Monday 4 July 2011

Blogging: Does crossposting increase traffic?

This posting is about some of my observations on crossposting your blog, Open Salon and Pauline Gaines, not necessarily in that order. I have no pretensions of being an expert but thought to jot down a few of my experiences.

The idea is simple. Crosspost your blog to other blogging platforms like Open Salon or Zimbio. Register your posting with various social news web sites like Digg or Reddit or Fark. The more you get your name out there, the more traffic you generate and the more interest you develop in your name. (Some of these services have automatic feeds so you don't necessarily have to do this manually. Although, I have discovered that both Open Salon and Zimbio require editing after the automatic feed.)

My opinion? Or should I say my experience? Doesn't work. First of all, I spent five or six months faithfully registering my blog posts with Digg, Reddit and Delicious. I checked my blog activity both in Blogger's native statistics and in Google analytics. I think during that whole time I saw only two or three pageviews originating from Digg; nothing from Reddit or Delicious. I've read that these social news sites are very, very popular but oddly enough, I never visit them. Yes, never. Why? I get my news from Google news. I never visit a social news site and personally, I can't imagine why I would do so. I can't imagine how other people voting on an entry would influence what I am interested in. Okay, sometimes an odd video or a strange story percolates to the top based on a high rating from other people, but that's not why I'm looking at the news. And that may explain why I never got any hits from these social news sites. My writing wasn't necessarily about the odd and quirky.

I have now been crossposting to Open Salon and Zimbio for almost eight months. I have seen only a handful of visits from Open Salon and I know of only one visit from Zimbio. When I think about it, since my entire blog is crossposted, why would anybody reading a posting there want to come to my blog? What's the point?

Open Salon
This blogging platform offers, well, pretty much everything any platform would offer. Interestingly enough, they provide stats on postings which show me that I am not a big favourite in this community. Now I use the word "community" in terms of an insight I've had while strolling around. If you "follow" people, if you comment on their postings, you eventually develop some sort of camaraderie whereby they read your stuff and possibly comment on your stuff. While on the one hand I understand from the blogging pundits that this is a way of developing one's own readership, there's part of me that thinks this is a tad incestuous. You're reading my postings more because you're a "friend" than me having written something interesting. Okay, okay, I can hear somebody saying that this is all part of selling yourself: shake hands with every individual in the room, vote for me in the next election, buy my book. Fine, I get that but I have to wonder whether getting involved with this self-promotion can end up distracting me from what I'm supposed to doing which is writing.

I've said elsewhere that I started writing a blog not really knowing where I was going with it. Write about relationships? the news? sex? divorce? Heck, I chose to just shoot my mouth off and I shoot my mouth off about a lot of different things. The blogging pundits say that being eclectic is not good. People drop in to see a movie review but instead find me talking the population of the Earth hitting seven billion in the fall of 2011. Drop in for an article on divorce and I've published a music video with lyrics and background information on the song and the artist. What? Where's the consistency?

Once in a while, strange things do happen. I wrote this article "Winter solstice and lunar eclipse in Canada and USA" which was published in a small online newspaper. According to the editor, that article was viewed 20,000 times on December 21, 2010 in the space of 24 hours. I look at Open Salon's list of my most viewed postings and discover that the article "May 21: The End of the World (Afterword May 22)" about Harold Camping's prediction of the rapture and end of the world has been viewed 5,757 times. Since that posting is merely a crosspost from my own blog, I checked my blog to discover the same post has only been viewed around 500 times. As a further oddity, that posting is not the most viewed posting on my blog. Go figure.

To further confuse the issue, on Open Salon, my article "Catholic school disciplines pro-choice student" was made an "Editor's Pick". This honour means, well, what exactly does it mean? The article did spend some time on the front page of Open Salon which meant I got more hits on it but right now, that particular article was only viewed 803 times and I have seven other articles which were viewed far more but not given the same honour of being an Editor's Pick.

