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May 31, 2017

Introductions and Blogging Best Practices

by Donna Huber


Image credit: Boquilla's Window of Big Bend Productions

Welcome to another year of the Armchair Book Expo. This is a great event to get to know other bloggers and talk about different blogging topics. As today is the first day, there is the typical introduction and then I will be discussing some blogging best practices.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

Introduction

Hi! I am Donna, the owner of Girl Who Reads. I manage a team of writers that includes 3 reviewers and 4 features writers. I've been blogging since January 2011 and still loving it.

Currently, I work full-time at the local university. I spend part of my day as the manager of publicity and development for a research center and the other part of the day as the editorial manager for an academic journal. I was able to secure these positions in large part due to the skills I learned from running Girl Who Reads and working with authors.

My current reads are East of Eden by John Steinbeck (paperback), The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee (audio), and Picture Mr. Perfect by Laura Briggs (ebook). I read the print book before bed, the audio book is being listened to in the evenings when I'm doing household stuff, and the ebook is read when I'm out and about and find myself with a few minutes, like yesterday at the dentist office.

Blogging Best Practices

I use to write a weekly tips post where I doled out advice about blogging, marketing, and social media so I will link to a few posts in case you want further information. But for the purpose of today, I will give you a run down of 8 things you should be doing to be the best blogger possible.
  1. Have an editorial calendar. Knowing what you are going to blog about when is a huge help when life gets busy. About mid-month, I start planning out the next month of content. I use a Google calendar. My features writers have a set day each month for their articles, so those are already on the calendar, Then I make sure any blog tours or guest posts I've committed to are on the calendar. Then I look at the reviews I have. My reviewers continually send me reviews so I have a queue I can pull from. I prioritize reviews based on (a) release date (any books coming out that month go on the calendar first), (b) tied to anything happening that month (e.g., romance books get priority in February), and (c) when the review was submitted. I also make sure I have a nice balance between the reviewers so that there is variety. Finally, I add in filler material - lists, videos, spotlights, etc. Sometimes I will leave a few days open for last minute promotions. You can view my calendar. For more information, read my full articles on creating an editorial calendar and setting a blog schedule
  2. Have policy and procedures in place. Serious book bloggers need to have a few policies in place to help manage work flow and also limit liability. At the minimum, you need to have a review policy, a disclaimer, and (if running giveaways) contest rules. I break down each of these in a post I did a few years back for Bloggiesta on policies and procedures. As you can see in my top navigation bar I have a link to my review policy, submission guidelines (for guest posts and other promotions) and m disclaimer. I also have an automated footer in each post reminding people that I use affiliate links. I also insert towards the beginning of the article that the post contains affiliate links, and if it is a review I mention that free books were received in accordance with FTC guidelines. I discuss more about FTC disclosures in my article FTC Disclaimer - Revised and Updated.
  3. Be active on social media. The best way to promote your blog is through social media. You don't need to be on every social media channel. I recommend that you pick 5 or 6 channels to really focus on and then prioritize based on where you get the most interaction. My main channels are Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I also maintain a presence at Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest.  The first three are major players in the social media world. They have the most users and are some of the fastest growing channels. Check out my quick tip for getting more Facebook page likes. And I have some tips on using Instagram for blog promotion. Google+ helps with search engine optimization. Outside of posting my new articles to it, I don't do much with it. Goodreads helps me organize my books and mostly use it like any other reader, but I do link to my reviews on the blog to help drive more traffic to my site. Pinterest can be great if you have awesome graphics, I pin my new posts most of the time (when I remember) but I've never gotten a lot of interaction from it so I don't spend much time there. During 2015's Armchair Book Expo, I discussed all kinds of social media tips.
  4. Visit and comment on other blogs. Networking is very important in the blogging community. Participating in memes and blog events like Armchair Book Expo are great, but they shouldn't be the only time you are reading other blogs. By reading other blogs you can learn what you like and don't like about reviewing and blogging. I've often been reading a post on another site and think to myself, 'I've never thought of doing it that way'. If you are feeling like you are in a rut, explore other blogs to get new ideas. And remember to leave a comment. Why should you leave a comment? We all like to know our content is being read by a real person and not scammers and bots. Also, it can help with discoverability of your own blog. You should always leave a link back to your own blog in the comments (unless of course, you are on a site that has nothing to do with books, because then it could be seen as spam). Try this trick to drive more traffic to your site.
  5. Create awesome content. No matter how active you are on social media or how many book blogs you visit if your content sucks no one is going to stick around. I recently learned that most people online read only about 20% of the words. Have you really read every word of this post? Or did you scan it? A key to awesome content is often in how that content is presented. If you want to write better content, check out my three best practices for writing content on the web. Not getting comments? Is your content engaging enough for readers to know what to say in a comment? Here are a few more tips on writing a blog post worth reading.
  6. Optimize your post for search. I'm sure you have heard the term SEO - Search Engine Optimization. There is so much that goes into SEO, some of which you have no control over but some of it you do. Like the keywords you use. The past two weeks I've been training in SEO and I have discovered some awesome tools. Did you know with Google Adwords there is a keyword planner tool? You can see what keywords are most used on your blog or you can research specific keywords. You want keywords that are high in searches, but low in competition. If you don't mind messing a bit with HTML, Google has a Structured Data Markup Helper which always you to insert specific HTML tags for search engines to read (but isn't seen my human readers). There is one specifically for book reviews. Both of these tools are free!
  7. Use images wisely. With faster internet speeds, blogging has become very visuals. But be careful using images you find on the web. Not everything posted on the web is free for just anyone to use. If you don't want to pay for images, you will need to either take your own photos or search for images in the public domain or with a Creative Commons (CC) license. There are a number of sites that provide free public domain/CC images. For any image you find on the web, you should keep a record of its license, particularly for CC licenses as the owner can change the license. As long as you can show you used the image per the license it was under at the time you should be fine. (I'm not a lawyer and this should not be taken as legal advice).
  8. Have fun. Most of us got into book blogging because we have a passion for books and enjoy talking about what we are reading. But blogging can be stressful and most bloggers suffer from blogging burnout at some point. When I was struggling with keeping the blog going and taking a break wasn't helping, I decided to add regular contributors. Even though managing a writing team comes with its own issues it has really helped me.

