That last post I published? Eight Secrets of Perfect Latkes? It was a test.
My December 8 piece about Jews and Christmas trees and quitting my column attracted more readers than any previous post. I wanted to see how much higher I could boost my stats. And with how little effort.
So I came up with a formula: Numbered list + recipe + holiday tie-in + huckster headline + snappy copy = surge in blog traffic. It worked! My latke secrets didn’t break any records. But the stats are right up there among my most visited posts, topics I take even more seriously than shredded tubers and hot oil, and spent way more time agonizing over. But was it really my formula that did it, or were people just, well, hungry for advice about frying?
I’m sure it helped that I posted the link on Facebook just before noon, when lots of my friends were beginning their lunchtime social-networking breaks. The link got a lot of comments right away, and that kept it in people’s news feeds, where it picked up more comments, etc.
I didn’t make that happen, but I have successfully engineered something like it for other pieces. I’ve been known to email a link to friends I think will be interested. And I have strategically posted comments on blogs and news stories on a topic I’ve just discussed. It’s satisfying when that works. Makes me feel savvy. But what’s really gratifying is when readers do it for me, on their own. Nothing makes me happier than hearing, “I sent your post about your daughter’s wedding to my grandson.”
Which brings me to my real point. Which is: what’s the point? Why am I so obsessed with building up the columns on that site-statistics bar graph? Why do I pore over the daily lists of referrers and search-engine terms (“Broken barbie” and “giant pig” I can understand. But “colonnade arches law school”?) Why do I get so happy when someone leaves a comment on my blog or signs up as a subscriber? Why do I put so much energy into writing these things in the first place?
I started this blog because my agent asked if I had a website he could link to on his. I had visions of book editors checking me out. Has that happened? No idea. I do get referrals through my agent’s site, but I suspect those are mostly other querying authors checking out my agent.
I also imagined someone at a magazine or a newspaper reading my blog and being so impressed she’d ask me to write for her publication. That has happened, sort of. When the editor at the Voice & Herald approached me about writing a column, she said she’d like to see the sorts of things I write on my blog.
And of course, when my novel gets published, it will be good to have a website where my legions of fans can form a community, like on my friend Alison’s blog.
But those aren’t the real reasons I write these posts. I write them because writing is what I like to do. Writing blog posts is relatively easy, and offers a modicum of instant gratification. As for that obsessing over statistics, that’s basically a game. And like a lot of computer games, it’s a compelling form of procrastination. Also, it’s even easier than actually blogging.