How to get more views on your blog

A little bit different from my usual posts this one. I usually stick to topics relating to reading or writing fiction, but a Twitter pal requested recently that I do a post offering what advice I can on how to build and grow the numbers of people who view your blog – so here it is.

Song of the Sea God visualIf you are passing by, please take a moment to check out my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

Ok, so I’ve been doing my blog for around 18 months now and I suppose I’ve learned a few things in that time which might be of use to those just starting out, or who want to grow their blog traffic. The advice I offer here is just what I’ve picked up over time through trial and error and through listening to other bloggers – it’s what has worked for me – so I hope you find it useful.

120px-Nuvola_apps_date_svgStay Regular

The first thing I’d suggest is that you adopt a regular pattern of posting on the same day each week. If you have the stamina to post twice a week, or even more often, then great – pick your days and update on each day like clockwork.

What this does is let people learn when you will be posting a new update so they can look out for it. I post on Saturday morning every week and consequently, Saturday is by far my biggest day on the blog for views – double or even triple my other days.

528px-Punishment_sisyphPersevere

If you are interested in building a following for your blog the other very basic tip I would give you is to keep on keeping on. For the first few months I did mine, maybe even the first six, my figures were fairly stable and fairly low – looked at on a monthly basis they were always pretty much the same – disappointing. And I admit I did start to wonder if there would ever be a breakthrough. Then suddenly, around month seven, a lot more people started taking a look at my blog – and this rise continued over the next couple of months. I found I had shot up to three times my viewing figures in a matter of weeks – and maintained this new much improved position.

I will be honest and say I don’t know how I did it. I didn’t change the nature of what I was writing. I don’t think there was one big magic wand I waved. But over time I adopted some of the strategies I outline in this post. I think the main lesson is just to persevere and keep at it. It takes time for people to find you and to cotton on to what you are doing.

flowersBe Inviting

When I first started I didn’t think it mattered what my blog looked like – I kept it all white and basic. I didn‘t think about pictures too much either. A blogging pal asked me why I didn’t make my offering more attractive like hers was? I took a look at hers and at mine, and she was right. I know mine’s not a rainbow of fruit flavours now but I have made an effort to make it at least easy on the eye.

Equally, be inviting in what you write – have an eye to entertaining a little as well as informing. I always think: I’m taking up five minutes of someone’s time which they’ve been kind enough to give to me – I should repay that by giving them something they can use or something to make them smile, preferably both.

TalkEncourage conversation

It’s great when people comment on your blog and I’ve found the posts which encourage people to do that most successfully are the ones which discuss issues and ideas. People will comment if there’s something to comment on – if you have raised issues they feel they have an opinion on. So a ‘think piece’ which raises questions your readers can answer for you, or starts a debate they can take part in, is a good idea.

Personal column

I’m just throwing this out there – and it is very much a ‘do as I say not as I do’ kind of tip. But I’ve noticed some of the most successful blogs are ones in which people discuss their lives very openly in all sorts of ways. People follow people I guess and if you are up for making your life an open book it’s one route to blogging success. It’s not for me though, I do try to put a little of myself into what I write on the blog but you won’t find any ‘dear diary’ entries on there. I always take the view that other people are a lot more interesting than me – and I prefer to write about them, in my fiction and in my blog.

Guest posts

I do like to have visitors on my blog – I find other writers fascinating and like to give them a platform to talk about themselves and their work. This also helps bring their readers to my blog – and perhaps once they’ve found me, they will even come back another time to look at some of my other posts.

News You Can Use

Some of my most successful blog posts in terms of numbers of visitors, are the ones which offer advice and information which people can use. I would predict that this post, for example, will be popular for that reason. Some of my post popular posts so far have included:

Tips on how to get followers on Twitter

Advice on how to find a publisher for your book

An interview with my publisher about what they are looking for in a book they take on.

These are posts which are not only popular in the week they appear, but keep getting regular hits over the weeks and months which follow.

Take requests

I think it pays to learn to give people what they want. If you have had a particularly successful post then look at doing something else in the same vein. Also, if friends on social media suggest a topic you might like to have a go at then do your best to accommodate them. As I said at the top, this particular post was in response to a request and I’m finding that happens more often as my blog has become better established.

