Blog Audit Challenge 2020: May #blogauditchallenge2020

May 30, 2020

May’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is starting to open up for business with social distancing precautions.

May’s Challenge focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

SEO is something I continue to work on, and I find it becomes more routine over time. Keywords are a critical component of SEO.

1. Key Words in Headlines

  • Key words are the words that individuals put in the search bar to search for content.
  • Key words are the most important component of SEO.
  • Identifying key words is a critical first step in creating content. Think about what people would search for in order to find your content. Various apps are available to help you find optimal key words. I have never used this option, so I  can’t offer a recommendation. A search on Pinterest will result in more articles than you could ever use on SEO and Key Words.
  • Reviewing books makes the selection of key words easier because the book title in my heading is also my key word(s).
  • In addition to showing up in the title of the post, key words need to appear (naturally) throughout the content of the post. At first, it was easy to include my key word(s) in my post title but I had to make a conscious effort to sprinkle the key words throughout the content. So in place of using a term like “this book,” I had to form the habit of replacing these phrases with the book title. Using key words becomes even more effective when you can use them in subheadings.

2. Labels, Tags, and Descriptions

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: April #blogauditchallenge2020

April 29, 2020

April’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in a Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

Well….April continues to be a bit derailed due to Covid-19! I hope that if you are reading this that you are well.

April found me having difficulty reading books with heavier content and I had a serious case of the “blahs.” How about you? Doing any hard thinking is a discipline these days!

April’s Challenge is to focus on Design:

1. Images

In my first year of blogging, I discovered how important it is to have at least one Pinterest quality image in each blog post. Before that discovery, I simply used a book cover as an image. (I need to note here that I can’t stage photos with books because I read exclusively on the Kindle.) Now I use a book cover image that I grab from Amazon and “enhance” it. First I use the app PhotoGrid to add a background for the book cover. I save this image in PhotoGrid’s already squarish format. Next, I open Canva and use a template I created for Pinterest that has been designed for a square image and that has the Book Title at the top and my blog name at the bottom. I use this template over and over again and switch out the picture, color, and text. Here’s the last Pinterest image I created using PhotoGrid and my Canva Pinterest template:

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhom (coveer)

In blog posts, I attempt to incorporate other images. For example, in my review of Code Name Helene, I also used a real-life picture of Helene. In addition, I always include an author’s photo.

I have a certificate from a community college in graphic design, so I’m familiar with using images in a layout. The creative use of images is an enjoyable aspect of creating a blog post.

Something new I’m experimenting with this year is using animated GIFs. I think it’s important not to overpower your content with gifs, so I use them sparingly.

As with any new element, there’s a learning curve and I had to experiment multiple times to master the process for using them in a WordPress post.

2. Optimize Images

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: March #blogauditchallenge2020

March 30, 2020

March’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in a Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

Well….March was a bit derailed due to Covid-19! I hope that if you are reading this that you are well.

On the subject, I found this video clip very helpful, reassuring, and comforting!

March found me preoccupied with finding paper towels and toilet paper! Because of orders to stay home and isolate, I spent many reading and blogging hours ordering food and paper goods online. I had difficulty reading books with heavier content and had a serious case of the “blahs.” How about you? Thinking strategically about the blog became nonexistent. So, I don’t have too much to report unless good intentions and reflection count for something!

March’s Challenge is to focus on The Trimmings:

1. The Header

In anticipation of the March Challenge, I contacted an artist friend in February and inquired about designing a new header for the blog. The header needs to reflect my site and my personality and set a tone. When I first started the blog, I set it up quickly and impulsively and grabbed some generic graphics from Google images….I realized later that this is not recommended and I’ve known for some time that I need to come up with my own original artwork or pay for the right to use an image.

My header reflects me and my personality, but I don’t think it reflects what I DO. I know I need to think about branding.

  • My style– I’m a casual person. I love informal, warm, and welcoming. My current floral header reflects my love of nature, lots of color, and gardening, and it sends a warm vibe. So I’d like to keep that feel but stylize it so it’s uniquely me and doesn’t look like I pulled it from Google images! I think I’d like a pen and ink drawing and water color.
  • My mission-My header needs to convey a clear message about what I do….it needs to reflect my mission (from the January Challenge). Right now I have some words that suggest what I do, but I’d like my header to also visually reflect what I do.
  • My branding– I need to match my header to the rest of my branding. I definitely want my branding to reflect the informal, friendly, warm, and bookish vibe.

Definitely, I have a great deal of work to do in this area, and after the Covid-19 situation dies down, I will have more brain power to devote to this task!

