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The Brand Challenge Introduction

October 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

This month, I’m introducing a concept called The Brand Challenge. It’s a way to encourage you to try something new on your website to help you build your brand.

Blog header with right side showing laptop and left with words The Brand Challenge by Denise M. Colby

Sometimes branding and dealing with your website can be challenging. The purpose of this challenge is to encourage you to just try. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can even be something you decide to change later on. The idea is trying something new to keep propelling you forward in your Author career.

For a list to choose from, here are some ideas to help you with your Brand Challenge this month:

  • Create a new blog post this month about a character, your story theme, or genre you write in
  • Up your on-page SEO with each post and page (for help, I’ve created an On-Page SEO Checklist for you to download, and check out my past blog post Using a Blog SEO Checklist to Streamline Your Blog Post)
  • Create a book page on your website for every book you have or are working on
  • Link two or three pages on your website to one another using Anchor Text
  • Design a social media post about the genre you are writing in, or a book you’ve read recently

Pick One Task A Month For This Brand Challenge

Again, I encourage you to do one thing on this list above to help build your brand. It may not seem much, or it may feel overwhelming. But just stick to one thing only for the entire month. Then do another thing the following month. Pretty soon, you’ll have many months of blog posts or content you didn’t have before.

I’m always amazed at how slow and steady can be the right way to approach brand building.

Sometimes we feel this urgency to hurry up that adds extra stress we don’t need as we are busy writing our next book.

I’d love to hear other ideas that can help you build your brand. Do you like the idea of a monthly Brand Challenge? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.



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What’s All The Hype Over Keywords?

August 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

We’ve all heard these statements: Use keywords in your blog posts. Up your SEO game with the right keywords. Keywords are the key. Keywords matter. So what is all the hype over keywords?

Hype Over Keywords Blog banner with words What's All the Hype Over Keywords by Denise M. Colby and other side with back side open laptop

Here’s a simple definition:

Keywords are used in digital marketing to describe a word or group of words someone types in a search engine/search bar to perform a search.

As writers we use that search bar all the time for our research.

And that’s how our readers use the search bar too.

So when we write a blog post – think what your reader would possibly type in their search bar to find what you are writing. And use your search bar to test the keywords you are selecting.

The hype over keywords is no joke

Have you ever searched for something and had to change the wording several times to finally get to what you were looking for? That’s the keyword organization going on. The search engines have specific formulas to organize and index everything on the internet. When someone performs a search, they want to find relevant content.  And why businesses in the SEO and search engine business hype the use of keywords all the time. And teach what they can on the subject. The better everyone uses keywords, the more organized internet content will be.

How do you write keywords?

Keywords are tricky. You can’t use the same ones twice. If you do, they sort of cancel each other out when being indexed. So, when you use only one word, it limits using that word ever again. So using two words and varying one of them for different scenarios would be a good strategy.

Another strategy is to not use words too broad or too narrow. Again, think about the terms you use when searching for similar topics. You want to land on the first page of the search. The more you research, you’ll start to see how to tweak and tailor your keywords to better fit.

Other tips for writing strong keywords

  • Make sure posts and pages are focused and related to only ONE main idea. When you figure out your keyword FIRST, you write your blog post differently.
  • Include your keywords in your title, first paragraph, a subhead or two, and the body text
  • Use other relatable words that support the main topic through the post/page
  • Include pictures that represent your keywords and add your keywords into the alt text
  • Keywords can be tied into your Category and Tag strategy as well, especially if it’s a topic you cover frequently
  • You could use your keyword phrase as your slug to keep things simple

Interested in learning more about SEO? Check out my Using a Blog SEO Checklist to Streamline Your Blog Post and/or sign up for my Marketing for Authors newsletter on my website.

SEO Keywords and Marketing for Authors Logo - Teal, black and white text with a light bulb and MfA over it. By Denise M. Colby

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Using a Blog SEO Checklist to Streamline Your Blog Post

May 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , , ,

Did you know that using an Blog SEO Checklist can help you streamline the time it takes you to build your blog posts?

We all know it takes time to figure out what we even want to write about, but then we also need to figure out all the SEO parts that support that particular blog post.

If we were to build the SEO as part of the blog post step, we’d save ourselves a lot of time and be more strategic and purposeful with what we are posting.

