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Welcome to this month's State of the Blog, where I share my goals for this blog, what I'm doing to reach them, and what's working (or not working).

March 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

This post includes affiliate links (marked with an asterisk). When you use the link to make a purchase, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will only share affiliate links if I have used and recommend the product or service. If you have any questions, please contact me. Thanks for your support!

New to my blog? Start here: State of the Blog for January 2016, State of the Blog for February 2016.

February 2016 Numbers

Keep in mind that traffic and social media numbers aren't everything -- I'd rather ten writer friends over 1,000 stop-an-go site visitors, wouldn't you? -- but numbers can help you get big picture insights and help you make changes.

Site Traffic and Top Content

Here's a comparison of my site traffic February 1st through 29th, 2016 (top) and January 1st through 31st, 2016 (bottom).

Psst: Learn how to find these stats in Google Analytics: I walk through the process step-by-step in the Build a Better Blog Challenge.

March 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

And a comparison of my top content February 1st through 29th, 2016 (left) and January 1st through 31st, 2016 (right).

March 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

What's important:
  • Although my traffic dropped (not surprising after last month's green smoothie surge), my bounce rate decreased and my percentage of returning visitors increased. What that means: People are coming back to my blog, and they are staying longer. Yesss! This is very helpful to me, because it means readers are getting value out of my content.

  • Also of note: My writing-related posts are still doing better than the majority of my recipe and food-related posts. Which means my transition from food(ish) blog to writing blog is going well.

Social Media Referrals

March 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

Pinterest is my number one social media network referral (I talk more about how to use it strategically in my free Build a Better Blog Challenge, but this month I was more active on Twitter and saw a jump in traffic from Twitter. More on that in a moment.

Pinterest

As I mentioned last month, Pinterest is a huge traffic driver for me. I have blog posts about how to use Pinterest more strategically in the works, but I'll also be sharing a free online workshop to show you how I use Pinterest and BoardBooster together. There will be blog posts announcing the workshop, and you can sign up here to be the first to hear about it!

Social Media Growth

One of my goals last month was to get more strategic about how I use Twitter, and it definitely paid off. That, and I entered a writing contest called Pitch Madness. Most of the interaction is on Twitter, which helped me connect with a number of new followers.

Mailing List Growth

Guys, my email list is exploding. Like, fairy dust and rainbows exploding. I am so, so excited about the number of people who are opting in to join my list! Not only is the number growing, but I'm also seeing new subscribers who want to interact with me -- asking questions and reaching out to say hello. My email friends are the best!

  • Subscribers: 353 (+194)

How I did on my January goals

1. Experiment with Twitter

Excellent!

My Twitter following increased quite a bit, but more importantly I'm connecting and interacting with more and more writers. Four things that worked really well:

  1. Scheduling tweets in advance

  2. Sharing more writing-related information (and mentioning the source)

  3. Joining a Twitter chat

  4. Engaging and interacting with people

I'll have more about Twitter strategy soon, but I do want to point out that much of my traffic came from being active in the #PitchMadness conversations on Twitter. It's been an excellent way to make new writer friends!

2. Work on new email course for writers and authors

Excellent!

I don't want to spoil the awesomeness ... so for now just know that this course is going to be packed full of AMAZING information. If you're a writer who wants to learn how to create and grow your mailing list, then you'll love it. :) Make sure you're on my email list so that you hear about it!

3. Finish design tasks

#Fail

I didn't make progress on my design tasks last month. My other writing and blogging projects took priority, and I'm not bothered in the slightest. Design can wait, content comes first.

Goals for March 2016

1. Update my Build a Better Blog e-course

I have a number of new lessons to add, and I want to get them added to the course site this month.

2. Make progress on my new email course for writers and authors

There's a lot of content to write and tutorials to record - I'll be busy!

3. Teach Pinterest strategy workshop

This will be such an awesome workshop! A number of you have asked me about how I use Pinterest, and I can't wait to show you exactly how I've grown my following and made Pinterest my biggest source of traffic from a social media network. Get excited. :)


Thank you for reading! If there's anything I mentioned that you would like to learn about, please jump in the comments to let me know.

Now I would love to hear from you:

Do you have plans for your blog this month? Tell me about it in the comments, and be sure to link to your blog so I can take a look! :)


Before we talk about specific blog post topic ideas, we're going to delve into the why behind your blog posts. This is an important first step; once you define your why, you won't have any lack of blog post ideas!

