Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Six ways to Put the Blog to Work When You're Not There

A good blog is like a major home appliance that keeps working for you while you're busy elsewhere. We know how a dishwasher does this, but how can we be sure our blog is working well for us behind the scenes?

1. Comments. Your comments are like little signposts leading people back to you. So visit other blogs and leave comments. One who takes the time to leave thoughtful, clever, original comments will get followers and comments back.

2. Declutter. Make sure things are tidy and attractive for visitors. Sidebars can get really crowded! And viewing the blog daily, we get used to the mess. Declutter once a month and determine what needs to stay and what can go. Imagine how a new person viewing your site for the first time might see it.

3. Platform. Every blogger whether a career writer or not should have a platform, regardless of how informal it might be. Why are you here? What's your focus? What kinds of people do you want to attract? Once that's settled, make sure everything in your blog reflects you and the platform you've chosen, from your profile photo and bio to your design and even the arrangement of gadgets on the sidebar. That doesn't mean you can't branch out now and then and fly your freak flag, because a blog should reflect the personality of the owner. But someone stopping by should be able to tell fairly quickly who you are and what you're all about.  

4. Posts. Once a post is written it stays in place until deleted. Long after the blogger has forgotten they even wrote it, someone can find it and decide if your blog is worth their time just by that one post.  So take care with what you write, and if you have nothing to say, don't say it. Why stick to some arbitrary schedule if you have nothing? Or if you're on a roll, go ahead and publish daily. A good post will continue working for you as long as your blog exists, so the more excellent posts you have in your file, the harder they'll be working for you and your blog! But let me repeat: That doesn't mean you can't branch out now and then and fly your freak flag, because a blog should reflect the personality of the owner. So don't get paranoid and think everything you write has to be perfect and meaningful. Let loose now and then, nothing wrong with that!

5. Label and Index. When I first started blogging, I discovered a few publishing blogs that were full of such great information that I went in and read everything. On Blogger, there's a place for labels at the bottom of each post. You can then choose which labels you want displayed in the Index on your sidebar. Ideally, each post should carry labels according to subject matter. My labels are chosen with emphasis placed on the key words that relate to my platform. Like: bad reviews, blog tour, booksellers, editing, editors, selling books, rejection..... You get the idea. My labels reflect my platform. So that just in case someone wants to thoroughly research my blog and go through my old posts to get information, I organized it for them!

6. Selling Your Book. Your blog can help sell your book, but make sure it's easy for visitors to click on the links where they can buy it in various formats. I like these Kindle and Nook buttons. Suddenly one day I realized they needed to be near the top of my blog instead of buried down below somewhere, so I changed to a two-column format that makes more sense for me.

These are a few of the ways that a blog can keep working for you while you're off enjoying your vacation, or writing your book, or eating dinner, or down with the flu. There's no need to hover and be constantly present online. Set up your site carefully and thoughtfully and then let it hum along doing its job! Because the internet never sleeps.

43 comments:

  1. Very wise, Karen. I realise I don't have a platform so am off now for a spot of agonising. And I particularly agree with not blogging to a schedule - it should be spontaneous and inspired!

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  2. Thanks Karen, all great tips. I am in the middle of blogging to a schedule (NaBlow) but I find it frees me rather than not. I always make sure that when I do a month of blogging, I have a theme, so that the discipline helps me, and underlines my platform. For NaBlow, I'm doing a daily letter to my journal, about my revision process. I'm finding it very helpful and getting good comments on it. My biggest problem is getting out to enough other sites. I find that I tend - like with friends - to find the sympatico ones and stick to them. I'm not really interested with this blog (my writing one) in other topics - I save that for my Living the Complicated Simple Life. So much to think about! Thanks again - I always like your blog posts!

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  3. Jan, There are times when I can't go out and visit either, then other days like Sunday afternoons when I have hours to do so. The weekend is my best time for popping out to other blogs. I used to spend a lot more time visiting blogs and commenting, and since I slowed that down, my follower count has also slowed down.

    Mise, But you do have a platform, as I see it. It's a lovely blend of Jane Austen, Alexandra Stoddard and Martha Stewart. Maybe you haven't yet verbalized it for yourself but it's a charming platform that attracts many who seek a moment's quiet oasis from the noisy internet.

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  4. Oooh, I didn't know about the index - I'm going to give that a try (maybe it can replace something I remove after I have a tidy up?)

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  5. Good tips, Karen. Although I try not to get too messy (I don't "do" awards, partly for this reason) I prolly don't declutter as often as I should (much like real life.)

    I *have* deleted old posts I didn't love, and I do try to comment on others' blogs.

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  6. I might change my blog awards to a slide show since they do fill up my sidebar. Then again, when the comments scroll down past a hundred, it does give the person something to look at!

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  7. Yipes, is Alex serious? More than a hundred comments?! (sigh) Now I feel so inadequate ...

    Some great tips, Karen. Thanks.

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  8. Great post, Karen, and lots to think about!

    I think my platform is mildly snarky Dubliner. . . not sure how compelling it is, but it certainly reflects my personality!

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  9. Wonderful tips! My sidebar has about a million links, but I try to keep them organized (maybe I could rotate ten or so under each heading, though...some are getting really long). Good stuff, as usual :)

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  10. Great advice. I have to do some declutter soon.

