All the votes are in

All the votes are in for the first stage of the 2002 Bloggies, so I can only hope that the article, Psychology of Weblogs has been nominated, even if it doesn’t receive an award. There’s a lot of sense in it – particularly the emphasis on personality, story-telling and the the seeking out of creative and innovative linkage.

I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from a guy who wanted to know how to increase traffic to his weblog – god only knows why he chose to ask me, but there you go. I’m not entirely sure that my advice was quite what he was looking for, because I didn’t give him any revolutionary tips about secret search engine strategies or ways to control and influence the minds of young, hip and trendy scene-setters. In fact I can summarise what I said to him in just a few points:

  1. Search Engines:
    You can get traffic off search engines, but is it the kind of traffic that really interests you? The people who seek your site by running a search about “Sex with lubricated badgers” are going to be disappointed with your thoughts on identifying the gender of the black and white animals. And if you’re hoping to catch people who are just looking for a good weblog, remember that there are hundreds of thousands of other weblogs which are just as likely to appear in their search results. My opinion? Don’t bother.
  2. Site of the month/day/week etc
    Again – why bother. Most of the sites that give out awards do so to get traffic, not to give it to other people. And if they’re easy to win, they’re essentially useless, and will clutter up your site with badges and logos and buttons. If they’re not easy to get mentioned on – such as Blogger’s “Blogs of note”, then your chances of getting a link are almost ridiculously small – and frankly would be enhanced by paying attention to the only really important parts of the weblog process… Which are…
  3. Good quality design and content
    It may be dull, but it remains true – if you write good stuff and present it elegantly, then you’ll be well read in no time at all. Case in point – Trabaca is a site that I stumbled upon fairly recently. I’ve got quite entrenched in my weblog reads of late, and don’t tend to wander that much. But this site had an immediate visual impact for me – and it stuck in my head because of that. And then I discovered that it was a delight to read. So now it’s a regular destination for me. That’s the best model for encouraging regular visitors to your site – give them something worth coming to.

And even though I told myself I wouldn’t do this – here are a few ways in which you can up the quality of your design and content:

  1. What’s your site about?
    You don’t have to define yourself too closely, but if you can identify a spirit or a set of subjects that matter to you or that you have opinions about then you’re one step towards developing a weblog that people will be able to relate to.
  2. Branding
    It sounds really corporate, but just think about it for a minute – if you were building a site about hamsters, then you might do something kind of cutesy. If you were building a site about body-building, then you’d probably go for something really macho-looking. If it’s about the things you care about then it should have an appropriate look – one that is right for the discussion of the things you care about. Identify colours, images, themes and a name that works for you and is easily memorable. Make the name short!
  3. Opinions
    There are a thousand sites on the net which duplicate the popular links of the moment. Since the appearance of Blogdex, this has started to happen even more regularly. But this is not necessarily a problem unless those links are all you have to offer. What’s your opinion of the link? What’s your opinion on the story? These are the only things that people can’t get on any other site but yours. You may as well play to your strengths!
  4. Story-selection
    You went to the shop. That’s nice. You had a cookie. Great. You picked your arse. Excellent. Why are you writing this down? A hundred thousand things may happen to you in a day, or maybe nothing will have happened at all, but there will always be something worth talking about. And for everything worth talking about, there will be dozens of things that you did during the day that no one gives a damn about! Today I went to the loo, took two painkillers for my toothache and drank pink grapefruit juice. Do you give a damn? No.
  5. Good quality writing
    This one’s a bit tedious – check your grammar, check your spelling, feel comfortable going back and re-editing posts that don’t make immediate sense to your when you re-read them.

I’m not going to pretend that I do all these things all the time, or that I do them very well. Still – that’s my two-penneth. Hopefully you’ll find something useful in it.

Addenda: i) On ‘story-selection’ it has been pointed out to me that as a weblogger you shouldn’t want to always appeal to an audience. I say this doesn’t matter – whether or not you want to write about what you find interesting or what an audience might find interesting is up to you. But if neither of you find it interesting, then why publish it? ii) A further aside: Remember that this piece is about how to make a weblog get more traffic – not to make it worthwhile, socially valuable or “good”. How you do that is up to you…