5 engaging blog post ideas for writers and authors plus the essential step to take before you start brainstorming or blogging. Take this post to the next level by joining the FREE Build a Better Blog Challenge for writers! Read the post to get started >>>

Time and again I see similar questions from writers who want to blog. Questions like:

  • Why would anyone want read my blog?

  • What's so special about me (and what I blog about) that will make people want to read?

  • There are so many blogs out there, what's different about what I want to blog about?

Here's the thing, my friends.

All of these questions aren't the right question.

Why? Because these questions are focused on you, the writer, and not your readers.

The biggest shift I made in blogging - the shift that helped me grow my audience and start to see a real change in traffic - happened when I stopped asking "What can I write about?" and started asking "What do my readers what to read about?"

Define your purpose

So before we dive into topic ideas, I encourage you to take five minutes (or more!) to jot down the reason why you want to blog, who you want to reach through your blog, and how you can best reach or serve your ideal readers.

Want to take this to the next level? I include worksheets and in-depth exercises in my Build a Better Blog Challenge. Click the image below to get started!

Build a better blog in 2016: A community-building challenge for writers and bloggers who want to up their blogging game. A FREE workbook, seven-lesson course, and online workshop replay, plus support to help you focus your blogging goals and create a content plan for 2016. Click through to join and sign up to get your FREE workbook!

Here are a few questions you can use to help you focus:

  • What do you want to achieve through your blog?

  • Who do you want to reach?

  • What do your readers want to learn, discover, or create?

  • How can you help them?

  • What value can you give your readers?

Here's the best part: By taking the time to define your purpose and really delve into your whys behind blogging, you will have far less trouble coming up with blog post ideas. Promise! (In fact, you might have more post ideas than you have time to write new posts...but that's a problem for another blog post!)

Take the time to define your purpose, and you'll have far less trouble coming up with blog post ideas.

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Now that you've defined your purpose, let's dive into coming up with topic ideas for your blog. These are broad topics you can use to help you focus and come up with specific blog post ideas that are relevant and valuable to your audience. If you want specific post ideas, check out my 50 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

Remember: Use your answers to the above questions to help you hone in on ideas that fit your goals and the desires or needs of your audience. Reference them when brainstorming topics to make sure you're on the right track. With each blog post, think about how you can tie it back to your main purpose, and how you can make sure to give value to your readers.

Teach

People love to learn new things. With your ideal reader in mind, find out where they spend time online, then listen. What do they want to learn? Are they struggling with a certain tool, technique, or problem? Think deeply about how you could help. Not sure where to start? Ask a good friend or family member about what they think you do well, or what they would love to learn from you. Do you take amazing photos? Are you great at organizing your workspace? Have you been asked for advice or help with a certain topic or in using a tool? Start there!

How-to posts and DIYs are great examples. Things like: How to Organize Your Bookshelf by Color, How to Create a Bookstagram-Worthy Photo, DIY Your Own Bookshelves, DIY Writing Progress Calendar.

Psst: Want more specific blog post ideas? Check out my 50 Blog Post Ideas for Writers!

Inspire

If you've been on Pinterest or Instagram, then you're already aware of how much people love inspiring quotes. This also applies to blogs! You can start with sharing inspiring quotes (and perhaps include a note about how you have found the quote useful, relevant, or inspiring). Or would your readers be inspired by an interview with another writer or author? Again, do your homework: find your readers online, and figure out what they find inspiring -- or what type of inspiration they're missing that you can to provide.

Find your readers online & figure out what type of inspiration they're missing that you can provide.

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Entertain

One of my favorite romance authors uses her blog to share funny stories. Her books are romantic comedies, so the stories are a great fit for her audience. They get to learn more about the author, and they also get more of what they've learned to expect from her (funny stories about family and relationships).

Think about what your audience would find entertaining. Would they like links to scary movie trailers? Or silly videos of you talking about writing? Perhaps fun facts or historical trivia related to your book research? Different audiences will find different things entertaining, but you can always test a new type of content out and scrap it if the response isn't strong enough.

Curate

One of the things people look for are content curators. For example, I love Dahlia Adler's book round ups. Since she's created a number of great round ups that I've successfully used to find new books, I know from experience that her recommendations are on point for me.

