Here it is! The 25th post on Alligators and Aneurysms. This feels like an achievement (if a small one). I started this poor thing last October (2012) and rarely posted on it at all in the three months preceding 2013. Then on January one, I decided it was a new year and I was going to get serious. One post a week; that was my goal. I’ve hit that goal some weeks and others . . . not so much, but I’m trying to keep it going. It’s basically the end of May and I beat my goal by five posts! Anyway, 25 seems to be a good number to look back and see what, if anything, I’ve learned about blogging since this whole thing began (might throw in some future goals at the end but eh we’ll see). So here goes:
1) Post pictures of Cute Animals on Your Blog
Yep! Do it! Ever since I’ve been posting some pics of Kobi on the blog, my views have gone up measurably. Not necessarily significantly, but I’m getting so few views that it is really pretty hard to judge what’s driving traffic. But what I can say is that on the days I post about Kobi, my views are certainly higher. My first ‘Kobi’ post (Because I’m Shameless) did the best (and I attribute that to more aggressive marketing of that post than the others. It’s just that I was so excited about him!!), but the others have done pretty well. None of the ‘Kobi’ posts got the high score for number of views, but we’ll get to that later (item number 4). Also, these posts are just really fun. They get me outside of the monotony of text only posts. You can be a great writer, but it is still good to mix it up. So far I’ve learned how to post videos to Youtube and taught myself how to make GIF’s (you’ve all probably seen this one of Kobi, but here it is again!). It’s been really fun, and not just boring text. I think this has certainly contributed to any increase in my views (plus he’s so cute so that probably helped).
2) Post Regularly: Make a Schedule and STICK TO IT!
I believe this is helpful for 2 of reasons:
#1. I’ve read some bloggers who feel that the benefit of having a posting schedule is that your readers start to form a routine, and know to look for your posts on certain days. For instance, my short fiction posts are always on Mondays (except this Monday lol), and Kobi posts on Wednesdays. Back when I was posting about Archer, and The Americans, I tried to post the day after the episode aired which happened some weeks and not others. I believe there is some truth to the notion of readers getting into a routine but I feel that mostly it helps because of reason #2 which I’m about to go over.
#2. It gets you into a routine of actually writing posts! Without setting aside time each week to write, I would never be able to get these things out in anything resembling a consistent manner. I’d keep putting them off a week . . . then two weeks . . . and before I know it the moment has passed and I can’t even remember what I want to write about.
Now making a schedule for your posting habits is good, and I believe it helps, but it is important that you make a schedule that you can actually keep. Another thing to remember is don’t do too much (I think this kind of ties in with item 3 too). I’m guilty of this second piece all the time. I come up with these elaborate posting schedules with all the different types of content that I would like to post, but I have unrealistic expectations of how long it will take me to create the content.
For instance, if we go back to my Orcs, Bears and Assholes post, not only will we find a great review of that work (well medium on the writing side, great on the accolades side), but also quick bit on why it is important to define a schedule you can keep. Essentially, The Americans aired on Wednesday, and it was hard to catch it each week because it aired during a time that I wasn’t really free to watch the show. Can’t post a review of something you haven’t watched. My Archer posts met a similar fate though I made great efforts to clear my schedule for that broadcast. The problem was that my schedule on Friday did not allow me adequate time to write the posts (I always had plans Thursday night after Archer so I couldn’t write the posts then) before publishing them that same day. Rough right? I’ve learned since then that it’s important to define the schedule yourself. That’s why I picked Mondays for posting the short fiction reviews. I’m usually free all day sunday 😉
3) Know When to Give Up On a Project
Remember what I was saying earlier about doing too much? If you find that you are, perhaps that is a good time to scrap an idea. Get back to basics. Figure out what works and stick with it. It was a nice idea to post about TV shows, but it simply wasn’t working. While I was doing the TV posts, I was starting to conceptualize the short fiction posts (although the Kobi posts where not even a thought in my brain). To attempt to do both and the occasional book review was quite overwhelming and as a result, I wasn’t posting anything. That’s no good. Just tweak the plan.
