the art of getting more traffic for your blog/more people who give a damn
Attention = currency.
So how do I get more traffic for my blog? is akin to asking how do I get more money?
Traffic, like money, like happiness, happens best when you go after it obliquely. In other words: traffic is a side benefit that you get when you drive towards some other, bigger, better goal that has meaning for others as well as yourself. Going after traffic for the sheer sake of traffic could result in your own personal version of Enron: a blog based on pretense, distortions and meaningless data that ultimately collapses in its own house of cards.
Every now and then some freak thing – usually a massive blog or site that for some reason links to you – will create a dramatic spike in your traffic.
It’s thrilling for about thirty seconds. Then you find yourself asking: So what?
Does that spike translate into anything real? Do any of those people come back to you? Are they compelled to subscribe, or opt-in to your newsletter, or buy your books or your art or your digital products, or retweet your posts, or give a damn about your work in any way?
(During a spell of online procrastination, it’s possible for me to surf many blogs and give a damn about none. The ‘hit’ that I signal on their site stats means absolutely nothing.)
What do you actually want people to do?
(I, for example, would like some of you wondrous people to buy my future books. You’re certainly not obligated to; I enjoy having you here regardless; it just means that if you one day buy my stuff, I will love you that much more. Because I am shallow like that.)
I could dramatically increase my traffic if I posted topless photos of myself (I like to think that this would happen). But would it be the right kind of traffic, for the right reasons? I tend to think not.
So you have to know your ideal audience. If you’re not sure you know your audience, think of the kind of people you would most like to hang out with (because remember that your tribe = people that you will be spending a great deal of time with), people who resonate with you and vice versa.
Now compress that sense of your right people into one single person. Maybe that person is a real person.
(I actually have a few individuals – and you know not who you are, but you are very helpful in this regard and so I thank you – that I hold in my head for this purpose.)
And from now on, everything that you write, you write to that one person. You think about if they would like it and how they would like it or why they might not.
It’s perhaps one of the great paradoxes – in fiction as well as in blogging – that the more specific you are, the more universal your reach and impact. You arrive at the abstract through a mastery of detail, and vice versa.
Then all you have to do is write great content. Frequently and consistently.
You need to find ways to make it enjoyable and meaningful for yourself, or else you’ll burn out.
(You also need to find a way to make it complement your creative work instead of acting as a slapped-on piece of advertising for it, which will only waste everybody’s time, or as a substitute, which defeats the general purpose in the first place. But that, my friends, is a whole other blog post.)
You need to make it enjoyable and meaningful for others, or else they won’t ‘hit’ you again (or at all).
So you need to find that sweetspot where what works for you works for your audience. The most powerful writing happens, I think, when you actually become your audience; the two of you melt into each other; you write with passion and intensity because you think you’re writing for your audience when you’re truly writing for yourself. Or vice versa.
What does it mean anyway, this phrase ‘great content’?
If you’re a writer, especially a fiction writer, you should know that blogging is different from writing fiction (I, for one, find it a hell of a lot easier, but it requires its own learning curve and process of trial and error).
Know that even though your blog is free, it is not free. You are asking people to pay with their time and attention (remember that attention = currency) and then with their own reputation (since you want them to share your stuff with their networks and spread you around, which reflects directly on them).
So it’s not enough just to post your fiction on your website and expect strangers to come along and ‘pay’ for it when they have no idea why they should care.
You have to create meaning for them.
And then you have to promote that meaning in a clear and appealing way, through your headlines and your tagline (that line below your blog title that further defines what your blog is about).
In marketing they call this your unique selling point, or your differentiating point, or your ‘hook’, or whatever. Problem is, I think those descriptions don’t go deep enough to describe what is essentially the soul of your blog – which is also an authentic alignment of you: your values, obsessions, identity, viewpoint, persona, message to the world (other than ‘buy my stuff!’).
And this is part of the challenge as a creative person: it’s how to take the language of business and marketing that people use when they discuss this stuff, and translate it into a language that works for us, that serves both our readers and our art.
Blogging is both a skill and an art.
When you are trying to reach people emotionally as well as intellectually – which is the only way you can turn them into devoted fans – which is why Apple is so fiercely loved, for example, while Microsoft is merely respected – you involve the creative powers of design and storytelling. You create an experience.
You need passion, but you also need the skillset. The technique. The substance to your style.
