How to Start a Blog that attracts Traffic: A Definitive Guide for Writers and Authors

Reading Time: 19 minutes

It’s 2018 and writers are storming the social media each passing day. 

However, social media waves with an ever-changing algorithm, and if you are a writer, it’s now highly unlikely that your posts receive the same kind of traffic that they did earlier. That’s where blogging can come to your rescue. Today in this blog post, I will elaborate on all the things that you need to start a successful blog that drives traffic not only from social media but also from search engines! This post includes everything that comes under the topic of blogging for writers & blogging for authors, and also detailed walk-through of one of the most effective blogging techniques called the Altitude Technique.

Let’s get started!

Why blog?

#It gives more visibility to your Readers

That’s one of the most important questions that need to be answered. 

If you are a writer or author, you need a blog to drive a consistent and religious follower base to your works. 

If I compare blog posts with Facebook posts (or posts on social media platforms in general), Facebook posts don’t stay segregated in different categories and if a person is visiting your Facebook page for the first time, it’s natural that the person would decide to stay on your page depending on what you had posted most recently. To know more about you, the person would wander around a bit, which is a time-consuming process. 

 Facebook Page - Aniruddha Pathak

However, with a blog, you are in control of what the visitor sees first, and you can definitely put your most loved posts under the featured category. If a visitor reads one of your posts and goes to homepage, he/she will find a static homepage that you want to show them. 

Here’s mine:

Website Homepage - Aniruddha Pathak

Notice how I designed in a way that the site visitor immediately gets to know what I do and what are my skills? 

In short, that’s the case: You are in complete control of your blog. You can design and structure it your own way, and show the visitors just what you want them to see. 

Plus, you get constant and regular traffic, as your subscribers immediately get to know when you post something on the blog. With social media platforms – Facebook for example – your readers might not see the post ever at all.

# To build a loyal Reader base

Person A visits your site. He finds your blog informative. He reads your posts and decides to visit your blog more often. Because he likes your blog. And that’s where you earn a reader. 

A writer needs a loyal reader base to whom they don’t need to market every time they blog. A website is a great abode for this cause. You can employ live notifications or email newsletters to let the readers know every time you blogged something. Without a doubt, a loyal reader base will give you higher conversions.  

# It helps you create a definite platform for marketing yourself and your books

A website gives you the freedom to create separate pages for your branding. You could create a homepage where you can speak about yourself and your books, or create separate pages where you can list all your books and an elaborate bio of you. 

A great example of a separate book page is Neil D’Silva’s page for his debut Maya’s New Husband. He has created a visually appealing page and segregated everything into different sections: 

  1. Book Cover
  2. Blurb
  3. An option to download Sample chapters of his book
  4. YouTube trailer
  5. Photos of readers holding his book
  6. Screenshots of his book ranking at number one spot on Amazon India
  7. Snippets and Videos of Book Reviews
  8. Book links

Needless to say, his book pages convert highly and generate book sales every day.

# Your Blog is equal to your Brand 

Your blog is your Brand. There, I said it. The look of your blog defines the kinds of things you write. A reader or visitor will strongly remember a visual representation of your works rather than something that he found on social media. An About Me page will help you brand yourself as a writer or author. So don’t neglect the power of a well-made and well-written blog. It will benefit you in some or other way.

How to start a blog?

Now blogging for writers could be tricky. However, I have simplified a lot of things below. Here’s a brief overview of how you can start blogging using Content Management Systems. For now, I shall cover platforms like WordPress and Blogger. Let’s dive into them.

# How to start blogging for free / without an investment?

If you are willing to start a blog today, kudos to you! You’re about to take a major step in your writing journey.

Here are two platforms that offer you free blogging solutions, including content writer/editor, content uploads, and basic SEO support: 

  1. Blogger.
  2. WordPress.

Before I go ahead and explain their workings, here’s a minimal comparison chart for both the platforms.

Blogger vs WordPress Infographic - Aniruddha Pathak

Blogger

Google’s very own blogging platform, Blogger is a choice of many bloggers around the world. It allows you to setup a blog within a few steps as it logs in using your Gmail account. 

