I’ve been blogging for long enough to have a pretty good idea whether a blog post will attract the usual (my Mum) or an unusual (my Mum and the readership of the Church Times) amount of traffic.
I don’t blog for numbers. Honest. But I’m not averse to looking at the site stats from time to time. I’m only human. But it’s been encouraging to see the readership expand in the last couple of years. But I’d still blog even if no one read it because I enjoy writing and it helps me to form an opinion, as well as express it!
But over time I’ve begun to realise that there are certain things that I can do to encourage a wider-than-usual readership to pay the site a visit. Here are my three top ways to increase the blog traffic.
1. It’s all about the title
The title has to grab your attention. For example, if this post is going into someone’s reader, then I suspect that they’ll read it. The content could be complete garbage. But could you resist a title like the one I’ve given it? There’s so much information being thrown at us these days that I have to give people a reason to stop scanning and start reading. The title can do that. We tend to like numbers for some reason. Having a number in there is almost guaranteed to cause a spike on the site stats graphic. ‘Seven ways to listen to a sermon’ never does quite as well as ‘7 ways to listen to a sermon’. Those sorts of posts tend to be brief. And punchy and people like that. The well crafted sustained argument will always lose out to ‘5 ways to sack the vicar’. The ‘how to’ blog posts go down well; depending on what they’re telling you to do. I’d imagine that a blog post entitled ‘how to meet girls and get them to like you’ might be a popular piece. But ‘how to handle apocalyptic literature in a postmodern rural setting’ might not be as well read. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be an important piece. It’s just that I couldn’t write it. I’m no expert on the rural community. But you should see my stuff on apocalyptic literature. Of course, a post’s lack of popularity is not necessarily a comment on its value. The world-wide web readership are a fickle and superficial bunch! Some of my best blog posts have hardly caused a ripple. I need to help people see the value with an arresting headline.
2. It’s all about the content
Having a natty, eye-catching title might get you a visit for the first time. (Welcome, if you’ve not been here before). It might even mean that people read to the end of the post, hoping that the key to the title might be revealed right up to the last sentence. But the readers won’t subscribe or pay your site a visit unless they like what they find. And for a blog like mine, that means that they need to find the content engaging, stimulating and acceptably provocative. I don’t think the blog needs to be interactive. See my post on comments. If the content is worth reading people will come back from more regardless of whether they’re allowed to give their opinion. In terms of the content that does well, there are some interesting trends. Blog posts on relationships get an above average number of visits. Usually, posts on the Christian life don’t. It could well be that they’ve been badly written or ill thought through. Or just too obvious to bother with. But there seems to be a disproportionately strong appetite for the romantic! Blog posts on church and what churches do ratchet up the ratings. And personal habits of Bible reading and prayer seem to go down well. But it’s all about the content. I need to give people something to get their teeth into.
3. It’s about the referers
When others pick up your blog, or perhaps more especially one particular post, the numbers go through the roof. In recent weeks my post on whether Christians should strike attracted a lot of attention; both negative and positive. I hope it was because teachers found it helpful and thought provoking. They didn’t need to agree with it. But they needed to think though the scriptural implications of my position. Over the years, anything on Anglicanism produces a spike. The current series on AMiE seems to be going down well, though I suspect that has something to do with the fact that no-one on AMiE seems capable of getting the information out to those that need it. People drop in on this one because I know someone who knows someone who sat in the room when some of the decisions were made. And I’m useless at confidentiality. I’m pretty sure that I can count senior Anglican clergymen, or at least their technically savvy staff, amongst my readership. Thinking Anglicans, Fulcrum and the Church Times have linked to stuff I’ve written in recent weeks. But it’s also nice to be appreciated and so more sympathetic sites like Reformation 21 and the Good Book Company also generate a bit more traffic.
The truth is, numbers don’t really matter a whole load. It just means that a whole load of people have dropped in and paid the site a visit. If what I write has helped them in some way, then I’m thrilled. It’s one of the reasons I write. I figure that if what I write is good, and others get to hear about it, then they’ll drop by and the graph will ascend. But I can’t wait to see what ‘the sex change nun married to hamster’ does to the ratings!