Sometimes, having a blog can feel like being out there all alone wondering, “WTF do I do now?” Joel Friedlander and Joan Stewart have a new package out that’s designed to help drive traffic to your blog: Blog Post Templates for Authors.
Now, I actually don’t have a problem getting traffic to my blog, but I’d like to get more organic traffic that doesn’t rely on: t-shirts I designed for NY Times Bestselling authors, publishers suing bloggers, or famous authors molesting their children.
I’m going to review the product later in this post, but first I’m going to review the webinar. Even if this isn’t a product that’s for you, I think you may still find value in my webinar notes or the webinar replay. (TODO: when that link is live, I’ll edit this post to include it)
The product itself has blog post templates for 17 post types, of which the webinar featured seven.
Blog Post Templates for Authors Webinar Review
tl;dr: If you’re an author who wants to start a blog or improve your blogging, but doesn’t really know what to do, this webinar will give you some workable ideas without spending any money.
First, let’s be honest: free webinar is code for: “I want to sell you something.” That said, the best webinars offer actionable, useful tips, and this webinar does that.
Early on, Joel says, “The kind of blog posts you write affects the traffic you get.”
Yes, yes it does. I get the most interesting inbound searches from people looking to write letters to their sister-in-law, for example. I’m one of the top-ranked in Google for that search.
When talking about why one should blog, Joan says, “Let them fall in love with you.” I concur. Even blogs of subjects I’ve otherwise had no interest in can be compelling reading.
Joan Tells A Horrifying Story
One of the tips was not to blog at (someblog).wordpress.com or (someblog).blogspot.com—I agree, but not solely for the reasons mentioned.
Joan kept a bunch of publicity tips in a blog. I can’t remember if it was a WordPress or Blogspot blog, but someone apparently deleted the blog, and she lost six years worth of work. Fortunately, her IT guy had been keeping weekly backups, so she was able to move the blog to her own domain.
One of the problems of using a WordPress.com or Blogspot URL isn’t the risk of having your blog deleted. You risk that simply by having a blog out on the internet.
You could, as I have had happen, have your ISP have a catfight with another company and suddenly wind up with their servers on the metaphorical floor, never to be seen again. My blog was offline for about a month in 2013 for that reason…. I remember spending part of my limited vacation days in the Maldives fixing that. That should—not be one of the things I remember when I think about the Maldives, let’s put it that way.
So backup should always be a part of your plan, and you should not rely on a single point of failure. Ever.
My Limited Love for WordPress.com (and Others)
So here’s the problem I have with using free services (like Weebly and Blogspot) and not using your own domain with those services.
The Authority You Build
Does Not Belong To You.
When and if you buy your own domain name, that authority is not transportable. Those links other people made to your (someblog).wordpress.com still point there and not to where your blog moves to.
Search engine ranking wise, you start over again from zero.
Look, right now, if you build a free site on Weebly (which, frankly, has some excellent templates), and you use your own domain, you can pack up and leave, and move your domain to a self-hosted WordPress blog.
All your Google juice comes with you.
(Well, with some caveats and gotchas—which is a planned blog topic for later.)
I feel this was a very important and oft-overlooked point, but I’m done with that, so let’s get back to the webinar notes….
Seven Blog Post Templates Discussed in the Webinar
- This Week in the Blogs
- Short Book Review & Excerpt
- Articles on [Topic] for [Type of Audience]
- Pros and Cons of A and B
- When to Use A, and When to Use B
- Fun Facts
- How X Sparks My Creativity
Now, I’ve used some variant of 1, 2, 3 and 6, but I really haven’t done 4, 5, or 7. And maybe I should.
I stopped doing 1 because the way I was doing it for The Weekest Link was just exhausting. Maybe I’d be able to do it more if I scaled it back. A lot.
I’ve done a bit of #2, and that’s led to my placing on the first page of Google for the search term new adult romance books. Because that seems to be a winning strategy for me (and I have read a lot of NA romance), I may make that a regular feature. Note that I don’t review books per se. Rather, I feature books that I enjoy. different thing. Like Joan says in the webinar, I don’t think it’s fair to use my platform to trash a book I don’t like.
That said, I’ve only very rarely blogged about sf/f books, and that means I don’t have much authority built up in what I consider my primary genre. Oops.
I’ve done quite a few articles, though some of those are pages rather than posts. My E-Book Royalty Calcumatic Notes are several times more popular than the calcumatic they’re meant to support. It’s on my todo list to give this page a fluff and fold.
Long story short, the bullet points they gave of things to do for each of the seven types of blog post—even if you don’t buy the product—will give you some actionable types of blog posts to write.
Best of all?
With platforms like WordPress, you can schedule posts for the future. This means you can write two or three reviews at once, and maybe publish one every other week. So if you have a rough week and don’t otherwise blog at all, you still have that scheduled post.