As the blogosphere becomes increasingly cluttered by people who are teaching and practicing the same ‘best practices’, the level of artistry you bring to your message, your ‘meaning’, becomes more and more important. The ‘first movers’ – and the advantages they continue to reap — beat you to this a long time ago. What you have left is what you can do.
There are two types of blogging (at least to my mind): authority blogging and personal blogging. I have done both and received attention for both, and I think the most effective – and personally rewarding – form of blogging combines a problem to be solved through the information you impart (the ‘authority’) — along with a sense of personality, ‘voice’, storytelling and soul (the ‘personal’) — that together create that sense of overall meaning I was talking about earlier (the ‘unique point of awesomeness’ that sets you apart from the pack).
And this is how I think you go about that:
1. Figure out your ‘big gig’, the obsession that keeps coming up in your art, the central ‘riddle’ that you are trying to solve in your life, the ‘wound’ that you need to heal
2. Address problems and questions in your blog that relate to that.
I took the idea of your personal ‘big gig’ from the book THE IDEAS HUNTER by Andrew Boynton. From an interview:
You talk about “finding your gig” in The Idea Hunter. What are some key questions people need to ask themselves to find the “Big Gig” in their life?
Finding the Gig is essential and the book points to ways and refers to some other experts (and their sources) to look at. To start, think about what you are passionate about. (Not what others want you to be passionate about) and then consider are you any good at it, and is there a need for it in society. Without all three conditions aligned—it’s doubtful your gig will get you far. Knowing your gig is about blending your passion with your pragmatism.
He’s talking within the context of business. But we all have our central themes, our obsessions, that rise again and again in our work.
We are driven to learn – to work something out – because we’re coming from a related place of lack: from some inner void or wound that we need to heal.
When you recognize what that wound is, you can move in two directions: down, towards the increasingly pragmatic expressions of it, to the concrete problems that you can solve for your readers, and up, to more abstract musings re: identity and philosophy. Just remember that readers won’t come to you — at least at first — because they care about your philosophy. They care about what you can actually do for them that immediately improves their situation in some way. Solve a problem. Teach them something. Make them laugh. Forge a connection.
My wound has to do with experiences of powerlessness, with episodes of bullying and emotional/verbal abuse from my childhood that I went on to recreate through certain relationships in my adult years. The question or riddle I am trying to work out has to do with questions of power, with matters of empowerment. This is how I find enlightenment and healing.
So I’m interested in how I can empower myself (and others) as a creative (who happens to be a woman)….and how I can do my bit toward social change, a rebalancing of power in the world’s relationships with women and with the earth (since the two are connected).
Those are massive, abstract goals. What I have to do is follow them down – down – into their more immediate and pragmatic expressions, like “how do I find time to write?” and “where can I find a great workspace?” and “how can I best use social media?” and “what is author platform?” and “what does it mean to be both powerful and female?” and “how can I beat back episodes of depression that keep me from writing?” and “how can I best cultivate the network of healthy relationships that I need to function happily and productively?” and things of that nature.
Things that relate in a very personal way to me.
And since, to quote Jung, “That which is most personal is most common”, these issues, and my explorations of them, just might have some relevance for you.
Or as Lara Dair expresses it in her book NAKED, DRUNK AND WRITING, “the more intensely individual a person’s thoughts are, the more uniquely applicable to him or her, the more they will have meaning for other people.”
Here’s the thing.
I believe that social media has the power to reshape capitalism and save the freaking world.
I’m not saying that it will.
I’m saying it has the potential….if we can only step up and learn how to use it.
As creatives, we stand in a unique sweetspot where we benefit ourselves first and foremost only if we set that desire aside to concentrate on a bigger picture. We promote ourselves through promoting a zone of ideas that help people improve their lives and make the world a little better.
I am not saying that you should create value for others just so you can capture it for yourself – although maybe that’s a stage that many of us have to work through, like puberty on the way to adulthood.
I am saying that we are most effective when we shift our vision outward – or when we look inward in order to look outward, understanding others through understanding ourselves.
When we move from asking, How can I get more traffic?
to questions like: How am I best equipped to serve my right readers? How can I best contribute to the relationships that make up my ‘platform’?
You cannot help yourself (at least in the long run) unless you genuinely help others – this is how interconnected and transparent we have become. The meaning you make for yourself is the meaning you make for the world. You are your audience, your Right Reader…and your audience is you.
We can see right through you, to where your soul is – or isn’t.
follow me on twitter