Odds are, blogging isn’t your day job – yet. And unless you’re independently wealthy, you won’t be quitting your day job any time soon. Blogging, for most of us, is either a personal journal, a creative outlet, a bully pulpit, or a dynamic, rich-media enhanced advertising platform for a non-blog-related business. Even for writers who blog, it can be hard to find topics, day in and day out, that are sure to interest readers. And nobody wants to be labeled “boring.”
So what can you do when you’re feeling uninspired? First, define your mission. I joke that my mission, with my personal blog, is to dominate the no-niche niche. How is it that the author of two children’s books ranks exceedingly well for the phrases “naegleria fowleri” and “brain munching amoeba”? It wasn’t because I set out to dominate the brain munching amoeba market, I can tell you that much! Let’s pretend, for a moment, that I am intent on promoting my children’s book, Trockle.
Second, figure out what the problem is. If a reader wanted to find a book just like Trockle, but didn’t know that Trockle existed, what might they be searching for? What problem does my product – my book – solve? I wrote Trockle because my son – aged five or six, maybe, at the time – was afraid of the monster he swore lurked under the bed. He wouldn’t sleep; he wouldn’t let me turn the lights off. So I figured if was going to lay awake in bed with the lights on, he could at least practice his reading skills. I went off to the other room and wrote a story about a little boy, just like my son – only the little monster under the bed was even more afraid of him. My son’s problem was “can’t sleep because there’s a monster under my bed.” Mine was, “how do I get my child to sleep when he thinks there’s a monster under the bed?”
Now, a search – the sort of thing that leads bloggers to care about “search engine optimization” and keyword ranking and all that other stuff – is basically a question. It’s often a really lazy question that doesn’t involve full sentences and doesn’t end with a question mark. Third grade teachers everywhere would cringe. So if a reader or a buyer wanted to solve this same problem – how do I help them find Trockle? What are the key words? How about fear, sleep, monsters, monster under the bed, help child sleep? That’s a good guess, but here’s where Google can help. Go to Google Insights – http://www.google.com/insights/search/ – and enter some of the key terms that came to your mind. Google Insights will give you an idea of what people are actually entering as search terms, if there are enough of them searching for a thing to display actual terms used. In this case, I entered “under the bed” and “monster + monsters” (+ meaning “or,” here, not “and”). What I learned was that there were almost no searches for “monster under the bed.” But there were plenty for “under my bed” and “monster under bed.”
That gives you your challenge: Write a post using those exact phrases. (We’re just playing at SEO, here – think of it as a writing prompt, not a marketing ploy, and have some fun with this.) It’s not too hard to work in “under my bed,” is it? But what about “monster under bed”? You just have to take those searches the way people enter them – and to a search engine, words like “the” or “a” or “an” are useless. You could try a line of dialogue:
Stephen’s face was as white as a newly-bleached sheet. He pointed at the floor. “Monster. Under. Bed.”
Mom sighed and pulled out the Febreze. “No monster can withstand my monster repellant!” she cried, and sprayed half the can under Stephen’s bed. The stench of dirty gym socks succumbed instantly. The monster, according to Stephen, was still there.
And now, it was hungry.
See, search engines also don’t care about punctuation. So you can take a little creative license and turn that awkward search phrase into something reasonable and readable, and Google sees it as exactly the same thing.
Maybe you don’t know the first thing about “search engine optimization,” and maybe you do but don’t care. But unlike in Field of Dreams, you cannot simply build a blog and expect readers to come. (I know – some of my writer friends are probably thinking, “Oh, geez, first I have to promote the book with a blog, and now you’re telling me I have to promote the blog, too? When will I find time to write?”) The good news is, writing begets writing – and practice makes perfect. Before long, you won’t have blogger’s block anymore.
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