Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…

Think of your blog as a mirror: what does it reveal? Consider your blog name, theme choice, design, bio, posts… what does every element tell you about yourself?

Who Am I?

Man in the MirrorMy blog is now two years old in its current incarnation. I had a rocky start as a blogger. I wasn’t very familiar with blogging, and had never been much for journaling. My writing was either purely fiction, or world-building in support of my fiction. So it took me a while to understand that building an audience of readers meant getting outside of my own head and my own fictional world to answer the “What’s in it for me?” that every reader has when they come to a blog.

I had to figure out exactly what my blogging voice was, what I wanted to say, and, then, how to find the ideal readers who were waiting for my words.

But now, as I look at myself in the mirror of my blog, I wonder if I’ve answered those questions as well as I would have liked?

  • What is my blogging voice? Fun, most times. Bittersweet, sometimes. Teacherly, almost always. And that’s not so bad. I kind of like that. But does the look and feel of my blog reflect that? I promote my own fiction in the sidebar a lot, but don’t talk about my own fiction very much in my blog. Is that a disconnect?
  • What do I want to say? I launched the blog in part to share all the things about writing and publishing that I’ve learned through school, practice, and professional work, but also to promote both my writing and my freelance publishing services. But is that too broad? Should I focus more?
  • Have I found my ideal readers? Are more of them out there? Where? How do I find them?

These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself lately as I overhaul my blog and audit my content.

What’s a Content Audit?

A content audit is pretty much what it says it is: an inspection of one’s blog content. As with inspections of any kind, the idea is to carefully examine your content and make sure it’s healthy, useful, and productive.

The Content Audit is a Self-Reflective Mirror

Keep in mind that everything that’s visible to your readers is “content,” including blog posts, widgets, social media links, advertising, landing pages, portfolios, archives, categories, tags, even dates.

My content audit is done in an Excel spreadsheet, where I capture the following information:

  • Columns for date, headline, full post URL, SEO optimization score, and “Action Required.”
  • Columns for my most important content topics, and for content types (audience attraction content, persuasive content, relationship-building content, etc.).
  • Blog categories for my key topics.
  • Anything else I particularly want to improve on my site: better headlines, or a stronger writing voice, or more compelling post images.

I go through this same process for my landing pages — sales pages, my email opt-in page, and so forth.

What We See in the Mirror

By holding a mirror up to my content, I can identify weak points for improvement, and prune back the deadwood.

For example, my SEO overall is very strong, but my content audit reflects that—across the board—the fiction excerpts from my books have lower SEO scores than my other types of content.

Why is this? It’s simple really, once the mirror reveals the problem. The golden rule of SEO is to repeat the SEO keyword throughout the content piece: in the title, in the first paragraph, in one or more headers, and several more times in the body of the content, as well as in the metadata for images.

But repetition is anathema in fiction, and the format of fiction generally doesn’t involve headers. And I’m often lazy with my images, and don’t optimize them as well as I should. So I’m not presenting the keyword often enough to raise the SEO to its best level.

One solution for boosting the SEO in these excerpts is to review the images and add keywords to their metadata. Another might be to add an introductory paragraph featuring the keyword, and a concluding paragraph (with a header) featuring the keyword.

My audit also reflects the interests of my audience. Which posts have the most likes? The most comments? The most views?

Trends also become apparent.

My #13WeekNovel series is my most popular overall series of posts, but views of the series drop after Week 3. Is there something about my Week 3 or Week 4 posts that puts off series my readers? Or is it that many aspiring writers can only hold their discipline together for about a month? What can I do to improve my readers’ follow-through?

Another trend that I’ve been aware of for some time: my readers don’t engage in the comments. They like, they share, they reblog. But they seldom comment. So I have to ask myself: Why is that? Poor site design? Is the voice intimidating?

These trends raise questions that require further attention before I can find an answer. By using Google Analytics to further understand my readers’ behavior, I can highlight these challenges as priorities for change.

Narrow the Focus, Broaden the Audience

The reflection in the mirror of my blog seems fragmented:

  • Author.
  • Editor & Publishing Professional.
  • Book Marketer.
  • All-Around Good Guy.

I just finished a thirteen week series on the business of finding an agent, writing query letters, and preparing book proposals.

In between, there are posts about a book reading I was doing to promote my fantasy fiction series, and spotlights on new releases from other authors.

Before that was a thirteen week series on rewriting a novel, during which I was also promoting my fourth book.

So which is it? What am I? An author promoting my books? A book marketer spreading the word about other writers? Or a publishing professional encouraging writers to publication through better craft, editorial advice, and an insight into the business of writing?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being all of these things, but focusing the blog into certain channels might improve the experience for my readers.

So this is what I’m doing behind the scenes this month. Taking a long hard look in the mirror, and rebuilding my blog to focus the reflection on what my readers seem to care about the most, to encourage greater engagement, and grow my audience still further.

What does your blog say about you?

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About

Michael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. He is currently working as an independent freelancer. He lives in the Greater New York City area.

Posted in Author Platform, Blogging, The Business of Writing

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The Author
Michael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. He is currently working as an independent freelancer. He lives in the Greater New York City area.
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