Getting More Traffic: How Effective Are Scheduled Topics or Columns for a Blog?

This question stemmed from a conversation I had with Leanne Cole, a blogging friend from Australia.  We both scheduled posts and compared. Her audience grew and mine did not.  I wrote about it in August 2013, and that article drew a large audience. I thought I would repost it, but it rambled. Looking back over the history of my blog gives this post a different perspective.

blogging skills, non-fiction
blogging skills, non-fiction

Over a three-year period my statistics remained consistent when I posted regularly.  “How to” commentaries got the most traffic. However, when I experimented briefly with scheduling columns, the number of visitors dropped.   In spite of the brevity of the trial, there are lessons to learn from my failure to increase traffic.

  1. Weather – I blamed decreased traffic on the weather. Why not?
    • In Northern Hemisphere summers people have time off and are active outside and traveling.
    • In the winter and spring they are busy with holidays.
    • That just left the fall. I am a teacher. School starts in the fall. Teachers look for new ideas. My advice is to schedule topics in the fall.
  2. Consistency – Consistency means that week in and week out the scheduled column appears. Forget what you read in #1, and don’t blame the weather.
    • Realistically scheduled pieces extend beyond a season, and seasons differ with international audiences.
    • Historically newspapers set the journalistic standard when they featured columns each week. Readers came to expect a certain type of writing, humor, or information from a columnist. Click here for a world-wide list of columnists.
    • Consistent blogging about topics requires knowledge, research, and interest. Readers look for fresh information on a topic of interest.
  3. Topics – Topics must interest others as much as they do the writer to increase traffic.
    • Topics that work best stay within subgenres of the blog’s emphasis. In order for one writer to cover five topics credibly, they should relate their column to a theme: travel, photography, writing, book reviews.
    • Column titles need to hook readers yet be reliable and generic.  Post titles with a surprise element generate readers.  But with continuing material readers want to know what to expect such as “Dear Abby” or “The Rest of the Story.”
  4. Writing quality – Writers have one shot at building a lasting audience per reader.
    • Quality writing takes time for 99.9% of writers. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird gave me courage to fail at writing, and rewriting. Writers need to count in failure time, and match the number of columns they write to the amount of available time they allot to the project.
    • Poor quality writing repels readers, creating long-lasting effects on a blogger’s statistics.
    • It is harder recapture a reader’s interest with the same weekly column if the first one they read was poor. Posts are more forgiving.
  5. Interaction with other blogs – This a necessary element for unknown bloggers, and most of us are unknown.
    • Blogging columns today have a different purpose than newspaper columns used to have because of the writer’s ability to interact with readers. It takes time to comment to readers who visit your blog. It takes more time to reciprocate and visit their blog and respond to their piece.
    • Writers who fail to connect with readers, will get few return visitors unless they are already famous.
    • Return visitors create the genre of blogging, and without them, why blog?

Laurie and Paula copy

My 2013 conclusions:

“The moral of this post is that I will get around to changing my schedule eventually, or rearranging it, but I’m going to keep on and try to lose a few more viewers for a little longer. Then I’m going on a real push to get serious about blogging, and bring my followers up to at least 5,000, and my total views per month to at least 20,000.

However, before I do that, I’ve got to get my best-selling book written and published, and have a showing of my photography at a famous California art gallery.  I’m also thinking about becoming a body-builder and I’m definitely going to start taking Yoga, so I can teach it until I’m 95 years old.

Gosh, I have so much to do before I retire for good.  I’d better get going.  First, I’m going out to lunch and shopping with Paula…”

Blogging is hard

My 2015 Conclusions:

  1. My experiment failed because I did not know enough about five different topics to write off the cuff about them every week. I was unrealistic and narcissistic to think I could do justice to multiple unrelated topics.
  2. My titles were not clear: “Sordid Stories.” The title had alliteration, but it portrayed a foggy idea. Sexy, Criminal, Gossip? My intentions were unclear. I tried to be funny, which did not work over the course of my experiment.
  3. Be happy with the successful goal of going to lunch with Paula, or change your tactics.

