Can You Make Your Book Blog Distinctive?
There are a lot of blogs. WordPress, the world’s most popular blog hosting service, saw its users publish more than 70 million posts each month last year. That’s roughly 2 million a day.
If that doesn’t statistic doesn’t knock your socks off, maybe this one will.
More than 600 new WordPress sites get built every day.
Which presents a challenge for every one of us. Every time we push that “publish” button, our words are launched into a vast universe of cyberspace. How do we get our blog to stand out from the millions of others clamouring for reader attention?
There is a knack to this apparently. According to the advice I’ve read you should:
- Select a blog topic that hasn’t already been written about a zillion times. OR write about a popular topic but from an unusual angle
- Have a professionally looking and clear design.
- Make great use of images and graphics.
- Write blog titles that zing.
If only it were that simple. But some of these tips I think are quite hard to put into practice on a book blog.
Find Your Niche
I understand the point that readers get jaded by reading the same thing over and over. I feel that way myself when I see the 20th review of a newly released book pop up in my feedreader. It does make a refreshing change to see reviews of less well known authors or less well-known books from popular authors.
But if they are less well known, they might not attract much interest. I’ve seen that happen myself when I’ve reviewed some authors from Wales.
So to follow the experts’ advice I’d need to find a topic that’s not too popular but not too niche either. That’s too much effort for me. I think I’ll just carry on with what I’m doing.
This is far more doable. All of the blog hosting companies like WordPress and Blogger offer an extensive number of design themes as part of their free service. They’re all you really need to make your site look professional but if you have the time, energy and inclination you can go further.
If you pay for a package If you want more choice, you can opt to pay for a package.
You can then customise the theme further to make it even more distinctive. Just bear in mind a few key principles of good blog design. For example:
- Use plenty of white space. Don’t be tempted to clutter the page with too many elements.
- Choose colour themes carefully. Text which uses bright colours like orange or yellow are very hard to read against a white page background.
- Try to avoid white text on a dark or black background. This can strain the user’s eyes after a time
Good web design of course is about more than just making the site look pretty. It also has to work functionally.
Readers need to be able to easily find the content they want so make your key pages and information highly visible. Put items like “About”, “Contact” in your top menu bar and use your side bar on the home page to explain how to subscribe and how to find you on various social media platforms.
Everything that readers are likely to want, should be available within 2 or 3 clicks at most. There is nothing more frustrating than visiting a blog, searching for information and ending up drilling down page after page to find what you want.
Images And Graphics.
Did you know that blog posts with images get twice as many shares as those that don’t? At the same time as making your blog look visually appealing high quality images also increase engagement.
Visual elements in your posts add a new dimension to what is largely a text based medium and they appeal to those readers who are more visually oriented.
This was something I paid scant attention to when I started BookerTalk.
I just wrote a review, added an image of the book cover and hit publish. Looking at those early posts now I’m struck by how dull the pages appear. The photographs are too small to make any visual impact and they’re surrounded by a sea of text.
Instagram of course has taken this issue of book images into a whole new arena. Though I’m impressed by how much effort a lot of bookstagrammers put into creating unusual and eye-catching images, I know this just isn’t for me. I don’t have enough of a creative to come up with the ideas nor the willingness to invest the time required to look for props etc.
Similarly, as much as I admire the original artwork used on the orangutanlibrarian blogsite, or the cosy book/tea combination HeavenAli often features my own drawing and photography skills are not up to the task.
That doesn’t mean I’m giving up entirely. I’m experimenting with some simpler options for images to accompany book reviews and also trying my hand at creating simple graphics using Canva.com
This is one of my efforts. I think you’ll agree it won’t win any design awards!
Blog Titles That Zing
Use killer headlines to lure readers in. Face it. Without a strong headline, your posts’ chances of getting read are greatly diminished.It’s worth your effort to spend time crafting the best headlines you can.http://www.heidicohen.com
Heidi’s advice is echoed by most social media experts. Killer headlines are make you distinctive. They grab the reader’s attention and draw them by asking a question, promising quick ways to solve a problem or making unusual connections. Killer headlines often convey an emotion.
All well and good, but you try writing one. It’s somewhat easy to do for discussion type topics but much harder with a next book review. I know it’s hard because I’ve tried!
Over the past year I’ve been playing around with my post titles. Yes I can come up with something that shows emotion or contains buzz words. But finding a great post title that also includes the author/book is really, relly tough. It ends up being very long. And that’s a problem for search engines like Google and for any of your subscribers who follow you on a mobile device (they don’t see the full title on their screen).
I’m still wrestling with this one. Stay tuned for more on this topic by the way – it is such a big topic that I’m going to dedicate a future post just to blog titles.
