I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012.
Only a little over 2 years, and my blog has reached 100,000 views and nearly 4,000 followers. My blog averages over 400 views per day presently, and the viewing frequency steadily accelerates.
If I can do it, you can, too. I believe it.
It’s not rocket science. (Just ignore the fact that I have a Ph.D. in physics. I didn’t use any physics to make my blog.)
In fact, I’m sharing my blogging ‘secrets’ today to help you do the same.
It’s not just me. I meet many other WordPress bloggers with many more views and followers than I have.
If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. You can get there, too.
I’ve created multiple blogs and webpages with WordPress, BlogSpot, GoDaddy, etc. By far my most successful blog or webpage is this WordPress blog. We’re fortunate that WordPress helps with visibility in search results. I find that the WordPress community is also very helpful, interactive, and positive. It’s a great place to be.
WORDPRESS BLOGGING TIPS
Here are 21 simple tips for better blogging at WordPress.
At the end of this article, I also reveal my two best tips for better blog traffic, and discuss those two tips in detail.
You can’t afford to lose any potential readers, right? They’re so hard to come by.
So your blog needs to be as readable as possible.
Black text on white is easiest to read. Use this for body text.
People read books. But they skim blogs.
Use headings, bullets, boldface, color, quote blocks, indents, images, etc. to make your blog skim-friendly.
Help the reader identify main points and see which parts of the article have relevant content.
3 Who Are You?
Setup your Gravatar. Check it periodically to ensure that it’s current.
Look for Users on either your dashboard or on My Sites.
Manage your photo through the Gravatar service. This will be your visual brand when you comment, for example.
Complete your profile. Be sure to add other links. For example, authors might add an Amazon Author Central page and a Goodreads page.
Look for Settings > Sharing from your dashboard (click WP Admin from My Sites).
Add your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media sites here. This will allow you to feed your WordPress blog directly to those sites.
(But check out my previous article about how Amazon uses Facebook and Twitter, and also check out the comments section in that post. That only takes a minute and it’s a better way.)
More important, add the sharing buttons in Settings > Sharing.
This allows people who read your articles to share them via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
(If you include a hashtag in your title here at WordPress, that will help if anyone shares your post on Twitter.)
Remember to add the Print and Email options. Some people who read blogs actually like to print the articles out.
Be sure to scroll down and check the boxes for the posts and pages where you want these buttons to show.
6 Twitter & Facebook Widgets
Here is a little secret: Your Twitter and Facebook following adds to your WordPress following, so they actually help make your blog seem a little more popular than it really is.
Go to Appearance > Widgets from your dashboard.
Add the Twitter Timeline and the Facebook Like Box. Just drag them over to a sidebar. Then click the dropdown arrow to open a menu and customize them.
Let your readers like your page, comment on your page, and perhaps even reblog your posts.
The likes and comments make your blog appear more interactive, and help your page stay fresh longer.
Some people try to look “pro” by removing the likes. The idea is that if there are a mere 13 likes on a post, you’re not really so popular, huh?
Who are we trying to fool? If I don’t even see the like button as an option, my first thought is that the number of likes must be really tiny.
Or, in some cases, the idea may be to encourage Facebook interaction instead. Ah, but I loathe to have to login with so many different accounts. Look, I’m already here with my Gravatar. Let me use that.
Make it simple, encourage interaction. It’s hard to get, so take what you can get.
Turn likes and reblogs on under Settings > Sharing and discussion options under Settings > Discussion.
8 Can Your Spam
Nobody wants to see that junk on your blog.
Go to Settings > Discussion to adjust comment permission settings.
I like the option where a previously approved commenter can comment again another day.
Do you really want your most loyal followers to be pending moderation? No.
But you don’t want to give the spammers a free reign either, so it’s a good idea to manually approve those who are new to your blog.
But then you better remember to check for comments that need to be approved. Don’t make them wait in limbo for days.
9 Tags & Categories
Choose tags and categories for each post. Choose just a few of each.
Specific tags likely to actually be searched for are best.
Categories should be somewhat broader than tags, but still, specific is better.
Example: I recently wrote some articles on Amazon’s new advertising tool for KDP Select authors.
