progress, about writing ideas that stay with me and seem promising. On occasion I may write about my engineering life, or about family matters (such as trips).
But more and more it's about my writing life.
>Anon 2:23 am: Your point about "content" losing it's value because of the availability of free material is a good one, and I'll be addressing it on the blog soon. Still, I don't think it's a reason to avoid blogging.
As for your second point about me not getting any clients from my blog, that's a fundamental misunderstanding of my "stats" post. I didn't get any clients from queries alone – that was my point. I've probably gotten more clients as a result of the blog than from queries, even though that's not the primary reason I blog.
>I realize this is an aside to the original topic, but I think the question Anonymous 2:23 AM asked is worth discussing. My view is that there are some topics that work well as blog posts and there are some that work well in books. There is very little overlap between the two. When I wrote Church Website Design: A step by step approach, my intent was that a reader could follow the process from start to finish and by the end of the book have a functioning, maintainable church website. I could have put some of that information on a blog and some of that information is freely available on blogs, but that would not solve the problem of information overload. The reason I took the approach I did with that book is that there is too much information available online if you lack the experience required to filter it for what you actually need. I wanted to provide a single path through the information. After having gone through that path, the reader could go back later and examine the thousands of options available to do the same thing I demonstrated. If I had put that information on a blog, many of the readers would have found the information in the middle of the process and all of the readers would have been tempted to pick and choose from what I had to say and what other bloggers had to say, defeating the whole concept of putting the blinders on the reader until after the website is operational.
>Very helpful post, Rachelle, and very timely for me. I just did some brand shifting on my blog this year because I felt like I wasn't representing the fun nature that fills my books. I'm all about consistency, so sticking to a regular schedule really helps me too.
Haven't heard of those blog tip sites. Off to bookmark them now…
>Yep, I know my blog identity. I poke brains. I love to get people thinking and doing this comes naturally to me because it’s always pretty crowded up there.
The coolest thing to witness since I started almost two years ago is how people are responding. Conversation is active on my blog and that’s beyond exciting for me. It’s a taste of what I want to accomplish with my books.
Thanks for the websites to check out!
>I have created an identity, but it's not getting me the readers I hoped it would. I have a new idea and am getting it started this week. I know I have to make the "jump" into Facebook, and also have to somehow reconfigure the "guts" of my blog so I can put up pictures, but my current set up won't allow me to do that. I spent a week reading BLOGGING FOR DUMMIES, but still feel like the dummie! Many questions to ask and no answers so far. Thank you, Rachelle, for a great post with lots of info.
>I think the bottom line with a blog is the same as with a book, you’ve got to get in the way. I write absolutely brilliant blog posts 259 days a year that receive no attention. But that 260th post that to me seemed like just another post is the one that gets a lot of hits because it is about something that people are searching for online. Agent blogs naturally fall into this category because there are so many writers who have their hopes built around getting an agent, but authors don’t have that same natural draw. If they do, they probably aren’t concerned about the blog because their book is selling so well.
I also think great post titles help. When scanning through my google reader or clicking on links on twitter, I'm always a sucker for an interesting title.
Consistency has been a challenge for me lately because I'm on a deadline. A few of my online writing buddies have agreed to step in and write guests posts. This has turned out to be a win-win.
>Your blog is the highlight of my day.
>Thanks for the wonderful advice on blogging.
I am going through a dry spell where I cannot imagine anything I might blog about would be interesting to others.
I admire those of you who never run dry.
>Thanks Rachelle and commenters, I am in the process of setting up my blog so this is a great post.
Does anyone have an opinion on Blogger vs WordPress?
>I think your last line sums it up for me. " Stop worrying and just do it. Your main focus each week should be on writing your books."
My mantra for writing blog posts lately has been, "Make it interesting. Write well." I'm not saying I always succeed, but that's what I hope to do. I also think blogging is about building relationships, and it helps to ask yourself what kind of relationships you're trying to build.
>Blogging is not an easy task. It does take dedication and a good understanding of social networking. Great post. I would encourage anyone to read and learn as much as possible on this subject.
>Thanks for the interesting post, Rachelle – lots to think about. I'm sure the reason I've started to build up a small following on my ros_readingandwriting blog is because it's about reading and writing. I do regular posts with writing information or markets to help other writers, so it's never just about me.
My newer Regency blog is to start build a separate identity for when my novel comes out in May.
My daughter was wondering how to increase readers on hers and I mentioned leaving comments on other people's blogs.
>One thing I've learned: blog-readers need LOTS of takeaway. Waxing poetic about your belly button lint only goes so far.
Link to other great blogs. Share a recipe. No matter what you post, remember the reader wants to leave with something.
>I suspect my identity is a little vague, but my purpose for blogging has evolved since I started. My posts are "mental meanderings on life and writing"… mostly writing now. My focus isn't on increasing followers; it's more on enjoying interaction with people I've met in the online writing community, so I'm surprised to see my stats showing steady growth. I think all of your points are necessary for a successful blog, but I especially like your #6:"Stop worrying and just do it. Your main focus each week should be on writing your books." Our books are really the whole point of the effort, aren't they?
>I just write about anything that interests me. No rhyme or reason, well. . . sometimes a lot of rhymes but not a lot of reason(s).
I guess I'm a rebel even in cyberspace. But then I don't have gobs of followers either 😉 so maybe that helps prove your point(s)
>Q: If everyone is either writing or reading blogs for free, then who's going to want to buy, much less read, traditionally-published BOOKS? All this blogging takes up too much time and energy, IMHO.
I mean, Rachelle's blog is great, but she (you) didn't get ONE client from a year of posts…I'm not complaining, just wondering why?
>I've seen a lot of great advice on this topic lately. Two blogs I would recommend are Kristen Lamb's blog and Marian Schembari's blog. They're both aimed at social networking for writers.
Sarah if you're using Blogger (and probably other blog hosts too) you can schedule posts to appear on your blog at a set time. So you don't actually need to be blogging or even awake when they appear on your blog.
>On my own blog my focus is on writing. I try to be myself, keep my posts brief and always end with a question to illicit comments. I also increase the font and italicize the call to action, in the 'unlikely' event people want to skim my post and get down to business.
What attracts me most to other blogs is content and voice. I gravitate towards blogs that focus on writing, and I appreciate some entertainment while I'm there. Humor never hurts.
>I find mid-afternoon during the week is the easiest time for me to blog (after lesson plans and before teaching), but it appears no one is ever online then. Now I have to decide whether to live with that fact or try and wake up for early morning posting.
This might be one instance in which laziness wins out over practicality.
My identity? Smarty-pants dancer/writer person. Guess I might work on refining that identity in months to come. 😉
>I'd add to Rachelle's comment about sticking to a schedule — frequency is also key. Readers have so much content to sort through, it's easy for your blog to slip through the cracks if you don't stay on top of it.
>I'm in the process for creating an identity for a new blog!
The challenge was getting past all the other blogs out there already and determining what topic was "me" that was also worthwhile for others. Blogging can't just be "me" centered–it has to be beneficial to other people too–or else, why bother? I could just journal my thoughts in a nice notebook!
Thanks for the excellent guidance.
>You can always post comments on blogs that get a lot of traffic, too. But make sure your comments are relevant to the topic at hand and would make people want to know more about you, so they might click through to your own blog.
Great post, Rachelle.
>I hope that when readers come to my blog they expect to see something that came from my heart. Sometimes I write a life skill post, sometimes it's something funny and every once and a while it's about what I've learned about the writing/publishing process. I always hope someone will benefit from my posts…and if not from my posts, but from my follow up emails…
I treat my blog a lot like I treated my classroom…I'm emotionally invested.