I blog about a niche topic within a niche topic. Classic movie blogs are niche enough but I specialize in silent movies.
Want to know my favorite kind of comment?
“I have never seen/wasn’t interested in seeing/only have seen a few silent movies but I want to see this one.”
It makes me so happy to read this. But how do you get people to take that first look at your site? I am going to share some of the tricks that have worked for me. Some of them have already been covered in my post on increasing your blog’s traffic but I am going to revisit them with broadening blog audiences in mind.
How widely do you want to spread your blog?
That is the most important thing to consider is how far you are willing to spread your blog’s topics. If you blog about cooking, would it make sense to add sections on gardening, entertaining or travel? Only you know the answer to that.
Let’s cover some risks of stepping out of your niche:
You risk alienating your core fans: If your most devoted fans only want to read about cooking, suddenly adding a lot of semi-related posts will make them less likely to return.
You risk unfocusing your blog: If you add too many new topics or topics that are not closely related to your main theme, you risk losing focus on your blog. A new visitor must be able to immediately know what your blog is about. And if your blog is purposely eclectic, say so on the landing page.
Here are some rewards:
You might get readers who may never have visited your blog otherwise: Sure, you have loyal readers for your articles on French cheesemaking but adding reviews of supermarket cheeses will give you access to a much broader readership.
You might find yourself having fun: Writing a regular blog is a challenge, even for the most passionate. Thinking of ways to expand your topic can make your blog new to you once again.
Eclectic content and off-topic posts are fun to write and read. However, when you are expanding your content, never forget the original purpose of your blog. Venture out but don’t forget to come home again.
(Of course, there are cases of blogs changing their purpose entirely but that was a decision made by their creators, not the result of too many topics. And, again, some blogs are purposely eclectic.)
Adding new topics and features
What new topics and features? Again, it depends on your blog. In my case, I wanted to make silent movies more real and relevant to modern viewers who may not necessarily be film buffs. Figure out your target and then try to come up with ideas that will appeal to them.
You have a blog on classic English literature. You decide that you want more non-readers to take a look at your site. You decide to start reviewing modernized film versions of the classics.
You have a blog on fine cooking. You decide that you want to appeal to the busy mom/dad reader. You decide to start posting about quick and easy shortcuts that bring gourmet food to a busy household.
If you are regularly writing 1,000+ word posts, consider interspersing smaller, more digestible posts. Someone who is new to your blog may hesitate to commit to a 2,500 word review but will be more than happy to look at a 350 word feature. Plus, the challenge of having fewer words available is a great writing exercise.
Also consider varying your content. What do I mean? Well, if you are a passionate blogger, you are using the written word. Have you considered adding images to the mix? Movie stills, vintage illustrations, animated GIFs…
By the same token, if you are an image-centric blogger, maybe consider adding a small amount of written content to mix things up.
Videos are powerful and search engines love ’em. Just be sure that the video is either in the public domain or is otherwise authorized to be posted. Of course, your own videos would not have copyright issues, assuming you follow the rules of your video hosting service. (Here is the official word on Fair Use; the actual definition of it varies from site to site.)
Test drive your content
I’ve mentioned before that I belonged to a small writers group and that it helped my writing a lot. Here’s why.
The group consisted of four women, not including me. We were all from different backgrounds and were different ages. We all wrote on different topics. Only one of the ladies had ever seen a silent film. What did this mean? I got to test out my reviews on an audience who did not know Wallace Reid from Sessue Hayakawa. If my references were too vague or too obviously intended for insiders, they would tell me so.
You see, as a fan of your subject, you may take for granted that your audience will understand your references and jokes. Am I advocating talking down to your readers? Heavens, no! What I am saying is that it helps me a lot to try to imagine a newcomer reading one of my posts. Would it be clear and fun to read? It should be.
While I no longer belong to a writers group, I think I benefited from my membership. In addition to helping with the basic craft of writing, it also helped me to see my work with fresh eyes.
I was overwhelmed by the success of my previous post on blogging. The kind words from my readers were really a treat! So, like any good Hollywood producer would do, I have decided to opt for a sequel.
These are mistakes I have made myself and have seen others make. I use WordPress and will be heavily referring to their tutorial section but I think most of these ideas can work for any blogging platform. Here goes nothing!
Not using tags and categories
Uncategorized. What does that tell you about a post? Nothing. Thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, the hashtag (you know, #topic) has been helping people organize and comment on their content. That’s what the tags and categories in WordPress (or Labels on Google’s Blogger) do for you. Simply put, tags and categories make it easier for your readers to navigate your blog and read posts similar to the ones that they already enjoy. This is a key part of wordpress seo that needs to be managed and understood to ensure you are performing as you should.