Thanks for the images, Google.

What are your conclusions?

 

Blogging is YOU in Words – Three Steps to Help People Know You Better

RESOLVED in 2015:  Update my blog.  I spent two days cleaning up my three year-old blog and incorporating what I’ve learned over the years.

typing

  1. Create Pages That Work
    1. Only use a few (3-7) Main Pages, and create sub pages if you have lots of information. Examples might be: About, Start Here, Resources, (I had about 10 pages showing.)
    2. Main Pages are short, but highlight your purpose.
    3. Spend the most time refining your About page because people will go there first to see if they want to spend any time with you.
    4. Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas from other people’s pages YOU liked, and revise them to make them your ideas.  Did someone mention their dog, and you adore yours?  Reinvent and include.20130915_0618171R
    5. Invite viewers to your social media on your About page
    6. Include contact information for readers to fill out, if your purpose is to build readership and/or sell products.

      11
      I got sucked into SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter, Path, Pinterest, Instagram. I’ve been through it all!  Anything to get my face out there!
  2. Publish with Social Media
    1. Social media, even if you don’t understand it, builds statistics, and may build long-term readers. Establish social media accounts, such as Facebook Google +, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and invite your email contacts to build each platform. Set WordPress to link automatically to social media.
    2. To build readership and relationships check your social media often and learn how to use it.
    3. Join social media groups so you can send posts and pages to specific groups who would be interested in those topics.Manny's Trip to Spain
  3. Revise and Repost
    1. After a few months, or years depending on how much you blog, reorganize your blog.
    2. Update information on pages. Refer readers to search specific categories. Include lists of helpful blogs, books, and posts.
    3. Revise your writing based on what you have learned about that skill from blogging. For example eliminate passive verbs and pointless adverbs like quite or really.
    4. Copy the link of your revision and repost them on social media.  Assuming that your social media presence has grown, it’s amazing how many people didn’t see it the first time, but now know you, and will visit it now.

Most of the photos above are compliments of my blogging friend, Ralph who entertained my teddy bear Manny for a month in Spain.  Manny knows more about blogging than I do!

I'm going in again!
But her blog still need some cleaning up. I’m up for it! 🙂 Manny 🙂

What are your plans for your blog this year?

 

Ask Marsha: Getting More Traffic: How Effective Are Scheduled Topics for a Blog?

High Traffic Area:  Marsha’s Blog

Surprise1

I have to admit that this is my question, but it stems from a conversation I had with Leanne Cole about getting more traffic from our blogs.  She started scheduling her posts, and so, as usual, I copied.  You would think I could be more original with my blog than to copy people, but sorry to say, I’m a teacher.  If there’s anything teachers learn to do well in life, it’s copy others.  You have a successful lesson in your class?  We are the best copy cats in the world.  Now if we catch a kid doing the same thing…..  YOU COPIED HIS ANSWERS ON THE TEST!  XXXXXXX  RRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPP  SCORE “F”.   Actually things are changing in the world of education.  It’s becoming more than perfectly ok to work together and come up with collaborative answers – finally!  But I meander.

Spring Creek#1
Spring Creek#1

The sad and happy thing about my statistics are that they are fairly consistent.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I write.  Yesterday I had friends, just under 800 of them who all actually come to my site and read about two posts per visit every month.  I unhooked one of my Facebook accounts accidentally, and now I only have about 600 friends.  I had tons of friends, (about 1,100) in December and January when I was planning and executing my online birthday party for Renee.  That was really fun, and people do like to come to parties – even online.  But, like in the Great Gatsby, once the party was over, the folks went home, and only the real friends stayed.

Surprise 35

But that still doesn’t answer the question about whether scheduling posts has made my blog more successful.  What I can say is that I’m down the number of visitors since May, and I’m down the number of visits in both June and July.