Wow! That was a lot to take in wasn't? Sorry, blogging best practices are kind of a passion for me and I have trouble stopping once I start doling out the advice. If you want to learn more about social media, reviewing, writing, and other book blogging topics, you may want to look over all my tips posts.

If you are participating in Armchair Book Expo, I hope you have fun and I look forward to getting to know you. If you aren't participating in ABE, I still look foward to getting to know you, please leave a comment!

If you have read this far you deserve a reward, swing by my March Mystery Box Giveaway.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

24 comments:

  1. Holy cow! Lots of great info here! Have a great ABE week.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yeah. Sorry about that. I tried to be brief but there is so much that we can do as bloggers to up our game. These tips are as much for me as they are for everyone else.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! Between my day job and keeping up this site I do a lot of training and learning new things that then I want to share with everyone.

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  3. Wonderful best practices!!! Thanks for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. I hope some of them are useful, even if they are just a reminder and not new info.

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  4. Nice to meet you.

    Great Best Practices suggestions. Commenting and visiting blogs is an important aspect of blogging.

    I like #6 also...having fun is the name of the game as well as meeting other bloggers and interacting.

    Have a fun week.


    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    Armchair BookExpo Introduction

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always have the best intentioons when it comes to reading and commenting on other blogs, but then things get in the way and it goes on the back burner. That's why I do events like A to Z and Armchair Book Expo. It forces me to visit other blogs.

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  5. Great information! Thank you for sharing!

    http://cover2coverblog.blogspot.com/2017/05/armchair-book-expo-day-1-introductions.html

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. I hope you find it useful.

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  6. Great advice. I have a lot to learn. Thanks!

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    1. I think blogging is a continual learning process. No sooner do I get one thing done, I see there is more that I can do to increase my reach and authority.

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  7. I simplified things a couple years ago by deciding to no longer accept review copies. I loosely plan out my content for about five months in advance. I say loosely because the actual reviews change as I read.

    Two posts: Introductions and Best Practices

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still like the interaction (and free books!) I get with accepting reviews. I'm exposed to books and authors that I might not have otherwise discovered on my own. I've expanded my reading genres too as I'm willing to take the chance on a genre that I'm unsure of. I have some blog tours and reviews set because of publish date further into the year, but I'm doing well with planning out a month in advance. It gives me some flexibility but I still know what is coming up.

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  8. Your tips are excellent. I confess I have never gotten the hang of SEO though, so I've given up on that. But people seem to find me anyway - visiting and commenting on other blogs was by far the most helpful for expanding my audience. I hope lots of bloggers read and follow your advice!

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    1. A lot of SEO actually comes naturally. We don't realize we are doing it. The visiting and commenting on other blogs is actually one of the steps in SEO. I sometimes think people made up a job from common sense stuff but called it something fancy so people thought they would need to hire them. lol.

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  9. Great advice! I especially like #1. I write more consistently when I have a deadline to meet, so it really helps me to map out a few weeks of posts at a time on the calendar. I'm also trying to get back into the habit of commenting to blogs and responding to the comments I receive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found that knowing what was suppose to be posted when actually made blogging go faster. When I find time to blog I don't think what the topic is. I just look at my calendar and go.

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  10. Great tips and advice! I need to work on SEO.

    Happy Armchair Book Expo!

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  11. Great advice! Nice to meet you, Donna :)

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  12. I definitely love your blogging advice. After seven years of blogging I still need to heed them continually.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. I really appreciate your willingness to share your best practices. I have been looking for guidelines on how book bloggers can use editorial calendars. There is so much generic content available on using them. However, with a niche blog, it was difficult for me to adapt the plethora of articles.

    Blogging Best Practice #1 has already made a BIG difference for me.

    I am happy I found ABE (thanks to my blog bestie Erica Robyn) and came across your blog.

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  14. Lots of great interaction on another interesting post thanks so much for putting this information out there much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete

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