In this edition of Vita Brevis’ free resources for poets, we’re talking about poetry blogs on WordPress — it’s a match made in heaven. I struggle to think of a better spot on the internet where sharing poetry, receiving feedback, getting published, and growing a following is so neatly packaged together.
What makes this possible is WordPress’ embedded community and search engine feature (known as the Reader).
It gives all WordPress poetry a shot at being viewed immediately, which is much better than being buried beneath millions of Google results, waiting for someone to happen upon your website.
And it helps that there’s such a vibrant community of poets here. Resources, publications, competitions, and writing prompts abound.
But just because you press “publish” doesn’t mean that your poem will get as many views as it could. WordPress doesn’t treat all posts equally.
Every day I see great WordPress poetry dive headfirst into the void — if the poets are lucky, their posts will get a view or two, maybe even a “like”, before it’s gone forever.
Some people do this for months and wonder why their site still has so little activity. Some for years — before they either give up or decide that that’s just how WordPress works.
And that’s why I’m writing this. Because that isn’t just how WordPress works. Your work doesn’t have to go unnoticed. It is worth reading. And there are many poets out there who would love to follow your site — but, in many cases, they haven’t been able to see it!
That’s why this week’s resource will show you how to make one of the best poetry blogs on WordPress — it’s just a few simple but powerful tips about how to publish poetry on WordPress, but it will help you maintain a higher rank on the Reader, get more eyes on your poetry, increase your following, and share your poetry with a little bit more of the world.
1. The Basics: How to Make a Poetry Page on WordPress
In this section, we’re going to run through a few tips to maximize the design and performance of your poetry blog on WordPress.
It might be unfair, but one of the first things people do when they get on a website is judge how valuable it is — often by looking at the domain. If it’s clear that you don’t own your domain (i.e. Yoursite.weebly.com or Yoursite.wordpress.com) then they won’t take you seriously.
Those clunky unpaid domain names also hide your blog beneath millions of others in Google. If possible, I highly recommend starting your poetry blog out strong by owning your own domain.
Just don’t over pay. Most poets have no need to buy the more expensive WordPress plans. The current website you’re on didn’t even need them. I operate this entire site at a fairly inexpensive WordPress plan.
The lowest two tiers are sufficient to:
- Reserve and own your domain
- Get plenty of great poetry features
- Have the tools you need to thrive in the WordPress community and outside of it.
In other words, you don’t need expensive plans to look professional. All that matters is that you own your space on the internet, and let your creativity run free.
If you want to see what WordPress can offer to get your poetry out in the world, check out their plans here. I used WordPress to go from a zero-traffic poetry blog to a respected small publisher, so you could say I’m a fan.
When you’re designing your website, you ought to keep it simple. Veer away from distracting colors, unintuitive layouts, and repeating, stretched, or low-resolution pictures as your site’s background.
In other words, don’t tamper with the pre-made WordPress themes too much — just enough to make it unique. Unattractive, cumbersome, or “dense” sites won’t keep readers coming back.
Just look around the Reader and compare more home-grown sites with some of the best poetry blogs on WordPress — there’s an attention to detail there that goes a long way.
LINKS & MENUs
The fewer links you include, the more likely it is that people will click on them. That goes for the menu bar, too. In most cases, your menu bar should not include more than four or five items. (Sites of popular poets often include these pages: About, Poems, Other Publications, Link to Newest Chapbook).
You don’t want to get excessive with the widgets. They’re distracting, and your readers will almost never look at more than two or three of them. Moreover, it makes your website much slower to load. This means most readers will give up before it’s finished loading — and once it does load, it will be so cumbersome to navigate that they won’t stay on it for long.
Worse yet, your Google ranking will be penalized relative to how long it takes to load your website (Google can be a source of a lot of traffic once your poetry blog takes off, so don’t ignore this). The key here is to keep your poetry blog on WordPress minimal and clean — so your poetry can enjoy the spotlight.
If you end up writing a lot of WordPress poetry, you’ll want to give your readers a way to find your old poems. You could use the “Archive” widget, but few (if any) readers try to find an old post by the month they think it was published in.
Much more useful (and minimal) is the search bar widget. You can also link to “categories” of posts in your menu bar so users can see only your poetry or only your blogs/articles. If you have trouble cutting down the number of menu bar links you use, just use drop-down menus.
You can include copyright information here, link to your poet social media accounts, or include a short bio about you. Some themes include sitemaps, but this is excessive if your website is simply a poet’s page.
I suggest keeping things minimal and treating your website like a good poem — simple yet impactful.
2. Formatting Poetry: How to Format Poetry in WordPress (in 2020)
So, about the new Gutenberg text editor. It’s a pretty divisive update — probably because it’s the first significant update to WordPress’ text editor in many years.
But it’s pretty useful for formatting poetry in WordPress — you just need to get used to the new “block” functionality. If that still doesn’t offer enough functionality, you can use HTML!
Let’s break all of this down:
Gutenberg: How to Format Poetry in WordPress with Gutenberg
If you’ve never used WordPress before, then this will be a breeze. The new text editor is highly intuitive, and it offers advanced options that makes formatting poetry in WordPress much more streamlined than the previous editor.
Like the Verse block, which is made for poetry:
Notice the complicated Spacing and formatting That this . . . . . . . . . . Verse Block can Achieve Without any HTML!
As the editor of a poetry magazine, I often use this block to format poetry in WordPress that would otherwise to too tricky and require HTML.