Good categories may include Amazon, KDP Select, and advertising, with more specific tags of advertise on Amazon, KDP Select advertising, and Amazon Marketing Services.
Narrower tags are better. Suppose someone is searching for the keyword “advertising” on Google. My post specifically on advertising books through KDP Select isn’t going to be relevant for most searches on “advertising,” so what’s the point of that broad tag? My specific tags make this more relevant for search engines.
Categories can be somewhat broader. While “advertising” may be too broad for use as a tag, if I have other posts in the category of “advertising,” then search engines can see how relevant my website overall is to that topic.
It’s more effective to have just a few categories and a few specific tags. Piling these on or using broad tags doesn’t help.
Tip: I start typing searches at a search engine, and it pulls up popular matches as I search. You can get more detailed analysis from Google, for example, but this is good enough for me. I want a specific tag that’s actually searched for enough to show as a popular match, but not so general as to be too popular for me to ever achieve reasonable visibility.
10 Search Engine Visibility
The tags that you add should naturally fit into your article. If indeed they are relevant, it should be natural to work them into the text and headings.
Don’t overdo it. Google will smell a rat. Don’t just string keywords together. That will be very obvious, not only to Google but to your readers, too.
Your article needs to read well, but also signify what the content is about.
11 Branding & Straying
You want to develop your own brand as a blogger. This way, readers know what to expect in the way of content from you. And as your website begins to attract visitors through search engines, you want those search terms to be relevant to your blog.
But you don’t want to post 100% within the same topic, even if it’s a broad topic. It’s okay to write occasionally about other things, or to post something more personal and show that you’re human. You don’t have to give out personal info, but you might once in a blue moon relate an experience. You can make your blog a little personal without giving away personal info.
A little variety is actually good. You may actually attract more followers that way. You can balance some variety.
But you want your brand to be clear through the variety.
When I browse through my WordPress reader, I see some posts and the style of the photo or the style of the beginning clearly reveals whose blog it is. Those blogs have a definite brand in terms of appearance or style. Brand recognition. But you also want the content of your brand to show through, even if your blog has some variety.
If you want referrals, recommendations, and links to your home page, it should be clear what people should expect from your blog. What is your brand? No, don’t tell it. Show it.
12 Don’t Lose Traffic
Every extra click loses internet travelers along the way.
If it takes 2 clicks to reach your website instead of 1, you’ll lose traffic.
In Settings > Reading, you can choose to display the full article or a summary.
If you choose summary, this creates an extra click that some followers must click to reach your article from the WordPress reader.
(Some know that they can get there in 1 click. But those hoping to read your post in the reader will waste a click realizing that wasn’t possible.)
Some won’t make the trip. It’s just an internet fact.
But the WordPress stats can be misleading.
If you switch from showing the full article to showing a summary, your view stats may actually increase. But this can be misleading.
Here’s what might happen. Someone who likes your blog might add your home page to their Favorites toolbar. So they visit your home page to read your articles. If you’re showing the full article, they can read 5 articles on your home page without any clicks at all. They read 5 articles, but you only get 1 view.
Now you switch to showing only a summary. Now this reader visits your home page, but has to click the Read More link 5 separate times to view those 5 articles. Suddenly, your view stats go up. But really, your pages aren’t being viewed more than they had been. It’s just counting different now that someone has to click the link to read the rest of the article.
But this may be a bad thing, forcing those clicks to up your views. Because some people won’t make those clicks. Some people who could have read 5 articles without a single click now won’t read 1.
However, there is another consideration: upload time. Let’s say that you have a lot of high-resolution images in your posts, most of which would show after the Read More point. This could slow down the load time of your home page. Then people might visit your blog and close it out because it takes too long to load. In this case, switching to summary may help more than it hurts. You have to weigh the pros and cons (and maybe test your website out from several different computers and devices).
If you use the WordPress.com dashboard and if you write in Visual mode instead of Text (for HTML)—find the option at the top right when you’re writing the post—click the Toggle Toolbar icon at the top right of the icons on the top toolbar to open up other options, including an option to change from Paragraph to Headers, change the font color, indent a block, or insert a special character, for example.
(Can you imagine not knowing that these other options are available?)
