Blogger

WHAT’S THE SECRET?

Closing in on 2 years of blogging, with more than 1500 posts and over 100,000 hits … I’ve think I’ve finally figured it out. The secret to getting more readers, more followers, more hits, better stats is that there is no secret.

Just do it.

Post interesting material often. Include graphics. There is a direct correlation between number of hits and number and quality of posts. Although some posts go bigger than others — often not the ones you expect — the difference isn’t huge, more incremental than geometric. Most of my posts get reasonable hits. Some do better, some get ignored (I rerun these, often with much better results second time). A few posts generate big numbers. Every once in a while, something hits a hot button, but typically the number of visitors per day doesn’t change much. What changes is the number of articles each visitor reads when they visit.

Some of my biggest days have been those with low visitor counts, but when each guest accesses 3 or more posts and/or pictures.Visitors average around 100+/- 15 — so between 85 and 115. Hits that come through the Reader or email do not count in the totals so you can reasonably assume you have more people reading you than stats indicate.

If guests hang around and read a lot, open pictures, poke around, you get the bigger hit counts.  I’m betting the same people come almost every day. If they find interesting things to read and view, they hang out. Which is what you want them to do.

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There are slow days of course. Everyone has them. And hyper-active days. We all have them, too. On a very active day, I might get 150 visitors, but that doesn’t mean the hit count will be 50% higher than on a day when I get 75 visitors. On a high visit count day, each visitor may only read (hit) one post while on a different day, each visitor may hit 3 or 4 times.

For example, on a day last winter when a blizzard was on the way, I had more than 250 visitors, but each one only read one post … the one about the coming storm. So it was a good day, but not extraordinary. My highest hit days were specific posts where a lot of people — thousands — came to see a single post. Every other high hit day included a normal number of visitors who spent more time exploring my site. No hocus pocus, no magic recipe.

Putting out the welcome mat.

The design of your website matters. You will absolutely get more people to stay long, read more stories, look at more pictures if you make it pleasant and easy for them. Make it easy to find past posts by subject, date, key word search. The more ways you help your guests find stuff that interests them, the better.

When I am on a website and can’t find a search box, no list of previous posts, no keyword search, I give up and go elsewhere. The web is infinite and gives us uncountable choices. Make your site accessible — transparent — and visitors will stay.

What I’ve figured out.

I know a few things and here they are:

  1. Articles about technology have a long shelf life. Reviews of cameras, computers, telephones and other techie stuff don’t get a lot of hits when they are first published, but continue to get hits for months, sometimes years. As long as the technology is in use, people who are shopping will look for reviews.
  2. Book and movie reviews (unless they are particularly “hot”) don’t usually go big initially, but will continue to get hits forever, as long as the search engine can find them.
  3. News and current events get a lot of hits when first published, but have no long-term interest.

If you are in this for the long haul, the backbone of your blog will be articles of enduring interest. Perhaps not the sexiest stuff you write, but stuff that contains information people need, reviews people look for. Pictures — properly tagged — get hits forever.

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Buried treasure.

If you post a lot, older posts become hard to unearth. Even when you know the name of the post and search for it by its name, items older than 6 months old may not turn up. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about this short of opening a new site.

What I do? I sift through archives, pick out the best pieces. Re-edit and re-publish them. Doing this prevents them from disappearing forever.

How often is often enough?

I’m going against common wisdom. I am sticking my neck out here and saying that a post a week isn’t enough. One single post per week, unless you are brilliant, writing about a subject with a guaranteed audience, are already famous so anything you post will get lots of attention — once a week isn’t enough.

Who makes a success of once-a-week blogs? Historians. Scholars. Well-known authors (though most of them post much more often). Newsletter writers. Everyone else?

You need to make visiting your website worthwhile. That means stuff to read. Entertainment, information. Great pictures. If you really don’t have time to create sufficient material to feed your readers and keep your site humming, maybe consider joining forces with other bloggers and take turns producing content? Without enough content, your site isn’t going to do much.

The formula is simple. Write well. Post often. Include pictures.

And finally: HAVE FUN! If you aren’t enjoying it, making friends, forming relationships, what’s the point? Successful writers and bloggers have verve and enthusiasm. You can’t fake that.

 

Daily Prompt: HOME SWEET VIRTUAL HOME

I’ve been trying to figure out why I missed Serendipity so much. It was less than a week, I felt like I was missing a body part. Why? Isn’t one site the same as another?

