How SJD Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Still Remains a Handsome Frog

What is it that makes one blog gain huge readership while another equally well written one languishes? What makes one particular post on a blog go viral while others on the same topic don’t attract any attention? Why do significant numbers of people read blogs that are in the underdog category, while blogs that are in the more popular categories like food, fashion, and technology struggle to find readers? These are questions that have been going through my mind as this blog grows in readership, in traffic, and in quality of visits. I have not written a post on blogging in a very long time, and thought this was an appropriate time to visit the topic again. I trust that it will benefit those who toil on in the conviction that their efforts matter. For those of you who already know all this stuff, please do pass it on, either by sharing this post, or by writing a similar post yourself for your readers.
Recently, daily traffic on this blog crossed the 1000 page views mark. Of course, it was a blimp, caused by a recent post getting shared many times over, but the fact remains that the recent stats for this blog have surpassed my wildest imagination. This post, my 201st, is to share some of the things that seem to have worked to make this happen. Some of it might sound hackneyed but the principle used is that of “if it works it belongs.” This post is written from the perspective of this blog and its “underdog” niche of anti-consumerism and ethical living, but the lessons are universal for all genres and niches. Enjoy.

1. Content

 - The Voice of the Buddha

Your blog is your opportunity to use your voice to lead your readers to whatever it is that you wish them to be led to. In my case it is being able to live happy, successful and meaningful lives without robbing the future. This blog has been doing that in its trademark long-winded (most posts here are in the 2000 words range) manner over the last few years, trying its best to keep the post as consistently engaging as possible. Develop your own voice, say what you wish to say, and say it over and over again in as many ways as possible without sounding repetitive. As I wrote in an earlier post, it should be such that when the reader reads your post, they feel you are saying exactly what they had wanted to hear all this time, without consciously recollecting that they heard it from you in the first place. Original and unique content is the most important thing that will get you readers who value your voice.

- Believe in Your Self


You might lose heart as you try to put out what you really feel, and that is truer for creative writing than any other format, and no one shows up. Stick to your guns and keep at it. I can type “keep at it” at a speed of 300 w.p.m. since almost all my comments on new blogs I encounter end with that phrase. If you believe what you have to say is of value, do not allow factors like page views or comments convince you otherwise. Life is not about now till next Tuesday. If you stay true to your voice and continue to say what you know you must, the time will come when it will be recognized for what it is worth. We need, however, the grace and the courage to acknowledge what it is worth when the day comes.

- Write to Create Value


When you sit to write, you have to balance your needs as a writer and the needs of the reader. Let your writing be driven by the motive of enriching the life of those who read your writing. Posts on this blog are usually about things that are not very appealing to many people, about downsizing, about adopting frugal and simple lifestyles, about discarding values that are imposed upon us by corporations and the advertising industry. Not stuff that people like to be reminded about. I found that people like to read reviews of films, so I started writing (few) reviews and used them to demonstrate enduring values in contrast with those that are dictated to us by commerce. Say what you must say, but say it in a way that people will want to hear. Like Obama did about global warming in his speech after winning the elections. Read more in my post on Writing for a Broader Readership.

2. Optimize

- Naming Things


The blog world is driven to a large extent by quick judgements, automated search rankings, and topicality. Plan your posts, your post titles, and your keywords in a way that it sits near the head of the class in each of these categories. If your post is a review of the film Barfi, make sure that the title contains the words Barfi, Movie, Review, and possibly Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra. If you title it Silence of the Lambs, nobody is going to find it when they search for Barfi, and very few people are going to read it. Those who find it because they were searching for reviews of Silence of the Lambs will also blacklist you once they find your post.

