Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Why Blog?’ Category

Content Mill vs. Quality Blogs

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Gaining Blog Readership, Why Blog? on July 23, 2017 at 11:00 am

StressFree

Shelley WIdhalm holds up a very tiny house. It’s not true if you build it, they will come when it comes to blogging.

It’s not true if you build it they will come, or if you post it, they’ll read it.

That’s because there’s science and a bit of magic that comes with blogging.

First, to make blogs authentic and real with meaningful content avoid the content mill.

The Term “Content Mill”

The term “content mill” is slang for a website, company or organization that provides cheap website content and pays low rates to writers—the writers have to write quickly to make their time investment worthwhile with the result of less craft and polish.

Websites and organizations hire content mill writers to generate massive amounts of SEO-driven content with the aim to boost their rankings on Google and other search engines. They’re not trying to cater to the needs or desires of their readers.

Today, blogs with quality content generate the desired SEO, because Google continually changes its algorithm to give lower rankings to sites with junk and low-grade content.

Blogging with high quality in mind takes a little more time and effort, but the end result is a higher ranking with more traffic and leads.

Search engines give greater exposure to original content that’s not a copy or duplicate. The content is relevant, timely and fresh and meets a specific audience need, while providing marketing and brand building for the company or organization or for a writer’s platform.

Here are a few tips to creating quality blogs:                         

  • Start with a strong headline that summarizes the blog content while sparking interest from the readers.
  • Begin with a story, anecdote or example instead of facts and ideas to give readers a sense of time and place and a reason to care. Or use a story later on to expand on or to clarify a point.
  • Offer an answer to a question that can be keyed into search queries, but make sure the information that is provided is readily apparent and easily explained.
  • Use bullet points and subheads to make the information easy to scan and find.
  • Write something that’s engaging and provokes thought, reflection and further questioning.
  • End with some kind of action, encouraging readers to apply the information, follow through with a tip, do more research or check out a link or website.
  • Edit what you’ve written for grammar, mechanics and organization and fact check for accuracy.
  • Make sure to include pictures, images or videos to add visual appeal and to break up paragraphs of text.
  • Respond to comments and like other blog posts to generate a conversation.
  • Vary the type of posts from short to long and include things like summaries, lists, how-to explanations, reference guides and article-type posts with quotes and multiple sources.

Write Clearly and Concisely

Lastly, my favorite piece of advice is to write clearly and concisely, an adage used by journalists and writers alike. Make the post short and to the point, packed full of information and do not wander into directionless, non-topic blah and fluff.

Most importantly, keep blogging. Don’t blog and stop. That’s boring. Plus, the search engines will bypass the blog and your website—SEO becomes So Easily Overlooked.

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The Big Blog Date

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Gaining Blog Readership, SEO, Why Blog? on July 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Jen'sHouse 1989

Shelley Widhalm puts on makeup to prepare for a 1990s outing when big hair and big T-shirts were the thing!

When I was younger, I thought if I had the cute external content, I could drive the boys to my phone number.

It wasn’t that simple and took a whole set of skills that I didn’t have at the time (and probably still don’t).

The idea of trying to get a date applies to trying to get people to read your blog. You dress up your blog and give it personality to get that reading traffic to drive customers, clients, viewer and readers to your product, service, art or writing.

Understand SEO

The first step is understanding SEO—in high school, if I heard the term, I would have called it Super Exciting Outside. All “bad humor” aside, SEO is Search Engine Optimization, a marketing method to get online traffic from search results on the major search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.

The search engines rank websites, videos and other content based on what’s most relevant to the user in that search. Using the right keywords and phrases that show what the web page or post is about helps boost the rankings, as can links to other sites.

Be sure to choose words based on popularity (this notion harkens me back to high school and those unfilled dates) or frequency of use and profitability. Use them in titles, descriptions, tags, categories and other content to attract SEO attention. Choose keywords that are precise and slightly longer, not generic and nondescript.

Here are some more ways to get that attention and increase traffic to your blog (i.e, to get the phone numbers, or here, clicks, likes, fans and followers).

Boost Your Blog Readership

  • Write content that is original and usable to readers, such as posts that are informative, entertaining and engaging, generating comments or calls to action.
  • Make sure the content follows a theme and is geared toward a specific audience—don’t write everything to everybody, hence to nobody. Identify the messages you want to convey to that audience.
  • Post on a consistent basis, preferably at least once a week to give updates and provide new material. Search engines give higher rankings to websites with fresh content.
  • Write titles that inspire curiosity and a need to know more, generating those clicks.
  • Use subheads, bullet points and numbered lists to break up the content and make it easier to read.
  • Use keywords, choosing one key phrase that identifies your post, incorporating it into the title, headlines and content (at least two to three times). The keywords demonstrate to the search engines what the page is about.
  • Include photos to break up the text and add a visual appeal.
  • Promote the post on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

When Blogging, Be a Neighbor

  • Write guest posts or add guest posts to your site, exposing the writing to larger audiences through cross promoting. This may bring in new readers to your site or introduce you to the readers of other sites.
  • Incorporate links to please Google, which likes to see outbound links, and readers who may want to find more resources.
  • Invite readers to leave comments and be sure to say something back.

Lastly, realize that finding those readers takes time, and building a following doesn’t happen overnight. Keep promoting the blog, because those dates, or readers, won’t know about the great internal content unless you tell them about it.

Why Blogging is Important for Writers

In Blogging, Why Blog?, Writing, Writing Tips on May 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

Are blogs like legwarmers that are trendy and fashionable, popular in the ’80s and back in style again?

Or are they like the necessary boots and thick socks that are the staple of any wardrobe in a climate with seasons?

With more than 150 million blogs in existence, it seems like everyone should be blogging from writers to business owners to anyone who wants to get their writing to readers, customers and clients.