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It turns out, no, they aren’t. Every blog has a unique flavor, a personality. They grow and change with whoever is minding it and in response to feedback from readers and followers. In other words, you. It took me almost two years to develop an active following for Serendipity. I know many of you as friends. I know stuff about your lives. I know what makes you laugh, grabs your interest. Over the almost 1500 posts I have put up on Serendipity, I tailored my writing to accommodate your interests … and mine. Finding that balance has been a dance, a complex two-step of trial and error.

Sunset Barnstable autumn

I love making you laugh. I enjoy poking holes in “what everyone says.” Your comments and responses give me ideas and feed my muse — and she’s a hungry babe. And you feed my soul, answer my need to relate to a wider world. To be part of something more than me alone.

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Writing a new blog is strange, like standing at a podium in a city I’ve never visited, knowing I have to give a speech to an audience of strangers. I know some of my old friends are out there, but I can’t see past the footlights. I’m not sure if this new group will like me. I’m not everyone’s cuppa tea.

The new people don’t know my history. Here I have a storyline which builds on itself. I don’t have to explain who I am. Here, I can build from the last story, link earlier stories, refer to things I’ve written about before. It’s the difference between comfortably chatting with an old friend and cultivating a new one who doesn’t know any of your personal history or those quirky twists and turns of your brain.

New acquaintances can easily misunderstand my peculiar brand of humor! It’s definitely odd. Weird, even.

Forgive me while I fumble a bit, trying to find my feet, but please check out Serendipity Redux. I don’t know what it will be yet. It hasn’t its own personality. How it grows — or fails to grow — will have a lot to do with you. The ground is slippery — new territory.

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I didn’t intend to start over, though I knew I would have to, sooner or later because the volume of material being supported on Serendipity is perilously large. It’s exploding; there are a lot of warning glitches. The mechanics of Blogger are different than here at WordPress. It’s not a criticism of either platform: it’s merely different. It will be a while before it feels like home.

Until then, this is still my cyber home.

Rain Rain Go Away

We were supposed to be in New York for the weekend. Seeing old friends. Doing stuff with the college radio station where Garry and I met. Instead, we got weathered. Tropical storm Andrea, or her remnants, are meandering up the coast dropping tons of rain. We couldn’t face the 500 mile round trip drive in heavy rain.

Saguaro Storm 06

So the day didn’t get off to a very good start. I expected to be on vacation, but find myself at home. It makes me grumpy.

This was not one of my best days. A stupid day. I had a snippy fight with the bagger kid in the grocery store and the dogs did things in the house they should have done outside because they don’t like rain. Through all this, my body kept reminding me that like the dogs, it doesn’t much it like the rain. The argument with the dogs and ongoing disagreements with my body were both pretty much one-sided, but the kid in the supermarket actually mumbled in what I believe was English.

The issue was pizza. I wanted my frozen pizza laid flat, not shoved into the bag sideways so all the toppings fall off. The young bagger was baffled. I suggested — perhaps a bit testily — if he would lay the bag on its side and insert the pizza, voilà, you get a flat pizza. Then I could transport the pizza and it would be ever so much more attractive when it became a future dinner.

He said I didn’t need to give him so much attitude. And me, a white-haired senior citizen.

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I prefer to think the lad was giving me an unintended backhanded compliment. He finally worked out what I mean about putting pizza into the bag, but then he put another 5 pounds of groceries in the bag on top of the pizza, including a half-gallon of milk, totally defeating the entire point. Some days you really can’t win. I shudder to think what that pizza will look like when we want to eat it, but I could not argue any further. My head was beginning to hurt. I wanted to go home and sulk.

Putting the groceries away reminded me how much prices have gone up without an equivalent rise in our so-called income. It is hard to believe how little stuff $100 buys these days.

My current goal is to restore my sense of humor. I think I’m about ready to forgive the bagger and the rain has eased off enough so the dogs are going back outside. It’s going to rain tomorrow and Sunday too, or so the weather gurus are saying. These long drenching rainy periods puts all our systems to the test.

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We don’t get out much any more. So many friends are gone. Many have moved far away and more are planning moves to the left coast or someplace in the southwest. It’s entirely possible I will never see many of them again. If they move to the other coast, there will be no more spontaneous gatherings. Probably ever. It’s tough to deal with. The world is supposedly getting smaller and indeed, our personal world is shrinking, but the distances between people seems to be ever-widening.

I’ll feel better when the sun comes out.

Improbability Drive Powers WordPress Statistical Base!

PanicIn the wake of my cogently worded suggestion that WordPress make some alteration to its “followers” calculation, I did not receive a direct response, but I know they are listening. They apparently heard my plea and have responded above and beyond my wildest hopes for a solution.

