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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.

Slug:

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.

Ads…ads…ads… 

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.


THE GOOD GIRL PART ONE

Buy now!
THE GOOD GIRL PART ONE

THE GOOD GIRL PART DEUX

Buy now!
THE GOOD GIRL PART DEUX

THE GOOD GIRL Part Trois

Buy now!
THE GOOD GIRL Part Trois

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Change of Plans

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

Happy March.

I have a confession. I am a writer who hasn’t released a new book in over a year. There, I said it. I can’t believe my last new release was late 2019.

I will not lament about the ups and downs of 2020, nor will I use the pandemic as an excuse for not publishing a book. Instead of publishing a new book, I concentrated on completing a book, which I did. Truthfully, my plan was to release The Good Girl Part Trois last year, but that didn’t happen.

Instead, I reread it and realized it needed a little work. A little work quickly turned into a lot of work. I’m not complaining because I’m very pleased with the story. However, I’m a lot disappointed I let so much time lapse between releases. The extra time gave me some perspective and an opportunity to figure out a launch plan.

I listened to several podcasts and You Tube videos searching for a new release launch plan. In the end, I decided to try something completely different slow and escalating. I would love to land in a bestseller spot at the end of release day or week. To accomplish such a feat would take a lot more planning than I have. My plan takes patience. I look at it as setting my book up for long term sales.

First step in my plan, push the release date back. This was a difficult decision to make. After all, in Jann’s post as well as mine, I said my release date was February 23rd. Why the change? A couple of things…lack of time and a couple of amazing promotion opportunities. As it got closer to the middle of February, I felt rushed. Although I was going with a slow crawl release plan, I still felt rushed. The other reason was promotion slots.

I forgot it was difficult to book premium newsletter slots without reviews. Since I hadn’t finished tweaking the edits, I didn’t have time to secure additional beta readers. I was in trouble. Thank God, I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of free giveaways.

I was already considering making book one free as a lead in for the series. When these opportunities came up, jumped on them and made the first two books free. This got me to thinking, instead of trying to buy a lot of newsletter ads for the new release, I’m buying ads for the first two books. I’ll stagger them for maximum the exposure. Bottom line, I’m going to promote these free books like crazy for a month. Hopefully, this will lead to a lot of pre-orders for book three. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Second, reformat books one and two. I knew I had to upload the new covers which would only literally take a few minutes with Vellum. All I needed was the original file. Sounds easy, except for one minor detail, I couldn’t find the file. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of hours searching my computer, that I remembered I didn’t format them.

Once I found the original files, I loaded them and in a matter of minutes the books were formatted. However, before calling it a day, I reread the books and made a few tweaks. That’s a joke. I re-wrote a few chapters. In the end, I added a few hundred words and modified some of the character behavior to match up with books three and four. This little task took about a week to complete. I didn’t stop there. I also decided to update the style of the book which led to another week of work.

I thought I was done with the first two books, until I realized I needed to update the print versions as well. If this was a new release, this step could have waited, but these were books that were already out. I took them down on Amazon, but I think they might still be up. This may sound bad, but I hope no one buys a print version until I get the new version uploaded.

Amazing how something which seemed simple turned into a major project. I wasn’t looking forward to reformatting the print books. Again, I was feeling pressured. I use Vellum and this turned out to the the perfect time to try their print version. In a matter of seconds, I had a print version of my book. It was nice, but I tweaked it with some special chapter headers. I like the file, now all I need to do is order the proof. I’m going to try to release the print version for book three on release day, but it might have to wait a couple of weeks. I need a break.

What does the rest of my release plan look like? A lot of ads. I already have a Facebook ad running, but I’m going to increase the spend and add another one. Funny thing, I mentioned two of the promotion events I’m doing are for free books. I set the books as free on all the platforms except Amazon. I was waiting a few days. However, someone must have requested a price match for The Good Girl Part One, because Amazon set it as free. As of this posting, it was #11 in Black & African American Romance and #14 Two-Hour Romance Short Reads. Seems like my plan is working.

Now all I need to do is finish the edits, format and continue with my launch plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


THE GOOD GIRL PART ONE

Buy now!
THE GOOD GIRL PART ONE

THE GOOD GIRL PART DEUX

Buy now!
THE GOOD GIRL PART DEUX

THE GOOD GIRL Part Trois

Buy now!
THE GOOD GIRL Part Trois

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URL Slugs: The Right Custom Slug Builds SEO

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

Did you know you can customize the slug part of the URL for every blog post you create AND that it helps to build SEO? All of us create a URL when we post on this blog. But did you know you can customize it?

Blog post header that talks about how a Custom Slug Builds SEO by marketing for authors owner Denise M. Colby

What is the slug and what does it do. 

A URL is the address of a website page. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It’s this address that allows someone to go directly to a specific page. The slug is the tail end of the URL that identifies a particular page on a website in an easy to read form.

What’s nice about the slug is that you can provide the link. Or someone can find it in a search engine. 

And we all want someone to find it if they search for the information we are writing about. 

How can a URL slug appear in the searches we want?

Choose the right words.

In my research I found out that the simple extra words can be removed. Words such as the, and, of.

The simpler, the better. Just 4-5 words max.

And using the Keyword or phrase you’ve selected is a bonus when building SEO. 

Even though we don’t own this blog, we want our writing to be found. So SEO on our individual blog pages matter, which means the right slug builds SEO.

And one way to do that is to customize the URL slug. 

How do you customize the URL slug to build SEO?

The slug is listed in the Yoast section at the bottom of our post entry. You can also see it appear in the Permalink to the right, under the document.

Just take out the extra words. Choose words that would be a phrase that someone would write in a search looking for this particular article.

For this blog post, I chose custom-slug-builds-seo, which is the same as my keyword phrase.

I then took this keyword/slug and googled it to make sure that it fit what I wanted it to fit.

Once you set a slug, don’t change it.

This is because once you give out the link to the post, if you change it, no one will be able to find it.

I know I have several slugs I would love to go back and change and make them stronger and shorter. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

But keep in mind. It may not be wise to go back and clean up past URLs. Especially if you have already used them in other blog posts or pages. Once you change the URL the link is broken and people who click on the old link will get an error message. 

If you’d like to learn more about SEO, sign up for my Marketing for Authors newsletter (notice this url slug was created way before I knew to condense them), or take a look at some of my other posts on this website including one about blog post creation.

I’d love to learn your experience with renaming the slug part of URL. Let us all know with your comments listed below.

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