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  11. They are great ideas for organizational reasons, if nothing else! I totally agree about some blogs are so busy as to be distracting.

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  12. I so need to declutter!!! My sidebars are looking dated and messy!

    Great advice lovely KarenG! Take care
    x

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  13. I like the declutter advice! I just visited a couple of blogs that are so busy they take forever to load!

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  14. Actually I've wanted to de-clutter my side bar by removing the list of bloggers I read and expanding the width of my post. But I can't figure out how to do it.

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  15. Jerry, You click on Design, and then click on the Template Designer tab. That brings up a lot of options for designing the look of your blog. Click on Adjust Widths, and that will allow you to adjust your side and your post widths.

    Jemi, I've seen those that have music, photos, book trailers, everything there that has to load before you can see what you went there to see. Blogger isn't that fast, we need to be sure not to overload the poor dear.

    Old Kitty, "dated" is another issue. Like the flowery fancy wallpaper? That's kind of old-fashioned looking imho. And awards that people got 2 years ago? (I'm not talking about your blog, just generally about things I've seen that drive me away from content, which is what a blog should really be about.)

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  16. Great suggestions Karen. Declutter is a big issue as lots on the sidebar slows down how fast one can scroll.

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  17. Karen, Thank you so much for this post. Very helpful.

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  18. Karen - excellent advise and thank you. I need to focus on all your points I think, particularly point 1. Need some more time though right now. Declutter is a must - a bit like my natural 'hoarding' of things - I need to weed and feed.

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  19. Awesome tips. I like your last line: the internet never sleeps. So true.

    ........dhole

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  20. Crap. Here I was thinking "Oh what a mighty blogger am I" and turns out I have a platform that needs a good sweep and mop. That's what I get for reading YOUR blog, truely valuable information. I am never reading you at the end of the day again, until next time.

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  21. These are all great tips! Thanks! I especially agree that blogs should not be cluttered and should pretty accurately reflect what you're all about.

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  22. Wise words here. I know where I really fail is with my labels...but the though of going back and revising over two years worth is intimidating.

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  23. Lisa, My labels need a lot of work too. It's a work in process. Some of these that are only listed once I need to take off or find other posts to cluster with them.

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  24. Great tips! Thanks, I've been on and off wondering if I should work on decluttering my blog. Guess it's time to finally dive in and do it!

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  25. The download buttons are a great idea! Where did you get the radio buttons?

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  26. I've been trying to update my blog and organize it better. I don't always remember to label posts and going back to relabel is kind of a pain, but probably worthwhile.

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  27. Some good points here. I've recently tidied up my sidebar but I must do something about my labels. *rushes off to enter that scary Blogger world of Layout and Design*

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  28. EXCELLENT points Karen.
    Giving your blog an identity and decluttering are v impt as is commenting on others blogs. So true.

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  29. Great info! I need to do some de-cluttering. ;)

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  30. Great advice Karen! I've become a fan of the pages feature. It really decluttered my sidebar! Yay for fall cleaning.

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  31. I like your idea. Especially the one about checking your blog once a month and decluttering.

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  32. These are all excellent very valid points. Good commenting is a surefire way to attract traffic to one's site. It's time consuming, but it's an investment. Once you've got a visitor you've got to try to entice them to want to keep coming back. You've covered important concepts here.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    Please see my guest post at:
    So You Want to be a Writer?

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  33. Excellent tips, Karen. I always worry about clutter. In fact, a month or two ago, I set up tabs at the top so it would be cleaner. But now I've gone and put notes about all my futre posts on my sidebar. I've re-cluttered!

    I should also categorize my posts better. I only have 4 categories - not very useful after all this time!

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  34. Wonderful information. Finally, someone explained labels to me. Thank you.

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  35. Superb tips, Karen. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to clutter up a blog. I try to revamp mine regularly so that there's plenty of white space and things are easy to find, and it still gets away from me. And one of these days I need to clean up my labels. I always add labels but am rarely consistent. For example, critique, critiques, critiquing, etc. My blog is a search engine's nightmare!

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  36. Lots of really great ideas here, Karen! I need to be better about my labels. Thanks!

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  37. Thank you for your kind reply, Karen! I'm delighted with the platform you've identified for me and feel buoyed up by a whole new sense of identity. I shall probably be insufferable until it wears off.

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  38. Whoo-hoo - am flying my freak flag! Lovely informative and wise post, Karen! I'm not sure what my platform is - quirky randomness mixed with quiet reflective moments to paddle in now and again. :)

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  39. Jayne, Yes let that freak flag fly! Wear purple striped socks on the bus/train, and don't forget the blue nail polish.

    Mise, My dear you could never be insufferable, because your Jane Austen far outweighs your Martha Stewart.

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  40. Learning the blogging ropes from you, Karen. I'm still a newbie-dooby-doo, trying not to trip on the dance floor.

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  41. Great post with tips every blogger can use. Good job!

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  42. Wonderful tips Karen. I will have to take a critical look at my blog and check the boxes!

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  43. Hi Karen .. absolutely right .. please could you come over and sort my index and tags .. it needs a makeover big time!

    Cheers Hilary

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