They doubled the number of followers they say I have on Facebook.

From yesterday’s absurd calculation of 1313 Facebook followers, at midnight, WordPress recalculated my numbers and informed me — and I suppose the rest of the world too — that I now have 2,628 followers on Facebook. I admit I added one friend, an old pal from college who looked me up (Hi Charlie!) and asked to connect. I said golly, haven’t talked to him in a dog’s age and gave him the green light. That must be what triggered the WordPress engines to leap on my growing Facebook coterie and send it to new heights.

Talk about a responsive organization, what could be more reassuring than this? I officially, as of this writing, haven’t the slightest idea how many followers I really have. The math has just gotten too complicated for me. Math has always been my worst subject, but I swear that the folks at WordPress have taken a page out of Douglas Adams‘ playbook and are now using Bistromathics to calculate my numbers.

Bistromathics (from Hitchhiker’s Wiki)

Bistromathics is the most powerful computational force known to parascience. A major step up from the Infinite Improbability Drive, Bistromathics is a way of understanding the behavior of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that space was not an absolute, but depended on the observer’s movement in time, so it was realized that numbers are not absolute, but depend on the observer’s movement in restaurants.

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Nonabsoluteness

The first nonabsolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.

The second nonabsolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of those most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexclusion, a number whose existence can only be defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusions now play a vital part in many branches of math, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else’s Problem fieldDouglas

The third and most mysterious piece of nonabsoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the check, the cost of each item, the number of people at the table and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a subphenomenon in this field.)

Numbers written on restaurant checks within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the universe.

(Excerpt from the Hitchhiker’s Wiki)

Anyone else want to weigh in on this? It’s the same poll as yesterday. So far, there’s 100% agreement that this is an absurd number. Now that WordPress itself has made it clear that they know how absurd it is by making it even more absurd, I think they may have already had the final word, but give it a go anyhow.

I thought it was important to maintain an honest relationship with readers, but that was before I realized we were actually on a space ship piloted by crazy aliens, powered by the world’s first Improbability Drive. Now I know there’s never going to be a fix because the whole issue is swathed in an S.E.P. (Somebody Else’s Problem) field and it is invisible! Hail Douglas Adams! You did not die in vain!

Note: If this trend continues, we will move from the Douglas Adams paramathematical realm to the Humpty Dumpty College of Astrophysics where “a word means what I say it means” and so do numbers. Just saying.

Faux Figures from WordPress — Oh no!!

WordPress

WordPress is a great organization. Really, lots of support, recognition to many people. Not to me, but lots of other people. And most of it is for free. From templates to tech support, I get more service from WordPress than I would get from most blogging services at any price. But I think this time, WordPress has made a serious mistake and they need to rethink this thing.

Followers. Imagine my astonishment to discover that from my previous day’s statistic that counts my number of followers — 280 — I am now showing the world that I have 1,605 followers. I know I had a good day Wednesday, but I don’t think I gained more than 1,300 followers between Wednesday and Thursday. If I have that many followers, where are the hits?

Even if a mere 10% of them dropped by, that would give me a base 160 hits per day, and while I do get more than that (usually, but not always), WordPress also kindly does a pretty thorough breakdown of where all my hits come from.

So how did they get this astonishing calculation of my followers? What happened?

WordPress is now counting my Facebook “friends” as followers through Publicize. All 1,313 of them.

Most of my connections on Facebook are people I don’t know, but with whom I play games, especially Metropolis, a game that requires a lot of connection. There’s virtually no interaction between players. We post jokes on each others’ walls and silly stuff like that, but we don’t hang out or share our lives, virtually or otherwise. We ignore each others’ posts because we aren’t really friends. So from this number, let us now subtract about 1000  — because that’s how many of my Facebook association are attributable to Metropolis. About another 100 or possibly more, are associated with me via some other game, and a few of them, several games. That’s okay. That’s one of the things that you can do with Facebook. Although some of these connections might occasionally take a look at something I’ve posted, they do not participate in my virtual or real world.

The remainder of my Facebook contacts are people with whom I have or had some kind of relationship. Maybe a few dozen are friends or family. The rest are people I’ve met, worked with, used to know from my traveling days, or had some other brief association based on some shared interest and with whom I may have intermittent contact.

Yesterday, I got 216 hits. Because of WordPress’ excellent statistical analysis, I know exactly how many of these hits originated on Facebook.

The answer? One. Just one. Sometimes I have gotten as many as half a dozen, but never more than that, so counting it as 1313 followers renders the statistics not merely meaningless, but embarrassing. A joke, not a statistic.