Emil_Mayer_067Help them find you

Search Engine Optimisation is something of a specialist area and I’m certainly not claiming any particular expertise but I would offer a few tips.

Firstly – pop into the help and advice section of your blog platform and put in place the optimisation tips you are offered there. I followed the bits and pieces of advice offered by WordPress, it took me about half an hour and didn’t stretch my limited technical ability. Has it made a difference? Hard to tell, but it’s done now and I’m sure it can’t hurt.

While we’re on the subject – it’s also a good idea to include relevant tags when you put up a new post. Again, it’s something I never bothered with to start off with but always do now, it doesn’t take two minutes to add some tags and it can help search engines find you by topic and theme.

Social Media

This is a bigger deal for SEO I think. Google loves Facebook and it loves Twitter. If you have decent followings on these two social media mega-sites then link to your blog on there regularly (without being too spammy obviously).

I get more referrals from Twitter than anywhere else, followed by Facebook.

Not surprisingly Google also loves Google+, even though the rest of us make it feel about as welcome as a red-headed step-child. I’m not suggesting you use it like Facebook but just open an account and stick your blog links on there for the SEO benefit – job done.

And …

Stumble Upon

They have a link shortening tool called su.pr which is worth using in preference to tiny.url or similar because, as well as making your links short it also gives you access to the Stumble Upon community and gets you extra blog traffic that way. Worth doing!

* UPDATE SEPT 2013: su.pr now appears to have been closed down as a service by Stumble Upon as part of an update, which is a shame as it was useful. It is still worth adding your pages to Stumble Upon as this does encourage some extra traffic to your blog – you can still add pages etc, it’s only the link shortener which is no longer in service.

Final tip – Have Fun!

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

Fish.

When you are writing a blog it never hurts to chuck in a few jokes.

Any tips you would like to add – or corrections to mine? You know the comment drill!

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Gordon Strong – Author Profile

Gordon StrongTell me a little bit about yourself as a person?

I’m a country boy who grew up in a little village in the South West of England.  It was a rather special place, in a magical sense, because it was the setting for Dion Fortune’s novel ‘The Sea Priestess’.  She is also associated with Glastonbury, and I could see the Tor from the garden of my parent’s house.  Perhaps all that shaped my later interests and my published writing.  I also loved being near the sea, and wherever I am in the world I’m always content pottering about on some beach.

Music has always been part of my life and I practice every day on the guitar, it exercises a different part of the brain.  I’m fascinated by the world, the way it works and my part in it.  Every day is a delight in some way or another, and I create to celebrate that belief. I also find a lot of things funny, and I’m always laughing and writing about stuff that amuses me.   I travel to America a lot, and have many friends all over the world, but basically I’m a private person.  I don’t believe you can be a writer unless you are comfortable with your own company.

Tell me about your journey as a writer – how you started and how you have developed?

I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, and I was writing stories when I was around eight years old.  I did an English degree at Bristol and that was my first encounter with the big city.  I learned a lot about literature and life, and, as it was the Sixties, had a lot of fun too. We had some marvellous tutors and, although I embraced scholarship, I still had a long way to go before my writing was anywhere near fluid.  When I started to write articles for magazines I had a lot of help from old established journalists. I wrote a novel in 1978 which remains unpublished, and probably just as well!  What I learned from writing non-fiction I applied to fiction when I got around to writing novels again.  There’s the same amount of research, organising and collating of material required.  Although I always experiment with different approaches to how a scene is depicted, I still believe that the story must be there strongly in your narrative.  You have to give the reader something to identify with, and keep their interest.  I’m a visual person so that helps a lot with depicting the way things look.

How would you describe your work – its themes and the important things about it?

I’m fascinated by the notion of consciousness, how any individual experiences the world, and the way we interact with the visible and the invisible.  That acknowledging of two planes is the essence of magic, along with entering different planes by using the imagination.  Thoth is the god of magic and writing so I hold him in high regard.

