As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, I’m not driven by ad revenue (I get none) or blog hits. I don’t write for any particular audience, I write what I want to write because it’s something that interests me and I feel I have something to say. The sad fact is, the composition of many of my articles here is oxymoronic. I am a conservative atheist. When I write about conservatism, I tend to drive away the atheists and when I write about atheism, I tend to drive away the conservatives. That’s a bit sad, considering that the statistics I’ve come across indicate that around 20% of self-identified atheists also hold conservative views.
That said though, now that I’ve been more active on Google+, I’ve seen a lot of atheist bloggers wanting to know how to draw more readers and vjack over on Atheist Revolution wrote a really good article on getting your blog noticed. If you’re not reading vjack’s blog, you ought to be.
Anyhow, I had looked over vjack’s list and I think there are a lot of valuable ideas in there and I wanted to
steal them shamelessly take a look at them one by one.
1. Install Google Analytics or an alternative system for monitoring traffic to your blog. This should be the first thing you do, so go do it now.
That is certainly a good idea and I’ve had it running on my blog for a while now, I’m just not sure how accurate it is. I’ve had other traffic monitoring plugins on the blog and none of them seem to say the same thing as Google Analytics. Just using the basic WP Stats system, Analytics reports 75-100 fewer hits per day than Stats does and they’re both supposed to take the same things into account (weeding out multiple visits from the same IP, etc.) I don’t know that I’m getting accurate information and worse, judging only from the Analytics dashboard, I just don’t get the kind of quality information that I get from Stats. It doesn’t tell me, for instance, what search engines people used, what terms they typed in, etc. Yes, I know I can get a lot of that by going to the Google site, but isn’t the point to make my life easier, not more difficult? At the moment, I have both running on the blog and am comparing the results.
2. Now that you have a way to track your traffic, it is time to make it easier for readers to subscribe to your blog. You are going to want to set up FeedBurner. You can find additional information FeedBurner here.
Yup, I’ve have had Feedburner for a long time but I don’t find that a lot of people are using the RSS feed, either content or comment. I suppose that’s not surprising because I rarely ever use RSS either. Someone was complaining on a Google+ podcasting community that people were just going to their site and listening to their podcasts there instead of subscribing through iTunes and therefore, they didn’t have a good metric for measuring how many people were listening. I really doubt that, beyond counting page hits, anyone can ever tell that I’ve listened to their podcast because I listen to *ALL* of my podcasts while sitting at my computer, going straight to everyone’s website. I don’t have a long drive every day and every podcast that I listen to, I listen with my wife, who clearly isn’t in the car with me anyhow. They’re really not useful for me and while they might be useful for a certain segment of the population, they aren’t the panacea that a lot of people make them out to be.
3. Time for a bit of self-reflection. Why are you blogging? What is it that you are hoping to contribute to the atheist blogosphere? Does your blog clearly reflect these goals? Will a first-time visitor understand what you are trying to do and be able to quickly and easily find answers to his or her questions? Who is your intended audience, and what sort of voice will your blog have?
I think most people understand my voice, it tends to be pretty pissed off. I started this blog as a place for me to bitch, thus the name. News flash for the feminists who think it’s some misogynist smear, it’s my “spot to bitch”. Get over yourselves. I think I do what I set out to do, this is a forum for me to make my opinions known. What it isn’t and was never intended to be was a place built specifically make money or turn myself into an atheist icon. I don’t play the hero worship game, I don’t want to be a hero to millions and admired by atheists far and wide. This isn’t a stepping stone into the celebrity circuit, speaking at conferences, writing books and making a bundle. That said though, I don’t really want to just talk to myself, I can do that without posting my thoughts online, so attracting some sort of an audience is important. I just don’t want to blog specifically for that purpose, I’ve tried it before and I hated it with a passion. I write what I write. I just wish I could find more of the audience that wants to read it.
4. Search Google and Bing for your blog and make sure it is listed in both. If it does not appear, you will want to submit it. You can find information about submitting your blog to Google here, and here is information on submitting to Bing.
Actually, my hosting company sends out weekly reminders, sponsored by Attracta SEO Support to continually update sitemaps for Google, Bing, Ask and Yahoo, to check that your blog isn’t blacklisted, etc. In fact, in thinking about this, I just went and updated all of my sitemaps. Certainly it’s important to be listed on search engines and, for a lot of the subjects I cover, I’m among the first couple of entries on Google (the only search engine I use). Every post is optimized for SEO, has a meta description, etc. The only thing that pisses me off about this are some of my weekly features, like Horror Show Sunday and TV Thursday, it bitches at me because I keep using the same focus keywords. Well duh!
5. Does your blog have a blogroll in which you include links to some of the atheist blogs you read on a regular basis? If not, now would be a good time to create one. Other bloggers like incoming links, and this can be a great way to get their attention.
Certainly, although I will admit I’m very unhappy with how I do it currently, but I was even more unhappy with the way it was done before. Blogrolls take up a lot of space in the sidebar and I try to keep the things that are important to see toward the top and the things that are not drift toward the bottom. Most people don’t look at blogrolls so I put it in a pulldown, just to minimize it’s size. I’ve seen people with RSS-feed blogrolls and while I think those are cool, you can see my above comments on RSS feeds and it will still only display a few top entries anyhow. Anyone have any better ideas?
