Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tips for Effective Blogging and Getting Hits and Stuff


A while ago I wrote up a lengthy email to one of my coworkers with tips on effective blogging. Now, I know it may seem like I'm not an expert in getting lots of hits based on this very blog, but keep in mind that this blog is not currently designed to get lots of hits - it's literally just a place for me to shout out into the void whatever's on my mind, regardless of who cares. However, the few times that I have put these tips into practice on my blog, they have been proven to be effective in getting more hits. So I figured I'd share them with you guys, the void, as well.

Okie dokie, here are your lessons:

Blog About Something

Firstly, figure out what you want to blog about. What do you have expertise or interest in that other people will be genuinely interested to read about? This is where I failed, because I created this blog before thinking it through and figured I'd just write whatever came to my mind. Look where that's gotten me. Nobody cares about most of my posts after they're a month old because most of my blog posts are updates on my life and writing progress - things only my family and friends on Facebook really care to read about - but the ones that are most popular are the ones that offer the most amount of people with the most amount of value.

My all-time most read blog post is an advertising critique. Not only did I fill it with keywords to attract web searches, but it combines several topics that people are interested in reading; critique, advertising, smoking, and I may have mentioned the Superbowl at least once, which doesn't hurt my traffic either. My second highest is another ad critique, and my third is a review of the first Fifty Shades of Grey movie. There's a clear pattern here. People love reviews and critiques. They love when somebody is talking to them like friends used to face-to-face before the internet came along and changed the very fabric of social interaction. For a while my largest traffic came from Germans who really, really wanted to read about RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. Not sure why Germans, specifically, but the point is that clearly people were feeling pretty nostalgic (and some game company has since taken advantage of that nostalgia and released a competitor game in the same style) and were looking to read about an old video game.

So, unless you're really, really, really good or already famous, don't write about yourself; pick a topic that is interesting to others. It can be broad (ex: "I review books") or narrow (ex: "I review every vampire book ever published") but it must be interesting to others. Bonus points if you pick a super specific niche and put yourself through agony for others' entertainment, like the aforementioned example of reading and reviewing every vampire book ever.

Utilize Your Metadata

Most of us don't want to spend money on advertising. That's why you'll want to work on your metadata. Metadata is the stuff that search engines (Google, GoDuckGo, and that other one) see and use to categorize your site. IE: use keywords. For example, my current meta description for my blog is "a blog about stuff" which is absolutely terrible, unhelpful, and I can't believe I got this far into lecturing you about how much I know about blogging and SEO when clearly I'm an idiot.

To reiterate, my blog is not currently designed to get hits. Do as I say, not as I do.

Ugh. Anyway. You want to change that to something descriptive and full of relevant keywords like, using the previous example, "books," "vampires," "fantasy," "review," and "reading." These are subjects that you intend to fill most of your blogging with, so that when someone googles "what's the worst vampire book ever written" your website has a better chance of showing up in the results. It will probably show up very low in the results at first, but write good content (more on that in a paragraph) for a while and give it some time. If you don't know where to find your metadata on your site/wordpress itself, put the URL of your blog into any one of those search engine spider simulators that you can find all over the web to find out what it currently is, then search around for how to change it on your domain.

Content is King, or Key, or Crucial, or Whatever

This goes back to what I was just saying above about selecting your topic. If you have something even as specific as "I review books" then you can skip this lesson because you have a good grasp on what you're going to write. Just write really, really good reviews.

If your topic is, despite my advice, less obviously valuable to others - like you want to blog about writing vampire stories - you may be wondering how you can possibly get people to care about little ol' you.

For that, I prescribe that you check out this post I wrote as an example. The post is designed to be like some sort of tutorial for people who are struggling to write the second draft of their novel, except it's really not that at all. That post, like so many others of mine, is just me rambling about the things I'm slowly figuring out in my own writing life. I just tweaked the concept from "here's what I learned" to "here's what you should know" - in doing so, I shift focus from me to you. People Google stuff like "help with second draft" all the time, so when they get to that page they're not reading about someone else struggling with the same problem, but someone who has a solution for theirs. (TWIST: I didn't know what the hell I was doing.)

So the lesson here is that even if you're blogging about you, don't make it about you. Figure out how you can turn your stories and experiences into something that can benefit others, because nobody is going to care about your struggles until you're famous for something and they want to read your detailed backstory so they can flesh out your Wikipedia page.

Oh yeah, and stick to a regular posting schedule so your readers can turn reading your blog into a habit. Be consistent. You want them to return regularly.

Keywords are also Key ... Words

Keywords are super important when writing. You want to include every possible thing that someone interested in your blog post might search for, so use a "related keywords" tool like to find them. For example, if you want to blog about being a fantasy story writer; when I put "fantasy" into that site, I get "fantasy baseball," "fantasy baseball rankings," and "fantasy island" as the top three results, so make sure you don't use the word "fantasy" in your blogging without also including "novel" or "fiction" immediately after it. Specificity will lead to better results because you don't want to get your content mixed up with someone betting on their fantasy league.

Type in "fantasy fiction" into that site, scroll around, and you start to see some better results like "how to write a fantasy fiction novel." Although the actual statistics in these tools are typically locked behind a paywall, it's pretty safe to assume that that's a fairly common internet search by people who you want to visit your blog. Use that to your advantage. Include that phrase and others like it when you can without forcing it (ex: "when I first started learning how to write a fantasy fiction novel...") or just straight up write a blog post titled "how to write a fantasy fiction novel" and make it a really, really good post. Do you catch my drift?

Google is also a great tool for the same thing. Type "fantasy fiction" into Google and either don't press enter so you see the next suggested words or press enter and scroll to the bottom where you'll see:

Searches related to fantasy fiction:
fantasy fiction podcast
fantasy fiction books for adults
fantastic fiction books
fantasy fiction authors
fantasy fiction reddit
fantasy fiction youtube
fantasy fiction online
fantasy fiction podcast wiki

Which gives you a really good idea for what people are looking for when they search for "fantasy fiction" because those are Google's updated popular relevant searches - these are super valuable in telling you what people are looking for right now that you could be providing them with. Use those words and talk about those things whenever you can without sounding forced - rule number one is thou shalt not pander to the Google overlords, so don't just throw keywords into your post if they don't belong. Search engines will actually punish your site for trying to trick them like that.

Do More Research

It absolutely cannot be overstated that everything I'm saying here is really, really basic stuff and doesn't even cover all the rest of the basic stuff. If you really want to be a good blogger, go out and do some more research. Become an expert in your topic and in blogging itself. Maybe team up with some like-minded people to blog as a group so you share the burden and can utilize each other's talents.

Okay, I think that's all I've got for now. Hopefully this wasn't too boring, but I guess that's another lesson; DON'T BE BORING! Even if the subject is kind of dry, spice it up with your personality and photos you took of cute animals!

Best of luck to you!