Improve Your Visitor Count
Live Bed Blogging! Photo by Trois Tetes (TT)
At the moment Archaeoastronomy ranks as the fourth most popular English language blog on WordPress.com, so now is the perfect time for me to post this. I can pretend to have sagcity, though I don’t really know why I’m having a traffic spike. Ok I do, it’s because I’m on the front page of Reddit, but I don’t know how that happened.. Tomorrow my rank will not so much drop as plummet. On the other hand I was planning to post on increasing visitors as I tend to get 200-300 page views (not including my own) on a daily basis. So here are my tips for to make your readership figures more satisfying.
I Stop caring about the numbers
It’s easy for me to say, and it is nice when viewers arrive. It can even be a bit hypnotic watching new people arrive. I did used to care about figures, but these days I’m not that bothered. There are a lot of simple tricks you can do to improve your figures rapidly. I like ancient history. I like archaeology. Of the millions upon millions of internet viewers out there most couldn’t care less. So if I really want a big rise in readers then I should stop boring the world with all that and write about and post on blogging, the web in general, music or porn or Britney Spears.
It can be done, but why bother? It wouldn’t then be a blog that I like. The simple truth is that whatever you write about there’ll be a huge majority of people who couldn’t care less. Moreover their interest in your blog will be purely at the whims of changing fashions. The biggest post I had, until How Perpetual Motion Works, was Bosnian Pyramid? I thought it would be read by a couple of dozen people and then gather dust in the archives. Most days it’s far and away the most read post on the site. I don’t know why, but most of the visitors have no interest in the ancient past, simply in pyramid-shaped hills or negative energy clouds. For some reason it’s caught the imagination, or just as often ire, of the internet and keeps getting read.
If you want a rapid rise then it’s only shifting fashions and a lot of luck which will help, and just as soon as it arrives it’ll evaporate. In the long term day-to-day visitor counts don’t matter. It’s simply beyond your control.
II Link to others
To get visitors you need people to tell them about your blog. You can get visits from search engines, but it would be so much better when you have just written the perfect article on custard (or even Britney Spears technocustard – I’m chasing visitors) if other people linked to your site saying “Check out this amazing post on Blogging about the new webtech Britney Spears technocustard”. But how will other bloggers know about your website and why would they care about linking to yours? Linking to them will let them know you’re out there. Maybe only 10% will have any interest in your site, but if you’re linking to other people on a regular basis this will have a cumulative effect.
They have to be the right sort of links. They have to show you’ve read what they’re saying. People are not going to be impressed if you link to their site randomly, or tangentially. In this case by almost randomly linking to this page at Techcrunch, simply because it has the word random in the text is not going to impress them. They will not be linking back. It’s one step away from spamming. A more appropriate link following point one Stop Caring would be to Lorelle’s excellent article on defining success. Like Techcrunch it’s well written, but it’s also relevant to what I’m talking about. I don’t honestly expect her to link back, but linking to that page improves this entry anyway – which is another very good reason to link.
III Respond rapidly
I’m never going to be a major blogger because I don’t respond rapidly to events. Over a week ago there was a paper published on Monet’s painting of Parliament and what astronomical analysis might reveal about pollution in Victorian London. It was, briefly, news. The reason I haven’t posted about it is that I want to read the paper before I comment. But there are stacks of things I miss. If you comment on the news when it is news, then people are more likely to find it via a search engine.
It’s hard to combine rapid response with links to other blogs or is it? In the case of Monet I could have linked to other peoples thoughts on Monet. The Open Instinct found Monet’s paintings “visually evocative” which would be fascinating if I were talking about Monet. Again links can give depth to a post as well as building up networks.
IV Choose good titles for your posts
I’m lousy at titles. I’m really really awful. I get heckled for them sometimes at conferences. How Perpetual Motion Works is the wrong title for the post. Steorn in a teacup would have been worse. Often the title is the difference between someone clicking on a link or moving on. «Celebrity» Sex Tape is the current title of choice which takes this to extremes. Obviously you have to choose the right celebrity – in the UK it’s Imogen from Big Brother, a former Miss Wales. In the USA it might be Ann Coulter, or Dr. Ruth. I don’t know. More realistically direct titles for posts are more likely to work than clever ones.
V Use images
I get a lot of visitors from search engines. There’s the usual bunch, Google and Yahoo! are the major sources. But another is Google image search. I like to illustrate entries, if I can, with a photo. The photo also has the attribute
alt="Blogging in Bed". In the photo at the top of the page and you should see what the alt text is. When people search for images, they pull up results from all sorts of places – including this site. Where can you get photos from if you’re not the artistic type?
I get most of mine from Flickr by searching for CC licences photos. These are photos where the photographer would like them to be used. In the interests of shareabout I also licence my photos under a CC licence. Another source would be the Stock Exchange. A large proportion of my visitors are from image searches – which is another reason why I’m not that bothered by my visitor count.
VI Say something that’s worth coming back to
All the above points work, but are they worth it? Imagine if a convenient virus wiped out every search engine for a day. How many visitors would you get? Those are the visitors who interest me, the ones who return, rather than visitors who stumble upon the site and move off. If your only visitors are people who visit once and move off are you really making much of a difference? This is perhaps why I don’t care about viewing figures unless something really odd happens. My stats are swamped by people visiting for the only time and it’s the returning visitors who are valuable. Not because they’re numbers, but because they’re people
This brings it all back to point one. Stop caring about the numbers. If numbers are what your after then you’ll never be satisfied, because there’ll always be someone with more visitors than you. Blogging differs from other publishing because it can be interactive (if you think Blogging isn’t interactive leave a comment telling me so). Good blogging is going to explore that and draw in people rather than numbers.