Blogology is the study of these strange creatures called blogs. Blogs inhabit what has come to be known as the blogosphere. They have vastly different species, societies, and habits... Am I a qualified blogologist? You be the judge of that.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Target Audience, Spot Promotion

My most successful blog is purely topical. It is easy to stay on topic with serial fiction. I mean, what else is there to put in it? Occasionally there is an author's note type thing when I want specific feedback from my readers, but basically it is a daily installment of the ongoing story. It doesn't actually fare well in the blogosphere, but to the target audience it becomes a regular part of their day. There are frequently 'cliffhangers' that have readers checking back the next day, and e-mailing me to get posting if I take too long about it. But how did I find those readers? More importantly, how did they find Arvil Bren's Journal?

First thing to note is that things sometimes take time. I got Arvil Bren's first regular readers in the usual way; I bred them. My sons fit the profile of an Arvil Bren reader perfectly, and reading daily at work became part of their routine. They provided the first valuable feedback that helped clean up formatting and ease of use issues before they cost me readers. So my first recommendation about promotion is don't. Don't do it until you have developed the project into a sustainable and marketable form. I've done a lot of promotional things that netted me five readers. If I had done those things before I had a quality product I would have gotten five visitors, which would not have been worth the effort. But since those five readers have returned to the site dozens of times each, and done things to help with other promoting that has returned even more readers the effort put into getting them has been well spent.

Once the product is ready marketing becomes a two part process. Finding the target audience, and appealing to them. Something to be very careful about is that there are processes for finding them that will make it very hard to appeal to them. In a word, spam. I don't mean the technical spam that is in your junk e-mail folder when you log on, I mean the spirit of spam. Put my name in front of everyone and the ones that like it will answer. Garbage. Put your name in front of everyone and many of them will be offended by the process, period. So start slow. Practice the craft.

To find your target audience is simple. Search. Do a search that would find your blog and see what else it turns up. If your blog is a collection of current investigations into ghost sightings, do a search for ghost sightings. This is the internet. You'll get 303,000 results if you do a Yahoo search. I know because I just did. That's how easy it is. The first one is, and in the brief description it says "links to other ghostly sites". Hmmmm. That would be great for the fledgling blog. First instinct is to click and go there to get linked. STOP! That site came up number one for a reason, and there is very good reason to want that link. So let's not spend our one opportunity to appeal to them without practicing first.

Practice makes perfect, and the key element in practicing is feedback. So add one more word to the search. FORUM. The internet is full of forums; places where people meet and discuss all manner of things. Okay, not far down the list is 'The Ghostzone Forums', which is a spiffy little forum with 141 members. Like most forums there is an access to some key stats. The most recent ten posts I see are all within the last week or so, and are by a total of three different people. At a guess of those 141 members maybe ten of them will ever log in here again. You are saying "why bother", and I'm saying "perfect". I would join this forum. To register on most forums you give some information and get an activation by e-mail almost that. You'll want to come back here. As soon as you are active post a 'hi I'm new here' topic in an appropriate place and mark it to e-mail you when there are replies. You will get some. The administrator of the board will definitely welcome you warmly and quickly.

Talk to these people! They are clearly in your target audience, and within two or three posts the reason you are there will be acceptably obvious. You are looking for readers, and they are good candidates. And they will be happy to tell you why they will or won't be regular readers. If they tell you you are a rude spammer invading their space graciously apologize and refine your approach. If they tell you they didn't like your site, ask what they think needs to be done to improve it. If they tell you they will you have readers. No matter what it's a win. It isn't hard to get attention on a little board like this, so you will get results very quickly, and if it doesn't go well you haven't lost a lot of potential. If it does go well you can start a topic on this board in fairly short order that will be basically a discussion of your blog. Stop in once or twice a month to give them your two cents worth (and keep the topic current) and that topic will be a live source of readers forever especially if the board administrator becomes a regular reader. And they probably will.

Okay, that was steps one and two. Craft your content first, then find a small forum board or two to hone your marketing skills on. We'll move on from there shortly. That number one listed result on the search is beckoning!

