The point of a blog is to write things that people want to read, right? That’s at least what I set out to do, although my concomitant purpose was to try to re-establish the discipline to finish the first of the book ideas rattling around in my head. The Popdialectic celebrated its one-year anniversary a couple of days ago, and I think it’s really interesting to look at the posts that have actually generated traffic.
To start with, with one exception, my favorite posts are not nearly the ones that the most people have read. With clicky goodness, here are a handful of posts that satisfied me for having put “pen” to “paper”:
Homily homily homily!
Top Ten Rules for My News Feed
There’s Something in the Pool
Chicks Dig Scars, Right?
My Way with the Ladies
I’m Going to Need Some New Umbros
If you’re a regular reader, no need to go back and re-read those or throw me a tickertape parade, but if you’re a recent arrival, those are some of my personal favorites. Granted, the first three on that list are the most highly rated, but even then, only a smattering of votes or comments. People forward all kinds of links around, and there’s a part of me that wishes someone would grab one of my faves, start emailing it, and it would go viral. Fame and fortune, right? Clearly, I haven’t yet hit on the right gimmick to make Freshly Pressed break down my door.
What’s more interesting are the posts that actually have garnered a huge number of page views. The top five that have stood out (in descending order) are:
Ah, 419. I’ve Missed You
Warning: This Ad Will Break Your Knees
Homily homily homily! ibid.
Secrets of the Sisterhood
When the Animals Take Over, Some of You Are Going to Burn
It’s gotten me to thinking. First of all, I’m probably squarely in the sights of Vincent Akello, a (probably) dangerous Nigerian criminal. Second, without even taking a loan, I’m probably in trouble with the strongmen over at Western Sky (of “yes, the money is expensive” fame). Blogging may have gotten me famous for the wrong reasons, in that light-hearted complaints about people’s questionable methods of making money are the things that the most people tune in to read about. Side note: good for you, Internetizens, for researching these jerks.
But what to do about the situation when I’m the guy riding through the town at night to alert people on these things, “one-if-by-land-two-if-by-sea style? Friend them on Facebook to say, “nothing personal, please don’t actually break my knees”? Edit my posts to tone down the WTF element? Ultimately, I like the posts and will do nothing of the sort, but if anything happens to me, any homicide detectives out there have a shortlist of suspects.
Also interesting are the ways people have found the Popdialectic. A year of experience has led me to five new rules for increasing traffic, off the top of my head. More to follow as I really start bending my brain to the issue, because a goal is to grow the audience this year. Couple of thoughts on making friends and influencing people:
1. Write about the things that people research. This could mean illuminating something obscure in the State of the Union address right after it’s over, or explaining how the 419 scam works, or writing in your area of expertise. I would like to believe that even though inflammatory content on the Net rises quickly to the top, things that are useful and/or true have staying power. And you can feel good that even if a serious post didn’t score a thousand page views, the 15-20 people that tuned in through search engines may have taken away something that really helped them. Tuck that in your karmic back pocket.
2. Pay attention to what’s trendy. The things that people google search are the hot issues, whether that’s Egypt or Britney Spears or tax “reform.” If you’re posting about the trending issues, you’re more likely to have people randomly looking for the 4-1-1 land on your page. Twitter is a great place to look for those issues.
3. If you rant, rant funny. One of my favorite reads years ago was Maddox, who did a site called The Greatest Page in the Universe (link in the sidebar). He got a book deal or something (like a real job, maybe) and does very few updates anymore, but back when, I hit his page a couple of times a day to see whether he’d updated. He’s fucking funny.
4. Understand the power of images. WordPress tells you which google searches lead people to your page, and I was absolutely mystified by the things people fed into the aggregator that landed on me. My all-time favorite: “masturbatory hyperbole,” which was a phrase I coined in my very first post. But then it occured to me, people are doing Google image searches and finding the page. Since then, every time I appropriate an image, I rename it to make it very findable. Lime Kitty becomes “lime kitty,” not “lk_12056.jpg” There’s a picture of a rattle on my site that has garnered the second most hits of any search engine referral.
5. Link to other things people want to read. This is a no-brainer. I call mine the Entertainment Superhighway, but TFLN and my girlfriend’s magnificent blog are great reads, and I know several people who come to my site as a jumping-off point for those sites. Also great are Fark and XKCD and several others. When you aggregate a series of good entertainment sites and they pop into new windows, people will come to your page to launch to their other daily time-wasters. This and Rule #4 above are by far the easiest, because someone else has already created content. You just want people to come to you to reach it.
I have yet to really analyze how faithful I am to all of these concepts, but they’re food for thought. If they help you or you have things to add …happy reading and happy blogging, my friends.