I also like to go to author blogs or join their mailing lists in the hopes of finding their book recommendations. My thinking is that if I love the author, then I'm likely to love the books they recommend.

Both of these examples are about book recommendations, but your content curation doesn't have to be limited to books. Do you tend to share writing-related links with friends? Are you periodically sharing inspiring Instagram accounts? Or perhaps you're great at finding cute notebooks or products your audience on your blog. All of these are excellent blog post opportunities.

Share

Whenever possible, you want to build relationships with your readers. How? You can start by sharing posts that give your readers some insight into your life. There's no need to share every little detail of your life (share as much or as little as you wish). The most important thing is to focus on sharing aspects of your life your readers will find relevant and valuable. Give them ways to connect with you, help them get to know you, but keep your purpose in mind.

Focus on sharing aspects of your life your readers will find relevant and valuable.

tweet that

For example, thriller writers might not share details of their relationships (unless they're thrilling?), whereas it would be far more relevant for a romance writer to include at least some insight into their own relationships.


Truly, you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to blog post ideas. It can be overwhelming to start, but once you stop and think deeply about who you're writing for and what they want or need, you'll have no trouble coming up with great content.

If you want more help and guidance in getting strategic with your blog, take a look at my FREE Build a Better Blog Challenge. Click the image below to get started!

Build a better blog in 2016: A community-building challenge for writers and bloggers who want to up their blogging game. A FREE workbook, seven-lesson course, and online workshop replay, plus support to help you focus your blogging goals and create a content plan for 2016. Click through to join and sign up to get your FREE workbook!

It's your turn, friend! I would love to hear your thoughts: Which of these topics do you cover on your blog right now, and which would you like to add?


Welcome to this month's State of the Blog, where I share my goals for this blog, what I'm doing to reach them, and what's working (or not working).

February 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

This post includes affiliate links (marked with an asterisk). When you use the link to make a purchase, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will only share affiliate links if I have used and recommend the product or service. If you have any questions, please contact me. Thanks for your support!

New to my blog? Start with my State of the Blog for January 2016

January 2016 Numbers

Keep in mind that traffic and social media numbers aren't everything -- I'd rather ten writer friends over 1,000 stop-an-go site visitors, wouldn't you? -- but numbers can help you get big picture insights and help you make changes.

Site Traffic and Top Content

Here's a comparison of my site traffic January 1st through 31st, 2016 (top) and December 1st through 31st, 2015 (bottom).

Psst: Learn how to find these stats in Google Analytics: I walk through the process step-by-step in the Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Site Traffic Comparison

February 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

What's important:
  • I went from 7k page views to 18k, which might sound great, but a good half of the traffic went to one of my recipes. People LOVE my Ginger-Orange Green Smoothie Recipe, and I've noticed it gets a spike in traffic every January. Hurrah for New Year's Resolutions? ;)

  • My bounce rate went up (one of my goals is to get people to stick around longer), but again - I blame that on the green smoothie recipe. People who visit my site for writing-related posts stay longer than those visiting for my recipes.

I've included another interesting graph, comparing my traffic in January (top) and December (bottom). Even though my numbers were much higher in January, the percent of New and Returning visitors was the same.

February 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

Social Media Referrals

February 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

Pinterest is a huge traffic driver for my site (and I talk more about how to use it strategically to drive traffic in my free Build a Better Blog Challenge), and in January my referrals from Pinterest doubled. I'll talk more about that in a second.

First, I want to point out that my traffic from other social media referrals is pretty low, but it didn't change that much - even though I took a break from social media during January. I think I could be using Twitter far more consistently and strategically, and I'll be working on that in February.

I also created a Reddit account near the end of January and will be experimenting with using it to help people find my content (when relevant). In next month's State of the Blog, I'll share what I learn.

Pinterest

As I mentioned above, my traffic from Pinterest doubled in January. The jump is in part thanks to my Ginger-Orange Green Smoothie Recipe, but there was also a marked increase in Pinterest traffic to my writing-related posts.

I attribute this to two things:

  1. I increased my activity on group Pinterest boards.

  2. I started using BoardBooster*, a pin scheduling tool with a number of features that have helped increase my traffic from Pinterest.

Next month I'll talk about how to use Pinterest group boards strategically and I'll also share my review of BoardBooster*, but if you want to try it out yourself you can use my referral link to get your first 100 pins free*.

