Have you been thinking about starting a book blog? Revamping an existing blog? Or just want to give your current blog a look over to make sure all things are in working order for the new year?
Great, you’ve come to the right place!
I’m going to give you a guide on how to audit your blog in 15 easy steps so that you can kick off the new year feeling confident that your blog is in top shape!
Step 1: Create a Business Plan
If you take your blog seriously, and if you someday think it may become a source of income, take the time to create a business plan. You’ll have to think back about why you started your blog and what your intentions were, so it might take some time to get your thoughts together on this step. However, the more thorough you are, the more you can guide yourself in the direction you want your blog to go.
Step 2: Create or Audit The Main Pages
There are a few main pages that every blog should have:
1. Home page – which either has a static page with links to your content or displays your latest content
2. About page – which tells your audience who you are and what your blog is about, and why they should check out your blog.
3. Contact page – how to get in contact with you (and there’s a plug-in for a contact form, so it’s easy!)
All of these take a little effort to put together, but even the simplest outlines will do as you build your blog. If you’ve already started your blog, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THESE. I can’t tell you the number of blogs I’ve seen without a contact form. Even if you don’t want to be contacted, PUT THAT ON YOUR CONTACT PAGE! But honest, as a book blogger, you’ll want that contact form if you are interested in getting book review requests. Also, it comes in handy if someone needs to notify you about winning an award, a giveaway, or if something is wrong (like a broken link) on your blog.
Step 3: Disclaimer Pages and Other Legality Pages
This is a BIG must have. A disclaimer page is a blogger’s “hold harmless” clause, and allows you to state your opinions and thoughts on someone else’s work. If you don’t have a disclaimer, it is possible that someone could legally go after you, or have you remove content, or shut down your entire blog. Most of us aren’t professional bloggers, so it’s best to cover your butt, legally speaking. If you need some references, here is my disclaimer, and a few great examples of disclaimer pages:
Step 4: Review and Request Policies
As a book blogger, there’s a chance that you will have people- authors, PR reps, publishers, etc. – contact you about reviewing a book. To make life a little simpler for all involved, you should designate a review and request policies page. This is where you can state if you are actively receiving, or not receiving, review requests, and state your guidelines for any other requests, like interviews or blog collaborations, etc. Additionally, if you want to be contacted with requests, there should be a link to your contact page. If you don’t want to be contacted with these requests, this helps prevent solicitation emails and inquiries.
Step 5: Rework Your Tagline
Make sure that your blog tagline reflects what information you are presenting in your content. The tagline should give your audience the bare minimum of what to expect from your blog content, and draws the reader in. You may have tackled this in your business plan, but if you haven’t, or if your blog has taken a different direction than your plan, then reworking your tagline is a must.
Step 6: Tackle the Header, Sidebar, and Footers
Most blogs have space for a header or a header image. If yours doesn’t, ignore this step. The rest of you, work on getting together a header that represents your blog and shows off your brand. Again, there are some great apps that can help you design a graphic if you don’t feel the need to hire a pro.
Next, work on your sidebar. Make sure your widgets are in working order, and that they descend in an order that fits your blogs’ needs. Utilize the excellent widgets available to help others search your archives, find your social media outlets, and if you’re on WordPress, how to follow you!
Finally, if your blog has a footer or the option for one, configure it to your liking, and make it usable space if possible. When I monetized, that’s where advertisements went, and there’s also a nifty translate widget that fits nicely. However, you may also find it works best for your contact info or what have you. Just take the time to give the space some attention.
Step 7: Get a Logo…
…And utilize it for branding. If you have the talent, again, go for mocking up your own logo and put it to use in your header, your profile picture, and your blog site’s avatar, which displays next to the address bar. If you want to go beyond that, use it on whatever social media sites that are linked to your blog. If you aren’t talented (like me!), hire a professional to give you a logo. I sent a mock-up to a graphic designer via Fivver.com, and it’s treated me well! The key is to create something that represents your brand and your blog content. Ideally, it is something simple and easily recognizable.
Step 8: Create Your Ideal Reader Profile
Again, you may have done this in your business plan, but if you haven’t, this is a great way to help you decide what content to focus on by figuring out what your ideal reader audience is. If you have a profile drawn up, you can figure out what content would have the most value to them. For example, if you are a book blogger who reads Young Adult, writes reviews about those books, and discusses issues related to YA novels, then your ideal reader profile should be someone similar to that- that’s the niche and your audience. If you thought maybe you might also talk about comics and manga, this might also work into your audience, but say you wanted to also share some recipes from your home economics class… well, those recipes aren’t really relevant to the audience you’re trying to attract, right? So this is where having that reader profile can help guide your content and weed out posts that aren’t getting attention from your main audience.