Features you get with a free Blogger account: 

  1. Google Storage Space – similar to Google Drive.
  2. A repository of HTML templates – you may check here or here.
  3. An HTML based content writing system. 
  4. Widgets for adding extra details to your blog – however, many of the widgets are only visible on desktops and not mobile devices.
  5. Inbuilt dashboard to integrate your blog with Google Analytics and track visitor count and other site traffic details.
  6. Prime feature: Add your own Top Level or Other Domain(s) for free. 

Blogger Homepage Screenshot

Search Engine Optimization for Blogger

Blogger doesn’t provide you with extensive SEO tools, so you have to rely solely on the content and its formatting. You can’t expect great results for your blog, however, you can do certain things to optimize your blog for the search engines. I shall specify a list of SEO optimizations you could do in your Blogger blog later in this article.

Monetization

If you blog regularly for 6 months, Google allows you to monetize your website using Google Adsense. You could then place ad codes in your blog and start earning. 

WordPress

There are two variants: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. We are going to speak about WordPress.com here. Alike Blogger, WordPress.com has a free plan; and also certain others for which you need to pay. WordPress.com is a relatively richer platform for bloggers, and offers certain things that Blogger doesn’t, like showing the Widgets the same way across all the devices. 

Features you get with a free WordPress account:

  1. Storage Space of upto 3 GB.
  2. Free inbuilt themes – customizable using the inbuilt customizer.
  3. A WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and HTML based content writing system.
  4. Compatibility of the widgets across all the devices.
  5. Inbuilt dashboard (Jetpack) for checking the view count and other analytics. 
  6. Basic SEO optimization – inbuilt meta title and meta description boxes.  

WordPress.com Homepage Screenshot

Search Engine Optimization for WordPress

WordPress.com’s free plan (and even other plans) come with Jetpack extension installed. Jetpack handles the SEO, social sharing, spam blocking, and stats of the your blog, which is definitely an upper hand when it comes to comparing WordPress with Blogger. It provides several tools in each posts (which Blogger merely does), which can help you optimize your content for SEO a bit more. Again, you can’t keep high hopes for ranking into SERPs using the free plan, but it’s sufficient for you to start your journey as a blogger. 

Monetization

WordPress.com runs its own ads on the free plans to keep the plans free forever. Which means, you cannot opt for running your own ads on your blog. For disabling ads and using your own custom domain, you’d need to upgrade your free plan, the list of which you can find here. You may offer freelance services through your blog to earn outside WordPress. 

SEO Optimization Tips For Blogger And WordPress

It’s no surprise that self-hosted websites can easily outrank free blog URLs. Google doesn’t like doing business with free blogs because it doesn’t treat them as sincere attempts in blogging. Although there are some free blogs that rank high on Google for some competitive keywords, those blog posts are mostly content-rich and old and have a lot of backlinks (backlinks are basically your blog’s links mentioned in other sites’ blog posts), so much so that Google has no choice but to rank them for rich user experience. Keep in mind one thing: SEO for free blogs is highly limited. There are certain things you can employ to rank higher, but your content is your only strength to go up the ranks. If your content is weak, there’s no scope for it to rank.

Here are a five tips that you can employ on your free blogs (exercising our goal of understanding both blogging for writers & blogging for authors), which will give your posts a notable amount of boost.

1. Use Short URLs for your blog posts.

Blogger uses dates before the URLs, which pretty much is a bad practice. However, you can work around the slug to optimize it for search engines. 

WordPress on the other hand, gives you an option to manually insert short slugs, which you can use to optimize your blog posts the right way. 

Short Slugs / URLs are great way to increase traffic, because statistically speaking: Short URLs rank better on Google. 

You can find the setting in Blogger while posting your blog post. In the right sidebar, choose the option titled Permalink:

 Blogger Permalink Image One

 

Click on Custom Permalink, and change the blog post slug from (example here) sample-blog-post-that-has-long-title to sample-blog-post.

Blogger Permalink Image Two

 

Hit on Done and there you go! Now you have a shorter URL!

For WordPress, you can find the option next to your content box under ‘More Options’. 