In contrast with my one Editor's Pick, Pauline Gaines of Perils of Divorced Pauline has 13 Editor's Picks out of what I believe are 25 postings in total. Yes, I counted. And interestingly enough, she gets far more ratings and comments than I do. Hats off, I acknowledge a superior blogger.

I come back to my one and only Editor's Pick. I have no idea why it was chosen. That particular posting is no better or worse than other postings I've done so I have to surmise that it was chosen by some confluence of random chance. Somehow this leads me back to the question of developing camaraderie within the Open Salon community so as to better my chances of being seen.

Now why do I mention this idea of camaraderie? Back in March, I wrote a posting "Writing:" about a web site run by the publisher Harper Collins for the purpose of finding new talent and new books. The idea is that you post all or part of your manuscript on the site. Other people then rate your book and if you get a good enough rating, you can become one of the top five per month who are chosen to be reviewed by the editors at Harper Collins. In researching this, I discovered the personal story of one author, Mary W. Walters, who went through the process, discovered its faults, then left to pursue her writing career in a different manner. What she said was that to be rated, you had to develop connections with the other people on the web site: I rate your book; you rate mine. After a while, she realised this was more of a popularity contest; it was about making contacts and not necessarily about legitimately critiquing writing. In the end, she said she found herself spending more time doing a whole lot of other things - reading other people's books, commenting, rating, etc. - than what she wanted to do which was to write.

Somehow this concerns me. I started to write a blog in order to write. I didn't start writing a blog to win a popularity contest. Okay, in rereading that last statement, I realise I may have inadvertently contradicted myself. After all, isn't the purpose of writing something to have it read? And if it's read by more people so much the better? And doesn't more people equate to being more popular?

Word of Mouth
We all hope to "put it out there" and magically we're going to be discovered. In truth, anybody who is an "overnight success" will tell you otherwise. Lots of hard work. Late nights. Tirelessly slogging away until that bit of luck comes along. Yes, the opportunity comes along and you're prepared for it: luck is when preparation meets opportunity. (Luck: Preparation Meets Opportunity)

The main thing is the writing but coupled with that is tireless self-promotion. Yes, make friends, comment on other blogs, and register links with social news sites and, of course, crosspost with the idea of getting your name out there. However, there is no overnight success in doing this.

Some miscellaneous thoughts
Okay, the following isn't about crossposting per se but do relate to blogging and what not.

Capturing the public's attention
Amanda Hocking self-publishes nine books and within less than a year, she sees her sales go from a hundred to a half million per month. Yes, per month! She writes about teenagers and werewolves and stuff that goes bump in the night. She somehow seems to be riding the Twilight wave which has seized the imagination of the 15 to 25 year old demographic.

Heather Thompson of apparently gets over five million pageviews per month. Alexa summarizes the web site: Talking a lot about poop, boobs, her dog, and her daughter then goes on to qualify the target audience: Compared with all internet users, Dooce's users are disproportionately female, and they tend to be moderately educated people under the age of 45 who have incomes over $30,000 and have more children.

Pauline Gaines of Perils of Divorced Pauline (Alexa = 1,617,183) is divorced, remarried and fighting it out with the Ex over custody issues. Her blog postings are personal stories of marriage, divorce, kids, ex-husbands and the various issues women face in such life-altering situations. As I said, out of her 25 posting on Open Salon, 13 of them are Editor's Picks.

Why am I pointing out the above three people? It is a question of analysing what's popular and figuring out why it's popular. In surfing around the Net, I've run across a number of niches, that is, specific topics of interest that have something of a following. The following may be large; the following may be small, but it is possible before even setting pen to paper to determine just what the market is going to be for something. What interest do I generate if I write about werewolves? How about kids and poop? It's curious that I wrote a few articles about divorce and discovered a community of those who have walked through that fire. (How about divorced werewolves with kids... er, cubs?)

Bounce Rate
This term is used in web traffic analysis and refers to when people come to a web site, look at one page then leave immediately. In other words, instead of sticking around and browsing through the site, people only look at a single page.

