Saturday, January 20, 2018

3 Million Page Views ... and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog

Six years ago (has it really been six years?), someone told me to start a blog. Apparently, I "needed" one. I had no idea why. But I did it, figuring it might be fun.

Then, stuff happened. To my surprise, people began reading my blog. And then quite a few more started to visit, people who weren't directly related to me. (Some of whom, mysteriously, wanted to escort me to Bangladesh.)

After four years, a million people had visited my blog. I published a post somewhat facetiously titled "A Million Page Views ... and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog." (I could afford to be a little snarky back then. After all, it had taken four years to reach a million.)

I had no idea what lay ahead.

A year later this blog hit another million - a four-fold increase in traffic. This was not an accident. I had written a post in which I had waxed enthusiastic about blog promotion. And for once - really, literally for once - I followed my own advice. I promoted my blog.

And now, eight months later, this blog has accumulated another million. What's more, the most popular posts this year fetched four times the number of views of last year's most popular posts.

Should I be frightened?

In a way, it is a little frightening when all at once a lot of people are looking at what I post. It means I'm probably doing something right. And that thought is a little disconcerting. Since when have I done anything right?

Promotion Strategies

After I got over my initial confusion about what a blog was supposed to be (Cynical Observations of Society? Pearls of Wisdom? What My Cat Did Today?), I realized it might be useful as a means of organizing information that I had been storing in files - actual paper files. But the real revelation came when it dawned on me that there were these things called links and that I could put them in my blog, That meant I could use my blog as a tool! I could simply include links to all those sites in convenient blog posts. So, I started to organize all my resources: agents accepting sci-fi and fantasy, magazines that would actually pay me for my short stories, freelance publications, submission calls, everything I had laboriously accumulated. And because I actually needed those posts for my own nefarious purposes, I really put my back into them. Then three million other people found my blog.

If that sounds like a just-so story, it is. It took more than simply posting on my blog to get all that traffic. Just like writing, I had to promote, I had to be "discoverable." After all, there are a couple million blog posts written every day. How was anyone going to find mine?

Stage 1: SEO and guest blogging. Stage 2: Facebook. Stage 3: What is that? I really don't know.
At first I promoted by writing guest blogs, with modest results. Then, I promoted by posting my blog articles on other sites, like LinkedIn and Medium. Also, modest results. I fooled around with SEO meta tags, and found common search terms on Google to include in my titles. None of that had any profound effect.

And then came Facebook.

Facebook is my greatest single source of traffic, with people coming straight off Google coming in second. It terms of marketing platforms, nothing else comes close to Facebook. And the more you use it, the more word gets around.

Lessons Learned

If there is one thing I have learned from this blog, it's that if you want people to read what you have written, you have to promote your work every day. Promotion is like breathing. When you stop doing it, you're in trouble. Whether it's your blog, your short story, your poetry, anything you've put into words and posted - you have to let people know it's there. In the age of the Internet, the online written word has a short lifespan. You can't count on it being seen for more than a day or two at most.

The other lesson learned, and this applies to writing a blog, a book, a short story, poetry, or a personal essay - is write for yourself. The fact that you have an audience can be a little daunting, and it can tempt you to write for them. But the minute you lose track of what's in your heart, and what you are compelled to say, your writing will become hollow.

So, will I become corrupted, now that over a hundred thousand people are visiting each month? Probably not. My blog is just a tool, and one that I still use on a daily basis. And anyone else who wants to use it is more than welcome.

Here are some posts with good information for promoting your blog (and other writing):

10 Simple Ways to Promote Your Blog (For Writers)

Flogging your Blog

How to Get 40,000 Readers Without Guest Blogging

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