Under the palm tree
Under the palm tree

But here’s the deal.  Those are summer months here in the United States.  Beautiful outdoor types of days, that stretch into romantic summer nights.  I haven’t been at blogging long enough to have a record of if summer really affects one’s number of views.  It looks like this will be my worst month yet.  So, if I am just measuring recent statistics, then I would say that scheduling posts has been detrimental to my view finding, and I’m better off just blogging about whatever random thoughts float across my brain.

Graph of poll responses copy

Looking at things another way – responses.  First of all, people all over the world are not rushing to my blog asking ANY questions of me.  I grab them from wherever I can get them – even turning random comments into possible questions.  So, the expert at whatever, I’m not.  My comments are down.

Renee copy

Other than my online party for Renee, my most comment happy day was May 19th.  Now this statistic can be skewed because some people comment more than others, and actually converse back and forth with me for ages.  If I could count number of words in a comment then Autty Jade is my best all time commenter, and it wouldn’t matter what I write because Autty and her dad, Sir, love me and I love them even though we’ve never actually met.  (I don’t want to give you folks the wrong idea – I am happily married to Vince.)

Vince

Then Ralph, another conversationalist whom I love dearly, has been busy with his house since June, and only has time for a like or two.  He’s another blogger who would read anything I write because he loves me.  (He doesn’t tell me that, but he does!)  I could write about dead flies in my homemade soup, and Ralph and Autty would read it and write back asking if they could come over for dinner.  See why I love them so much!  Sylvia, Dianne and Carol would write, “Eewww, Marsha, and then add something cute and funny.”  Leanne would say, “No thanks, Marsha.  I’ll stay here in Australia.”  Viveka, Paula, and Benzeknees would tell me a good story about dead bugs in their soup because they seem to have the same problems that I do in life.  Andrew would send me a close up picture of a living fly.  Jim, JT, Guapo and Sydney would say something incredibly sympathetic, and invite me to dinner with their family at a nice restaurant a million miles away.

STOP
STOP

I’d better stop there because it is going to take a long time to insert a link to all these names, but trust me, I adore my commenters.  The stalker bloggers would slip away in the night and never come back for fear I might tell the bugs to crawl into their soup, but they wouldn’t tell me about it.

The moral of this post is that I will get around to changing my schedule eventually, or rearranging it, but I’m going to keep on and try to lose a few more viewers for a little longer. Then I’m going on a real push to get serious about blogging, and bring my followers up to at least 5,000, and my total views per month to at least 20,000.  However, before I do that, I’ve got to get my best-selling book written and published, and have a showing of my photography at a famous California art gallery.  I’m also thinking about becoming a body-builder and I’m definitely going to start taking Yoga, so I can teach it until I’m 95 years old.

Gosh, I have so much to do before I retire for good.  I’d better get going.  First, I’m going out to lunch and shopping with Paula, and out to lunch and a movie with Sally and friends for Alice’s birthday tomorrow, lunch with Marie on Wednesday, and Elane on Thursday, and to a meeting on Friday.  Did I mention that I also promised to fix lunch for Vince and his son every day this week, too?

pasta dinner

I need a clone! And I’m not even THAT popular!  Just look at my stats!  🙂

 

5 Ways to Use Keyword Planner to Write Content

One of the questions that many bloggers express is, “How to I write content articles from home and make money?”  To find out I began my blogging experiment, and got sidetracked having way too much fun just writing about my experiences, and hearing back from other folks.  However, as my spammers informed me, that is not how to make money writing content as an independent contractor.  Here are 5 simple ways to use Google’s Keyword Planner to help you earn income from your writing.

