Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Writer's Blog Progress: 286 Days (Part 2)

Part 2: Blogging is still hard.

I say this for two reasons. One, the title of my fourth post ever, "Blogging Is Hard," turned out to be a popular search phrase (thanks, World, for this implicit sympathy), so the more I say it the better.

Two, it remains true. The blog is a signficant time investment, and though I didn't have specific measures in mind, I thought I'd be attracting more readership, outside of my own circle, by now. True to the popular conception, starting a blog is very easy, but I feel confident now in estimation: Promoting your blog requires just as much time as writing for it does.

First, there's learning about, and then installing, all the add-ins that don't come standard (the e-newsletter, google analytics, feedburner, etc.) which help make your blog more accessible, and track and improve your blog's progress. These points I addressed in "Blogging Is Hard."

Second, there was the effort to promote this to my friends, family and other associates, which included, among other things, a time-consuming (but admittedly fun) romp through Facebook. I'm utterly grateful to my friends who have supported me in this effort by taken an interest, but even getting your friends to check you out is not automatic. They all have busy lives and I try to make my invitations to read and subscribe as concise yet enticing as possible, the instructions as clear as possible, etc. What I wanted to avoid was having my friends come to check out the blog once or twice, then forget about it (just like I might).

Even with those two time-sinks ironed out (for the most part), my promotional efforts are just beginning. My PageRank for instance, which debuted at "2" in September, has since dropped to a 1. I'm not sure why my Google PageRank dropped; probably the early 2 was a fluke, or maybe some really influential website or blog (I can't imagine who) linked to me temporarily. At any rate, a low page rank is what I should expect right now. After all, not many blogs are linking to me from their homepage yet. I'm starting to spend more time tracking other fiction writers' blogs, commenting on their posts, and will begin making explicit requests for home page links (which I'll of course return in kind).

Using Technorati --- a popular blog search engine --- and specifically, using their Authority score, I can begin to sculpt some linking goals. One writer's blog that I follow, for instance, which has a Google PageRank (GPR) of "3" has a Technorati Authority (TA) of "13," which means that 13 other blogs link to it. Another writer's blog I follow, with a GPR of "4" has a TA of "69" (so 69 blogs link to her). I have a GPR of "1" and a TA of "2" which means 2 blogs links to me.

Note: Bear in mind, only Technorati-listed blogs count towards your TA. Ink and Beans only recently got listed in Technorati. I'm not sure what merits Tecnorati listing your blog except that, as with Google, you need to be around and posting for a little while.

Both blogs I mentioned above are solo efforts maintained by fellow novelists, so there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to attain a GPR of "3" and eventually, a "4." Just gotta earn those links. The more people link to me --> the better my GPR and TA --> the better my SEO --> the higher my blog will appear in search results when someone searches a phrase like "starting a novel." Just like with a newspaper, I'm trying to appear "above the fold." As you can see I've got my work cut out for me.

Follow all that? 'Cause I barely did.

Time spent actually writing on my blog is about what I anticipated, but I struggle with allocating that time in the recommended fashion, i.e. short and frequent posts. I've written 60 posts with an average length of roughly 500 words. Since some of my posts end up being long I try to vary with a short one now and then, but it's tough.

My average post length does seem to fall within the recommended norm (a relief for a windy boy like myself). The rare post that exceeds a 1000 words I break up into pieces, as I have with this one. Still, keeping posts short and pithy while at the same time banging them out quickly and regularly is a real challenge.

Perhaps concise and frequent posting is easier on political, or news-oriented, or technical blogs, when posts often serve as an afterthought to a full length article. But writing about writing is as abstract a topic as I can think of. Unless I'm talking about a matter as trivial as pen color preference, it takes at least 300 words for me to begin developing a though. Plus, I'm not afforded the luxury of regular developments in the field to spur the dialogue --- the only recent catalyst I can think of was the death of David Foster Wallace, and since I know little about him I had little to say.

Even this post, long as it is and rich with outgoing links, has taken me about five hours to complete. As I said, I've broken it up into three posts, so that should take care of blog writing commitments this coming week.

But that's still five hours I'm not spending on my novel. Add to that the promotional time I'll spend reading and commenting on other blogs, and I start to feel like I'm neglecting my primary responsibility, which is my manuscript.

Experientially, the blog has been plenty-worth the investment. I enjoy the break from my main project, I enjoy writing for my friends, I enjoy making a few new friends, and I enjoy getting the immediate feedback. As far as the blog's worth as a cross-promotional tool with the book, which has always been my main intention, only more time will tell for sure, but I confess that I've grown more skeptical. Even so, I'll see it through, so stick around!

Part [1] [2]


Amanda said...

I'm intrigued to now why you thought a blog was a good promotional vehicle for you. The careers that I've heard of being launched on the internet have been via the social networking sites rather than a personal blog. I think of them being more accessible somehow, but never having been on one I may be entirely wrong! To me, a blog is personal space whereas a social network site is a shared space. Am I wrong? You certainly put a whole lot more effort into your blog than I put in to mine! LOL!!

Anonymous said...

Well.. i felt some compassion (ok... pity) for you, and decided to sign up for you email. You can count me as someone who's not a friend, but still seems to find you slightly interesting. (please read with a slight sarcastic humourous tone. but friendly.)(btw, found you through bookninja)


Lindsay-with-an-A said...

This was interesting to me--I've often heard that blogs are a good way to reach out to the internet-surfing public, but there are just SO MANY out there that it's difficult to get any screen time with most people.

I enjoyed your outlining of what steps to take to get that initial screen time, however.

Merc said...

Yep, it's hard. Right now I've not bothered taking much time in the way of promotion. I probably should eventually but it's too much effort now. :P Maybe when I can actually post regularly and have something to say, I will try. ;)

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