I’m a champion of the feminine too, so Isis figures just as much.  Using the brain to create ‘reality’ is what the artist does, and there are a zillion ways to approach manifesting any idea.  The movie director Robert Rodriguez talks about being ‘a pipe’ – letting things flow in, and not allowing the ego to hinder that process.  When I write about metaphysics I’m bringing in quantum, neurology, cosmology and philosophy simply because they are part of the picture.  I’m a believer in balancing reason and the intuition so as to get the best out of both qualities.  In my fiction I’m upholding the traditional virtues of nobility and respect and above all, love.  I champion the individual against the corporate mindless monster, very much a theme of our times.  I’m not a cynic, but I’m not so much of a romantic either that I drift off into Fluffyland. I’m funny too, humour is part of awareness.

Tell me about your current book – what is it about and what makes it a great read?

Gstrong book1I have two books that have come out almost at the same moment, so I hope it’s okay to talk about them both!  A novel, ‘Doorway into Darkness’, and ‘The Qabalah – Beyond the Veil’ which is, in some ways, an occult primer.

The novel features a stone circle – a portal to other dimensions, a villain who wants to control the soul of England, and a modern quest for love and enlightenment.

The non-fiction book is my investigation into an ancient magical system, providing a guide to a complex and profound subject.

 

Where can I buy a copy of your book?

‘Doorway into Darkness’ is published by http://dioscuripress.com

‘The Qabalah – Beyond The Veil’   is published by http://kerubimpress.com

Both are available at http://www.amazon.com

My website http://www.gordonstrong

Daniel Staniforth – Author Profile

Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Skylight Press author Daniel Staniforth to my blog to tell us about his writing, his music and his latest book. Welcome Daniel!

Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?

DSHow to encapsulate oneself?  Well, British born and bred, now living, working and raising a family in the U.S., but always glancing back to old Albion.  I’m in the habit of referring to myself mostly as a musician and composer as that craft was the first thing to become a prominent part of my life – and indeed I’ve kept a diary of sorts through hundreds of musical recordings and assorted whispering projects.  I have some academic background in music but my official degreed expertise and training is in art of Literature, mainly avant-garde and 20th Century works.

Having said that, the various grades of college were only ever a touchstone and I love to dabble in various periods all the way back to the mediaeval.  The son of an evangelical preacher, I have a fascination with religious and theological themes, as well as the more shadowy side of spirituality found in occulted collectives and esoteric lore.  I latch on to various subjects and read up on them at length, with no particular methodology beyond simply trudging behind instinct.  I’m an odd blend of the ancient-futuristic, loving old forms and philosophies while wishing to chase up Pound’s invective to “make it new” and embrace fresh experimentalism.

Coming from a family of teachers I suppose it is not surprising that I should find myself a part-time college professor, albeit slogging thanklessly in the backwaters of academia for some time now.  I must say that teaching, even at the introductory university level, has become the most agreeable vocation after grinding away at various administrative jobs at different universities, although I did have an interesting stint at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics where I forged friendships with some super writers.

I am also a stringed instrument luthier, acquiring a fascination for the craft while working at an old violin shop for a few years.  After a spell with a major musical instrument wholesaler as the quality control specialist, about which I could relate some harrowing stories, I now restore instruments in the comfort of my own garage as a form of therapy as well as extra income.  I also try to keep the music flowing as the proprietor of Flowforth Productions, which has released numerous recordings under my name or that of various creative collectives like Luna Trick, Alchymical Muse, Rebsie Fairholm, Dreamhaus and Dream Nth.  From neoclassical to alt-rock to psyche-folk – I dabble in it all shamelessly.

In the last 3 years I have had the privilege of uniting with like minds to help develop an up and coming British press.  Along with my own books I have edited two lengthy poetry collections and worked with a number of wonderful authors. Of all my vocational endeavors to date it has been the most blessed.

Tell me about your journey as a writer – how you started and how you have developed?

I sort of have to “dream my genesis” a bit here, borrowing a line from Dylan Thomas.  I’m much surer of my beginnings as a musician, being all too briefly a bit of a cello prodigy.