So the follower figures are not just a little pumped. They are ridiculous. WordPress, you need to rethink this statistic. It is misleading and unfair to actual followers who did sign on to follow me. And it’s unfair to me, too,  because I have to subtract all those bogus followers to get a meaningful number. No one has anything to gain from this. To be counted as a follower, a person should be required to do perform an act of will, for example, say he or she wants to be your follower, not just a wholesale raking in of everyone on a list. That really would be like assuming that all the contacts in my email contact list are also followers, which I assure you, they are not.

I don’t mean to be ungrateful for all the services WordPress provides, but this needs to be undone as quickly as it was done. You just can’t call every Facebook “friend” a “follower” and have the term follower continue to mean anything at all.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

Let WordPress know that pumping up our statistics just makes them meaningless. In the meantime, I’ve removed the follower statistics from the “Follow Me” box. I’ll happily reinstate it if this gets fixed. Otherwise, it’s  too much of a lie. I don’t want to be a liar all over the Internet even if it makes me look good. It also rewards those of us with Facebook accounts and punishes those who don’t. As far as I know, Facebook is not connected to WordPress … or is there something I don’t know about?

I think it’s important we maintain an honest relationship with our readers. So in the meantime, I won’t post that statistic. I’d rather it didn’t exist, but I’ll settle for not being part of the scam.

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The Best Parts

One of the oddest adjustments one has to make in retirement is how everything transforms into “hobbies” and “activities.” No matter if you spent a lifetime doing something professionally, our society has specific definitions of “professional,”which is you have to earn money doing it. Professional equals paycheck. No matter how hard one labors, it’s not work if you don’t get paid.

Whereas in the past, I got paid to be a writer, writing is now favorite pastime or activity. I think it’s rather a bit past “hobby.” I am no less a professional now than ever. I no longer do only what I’m paid to do, but work harder to be a better writer than I did when leashed to an office and bosses. Deadlines are no less rigid because I set them. My standards are no lower. Just no one sends me a check. Pity. I could use the money.

How do you define a thing that is an essential part of you? Something you need to do or you feel like a piece of you is broken or missing? Is that an activity? A hobby? That seems a trivialization, doesn’t it? The best part of writing now as opposed to then is freedom. I can be playful or serious, topical, timely, or ramble off into the mists of obscurity.

The only one with authority to rein me in is me. As a blogger, I get direct input. If no one likes what I’ve written and no one reads it, that’s a hint I’ve strayed or at least need to rethink my presentation.

I’m stubborn. If I’ve written a piece I believe is good, I will keep redoing it and putting it back up until finally, it gets the notice I think it deserves. I tweak it with each pass but fundamentally, the story stays the same. If nothing else, these long years have given me enough confidence to know if it’s a good piece or not. It is one of the painful ironies that many of the pieces I don’t like are much more popular than the ones I know are better. C’est la guerre.

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Photography really is a hobby. I’ve been taking pictures nearly as long as I’ve been writing. My first camera came into my life when I was a young married woman with a baby. I had been painting and experiencing more success than I could handle. I don’t have any paintings left because I sold every one of them. I often sold them before I was halfway done. Friends and their friends would come, look and buy. It sucked the fun out of it. It was also logistically difficult. I didn’t have a studio and having cats, dogs and a baby, I couldn’t leave projects around unless I was actively working on them. It’s hard to lock up a painting in progress.

When I was 23, a friend gave me a camera, a couple of minutes of instruction and a few rolls of black and white film. Off I went on vacation. I had no idea it would be the start of a love affair with photography that would never end.

Unlike writing, my forays into professional photography were brief. I quickly realized I didn’t want to do baby pictures and weddings. Luckily, I had other professional choices and could keep photography as a thing of love, unsullied by commercial considerations.

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Forty years later, I continue to strive for some kind of perfection, trying to grow my technical skills (always my weak point) and to try new and different forms. Photography is a perfect hobby. You never outgrow it. It never gets boring. It may empty out your bank account from time to time, but many hobbies cost more and return less satisfaction for the investment.

What was the question? Oh, right … what activities and hobbies do I pursue. And here it is: I write. I take pictures. I put them together and call them stories or blogs. I will continue doing this until they carry me away.

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“VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD” – My Cup Overfloweth

Very Inspiring Blogger award

Tonight I went with my husband to Sutton’s Congregational Church. They were having their Christmas Concert and Garry and a friend of his had produced a documentary about the concert … how it was put together, how the choir family pulled together to create this every year. It’s playing now on local cable stations around the valley.