From the breakdown charts below (Jan: left, Dec: right), you can see my Ginger-Orange Green Smoothie Recipe at the top of both months, but the rest of the content people are finding through Pinterest are mostly writing-related posts.

February 2016 State of the blog report: Want a behind-the-scenes glance at what's working/not working for my blog? Take a look to learn about my blogging goals and what I'm doing to reach them >>>>>

Social Media Growth

Last month I took a social media hiatus to focus on my revisions. It was a great choice in terms of helping me reach my writing goals, but I wondered if my numbers might drop.

My numbers didn't drop, and all grew - Pinterest most of all because I started scheduling pins in advance using BoardBooster* (I will be sharing my review soon).

  • Twitter: 969 (+4)

  • Pinterest: 607 (+225)

  • Instagram: 209 (+5)

Mailing List Growth

My mailing list grew quite a bit last month. I added sign ups (with content upgrades) to some of my most popular posts, plus a number of other small changes to approach my mailing list more strategically.

  • Subscribers: 159 (+92)

How I did on my January goals

1. Blog once a week.

Excellent

I shared a new blog post every week: January 2016 State of the Blog, How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva, How to Revise Your Novel, Website Basics for Writers and Authors, and 10 Weaknesses to Look for When Revising Your Manuscript.

What made a HUGE difference this month was that I worked in batches. I wrote 2-3 posts at a time and scheduled them in advance. Scheduling in advance meant I didn't need to worry about writing new posts every week, and it helped me focus on my revisions.

2. Get the super exciting secret series started.

Good

I made progress on getting this ready for you; I'll be sharing more about it soon.

3. Clean up design.

Okay

I didn't get as much done as I had hoped - so much of my time went into my revisions last month, which I don't regret, but it did mean less time for working on my design.

Tasks:

  • Update the color palette (in progress)

  • Change heading styles (done)

  • Add post previews to my index (in progress)

I also updated my about page and have added SumoMe tools to my site (sharing, list builder, highlight to tweet). Once I have more data from SumoMe, I'll share my review.

Goals for February 2016

1. Experiment with Twitter

This month I'll be experimenting with scheduling tweets in advance, and being more consistent on Twitter.

2. Work on new email course for writers and authors

I've been dropping hints about my next blog project - a free course for writers and authors who want to start or grow their email lists. Last month I started outlining the course, and this month I'd like to begin work on the content.

3. Finish design tasks

Most notably:

  • Finish updating the color palette

  • Add post previews to my index


Thank you so much for reading, friend. If there's anything I mentioned that you would like to learn about, please jump in the comments to let me know.

Now I would love to hear from you:

Do you have plans for your blog this month? Tell me about it in the comments, and be sure to link to your blog so I can take a look! :)

Photo credit: Death to Stock


Today we're talking about your writer or author website, and how to use it to achieve your goals. I'll share with you the basics you need to make a great first impression online, plus the most important thing every author should include on their website.

Today we're talking about your writer or author website, and how to use it to achieve your goals. I'll share with you the basics you need to make a great first impression online, plus the most important thing every author should include on their website >>>

This post includes affiliate links (marked with an asterisk). When you use the link to make a purchase, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will only share affiliate links if I have used and recommend the product or service. If you have any questions, please contact me. Thanks for your support!

After I wrote my post "Should Writers Blog?" I received emails from writers who wanted to know: If I don't need a blog, then what do I need? Like, at a bare minimum?

At the very least, every writer should have a website, but not just any website. You want a strategic website that helps you meet your goals, ideally one that's simple to maintain (so you can get back to writing). I have great news, friends. You can easily create a website that helps you reach your goals without giving you headaches.

You can easily create a website that helps you reach your goals without giving you headaches.

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I'll share with you my four tips to help you get started (plus my bonus tip for authors), but first let's talk about why you want a website.

What do you want to achieve?

Just as we discussed in my Build a Better Blog Challenge, setting goals for your site will help you make future decisions. Before you do anything, take time to define what you want your website to do for you.

For example, authors may want a website to connect and engage with readers and grow their audience, whereas new writers may want a website to help them connect with other writers. There are no wrong answers, and the more you clearly define what you want to achieve, the better you'll be able to make choices about things like your domain name or which website service to use.

