My name is Ali and I’ve been blogging for ten years.
Not always about writing books – I started at 16 with a page consisting of madlibs and quizzes about which cast member from The Fellowship of the Ring I most closely resembled. (These may not have been accurate, as I tended to skew my answers in favour of Gandalf or Saruman.)
As time has gone on and I have abandoned quizzes in favour of spoof news and novel writing, the blogosphere too has exploded in different directions. Everyone and their mum has a blog these days (I have three) and there is all sorts of advice about the best way to do it.
- Using SEO, or Search Engine Optimization language. This means including billions of keywords people are likely to type into search engines, the idea being your site will then pop up. Some readers may remember I wrote a story last October where I mentioned the top trending topics on Twitter to see whether this would increase traffic on 12 books in 12 months. It didn’t.
- Promoting your posts elsewhere, eg Twitter and Facebook. This does work to an extent, but I have always found it really hard to know where the line is between over-promoting myself and not promoting posts enough. I knew with 12 books I didn’t want to be the spam in anyone’s stalker feed, because after a while people hide your updates or zone them out – but I think there were times I erred on the side of caution.
- Include lots of links. People who own the sites you are linking to can tell you’re sending traffic their way and might return the favour, meanwhile if you give readers interesting links to look at they’re more likely to come back.
- Offer useful advice – again, this makes them more likely to return for more.
- Update regularly – about three times a week is optimum, I’m told. And posts should be around 500 words (this one has 956). And they should always include pictures.
- Read and comment on other people’s blogs, as they will then visit yours due to the bloggers code. (The bloggers code isn’t really a thing – some people are more courteous than others, just like in real life)
All of this seems reasonable, but I have two niggles.
One: doing all this is very time consuming – especially reading and commenting on other people’s blogs. I regularly read DorkyMum, Banana Me Beautiful, No Not The Mind Probe, Snow in A Teapot, Disorientated Graduate, Clear Minded Creative, Mslexia, Subtle Melodrama, The Rogue Verbumancer, Help! I Need A Publisher and about twenty others besides. I often read without comment, but maybe press the ‘like’ button or mention the link on Twitter.
This is because I don’t always have something to add – especially if everyone is doing their optimum three posts a week. However, I read some advice the other week saying that was irrelevant, and people are perfectly happy for you to put some banal chat like ‘yeah, right on dude’ and go on your way. Initially I thought that would look just as cynical as trying to include lots of SEO – you’re not much better than the spammers who leave nonsensical comments such as “It is practically impossible to uncover knowledgeable males and girls during this subject, even so you sound like do you know what you are discussing! Thanks 655071.”
But then I remembered I actually love it when human people leave comments on my blog, because it proves they’re reading – so maybe the author of that advice had a point.
Niggle number two: these tips are geared towards raising profile and marketing – none of them concedes blogging can be done for fun. It is selfish, apparently, to talk about your own experiences on a blog – that’s not what people want to read about because there’s nothing in it for them, and you must write for an audience or what’s the point.
Speaking for myself, I kind of love reading people’s diaries and getting a little bit of insight into their lives. I don’t care if they aren’t spending two hours a day looking up useful links to help me with my problems, and that certainly won’t deter me from going back if the writing is good. I think a lot of people blog for themselves, for a lot of reasons – maybe to keep them writing, like I did between 2005 and 2009; or give them an outlet for stuff that bugs them, or a way to keep relatives updated with what’s going on. They are probably quite happy with 20 hits a day – statistics and monetization and whatever is not the reason why they started doing it – but equally if they get 200 or 2000 hits a day and people nominate them for blogging awards they aren’t going to say no.
The 12 Books Blog has taken on a bit of a patchwork feel in recent months, because I’ve lost the pattern of write one book in one genre and move on. It may also have dropped readers as a result – after all, the initial challenge is over, there’s nothing more to see here.
But if the only way to rectify this is to learn marketing jargon, or to narrow my target audience from ‘anyone interested in books’ to ‘just writers’ or ‘just readers’, I guess I shall just have to keep dropping them. As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat.*