I must be doing this all wrong, because the ‘footfall’ on this blog is not good. In fact, it’s hopeless. So, a few weeks ago, I Googled how+attract+readers+blog and I read all the standard advice which I sort of knew already.
1. Thou shalt optimise your content for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
SEO means get your website to the top of the hit list on Google when someone makes a particular search. (Honestly, no other search engine matters.) On a normal website, you implement SEO by using a relevant headings and repeatedly using keywords within your text. I’ve done all this, Dear Reader, and also, using WordPress, chosen and used relevant categories and tags to flag up my content to search engines (well… Google).
2. Thou shalt provide, on thy blog, buttons to other social media
No, I’ve never done anything like that, although I’m sure it’s easy to set up and I do use the WordPress link to publicize on Facebook and Twitter. But, if no one’s reading the blog in the first place, they’re not likely to refer it on to Pinterest (or something else), are they?
Thou shalt write an interesting heading for each post
Something to draw the reader in. A familiar concept for all writers.
Thou Shalt Invite Other Bloggers To Make Guest Appearances
6. Thou shalt network with those with similar interests
the blogs of other bloggers writing about the same sort of stuff as you. To a writer, this is the obvious one: have a lot to learn from other writers, not least getting to know what goes and what doesn’t.
7. Thou shalt create a sense of belonging
I should make my blog a sort of open clique, with its own language and jokes. I can see the appeal of this but I’ve never seen it done. I keep referring to Dear Reader in my posts, because I like it, and it’s so Charlotte Bronte, but I wonder if readers actually find it annoying.
8. Thou shalt use numbered lists
Well, it says in the Bible that every hair on your head is numbered, so why not five or this and three of that? The idea is to make your content feel more manageable. Your reader should think to himself/herself “Well, at least there are only five ways to attract more readers to your blog. This shouldn’t take me long to read and act upon.” I have tried to do this occasionally, but without good results. I wonder if this isn’t this a bit of an urban myth?
9. Thou shalt stay on topic
On the other hand, thou shalt not patronise your readers
This, believe it or not, comes from an otherwise useful article on promoting your blog:
Ah yes. A familiar beginner’s problem for any new blogger: No readers.
Another thing writers must not do is boast about their successes. Naively I supposed I could use my blog to say things like, ‘Oh, I’ve had this accepted and that accepted’, but – guess what – those posts attracted fewest hits of all. We writers are a jealous lot.
There are all sorts of other things thou shalt and shalt not do but the more I read the less I liked the the quick fixes. However, two thoughts from two consecutive issues of a printed magazine, ‘Christian Writer’ (the journal of the Association of Christian Writers), struck home with me.
First of all, Philip Davies (Chair of the ACW), who is about to publish a YA Fantasy novel, writes in the editorial of the Spring 2015 edition:
‘It’s much easier to promote something that’s well written. Great stories, powerful testimonies, entertaining and life-transforming books almost recommend themselves to each reader through word of mouth.’
Then in the Summer 2015 edition, the incoming editor of the magazine, James Prescott, writes:
‘I began to write simply to gain an audience. I wrote what I thought would appeal to most people, using the right language, the most attractive title, and, in hindsight, wrote not out of passion but out of a desire to impress and gain a following.
And I lost my taste for writing.’
James goes on to say that only when he ‘wrote from deep within’ that he regained the joy of writing and produced better work.
There are bloggers whose blogs are more of a personal diary and who are genuinely not bothered about ratings, but I don’t think James was going down that road. Many writers have said, in so many words, that you can sell anything on any topic if you write with emotion and interest, and how can you do that if you don’t write from the heart? It’s very difficult writing from the heart about writing, when you’re not doing any other writing, with the result, I feel, that this blog has lost direction. I therefore must find my direction, through my heart.
Hope you find this ruminative, and painfully honest, post just a little bit interesting. We’re off on hols tomorrow, to Iceland then Canada (via Wonderful Daughter in Sussex first).
My sources for all the ideas above are
(Note that three of the six articles above use the numbered lists method!)