A late bloomer academically, I was always comfortable in English classes, or any class where I could express myself through writing rather than some short-term memory selection process.  I suppose my beginnings, and indeed the mainstay of my writings, came as a songwriter, having written hundreds since I nicked my mum’s junior Yamaha and taught myself how to play at about age 12.  It’s natural then that my first initial literary interest should be the versification of the Romantic poets (more Keats and Blake than Wordsworth), by whose stylings I would scratch out my first attempts at poetry.  I could also mimic Elizabethan verse at will and became convinced that I was an old soul born in the wrong century, a notion that lingers amongst poets.  This early fascination was followed by a score of others across the genres and I remember considerable flings with Hesse, Woolf, Beckett, Bulgakov, Borges, Nabokov, Calvino, Dylan Thomas, Wilfred Owen, all the Symbolists then the Surrealists, Julian Barnes, Angela Carter… the list goes.  Other disciplines slipped in between… Ricouer, Nietzsche, Russell, Ingersoll, Pagels…oh stop showing off… to the point somewhere around 2005 where I burned out and couldn’t read anything for months.  I think it was at this point where I realized that I couldn’t keep taking and had to give… and began taking myself a bit more seriously as a writer beyond the odd poem and song.

It’s difficult for a writer to assess his own development.  I think I’ve learned to balance my love of automatic handwriting and ‘stream of consciousness’ type ecriture with that severe and crippling self-critical reaction that so often borders on immediate censorship.  While most of my poetry still comes from the immediacy of impulse and my old-fashioned faith in the muse, I have learned to write in more shapely and architectural ways.  Perhaps I learned this from the postmodernists or the ouli po set, where constraint, device and artistic burden can become an equal part of the creative process.  I had to learn this in order to write my series of short stories, Diddle, although they still allow for some surrealist indulgence too.  I’ve also come to love writing essays and various forms of non-fiction, perhaps boosted by my editorial work with other authors and my nerdy love of theoretical gamesmanship.  But in real honesty – I’m still somewhat of a novice and have no right to speak so emphatically about writing – but sod it – my most recent book is a blend of non-fiction, poetry, conspiracy, riddle, parody and pastiche.

How would you describe your work – its themes and the important things about it?

These questions don’t get any easier.  People often ask me what one of my songs or poems is about and I irritate them by replying, very honestly at that – “I don’t have a

bloody clue.”  Perhaps I have an inkling… can stab at some meaning behind a feeling or some collective codices of language, but the fact is a lot of this stuff is sort of dictated from some place just the other side of immediate coherence.

It’s hard to talk about this without sounding pretentious or up one’s own liturgical arse… but I think people like Breton, Artaud, and more recently Philip Lamantia or Will Alexander, instruct us in the electric and cathartic function of the subconscious and how the writer can tap into the immediate states of language, or like many esoteric writers that learn to channel voices from various planes. But there are some poems where you have to write towards a concrete notion and I have learned to write outside-in, which requires a very different sort of discipline.  My fiction, and to a lesser extent my cryptological book on Shakespeare, required some forethought and planning although I still allow myself to be roguish and tangential within the flimsily established template.  I would like to describe my method of working as not allowing myself to settle on a method of working.  When I sit down to record music or write I try to change up the approach and methodology as much as possible.  Whether such a description is true or not is anyone’s guess!

As for themes, there are some reoccurring throughout my work.  A lot of my work points to the mystical, the blasphemous, the primordial, the cosmological, often hinting at states rather than outlining them in detail.  I’m under no illusions and know that for many such represents an intellectual dead-end – but I’ll take my chances.  I’m awash with submarine themes as I’m often subjected to underwater dreams – as evidenced by my poetry collection, Weaver in the Sluices, the title of which is drawn from a poem about my ancestors who were Forths upon the English canals

and rivers.  I also find myself drawn to nature, not in a bona fide nature-poet sort of way, but more to the pagan underpinnings behind natural phenomenon and to the dark and ancient folk soul of the land. I do write about urban settings but more the world of shadow and possibility rather than implicit settings found in much contemporary fiction.  As a chronic daydreamer I admire the discipline of such writers

of actuality and plausibility, but I must be content to be pulled along my own peculiar tides.

Tell me about your current book – what is it about and what makes it a great read?