Use the headings (with the icon in Visual, or using HTML in Text) for headings in your blog post. The words in your headings, or in the text divided by the headings, may help to show search engines how your content is organized, for example. Headings also aid in skimming versus reading.
You have many options when it comes to images, even without using HTML, just with the Visual menu writing a post at WordPress.com.
Click the Add Media button. You can upload a file, or insert an image from a url, which lets you display an image from another site (but check the image use guidelines first). Find the image, right-click, and copy image location. The link often ends with .jpg or .png, for example, when you paste it in. This may not work with images on some sites, like Facebook.
If you’re not using an image that you made yourself, check the image use guidelines for that image. You don’t want to be in violation of content theft.
When linking to an image through an image url, click the button for alignment. You can also link the image to a website with the bottom option.
For example, you can find your book on Amazon, copy the image url (right-click the image and copy image location), paste it in when adding an image url at WordPress, then copy the url of the book’s product page at Amazon and link to that. When someone clicks on your thumbnail in your post, it will then take the reader to your product page.
You probably don’t want to feature your own book (or other product or service) visually at the end of every post. You don’t even need to link to your book’s product page in every post. You could use your sidebar to feature your book (or author page). Look: Your followers already know about your book. You don’t need to shove your book in their face constantly. People finding your blog for the first time will see your sidebar and discover your book that way. I do mention one of my books in plain text at the end of each post, which has some branding value, and helps for those visitors who ignore your sidebar.
When adding your own image, you can set the size, edit the image in WordPress, add a caption, etc. It pays to explore your options.
Returning to the issue of content theft, some immensely popular blogs, especially those that are image rich and feature incredible images, often don’t allow reblogs. If someone reblogs your post, your images show up in their media history at WordPress. (Crazy, huh? Maybe it’s so that those images will stay on their reblog even if your blog goes south… I dunno.) But unless your images really are such a prized possession, you may need the reblogs if you can get them. At least, post a notice regarding copyright and image use on your sidebar or at the end of your posts. (It doesn’t prevent abuse, but at least you’re asserting your rights.)
15 Don’t Play Hard to Get
Go to Appearance > Widgets from your dashboard.
Add the Follow button to your sidebar. Choose Follow Blog: Follow Blog via Email. (If you choose to show your followers, it will include Twitter and Facebook followers if you add these through sidebars, too.)
Some people prefer to follow by email, so include this as an option. WordPress users will also see a Follow button at the top of the page to add your blog feed to their reader. For others, you can also add the RSS Links button to your sidebar, so they can subscribe to your blog feed.
Here’s one benefit of the follow by email option. Once people follow hundreds of bloggers, their WordPress reader becomes jam-packed. They have to be really selective to keep up with those posts, or just read the most recent posts. It just becomes too much.
So how do you, as a reader, following hundreds of blogs, make sure that you read 100% of the posts by your favorite bloggers? The answer is simple: Follow your favorite bloggers by email.
Follow many blogs in your WordPress reader, but only your favorites by email. (Actually, you can do both for a given blog, and I believe it will count you as two followers.)
Also, follow yourself! Not for the stats. But this way you can see how your own blog looks in the WordPress reader and in email. Follow yourself both ways.
But don’t like your own posts. That would be vain. 🙂
16 Why Are my Main Headings in CAPS?
I now begin all of my posts with an image followed by a heading (using h2) in CAPS.
For example, this post begins with the heading, BLOG SUCCESSFULLY.
Why is it in caps, instead of just capitalized like Blog Successfully?
That’s because your blog post looks different on your website, in the WordPress reader, when fed into your Author Central page, when fed into Goodreads, in the emails of those who follow by email, etc. When I put the headings in caps, the excerpt for my post looks okay across the board, but if I just capitalize it, I’m not happy with how the excerpt looks in some cases.
On my website, my heading and the first paragraph show up on different lines.
However, when my blog feeds into my Author Central page, the heading and first paragraph run together.