WordPress Slug

 2. Don’t add Tags to Blog Posts.

Google has specified over and over again that Google SERP does not consider tags in posts and post categories as ranking factors. There are instances where post categories rank better, but post tags? Nah. They don’t help you even a bit for boosting your organic traffic! Even I used to follow the practice to add tags until I understood that tags do nothing but help people search your blog posts better… ONLY on your blog. So add one to two tags, that’s it.

3. Share your blog post on Google+.

Google+ is a great way to rank your blog posts faster in Google. Funny story how I got to know about it.

This one time I found that one of the bloggers had plagiarized my content and posted it on his blog. It was pretty difficult to locate his blog on Google because the keywords used in the blog post were highly competitive. But still I hit up a search using first 30 words of my blog post and bam! I found the blog in Google+. 

So I dug more and experimented and noticed that Google+ ranks blog posts very quickly once you share it on your public G+ profile. 

Great way to rank, isn’t it?

4. Use your target keyword at least once in 300 words.

Let’s say you are writing a blog called ‘How to write quality content’. So here, ‘quality content’ is your target keyword. So you should include these two words in your blog posts in different sentences per 250 to 300 words. That’d make Google understand the content better.

Bonus tip: Whenever someone comments on your post, make sure you use the target keywords in your replies. That helps more.

5. Write thorough content & Keep the blog’s look simple.

One of the most common things that bloggers with free domains overlook is the look of their blogs. Many of them go for fancy looking themes and templates. But that’s a concern. Your blog must be appealing to your readers and not just you. If you are writing long content, make sure your blog’s theme makes the text easily readable on both mobile and desktop browsers. If not, change the theme. That’ll drive more traffic to your blog and increase user engagement.

 

#Self Hosted Blogs

As a writer or author (or a blogger in general), it’s always advisable to have a self hosted blog. There are many Content Management Systems that offer you easy website design options for a certain price including WordPressWixWeebly, and SquareSpace; however, I shall be speaking about only WordPress here because it is one of the most flexible website hosting platforms, holds great potential, and is the primary choice of most bloggers around the world (and also because I am very well accustomed to it – this website is designed on WordPress too).

WordPress Website Layouts 

To state in short, you’ll need these four things for a WordPress website: 

  1. A custom domain.
  2. A Hosting Service. 
  3. Installable files for WordPress if you are installing WordPress using FTP
  4. A WordPress theme.

If you want to create a WordPress website yourself, you can check the Templatic’s complete guide to creating an Author Website using WordPress here.

This was a brief about creating a Self Hosted WordPress blog. Now let’s go to the next part, why Self hosted blogs can work wonders in competition with free blogs.

#Self Hosted Blogs VS Free Blogs

It is no surprise that self hosted blogs do much better in comparison with the free options for blogging. You are the owner of the website when it comes to self-hosting, and you can do whatever you want on it – until you abide by the terms and conditions of the hosting space provider. Let’s delve into the topic of free vs paid blogs.

Blogging for Writers and Blogging for Authors: Blogger vs WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

Storage

When it comes to running a blog on a hosting server, the loading speed, the content uploads, and all other things that concern your blog depend on the hosting space that you have purchased. Most of the times even 20 GB SSD disk space is sufficient to run a daily blog, considering that the amount of site traffic isn’t huge (like really yuuuuuge). Here are some of hosting services that I recommend (all the links contain special discounted prices):

  1. Bluehost (Recommended by WordPress)
  2. VapourHost (for Indian audiences – starts at INR 25 per month)
  3. InMotion Hosting (Unlimited hosting + one free top TLD Domain included)
  4. SiteGround (one of fastest hosting services for WordPress)
  5. Namecheap (a reliable host that promises 100% uptime + one free .website domain included)

Design

Free blogs have limited designing options, but with the self-hosted WordPress installation, you get an instant access to a repository of over 12,000 free and premium themes. If you don’t want to use pre-made themes, there are many site-builder plugins available too.

Promo - Author Website Services

Ad Monetization 

One of the biggest advantages of a self-hosted website is having freedom to monetize it the way you want it. Although there’s a catch here too: you’d need to wait for approvals – which, sometimes – can be tiresome. However, this process could be faster if you’re blogging regularly. 

