If you’ve clicked on over looking for a how-to post about styling yourself as a mega-blogger … sorry. This is not that. Too much talk about branding yourself and building a platform tends to make my eyes glaze over and my brain yawn, but for those of you looking for that sort of information I’ve included some relevant links at the end of this post.
No, this isn’t going to be a blog on the importance of compelling titles and posting consistently on topics closely linked to your niche and brand. Instead, I just wanted to share something I’ve been thinking about during the last month:
So here’s a screen shot of my recent blog traffic. The spikes on the far right shrink everything else down a bit, but there have actually been three unusual “spikey areas” in recent weeks.
The first came around the 14th of January, the day I put up this post in memory of my friend, Patrick, who passed away last month.
The second big jump began on January 24th, the day of Dominic’s accident, and continued all week as people tracked our stay in hospital and return to Laos.
The third, an unprecedented leap, came out of nowhere on February 7th when a whole bunch of people suddenly took it into their heads to share a post I’d written weeks earlier called 24 things that have surprised me about motherhood: I never thought I would… on facebook.
What to make of all of this?
I wanted to write a thoughtful commentary relating these blog stats to the flavor of what we consume as “news”, but the last three weeks has seen our little family blessed with two sets of parents in town, one broken leg, three days in hospital, two international flights, three head colds, two courses of antibiotics, and not nearly enough sleep. Also, we have given notice on our house and are starting to prepare to move in six weeks to another house in town that will hopefully be devoid of constant woodworking noise, dangerous spiral staircases, and unfenced pools.
Ergo, no bandwidth for thoughtful commentary.
Ergo, a list.
1. People pay attention to bad news and sad news.
Anyone who has driven past a car accident or watches the evening news shouldn’t be surprised by this – what we call news is a litany of all that’s going most wrong in the world (punctuated by the occasional celebrity death or sweet animal story).
It is still a little weird, however, to see the power of the bad&sad to draw attention play out on your own blog. And for the record, I am not advocating anyone adopt the bad&sad model to grow their blog audience. It’s so not worth it.
2. People pay attention to things that make them laugh
After all the stress of the last couple of weeks, it was actually really nice to see something get more attention than our medical dramas. It reminded me that in addition to being hardwired to pay attention to the bad&sad we also hunger to encounter things that make us laugh and warm our hearts, and that when we find those things we like to share them.
3. The power of social networks like facebook or twitter to promote something is awe-inspiring. It is also impossible to really predict or control.
Strangers sharing a single post on facebook were responsible for a banner day of blog traffic, but it was also not something I had much to do with. It wasn’t the post I would have predicted to go viral or the time (nearly three weeks after I first posted it) that I would have thought it might get picked up.
I probably helped the process along by putting the “share on facebook” button at the bottom of the post and participating in Sarah Bessey’s blog carnival last week (I suspect it was one of the visitors from her site that picked up the post that first time) but the whole experience simply reminded me that if I want to maximize the likelihood that people will share my posts on facebook, twitter, or their own blogs, I should just:
- Write good posts
- Make it easy for people to share them
- Engage with people on facebook, twitter and their own blogs (and when I say “engage” I mean “interact because I want to, with sincerity, not because I’m trying to build a brand or lure people into following my blog.”)
(“Congratulations,” Mike said when he read that third point. “You’ve managed to outline a strategy for making friends.” To which I said, “Perfect.”)
4. Sex sells, too
No, I didn’t manage to extract this lesson from those blog stats – you can thank my father for that piece of unrelated wisdom. I was discussing this blog post with my parents and Mike over lunch. We were talking about how people are drawn to pay attention to the extremes – the sad, the bad, the funny, the touching.
“And sex,” my father said. “People pay attention to sex.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot all about that,” I said.
“Yeah,” Mike said mournfully. “Yeah.”
And on that awkward note, I promised links to posts that will actually furnish you with useful information on strategies to increase your blog traffic. Here are six of them:
- 7 Ways To Grow Your Blog Readership (Amanda Ludeke)
- 5 Audacious Goals Every Blogger Should Have For 2012 (Alexis Grant)
- What social media can do for your blog (Alexis Grant)
- 21 ways to increase blog traffic (over on SEOMOZ)
- What Not To Blog About (Rachelle Gardener)
- Platform and Social Media Must Not Be Your Center (Jane Friedman)