Also, the same holds true for individual posts. I was attempting to do a post about John Scalzi’s The Human Division. I read each piece (except the last one) as it was serialized in electronic format and genuinely enjoyed them all (well except one about a dog but that’s another story). Because of the serial/TV like nature of the work, I planned to write the review in a ‘recap’ type post similar to those I’ve written about Archer, with the final ‘episode’ discussed at the end (so write most of the post before hand). I had hoped to have this post published the next day after the final episode was serialized. Well it just so happened that planets aligned and the Fates conspired . . . each to pull me away from posting the day after the final episode’s release. First, my schedule was a nightmare, then I couldn’t remember the exact details of the material, I caught mistakes in the timeline, fact-check issues . . . In short I could not write the post by my deadline. So . . . I gave up. Well I didn’t really give up so much as I tweaked the plan. Why did I have to do a ‘recap’ post? Maybe I should review The Human Division like I would any other book. It certainly frees up the timeline (although not as free as I thought which I’ll discuss in item 4). So, a review of The Human Division will be written, but likely not any time soon (I got plans! Which ironically is item 5).
4) Post Timely Content: Ride the Wave
I have to apologize, the phrase ‘Ride the Wave’ isn’t entirely mine but I think it sums up my point pretty well. Essentially that point is this: Be aware of events happening within the scope of your blog’s topic, and post about them! If you write about wheel chairs (it must be getting late, that’s random even for me) and there’s a new development in wheel chair science (is that a thing?), post about it! I’ll give you an example.
Earlier this year, I posted a review of Robert Jordan’s prequel to The Wheel of Time series, New Spring. Again planets aligned and fates conspired (all of which you can read about here) to help me actually complete the post. It just so happened, this post was checked and ready to be published at 11:55pm on the evening of January 7th. Sanderson’s midnight release party for A Memory of Light, the last book in the series, began 5 minutes later. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding The Wheel of Time during those two days and my post saw significantly more traffic than any of my previous posts. It didn’t go viral or anything like that, but it did serve as a valuable lesson in posting strategy (I also should mention, I didn’t intend to post 5 minutes before but as they say . . . the wheel weaves as the wheel wills).
How could I have implemented this strategy on purpose you ask?
Well, that is quite simple (so simple in fact that I didn’t even think to do it). Dan Brown recently released a new installment in the line of Thriller novels following protagonist Robert Langdon, The Inferno. Ideally, I could have done reviews of the other Robert Langdon novels (all of which I’ve read, and am pretty opinionated on) and posted them around the time of the release. Well, maybe I would want to re-read them first and the release kind of snuck up on me so perhaps I couldn’t have gotten it all done in time. A nice opportunity, but not in the cards.
There’s an irony here in that I could have easily done my The Human Division post for the release of that work in hardcover which was on the exact same day as the release of The Inferno. Unfortunately, I was so caught up in making the one post fit to my schedule that I completely missed the other one.
This brings me to my next item . . .
5) Plan in Advance
‘Riding the wave’ is good and all; it can help you post more relevant content but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for the wave before you ride it. I suppose in the case of the last item, you also have to decide which wave to catch. Being aware and Planning ahead will allow you to have more sophisticated content created when that wave finally hits. For instance, I’ve got a whole bunch of goodies planned for October (none of which I will reveal here), but I have to start working on it now to ensure that I’ll finish in time and have all the content I need, and be able to release the way I want. It’s been pretty tough so far, but also a lot of fun. Hope it goes over the way I imagine but I won’t be afraid to tweak if I find it isn’t working.
God is this post over yet?
Yes . . . Yes I believe it is. Hope you all found some of this stuff useful. It’s pretty basic, and I’m sure there are much more complicated and sophisticated methods out there to help you write a better blog, but after 25 posts . . . it’s these five things that I hope I don’t screw up (or in the case of item 1, continue to not screw up) over the next 25 posts. We’ll see.
Thanks all. Bye bye!