Give Your Blog a “Facelift”

Last week I cleaned up my Twitter account, and documented that process in a post called Twitter Litter. That experience prodded me to take a long hard look at my Welcome Page. I saw quite a few problems like empty space, links that didn’t stand out, a somewhat distanced and impersonal opening paragraph, and a ho-hum title.

After all, my blog is the center of my social media platform. Which also means that my (and your) welcome page become even more important.

The Title

Before, I had a one word title “Welcome!” Yawn. Then my wife and I (we’re big Mel Brooks fans, as evidenced by his presence on my fav movie lists*), thought about Madeline Kahn’s character Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles, remember how she responded to a knock on her door? We added an Italian greeting and felt like we had the job done. 🙂

*See how my list of favorite films from the ‘60s, ‘70s and, ‘80s compares to yours.

First Paragraph

Originally, my welcome message was incredibly mediocre. As I read through it, I realized that it wouldn’t inspire anyone to continue. Therefore, I doubled the size of my opening blurb, and added more personal information like some of my core beliefs that work their way into my writing. In a nutshell, I presented the ABC’s of me.

blogphoto

Blog Ecosystem Diagram by I.A. Walsh used under CC License

Empty Space

My blog category list was down at the bottom of the page. It was a slender column with too much blank space. I put them in linear form with five spaces between each one. Now it looks like an abundant amount, mimicking a paragraph.

Link Color

Although the links were now more noticeable and moved toward the top, it may still be difficult for someone to notice them as links rather than underlined text. I customized a brick red color that wasn’t hard on the eyes.

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***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle at Amazon U.S.***

A Personal Photo

I’m not an ego-maniac who needs to see his portrait prominently displayed everywhere. However, as an author’s welcome page, I thought it necessary. After all, you want people to see the front page; feel welcomed, and then are prompted to click, read, and hopefully comment. It’s all about creating a comfy zone. So, I posted my mugshot…um I mean thumbnail portrait and wrapped the text around it.

The Top Menu

We also changed the pages in the top menu bar. Now there’s a published page that lists everything with links to different sites, like Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

However, the most important change is the addition of a Free Short Stories page. I’ve uploaded one so far but have a few more “waiting in the wings” as they say.

***Notify me when the new Sci-Fi / Horror short story Night Flights is available***

Conclusion

It’s too early to assess the success of these changes as to the impact on blog traffic. But I’m keeping my fingers and eyes crossed. I guess my Facebook Author Page and my blog’s sidebar are next.

Twitter Litter

I’ll freely admit to all that I am no expert on social media platforms for indie authors. What I document within this blog category are the things that I am learning as I plod along. Perhaps after reading this, you may even have a few tips for me.

Easy Clean-Up

I tried to use a free unfollow service that would list all those Twitter accounts that I was following, but not getting followed back. However, when I checked some of them, I discovered that about 25% of those accounts were indeed following me. It was time to try a different method.

If you don’t have 10.5K followers on Twitter, you don’t need any fancy subscription to an unfollow service. Just click on “Follows” on your Twitter homepage. It will list everyone you’re following. Under their name and right next to their Twitter handle you’ll see the gray text “Follows You.” If you don’t see those words, it means that you’re following them but they are not reciprocating. Now just click the big blue button and you’ve unfollowed them back. I have about 1,350 followers and I was able to “clean house” in about 30 minutes.

The “Twitter Litter” has left the building!

FB

Photo by Luc Legay used under CC License

The Disturbing Part

I’ve always regarded other indie authors as Fellow Travelers or Kindred Spirits. Although our genres and styles may be completely different, we’re still cut from the same cloth. Therefore, I’ve always made it my business to seek out other indies, follow and post on their blogs, Facebook pages, offer reviews and beta reads, and yes offer them a #folloback on #Twitter.

My biggest surprise was the amount of Indie Authors who followed me, waited for me to follow them back, and then they would unfollow. I would say that about 60% of the accounts that I had to unfollow were other Indie Authors. Sad but true. 😦

Disappointing Results

A while ago, I wrote a post called The Blog, The Tweet, and The Facebook Page. That post was inspired by my WordPress stats. I discovered that other blogs created the most traffic into mine, followed by Facebook*, search engines, Google +, and way last was…Twitter.

*Facebook has now taken over the top slot

Most social media gurus say that Twitter is a necessary component of an indie author’s social media platform. But I have to face a dose of reality, Twitter has not been a major generator of sales and blog traffic. I believe it serves as a double exposure.

Most people have Facebook and Twitter accounts, therefore, they may see you there and then see your name pop up elsewhere. That second exposure is what may prompt a click, and that’s the only purpose that Twitter can serve. I track my links through Bitly, therefore I can see exactly how many clicks a link receives. To be honest, it’s not that great. I don’t spam or make an annoyance out of myself. I basically tweet about new blog posts, the occasional ad for Ragged Souls, or contribute to a discussion.