- Use Tools of Technology


SEO and keywords are made to sound like something complicated, which they are not, but then if you and I figured that out, it would put a lot of “experts” out of work, so for the greatest good, lets let them remain complicated. However, there are simple tools that you can use to improve your SEO and Keyword use. One is, of course, having a post title that is in sync with the most searched for terms in the context of what your post is about. The second is URL optimization. Instead of going with the default URL that most blogging interfaces give you, you can actually change your settings so that you get to decide what the URL will be. Having a good combination of URL optimization and post title is a big step forward by itself. The other tool that most interfaces give you is the feature of a post description. This short description, which should ideally contain the top keywords for your post will go a long way, and it is not something that is very complicated. This post for example would have a description that would say, "A collection of tips and a tutorial on how to optimize your website or blog to attract huge traffic and reach the maximum page views and readers." Of course, I wouldn’t use that, but if I did, it would be really good (ask any SEO guru). You can read about how to use these tools in my post on Two Neat Promotion Tools for Blogspot Bloggers.

- Learn from the Masters


The blogging world, as you might already be aware, is extremely helpful and generous. Thankfully, they are also very objective in their help and generosity. I have seen some veteran bloggers do ineffective things - things I did not realize were ineffective till I imitated them and saw the result for myself. The reason they continue to do that is because they have never bothered to cross check whether what they are doing is really leading to the results they desire. Of course, I am being presumptuous about the results they might really desire. People come to a blog to read, not to be hijacked by landing page pop-ups, third party widgets, animated GIFs and elevator music. It might attract some people, but perhaps not the readers you are looking for. Ask for feedback. Blogger platforms like Indiblogger are full of people who take time out to look at what you are doing and tell you how you can do it better. Put the word out that you would like to be told how you can do it better. And then, accept the feedback gracefully and apply it to whatever extent you are comfortable. Some of the major steps I took to improve my blog came from an extremely objective and comprehensive blog review by The Fool.

Handcrafted organic black tea from BlendOfTea
Tea from our upcoming catalog!

3. Promote

 - The World is not Looking


The most common argument we have at home is about publishing my poetry. I believe that my poetry is private, and if it is of relevance to the world, then the world needs to come looking for it. My family, of course, doesn’t think so. The world out there might be looking for you but, sadly, does not know where to find you unless you promote yourself. Facebook and Twitter are great ways to get the word out. While Twitter is fairly friendly towards clicking through from links in tweets, Facebook is not the same. Facebook, on the other hand is an excellent tool for building engagement, but leans towards images, jokes and videos more than links to serious writing. As you persist, you will find a slow but steady increase in people who look out for your updates. Be careful to not overdo it, since people are sensitive to spam on their timeline, and if they see you repeatedly plugging your posts, they might just pull the plug on you. Use questions or start a discussion that can interest them in looking your post up. Use a catchy image and share your link in the text accompanying it. Be creative. Sell subtle.

- I Like You, Go Away


This dysfunctional axiom applies to things like Facebook fan pages and special interest platforms like Pinterest and LinkedIn. One has to temper ones participation in and expectations from these promotion tools. You will find a lot of FB pages for blogs and books and authors with several hundred people liking them. Ask any of them what percentage of engagement they have or what click-through rates they see and you will probably not get an answer. I manage a few brand pages, and Subho’s Jejune Diet itself has an FB page (if you haven’t already, click here to go join it), and unless you are selling offers for free pizza or designer sportswear, man, those “like” numbers are but hot air. It is like this, if I log into LinkedIn, I am not interested in your status update about poetry or yoga unless I am also into it. And even then, my purpose of logging into LinkedIn is not to read a blog post. When I log in to FB, I am not interested in reading long articles on the harmful effects of social networks. I want to quickly see who is doing what, maybe like and share some interesting and whacky pics and videos or some insanely stupid and often sexist quotations. Similarly, pinning mediocre or irrelevant images on Pinterest is pointless; no one will even look, given the abundance of high quality images vying for the eyeballs. Use your FB fan page to generate useful content for your subscribers in between posts. Use LinkedIn to promote posts that are of interest to professionals or have to do with business, career planning, or job searches. So choose your tools wisely. Use them even more wisely.