2. The Side Bar

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: February

February 28, 2020 

February’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in a Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

February’s Challenge is to focus on Information Pages:

1. About Page

One of the first things I look for when I land on a new-to-me blog is the About page. I’m disappointed every time there isn’t one. Jo Linsdell states that the About page is statistically one of the most visited pages on a blog, and I’m adding to those statistics every time I visit a blog. Before I give a follow, I like to know just a little bit about the blogger. I’m looking for a picture, points of connection, and a smattering of compatibility. One item that Jo Lindsell suggested is including a CTA (call to the action on the About page), so I edited mine to include that. I hope you’ll give my About page (found among the menu tabs) a glance and that you find it helpful.

2. Legal Disclaimers

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020

February 3, 2020 

Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in a Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

January’s challenge is to focus on organization, strategy and the creation of an action plan:

1. Create a Mission Statement For Your Blog

From the earliest days of my blog, I’ve thought seriously and carefully about my mission statement, my niche, and my followers. I’m thankful that my reviews have resonated and connected with so many followers and readers! Thank you!

The mission of my blog is to share a love of great literature across a variety of genres with an intentional focus on new releases, thoughtful themes, diverse cultures, and “own voices” authors. I desire to be a trusted reviewer for your next great read! Conversations are always welcome. 

2. Do a SWOT Analysis of Your Blog

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Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?

January 6, 2020

 Did You Know Trigger Warnings Are Controversial?

Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?

trigger warnings

Image Source: Canva

Trigger Warning:
A stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especially those who have previously experienced a related trauma.
~www.Dictionary.com

The distinction I make between a trigger warning and a content warning is that a content warning doesn’t involve content that triggers psychological or emotional harm. Some reviewers do not make a distinction between trigger warnings and content warnings. My trigger warnings usually consist of warnings about suicide, sexual assault, child endangerment, abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, etc. Whereas, content warnings usually consist of content like profanity, crass language, open door romance, excessive graphic violence, references to body image, etc.

The inclusion of Trigger Warnings and/or Content Warnings have been extensively debated among reviewers.

Spoilers: Last week, someone questioned one of my Instagram reviews in which I had included a TW (trigger warning). This person was concerned that the TW could be considered a spoiler. Well, yes, that is a definite con of a TW. Interestingly, the next person thanked me for the TW!

This is a topic about which I have a strong opinion, but I don’t think I’ve addressed my position in a formal post. Since you are reading my reviews, you might be curious about my stance.

Pros and Cons of Trigger Warnings:

PROs of Trigger Warnings:

  • Readers are alerted to sensitive content that might cause them psychological or emotional harm
  • Readers can make informed decisions
  • Readers are better prepared for difficult or triggering content

CONs of Trigger Warnings:

  • TWs might contain spoilers
  • TWs might give away an important plot point
  • TWs might ruin the ‘twist’ or the ending

What do you think?

Do you have concerns to add to the Pro and Con lists? At first glance and considering common sense, you might say the Cons outweigh the Pros. Please hear me out.

My Position:

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2019 Blogging Recap #amonthoffaves

December 23, 2019

2019 blogging recap

Image Source: Canva

2019 Blogging Update

For today’s post, I’m linking up with Girlxoxo and Traveling With T for Month of Faves: Blogging in 2019.

A Month of Favorites TwithT

This post is especially for blogging enthusiasts!

We blog in isolation, so occasionally I like to peek into the blogging lives of others to see how my experiences or results compare–not in a way that is negative or competitive but to maintain realistic expectations and perspectives for my own blogging journey. I hope I can provide encouragement today as I share my “steady growth” philosophy and experience. Here are some stats:

  •  161st post of the year (with more planned before year’s end)
    In my first year (half-year) of blogging, I published one post per week; my 2nd year, I pushed for 2 posts per week; and now in my 3rd year, I set a goal of 3 posts per week. Many weeks I met that goal….every week in 2019 I published 2 or 3 posts per week (a few times I managed 4 posts per week). Part of my steady growth philosophy is to push myself in stages and give myself permission to back off if it’s too much.
  • Total views for 2019: 58,507  (as of 12/21/19); In 2018 I had a total of 13,652, so 2019 brought an increase of at least 44,855. Although this might be far less than some popular bloggers (a blogger I peeked in on today claims 25,000 views per day!), I feel like my number is realistic for me and my steady growth demonstrates that I’m on the right track with my current strategies.
    Total Overall Views in 2 1/2 years: 75, 482
    THANK YOU so very much for your support (viewing, reading, liking, sharing)! It means the world to me! I hope you know that even though I’m talking stats today, I do this for the joy it brings and not the numbers!
  • Most popular post: Where the Crawdads Sing Review (week after week and month after month since the pub date, Crawdads has been my number one search term (an indication of the hype for this book).
  • The post of which I’m the proudest: I’m proud of all the work I do on the blog to bring you great reading recommendations, but I’m especially proud of the 12 blogger collaboration post published last summer: Summer’s ONE Must-Read Book.
  • Followers for this blog total 1,401 (this represents my slowest growing statistic, but I’m pleased with the number and extremely grateful for each person who engages with my content week after week. I don’t participate in follow-for-follow threads on twitter because I want to grow followers organically. I desire followers who care about the content and are not following simply to get a follow back.
  • Blogging schedule: Part of my steady growth philosophy involves the promotion of my blog on social media. This takes time. It takes time away from reading and from writing content; however, engaging with readers on Instagram and Twitter is part of the joy of blogging too! I am inspired by the work of others and also receive encouragement and affirmation for my work. If you are thinking of starting a blog or are a new blogger, you must put significant effort into promotion and engagement on social media and consider that a part of your blogging schedule. See this post for additional specific blogging information.
    • My general weekly routine: Every morning I spend 2-3 hours on social media with the purpose of blog hopping (comments, likes, shares, and engaging on Instagram and Twitter). Afternoons are devoted to reading, and evenings are set aside for more reading and writing reviews and blog content (my most productive writing time is between 10-12 p.m. when the house is quiet). When I post in the evening, I promote that post or share the review the next morning (Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Netgalley, Amazon). I’m recently retired, so I’m privileged to devote as much time as I’d like to my blog. I have been the most strict with myself about posting a review every Friday (at times I move that to Thursday if I’m participating in Friday’s Positivity Wave). But I decided at the beginning that ONE review per week would be mandatory for me. Sometimes I participate in Top Ten Tuesday or other memes, or write another review. (This might be time to confess that I’ve been nominated for blog awards that I’ve neglected to respond to…. this might be my weakest area of blogging and I need to say I’m sorry to my blogging friends for not following through).
  • As mentioned earlier, I count the acquaintances I’ve made through the blogging experience a definite perk and joy of blogging. If you are a new blogger, you must extend yourself and make connections with other bloggers. You cannot survive as a blogger without the support of others (and the comradery is a joy!). For example, I have blogging friends in Israel, Nigeria, France, Canada, Great Britain, and various regions of the U.S. Find your people!
  • Blogging goals for 2020:
    • Respond to tags!
    • Make 3 posts per week a norm
    • Hit 2,000 followers by year’s end.
    • Continue to engage with the blogging community.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into my blogging life! If you have questions, I’d be happy to address them in the comments.

Related post: What I’ve Learned in Two Years of Blogging



QOTD!

If you are a blogger, do you have comments, questions, advice, or insight?



ICYMI

I have finished my Fall TBR!
(just in time to begin my Winter TBR!)

Winter 2019 TBR

My Nonfiction November Posts:
2019 Nonfiction Reads
Nonfiction and Racial Injustice
Nonfiction/Fiction Pairings
Favorite Nonfiction Books
2020 Nonfiction TBR
Finding Chika by Mitch Albom



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

A Shout Out to Bloggers #amonthoffaves

December 18, 2019

Shout Out to Bloggers

Image Source: Canva

Bloggers!

I see your effort! I appreciate your consistent quality content! I treasure your support, encouragement, and interaction! I love our blogging community!

For today’s post, I’m linking up with Girlxoxo and Traveling With T for Month of Faves: Blogging Community. Because I have so many bloggers I follow, I will NOT attempt to shout out favorites here because I would end up with a very long list! If I have interacted with you on our blogs, please know that you are among my favorites. (You know who you are!)

A Month of Favorites TwithT

What I find most interesting about the community of bloggers is that it gives me an opportunity to engage with bloggers from many countries and states. A few of the bloggers I follow hail from Canada, Israel, France, Jersey (Channel Islands), Nigeria, and from different regions of the U.S. All of you brighten my inbox and twitter feed! I’m looking forward to another wonderful and productive year of blogging and engagement!

For today’s tribute to the blogging community, I’ve based it solely on stats and I’m shouting out several bloggers who have consistently commented the most on my posts.

A Shout Out and Thank You to My Top Commenters:

Nicki at The Secret Library Book Blog

Rain at The Withering

Carla at Carla Loves to Read

Jennifer at Tar Heel Reader

Tina at Reading Between the Pages Blog

Lynne at Fictionophile

Jaymi at Orange County Readers

Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Reviews

Jonetta at Blue Moon Cafe

thank you

Thank you for your support, encouragement, and interaction!



QOTD:

Do you have bloggers that you interact with regularly?