Be default, WordPress will list your post as Uncategorized and tagless. We can’t have that! WordPress even has tutorials for adding tags and categories! There’s really no excuse not to use them.
What’s the difference between a Tag and a Category? Well, according to WordPress, a category is for the general topics of your blog, while a label is more specific. For example, if you run a craft blog and want to post an easy wool scarf pattern, you might use the Categories of Crafts and Knitting and use the Tags of Scarf, Easy, Wool and Knitting Pattern.
Don’t sweat too much about which is a tag and which is a category, just use a system that makes sense to you and that you think will make sense to everyone else. The main thing is that you not neglect your tags and categories.
Also, do not go crazy and overtag. This is a red flag to Google and it looks silly. If you’re worried about making such a serious error, then don’t worry, you’re not the only one.
Whether you are looking to use the services of an SEO Company in Tamworth or one closer to home, just know that they aren’t there for no reason. You can always ask professionals like these for some assistance, especially if you are new to the world of SEO.
You may find that this could help grow your blog more than you think. There’s a reason that a lot of small businesses and bloggers who don’t have SEO experience rely on companies like Raleigh Digital to optimize their sites for them. If your budget allows for it, this is a route you may want to consider.
Not paying attention to site analytics
Site analytics are a powerful tool. They tell you how many visitors came to your site, how many pages they viewed and which ones. If you want to know what gets counted and what doesn’t, WordPress has a handy guide. Almost every blogging service offers some sort of stats.
Here are some things that you can do with your site stats:
You can measure how engaged your readers are. How? Well, if your blog got 100 visitors but only 102 page views, that means the readers are only reading one or two pages before leaving. If your stats consistently show this, it may be time to consider livening up your content or providing interesting links that will encourage your readers to stick around.
Find out what features are a hit with your readers. A store owner would be a fool not to check what items are selling and what items are gathering dust on the shelves. Your site stats will tell you which post has received the most hits. Should you be a slave to your stats? Of course not, but why not to follow up a particularly successful post?
Discover who is referring people to your site. Sometimes, you will have a new fan outside of your blogging ecosystem and you won’t even know it until they link back to you. Follow up on referrer links and see if you can make new friends.
Pinpoint your blog’s slow days. Some bloggers report that they have low traffic on a particular day (often Saturday). I enjoy a healthy readership in time zones that are 8-9 hours ahead of me and this seems to prevent me from having a Saturday slowdown. However, it is worth checking out. After all, there’s no point in posting big news on a low traffic day.
But! (This is important) Don’t drive yourself crazy by constantly checking your traffic. Sometimes, you will just have a slow day because that’s how the world works.
Leaving on the default banner for your template
Okay, this may seem pretty minor but let me put it this way: If you buy a pretty picture frame, do you leave the generic images inside?
The banner is the first thing people see when they visit your blog. Even if your visitors don’t notice that it is generic, that banner is taking up prime real estate and not doing anything for you. Wouldn’t it be better to have a banner that communicates what your site is all about?
You can make a banner with Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, GIMP or even MS Paint! You know, the freebie that comes with Windows. What if you don’t have these programs and do not wish to learn? Just search for “banner maker online” and you will find numerous websites that can generate a custom banner for you. Or you can bribe your sister’s kid to make you one. Some brownies or a frappucino should do the trick.
WordPress has a handy tutorial for this too (the header, not the kid bribing.
Greetings! I have been active on WordPress for 6 months so I thought that now would be a good time to talk about traffic.
First, a little background. My site actually started in 2009 but I started the migration to WordPress in 2012. Life interfered and I did not return to the migration until January of 2013– spurred on by the imminent expiration of my contract with my former host. When I was self-hosted, my traffic was stagnant but I decided that when I launched on WordPress, I would do it in style! Aggressively court traffic, is what I mean. There was so much to learn when I started my blog in 2009, but not as much as there is to understand today. There are now many ways to generate traffic, you simply need to find what’s right for you. One option is voice search optimization. It might be worth your time to click here to learn how to generate traffic from voice search optimization. The more you learn, the easier it will be for you when it comes to starting your blog and any additional features you want to include. I was advised to look into a company like PPCnerd for Adwords, which you’ll find to be a really useful tool when it comes to gaining traffic and building your audience.
Here are the most effective methods for me. Keep in mind, though, that I blog about a fairly niche film topic (silent movies) and different methods work for different blogs. I do hope you find some of these techniques useful. Also, some of my techniques are WordPress-centric. What can I say? I am brand loyal.