Keep It Anyway

I don’t plan on cancelling my Twitter account, nor would I suggest that course of action to anyone. I recently read a great post by Kristin Lamb about the nature of books in the digital age. There are quite a few gems of wisdom within her words. My favorite eye-opener to indie authors within that particular blog post was, “Our greatest enemy is obscurity.”

Never were truer words spoken. Therefore, I’ll keep trying to tweak my tweets as best as I can, and hope for the best.

Ragged SoulsBlog

***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle***

How About you?

If you’ve been successful with Twitter, please enlighten me (and some others). Do you see activity and clicks based upon your Tweets?

***I want to know when the new short story Night Flights is released***

Synchronicity in Surreal Advertising

I just read a blog post by Kristin Lamb that calls for an end of spam advertising by Indie authors. I’m sure you’ve experienced this phenomenon on #Facebook and #Twitter. She says that we should start partaking in a new form of marketing and promotion called “Padvertising.” Since most readers are women, it should come as no surprise that Padvertising means to promote your book on panty liners.

Despite the humorous and Monty Python-esque nature of the idea, reading it brought back a memory.

You can’t see me typing away on my keyboard, but I have placed a hand on the Bible and promise to tell the whole truth.

Urinal1

Photo by Andre Chinn Used under CC License

One day in January 2001 I was waiting for my girlfriend to arrive at Penn Station in NYC. She was a total nympho and I was eagerly anticipating a week of debauchery with her (see, I promised to tell the truth). While waiting for her train to arrive, and after two or three cups of coffee, I needed to relieve the old bladder.

I went into the men’s room and approached the urinal, and boy was I surprised at what I saw. On the plastic screen inside the urinal was an advertisement. I do not remember the name of the investment firm or the phone number, but I do remember the rest of the ad.

“Stop pissing your money away! Call Johnson Investments (212) 555-1234”

There I was, chuckling and snorting while standing at a urinal in a public men’s room. Luckily nobody punched me. Thanks, Kristin, for helping me to dredge up this memory.

So what’s the most oddball / comical form of advertising that you’ve ever seen?

WordPress Stats: Seeing is Believing

In a previous post called “The Blog, the Tweet, and the Facebook Page,” I mentioned that creating a relationship with other bloggers is a must. I came to that conclusion based upon the behavior of those who followed me on various social media outlets. I also mentioned that I really didn’t push or spend a lot of time on #Facebook. Also, when it comes to blog stats, I usually only checked the “out-clicks” to see how many people were exiting my #blog by going to my Amazon, Nook, or Smashwords.

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My Social Network by Luc Legay used under CC License

But I had a jaw-dropping revelation when I looked into my WordPress stats the other day. Facebook was the source for the most referrers, i.e. where someone was when they decided to click into my blog. The second was Search Engines, then Google+ and Twitter. Why are these stats surprising? Because I usually spend the most time promoting my blog on Google+ and Twitter. When I thought about it, it didn’t take long to figure out why this happened. I use Facebook in the same way that I blog, taking the time to visit other pages and leave commentary rather than promoting my own stuff.

Let me be clear for a second, I am not a spammer (and never have been), on Google+ and Twitter. However, when I look back at all of my tweets and Google+ posts, most of them were promotional. I think it’s time to switch gears and use the rest of social media in the same way as I’ve been using Facebook and blogging.

You may experience the same if you go into your WordPress bar graph (site stats for last 48 hours), then look at the referrer’s box and click summaries. You can view your referrers for different time periods as well.

O.K. now that you’ve looked, what did you find out about your stats?

The Drunken Hobbit

What would you do with a drunken hobbit?

I have to say, I love The Lord of The Rings Online. For me, it is the total gaming experience. One of the best things about it is the community – and that’s best illustrated by this music video that my kinship, The Lonely Mountain Band, has made.

I plan to call upon the Mountain Band’s friendship when it comes time to make a trailer for The First Light. This had me in stitches, hope you enjoyed as well!

Caution: Automated Tweets Can Make You Look Like a Twit

On January 28, 2014, President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech. The Twitterverse exploded with commentary from people representing every possible moniker in the political spectrum, tweeting after every major point. The pros, the cons, the accusers, and the supporters all put in their $2.22 (hey, inflation).  And the scrolling screen looked something like this (The following conversation is fictitious.  Any similarities to actual names or tweets is purely coincidental)….

___________________________________

Republicant1 @rino
I noticed that the #POTUS hasn’t mentioned Obamacare #SOTU

Dumbocrat1 @moron
@rino  Why should the #POTUS mention it. The ACA website is fine now #SOTU

Republicant2 @conserve
@moron @rino Because #POTUS won’t remind anyone during  #SOTU how he bypassed the Constitution

Author1 @wannabe
Buy my book now! – The Three Little Violent Pigs – #Nook  #Kindle #ebook wp.linklink1

TeaParty1 @angryvoter
Will the usurper in chief #POTUS ever end? This is a long #SOTU

Republicant1 @rino
@angryvoter  #POTUS Usurper and liar!

