In today’s (Nov 9th) St. Louis Post-Dispatch (p. M1), Dan Zak from the Washington Post has an article entitled “Long-haul Blogging” that gives a top ten list for increasing blogging traffic and survival. I can’t seem to find the article online to link to so I will paraphrase the top ten list and offer a few comments.
- Tell engaging stories This is something I need to work on, but Zak is also talking about not putting up mainly a post with just a link to somewhere else. On the other hand, the carnival posts are very popular and useful for those who get linked. I guess the answer is just don’t overdo it, and post other things too.
- Create your own voice: Zak is talking here about claiming your own niche (on one topic) or posting on many topics with a “singular tone”. Well, I think I have staked out my niche — early medieval North Britain and its saints through the ages. Probably too narrow to attract much traffic. In time I hope to branch out to the rest of the British Isles, but its still a small niche. I still need to work on developing a catchy tone.
- Easy navigation: This is where the indexes on the left margin of my blog come in. All those words in the Tag Cloud are links to categories and relative size indicates how many posts it represents. They do work well at generating hits. The categories and tags help search engines find posts. I get at least 10-15 hits from search engines per day and that is growing. Zak suggests setting up a tool to feature high quality blogs by using a “most commented on blogs” tool for the left margin. I added top posts to my sidebar instead. I always find it interesting to see which old posts are keeping up with the new ones. WordPress calculates top posts as top hits over the last 24-48 hours. I think the “Recent Comments” tool is also very helpful at getting a conversation started, if you have enough comments to keep it active (and I don’t always). Derek the Ænglican is the king of comments so I know how well the tool works on haligweork. (There is nothing mainline Christians like to ‘discuss’ more than liturgy! 😉 )
- Create a blogroll: Most blogs I read have this down pat.
- Include traffic directing widgets: There is some limitation here in that wordpress does not allow java code on their blogs and most of these widgets use java. I’ll have to do without these as I really like wordpress’s other features.
- Comment on other blogs: the article suggests spending twice as much time commenting on other blogs as you spend on your own. I think this is a little hard on medievalist blogs because we cover such different topics. There are many blogs that I like to read, but they are just too far out of my area to really comment on. Some of my most read blogs include: Unlocked Wordhoard (popular medievalism), Haligweorc (medieval and modern liturgy), 10th century Europe (medieval Catalonia/general medieval), Following Columba (Spirituality), and Episcopal Cafe (magazine-type group blog). Either they don’t really invite comments or they are usually too far out of my area.
- Get linked by “the Big Boys”: A big thank you to everyone who has linked me to their blogs, particularly Dr. Nokes and Derek the Ænglican.
- Nominate your blog for awards: Not really my style.
- Post consistently and with passion: This one should be much higher up than #9. I know here at Heavenfield there is a direct correlation between blogging frequency and consistent hits. It makes sense that this is necessary to develop regular readers. I think two or three blogs a week are probably the minimum (not that I always meet that).
- Join blogging community groups: Well, whenever I make my way back to Kalamazoo, I hope there is a blogger meet-up, but short of that its hard for medievalists scattered all over to meet. The next best suggestion would be a discussion list restricted to bloggers.
My nominations for 11th and 12th tip:
- Come up with a regular feature and keep it up: Jennifer Lynn Jordan’s Weird Medieval Animal Monday (WMAM) is a good example that I think is probably generating a lot of traffic for her. I’m giving this a shot with my ‘person of the week’ and ‘lost kingdom of the month’. Other possibilities would be something like a quote of the week.
- Pay attention to what topics get the most hits: WordPress provides really good stats so it is possible to see the actual terms that people put into search engines. Between those terms and which old posts continue to get hits it should be possible to determine what your readers want to read about. I haven’t really haven’t made any major changes in my topics based on this but I am more open to some topics than I might have otherwise been. Now what might have been a one time topic may occasionally reappear.
So what do you all think of Zak’s top-10 and my additions? I’m certainly open to suggestions that could improve how Heavenfield functions.