Join The Discussion
Where do you turn when you have a problem with your book blog? I’d love to build a list of resources so please share any websites, blogs or podcasts you’ve found helpful. You can simply leave a comment below or follow the discussion on Twitter using #A2Zbookblogging.
54 thoughts on “Can You Make Your Book Blog Distinctive?”
Such a great and interesting topic!! Yeah I think it’s a tall order about something that’s not too popular, not too niche. And I definitely paid very little attention to design when I started (thank you so much for your kind words about my blog design now! It means a lot!) It is so hard to write good titles, I’ve always struggled. So yeah, I think this advice is good, but I rarely feel like I know how to follow it!
Even if you’re not a book blogger I think blog titles are a challenge. Trying to convey both the content of the post along with something catchy to draw people in is not always that easy. For the A to Z Challenge, I edited and edited my post titles and still not all are as strong as I would like. It’s definitely an ongoing challenge! I enjoyed your post. It had some good advice. Weekends In Maine
You’re so right, it isn’t easy at all. I noticed your posts included the hashtag in the title. I’ve not done that on the blog – would be interesting to see how that works. I’ll have to do some more research!
I included it so that when it posts to my social media it has the hashtag. I don’t have to edit the post title specifically for Twitter or Facebook. I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do or not but it makes it easier for me.
I tend to write about sox Twitter posts for each blog post do this wouldn’t save me much time 🙂
Melanie at Grab the Lapels did some posts on tech tips a few years ago. Here is the one on hashtags
I remember reading Melanie’s post on that topic. I see the benefit from a Twitter perspective but I don’t fully see how this benefits you for search engine pick up. I’m still investigating though
All this SEO stuff is essential if you’re a lifestyle/travel blogger and/or need the stats to earn money, but doesn’t lend itself to bookblogging done for the love of books so much I feel, especially longform reviews. A snappy headline is one thing, but I do always edit the post’s actual address to include author and title keywords.
The content marketing strategies are skewed to people who want to make money from their activities so a lot of it certainly doesn’t make sense for us. I just pick and choose what I think is relevant. Your approach to headlines is interesting Annabel. If I understand correctly, the url will include title/author but what is shown on the screen might be different?
That’s right. If you put the keywords in the URL, you can call the post whatever you like, but searches will pick up the URL. WP lets you edit the URL.
So many times I press publish and then realise i forgot to shorten or change the url…
Uggh. Whilst I get the whole thing about adding images (and that just the book covers are not enough) there are several blogs I’ve found where there seems to be a random placing of:
text in bold
Text in bold AND underlined
random other random placings
Jeeze, it’s tiring. Yes, it may get you the rankings, but it doesnt make me stay on your post or read to the end…..
(on a separate but vaguely related note, my sister once asked how I managed to cope with Times Square in New York, and it was because I was able to ignore the irrelevant visual “noise”. If I cant ignore your visual noise, then you have a problem)
That list of annoying things you’ve encountered is a case of someone getting too carried away with formatting and design options. Just because something is there and you can use it doesn’t mean you should. Underlining is always a bad idea (it makes text harder to read). As for gifs, I don’t care for them at all
“So to follow the experts’ advice I’d need to find a topic that’s not too popular but not too niche either. That’s too much effort for me. I think I’ll just carry on with what I’m doing.” YEP, this is exactly what I decided some time ago.
I ike to think about presentation – images, white space etc – though in the end, I’ve decided that I don’t want to dumb down my content in order to make the page more appealing. Look at old books, newspapers and journals when paper was expensive. People read because they wanted the content, and put up with dense pages. Of course now, we are competing with a lot of content out there so have to think about being appealing. Two things I do, sometimes, to help the look of my posts is to use headings – even in some of my straight review posts – and to use lists and dot points where possible. Quote blocks can help too, but too many, and too many long ones can be off-putting. A balancing act isn’t it.
As for post titles, I initially thought of being cute and creative but on learning that the post title is important in search algorithms, I decided to make them descriptive – just author and title for reviews, name of award for awards news etc – was the way I’d go.
Re images, it is important to be aware of copyright if the images aren’t your own.
Finally, I think it is worth discussing word count. I try to keep mine to an average of 1000 words per post.
It seems even the blogging experts are not in complete agreement on the niche question. I listened to a podcast today which said that its good to go for a popular niche because then at least you know there is a potential audience. As always, it’s good to read the advice, and then see if it applies in your particular case – sometimes it won’t.
Post titles – I did a few which I thought were clever and then realised few people would actually use those words in a ggogle search so wouldn’t find me. Plus I could confuse readers. So I dropped them, just like you have
Good point about copyright
That’s exactly it. Cute titles are fun but as a librarian, I’m all about making information etc easy to retrieve.