I don’t know about you, but it seems every month I forget how much time it takes to organize my SEO because I think about it AFTER I write the post. Sometimes it takes longer figuring out the SEO then it does to write the post and pull graphics together. And then because I’m entering it all last minute, I don’t think it through as much as I would like.

Screen shot of Yoast SEO Fields to complete for stronger SEO

I’m working on changing that and thought it would be helpful to pull together a checklist for all of us.

Focus Keyword: 

Figuring out this first—even before you start writing the post—will help save you time in the long run. What do you want your focus word to be? Everything else should stem from this.

Category & Tags:

Knowing your categories and tags before you develop your blog posts help you be more strategic and set up an organization within your posts. In my classes I help you brainstorm and build out potential ideas for your blog.

Blog Title: 

Make sure to put your focus keyword in your title and the first paragraph of your post.


The slug should be condensed version of your title and/or keyword. See my blog post about slugs—URL Slugs: The Right Custom Slug Builds SEO or Custom URL Slug and How To Make One

Meta Description:

This is a summary in a small one-to-two sentence structure. Some use the first paragraph, some change it up. Make sure it includes your focus keyword, and remember this is the summary someone sees if they are searching the topic and your post appears on the search results.

Graphics Alt Text:

The Alt Text should have your keyword in it. If you pick your keyword last and already uploaded your graphics (see my three-part blog post about graphics and SEO) you might miss this opportunity to connect your graphics with stronger SEO.

Think of one link that would support your blog post (research, your own website). You can sign up for my Marketing for Authors Newsletter using this link to my website.

Think of one link within the blog website that supports your current blog post. Don’t forget to use Anchor Text. I did this in the slug section and the graphics alt text above.

How to Apply Your Blog SEO Checklist

I highly recommend creating a spreadsheet to keep track of what you use for SEO every post. It’s important that you don’t repeat the same words and phrases each time, yet build out synonyms and similar themes with your SEO to help establish your authority on certain topics.

If you have a notebook, you can download this sheet to write in the blanks.

a checklist of SEO fields to complete for your blog by Denise M. Colby, Marketing for Authors

Short on time? Take a screen shot of the data, or write it on a post-it note. Anything to help you keep track of your SEO. It’s all about building your brand, and your SEO strategy is a part of that. And using a blog SEO checklist is one way to help you develop this strategy.

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How Big Is Your Writing Box?

April 12, 2021 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

We all have created a box for our writing, whether we know it or not. It’s our map, so to speak. And detours can either help or hinder our writing journey. So how big is your writing box? And how do you adjust when potential opportunities or detours appear?

Blog header with white background and laptop open with white screen and Writing Box in it

We all have a game plan when we first start writing. We sort of need to in order to reach our goals. But is your writing anything like you originally planned out when you first started?

Mine isn’t.

I get asked a lot by friends who know I’m writing a book “When will your book be published?” “Have you finished that book yet?” Well, I can understand their questions, since I’ve been working on my book for over eight years now. (I’ll be honest, I’m not focused on it full time, since I’ve had other commitments, including jobs & volunteer positions for my kids schools).

I still plan to publish, but after some amazing side journeys, I now wonder if my book(s) are not the entire piece of my writing journey?

I love my Writing Journey so far

My experience has been awesome, overall. Sure, there have been high points (winning a contest, learning, making friends) and low points (getting hard feedback from a contest, not figuring out a scene, everything taking too long), All of it has helped me learn so much about myself. From putting my work out there, to learning from so many fantastic workshops I feel like I’ve gained a second degree, to making great friends and joining some amazing writing groups. 

But I’m finding as I complete this latest round of edits and share my MS with a few additional people, I’m curious to see what will come next. And I’m willing to step out of my original writing box to see where it can go. Which is very different than having the focused expectation of how the next step will happen.

See, In the beginning, my book was the main goal. Now I’m not so sure.

Be Willing to Expand Your Writing Box

We all have to start somewhere. But, if we are too rigid with our plans, we may miss opportunities that help us with the bigger picture. For me, I needed to explore other areas of writing to help me figure out what I could and couldn’t do. Some of these side journeys have helped me continue on this writing journey.

Magazine Articles

I wrote magazine articles, which took time away from my book, but I found the deadlines, working with an editor, and seeing my writing in print, helped to keep me motivated, and help me be a stronger writer.