6. Plan to write at least one high-quality post containing original content per week and as many as one per day.
I write every single day, I don’t think I’ve missed a day in almost a year now. There was a time when I write 2 posts a day, every single day, but not even I am that crazy to keep it up in the long run. Certainly, the comments that I get from people who read my blog say I’m writing things they want to read, I just think that, as I said before, I think that combining conservatism and atheism has a detrimental effect. I think a lot of atheists expect that any blog about atheism is going to come from a liberal perspective and that any blog about conservatism is going to be religious. I just had a discussion about this very thing on Google+, where someone posted a video on crazy things the neo-cons did in the Republican Party, but used the word “conservative” throughout. I corrected him but he told me that it wasn’t possible for conservatives to be atheists and even if they were, that’s their problem, not his.
7. Consider whether Twitter is an appropriate platform for promoting your posts and interacting with others in the secular community.
Of course, I have Twitter, but to be honest, the returns usually don’t justify the effort, I’ve found. It’s difficult to have a decent discussion, you certainly can’t have an intelligent debate, if you just sit and watch one of the major hashtags, like #atheism, you find that it’s just an echo chamber, people posting pithy comments over and over again that really don’t mean anything or achieve anything. That said, my blog and Tumblr accounts do post every new thing I do to Twitter and I use Buffer to post back articles 5x per day, at least when I remember to load up my queue. So far, I’ve seen little new traffic that I can identify from Twitter.
8. Make sure you understand how the commenting system you are using works, the limitations associated with it, and whether it might make sense to replace it with a third party option like Disqus or Intense Debate.
This is where I have a big problem. Both Disqus and IntenseDebate have massive failings, both have been shown to be glitchy and prevent some people from posting at all from time to time. I’ve had an ongoing issue with IntenseDebate where I cannot delete spam comments on the blog without disabling the ID plugin first. I’ve asked ID what I should do, they don’t care. I’d much rather have a superior commenting system, one that is WYSIWYG, allows quoting other comments, etc., but I don’t think such a thing exists for WP. I’m not wedded to either of those systems, I just don’t know that there’s a better way to do it.
9. Submit one of your best posts to the atheism subreddit at Reddit and share a few on Facebook or Google+.
There are problems here, and we’ve discussed them a bit on Google+. Now I have accounts on Reddit, StumbleUpon and Google+ and I use all of them to some degree. My blog automatically posts to StumbleUpon every single day and I’m not sure if there’s a Reddit plugin that would do the same, but in both cases, unless you are Stumbling a bunch of posts that are not your own every day, and I know this is especially true of Reddit, you get downgraded or even shadow banned from the site. They don’t like self-promotion. Therefore, you have to run around and enter a bunch of blog stories day in and day out and I don’t have time for that. I guess I can go around and just Stumble every single blog post on every single blog I read, but that strikes me as dishonest. These are supposed to be articles that impress you and not every article does. A bunch of us thought about Stumbling and Redditing each other’s articles every day, but that suffers from the same problem. Not sure what to do with this one.
10. Review #3 above regularly, asking yourself whether you are accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Pay attention to the visual aspects of your blog, the ease of finding information, and the degree to which you are providing readers with something of value to keep them coming back.
As I said before, that’s a great sentiment and all, but I don’t know how well it works in the real world. I know what I’m posting and I know the inherent difficulties of what I’m posting, but there is supposedly a sizable audience out there and I have no idea where to find them. One thing I have noticed, from the few conservative atheists I am acquainted with, is that virtually none of them ever talk about religion. They are political bloggers. Sites like Secular Right and The Atheist Conservative rarely talk about religion, whereas that’s the majority of my output. Politics are fine and certainly I do post about it regularly, but my audience just isn’t the same as their audience. I’ve asked a couple of them if they want to take over the co-hosting seat on The Bitchspot Report Podcast and without exception, every single one I’ve asked has told me they don’t want to talk about religion.
So now what? I’ve done all of these things, in fact, I’ve done them and more. I’m on all of the various blog directories, I post on forums, I participate in Google+ communities, I tweet, although not as much as I did in the past. vjack suggested getting on Pinterest as a means of drawing traffic, but how many of these damn social networking sites does one have to join, how many directions can you split your limited free time, in hopes of funneling traffic to a blog? Aren’t you just splitting your audience into a million different places? One thing I refuse to do is get on Facebook, so that’s out of the question.
Honestly, that’s what’s bothering me. I started Bitchspot as my primary online voice. Now I find that I’ve got podcasts and YouTube channels and Twitter accounts up the ying yang and Bitchspot isn’t any more popular than when I started. It hasn’t found the kind of audience that I always envisioned for it and hoped it would achieve. What’s the point, beyond the personal satisfaction and letting off steam, that putting time and effort and money into producing a blog gets for you, if hardly anyone reads it? How do you reach that mythical 20% of atheists when they’re seemingly afraid to talk about religion? I don’t know, it’s a mystery to me. Anyone have any ideas?