I agree is it very hard to attract readers to a blog when there are so many new ones starting up. The competition can be fierce.I focus on little known authors too, so that can also make it hard, but I do enjoy what I do so that is a plus.
I’m impressed by how much you manage to blog Rosie. It’s like you have a
little production factory
Lots of good stuff here. I also have problems with graphics. I’ve used Photfunia a bunch of times, which I like. Canva isn’t as easy as it looks, especially if you use the free version. As for titles of posts… that’s one for discussion for sure.
I’ve not come across Photunia so will take a look, thanks for the suggestion Davida. Canva is a lot easier than Photoshop which is what I was trying to use before….
Here’s the link https://photofunia.com/es/
Oopps. That was the spanish site. https://photofunia.com/
Thanks Davida. Are you using the free tools? I don’t see backgrounds like the ones you have on your images
You mean on Canva? I have, but then I sometimes find a background on Pixabay or another site and use that as a background. Most of my graphics are from Photofunia, though. However, sometimes I just use PowerPoint to make something (I know, but that’s the best I can do). As for my “chocolate lady” that’s something I’ve had for many years. I think my nephew found it and sent it to me, so I used it to make my own graphic for my logo.
Like all general advice, this advice is good in general, but it doesn’t suit everyone.
My niche is Australian literary fiction. I blog about books from elsewhere as well, but as you say, mostly those other books have been endlessly reviewed elsewhere and while my regular readers may enjoy them, they are not what attracts people to my blog.
Clearly, I am not looking for a massive readership or to monetise my blog. Like you with your Welsh authors, I am aiming to give my authors some well-deserved publicity in a space that is more often dominated by UK and US titles.
I don’t mess around with snappy titles… I don’t need any more click bait in my life and I don’t think my readers do either. Like Bill, I use the title and the author’s name, and the translator if there is one. I can tell from my search stats that this works, that (and my simple tagging system) is what brings readers to my blog.
As for images, I think they’re vital for travel blogs or food blogs, and similar things, but for a book blog, usually all I have is the cover image, and always in the same place. Occasionally if the book is about something unfamiliar to me and I did some research and found something useful like a map or an image of a relevant building or (very rarely) some YouTube music, I’ll include that.
My pet hate is those book blogs that have big boxes per post that you have to scroll through and blogs that make an art form of hiding their search box. I loathe anything with a slide show zipping across in the header or the menus. I have actually unsubscribed from two blogs that I really liked because I couldn’t bear trying to read them once they had introduced this feature.
The big boxes you hate – do you mean large graphics?
The layout I don’t like is a home page which just has small versions of a photo to represent each post – sometimes but not always with the heading. It means yiu can’t tell what each post is about until you click.
My pet peeve – some themes make it difficult to see where the comment button is. I invariably look for it at the foot of each post but on some themes it is right at the top.
Eeek, I think that might be mine. Interestingly though my visits and stats shot up when I changed it to a magazine format, it also encouraged people to check out older posts. Previously I’d just be getting visits to the current post, my daily stats now show people looking at all sorts of posts that are totally unrelated to the current one. As the saying goes one man’s meat … I’m loving this series by the way, it makes us think about what we’re doing.
It wasn’t actually your blog I was thinking of Jill – yes you have a magazine style but it’s easy to see the name of the post. The one I was thinking of doesn’t have that which is odd.
Interesting to learn that this change of format has had an effect on your stats….
I suspect it’s partly down to the hosting site and the theme picked. I sometime think mine looks messy, especially with a long title or added links, but I can live with that for the benefits I’ve seen. PS I wasn’t taking it personally – we all like different styles and themes.
I think it’s the choice of theme indeed Jill
I think I should have said ‘available’ when I said picked. Hosts that offer ‘free’ options for obvious reasons don’t always offer the best themes as they want you to pay.
I mean that each post has its own frame, with a picture of some sort (usually a book) and a title/headline. There are usually three frames across a page, and (if I’m using my desktop with a large screen) I can see three rows of these and then I need to scroll down to see what else there is. I have the same complaint as you: you can’t tell what the post is about until you click. I get more frustrated by hidden search buttons. They should always be at the top.
Fortunately I haven’t come across too many of those sites using the frames design
“But if they are less well known, they might not attract much interest. I’ve seen that happen myself when I’ve reviewed some authors from Wales.”
This is an interesting observation. As a Northern English import of forty years to Wales, I have heard it bemoaned that Welsh writers (or should I say – authors living in Wales?) don’t manage to become known ‘over the border’. And yet, as mine are, their books are often set in other places than Wales. It’s a conundrum. I have heard that it’s the same for writers in Scotland as well. I would love to know if anyone has an answer – other than doing what I have done – in times different from now – and attend events in England.
