Are you obsessed with your statistics? They are fun, and free. They greet you every time you open your dashboard with a friendly little circle that blinks as you wait impatiently thinking, “OPEN, OPEN, OPEN.” My husband, Vince, asked, “Why are you interested in more people visiting your website, anyway? Don’t you have enough? Do you want everybody to love you?”
He does look sad, but that’s a thought-provoking question. It relates right back to the website’s purpose. Even though I had a vanity blog, my real goal was that somebody would notice my blog and say to me, “Marsha, you are such an awesome blogger, would you mind if our publishing company bought some of your material?” I did get “awesome blog here” every day from spammers, but it did not jump starting my writing/photography career. For a vanity blog, there really isn’t a need for more traffic, but for authors who want to sell more books, or for photographers promoting their art, traffic is important.
Content Is Key
Bloggers become less concerned with statistics as they gain blogging experience. It takes time to develop good blog posts. It takes time to process photos or art. I read all the WordPress articles about bringing in traffic. Consistency is one that I took seriously. I wrote and published nearly 650 posts on TChistorygal.net. Some of them are good, some of them I removed. I thought I had to post something every day to attract traffic. On my Blogger website, I concentrated on history and Woodlake. I have 15% of the number of posts and 33% of the number of views. Yet, it was one post I did on both of the blogs about Woodlake, that attracted an editor who offered me a contract to write a book about the history of Woodlake. She liked my style of writing, but it was the content that she needed for her publisher.
- Use Tags: Since content matters, your reader has to find your content quickly. WordPress tells you which of your tags are searched most often. Statistics exists to tell writers what subjects are most often searched, but I found that approach tedious. If you have skills, write about them. Develop, practice and refine your skills, just as I am doing with writing. Readers skim. If they like the topic, they might read it.
- Start Well: Just like the opening paragraph captures a reader’s interest in fiction, if the first few words of an article sound boring, I look for something else. I’m working on that in my writing. I’m reading authors I like and paying close attention to how they begin each chapter. In non-fiction blogs, we can’t murder the protagonist’s best friend in the opening paragraph, but we have other techniques that work. Good authors and speakers often start with a quote from a well-known or loved person. I have a Brainy Quotes account, and I search for specific topic I’m planning to cover. Questions sometimes attract a reader. Shocking facts grab attention, too.
- Tell a Story: Even non-fiction has a narrative. The other day an author friend of mine came over to see me. He’d been looking at my blog, and decided it was time that I published something else. “You have more than enough material to start publishing now. Let me show you what I’ve done, and how easy it was for me to do it once I had published one book through a traditional publisher.” I sat spellbound for probably two hours as he narrated the awkward tale when he learned the truth about his birth. You can read his story, April in Paris Rendezvous with my mother. Non-fiction does not need to be boring.
- Use Photos and Video: Our technology team at Tulare County Office of Education, where I was a consultant before I retired, spoiled me. If I needed to know how to use Photoshop, Edmoto, Google Docs, or any other program, I could get a private tutor. (The gurus learned the programs from YouTube.) This is not the case now that I’m retired. Now I have to run to Google and I search for videos. For example, when I was the Executive Director of California Council for the Social Studies, I did not have a secretary. I was it. I needed to do a mail merge, and could not figure out how to make it work. Lucky for me some kind blogger created a video just for me and put it on YouTube. I do not have any writing or blogging videos, or I would embed them in my post. You may have skills that someone needs to know. Record them. You may go viral. Just like authors make money and get established making speeches, my husband tells me that folks creating videos can make millions of dollars just posting their work and selling advertizing.
My experience confirms that content will draw in traffic quickly if someone wants to know what you are doing. My editor told me, “Marsha, you do not need a big following of readers. We look for people who have readers, and have relationships with readers, but not necessarily lots of readers.”
We have no idea when we first start blogging who will read our content. The most popular post I ever published on my random blog is “Authentic Assessments for History Social Science.” I had written part of a project for California Department of Education that may or may not have ever been published, but I learned from it, and wrote this article as one of my first blog posts. Every year it gets hundreds of hits because at least one university teacher uses it with her college students.
If we tag our posts accurately, create a catchy beginning, weave the story, and make it visual and auditory, we will quickly draw an audience, without having to pay $29 per 500 clicks or $10 per boost. So what content will you use to build your next post? No one can do it quite like you do. Enjoy the process.