5 Mistakes That Will Make Your Rankings Drop
Wondering how the Wattpad algorithm works and why it seems to be working against you? Here's what you might be doing wrong.
Posting your writing online is hard enough, but beating the algorithms is even harder. Wattpad, like many other apps, uses technology to help readers find what they're looking for. While we don't know exactly how their system works, we have some insight based on anecdotal accounts from users. Here are some mistakes we suspect are really messing up your chances of reaching the right audience.
1. You Haven't Updated Your Story in a Long Time
There are some obvious reasons not to leave big gaps between your posts (eg. frustrated readers), but there's more to it than that. Wattpad counts your reads, but to avoid unfairly weighting the reads of stories with more parts or chapters, they average the reads over the total number of parts. If you wait months to post your next chapter, some readers will have abandoned your story in the meantime. That means if you had 100 reads per chapter for the first five chapters, the next two posted later might have 50, which will take your average from 100 to 86. This is likely why writers report new updates actually making their books rank lower.
The Fix: Post on a schedule and don't take long breaks.
2. You Post a Lot of Author Notes or Bonus Content
By the same reasoning, non-content chapters are also likely to mess up your averages. Readers often skip pages that aren't a part of the story, like author's notes and character descriptions. If your readers are skipping these chapters, it's going to affect your numbers.
The Fix: Limit your non-story chapters as much as possible. Include author's notes at the end of existing chapters and keep them short. And skip the prologue.
3. Misleading Tags or Descriptions
If you're tagging topics that are only loosely related to your story, you're not just alienating potential readers, you're also attracting the wrong people entirely. If you've used a popular tag in an attempt to get your story seen, you're giving the algorithm bad information and it's going to put your book in the wrong categories. Maybe you tagged it as "werewolf" because the main character talks about werewolves once or twice. But when people find your book under that tag, they'll quickly abandon the story because it wasn't what they thought it was. The algorithm will remember that and the reader will be frustrated. No one wins.
The Fix: Always be honest and accurate with your tags and descriptions. Readers should get exactly what they're expecting from your story.
4. You Do a Lot of Read-for-Reads
If you don't know what a read-for-read is, it's an agreement between two authors to read and comment on one another's stories. While it seems great in theory (everyone gets reads and feedback) it might actually mess you up in the long run. Wattpad recommends books based on what other readers have read, but if your readers are mostly authors who read as part of agreements with other authors, the data will be all over the place.
The Fix: If you want to do read-for-reads, only do them with authors who write and read similar books in your genre.
5. Your Chapters Are Too Short
Wattpad's algorithm looks for books that people not only start reading, but also continue to read. If readers abandon your book halfway through, your rankings will suffer. One major factor for keeping readers is consistent, readable chapter lengths. If a chapter is too long, readers might give up. If a chapter is too long, you risk irritating readers with constant ad breaks. (Remember that many users see ads between every single chapter.)
The Fix: Keep your chapters between 1500 and 3500 words. We recommend about 2500.
What has your experience been with the algorithm? Tell us in the comments...