- Sharing Freely is Sharing Without Expectations


Bookmarking sites like digg, delicious and stumbleupon are great sources of traffic, but if you are doing social bookmarking with the expectation of building up your readership, you are in the wrong place. Most hits from these sites will be a bounce, meaning they will not translate to a second click on your pages, and if you look up analytics with a custom filter, you will find that most visitors from these sites leave your page in a matter of seconds. Having your links up on these sites makes it easier for people looking for specific categories of information or blogposts, but meaningful traffic from there is small and relevant only on huge time scales. Promote on social bookmarking sites, but do it without expectations.

A warm meeting of minds!
Hyderabad Bloggers Meet

4. Network

- I, Me, Myself


A social network is supposed to be some sort of an equivalent of society. In society, or in a family, there is give and take. The entire concept of relationships is centered on transactions, usually of mutual benefit. Similarly, just being on the social media to promote your work portrays you as a taker, even though you might think of yourself as a giver. It is essential to participate in the process of relationship building, even if the term for that in your dictionary is customer support. If you do not care for the people you are putting the word out to, is it fair to expect that they will pledge undying concern for your cause? In this matter, difference of opinion is a prickly issue, at least with the kind of writing you will find here. Learning to compassionately accept extremes of disagreement is a useful lesson in humility.

-Bloggers Are Still Your Best Friends


For a long time, I felt disappointed that fellow bloggers made up nearly a third of my traffic source or readers. In my mind, they were reading me so that I would read them. Thanks to this though, I have discovered some great blogs and made some great friends. But more importantly, the real traction that you get from fellow bloggers is in the form of peer endorsement and objective criticism. To be listed on the blog roll of a fellow blogger is a matter of honor, even more so if it is on a blog that you have always admired. Bloggers also tend to share your posts on their networks, somewhat like a peer-rating system. So when I see a blogger I hold in high esteem promote someone else’s post, I will be more likely to check it out than if it shows up on my timeline from the author of the blog itself. Trust me on this, we are an elitist lot, but when we do something for our friends, we do it without any motives.

- How Do You Scratch Yours?


I have often heard (and I myself have sometimes cribbed) that bloggers leave comments on each others blog with an I scratch yours you scratch mine mindset. But here is a question, how exactly does one scratch that illusive spot on one’s own back? The answer is simple, but comes with some conditions. It is unlikely that you will scratch the back of someone (whose back) you do not like. It is also unlikely that you will like your back being scratched by someone (whose back) you do not like. In my mind, and it is a world made up of independent adults after all, that sounds fair. The post on The Art and Science of Commenting on Blog Posts is among the most shared posts from this blog. The most shared is, of course, the Janis Joplin one. You can use the little search box on the right sidebar to find it if you haven't already read it.

- Freecycling


I sometimes come up with posts that are not entirely in tune with what I do at this blog. But they are nice pieces of writing. I have found that giving them away not only helps me keep what I have but strengthens my resolve to carry on doing what I must. If you are not interested in selling them to article directories, you can set up a post swap or do a guest post. This small act of apparent generosity can enrich you as a writer and blogger beyond your belief. One of the best pieces on The Etiquette of Guest Posting showed up recently on Rachna’s blog, Rachna Says.

These are some things that seem to work for blogs like this one and many others. Try them out. It is possible that there are some other best practices that I am not aware of, or might have missed mentioning. Please complete me by mentioning them in the comments. I hope this post will help you take your blog to the next level and bring your work to the notice of the world. God bless.



Thank You!

Subhorup Dasgupta

29 comments:

  1. I will have to read through this post again. Thanks for sharing your insights. Among so many other things I need to do, I probably have to start posting more often to get better traffic. I cannot imagine seeing such figures for my blog. So, I really mean it when I say, congrats!

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    1. Shankari, in the short time that you have been blogging, you have already made your mark and won many hearts, many of them bloggers like me. Your writing is refined, refreshing and engaging, so it is a matter of time before you grow your readership to where you cannot imagine today. Do remember to let me know once you see such figures for your blog. It will happen.