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This was the official Christmas concert performance. Considering how trying these past few days have been, a trip to church to hear Christmas carols was exactly what we needed. It was a nasty night. When we got out of the car at the church, the entire parking lot was covered with black ice. It was drizzling, but just cold enough so that the drizzle froze instantly on all the paved surfaces. I barely made it the 20 or so feet from the car to the church without falling and the minister did fall on her way out of her house.

The concert was lovely. Good singing, lots of smiles. And I took pictures and by the time we left the church, it had warmed up just enough so that the ice was gone. As the minister said, we had been blessed.

And now, blessed again by yet another gift of a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, courtesy of  Dear Kitty. Some blog: On animals, peace and war, science, social justice, women’s issues, arts, and much more. This is a woman whose causes are my causes, whose passions are also mine, a woman who I greatly admire. I am touched and honored to receive this award from her.

I often don’t feel particularly inspiring, but inspiration comes from many sources. I am glad that my words and pictures … and the other posts I find and reblog because I think they are important and worthwhile … provide inspiration for others. It makes the effort worth it to know that there are people “out there” who read the words and it means something to them.

That somehow I’ve gone in less than a year from “who’s that?” to getting more awards than I imagined possible leaves me a little breathless. Awards are always given by people who do not know us intimately. I am sure if people knew me better, they’d be incapable of giving me an award because they would, as my old friends do, remember that time I had one Mai Tai too many, fainted dead away and had to be dragged home by three big guys in a fork lift. People who know you very well may love you, but they don’t give you awards. Moreover, anyone who met my second husband or first boyfriend would never find me inspiring, although I might serve as a cautionary tale … if that could be considered inspirational.

The difference between something that gives me a migraine and something that inspires me can be razor-thin. This last week, full of tragedy and madness has been inspiring … but not in a way I would ever have chosen. It’s been a grim week. I only hope that from this something positive will emerge. I guess we’ll see how long people remember and if all the talk turns into some kind of action.

Being told that I’m an inspiration is an inspiration. It means I have not become irrelevant and maybe the experience of a lifetime is was not entirely wasted. All of you in my blogging world inspire me. I read your stories and poems. I admire your photographs and art. You change my view of the world, the way I do things, give me food for thought. If I do a bit of the same for you, I am glad.

Keith and St. Nick

Happy whatever you celebrate. Celebrate everything, why don’t you? Rejoice that you are alive, because you have a friend, a roof over your head, and maybe something to eat. Forget for a while all the problems and craziness because it won’t forget you … it’ll be there, waiting, when the party’s over. Love you all!!

The rules of this award are:

  • Display the award logo on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Tell us at least seven things about yourself that you would like to share.
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them. I am not going to set a specific number. I know how difficult it can be to keep coming up with nominees and rather than burden you all with having to find everyone all at once, you can keep a few awards in your back pocket and pass them along when the time is right. The holidays are upon us all, so please don’t feel pressured to push beyond your comfort zone.
  • Notify your chosen bloggers of their nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself that I haven’t explicitly said before (at least not where anyone could hear me) are:

  1. I was a music major in college, then finally graduated as a drama/broadcast dual major. I would have stayed for a third major in social science, but they told me I had to graduate.
  2. My favorite movies are comedies. I love to laugh.
  3. I have owned so many cats and dogs that I really can’t remember all of them any more.
  4. I’m a good cook, but after more than 40 years of dishing up meals, I’m very happy to eat other people’s cooking.
  5. If the mother ship comes and offers me a ride, I’m outta here.
  6. I learned to read in about two hours when I was five.
  7. I believe that anyone could write well if they would just remember that writing is just talking through your fingers. Good writing should sound as natural as speech. Most people try too hard; others don’t try hard enough.

My nominees (the envelope please):

  • Lust and Rum: New York, thy name’s “Delirium” — because I grew up in New York and  Anton Brookes’ photography and commentary reminds me that I still love it. His pictures are touching, evocative, the kind of photojournalism you rarely see any more.
  • Wessays – by my old friend Wes Richards whose writing is so good  that every time I read one of his posts, I immediately feel inadequate.
  • Awakenings: Awakenings from Then ’til Now allows you to Embrace Your Past, Empower the Present, Enrich Your Future. Because Sharla inspires me every day in more ways than I can count.

For all of you to whom I’ve already give awards, know you are likely going to get more. I like you, I like your websites, your thoughts, your pictures, you opinions … so you’ll have to cope with getting a few awards now and again. There are worse fates!

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