Magazine cover articles written by Denise M. Colby for Westcoast Magazine July 2018
Some of the magazine articles I have written and published. If you click on the picture it will take you to those articles that are published digitally

Blog Posts

Blog posts and being a part of this blog has helped me gain confidence in putting my work “out there” and learn that the sky won’t cave in, I do have something to share, and how to respond to comments (and experience the thrill of connecting with a reader). Some of my first blog posts covered topics of hard-learned lessons (Let Me Tell You Something, Face Your Fear) and sharing what I was doing and testing out theories (What is Alt Text and How To Use It), which lent to the next step…

Marketing for Authors

When I made connections between my day job (Marketing) and this author thing and realized I had expertise to share. I felt a nudging to teach (at writing conferences, and in blog posts, and a training course in the works) and establish my Marketing for Authors newsletter. Now I find I love teaching and helping other authors figure out their brand and creating additional content and how this all ties together.

Marketing for Authors Logo - Teal, black and white text with a light bulb and MfA over it. By Denise M. Colby

With all that, I really don’t know if my book is the end all goal now. Or it may still be and all of this will support it in ways I can’t explain yet.

Am I going to finish it and publish it? Yes. Do I have more stories in the works? Yes. But by allowing my writing box to get bigger, I’m seeing infinitely more ways to connect and be a part of this publishing world.

Our Writing Box ties into our Author Brand

What do I want my brand to be?

Our Author Brand is our Author Name and pieces of who we are (and who we decide to share with the world). How we explore and expand as our writing grows and expands. It takes time to develop what our voice is going to be about. And it should continue to evolve.

I have found that by being flexible with my writing box I see a bigger picture. And I’ve learned to trust my instincts and take some side journeys.

My Writing Box Grew Bigger When I Took a Detour

I know I’ve talked about this in snippets in my classes, but here’s a deeper dive into how this came about and became an aha moment for me. And why I believe my branding brainstorm I teach in my classes can help you figure out your brand and new and different ways, which can in turn help you to connect with your readers.

My Example:

I love journaling. Whether it’s a prayer journal, or a travel journal, or what I’ve now started as my Word of the Year Journal, capturing thoughts and writing them out help me process things.

When I started writing my novel, I wanted to have an element of a journal in my story. I didn’t know how I would do it, but wanted my heroine to have a diary that turned into prayer journal. Something which helped show her journey throughout the story.

I wasn’t even completed with my first round of edits when I had a nudge to create a website page about starting a prayer journal. And I argued with myself for taking away precious time to work on my book, etc… But in the end I decided doing so would be good practice for putting something “out there” on my website. So I created the page 7 Steps to Creating a Prayer Journal.

Example by Denise M. Colby of how her writing box expanded by creating a webpage about creating a prayer journal

It didn’t click until afterwards how much this fell in line with my story.

And by flushing this page out, it helped me see more clearly how to implement what I wanted to do. This little detour actually has helped me write my book. And I think it is something I can tie into when my book is published.

Side note: Something else that has come out of all this is the desire to design a line of journals as well. Who would’ve thought that something I love and hold dear, would become a large part of my story and brand?

If I hadn’t take then the time to flush it out and do it, I would’ve limited the potential of offering more than just my story.

So am I the only one to experience this?

Do you have a side journey that has helped your writing career?

I’d love to hear about it.

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Soft Or Small Launch

April 5, 2021 by in category Pink Pad by Tracy Reed tagged as , ,

Happy Spring…

This is one of my favorite times to post, because it’s my birthday.  So Happy Birthday to me.

The past month while preparing my new release The Good Girl Part Trois, I realized it had been over a year since my last release. 

The other thing that shocked me was the size of the book.  I knew it was going to be slightly larger than the previous two in the series.  Those are novellas.   However, I had no idea it was going to finish out at 70,000+ words.  I know what you’re saying, didn’t you have the page count on while you were writing?  Yes, I did, but it’s not until I formatted it that it clicked.  Based on the way I format my print books, I think this book is going to officially be my biggest and longest print book.

I’m just beginning release month so I have very few things to share with you about this release.  

Prior to the release, I started listening to the Six Figure Author podcast.  I don’t remember how I discovered it, but gleaned a lot of information.  I also listened to Tim Grahl’s “Your first 1000 Copies”.  I also reviewed some of my Self Publishing Formula lessons.  