Action: Goal setting // Why do you want or need a website?

Set a timer for ten minutes. Grab a notebook and pen. Start the timer and write down every single reason why you want a website. When your time is up, look through your list of reasons and highlight the reasons that stand out to you. Use these to create a 1-3 line purpose for your online presence. Example: I want my website to be where readers can go to connect with me and learn about my books. Or, I want my website to impress agents and give them a way to contact me.

Keep your goals in mind as you read the tips below. I encourage you to make notes about how you'll use each tip to help you reach those goals.

4 Tips for Making a Simple + Strategic Website (plus one bonus tip for authors)

1. Own your name as a domain name.

Writers and authors are a special case when it comes to websites because your name is your brand. So although you might start a blog to connect with other writers, and therefore a fun, cute, or witty blog name would suffice, at some point you will want a website domain with your name or your pen name (example: AuthorName.com).

Side note: A pen name is the name you choose to as your author name for your books. This is the name you want people to know, so it's the name to use when choosing a domain name for your website.

Think about this scenario:

A reader finds your book or story. Perhaps they found it on Amazon, or maybe they discovered you in a literary magazine. They LOVE it (of course!), and like any good reader, they want to read more.

What do they do next? They type your name into a search engine. But nothing comes up. Or the results are all for a photographer with your name, not you. FAIL.

So what's the solution?

You need to get your site to rank higher in search engines when people type in your name. There are a number of things that can help make that happen, but the very first step is to own the domain name with your name.

Today we're talking about your writer or author website, and how to use it to achieve your goals. I'll share with you the basics you need to make a great first impression online, plus the most important thing every author should include on their website >>>

Action: Buy your domain name.

Even if you choose to create a blog with a different name, at some point you will want to own your domain name.

Tips:

  • I recommend using NameCheap* or DNSimple to buy your domain. I currently use DNSimple, but it's best for people who buy or own numerous domain names because you pay a monthly versus annual fee. If you just need one or two domain names, I recommend NameCheap*. I've used it in the past and although it isn't perfect, it's far superior to most other Domain Name Services.

  • Important note: when you search for your domain name, be ready to buy it within 24 hours. There are companies that will use your search to buy the name you want ... and then they'll turn around and sell it for far more than the original price.

  • If your name isn't available, then try adding relevant words like "books" or "author" to your domain name. Example: "BridgidGallagherBooks.com."

  • Still want a cute/witty/fun blog name? You can always create a main website under your name (AuthorName.com), but have a blog with a special name (AuthorName.com/BlogName).

Namecheap.com

If you read all of this and you still want a fun/cute/witty blog name, then here are two tips about choosing a name:

  • Think evergreen names, or names that will be relevant for a long time. Although you might love mountain biking now, the name "MountainBikingMom" might limit you in the future.

  • Avoid distasteful or inappropriate names. You might find bathroom or bodily function jokes hilarious, but will they be off-putting to your readers? Your website is your online business card. It's the first thing people might see of you online, so consider what type of impression you want to make.

2. Use an affordable + effective website platform.

Writers and authors, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on your website. There are many affordable platform options for creating simple websites, and--especially when starting out--simple is exactly what you need.

Writers and authors, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on your website.

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Here is a fantastic post about how to choose a platform from Marianne of Design Your Own (Lovely) Blog. I love this list because she wrote it with cost-concious people in mind. Although it's targeted to bloggers, anyone who needs a website will find this post useful.

I personally recommend Squarespace to my friends who want a simple, out-of-the-box website that is beautiful and easy to manage (and they don't mind paying $8/month). As with any website service or blogging platform, there is a learning curve. Thankfully, Squarespace offers fantastic, 24-hour support, so you can ask questions and get answers around the clock.

Today we're talking about your writer or author website, and how to use it to achieve your goals. I'll share with you the basics you need to make a great first impression online, plus the most important thing every author should include on their website >>>

For those who don't mind getting scrappy and learning basic HTML and CSS (or hiring a designer), then Wordpress.org is the second option I recommend. There is a bit of work required to get your site started, but once you do there are very few limitations to what you can do. This is a great option if you want a lot of flexibility and custom functionality, and you don't mind learning some coding basics.

If you're still not sure which would be the best for you, then I recommend reading this excellent post comparing Squarespace and Wordpress from Ashley, the web designer behind NoseGraze.

