Monday, May 19, 2014

BUILD A BETTER BLOG WITH ME, PART TWO: when your is blog out of focus

I'm blogging about blogging again!

Hey there, hi there, ho there, Igniteers! It's Stephanie again, back with part two of the Build a Better Blog set of posts. Last month, I got some great advice from the other Indie ladies, walked through changes to my blog's layout, and discussed how to make your blog look snazzier. But no matter how pretty your blog is, no one is going to take more than a quick look at it if you don't have the content your potential readers are looking for.

After sprucing up the look of my blog with a better layout and catchier fonts and widgets, I had to take a look at the material I was offering. Being a teacher of writing really helped me with this. One of my students' biggest issues as writers is maintaining a consistent focus in their writing. It's not that they don't have great ideas. They do. But they often try to shove them all into one essay (sometimes one paragraph!) and end up with the equivalent of an assignment that reads like this:

It doesn't work in a student essay and it doesn't work on a blog.  I had to rethink my focus. Which meant I also had to rethink my audience. When I started the blog, I had an idea whom I imagined would be reading it. But I thought it was a good idea to check in on who actually is reading it and adjust the focus accordingly.

When I first started the blog as a way to promote myself as a YA writer, I imagined that I would be writing for YA readers (either actual "YA"s - young adults- or adults). What I found was that I seem to be writing for other writers, a conclusion drawn based on comments on the blog, "favorites" and retweets on Twitter, and the fact that some of my posts about writing and writing platforms have been picked up by content-aggregating blogs. I concluded that since my most popular posts were about writing, I should write about writing to and for other writers, especially aspiring ones. 

I'm not going to argue that I took an exhaustive and full-proof survey in order to determine this. There are plenty of other variables that could determine the popularity of posts, like the time of day I tweet about them or how effectively I tag them so that someone casually trawling the web can find them. (See Jessica L. Brooks' wonderful entry here about timing and positing). But for the most part, this assessment seems pretty solid.

After assessing my audience, I knew how to focus and narrow the scope of the blog now.

But narrowing your focus always means that you have to cut something, and in this case, I have to cut out something that I really like writing about, possibly more than anything else: popular culture. I love analyzing the ways that pop culture reflects (and affects) our values about class and race and gender. But much as I love the posts that I wrote about things like the portrayal of adolescent female desire on Bob's Burgers, no one else did, as far as I can tell. So I'm going to focus on writing about writing and do more reviews of YA books and focus exclusively on YA stuff. This means that I will have to make two changes to the blog. First, I won't be able to review and feature books by friends who write NA and more adult fiction and that saddens me. But I can help them elsewhere by being better at promoting their work on Twitter and Facebook and posting reviews to Goodreads and Amazon. Second, as for my beloved pop culture analysis? I can still write it of course. It just needs a new forum (so I may resurrect my first blog about tween pop culture, Smells Like T(w)een Spirit).

So my advice to anyone starting a blog or working to improve the appearance and reach of a blog they already write is to think about your content - what is it exactly that you want to put out there into the ether? And then think about your audience and how a focused and consistent presentation of topics can reach a focused and consistent audience.

If you've thought about these issues and have any suggestions, please leave a comment here.

Until I'm back next month - Happy reading and writing!

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