keyword search2

Know What People Want to Read

First, if you want to write content posts, you have to know what people want to read. This post is the result of using Google’s new product called Keyword Planner.  This is Google’s newest tool to help advertisers use the right buzz words in their ads to target the biggest market.  It is simple to use.  Enter a few words to start that have something to do with what you know.  I chose:  “blog, content, education”.  You enter your website, and choose a product category, and press enter.  Even if you don’t have a product, you can pick something from the list that describes your website.  It is surprising which words are popular, and which are not.  You can see what readers search most often, and you can also find out how much competition you would have for buying an ad for that word.  The chart also tell you the cost of purchasing that word so your article places high on the Google search engine.  It could cost me as much as $212 a day to buy 0-49 clicks some of the words I found and go to the top of the heap on the search engine!  You bid on how much you would like to pay.  Yikes!  🙂

Use the Highest Use Words in Your Post Title

Maybe you don’t want to pay for a Google Ad.  Use the statistics you found to write a title for your post.  For example, “content writers” is a popular search, while “how to write a blog” is not even though both choices are about writing content.  If you use the word content writer you will get higher traffic than if you don’t use those words.

Use the High Search Words in your Ad Boosters

Many people who write blogs, like me, have fan pages as well.  Most serious content writers sell their content, gather their reader’s email addresses, and offer a product. On their Fan pages they have advertising, and they pay for that service.  If you are going to pay to gather attention for your services, it just makes sense to know what words attract the most searchers.

Use the High Search Words to Combat Writer’s Block

Maybe you are not trying to make a fortune writing your blog, but you wake up and think, “What am I going to write today?”  And you draw a big blank.  This is pretty normal, which is why challenges and contests are so popular.  The trick is how to weave in what you already know into a great article that people want to read.  Keywords is the tool which makes that great – not just good-  post possible.   I just went down the list of possible keywords, chose ones that I knew something about, and narrowed it from there to high versus low-key words.  From my list I had only 10 words.  That made it easy to pick only one of those which was a highly searched keyword.

Use Your Stats to Search for Key Words

My top searched key words are “authentic assessments for social studies.”  I entered those words into the Google Keyword Planner.  I had 25 people this month who have searched for some variation of that subject. Google showed that only 560 people have searched for that topic.  I feel that I got a pretty good market share with my old article, so I don’t think I would ever consider buying an ad for using those words.  There is low competition for the words.  A much more frequently employed word would be “education websites.”  The cost for buying those keywords is high as well.

Google Ad Words

 

Branding

In my neck of the woods, cattle get branded, but I’ve been DOING Twitter, and reading about branding.  Apparently, if I want to my blog to take off and really go  places I need to be branded.  My blog is doing relatively well, nothing viral, but then until a few days ago I was not branded.  Judging from the lack of number of visitors and likes on my Facebook page, branding must be an essential step I’m missing.

Still only 56 Likes
Still only 56 Likes

So, here we go again, I need your opinion.  I put a brand on my WP site.  Do you like it?  No, Manny is not the Brand.  Manny’s my top salesperson!  So I featured him in my header.

Simple, unchanging, eye catching, unique, unafraid to be who they are, bold
Simple, unchanging, eye-catching, unique, unafraid to be who they are, bold

So is a brand something like our gravitars?   Is it the header?  In my mind a good brand is Leanne Cole’s black and white box with her name in it.  I also like Ralph’s gravitar partly because he did a whole post on it, and asked people why they followed him.  The hat came out as the biggest plus.

Susan Hunter I like EasyBreezy books, too – even though the picture is not the author, and she doesn’t use her name.  I just want to look like that!  I like my gravitar because a good picture of myself is hard to find, AND in this one the chairs behind me sort of add dimension to my hair, making it almost look like I have more hair.  I like that!  But I don’t think that is what I need for my brand – as shown by my lack of FB LIKES.

