- The Voice of the BuddhaYour 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.
- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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.