This seems to be interpreted as being a bad thing. The page on which people have landed has failed to capture their interest and made them stick around. But another interpretation points out that sticking around or not depends on the material. If, for instance, people visit an online dictionary, it would follow that people are there to check the definition of a single word. These people would not stick around; they would not browse through the dictionary. In this case, it would not be surprising that the bounce rate of an online dictionary would be close to 100%.

If I think about a blog, the same idea could very well be applicable. Yes, some people may stick around to read two or more postings but if somebody has come to the blog to a specific posting found either through Google or a social news site, it is more than likely the person in question is looking just for that article. They are not going to go any further as they have satisfied their interest much in the same way somebody only looks up one word at a time in an online dictionary.

Final Word
There seems to be no such thing as an overnight success. You register your postings with social news sites; you crosspost to other blogging platforms; you rate other people's work, you leave comments, and supposedly, bit by bit, you increase your pageviews and build a following. Will I become the next Dooce.Com? I doubt it. As I've said elsewhere, I've looked at Dooce and I'm still flabbergasted it's so popular. There are a lot of women with children out there who apparently love to read about Heather Thompson's experiences with kids and poop. That one is totally foreign to this typical guy's current interests. *stares at ceiling with thoughtful look* Hmmm, come to think of it, I do have a few stories about kids and poop. Some other day perhaps.


Wikipedia: Crossposting
Crossposting is the act of posting the same message to multiple forums, mailing lists, or newsgroups. This is distinct from multiposting, which involves posting multiple identical messages, each to a single forum, newsgroup, or topic area.

Wikipedia: Bounce Rate
Bounce rate (sometimes confused with exit rate) is an Internet marketing term used in web traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and "bounce" (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

my blog: Writing for blogging for money for a living
Anna of the web site ABDPBT ... says that Dooce.Com is getting over five million pageviews per month.
ends her analysis be saying, my semi-educated guess is that Armstrong Media’s gross revenues are between $1 million-$2 million a year.

[Holy poop!]


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Anonymous said...

You can't underestimate the value of schmoozing. I spend an inordinate amount of time reading, rating and commenting on other's blogs -- but only on posts I like, where I think I have something of value to say.

You, Mr. Belle, are a Man of Mystery. Maybe you prefer to keep it that way. But I did notice that you only follow eight people on Twitter (see, I can snoop too!) and have no "Favorites" on OS.

I also think writing on other, prestigious sites, boosts one's credibility and brand. What about writing something for The Fix or The Good Men Project?

SingleMamma4God said...

The reason it took me until these past few months to start seriously blogging is because I hardly see the point in an online journal. It is only a journal if no one is reading.

I have a journal. I write in it by hand. No one reads it but I might publish it one day. It has my prayers and other thoughts as I struggle along this leg of my lifes journey.

Finally after joining Twitter for a business I worked at that failed I saw a need. I knew this need existed actually reaching other singles and moms like myself. I just saw a new way I could minister to them.

Viola @SingleMamma4God was created. 1200 blog page views 6 followers and 400+ Twitter contacts later things are doing well. I do not blog because I have something to say. I blog because I know the stories are good for others to hear.

I share things many times after an issue comes across my time line. I encourage those doing well and I comfort those struggling.

Now that I have a platform maybe I will check out the sites you mentioned.

Jennifer McBride McNamara said...

Thank you for capturing that dilemma -- do I write today or do I read/comment/network. When my book came out, I spent three solid weeks doing the circuit of commenting on other people's blogs, finding a way (or not) of mentioning my own, and hoping that the glad-handing would help book sales. Sadly, it did not. Instead, I read some great stuff, some not so great stuff, and developed "bliendships" (blog-world friendships) with a few women and men who have, I think, similar temperaments and experiences.

And now I'm off to write, like I intended to do until I started obsessively checking stats and Facebook and came across your article...