Here are the top three ad / affiliate networks that you can sign into today and start monetizing your website and generate revenue:

  1. Google AdSense: Google’s very own ad monetization network. Sign up once your site is ready with at least 20 – 25 blog posts and request for an approval. Google has some strict approval terms, so you’d need to wait till you get the desired result, i.e., the approval. Once approved, you can start placing ads on your website and in between the content, or simple run Google’s Auto Ads feature and add the code to your website. Done!
  2. Media.net: Powered by Yahoo! and Bing, Media.net is a powerful contender to Google Adsense. Media.net has one of the easiest signing up process, but again, it has some of the most strict approval terms too. So sign up to the service today and get start with running ads on your website!
  3. Amazon Associates: Let’s say you want to recommend a list of books that you like. You create a list with all the required details and as you are about to post it on the blog, you realize that you would not generate any revenue for all these efforts. That’s where Amazon’s Affiliate Program comes handy! Simply sign up to Amazon Associates, get done with the breezy easy sign up process, and get your account up and running! Search for the books in your list, generate their links, and embed them in your blog post inside texts or images – upto you. Every time a person clicks on the links and makes a purchase, you earn commissions from Amazon. Amazing, right? (for Indian audience, sign up to Amazon Affiliates using the link here.)

Blog Posts

Although I have stated that the blog posts are unlimited, I have considered blog posts that only comprise of texts and not images. If you’re adding images, it counts as content uploads – and the blog posts would then be restricted according to your hosting space, be it free or paid. Even with or without unlimited hosting spaces, there shouldn’t be much a problem for you when it comes to blog posts. 

Custom Brand Emails

 With free blogging platforms, you won’t get a custom email if you don’t have a domain. If you have a domain and are hosted on free platforms, again, you’d need affordable services like GSuite or Zoho to setup your custom email addresses (like contact@example.com). However, if you are self hosting, almost all the hosting services provide an option to create your custom brand email addresses along with the hosting plan. So you would not need to worry about that part.

Bonus info: Use these promo codes to get 20% off on your first year on GSuite! 

  1. AAUW7JDUTVNDE7V
  2. Q9YT74AF4YU993X

Analytics

With self hosted websites, you get the flexibility of using any Analytics programs other than inbuilt stats and Google Analytics. This could be a huge plus point for you to understand your target audience and their engagements with the website. Along with using Google Analytics, I use a free Analytics service called QuantCast to understand my audiences and their preferences better.

SEO

I own two different blogs. One is a free WordPress blog, and the other one is this website, a self hosted WordPress solution. When it comes to SEO, I have been implementing a dozen of techniques on this blog, which wouldn’t be possible to employ on my free blog. Here are two instances that’ll help you understand it better. Let me hit up a search for the most basic term that relates to my blog: ‘Aniruddha Pathak’.

Aniruddha Pathak - Rank OneAs you can see, my website ranks on the first page of Google at first spot. And when it comes to my free WordPress blog, here is the result.

Aniruddha Pathak - Page Seven

Page seven. Even when both the title and content have Aniruddha Pathak as keyword.

Fun fact, my free blog contains four times more blog posts than my current – this – website.

And that’s what we are going to delve into ahead. The prime question – Is content everything for a blog to gain traffic? 

 

#Content and Design in Blogging for Writers & Blogging for Authors: An Overview

Let me tell you a short story based on real events. 

Back in late 2016, Max decided to blog passionately. He used to use a free less popular blogging platform first – now extinct – and decided to shift to Blogger. 

But one thing that he never took his site’s design and content seriously. He sought for all the different things – parking and transferring the domain, focusing on how he got clients and how generously he was getting paid; but again, his blog’s usability sucked big time, which resulted in a rather low website traffic and more loading time. He wanted it all shiny and glittery. And yes, he never took anyone’s feedback regarding that; he was stubborn. 

It’s year 2018, and now he is stuck with the same design. However, he doesn’t receive any traffic and blogs rarely – has no projects whatsoever. He made a few mistakes along the line and ended up losing all his potential clients. 