Promised Material

Well, I haven't exactly been keeping my promises here. I said there would be valuable content about writing and promoting a blog, and mostly there has been chatter about what doesn't work about Blogrolling. I'm actually doing a test about that and will let everyone know if my opinion changes. The other thing I promised was weekly updates, ands I've been sorely lacking on that as well. I apologize, and what you can count on is that I will post weekly beginning now, with the content promised.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bad News, Good News

The bad news is that I blew up a computer. The computer that has protected my main computer from the internet is dead. It is an ex-computer. It is a paperweight. So the continuing bad news is that that means my main computer is now connected to the internet and susceptible to all the nastiness that that presents. I'm not terribly happy about that part.

The good news is that my main computer is so much superior to the old net beast that it is really a joy to use. Adding to that is my new browser. I thought about downloading Firefox a number of times, but complacency is just so hard to get around. Confronted by having to update Internet Explorer with about a zillion updates when I hooked the power box back to the net I figured there was downloading to be done either way, now is my chance. WOW! Even the darkest cloud has a silver lining, in this case discovery of a great piece of free software.

The interface is crisp and quick, gives a larger viewing window (I guess the boys at Microsoft are pretty proud of those toolbars, but come on), and there are apparently multitudes of features that I am still discovering. One that has already gotten me hooked is being able to control whether a link takes me from this site to that site or opens the new site in a new window, but I expect there will be many more as I scout about.

Of course the biggest thing that got my attention is the scarcity benefit, which this post isn't meant to help with. The scarcity benefit is this: since so few people have it, there isn't much incentive for hackers to start finding ways to exploit it. The hackers are spending their efforts finding yet another new way to access your machine through your Internet Explorer. I'm not helping my own cause here, but I figure even if all my readers from all my blogs use that button over there and get Firefox it still isn't gonna put big Bill and the boys off the hacker radar. So grab on!

To find out more about Firefox from a bloggers perspective click here.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Confusion about diffussion

The more I prowl the more surprised I am at how little considered this fact is: a mass of links is worthless.

Webrings, Blogrolls, the whole spectrum. What is the point? Incoming links for boosting pagerank? A link on an unranked page adds almost nothing to begin with. Distribute that almost nothing over their ten, or hundred, or thousand outgoing links and it's worth really close to nothing. But it isn't all about pagerank. It's all about readers. If I had a list of a hundered links over there in the sidebar, and I added yours to it would you want it at the bottom, the top, or in the middle? Do you think it would make any difference? Readers see 'the list'. Will they recognize the list changed? Have they tried everything on the list already, so a new thing has to be checked to keep up? I think not. The new link has just as much chance as any other of being picked at random by the very occassional person who exits that way. A slim chance that the very occassional reader will follow your link. Oh boy!

I think I'm beating a dead horse here, but I really want someone to tell me...what is the point?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Secret Power of Comments

But not too secret I hope. Comments are the lifeblood of many bloggers, myself included. I know it is hard to write, so when someone leaves a comment it means a lot to me. My blogs are all set up to forward comments automatically to my e-mail, which sorts them into a comment folder. I read the new ones every day. On days when i don't feel like writing I go to that folder and look back on them. Knowing that people make the effort to write something back, even occassionally, has never failed to get me writing.

So on a 'mission' for my Blogshares game today I came across this blog. I think there is an elegance in the poetry there. If this blog gets healthy it will head up the 'poetry' section of my soon to be created link list. You may be saying 'what? gets healthy? what does that mean?'. This blog is a beautiful creature in failing health. The writer hasn't posted in a month, after being fairly regular for a long time. No comments. No evidence of readers. Not much to keep the spirit from flagging. I hope the writer will start visiting here and ask questions about how to market her blog to readers, and we can have her poetry displayed on a robust, healthy blog.

Go there. Comment on what you like.

Monday, May 16, 2005

To pick a topic

Like many bloggers I have started blogs that floundered and died. They were creatures of the blogosphere that were doomed to short pointless lives, and got quickly recycled into the vast servers of the internet. No readers mourned their loss. They didn't live long enough to have any. I didn't mourn their loss, but I did wonder if I was cut out to be a blogger. I now successfully shepherd five specimens of domesticus bloggius, so I guess I am cut out to be a blogger. What changed?

What changed is my discovery of the topical blog. Notice I said discovery, not invention. My blogs have specific purposes, and they don't cross. Arvil Bren's Journal has never been marketed to other bloggers. It has over a hundred readers every day, most of which think that 'blogger' is a strange word made up by whatever domain managers carry AB's Journal. Those readers don't write blogs. They don't read blogs. They don't know what they are. AB's Journal is a story, period. Serial fiction that they read over lunch, or breakfast, or when their boss isn't looking, usually two or three entries at a time. If I miss a day they e-mail me to ask what happened.