So if I don’t use caps, here’s how my excerpt would look to shoppers viewing my author page:
Blog Successfully I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012. Only a little over 2 years…
It looks grammatically incorrect. What kind of IDIOT (that would be me!) starts a sentence with, “Blog Successfully I first began blogging…”
So in an effort not to look like a fool, I put my headings in caps. Here’s how it looks at Author Central with that subtle change:
BLOG SUCCESSFULLY I first began blogging actively on WordPress in December, 2012. Only a little over 2 years…
Still not perfect in this case (it works better when the first word has more than one letter), but the caps provide some helpful separation.
You don’t even have to start your post with a heading.
But you should see how your posts look everywhere they might be read and on different devices.
17 Feed Your Blog
I feed my WordPress blog into my Amazon Author Central page and into Goodreads.
This is easy with WordPress. Just take the url for your WordPress website and add /feed/ to it. For example, my blog is https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com, so my blog feed is https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/feed/. I just paste this feed url into the appropriate fields at Author Central and Goodreads.
My most successful website or blog is my FREE WordPress.com blog, which includes .wordpress. in the url. I actually own the domain http://chrismcmullen.com, housed by GoDaddy, but all the traffic is presently over here with the free WordPress site. Everybody and their uncle and their uncle’s uncle will tell you that it’s better to buy the domain (which I did, but for me, that’s a different author site than this one, with far less traffic).
(Certainly, that looks more professional, right? But I wonder. When I see a link I’m not familiar with, I’m reluctant to click on it. Sorry, but even if I know John Doe, I don’t want to go to JohnDoe dot com. There’s a lot of stuff floating around on the internet that I’d like to avoid. But when I see a url ending with .wordpress.com, I trust that site because I trust WordPress. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get your own domain. Remember, I have one, too. Just maybe it’s worth rethinking this “common knowledge” that it’s better to use your own domain than to have the “wordpress” in it.)
18 Blog vs. Website?
Some people think it’s more professional to have a website than a blog. But you know what? If you feed your blog into your home page, it keeps the content on your website fresh. Fresh content is good for search engines, right?
The truth is that a website can have a blog, and a blog can become much more of a website than just a blog.
I started out with just a blog, and now my website has several pages. But my homepage features my blog.
Remember, you don’t have to build Rome in a day. You can start out with a blog, and once in a blue moon you can add a page, and eventually you’ll have a professional site with both a blog and pages of helpful content.
What you really want is a content-rich hub that will attract your target audience. You want to attract search engine traffic with a content-rich website. But all those weekly (or so) blog articles that you post will become the content for your content-rich website, provided that you post relevant content sometimes. And that blog will keep your content-rich website fresh.
The other pages will also have helpful content, so that people will want to add your website to their Favorites and revisit your site periodically.
Content is king. See my BEST TIP #2 at the end of this article.
19 Your Image
Be professional. You can add a personal touch, and that’s a good thing, but still cast yourself as someone who behaves professionally.
Try to avoid stirring controversy where it’s not necessary.
Try to avoid using your blog for public complaints that might not seem professional, like authors complaining about reviews.
Remember that your blog is public, not private, and the internet has an elephant’s memory.
20 Why You?
There are many great blogs to read.
Many blog readers follow hundreds of blogs.
So… the post you’re writing right now… why should people read it?
No, don’t tell. Show.
The beginning should hook the reader. It should make the expectations clear. It should create interest; not give it away.
The supporting image should help attract interest, too.
A striking, relevant image can snap the reader alert, creating interest in your post.
Even after the reader visits your page and begins reading, there is no guarantee that the reader will stay.
So you must work to engage the reader throughout.
You’d hate to blog for months, posting dozens of articles, to one day wake up and find it all gone.
So periodically back-up your blog.
It’s amazingly simple. And quick. I thought my blog was enormous and would take an eternity to download, but it just took a moment.
Go to Tools > Export. Then click export. Simply download a file and save it to your computer or jump drive (maybe both, just in case).
BEST TIP #1 PATIENCE
The first key is patience.
You start out with one post, no views, and no followers.
It can be agonizingly slow in the first few months. That’s normal.
I averaged over 400 views per day this week. But I was averaging in the single digits per day my first few months. It wasn’t until my 5th month of active blogging that I finally surpassed 300 views per month. I now average more views in 24 hours than I averaged in 30 days back then.
If you blog effectively, your stats can really accelerate months down the road.
The good news is that it often isn’t linear.