I did all of this research because I wanted different results with this release.  It might sound vain, but I really want that NYT, USA Today, WSJ, Amazon bestseller tag.  Don’t judge.  I know a bestseller tag doesn’t necessary equal sales.  Nor does it validate you.  It’s one of those unexplainable author things.  But because I write a very different type of romance…faith and sex,  hitting the list would mean people get me.  In a nutshell, it would validate my writing.  It also means readers understand and appreciate the stories I’m telling.

All that research led me to make a decision to do a soft or small launch.  This is because I’ll be releasing book four in the series in a few months.  An author in one of my Facebook groups suggested I “plug the crap out of book four and the series”.  I could do that, but how?

I mentioned last month why I pushed the release date back, but now I needed a plan.  How was I going to set up a small launch?  All of the launch plans I researched had some of the same components…get 

reviews, schedule ads, alert your list and post to social media.  Possibly do a giveaway.   Also, don’t focus so much on the day, but the month and how to turn that into sales with tails.

I changed my focus, which was hard.  I really wanted to go after a list spot.  Let’s be real, I’ve never come close to a list position with a paid release.  Now free books is something different.  The first two books in The Good Girl Series have been doing very well as freebies.  So much so, that I am seriously thinking about making book one permafree.  Since I made it free, I’ve seen an increase in reviews for both books.

Here’s what I did and will be doing during release month.  

I participated in a massive one day free book giveaway.  I used my first two books in the series as a lead in for book three.  The giveaway yielded several thousand downloads plus preorders for book three.  For the first time in my writing career, I had almost 100 preorders.  For some this is a small number, but for me it was huge.

I offered a preorder.  In the past I sometimes waited until the last minute to put up a preorder.  The reason being, I didn’t want to get boxed into a corner with Amazon in case I missed the date. Another first for me, preorders across all platforms.


Facebook.  This is where I ran into a little problem.  I had what I thought was the perfect image for my Facebook Ads.  Unfortunately, they disagreed and shut my ads account down for being too suggestive.  I freaked out because I was testing ads.  This set me back a couple of days.  I immediately started praying and asking my groups for advice.  I did as suggested and appealed to Facebook and the following day, my account was reopened.  This pushed my plan back, because of the necessary testing period.  Looking back now, I consider this to be a good thing, because it means my ads will be set for book four’s release.

AMS and BookBub.  I set up ads for all three books on these platforms.  Books one and two are doing well.    Unfortunately, book three isn’t.  I’m not going to freak out.  Once I get it right, it will be set for book four’s release.

Newsletter ads.  I took advantage of The Fussy Librarian’s special and booked two free slots for the first two books.  I don’t have any proof, but I’m pretty sure it led to some preorders on the days the ads posted.  I also, booked an ad for later in the month with another site.

Promotions.  The promotion I mentioned involved free books which meant I had to make the books free in advance. Doing this pushed me in the top ten free in several categories in a few countries.  Once the promotion ended, I left the books as free to drive sales to book three.  I’m doing another free promo in a few days and I elected to use book one in the series.  I’m hoping this will drive more sales to book three.  

Social Media posts.  I posted to all of my pages with some hits.   What surprised me the most was people commenting on the ads thanking me for the free books.  That’s nice.  To my knowledge, there’s no way for me to know if those will turn into sales. 

Newsletter swaps.  I did one with a friend and want to do more.  I think it’s important as authors that we help each other.  Sharing or exposing my readers to other authors is something I want to incorporate in my newsletter on a regular basis. 

Reviews.  This is where I dropped the ball.  I was still tweaking the book up to a few days before release so I didn’t do ARCs.  I know I should have gotten reviews which was part of my plan.  I have no reason for why I didn’t do it.  I did seek out a review service and they said I would need to offer the other two books as well.  If that’s the case, I’ll wait until book four to use the review service.  Good review news, as of this morning I had two five star ratings. 

How do I feel about the small or slow launch?  It’s too soon to say.  I did review my past release month results and so far, this is working.  I will admit my best release month so far, was with Unexpected Love.  I followed a different plan which called for a 99c release price.  So far, I sold more books with that release, but money wise, this release has made more.  

So what have I learned with this release so far?  Making the bestseller list is a goal and can be achieved anytime in a book’s life.  Rank is good, but not the only measure to a book’s success.  You can’t use  the same launch plan for every book.  Steady sales pay the bills.  Write what you want to read, because there are a few readers out there with similar reading tastes.

Happy Spring.


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