Thoughts on Blogging Part 8
I wasn’t expecting to write another entry in the Thoughts on Blogging series so soon, but something came up that grabbed my attention and got me thinking. A simple question that’s often asked about blogging and one that has many layers to it, as well as numerous answers. A new blogger who recently joined the Blaugust discord server asked for help “getting traffic to their blog”. An enquiry that gave me (and possibly others) pause for thought. Because we all to a degree want to attract traffic to our blogs. But I also think bloggers are too coy about this this subject. We’ll say things like “I write for myself” or “it’s not about the numbers” and although I agree with these points, building an audience is important. Let’s be honest, it can be somewhat disheartening after writing a lengthy post about a subject close to you heart, for it to fall flat and not attract any traffic. As discussed before, often it is the casual blog posts written in a hurry, that can be the most popular and the articles you’re most proud of can go unnoticed. So let us be honest. I think most bloggers want to grow an audience and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that it provides.
So let us consider for a moment, the question of attracting traffic to your blog. First of all, what is your motivation. It’s an important question because it determines how and what you write, the kind of audience you pursue and the niche you are going to try and fill. If you are writing for pleasure, because of a sense of fandom and to contribute to a community then you’re mainly looking to connect with a specific group and be of service to them. This makes finding your audience very specific. You produce content that is relevant to the community you are part of and promote it via the platforms that community uses. If you are writing for financial gain or to achieve some sort of “internet fame”, then your content is governed far more by pursuing what is popular, affiliating yourself to the latest trends and getting “noticed”. You therefore may seek to court controversy and become involved in high profile disputes. What you wish to achieve very much determines your path. It is not unlike the differing roles of the tabloid press and broadsheet newspapers.
If therefore, you are pursuing the former of these two options and say for example wish to establish yourself of part of The Elder Scrolls Online community, then the best approach would be to produce content regularly. Ensure that your material is engaging, interesting and relevant. Maintain a schedule and stick to it. Google likes sites that do this and you will fair better in search rankings as a result. Your readers like consistency as well. Promote your work via social media, forums and other platforms. Interact with your audience, answer comments and provide your own views on the work of your peers. Riffing off other bloggers posts is always a good way of raising your profile. Discuss, debate and participate. Know when to argue a point and when not to waste your time. Do your research if your posts require factual accuracy and always link to your sources. Then do all the above continuously for several years (possibly nearer a decade) and you may gain some traction and build an audience.
And now let us consider the alternative. Regularly create content but couch it in hyperbole and click bait style of headlines. Be controversial, outspoken and outrageous. Attack those with opposing views and always make clear what you don’t like and won’t tolerate. After all, it’s a lot easier to be critical than constructive. Utilise all the rhetorical tricks of the trade; ad hominem and strawman arguments, gaslighting and “whataboutery”. Jump on any passing bandwagon regardless of whether you believe in it or not. Similarly have an opinion on anything and everything. Shit post, hangout in all the wrong places (specific subreddits, 4chan and 8chan) and always ensure that if there’s a divisive situation, you’re associated with it. Don’t deal in facts but in feelings. Ignore such concepts as the burden of proof, feel free to contradict yourself, switch sides and generally not be burdened by constricting concepts such as integrity. Make people angry then point them in the direction of the alleged “cause”. If you follow this plan, you’ll get noticed and you may gain an audience. But there’s a price to pay. You’ll have painted yourself into a corner and will forever be associated with your “persona”. Plus a lot of people will think you’re an asshole.
Obviously, I have presented two ways of building an audience and would like to make it clear that there are naturally alternatives and variations on both discussed routes. I must admit I do find it surprising that people still think that there’s a quick and easy way to “success”, be it with blogging or any of the other ways of sharing content. Live streaming, producing You Tube videos, creating podcasts and blogging have all gone through a lot of transitions over the years and I suspect the days of any of them being a quick way to get rich and famous have possibly gone. The only constant I can really think of about “audiences” is that they can be both loyal and fickle. Core readers will stick around because ultimately, they have a sense of rapport with the author. Yet if you write less often then people will naturally go elsewhere. There’s been a notable dip in this site’s traffic in the last fortnight because I haven’t been writing. As to the newbie blogger who posted the original question, I hope you find the path that right for you. I’d be interested to learn what their thoughts are on traffic if they’re still blogging in a year’s time.