Every blogger wants their site to move up in the rankings. So I was very excited to see that according to Alexa Rank (per their site) my writing blog has cracked the top 200,000 in the US and simultaneously broke into the top 1,000,000 worldwide. There are a lot of blog rank checkers, but Alexa rank checker is arguably the most authoritative. I’m still a long way from the front of the pack but doing far better than most websites, especially as an author platform. How did I do it?
Though I put a lot of thought into starting a blog and how to write a blog about 2 years ago, I admit that I really did not know what I was doing. In fact, after I paid for my domain name and contracted with a service provider, I put up an “Under Construction” page behind which I tested themes and wrote a number of blogs that I never allowed anyone to see. I studied a lot of other blog websites and tried to figure out Google tracking and ranking of blogs so that I could start fast.
The good news is that I learned some things. The bad news was that I also missed a few tricks. After a year (about 15 months ago), I redoubled my efforts to optimize for SEO and to add value to writers trying to write the best book they can and ramp their book sales on Amazon. My website ranking started to climb, as did the number of people signing up for my email list. Some of the blogs I wrote that helped me ramp my traffic include:
Though there is a lot of material out there about how to start a blog — most of it on various blog sites — there is really no single answer or checklist to help writers (in particular) create a blog targeted at writers and the readers they want to target and then how to increase the visibility of their blog. In my experience, what there is ranges from blogs and books that are either simplistic or exhaustively detailed, often diving deep into technical SEO work.
In the spirit of being helpful, here are a few things I would recommend based on my experience with my WordPress blog if you want your blog to become one of the best blog sites:
Add value… Add value… Add value…
You have to say things that writers find helpful and want to read. You have to be clear and detailed. This one has been a little tricky for me, especially early on. Many of my blogs in the last 15 months have been fueled by my experience with my first novel, which has made it to the top 10 of Amazon’s (many) top 10 lists.
However, there are only so many things I can say about keyword optimization, how to price your book on Amazon, how to get reviews, etc. I know…it seems like circular logic: you have to know something to say something someone cares about hearing… But you have to start somewhere. So jump in and learn the ropes while your audience is small and share your experiences as you learn.
What I’m not going to do is create a blog primarliy about the craft of writing — there are already a bunch of very good blog websites for doing that which I can’t compete with. I do have a few strongly held opinions, which I share on occasion, but when it comes to the craft of fiction I’m not an authority. For that, I would direct you to Emma Darwin’s This Itch of Writing. She knows way more than I’ll ever know about the nuances of the craft. (Interestingly, as of this writing, per Alexa, my blog ranks just below hers internationally, but well ahead of hers in the United States…hmm…)
Lastly, do I promote my book (and will I promote my future books) on my blog? Yes. Absolutely. But that is secondary to adding value to other writers. If my website is nothing other than a billboard pointing at my Amazon sales site, few people will visit my website and fewer will stay. I have to add value. I have to help others. It is what I want to do. My writing and my book sales are largely independent of whatever I say or do on my blog.
Yes, as a blogger you have to learn some SEO
Neil Patel’s blog on QuickSprout has been invaluable to me in this regard. Though about 70% of his blogs are either not relevant to me (such as optimizing a web presence for a local business) or just too deep into SEO mechanics, about 30% are extremely helpful. I am NOT an SEO expert by any stretch, but I’ve learned enough to help my blog get favorably cataloged by Google and served up on occasion, sometimes pretty high in the search results.
Your website must load quickly
There is a lot of SEO things you can do to optimize your site. One of the most important is pretty simple: Make sure your website loads fast (on both desktop and mobile devices, which are two different tasks). If your site can’t load in less than 2 seconds you are at risk of losing visitors before they even see your content.
I’ve spent some time tinkering with my WordPress blog to get it to do just that. I’ve played with a variety of plugins to compress images, load content faster, use content distribution networks, etc. Excluding the impact of network latency and a few other factors outside the control of my website and my hosting firm, my blog now loads in less than a second, and that is on the cheapest plan my hosting service offers (that is, my blog shares data center resources with other blogs — my point is you don’t have to buy an expensive plan for your site to load quickly).
You need your own domain
This may be obvious to many, but if you want your blog to rank for you, then you need your own domain. Going with one of the free blog sites for which the host’s name is in the url mostly benefits them. You need your own domain and host, which in my experience you can do for less than $5 a month. That is not a lot to establish your web presence and author platform.
Keep your blog simple
There are lots of creative things you can do with blogs: polls, graphics, videos, etc. But many are a time sink (and many slow down your loading time). Some of the best blogs do these things and do them well to generate more website traffic, so my upside may be capped. But I look to Google as my guide for how to present info. Keep it clean and simple. And I don’t have the time to make my blog super fancy — I’ve got a science fiction novel to finish and publish!
I have no affiliate relationships and I don’t support Google ads
I’m losing out on some (modest) amount of money because of this, but I want my integrity and the perception of things I say to be beyond a shadow of a doubt. If I recommend a tool, a book, a website, etc., it is because I truly believe it will be helpful, not because I’m getting money on the backside. Hopefully, Google won’t penalize my ranking for saying this. I’m sure they won’t. Right, Google? 😉
Be you (and your Alexa ranking will rise)
Keep it real. Be yourself. For one thing, blog readers want to know they are dealing with a real person. For another, it is a lot of work to be something you are not. Keep it real.
And, related, play the long game. Assume you will be successful as a writer. Never blog anything that would embarrass you 4 years from now when your book is on the New York Times Bestseller list and someone decides to repost a blog you wrote one day when you were angry.
Hopefully, all this will help you figure out how to make a blog that is effective and engaging and a rewarding experience to you and that climbs in the Alexa ranking. It should not be something you hate working on, or that you do only because you feel it is a mandatory part of being a writer.
Feel free to write me directly or leave a message below if you have any questions or I can help you ramp your blog’s rank.