In summary: If you want simple, go with Squarespace. If you want more complex functionality, go with Wordpress.org.

3. Keep your design simple.

Like a great book cover, a great website design can set the tone for your readers. But. Some writers and authors take their design too far and the experience is jarring and distracting.

Like a great book cover, a great website design can set the tone for your readers.

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Less is more when it comes to website design. If you're at all unsure about choosing a design or template, go with simple. Black and white. Lots of whitespace. Keep calls to action (buttons, forms, links) to a minimum.

Pssst: I talk more about website design in my Build a Better Blog Challenge.

Action: Find other author websites for design inspiration.

Take a few minutes to visit author websites. Focus on authors in your niche or genre. For example, if you write YA Thrillers, then look up your favorite YA Thriller authors and study their websites. Try to visit at least five different author websites and jot down a few things about each site:

  • Do they create a mood with their colors and images? How?

  • What do you like about their site?

  • What don't you like?

  • Were you confused/distracted by anything on their site?

  • Does their site invite you to sign up for their mailing list?

Here's a great example for authors. These are the sites of two Middle Grade writers, Brooks Benjamin and MarcyKate Connolly. What kind of tone do these sites create? Can you guess which sub-genre their books would fall into?

Today we're talking about your writer or author website, and how to use it to achieve your goals. I'll share with you the basics you need to make a great first impression online, plus the most important thing every author should include on their website >>>

4. Include the content essentials.

Less is more is also a good rule of thumb for your content, but there are a few things you must include for your website to be effective.

There are a few differences for writers versus authors, so let's start with the essentials for writer websites:

  1. About (name + brief bio + photo of you)

  2. Contact (email address or form)

  3. Portfolio (if relevant)

  4. Blog (optional!)

That's it! You could include everything on one simple page and be good to go. It truly doesn't require separate pages or anything complicated.

For authors, add the following:

  1. Books (book cover + synopsis + buy links)

  2. Mailing list sign up

Both writers and authors: keep your bio brief and include an action for your readers. Think about your purpose and write to that purpose. Tell us enough about you that we know what you do, your purpose, and a sprinkle of personality.

Authors have a little more leeway, because readers often visit your site to learn as much about you as possible. It's great to share more, but make sure you keep it relatively short to help them focus on an action (example: signing up for your mailing list).

Examples:

"My name is Sarah Jones and I write books about magic and cookies. (Wait, I eat cookies.) I am currently seeking representation for my Middle Grade Fantasy about two pixies who go on a culinary adventure of monstrous proportions in the Land of Giant Sweets. Want to get in touch (or bake me cookies)? Send me an email: name@domainname.com."

"Sarah Jones is an avid mountain biker who writes contemporary Children's fiction. Her first book, THE BEST TITLE, is coming DATE from PUBLISHER. Join her mailing list for a first look at her book."

"I'm a romance author who loves nothing more than a glass of red wine, a bubble bath, and a steamy book with an alpha hero. Read my latest book for free here!"

Get the idea? Simple. Focused. Actionable.

Bonus tip for authors: Make sure you have a mailing list.

Pssst: Writers, you could skip this one, but skim it because you'll need it once you're preparing to publish.

All authors should have an email mailing list. Your email list is a way for you to get permission to contact your readers when you have new books, news, sales, or upcoming launches. It is the one way you have to contact people that you own. Unlike social media (Facebook, I'm looking at you), where you have little to no control over how often people see your updates or if they see them, with your email list you can guarantee your email makes it into their inbox.

Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies (a must-read for authors), says it better:

Today we're talking about your writer or author website, and how to use it to achieve your goals. I'll share with you the basics you need to make a great first impression online, plus the most important thing every author should include on their website >>>

"The truth is, your email list is your #1 asset for community building. Here’s why:

  1. When someone requests that you email them, it is a huge sign of trust. Everybody already gets too much email, so the fact that they are requesting that you be another inbox item is a huge commitment.

  2. People won’t check your website every day (or week) but they check their email every five minutes.

  3. It’s much easier to ignore a status update than a new inbox item.

  4. The people making money online use email marketing. I follow several people online that are “internet marketing gurus”. Despite what you may personally feel about some of these people, they are the ones actually making a lot of money online. And you know what? Every one of them would trade Twitter, Facebook, their blog and any other online asset to keep their email list. They make money off their email list.