Also, it goes without saying, but some of these tips just involve being a good, active citizen of the blogosphere.
Follow fellow bloggers and do not assume that you must only follow in your genre
Following other blogs is a powerful way to generate traffic for your own blog.
Start with browsing blogs that write on similar topics to yours. Use the Topic Search in your WordPress reader tab and start looking. For example, I started my search with topics like “movies” “films” and “classic movies” as well as the all-encompassing “entertainment” topic. Don’t just follow willy-nilly. Select the blogs that are interesting, informative and currently updated. After all, why would you want to follow a blog that is boring, dull or no longer maintained? Also, some blogs may be well-written but are just not something you are interested in. That’s fine. Don’t just follow blogs for what you can get as a blogger, follow them because you enjoy them as a reader.
Next, think about your other hobbies and interests, the ones you are not blogging about. For example, I also like to read about crafts and tea. Follow some blogs on those topics as well. Worst case scenario, you get to read more about subjects you already like. There is a good chance, though, that the folks you are reading may have interests that overlap with yours. They may not blog on the topic but they are happy to read about it.
Finally, when you read a particularly good post, check the bottom to see who “liked” it or left a comment. Visit the users’ blogs, if they have them, and see if they are someone you would like to follow. Active bloggers who visit other sites are often a blast to read and can become your loyal readers in turn.
To sum things up, what does following other blogs get you? Followers! If someone follows me, I almost always visit their blogs and I will often follow back.
I cannot emphasize enough, however, that I follow blogs first and foremost to enjoy their posts. The traffic boost is the icing on the cake.
When you are first starting out, it is essential that you network if you are serious about driving visitors to your site. If you don’t like to network, fine. Can you still grow? Sure. But it is a whole lot slower.
What should you join? I get a lot of traffic from blogger associations and blogathons.
A blogger association is a club for bloggers who write on the same topic. I currently belong to two movie blogging associations and have applied for a third. The type and number of blogging associations you can join depends on the topic you write about. Most associations maintain a site where member blogs are listed. This in itself will drive traffic to your site and it will also give a to-do list of blogs to visit and network with. Be a good citizen and promote member blogs that you particularly like.
A blogathon is an event that involves numerous bloggers writing posts on a chosen subject during a particular time frame. Blogathons have been very kind to me. They have won me loyal readers, introduced me to wonderful blogs. They also opened me up to writing on topics that I never would have dreamed of covering.
What makes a blogathon so powerful? Well, all of the participating blogs are driving their traffic toward one another. You may read Blog A’s post for the blogathon and then be led to Blogs B, C and D, great blogs you never even heard of before the event!
Most of all, though, blogathons are fun and they allow you to grow as a writer. That’s reward enough, even if you do not get a traffic boost.
Tweet as you have never tweeted before!
Twitter is a very powerful traffic driver. WordPress has a handy tutorial on linking your Twitter account to your blog.
Here are a few tips on using Twitter:
Follow interesting folks, but not too many at once. If you are following 2,000 people and only have 25 followers, you might want to consider cutting back a bit. There are lots of tools that let you monitor new followers, unfollows and non-followers. I use Just Unfollow but there are many, many choices.
Tweet old posts as well as new. Your newer followers may have missed your posts when you first tweeted them. Remember, though, that you can come off as spammy if you are not careful.
Periodically search for new people to follow. Also be sure to see if the blogs you already follow have Twitter accounts. You will also want to check and see if your Twitter followers have blogs.
Be sure that your Twitter profile clearly defines the topic of your blog and that it includes a link to your blog. A shocking number of people forget this important step.
Do not let your blog go inactive
How often should I post? Is a common query for beginners. A good rule of thumb is at least once a month. More often is better but you need to do what is realistic for you.
How does this drive traffic? Well, when I visit a blog, I often look for the latest post. If it is three months old, how urgent is it for me to return? In a few months or so. Maybe.
But what if I see that the blog is updated monthly, weekly, daily? I am much more likely to return frequently to see what is new.
If you enjoy a post, leave a comment complimenting the author. It’s a nice thing to do and is universally appreciated. It makes you a good citizen and it will help you make friends with fellow bloggers. A side benefit is getting your own blog’s information in the public eye.
How to compliment a blog post:
Be sincere. Don’t just comment to win followers. You don’t want to be like those spammers who leave hilariously generic comments.
Be specific. Say what you like about the post and why you like it. It will make your comment more interesting to read and will be useful to the blog’s author.
Consider your audience and how to expand it
Is your blog aimed at devotees of your subject? Consider adding posts that will attract a more general audience. Does this mean that you abandon your core followers? No, of course not. But everyone is new once. Adding posts that are aimed at newcomers will make your blog more attractive to dabblers and readers who are unfamiliar with your topic.