But are blogs here to stay, necessary for your marketing wardrobe?

Google certainly likes blogs and other written content for Search Engine Optimization to give individuals and businesses higher online rankings, especially for recent content.

Beyond SEO

But blogging goes beyond simple SEO. It’s part of branding. It’s an aspect of creating a platform. And it’s a form of marketing.

Consistent, quality blogging creates an image. It demonstrates expertise and authority in a niche. And it gets readers to turn to you, because, over time, they begin to value your knowledge and how you relay that knowledge, your values and what you see as important.

“Writing creates a perceived leadership position and is a value positioning statement at the same time. It also allows those who agree with your ideas or philosophy to connect with you,” said Jeffrey Gitomer in “Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness.”

Blogs should educate and entertain and not be space fillers vying for that SEO. Content-mill produced blogs are written only to get clicks—what’s created is SEO-stuffed with little meaning and value. They only are about quantity.

Quality Blogs

Alternatively, quality blogs create relationships, build audiences and convert readers to customers. They result in engagement and a following.

Research shows that blogs should be posted once a week on the same day of the week, and not randomly, especially with big gaps of time and a mishmash of topics. To create quality blogs, think about your target market. Who are you writing to? What is it you want to say?

Blogs are a way to talk about your latest book or project. It’s a way to show your process of creation. It’s a way to show what attracts readers specifically to your writing style and voice. And it shows why you are the best to offer what you offer.

Blogging Advantages

Here are some advantages of blogging. Blogs can:

  • Put you in front of your readers, serving a similar purpose as an ad or marketing materials.
  • Bring traffic to your website.
  • Nurture and build a relationship with readers through regular connection.

Blogs also can be used to tell your story and to make your writing look personal and inviting. They’re not just about what’s on the bookshelf.

Return to blogging (next week)

In Blogging, Why Blog? on June 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

I will return to blogging on Sunday, June 26. I took a couple of week’s leave to work on a large editing project.

I admit I’ve thought about my blog. I missed my blog. And I missed my readers and the comments I occasionally get.

I find blogging about the writing process as a way to deepen the understanding of what happens before and as the pen hits the paper. I like reflecting on the writing life, and I like sharing my work.

I also like knowing that I’m contributing a small piece to the large body of work out in the blogosphere.

 

A blogger’s 2015 reflections

In Blogging, The Writing Life, Why Blog?, Why I Write on December 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

Surgery-Cast3The end of the year is a time for reflection about the past year and setting goals for what’s next.

The goals don’t have to be the intimidating New Year’s resolutions that initially generate excitement, but may fizzle out after a month or two when the change requires just that: change.

When it comes to writing, adding a resolution or a new goal to your writing schedule can liven things up, generate excitement and offer up some inspiration. This can provide a fresh start and a way to redo those things that aren’t working, such as trying to write three days a week but only getting to it once or writing so many words a session and facing writer’s block.

My writing goals for 2016 include doing National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, again in November with the aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I did NaNoWriMo in 2013 and again in 2015.

I plan to edit the novel I nearly finished, “The Heat of Trouble.”

And I plan to write more short stories and look for an agent for a couple of my completed manuscripts.

Over the past year, I wrote a novel and edited a couple of others, plus I blogged nearly every week about the writing process. I’ve been blogging for four years about the different elements of writing, types of writing and the writer’s life. I wrote about writing inspiration and motivation, the habits of successful writers and the revision process, explaining about what I love (and sometimes don’t love so much) about writing.

As I blogged, I found I haven’t generated much of an audience for my writing about writing, but I did gain a better understanding of what’s involved and how to apply it to my own writing. That’s because I could review and see things slightly differently than before by putting my thoughts into a weekly format.

In 2016, I will continue to blog about writing but may take a different approach or introduce new topics. At this point, I’m not sure.

It’s likely I won’t be blogging in January during my recovery from a surgery to my left hand. The surgery was Dec. 11, and I wrote ahead for the remainder of the year and posted the blogs to align with each Sunday, my regular blogging day.

I will return in February—after about two months of single-hand activities limited to my right hand—with a fresh perspective and hopefully some goals in how I want to approach my blog and my writing life

Why I keep blogging

In Blogging, Shelley Widhalm, Why Blog? on August 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

Sometimes, I wonder why I blog when I have just a few Likes and even fewer comments. There are so many bloggers out there, it’s grown into a highly competitive type of writing with search engine optimization, blogging contests and platform building.

I started blogging four years ago, because I thought I needed to blog to build a platform and because I wanted to be published. I thought it would help me get to the big world of Successful Writer Who is Published and on the Best Seller Lists.

Last month, I attended a Northern Colorado Writer’s class featuring a literary agent who works with the big presses, and she said writers should focus on writing and do social media if they want to. They should blog if they want to. But it doesn’t matter for book promotion.

In nonfiction, blogging is important, she said, to building that platform and promoting the written work.

In a few of my writers’ magazine articles, I read, too, that blogging builds platform for fiction and nonfiction writers, generating interest from the audiences you build.

I saw the messages varied depending on the source and, likely, your goals as a writer.

If getting Likes is the goal, I didn’t do so well.

But if it’s teaching and re-teaching myself about the elements of writing, such as character and plot development, storytelling, story and character arc and setting, I did quite well. I had to look up information for my blog posts, review my notes and article clippings, and organize everything into my own take on the information. Plus, I used examples from my writing.

I made myself a stronger writing by thinking about writing, writing about writing and analyzing the process of writing. I also became reflective on that process, considering what occurs while I write and digging into my writer’s mind, something I don’t do as I engage in the physical part of writing.

In essence, I use my blog to think about writing and about being a writer. I use it to improve myself into a better writer. And as I do this, I hope there are other writers who get something out of all of my ruminations.