Social networking, blogging and all the other tools out there serve their purpose and can help grow your community, but your email list is, by far, your most important asset. Above all else, focus on growing your email list."

Although adding an email list sign up form to your website is simple, starting an email list can be intimidating. I want to help you get your list started, so next month I'll be sharing some blog posts about mailing lists, and I'm also putting together a free Email Marketing for Writers & Authors e-course. Sign up to be notified when the course launches.


Okay, friends. That is IT. The basics for creating a simple but strategic writer or author website.

Now it's your turn. Do you have questions about websites, design, or mailing lists? Jump in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

Psst: There's still time to access my FREE Build a Better Blog Challenge! Click the image below to join + I'll also send you my Blog Content Workbook for Writers.

Build a better blog in 2016: A community-building challenge for writers and bloggers who want to up their blogging game. A FREE workbook, seven-lesson course, and online workshop replay, plus support to help you focus your blogging goals and create a content plan for 2016. Click through to join and sign up to get your FREE workbook!


Templates are a great way to help you save time and create consistent images, and you don't need Photoshop - or a graphic designer - to create them. I put together a quick tutorial to show you how to create and use a blog post image template with Canva, a free photo editing and image creation tool.

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

Friends, you know I love Canva. Remember when I made a tutorial to show you how to make a cover for your NaNoWriMo novel? Today we're going to use Canva to make beautiful blog post image templates so you can create one blog post image then simply copy and edit every time you need a new image for a new blog post. (Did I mention that Canva is free? Seriously. It's your new best friend.)

Before we get started, you might be thinking: um, why do I need an image for my blog posts? I'm a writer, not a photographer. Sheesh.

I get it. Your words are the real gems in your blog posts, but images can be powerful, too. We talk about this in detail in the Build a Better Blog Challenge, but here's one REALLY powerful reason: images do better on Pinterest, and Pinterest has HUGE potential as a traffic source for your blog.

Images do better on Pinterest, and Pinterest has HUGE potential as a traffic source for your blog.

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Remember my State of the Blog post? Pinterest is my number one social referral, in part because I started adding pin-worthy images to my blog posts (learn more about creating share-worthy blog posts).

With a template you make one amazing share-worthy blog post image, then copy that image and edit it when you need a new one. In addition to saving you time, having a template will help you keep your fonts and colors consistent (the web designer in me is doing a happy dance). Sounds pretty great, right?

So let's make that template!

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva

1. Sign in to Canva or create your free account.

Go to Canva.com to sign in or create your account.

2. Under Create a Design, choose the Blog Graphic template.

Another reason to love Canva: they've created a blog graphic template for us! Vertical images do better on Pinterest (get more clicks and repins), and Canva's Blog Graphic template dimensions are perfect for blog posts. You can also create a design with custom dimensions if you would prefer something different.

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

3. Either choose an existing template to edit, or upload a photo to start your custom template.

A number of Canva's templates are free, look for the "Free" label in the bottom right hand of the template. If you choose to upload a photo, please make sure you either own or have permission to use it.

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

4. Add your blog post title (optional) and your website.

You don't have to add your blog post title, but I have found that images with my blog post title get more repins on Pinterest. It's good practice to include your website on images, to help make sure people who see (and like) your image can find you.

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

5. Duplicate the image and edit to create a new blog post image.

You've created your blog post image template! Now you can make a duplicate of the image and edit it for new blog posts.

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

6. Name your template.

Click on the name of your template to change it. Use a name you'll remember.

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

7. Save a copy.

Click "Download" to save a copy of your template. If you'd like to download the newest blog post image only, under "Download" click "Options" and specify the page number.

How to Make a Blog Post Image Template with Canva: a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to create an use a blog post image template. Create beautiful images for your blog posts, quickly and easily. Extra bonus? Canva is FREE, so you can make your blogging templates for free. Click through for the tutorial >>>>>

That's it! Easy, right?

If you liked this tutorial I would be so grateful if you shared it!

Here's a quick & easy way to create blog post image templates with @Canva

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Do you already add images to your blog posts? Is there something you'd like to learn about, or anything you find challenging/frustrating? Jump in the comments - I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. If you use this tutorial, let me know what you think! I would love it if you linked to your blog post with the images you create. :)

Credit for both photos: Death to Stock