So what do we need to learn from him?

Don’t be stubborn with your blog’s design.

You need to make sure that your blog/website is appealing to your readers. There’s no need to design a blog that looks shiny and highly customized. You need to make sure that the site loads faster, has minimal design, and fonts that are easy to read. Because in the end, it’s only about your visitors and users. They are the ones who are going to make your blog popular. So seek feedback from them when you design your blogs.

Format your content properly.

Highlighting all the key stuffs that you find in your blog post is highly irritating for your readers. Segregate the sections of your blog posts into Headings, pictures, and paragraphs.

Add relevant images, GIFs, and memes.

Pretty much self-explanatory tip. Don’t just keep writing as if you are writing an essay. Make the content more appealing using graphics. Studies show that content with images is highly read and remembered more than a blog post with no images. 

Bonus info: Use Canva to create your unique promotional banners and images.

Always put your visitors and readers first.  

Your visitors probably visit a dozen websites in a day. They know what they like and they know what they don’t. So if they tell you that your blog posts are hard to read – take a note and start working. Always think how a visitor would like your site. No need to extra components and features. Readers are visiting your blog to read content – present it to them pretty directly and neatly. Don’t add so many buttons and so many redirects from various pages. Keep them as low as possible. The more buttons you ask them to press, the more likely they are to leave your website. User experience matters. A lot.

Content and Blogging Overview Infographic- Aniruddha Pathak

All this is fine, Aniruddha. But I’ve to make my visitors read my stories and buy my books! You haven’t mentioned anything about it yet. So tell me, how do I do that? 

That’s where my (invented) technique comes into play: The Altitude Technique.

The Altitude Technique by Aniruddha Pathak

The Altitude Technique

So what’s the technique? Since last two years, I have been noticing the writers and authors who put out stories on their blogs, share them on social media and to their readers, but for the organic traffic part, they get stuck. There might be a few readers who Google search to find their story, but what about the others? How would they know the name of your story and why would they search for particularly your stories? Hence, I worked on something that today I call The Altitude Technique. I experimented it on several blogs and voila! I could see the significant increase in the site traffic. So what is the technique? And how can you employ it on your blog too? Let’s begin through the elaborate walk-through of how you can implement my methods for gaining more reads on your stories. 

# Design your blog

Two of the most important things are to design your blog and keep all the pages ready. The homepage, the About Me page, Contact Form, a separate category page for your stories – you may even break them down into different genres – and other pages that are equally necessary to keep your readers engaged with your website. The visitor should be able to check all the things that you want them to see on your abode – yes, abode; because you must decorate and tidy your website like your home – and those things shouldn’t be clustered at all. 

The trend is to stay minimal, so there’s no need to make a funky-dunky website. Keep it smooth and simple. That’s it. 

# Start posting stories and share them everywhere possible 

Once you are done designing your blog, post the stories – both finished and on-going – on your website and highlight them on the homepage. Add popups, email sign ups, homepage sections, and sidebars in your site and tell your visitors that you write stories and write-ups! Let them know about the awesome reviews you’ve gotten so far and make them curious. And as writers, generating curiosity in the readers’ minds is easy, right? 

Although I recommend writing write-ups related to only one genre as Google doesn’t like doing business with a website with multiple approaches. But if you are an abstract writer, then no worries! I have given a solution in point number three. That’ll help you a lot.

One more essential thing: Share your stories everywhere possible. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Medium, and all the other social platforms. The standard template of how to share the write-ups on LinkedIn and Medium are: 

“200 words of your write-up

One image relevant to the write-up

50 more words

Click here to read the full blog post: {{link}}”

# Write content apart from your stories and promote it 

Ah, here comes the player! 

Let’s say you post write-ups related to romance. You’ve constantly been doing so for the last ten blog posts and your traffic stays constant. But one thing that you notice is that you aren’t generating any traffic apart from that. You think to yourself: Is Romance not a thing anymore? Should I switch to any other genre? And you keep wondering what’s wrong with your blog. 

These situations arise and it’s fine. But what if I tell you that there’s one easy way you can work around this issue and generate more traffic? You’d give me a ‘Hell yeah!’ So here’s what you can do. 