That said, the Gutenberg Verse block does have its limitations. Indenting and assigning unique text alignment on a line-by-line basis is still impossible, so we need to look to HTML for that…
Formatting Poetry in WordPress with HTML
For more advanced poetry formatting, I highly recommend looking into HTML.
HTML is just a super simple coding language used for styling and formatting. Once you learn the basics, it reads a lot like written English, and you’ll be able to format things without having to look it up.
You can see a full list of supported HTML terms for the new Gutenberg editor in this support page. Here’s a great example from WordPress’ support documentation
If you want to format a poem in WordPress that looks like this…:
You would just type in the following code:
If you want to write poetry with advanced spacing and indention, then formatting poetry in WordPress will present a few challenges unless you use HTML or the Verse block. As a last resort, you can take pictures of your poem and post that — but this isn’t ideal.
3. Tagging Poetry: Don’t Use More Than Five Tags on WordPress Poetry
This is one of the most common problems I see on the WordPress Reader — tags like “Rain”, “Sad”, “Free”, “Empowering” or your name will not reach your target audience.
In fact, they will make it much less likely that your poem will be found at all.
– Here’s our list of High-Acceptance-Rate Poetry Publications –
This goes for all blogs on WordPress: to play it safe, you don’t want to use any words, subjects, or themes from your poem as tags. No one types in “bird” on the WordPress Reader hoping that a poem about a bird will show up. They type in “Poem”, “Poet”, “Poetry”, or specifiers like “haiku” or “sonnet”.
Those are the only tags you want to use. Using too many (or irrelevant) tags will penalize your post’s ranking in the WordPress Reader. So use no more than five: “Poetry”, “Poem”, “Poet”, and one or two specifiers like “Haibun”, “Haiku”, “Sonnet”, or something similar.
As a rule of thumb, the fewer tags you use, the more privileged your poem will be — but the fewer WordPress Reader “pages” you’ll show up on.
Here at Vita Brevis, I only use three or four, often: “Poem”, “Poetry”, and “Poetry Magazine”. Notice that these are all terms that people would type into the Reader while looking for content similar to mine. Think about how you find the best poetry blogs on WordPress via the Reader — probably not from typing in “Bird” but “poetry” or something similar.
4. How Poetry Ranks on WP Reader
LIKES AND COMMENTS
Go to the Reader and type “Haiku”. It shouldn’t take too much scrolling on the front page until you come across a post I made a month ago [Update: I’ve since stopped this competition, so this may not work].
At the time of writing, it has nearly 500 comments and 100 likes. It’s titled “Comment-a-Haiku Poetry Contest”. If you scroll down further, you’ll come across a second one. You can find these same two posts by typing in “Poem” and “Poetry”.
Why is this on the front page while hundreds of Vita Brevis poems tagged identically aren’t?
Because more people interacted with it. The point of the contest was to get poets as much feedback on their poems as possible — so they “commented” a haiku and gave feedback to another one that was posted via a reply.
Within hours, the activity was astonishing.
Even though it’s an older post (and a closed competition), the likes and comments that it pulled in have kept it on the front page of the Reader for over two months now.
It still pulls in many views a day and introduces my publication to new poets on WordPress. Long story short, Vita Brevis might not have the following that some of the best poetry blogs on WordPress have, but some of our posts consistently outrank them anyways — because of interaction.
This goes to show that, though tags get your poems on the Reader, likes and comments ultimately keep them there.
Then why is the same post ranked lower on the “Poem” page of Reader than the “Haiku” or “Poetry” page?
There are two major reasons: first, it’s competing with different posts that use the same tags, and second, the title.
It’s called the “Comment-a-Haiku–Poetry Contest”. So, the WordPress algorithm privileges it in the “Haiku” and “Poetry” pages a second time (once for the tags, again for the title).
For this reason, you should include some variation of the word “Poem” in the title of all of your poetry. That’s why all of Vita Brevis’ posts are titled “X – A Poem by Y“. It will give your WordPress poetry a double boost on the Reader’s Poem page, which is where most of your traffic will probably come in.
Pus, it’s just a good habit to let your new readers know exactly what they’re getting.
Summary: Checklist for Your WordPress Poetry Blog
In brief, the Best Poetry Blogs on WordPress do this:
- Give the post no more than five tags: “Poem”, “Poetry”, “Poet”, [Type of Poetry], [Optional Specifier]
- Include the word “Poem” in the title of all of your poems: “Vita – A Poem by Brevis”.
- Look professional by owning your domain and choosing a great looking website to send to editors, readers, friends, and family.
- Understand that tags get poems onto the reader, but likes and comments keep them there.
- Clean up your website and take it easy on the widgets. (see “How to Make a Poetry Page on WordPress”)
- Aim for speed, beauty, and minimalism.
About Vita Brevis Press | A Resource for Poets
Vita Brevis Press is a bestselling small publisher dedicated to emerging and established poets, circulating their work in an online magazine and in physical anthologies. Vita Brevis Poetry Magazine publishes some of the best emerging poets out there, pairing their work with tonally relevant artwork.
Vita Brevis Press has published two #1 bestselling new-release poetry anthologies. The first anthology, Pain & Renewal, explores the highs and lows of the human experience. The second anthology, Brought to Sight & Swept Away, explores the many faces of time. A third anthology is forthcoming.
Latest Poetry Published on Vita Brevis Press:
- Headlights – Poetry by Katherine Spadaro
- Orchard Thief – Poetry by Cynthia Pitman
- Puzzled – Poem by Diane Webster
- Sabbath Prayer – Susan Cossette