What do you love most about the blogging community?



A Last Minute Gift Idea For Your Book Worm!

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

B00QJE3MGU

Also…..ICYMI…..there are some ideas for book gifting in this post.

gift stack of books



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

My Best of the Year and End of Year Round-Up posts are coming soon!



My Fall TBR:

I finished my Fall TBR!



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

2 Year Blogiversary & Giveaway

July 28, 2019

 

To celebrate my two-year Blogiversary, I’ll reflect on what I wish I knew two years ago and offer a GIVEAWAY!

10 Things I Wish I Knew Two Years Ago as a Beginning Blogger:

3 books graphic

I wish I knew how much time I would devote to social media.

  • I wish I knew about the amount of time social media requires.
  • Time: 2-3 hours every morning on Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook. Pinterest, and blog comments (my blog and others). As I read blogs, I comment, like, and often share the posts on Twitter. Sometimes I link up with other bloggers (Top Ten Tuesday for example).
  • Instagram: Engage with the bookstagram community and post my own content. In order to share posts on Instagram, I first need to create a picture (because I read digitally, I use PhotoGrid to create graphics using book covers in lieu of using physical books……setting up physical books for a photo shoot would take even more time than creating a graphic in PhotoGrid). One more option to consider with Instagram is setting up the LinkTr.ee app which will enable you to add more than one link to your profile.
  • Goodreads: Check in at least once a day and engage with the reviews in my feed, or I post a review (always adding my blog link to the end of the review).
  • Pinterest: Check for notifications and look to see what I can pin. On days that I publish a post, I pin my post to several group boards (it took me a while to figure out how to find and join the boards in my niche). I create my Pinterest images using a Canva template.
  • Twitter: Check my notifications, retweet, comment, and look for opportunities to share a blog link.
  • Facebook: From my personal page, I engage with many book groups I follow and post my blog links when the opportunity arises. Then I post links or memes on my blog’s FB page.
  • Throughout the day, I also respond to various notifications from my morning’s engagement on social media. In the evening, I will often revisit my morning routine to take advantage of more opportunities to share my blog link.
  • I wish I had all the social media set up and ready to go the day I launched my blog, it would have been a lot smoother and more effective. It took me months to set up all my social media accounts. It took me about a year to finally get around to Twitter (eventually, Jennefer-TarHeelReader was kind enough to comment that she couldn’t share my blog on twitter and offered encouragement to help me get that set up!). I missed a lot of promotion opportunities by not having Twitter set up from Day One because I receive more views from Twitter than any other social media platform. It’s extremely easy for readers to click and share your blog post to Twitter for you!
  • Best Tip: Make sure all your social media accounts reflect your blog name in some way.

3 books graphic

I wish I knew how much bloggers benefit from each other’s support and encouragement.

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Blogger Recognition Award

May 13, 2019

I’ve Been Nominated For The Blogger Recognition Award!

Blogger Recognition Award

I’ve been nominated! It makes my day to be nominated for an award! Bloggers work hard to bring their followers consistent, inspiring, and relevant posts, and although it’s thrilling when followers leave likes and comments, it’s extra thrilling when fellow bloggers recognize and shout out your efforts.

It’s with a full heart that I shout out a huge thank you to Amanda at The Lexington Bookie for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. As well as answering the questions, this is a great opportunity for me to share a few extraordinary bloggers with you.

Blogger Recognition Award Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger for nominating you and give the link to their blog.
  2. Write a blog post on your website showing the award.
  3. Describe the story of why you started your blog.
  4. Write two pieces of advice you have for new bloggers.
  5. Nominate 10 more bloggers.
  6. Notify each of your nominees that you have nominated them.

Why I Started Blogging:

When I first contemplated retirement from my teaching career, I knew I would need to channel that passion and energy. I needed something I could jump right into that would help ease the bittersweet sting of retirement. I started by thinking about my interests and skills: I am a voracious reader, I love searching out and recommending the best books (especially histfic), I love to read new releases, I love to write, I often annoy others by oversharing my great reads with anyone who will listen, I am not intimidated by technology, (teaching required learning new technology and before my teaching career I dabbled in graphic design), and I was already an avid reader of various blogs. During the last week of teaching, I drove home each night dreaming and scheming about creating my own space on the world wide web to share my love of reading and great books. On the last day of teaching (June 17), I hunkered down with a yellow pad to write my first blog post. By July, I had met with a techie friend (thanks Chad!) to help me with the intricacies of WordPress and by July 27, I was ready to hit publish. Of course, the weeks and months since then have provided great opportunities for learning more about the wonderful world of blogging.

Advice For New Bloggers:

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