Pick a genre you’re successful in. For the record, let’s say you are an expert in the genre of romance. And if you are writing on romance as we established earlier, you need to write some content apart from your proses and poems. You can write a blog post about “10 Best Romance Books I have ever Read” or “7 Essential Tips to Write Great Romance” or some “How to?” guides on writing engaging romance scenes.

For example, I’ll take the blog post titled “10 Best Romance Books I have ever read”. So how could you write a blog post based on this title?

  • Make a list of 10 best reads (that goes without saying)
  • Find relevant cover images of all those books 
  • In title of those books, add affiliate links of those books
  • Write short reviews of each book and your experience reading them 
  • Bonus tip: Write more than 1890 words of content – this because it’ll help you rank higher in Google searches for relevant keywords
  • Ask your readers what their favorite romantic reads are 
  • Reply to each comment on blog post and social media 

And that’s pretty much it! 

Why this would work, you ask? Because your visitors KNOW that these books exist and they are up to offer their opinions too! This is just one example I gave. For other genres, just replace “Romance” with your genre and write articles and share it everywhere! Yay! 

# Drive that traffic to your stories and book sales

So you now wrote the blog post. But one thing that we didn’t talk about is how to optimize your content in such a way that your stories get read too? (And books get sold too?) 

The key is to mention your story inside your content in the most relevant places. For example, in Top 10 Romance Reads I have ever Read, if there’s a book that has a character similar to yours, let your readers know about it. Quote it below the book: “Just like Max, John is also facing problems with his love life. Can you help him know the solutions? Click here to read what John is up to nowadays.” 

Needless to say, John is your character and the Click here text redirects the visitor to your story or book. Smart workaround, nay? Start working today and make your blog an awesome avenue for your visitors! 

Bonus tip: For book reviewers, write nine book reviews and one blog post with a list of the books/authors that you liked reading. 

The Altitude Technique by Aniruddha Pathak - Infographic

 

Conclusion

Such a long blog post! Hush! 

Thank you for sticking with me! I am grateful. We are nearing to the end of this article and oh my sweet cookies, I enjoyed writing it. That’s what blogging does to you. It makes you love what you do! 

Coming to the conclusion: even though blogging is something that won’t gain you quick *snaps my fingers* results, it does prove to be a long term investment. Once you get a hold of what you want to write, how you want to write, what works for you / what doesn’t, and a reader base, you will definitely do great! 

Believe in yourself and take the step. I assure you that you’ll feel happier than ever. 

As I stated, you won’t see the results quickly so don’t get demotivated, but when you do, you’ll be inspired to write more and give the best of you more often.

All the best, fellow writer Comrades! I wish you a happy blogging life (and a happy life too)! 

Do you have anything more to say that I missed? How did you like the blog post? Do you have any more suggestions for the fellow bloggers? How was your blogging journey till date? Let me know in the comments below! I will be more than glad to know. 

If you have any queries, feedbacks, or requests, don’t hesitate to comment or drop me an email at hello@aniruddhapathak.com 

Thank you and regards,

Aniruddha Pathak

10 thoughts on “How to Start a Blog that attracts Traffic: A Definitive Guide for Writers and Authors”

  1. Loved it. This blog was so interesting, along with being hugely informative. I never thought a ‘How to’ blog would be so engaging. I really love your writing style, Aniruddha. The checklist at he end of every topic is beyond helpful. Totally love the idea, man! This post was beyond helpful, and I know, that I’m going to be using these quick tips and the altitude technique.
    Love,
    Karishma Sewani

  2. Loved it! Had notions about blogs which turned out to be wrong but am glad to learn it the right way. Too helpful and motivating. Quite interesting blog, made me stick to it till the end. Way too informative, hats off to you!

    1. Aniruddha Pathak

      Thank you, Mehar! I am glad the blog post proved out to be helpful to you. Have a rocking blogging journey!

  3. Pingback: Blogging Made Easy | Sudarshan Jagtap

  4. Pingback: An Idiot Author's Guide to Facebook Marketing (2019) | Aniruddha Pathak

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