Simple, my favorite color de jour, my brand name because I loved my job as the TC History Consultant
Simple, my favorite color de jour, my brand name because I loved my job as the TC History Consultant

I tried designing a brand myself, but my handwriting is horrible, even using my new table in Adobe Illustrator.  My drawing is worse, and I don’t even know what I would draw to describe my brand?  In this blog are the loves of my life, Y’ALL, my readers, first of all, book reviews, travel stories, lectures on how education should always include history/social studies, my family (which is pretty much history!), assorted friends, retirement advice, poetry, pets, Manny, the adventures of the History Ladies, history of Tulare County, and what I’m learning about photography, blogging, graphic designing, and quilting for starters.

Simple, another of my favorite colors, clean - at least in a smaller size
Simple, another of my favorite colors, clean – at least in a smaller size

Even though I am basing my overall image on my former job as an Instructional Consultant in History/Social Science, and my love of it, I have moved on in who I am and what I produce.  Maybe moved backwards to what I liked before I chose a career.  I’m not trying to market history, but I am working to inform and entertain you (the rest of the world) as photographer and writer.  The product line I am marketing is somewhat sketchy in my mind, but I am driven to produce SOMETHING, therein is the Productions part of the brand.  I have tried to market some of my pictures, but I’m not totally there yet.  I’ve written at least one children’s book, but it’s not ready for production after at least 18 years.  But surely there’s something I can produce that someone will want!  🙂  Yes??????

Still my name, streaming Kaweah River into Bravo Lake.  Hard to read, but...
Still my Brand on top of the Kaweah River streaming into Bravo Lake.   Keep in mind that even though corrected, this is how I see EVERYTHING.  I’m assuming this brand is a bit blurry to you, too!

Since I am already marketing photography through Fine Arts America, I considered bringing in a little photography into my brand.  Maybe I need to bring in a little of my “Streaming Thoughts,” which is what I actually do on this blog.  Granted all these trial “brands” are rough, and very poor quality.  But if I am trying to market myself, and I feel that I must after reading these blogging gurus, to justify the amount of time and energy that I spend blogging, I’ve got to SELL SOMETHING!  am I going to sell my random thoughts?  Who does that and gets by with it other than Paul Harvey?  But then he had a GREAT brand – The Rest of the Story.  Remember him?

Is branding the signature line, the rest of the story?
Is branding the signature line, “the rest of the story”?

Interestingly the story that I hyperlinked there talks about the fact that he was like the forerunner of a current day blogger.  YES!  Maybe there is hope for a market for what I do…  chat.

Garrison Keillor

I also thought about Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion.  I can totally identify with this picture.  I’m your Tulare County Home Companion.  Why, it even looks like me in my office!  I’m a little smaller, and my legs are slightly tanner, and I don’t wear shoes to blog!   🙂

Click and Clack

Of course, you’ve heard of these guys, Click and Clack.  If not, you are missing one of my favorite radio shows, and I hate cars.  I’d never fix a car if you paid me millions of dollars, and yet, I love their show.  I want to be just like them.  Funny and informative.

Ernestine01

When I was in my 20s friends and strangers even would say I looked and acted like Lily Tomlin.  That was an insult to me then because all I could picture was her brand, and it was not what I was trying to portray at the time.  Now I realize the people were not far off the mark.  There are similarities that even I can see.

Erma Bombeck

Finally there’s the lady to whom my writing has been most likened to, Erma Bombeck.  I love her brand line in this picture, “The family that plays together…  gets on each other’s nerves.  How true is that?

I tried to press publish real quickly this morning before Sally and I took our walk, but I couldn’t be rude and let her wait long enough to get it done.  So we talked about branding on our walk.  We laughed about the thought of everything streaming out from Tulare County (TC), but for me, it does.

California_map_showing_Tulare_County

Tulare County is the bread basket for the country, the center of agriculture (not that I’m a farmer, but that is the primary industry here, and you all enjoy the benefits of it.)  Sally suggested that I had to have a map, and I found the perfect map of Tulare County in 1850 when Tulare County was huge!

Sally-inspired brand
Sally-inspired brand

This is my final brand for today.  I need your opinions now to move to the next step.

So what do you think?