Another way to expand your audience is to consider posts that relate to your overall topic in a way that is of interest to a more general audience. For example, my animated GIFs and After the Silents posts are some of my most popular features.
A word of caution though. If you post on too many subjects, your blog may seem unfocused and disorganized. This is fine if your blog is meant to be eclectic but it can turn off your readers if you stray too far from your original purpose. A few off-topic posts are fine but week after week of them will drive away loyal readers. If you are finding a lot of success with your off-topic posts, consider rebranding your blog or launching a new blog that covers those subjects.
Exploit you pet peeves
No matter what topic you blog about, there are sure to be misconceptions about it. You know, that annoying question everyone asks every time you mention your hobby or passion.
For me, it was this:
Me: I like silent movies.
Them: Aren’t those the movies where women get tied to railroad tracks?
Me: … (hits them with bagel)
So I took my frustrations and wrote a blog post on the subject. It remains one of my most popular posts and pulls in a lot of search engine traffic. I like to think some of this traffic is from smartypants who are trying to win an argument by proving that lots of women were tied to railroad tracks in silent movies. Mwahahaha!
If a lot of people believe a myth, a misconception or a rumor then your post will likely draw in traffic and entertain your readers. Everyone likes a good debunking, the popularity of Snopes proves that.
Work on your craft
All of these tips are worthless if a blogger has poor writing skills. A poorly written blog may get traffic but it will not likely get repeat business. How do you improve? Read, read, read and then write, write, write.
Ideas to improve your blogging:
Join a real world writer’s group and get critiqued. This may seem odd for blogging but it is quite effective. Here are some tips on locating a good writer’s group (they are not all created equal).
Ask a fellow writer to exchange critiques one-on-one.
DON’T think that reading your post to your mom, boyfriend, best friend is the same as a critique. It’s not. Unless one of these people is a ruthless editor. In which case, go ahead.
I have had a few fellow bloggers ask some technical questions of me so I thought it would be fun to do a post all about my movie review method, such as it is.
Are the films that I review new to me or not? About 25% of the time they are. The rest of the time, they are films that I have seen before and filed away as to-be-reviewed. There are a few films that I have seen but do not plan to review for various reasons. However, generally speaking, if I watch it, I will eventually review it.
I always re-watch a film before I write a review. Memories are slippery things and there are always nuances and details that I had forgotten.
I am most likely to review American films of the silent feature period (1915-1929) but I like to step out of my comfort zone for variety. I try to balance my reviews between the famous and the lesser-known.
I usually take notes as I watch (or re-watch) the movie I am reviewing. Silent films take a lot of concentration, though, so most of my notes are 3-5 word reminders to bring out a particular element or to research a topic. For example, while I was reviewing The Bells, my notes were something like this:
Exact shot in Caligari
Research mesmerist role in play
Blood on snow, understated
And so forth.
If the film is based on a novel or play, I like to read the original source material, if it is available. One huge advantage is that most of the books that inspired silent films are in the public domain and are easy to access. Reading the original material gives me insight on what the scenario author was thinking and why they made the decisions that they did. I find that what they leave out is just as interesting as what they keep in. Plus, I have an excuse to read!
I also try to track down information on the making of the film. My best sources for this are autobiographies and interviews. I also look through my collection of scholarly works to see if film historians have insight on how the film was made. I try not to read other reviews of the film until after I have written mine because I don’t want to color my views.
I use WinDVD to capture sample images from films. I consider screen captures to be essential when reviewing silent movies. Silent cinema was such a visual medium and the pictures help the reader enjoy some of the beauties that these films have to offer. Naturally, these images are for the purpose of criticism and commentary.
I also use WinDVD to capture my GIFs and then I edit them in Photoshop. I try to find little moments that really capture the flavor of the film I am reviewing.
Read it out loud
This trick is often overlooked but incredibly valuable. I like to read whatever I write out loud. It helps me to get rid of awkward sentences and typos. It also helps me catch repeated words. Do I still make mistakes? Of course! But reading out loud helps me catch the major ones before I hit the “Publish” button.
Let it rest
I like to let my reviews rest for at least a week before I publish them. I am one of those people who does best with time to sort out thoughts and opinions. The extra rest time allows me to consider my review and to look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes what seemed like a clever quip was actually a little mean. Sometimes a theme from the film that was not obvious at first becomes clear. Whatever the reason, I think that my reviews benefit from the resting period.
I generally have one month of posts written ahead of time. However, if a sudden whim overtakes me, I revise my schedule to accommodate it.