As Journey Thoughts’ reading audience continues to climb with thousands of followers and over 12 million hits, someone asked me recently how and why my blog has become so “successful”. I put quotations around that word because success is measured differently by some people. In this case, it’s all about the numbers I guess. A huge readership may translate into a successful blog. However, I have seen millions of people read blogs that have little to no content and are basically marketing ploys to buy products. The bloggers are exceptional marketers I suppose but not very good writers. Then there are phenomenal blogs, that have few readers. A shame. In this case, the writing is spectacular but the bloggers spend little time marketing their blog. I like to think that I have found a happy (successful) middle ground, of marketing and writing, so that Journey Thoughts appeals to a large group of readers who want to keep coming back because they appreciate the content. It goes without saying that I can’t take full credit for this success. I give all Glory to God.
In 2009, I published my first book, “Shoot the Wounded,” a young adult novel that led me to write two more books in my “Wounded Trilogy” series. This series has gone on to win several book awards, but as I have learned, book awards don’t necessarily translate into book SALES. I discovered that the only way I could showcase my books effectively was to promote them online. This led to my journey into the blogosphere.
To be honest, I didn’t even know what a “blog” was when I began writing it. I was a rookie author doing everything humanly possible to get my books into the hands of young readers. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising, marketing, or touring. I did a few book signings and spoke at several venues and schools in my area. I was interviewed by local papers and tried to sell my books at flea markets and trade fairs. It cost me a lot in time and effort, but didn’t always translate into sales. In a market flooded with both well-known and Indie Authors, I needed to somehow stand out. That led me to writing my blog: “Journey Thoughts.” It has not only helped promote and sell my books, but God has grown and expanded the message and ministry of that blog in ways I never would have imagined.
Starting a blog is one of the simplest ways to share your writing online. There are numerous “free” weblog-hosting sites that allow even the most technologically challenged to create a blog in very little time. “Free” blog platforms are great but consider acquiring your own domain name if you’re serious about driving traffic to your blog. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. That said, WordPress allows me to have my own domain name, lynndove.com, for under $100 a year.
For a beginning blogger it’s important to determine why you want to blog in the first place. My original intent was two-fold: to promote my books to a larger reading audience and showcase my writing in general. Once you’ve decided on your goals and weblog hosting site, the next step is writing content that appeals to your target audience. If it looks like you’ve put very little thought or effort into your blog posting, readers will assume your books aren’t worthy of consideration either. Blog posts must capture a person’s attention instantaneously. You must capture the reader’s attention in the opening paragraph for them to read (not just scan through) to the end. Your writing must be polished; free of grammatical and spelling errors; have a beginning, middle, and end; and be…well…interesting! Content is king! There are close to 200 million blogs, but only a rare few have a large readership. The challenge is to get people to enjoy the content enough to keep reading it!
I quickly discovered that teens and young adults do not read blogs the way a more mature audience does. Young adults want instantaneous gratification, game-play, and viral videos to keep them coming back. When I started writing about my journey with walking with God on a daily basis, I could reach both my target audience as well as attract more mature readers. It meant learning how to include graphics and using “tags” (keywords) so search engines could find my content quickly. Tags provide a useful way to group related posts together and to quickly tell readers what a post is about. If you’ve never used tags before, think of words that a person might use in a search online that would bring up related content. A tip here: don’t use too many tags but be precise.
Using graphics that are tagged will also drive traffic to your site. I use my own photos or royalty free images and I ensure my domain name is printed somewhere on the graphic. There are several apps, programs, and meme generators you can use to do that. The one I use predominantly is: FotoSketcher. I use these graphics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the goal to get others to share or “like” the graphics that link back to my blog.
It is important to use social media to drive traffic to your blog site. Sharing your post in writing/author groups on Facebook for example, not only gains you followers, but you join a like-minded community who will encourage you in your writing.
Readers may note that I have a bit of advertising on my blog through WordAds. I appreciate the bit of revenue that this brings in, but it has never been my goal to make money on my blog. I could do much more to monetize it if that were the case.
My last piece of advice is to be true to yourself. If God has gifted you with a talent for writing and you are sharing your gift with others…I call that being successful!