But I want to talk about ...well, stuff. That is probably screaming through the mind of the typical blogger right about now. It certainly screamed through mine. When it screamed into my head that I wanted to talk about...stuff...I didn't challenge Arvil Bren's faithful followers to plod through what I had to say...I started another blog. One of the beauties of the blogosphere is that there are a multitude of providers who let anyone start a blog of any kind at any time.

As an example of the 'almost' topical blog, click here to visit Tildemark Blogs. This is a good blog that a blogger would like. Bloggers generally (being bloggers) enjoy reading blogs. The eclectic mix gives us that sense of adventure. Not knowing what today's entry is going to be about is part of that. A regular visitor to Tildemark gets that charge, because it might be a film review, but it could be a really useful bit of info about web services...or most anything else. Bloggers operate in that world of wonder at the unknown, but how do you recommend the site to your non-blogger friends? "Oh, you liked that review in the Times? You should check out Tildemark. They do reviews there. Well, most days." Then your friend checks it out and the top item has nothing to do with film. That just doesn't really work. In my opinion Tildemark would be well served to have a film review blog, where readers (not bloggers) could count on film reviews, and a second blog for the eclectic spouting that is blogging.

When I wanted to have a base of operations for my Blogshares game I started another blog...this one. So the examples you find linked to here are not chosen at random. They aren't chosen because they are bad, or good, they are chosen to illustrate my points; chosen from blogs that will also give me an advantage in the game. I will be building a link list here. Well, actually over there. ---> It will be in sections. For example, I can foresee having a film review section. Many blogs have a link list that amounts to here's a whole bunch of blogs any one of which could be about anything today. To bloggers that's a little random sample shot in the dark, but what does it offer to readers?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hot topic in the Blogosphere

I had my say about links from other blogs. I want to give equal time to other opinions and positions so I'll be putting a few links here.

Blogroll or not? from Mindspill

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Herdbeasts Of The Blog Savannas

One of the ever-present questions for most blog writers is the question of traffic. What they are really interested in is knowing that the words they are crafting are being mulled over by some readers. Maybe not mulled over, but at least looked at, more preferably by a lot of readers. In the practical world of the internet there are advertisers who will pay to have their name, product, or service put in front of those readers if there are a lot of them. So how to get readers is a vital issue, and like most vital issues it has generated a lot of false answers.

One of the great misunderstandings of blogging and the internet revolves around this truth: to be read, you must be found. In the wide world of the internet this has generated a value system based on incoming links. Since it takes a link to get from wherever the reader is to the site you want them at this seems to make sense. The most powerful reflection of this value system is the Google Pagerank. But does it really work that way in the Blogosphere?

I started playing a game called Blogshares. One of the useful bits of information I got from playing is a listing of all the incoming links my blogs have among other blogs in the game. There were incoming links that I had never seen on my traffic monitors. I looked at the sites these links came from and could see why. A list of links down the sidebar headed 'Other Blogs' is not going to generate traffic going anywhere. I appreciate the effort, and it's great for my blog's value in the Blogshares game. It even has some small effect on my pagerank with Google and the other search engines. It isn't going to generate traffic, much less readers.

Blogshares is just one of many social structures among blogs that comes from this valuing of incoming links. There are 'marriages', characterized by 'you link me and I'll link you' relationships. Far more commonly there are 'clans', groups of blogs where they all have links to each other. Then there are the widely promiscuous blogrollers, whose link value is minimal. Not only do they generate no traffic, but their impact on pagerank is diluted to near zero by their large numbers of outgoing links. Great for a quick laugh though; nothing like seeing 'blogs I read' at the head of a list of a hundred or so links.

So my answer is; no, incoming links do not really reflect the blogs ability to draw readers. Particularly if the incoming links are predominantly from other blogs. So what's a blogger to do? First thing is to not give up on the existing social structures, even if they do not do the great good we all wish they did. Even if their worth is vastly overestimated, they do have worth. As any creature grazing the plains of the biosphere can attest, there is strength in numbers. The same holds true in the blogosphere.