It’s almost the end of December and with the year coming to a close, I’ve decided to do another post reflecting on what I’ve learned about blogging in the last year. I did something similar exactly 25 posts ago and it was a really rewarding experience. Anyway, A&A is now 25 posts older, and hopefully 25 posts wiser. Time to drop some knowledge! Here we go!
Don’t get super worked up over SEO
This topic could probably be an entire series of posts which would not even begin to scratch the surface of the complexity that is Search Engine Optimization. So don’t freak out. Also, remember that SEO is only one aspect of driving traffic to your website; it’s not the end all be all.
Ok, so what is Search Engine Optimization anyway? Well, simply put, it’s the visibility of your site as it appears in a search. Essentially, where does my site come up in the search rankings. There are countless strategies and methods on how to optimize a blog post or website. WordPress is really nice because it lets you write the keywords yourself in the form of ‘tags’. Otherwise, you’d have to add keywords to your website with coding.
Using SEO requires some strategy. You have to anticipate what users will search and tag your posts accordingly. You also want to vary your tags in a way that will have the most value. For instance, if I’ve written a post about iPhones, it might seem obvious to use the tag iPhones. And it is probably still a great idea to do this (not like there is a limit to how many tags you can make) but it may not be as effective as you might think. Lots of people search ‘iPhones’ and by that logic, your site should be viewed by billions of people using that search. However, billions of websites are also using the tag ‘iPhones’, so what is gonna place your site above all of the others? Another strategy you might consider, is adding some keywords for which your site will not have a lot of competition in the search rankings. These searches are probably less frequent but they will likely bring you more traffic. Some balance between high and low frequency searches seems to be the optimum strategy.
Blogging is a Social Medium. So be social!
This is one that I struggle with constantly. Remembering that your blog does not exist in a vacuum. I’m not the only blogger out there writing reviews about books and short fiction. Finding and engaging with some other like minded, and even competitive websites is a great way to bring viewers to your own blog. This makes it extra important to stay active and aware of what is happening within your field. If your lucky, sometimes these other websites will even post links to similar material on your website (if you have any) or posts of yours they found interesting. This type of behavior is good for two reasons. The first is because it will send viewers from their page back to your own (this is called a ‘back link’) which directly results in new views (if only a few). The second reason is because search engines count the number of back links you have when calculating your position in a search results. The more reputable the site, the better. However, a strategy involving a varied audience is again probably the best. Imagine the difficulty of getting a site like the New York Times to link to your website. Don’t avoid interactions with big sites like this but also don’t forget about the little guys. Your local paper might drive more traffic towards your site in the beginning than a huge conglomerate. Best build relationship across the spectrum. Make friends in high and low places 🙂
This is the newest and most intriguing idea (at least for me) that I’ve learned. Above, I mentioned being social. Through interacting with other sites that I’m interested in and reaching out to them, I’ve started writing and creating content for some other websites as well as my own. I noticed that whenever I posted on one of these other sites, traffic (through back links etc) increased on my own site. However, not all instances of this phenomenon were created equal. During weeks where I posted similar content across all of the platforms that I’m writing for, the views on each platform were higher than if the platforms had little or no relevance to each other. I’ve had to think about series of posts instead of posts in single, isolated incidents. It’s more difficult sure, but I feel that it has also allowed me to produce more sophisticated content as well.
For example, I often post about zombies on this website. I enjoy zombie fiction and feel there is a great depth of discussion to be had on the subject. Being ‘social’ presented me with an opportunity to review an anthology of short fiction about zombies which was enjoyable as ever. The post has done pretty well in terms of page views which I know is in part because of the publisher’s promotion of my review, but I also think that some of the traffic was driven to the site because of a zombie post I did for Amazing Stories which I timed to release the day after my original anthology review. It is more difficult to coordinate posts in this manner, but I feel that it is also more rewarding.
Face time is still important
For me, this lesson seems the most obvious, but still the hardest to accomplish. I think about the ancients, going around, marketing their products without the internet, or social media (or even television if you want to go even further back). They met, they talked, maybe shook some hands and they built awareness of whatever it was they were interested in. Good old fashioned word-of-mouth. If you think about it, everything that we now accomplish through the internet is simply the same concept, only we can now do it a million times more quickly and more often. However, I wonder if it has the same effectiveness. I know that much the engagement I’ve received on my website is by telling people about it at lunch, over dinner, at conventions, during parties, during parties at conventions etc.
There is a study about snipers in the war. The study showed that sharpshooters were less traumatized by their kills then foot soldiers who were in close proximity to their victim during the attack. Something about the distance caused a lack of empathy between the soldier and his/her victim. Now think about that concept in a more positive manner. Instead of getting a kill we’re trying to engage a prospective reader. Social media and the internet are like snipers. Fast and effective but perhaps the long range fails to impact the reader like you would in person. I sincerely believe that one of the best ways I’ve brought traffic to the site is by networking face to face. It’s a thing!
Always be looking/ Never be afraid of trying new things
Content is always changing. People are getting information more ways than ever before. It’s easy to find a formula that works and stick to it. It’s hard to continue finding formulas. I hope that when I write this post again after my next 50 post (yikes!!) that I have a host of new things which I’ve tried. I hope a great many of them are successes but realize that for that to happen a great many more will need to be failures. We’ll see what the new year brings!
See ya laters!