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    2. That is very kind, Thank You! I have so much to learn. I think I will pick your brain with a list of questions. Remember, Subho vs Google?

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    3. Will be looking out for your list. :)

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  2. A nice post to read before I begin work. It really has loads to offer for every blogger. Btw, that Buddha quote you shared the other day was just perfect. I was actually looking for that Buddha saying when you posted it. Now back to the post:
    1. I agree that content is the king or queen. It must be original and varied and definitely true to the blogger's persona. Love and hate are two sides of the same coin. As long as the love outweighs the hate, it ought to be okay, I guess.
    2. Handy tip. Something that we also follow fastidiously with professional writing.
    3. & 4. Tough cookie and gets on the nerves with an overload. Definitely a balance is needed here. What you've shared about social bookmarking sites is totally true as my experience also tells me. I also feel that social media is about engagement much more than promotion. I agree about sharing links, guest posts and genuine interaction without interaction.

    One very valid point was about getting someone to review your blog. I remember that review of your blog by TF and it helped me improve the look of my blog. But, how does one ask someone for a review? Will they take it wrongly? The post on two tools was very informative too like metatags.

    One point, I'd like to add is for any blogger to try and understand a bit more about widgets, security, nuisance like word verification, pros and cons of comment moderation, spamming, even importance of things like blog backup. I know that we are not techies, but it is a good idea to play around with your blog's settings. Click your way around to see what it offers. Helping change the look of your blog once in a while is nice too. Font size should be clear.

    Another thing which comes to my mind is blog domain. It lends more credibility to you have custom domain, in my opinion. What do you think? Besides choose your blog name with care. I didn't do it, but I hope others do because you are recognized by it.

    Looks like I am rambling, so I will stop now :). Comprehensive post!

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    1. Thanks for the info about blog review, and thanks for the linkback as well.

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    2. The link of your blog's review that you gave above is not working.

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    3. Thanks, Rachna. People who straddle the world of professional writing and personal blogging in the opinion/commentary category know best the challenges of keeping a personal blog in good health without compromising on quality or intent. Asking for a public review of a blog can be done by responding to the announcements by people like TF. There are a host of services that evaluate your blog for free and give you a report. I like the one from Hubspot. You can see an assessment of this blog from this report. Website Grader Report for Subho's Jejune Diet

      Having your own domain helps a lot, and choosing a name is a critical aspect of it. It allows you to bypass many of the restrictions that free domains come with.

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    4. I messed up. Fixed now. Thanks.

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  3. A well researched and well thought commentary that would help to give some relevant information to serious bloggers like me.

    Thank you !

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    1. Thank you, Rajan. Glad you found it useful.

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  4. I have always wondered about the you-scratch-my-back-i'll-scratch-yours phenomenon. But then over the years, I realised that you are here to build a community, read people and appreciate their styles. Unless you are a celebrity, you cannot expect people to just read you.
    I have tried Digg and Delicious and I can vouch that they do not work.
    I have also understood that building up a readership requires patience.
    Anyways, great post and good relevant pointers.

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    1. Thanks, Amit, for your very relevant observations. Digg, Delicious, Stumbleupon work only if you work them, and then too, the percentage of quality traffic they generate is low. They also push up your bounce rate. However, working them judiciously, and building a reputation among the community can lead to others endorsing you and bookmarking your pages. This leads to increased traffic. Think of them and attend to them like you would Facebook or Twitter and you may be surprised at the traffic they yield.

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  5. I was just thinking about this today...about how to get more readers to read my blog...I agree with Shankari..I cannot imagine seeing such figures for my blog either (not yet, I tell myself). I am reading the $100startup by Chris Guillebeau and he speaks so much about value and how it is important to have your passion meet what others care about in order to create value...I am learning and learning so slow...perhaps it has to do with so many of my limitations about being "out there"...nevertheless I am on the path and thanks so much for this timely post. Will keep coming back to read it over the week.

