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.

A story about a super ignorant guy I once knew; the memory of which still annoys me

Every day in Baltimore, I used to walk past the intersection of two one-way streets (N. Charles and 28th, for the Baltimoreans out there). Now, normally (at least in Maryland) it’s legal to take a left turn on red, if both streets are one-way (in the appropriate direction, obviously). However, this intersection was governed by an arrow traffic light.

Now, to me, it’s pretty obvious that the arrow light supersedes the general traffic principle: you’re never allowed to make a turn when the arrow is red. In this case, that makes sense because visibility was a little poor and it was difficult to see the cars coming from the right.

However, there was this one guy in the neighborhood who I’d always see at that intersection, honking furiously at when the person in front of him dared to stop for the red arrow. A few times, I saw him squeal out and around the stopped car and take the turn anyway.

One day, I was walking past the guy while he was doing his thing and I noticed his window was open, so I yelled, “Hey, dude, the arrow is red!”

But he yelled back, “No, I’m allowed to take a turn on a one-way street.”

I waited a moment and yelled, “Err…but the arrow is red!”

This went back and forth a few more times until the arrow finally turned green and the car ahead of him took the turn. As he took his turn, the guy yelled, “Dammit, I know how to drive!”

I don’t normally get annoyed at people’s behavior, but there’s something about this guy that has continued to annoy me, even months later.

What I find so interesting about this guy is that he was absolutely sure he knew something that the rest of us didn’t. He thought we were the ignorant ones; the ones who just didn’t understand the law. It’s so interesting. Maybe, somewhere, this guy is writing a blog post about how there’s this one intersection where everyone is a fucking dumbass who doesn’t understand that you’re actually allowed to take a left turn on red in certain circumstances.

The guy didn’t seem stupid. I’m sure that if he sat down and thought about this situation, he’d realize that you’re actually not allowed to turn there. But he didn’t do the thinking. He leapt upon the most obvious explanation (people are stupid) and didn’t go any further.