Monday, February 03, 2014

Homesteading on the Digital Frontier: My Humble Opinion on Google Analytics and Comments

Madame Blavatsky
Mega-magnet on the digital frontier
(No relation to Madam Mayo...
but one sends a salute on the astral plane)
Gearing up for the Associated Writing Programs conference panel "Homesteading on the Digital Frontier: Writers' Blogs," to be chaired by poet Zack Rogow, whose excellent blog is Advice for Writers. Since I first started blogging back in 2006, writers' interest in blogs seems to have taken a rollercoaster ride from WOW! to bleh, and around-again. 

(Time machine: Gone to the Litblogs circa 2008 and my talk, "Writers' Blogs: Best Practices" for the 2008 Maryland Writers Conference).

Anyway, one thing that has not escaped my notice is that all the writers who turned their noses up at blogging back in 2006-2009, once they have a book to flog, they blog. Yes, they all blog. 

But who reads our blogs? 

Zack asked me about Google Analytics-- something someone is sure to raise a hand about. My (slightly edited) response:

I think I looked at Google Analytics when it came out and that was the last time. If you were selling, say, on-line pizza, it would probably be a great tool. My personal opinion is that, for a literary writer / poet-- by my definition, that means one is not writing just for the market, and certainly not following it-- it's a dangerous time-sink.
If one wants to write for the numbers, may I suggest giving up literary pretensions and covering topics involving vampires / naughty whatnot / UFOs / movie stars / money $$$$$ / politics and preferably all mixed together in one super-steamy stew!!
So alas, I am not the one to say anything about Google Analytics. (Though I do mention astral wildlife / UFOs and politics in my latest book. But, um, in a literary sense.)
But I will say this: If one uses tags (or "labels") and searchable words in the titles and provides quality content, there will be readers. How do I know? Because people tell me when I see them, or in an email, or they mention something on their blog.
And also, on my dashboard it does show the numbers of views for each post, so I am aware, for example, that my post about Madame Blavatsky works like an industrial-strength magnet, while my mention of a friend's literary magazine excited a cyber snore.
I am not bereft of handy tips, however, and neither am I wholly blind to numbers.  
Tip #1: Providing a link from a blog post to one's own webpage, article, book, or, say, podcast, will help oonch that up in the search engines.
Translation: I might not get crowds following my every blog post, but the people who really want to know about, say, Dr. Krumm-Heller and Francisco I. Madero, may Google and find precisely that, chez moi.
Once in a while I'll google something of mine to see how far up in the list it appears-- another pointless time-sink I occasionally fall into. But only up to the ankles.
By the way, I long ago disabled comments because I was getting pestered by mattress companies in Pakistan or else people I don't know who seemed stuck in a bad day in Emotional Kindergarten. I added a link to my contact page so that the readers who feel moved to do so can send me an email. I sincerely welcome emails from readers; I make every effort to answer, unless it's from a troll. Haven't had any so far! And the Pakistan mattress people go away, too.
More about writers' blogs anon. 

[UPDATE: My talk for AWP: Writers Blogs (and My Blog): Eight Conclusions After 8 Years of Blogging]

P.S. Zack Rogow advises, Don't Avoid the Book Fair. People, the AWP book fair is the point.

Your COMMENTS are always welcome.