Several times per month, I consult with authors looking for an evaluation of their online presence and often that includes their blog content. Sometimes they’re wondering why they don’t have more traffic, or they ask if they should continue the effort at all.
Given the time and energy that’s involved in meaningful blogging, it’s an important question. Here are five things that I often discover when I evaluate authors’ blogging efforts.
1. Blog post headlines are too vague or general.
Writers, being creative and imaginative people, can be tempted to get clever, poetic, or metaphorical with their blog post headlines. Unfortunately, this is exactly the wrong tendency. Post headlines need to be dead literal and specific, for several reasons:
- Google and other search engines don’t understand metaphorical or clever headlines, so vague headlines can hurt the potential for your content in search.
- If you or others share the article on social media, people may only see the headline and little else. Will readers have enough of a reason to click based on the headline alone?
- People reading and discovering content online are typically speeding through lists and articles. They’re unlikely to slow down and pay close attention to your content unless your headline is compelling or your name carries significance.
It may seem boring to be direct and literal with your headline, but I guarantee better headlines will result in more traffic and more engagement. To be sure, I’m not advocating clickbait (a headline that is sensational and doesn’t really deliver), but an accurate headline that “tells and sells.”
2. The blog post includes no images.
Every blog post should have an image included, even if it doesn’t appear to directly relate to the content. Having an image will increase the perceived value with readers as well as engagement. But there’s another reason beyond this to ensure you’ve got an image: social media shares.
Every time your article is linked to on social media, a “card” will automatically be generated that includes the article headline, the key image for that article, and sometimes a 1-2 line summary of the article. If you don’t include an image in your post, your “card” may also be without an image, and it won’t attract as much attention when shared on social media—where visuals rule.
Read Kirsten Oliphant’s post to learn more about creating images for your blog.
3. The overall blog lacks any cornerstone content strategy.
Cornerstone content includes the content that consistently attracts traffic and attention through search or other types of sharing. For example, one of my cornerstone posts is How to Get Your Book Published. I also have a cornerstone post on how to get started blogging.
Your job as a blogger becomes immensely easier when you have a few of these posts consistently bringing in a fresh readership who may be interested in all of your new posts going forward. To develop cornerstone content, think through what problems or challenges your readers have that they might use Google to search for. Or, think about the most popular topics, events, or issues that your work centers around. You can also consider building resource lists, interview series, or link round-ups on a regular basis that get shared or talked about in your community.
4. The blogger doesn’t thoughtfully share their posts on social media.
Some bloggers set up their posts to share automatically on the social media accounts where they’re active. But this is a huge mistake and missed opportunity to share your content along with a personal message, question, or other means of engaging people on each social media network.
If you value your blog content, then value how you present it and introduce it to people. Don’t just dump the link and walk away, and expect people to care about it. Share with them why it’s important to you, or why it might be important to them.
5. The blogger doesn’t identify who will help spread the word in advance of writing their posts.
Social media sharing is important for new blog posts, but if you want to expand your audience beyond those you already reach, you need to go a step further. Before you dump a ton of effort and energy into any blog post, consider: Who will help share it and spread the word the content exists? Come up with specific, individual names, then respectfully contact them via email or social media with a personal and brief note. Explain the value of the post, why you think their audience will be interested, and make a specific suggestion: “If you think this post would of value to your readers, I’d love a tweet” (or whatever is appropriate given their platform). You’ll have more luck with this strategy if you’ve already been sharing their content.
Final note: Authors who are disappointed with the results of their blogging usually haven’t given much strategic thought to the content they’re producing, or even why they’re producing it. Take a look at my beginner’s guide to help redevelop your strategy if needed.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.