I remember those early days.
You do calculations like:
After 1 month of blogging, I have 200 views, 30 likes, and 10 followers.
At this rate, if I blog for 10 years, I’ll only have 24,000 views, 3600 views, and 1200 followers.
That wouldn’t be much to show for 10 years of hard work.
But it doesn’t work that way.
- As your following grows, so do your initial views.
- As your following grows, you tend to get more reblogs, retweets, and Facebook shares.
- As your following grows, the likes and comments make your newer posts appear more active.
- As you write more posts, you improve your chances of generating search engine traffic.
- It can take several weeks for your blog posts to gain visibility in search results.
- As you write similar posts, this may help your visibility with search engines, too.
- As you write similar posts, you develop a brand as a blogger.
- As you mention your blog’s url in all of your other marketing (e.g. bookmarks, author page in your book), this slowly adds more traffic to your blog.
Hence, things tend to accelerate.
So don’t sweat the early numbers.
See if you can make the numbers grow from one month to another. Do this consistently, and you have great long-term potential. Be patient.
BEST TIP #2 CONTENT
Content is king.
You don’t have to write 5,000+ word posts. In fact, shorter may be better, say around 1,000 words.
It depends on what you’re writing. Some bloggers build much traffic posting a poem every few days. There are some photoblogs that mostly post an image a day that have impressive numbers. Posting an inspirational note every day can gather a following.
But who is your target audience? And what will attract that audience?
Look beyond the views, likes, and follows. But I’m not saying these numbers aren’t important. They are: Your active followers provide the interaction that you need for your blog to feel worthwhile. They provide the support your need to be patient and the feedback to help you improve. And their likes and comments make your content appear interactive when latecomers arrive to the scene.
But there is another highly significant number that can signify excellent long-term potential.
Look at the number of views you’re getting from search engines. Look for older posts to show in the list of your 10 most popular posts of the day. Look at the search terms used to find your blog.
If you write content-rich articles, WordPress gives you good prospects of building significant traffic from search engines.
Search engine traffic pulls in new people from your target audience (if you choose your content wisely). These are visitors who didn’t already know about you, your blog, or your products or services. Hundreds of visitors find my blog each day from search engines. You can do it, too.
In the beginning, you’ll have no search engine traffic. This starts out very slow and can take months to really gain traction.
It also takes good content, and a wise choice of tags and categories (see tips #9 & 10 above).
Once you get any regular search engine traffic to some of your posts, your blog views can accelerate tremendously in the coming months.
Study the posts that are generating search engine traffic and try to figure out what you did right. That will help you when you write future posts.
Without search engine traffic, you write a post, it receives several views and likes for a few days, and then that post drops off the map completely.
If that post later starts finding regular traffic in search engines, that post adds many more views to your blog over the course of a year than your most popular posts generate in their first week (unless you have the good fortune for a post to go absolutely viral).
If your content is good enough to generate search engine traffic, it will also be good enough when it’s fresh to help please and add to your following.
Focus on creating helpful content for your target audience, at least with some of your posts, and good things are likely to happen.
The WordPress help pages have plenty of helpful information.
- WordPress help pages: https://wordpress.com/me/help
- WordPress support: http://en.support.wordpress.com
- Learn WordPress.com: https://learn.wordpress.com
- WordPress forums: http://en.forums.wordpress.com
Every blogger should check out One Cool Site’s Blogging Tips. This site is packed with valuable blogging tips for using WordPress effectively. I’ve learned much from this site.
If there is something specific you’d like to know about blogging at WordPress, try using Google to find your answer. Or try asking experienced bloggers. In my experience, WordPress is a helpful and friendly community, happy to share knowledge and tips.
Follow experienced and effective bloggers. You’ll probably learn some helpful tips seeing how they manage their blogs. Occasionally, bloggers even share their blogging tips right on their blogs.
Blog from your heart.
Write what you enjoy.
Enjoy what you write.
But also consider what’s effective and what your audience wants.
Because you’ll enjoy your blog more when you develop an active audience.
Ideally, what you want to write and what your audience wants you to write would be one and the same.
If that’s not quite the case, you could do both—just mix it up.
Copyright © 2015
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
- Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
- 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.
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