Step 9: Linkbacks and Static Links
Yes, all the links. First off, make sure all your static links (the ones that don’t change, like your home or contact page) are working. Then make sure every link throughout your site is working. Often, bloggers will linkback to a post from the past, and this helps keep your readers on your site, which helps in your SEO ratings and your site traffic.
Also, make sure any pingbacks to other sites are still current and working, and remember to include them in relevant posts. Pingbacks will notify whoever the site link’s owner is with a notification, and this will let them know their work is being taken notice of, and who to thank for their increased traffic.
It’s recommended to like between 3 and 4 other posts per each blog post. This helps your bounce rating, which is how long visitors stay on your site. If the visitor has the option to keep reading about something, with a link that takes them right to the content, your bounce rate will be better.
Step 10: Add Photos and Graphics
The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, has proven true, and therefore it can be a great addition to your blog posts and blog site. Think about it- book people love a good cover, right? It’s what draws our attention- even though we aren’t supposed to judge a book by them. So make sure your photos and graphics draw your audience’s attention. There are some great apps out there that can help you create easy graphics, and most smartphones these days have excellent quality cameras for digital photography. Get creative, and if you need some inspiration, I suggest checking out Pinterest or Bookstagram!
Step 11: Improve Headlines
Create headlines that make the reader stop scrolling and think, “I have to read that right now!” This isn’t always easy for the book blogger, who usually titles posts with the book title and author name, but get creative when you can. Use words that you’d expect others to search for in a search engine, such as “best”, “worst”, and “easy”. Also, if you’re creating a book recommendation list, state the number of books in that list. If you’ve got the best 50 reads to check out in 2020, someone will chose to read your post over the blogger with 25 reads to check out in 2020!
Step 12: Format Content
Make it easy for your readers to read your content by bolding section titles, italicizing important details, or changing the size of the font. Additionally, break up big chunks of text and paragraphs into smaller, easy to digest bites. (I’m horrible at this, but I’m working on it!) You can also use photos and graphics to break up texts, or help get the reader’s eye to bounce from one paragraph to the next. Not sure where to start? Have a friend help read over your posts, and mark up where your ideas can be separated. Sometimes it really helps having an outsider’s perspective!
Step 13: SEO Optimization
If this isn’t the buzzworthiest topic, I don’t know what is. Basically, we all know that SEO, or search engine optimization, are keywords and phrases that we tag each post with so that search engines can easily link to your content when a search is performed with matching keywords. This could be, and very well might be, it’s own blog post because SEO optimization is such a broad topic.
For auditing purposes, go through each blog post and optimize that SEO by putting in those key words that relate to your post in the categories and tags section of your post settings. For example, if it’s a book review on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, some keywords would be “Jane Austen”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Classic Literature Novels”. The more specific to the book, the better.
Step 14: Marketing Your Blog & Interacting With the Book Blog Community
Make sure that if you have any social media outlets associated with your blog, there is some way for your site visitors to find it to help them keep up with your content. This also works in reverse- make sure that your blog social outlets have a link to your blog, which can help bring new visitors in. These kinds of connections can really make a difference in your blog audience- my humble blog stats doubled when I added social media outlets. There are some pros and cons to social media, but I’ve noticed mostly positive impacts towards my blog, and would expect other book bloggers to say the same.
Additionally, don’t discredit interacting with other book bloggers. If you haven’t been commenting on or liking other blogger’s posts, or have been too nervous to do so, start doing it today! This is such an easy thing that you can do to improve your own blog- by getting your name out there and proving you’re a fellow genuine book blogger. I have to say, it’s a great community to get involved in, and they’re 99% welcoming- and the other 1% doesn’t matter!
Step 15: The Final Glance Over
Now that you’ve gone over all the major components of a book blog, give the site a final glance over, and see if anything jumps out at you that needs tweaking. Is there anything that could be added for the visitor’s ease of navigation? Are the images grabbing your attention? Does everything look cohesive?
If you need to, grab your proof-reading buddy, the one whose opinion you trust and who will be 100% honest with you, and have them look it over too. Once complete, make any final adjustments, or add your ideas that can wait to your to-do list if you want to tackle them later.
Then, go forth and blog away, fellow bookies! After all, that’s really what it’s all about!
Categories: Blogging Advice