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    1. Thanks, Aarathi. You have hit the nail on the head, having your passion meet what others care about. That is when loving compassion steps beyond mindfulness. Please do remember to come back and leave a word when your blog reaches the traffic goals you have set for yourself. Hope you will find something in this post on your next reading that you can use on your blog. That will make all the effort that went into writing this post worth worth it.

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  6. Anonymous10:07 PM

    Very enlightening essay. It's very helpful, especially for a newbie like me.
    Also, it is very humble of you to ask your readers for more points that you might have missed.
    I take the liberty to share a post - its nothing much, just an important lesson that I've learnt in my short yearlong journey as a blogger.
    Here it is :
    http://subhabratadasgupta.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/find-your-type-of-crowd/

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    1. Thanks, Subho. I enjoy your blog a lot, and I think you are doing a great job. Thanks for sharing your link. I encourage all readers of SJD to check out this "newbie's" lovely and genuine blog.

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  7. Mmm! What an article to read when my already poor readership is nosediving thanks to a broken right arm and consequent quiescence on my blog. 2 months later I shall need to re-visit this piece to re-vitalize my blog :)

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  8. "I found that people like to read reviews of films".
    Yes, I have found the same thing. More recently, I have found that day in and day out, my film review of OMG: Oh My God is always the most popular post, even 1.5 months after I wrote it, even two months after it came out, and even though it is no longer being shown in the cinema halls. I googled blogs of "film review of omg oh my god" and out of 1.29 crore results, my review was number 5!!
    Perhaps I was "looking at a gift horse in the mouth" but I did some cursory research and found that people were googling the phrase "Be free from fear be fearless and have faith in the divine" which I used in my review, with serendipitous results.

    "Bloggers are still your best friends"
    Yes, that is true as well. At the beginning of October, I wrote a long post stating that my blog improved (I think and hope) after going through the forum at IndiBlogger.in. Also, Expat-Blog.com gives me a lot of ideas for other posts.

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  9. Thanks for the detailed steps. The networking sites sure are a very good and easy way to promote your blog. Will have to follow the other steps you mentioned.

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  10. You have covered a lot of points in a detailed, patient and meticulous manner, Subhorup. I guess we already know about some of these points, but someone needed to put it all down and explain it the way you did. Ever considered being a school teacher? ;)

    Good post, man!

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  11. Thanks for this comprehensive blog, Subho. The links are good, but, the more I dig..they get more and more complicated. So, for me honest reading n commenting, interacting with fellow bloggers is the only tool to increase blog's traffic.But, yes, interacting through comments are helpful only if they are written well and seem naturally formed.
    But, honestly I can't think of getting that kind of viewership.But, wait till I do some research and get that magical figure !! Thanks...
    Kudos to you...

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  12. My God!More than a 1000 pageviews in a day?Fantastic.This post is full of valuable tips,but i am too lazy to stir myself.

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  13. Nice insight..i usually avoid SEO advice though its useful and all...but the very first lines of your posts were catchy,had a good flow in writing that can help understand a layman about the usefulness of the stuff u have written about.

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  14. Thank you for this post. Very useful post. And we need a lot of reminding. :) I took your advice the last time and started putting up custom permalinks. :) Thank you. Now I guess its time to look into some SEO.

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  15. oooh i DARE not ask for my blog review.. I will get bricks and bats hurled at me :)

    Those are some good points sir, I believe in one thing If you write form your heart people will come, I use to be in this race to have people come and comment but I have sort of decreased that .. to me hits on page and number of comments are a Number now.. I would love if people read the whole article and not the first few lines and the last few lines ..


    I have made some lovely blogger friends but in the recent few weeks my experience has sort of been bad so , I have slowly started to reduce. All not what it seems to be out there ..

    But a 1000 hits in a day oh my oh my , Now your are my GURU from today onwards :) I have at the most got 600-700 odd hits on a few posts thats about it ..

    Bikram's

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  16. For a newbie like me ...I really needed this post..thanks :)

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  17. Read the whole post. Very informative. Thanks a lot for sharing :-)

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