Personally, I usually write my posts at night and schedule them for morning (for more page views; this strategy change alone doubled my page views). Right now, I have one post scheduled and 63 (!) in draft mode, including a book feature I’m horrifically overdue on.
The Importance of Photos
The webinar also discusses the importance of photos for engagement, and Joan briefly discusses Canva, a free web-based graphic creation tool.
While she doesn’t really feature this in the webinar, one thing Canva makes easily is facebook timeline headers and Twitter timeline headers, both of which can otherwise be a PITA. If you aren’t a Photoshop person, this would be an excellent way to make those if you aren’t going to use a graphic designer.
…and Calls to Action
One of the things I fail to do is to invite people to take action. Joel’s really good at this on his blog, and they give some ideas. I’m going to be using this more for sure.
I think the webinar’s useful to several audiences:
- Authors who aren’t currently bloggers, but who want to be;
- Authors who may be experienced bloggers, but who want more traffic (I’d consider myself in this category);
- Authors who really would buy the product if they could afford to, but the price is out of reach for them at this time.
(TODO: will edit and add webinar replay link here, too. When it’s available.)
Product Review: Blog Post Templates for Authors
Confession time: the other day, I bought a domain. I had some idea of what to put on the domain, but I had no idea how to get traffic to the domain.
During the webinar, I realized that the exact blog post types they talked about were useful even though it’s not an author blog. Part of the reason I have such sketchy notes from the webinar is that I was having a brain explosion of how I wanted to use this product for my new pet project. My plan is to use at least one of the 17 blog post templates each week for the next six months.
That said, some of the blog post types are more applicable to fiction, and some are more applicable to non-fiction—and some don’t apply at all to the blog type I’m doing. Looking through the blog post templates, I figure I can use 11 of the types, so my goal is to use each one at least twice in the next six months (26 weeks, so that accounts for 22 posts).
The Blog Post Template Files
Each template is a separate Word document. These don’t use advanced features of Word, so they will open in anything that can open a .doc file, including Pages on a Mac. I haven’t tried the Linux alternatives, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t work.
Each of the blog post templates include:
- An introductory page (meant for your reference only) designed to get you thinking about how to use that template effectively.
- Why readers will find this template effective.
- Suggestions about photos.
- Ideas for headlines.
- Sample text.
And, while the blog post templates are designed for WordPress, because they’re rich text, they should work with other blogging platforms such as Blogspot and Weebly.
You don’t have to use any of these, of course, but they are all effective copy designed to help you.
Additionally, the product includes a Samples folder featuring a blog post for each template showing how the template was used.
There’s also a short PDF guide that explains the template format.
Bonus: 101 Ways to Find Content for Your Author Blog
You’ve got some posts done, but you can’t figure out what to write about. This is a laundry list of ideas to help bring you new subject matter.
Bonus: 103 Powerful Calls to Action
One of the things I need to step up is the call to action, so this PDF of 103 useful calls to action is a great reference.
Bonus: My Top 10 Free Stock Photo Sites
One of the tips Joan mentioned in the webinar that’s not in the PDF is that some of the big stock photo agencies have free photos periodically that you get by being on their mailing list. This photo, of St. Peter Cathedral, was a recent editorial-only offering in a Depositphotos weekly email.
It is, by the way, absolutely okay to use editorial-only images in your blog posts so long as that post isn’t an ad. Typically, editorial-only images are lacking one or more of the following: property releases, model releases, or trademark releases. Or, in other cases, the photographer’s sold exclusive non-editorial use already.
Bonus: Canva for Authors video
Joan shares a short video creating a graphic for a blog post using Canva. If you don’t already have a photo creating/editing tool you love, this will be useful to you.
The video is in MP4 format; I don’t know the encoding offhand. Codecs says: H.264, AAC, so it’s definitely playable in QuickTime for both Mac/iOS and Windows, but I’m not sure about Linux.
Bonus: Google Analytics Peek video
I have to admit, I’m not super-knowledgeable about Google Analytics, which is one of the things I’m learning to correct.
This isn’t a great first introduction to Google Analytics, but if you know some basics and want to learn a couple of tricks, it’s a great video.
One thing I found interesting: 74% of his traffic over the last 30 days came from Google searches, while only 2% came from Twitter.
In contrast, here’s my same traffic sources:
It makes sense that I’d have a lot of hits from Twitter because it really is my primary social media platform. Additionally, if you look at how I got some of the other sources, those mostly boil down to Twitter contacts, too.
If the Blog Post Templates Offer Sounds Interesting To You
Normally, it will be $97, but it’s on an introductory offer through Monday, March 2 for $67.
Questions? Comments? I’d love to help.