Dumbocrat2 @libtard
@angryvoter @rino Can’t call #POTUS an usurper. He was legally elected twice.

Author2 @lovewrite
Another 5* #Amazon review for my romance novel – How I’d Love to Fall in Love.  Buy it now! wp.link2linky  #author #write

TeaParty1 @angryvote
@libtard You call that farce an election!?

Author3 @Hackysack
New spellbinding #thriller – Get Out of the Bathroom and Give Someone Else a Chance.  Available Now!  wp.4linklink3

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Are you getting the picture? When tweeters are conversing and debating a major live event, the book promotions are incredibly non-sequitur. The authors were either using a bot or just not paying attention, and it showed in a bad way. Do you honestly think anyone bought their books based on those tweets?

I know at least one person who’s bought one of my stories because I don’t tweet book promotions every few minutes.  For all the new authors out there, yes, Twitter can be a powerful tool, but only if you use it right.  Take part in discussions, and have something interesting to say about things other than your work.  It’ll pay off.

Nina Kaytel and The Liebster Award

Liebster

 

I’d like to give a shout-out and a big thanks to fellow blogger Nina Kaytel, who’s nominated me for a Liebster Blogging Award. As part of the process, I’ll answer her 10 questions, then nominate 10 other bloggers with less than 200 followers, and present them with 10 questions of my own.

1.  If you had one wish to gain any talent what would it be and why?

Singing. Most people want to put some poor animal out of its misery and then discover that it’s me…

2.  Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Yes. I lived in a haunted house in my youth, you see.  No joke, long story.  Might even be a novel in there somewhere.

3.  What have you learned blogging?

It is more work than writing a novel. But you meet more people.

4.  If you could live in any fictional world what would it be? Why?

No-brainer. I’d live in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Why?  It’s the ultimate fantasy world.

5.  If you could say anything to one Ex what would it be?

I’m soooo glad I didn’t wind up married to you.

6.  If you could have one mythical creature as a pet what would it be and why?

I’d like a tiny little dragon. That has got to be greatest cigarette lighter ever.  :o)

7.  What is your favorite book? Why?

John Norman’s Tarnsman of Gor. It introduces the Gor series and well…I’d love a harem of scantily-clad hard-bodied slave girls.  Hmm…I might need to re-think question four…

8.  What would your last meal be?

It would have to be a beef dish. So it’s between Boeuf Bourguignon, Steak Kew, Beef Stroganoff, and Beef Wellington. I can actually make any of them myself, except the Steak Kew, so I guess that’s the winner.

9.  Did you make a News Years resolution? What is it?

Yes, and they’re listed here: https://ernsangia.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/a-new-year-resolutions-and-goals/

10.  Are you sticking to the resolution?

So far so good. My second short story release for 2014, Gematria2 should be released on time for mid-February (and it’ll be free, by the way). The March release of the rather raucous and raunchy “Little Red Revolution” is also running on schedule.

And here are my 10 questions for my nominees.

  1. If you could have dinner with any five people from history, who would they be?
  2. How many pets do you own and what are their names?
  3. Do you know how to cook? If so, what’s your best dish?
  4. What hobbies do you have?
  5. List your five favorite films.
  6. List your five favorite books.
  7. Do you practice any religion?
  8. What is your dream vacation?
  9. Where do you get ideas for blog posts?
  10. What prompted you to start writing?

My Nominees

  1. http://lyndadietz4.wordpress.com/
  2. http://animalsandmagic.wordpress.com/
  3. http://dianetibert.com/
  4. http://winterbayne.wordpress.com/
  5. http://cearnachgrimm.wordpress.com/
  6. http://robinkalinich.wordpress.com/
  7. http://bengarrido.com/
  8. http://marilynhudsontucker.com/
  9. http://chadbhanson.wordpress.com/
  10. http://sweetyshinde.wordpress.com/

The Blog, the Tweet, and the Facebook Page

Building an author platform can be a difficult and painstaking undertaking. Chances are your writing time will be greatly sacrificed. However, blogging, tweeting, and updating your Facebook page does constitute writing, and does generate readers. Therefore, it is time well spent. I’ve noticed certain patterns emerging as I’ve began building my own platform.

Blog reciprocation has the highest ranking. When I hit the Like and Subscribe buttons or drop a comment on someone else’s blog, they generally reciprocate by doing the same on mine. Of course that only happens when the initial contact is done through blogging. If the initial contact happens through Twitter, full reciprocation doesn’t usually occur.

When someone follows me on Twitter, I make it my business to follow back, drop a tweet, visit their Facebook page and their blog. But the Twitter reciprocation rate is pretty low. I’d say about 1 out of every 35 who I make contact with visit my blog or Facebook page.

Twitter returns don’t seem that bad when compared to Facebook. I must say that my Facebook page is pretty much dead space most of the time. Although I really haven’t been “pushing” over there either.

In the same order up to now, The Blog, The Tweet, and The Facebook Page have become my own version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

How are you doing with your platform experience?  Any tips you’d like to share?