My own numbers almost got lost in the election count the other night. I crossed over the 20,000 mark sometime during the course of election coverage.
20,000 (and a few hundred more)
From February 2012, through the end of September, I gathered 10,000 hits. It took me a few days more than a month to get the next 10,000 hits. As of today, or as of a little while go, I am at 20, 783.
I get a lot more visitors that I used to and they show up regularly. When Serendipity’s visitor count first popped up from 70 or 80 on a good day to more than 600, I figured it was a fluke that would quickly fizzle. It leveled off, but didn’t fizzle.
I feel like Sally Field saying “You like me, you really LIKE me.” I need to say yet another thank you to Sharla at Awakenings and CatnipofLife who has helped me navigate the growth process. I have learned an incredible amount from her and she is such a gracious, good-hearted woman. Sharla, you are a star!
Now, although there are dips and peaks, on a “bad” day I get two to three hundred visitors (not counting followers on WordPress, Bloggers, Pinterest and Twitter). On a good day, 500 to 600 isn’t unusual. I have accepted that something happened, something changed. It isn’t the audience — they don’t change — so it had to be me.
I’ve given this a lot of thought and I think I have finally figured out some of the reasons why people read my blog or probably, any blog.
It starts with writing about interesting stuff and presenting it well. That ought to go without saying, but it doesn’t, not really. Many of us — especially me! — have favorite subjects, subjects that are important to us and that are not popular. I won’t stop writing this material, but it is never going to have a huge audience either.
There are a lot of unattractive sites on the web. Too cluttered, bad color choices, hard on the eyes. Too much happening on the page. A lot of people apparently throw things together without much regard for the aesthetic elements. I am much more likely to read something that’s easy on the eyes and I suspect so are most people.
A lightbulb went off when I got thousands of hits on a reblog about hurricane Sandy. Anyone could have as easily read the same article on its original website. I was also NOT showing up at the top of a Google search. I searched using the phrase everyone else was using and I could not find me at all … so people had to be intentionally seeking me out. Instead of reading the original article, they flocked to my site. So let’s give me a point or two for presentation. My blog is easy to look at. I follow the rules for keeping white space aplenty and making sure there are more than enough graphics to break up blocks of text.
But that could not be all of it. I examined the total content for various days when the number went very high and I realized that all of them involved current stories in which everyone was interested. I tended to clump stories around a theme, then add more pieces. I typically supplement a reblogged post with extra graphics and photographs if I can, plus my commentary and analysis. I leave the original story intact, but add to it. Sometimes my additions are longer than the original, but I never mess with the author’s original (except to occasionally fix typos that my auto-editor catches … I’m sure no author minds having typos fixed — I sure don’t!)
Unlike the original blog which was a standalone feature, I followed a trail. I gathered up pictures and memories of hurricanes and other storms and wrote about them. I got Garry to talk about his experiences with the Blizzard of 1978, and other storms. I roamed the web to see what was happening in various places being hit by the storm. Although I focused on Sandy and it’s impact on Coney Island, I found other places down on the Jersey coast being equally (or worse) affected and posted what I could get about these area.
I added material, especially photographs, historical background and apocryphal stories. There was no intentional method to my madness. I just did what I do for myself when something interests me. I get into bloodhound mode and I follow wherever the scent leads me. That’s how I learn. I started in one place and the circles widened to include more and more stuff.
I included stories that were not directly related to the impact of Sandy on the mid-Atlantic coast, but were thematically related; second cousins by marriage, if you like. There have been other monster storms that have paralyzed the region, relatively recently and in the remembered past. It was a good time to feed my personal fondness for history by giving it facts to munch on. A lifetime’s enthusiasm for research doesn’t hurt. Some people get bored, but I find research fascinating. It can keep me glued to the computer for days on end.
I Googled “hurricanes past 100 years East Coast” and could have filled an encyclopedia with the results. Research became stories. I hunted down historical photographs. I remembered stories I heard from relatives and friends about storms they remembered. And then, there is my secret weapon: my husband who in covering storms in New England for more than 30 years, is a bottomless repository of amazing stories.
I offered a lot of information, stories, mood pieces and more or less stitched them together so that while each post was separate, they formed a continuity. One thing led to another. When I thought about this storm, I remembered other storms, wrote about the storm that hit on my birthday in 1889 … and I offered facts, stories, and historical background, sidebars, and photographs. The combination worked. Folks came to read one story and stayed to read more. Some of them signed on as followers. Others check in less regularly, but they come back.
I have a lot more visitors than I used to. And finally, I think I have a pretty good idea what attracts visitors.
Here are three little ideas to help boost your numbers, if that matters to you. If you don’t care about whether or not anyone reads what you write, that’s okay. To each his own. But if like most of us, you would prefer to have more rather than fewer visitors, here we go:
- Be current. You don’t have to be a newspaper or make every post about current events or other news, but don’t ignore big events going on in the world around you. You don’t even have to write these stories yourself. Which brings me to the next point.
- Reblog or use ScoopIt when you find well-written, relevant posts. If other people have done a great job writing about important issues, you can better spend your time doing something that hasn’t been thoroughly covered by others. It can be a different slant on the same subject, graphics rather than text, or something completely different. Being relevant doesn’t mean you have to write it, only that you should include it. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. If you find well-written stories on an important issue, the author’s voice can speak through you.
- When something very signficant or interesting is happening … the election, the hurricane, the new season of television, the upcoming Oscars … pay attention. You don’t have to write exclusively about that one subject, but you should not ignore major events either. It’s fine to march to the beat of your own drum, but it’s good to also pay attention to what the rest of the band is playing.
Ivory towers can be lonely places. If you want company, you need to associate with the rest of the world and pay at least some attention to what interests them. If you write entirely for yourself, it’s a diary, not a blog.
- How Personal Is Too Personal (counterftnoire.wordpress.com)
- Hurricane Sandy: Impact on “Near-Term Economic Activity” (calculatedriskblog.com)