How to increase your blog traffic

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This month (January) has been my highest-ever month in terms of traffic! Since August, I’ve been hovering at around 2.2-2.7k visitors per month. But this month, I’ve had 5,063 (and that number is still increasing!)

Even before I wrote this post, this month was shaping up to be my best. But after that, traffic really spiked. I also got another boost when my sobriety post was featured on WordPress’ internal discovery portal.* It’s always surprising to me when the blog hits a new traffic milestone, because I’ve never really gotten my head around the idea that I have readers who I don’t know and have no relationship with.

I don’t expect next month to be nearly this good. Generally what happens with every new milestone is that it takes four or five months before monthly traffic works its way back up to the previous peak. And then we’re ready for the next spike!

Whenever a blog blows up, the author always says that they have no idea how it happened: everything was just word of mouth. I think that’s true to some extent, but I have to say that it really helps to know some wordy mouths. Before I became Facebook and Twitter friends with a bunch of SF writers and started participating in that online conversation, it was much harder for any of my posts to catch fire. And insinuating myself into the online SF conversation was not an organic process. It definitely felt like something of an insertion: there’s something unbearably presumptuous about commenting on a near-stranger’s blog or Facebook wall or replying to someone’s tweet.

Anyways, I am not saying that this blog has blown up, but it’s definitely not completely unknown. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I hope to someday reap the rewards of that. The thing about networking and publicity is that it’s not like writing. In order to get anywhere as a writer, you need to be excellent. But in terms of networking, even mediocre goes a long way. Most of my blog readers aren’t going to buy my books (and most of my book readers won’t read the blog), but there is somewhat of a synergistic effect there. Because of the (minor) amount of name recognition engendered by this blog, my books will get more notice and my stories will get more awards buzz. It’ll help, at least a little bit.

On a sidenote, I always feel  embarrassed whenever I am in the real world and one of my friends mentions my blog to a third person. ‘Blogger’ feels like such a shameful identity: it’s such a naked form of attention-seeking–you can’t pass it off as just a way that you communicate with your friends (like Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr), and you can’t spin it as some sort of entertainment (like a Youtube channel or a webcomic). Nope, you’re pretty much just saying that your thoughts about stuff are so valuable that strangers oughta read them.

*The number of hits that I got through this post wasn’t huge, but the number of comments was amazing. Even looking at them was exhausting. I have no idea how someone like Scalzi does it: replying to comments must be like a part-time job for him.

There’s no way that this is not going to somehow screw up this blog

I really do not like WordPress’ internal text editor, so I usually compose my posts in Word before copy-pasting them to WordPress. However, on a whim, I’ve decided to test-drive the Microsoft Word feature that lets you propagate posts from Word directly to your blog. I have a strong belief this is really going to screw up the blog, since, well, it’s Word. But it’s also easy (where is where somebody will pop in and tell me about some third-party application that is the greatest thing since sliced bread and will do everything I want, and then I will put off using it for years until I finally do use it and it turns out to be awesome.

Also, is there some popularity threshold after which your blog’s spam filter breaks down? For years, WordPress’ Akismet system NEVER let any spam comments through. And it still manages to screen out 95% of them, but now hardly a day goes by when one of them doesn’t slip through. So far, I’m going in manually and marking them as spam. I hope that this is just a temporary thing that WordPress somehow learns what is and isn’t legit. To me, the spam comments seem super obvious–you’d think a computer would be able to spot them. I hope I don’t have to do that thing where every comment has to go in for moderation. I hate that.

I’ve also begun the second round of agent-requested revisions on This Beautiful Fever. They’re not so bad. Novel revision isn’t too horrendous a process–especially when the points get finer and finer–because it becomes a little bit mechanical. I mean, obviously, there’s inspiration involved, but it’s not quite the crazy adrenaline- and terror-fueled process that writing a first draft is. However, it’s weird, this novel is officially much more revision than first novel. I recently ran a compare versions between the current draft and the first complete draft and it is crazy how much stuff has been changed. Like the whole beginning of the novel! I’ve gotten so used to the beginning and revised it up so many times that I forget the novel used to begin in a really, really different way. And there’s a whole character that I cut out! In fact, the whole tone of the novel is fairly different from what it was. Even though most of the scenes and events have stayed the same through all drafts, I’ve put a fairly significant amount of work into revising it. I can’t even imagine how much work it must be to take the first draft of a novel and then substantially alter its structure.

Sometimes I like to do a compare/contrast versions and then zoom out as far as I can so I can just loo at a sea of red pages. Still amazed that I made aaaaaaall these edits.