It’s so dispiriting to find that authors don’t get as much attention if they come from one of the devolved countries. Maybe it’s the fact they are working with small independent publishers from those countries and they simply don’t have the budgets to do extensive promotion?
I’m here for all this amazing discussion! Thanks for generously sharing your thoughts, experience, and expertise! It’s greatly appreciated!
I’ve often held long debates with myself about blog titles! Since the majority of my posts are book reviews, I think the title suffices as a blog title, or am I off base here? When people are conducting google searches for book reviews it seems that they are searching by title and not a catchy phrase. It’s difficult to add interesting words to a Book title. I’d love to hear more ideas and see some examples on this!
I landed on a blog recently that had a bright bright lime Green background. I couldn’t even begin to read it! Why would someone think this is a good idea?
I would rather read and write reviews than spend hours setting up a photo shoot! I use the book cover and create a complimentary background in an app called PhotoGrid. Then I import that image into Canva and create a Pinterest style image for the blog. I have it down to a routine and use templates…so 10 min max….5 for PhotoGrid + 5 for Canva. Im in the process of going back to my first year of posts and improving the design!
I’m going to drop you a note to ask about the photo grid app. I like the sound of the simplicity. I installed it on my iPad but it then froze the device. Will give it another go though.
I’ve always used just the book title and author name. Then a blogging expert who did a review of my site recommended I tried to include some emotion in the title so I dropped the title/author formula. But it didn’t work well so now I try and do a combination. It’s a real challenge and I haven’t found the answer
If you dropped me a note I didn’t receive it. Except for your blog post, I’m not receiving any notifications from your blog re comments for some reason. The main image for each of my blog posts and my images on Instagram have been created using photo grid + Canva
Just sent you an email about this Carol, I think I found the website for photogrid but have no clue what I should be doing….
I really enjoy blogs with photos of some kind. Or illustrations. But a couple of blogs I follow have content so interesting I don’t mind if there isn’t a photo. I don’t like one very long page with no paragraph breaks that go on forever. My eyes have trouble following it. I started my blog in 2010 when I went through a very bad episode of depression and was hospitalised and my psychologist got me into doing something fun. As I was collecting Penguin books at the time that is why I added him. Sometimes he gets more followers than I do. Now I practise photography and just try to create different outfits for him on photoshop. There are all kinds of reasons we follow blogs and I can’t always pinpoint it. You’re right though…. good writing, not the same as everyone else, some graphics or photos and some social interaction, all combined seems to work for me.
Long posts of quite dense text I find difficult to read too. I need the paragraphs broken up either with images or sub headings.
Your come t about the fan club for penguin reminds me of another blogger who used to write periodically about chickens she kept. She called them the Dashwoods. I tried for a long time to persuade her they should have their own blog…
Several bloggers include their pets in their posts at times. Some readers seem to enjoy that including myself.
You imply a question in there without quite bringing it to the fore: Why do we blog? And I think the answer for all of us here is: To talk about books. I strongly believe the heading for each post just needs to be the book title and the author. Yes, I know we all sometimes write about other stuff, but as far as my blog is concerned that is just for the amusement of the people who already follow me. New people recently have come to my blog because I have posted on books by Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West and they have followed a link mysteriously provided by WordPress (which I have never logged in to).
I guess what I am saying is that I don’t wish to be any more distinctive than the books I write about.
I’ll be writing about”why we blog” next week so stay tuned . If you’re happy with what you’re doing then that’s good.
Those are good points! Like you, I think I’ll stick with what I’m writing about, which is old books, or reissued books or translated books most often. But I do think the visual needs improving and I need to do something about my pictures – I think the major issue for me is lighting!
Your interest in Russian literature would constitute a niche, happily one that has a good number of other Luke minded readers.
I’m surprised to see your comment about your photos since I’ve always envied your set up. It looks like a hallway table. Do you think these are too dark?
Yes, mainly the hall table and occasionally the kitchen. I’m glad you think they look ok – maybe I’m too self-critical! 😀
They could be lightened a little – just use whatever photo editor programme or app you have. They will all give brightness adjustment functions. You only need a small tweak. Otherwise they look good to me.
Only 22 to go. I’ll be exhausted by the end Frank
Snappy titles – or subtitles for me as I always start with title and author – are a perennial problem for me, too. The best post title I’ve spotted recently was ‘Abducting Nuns’ at A Writer’s Perspective which I thought was an eye-catching masterpiece but it turned out to be a place-holder published by accident. I’m sure there’s a lesson there!
Glad I am not the only one who struggles with this. Abducting Nuns would definitely have had me opening the post too. Did the blogger ever publish that piece?
She did! I wonder what her stats were for that one.