Groundlings400It’s called The Groundlings of Divine Will and it’s an odd little book.  I’m not sure what its target audience would be – or even how to talk about it with any conviction.  Loosely, it imagines Shakespeare’s first audience, the ‘groundlings of the pit,’ as a secret and enlightened society.  I juxtapose these early followers with other examples of messianic discipleship and play with notions of orthodoxy and heresy.

It gets into some dark historical places but allows for gleeful but sometimes uncomfortable parody.  It all stemmed from my annoyance with how Shakespeare is taught in contemporary academia, in that he is completely annexed from the historical period in which he wrote and hardly ever taught alongside fellow playwrights or the leading intellectual voices of his day.  I throw him back in with Montaigne, Hollinshed, Bacon, Dee, Spenser, Kidd, Marlowe et al in what was the theological bloodbath of Tudor and Stuart England. The whole book is addressed to the Master of Revels as an affront to authority and orthodoxy.  It is a very different book to my short-story collection, which was an absurd grouping of immigrant tales woven around the lines of a nursery line, or my book of selected poems.  I hope to follow it up with a theoretical work about experimental fiction that I have been honing for a number of years.  Also, there is hopefully more poetry and fiction in the works.

Where can I buy a copy of your book?

All my books are available from Amazon here(both US and UK sites) and various online vendors – or direct from www.skylightpress.co.uk

Author Page: http://www.flowforth.com/flowforth_literary.html

Music Site: http://www.flowforth.com/

The best laid plans …

How do you go about planning a novel? It’s a question an old friend and former colleague of mine asked me recently. He told me it’s been a vexed process for him has this planning stage, and I wonder if that’s perhaps because he’s become inclined to over-think the process. You should think about it of course, but not so much that it paralyses you.

John_Updike_with_Bushes_newUpdike, wise old sage of American letters, suggested that, when writing a novel, you should have a good idea of where you are going to end up. You owe that much to the reader he said. I like that, because it suggests simultaneously that you do have responsibilities when writing, but that you shouldn’t let them become so crippling that you don’t get anything done.

There are many ways to plan a novel though two get talked about most, I suppose we could call them ‘all’ or ‘nothing‘. There are the ‘Planners‘, who work it all out in advance and the ‘Pantsers’ who do it by the seat of their pants.

Both ways of working out what you’re going to put in your book seem a little alien to me as my truth is more organic – a mix of planning and intuition – an evolving process which gets you both where you want to go and where you surprisingly end up. As far as planning goes. I believe you can over-think it – I also believe you can not think about it enough.

I don’t believe you can plan a book until you know what it is – you need to feel your way into it, it seems to me. This involves writing parts of it, before knowing where you are going. A few scenes, a few ideas.

Sooner or later though you realise you are on a journey with no map, and it’s never a bad idea to know which direction you are heading in. So at that stage, it might be a good idea to do some cartography – when you have the general gist of the thing, the essence of it, in your mind.

800px-Watchers_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1804638What does it feel like to have that impression in your mind, or in the pages of your notebook? I once heard that two particular groups of nerd share a curious specialist word which means a lot to them. If you are a plane-spotter or a twitcher, (a bird-watcher), then you might use the word ‘giss,’ pronounced, unfortunately, ‘jiz’. This refers to the way you can glimpse a particular aeroplane or bird in flight out of the corner of your eye for a quarter of a second, and still have a clear idea of what it is. You have got its giss. Some people say the word giss is an acronym which stands for ‘General Impression, Size and Shape.’

That’s what I like to have in my mind before I start planning my novel – the giss.

Once you have it then plan away I say.

I like to do chapter by chapter, scene by scene. As Saint John of Updike said I like to know where I’m eventually going to end up, but that doesn’t mean I do the whole thing, soup to nuts, in one go. So I like to plan for a few chapters in front of me, while at the same time being clear about my final destination.

I like to call this my ‘Underpant Gnomes’ approach to novel planning.

The Underpant Gnomes, as I’m sure you know, appeared in an early edition of South Park. They stole all the kids’ underpants under cover of darkness and, when Cartman and the gang followed them to their underground lair, they found a big Underpant Gnomes manifesto written on the wall. It read:

Phase one – collect underpants

Phase two – ?

Phase three – profit

You really do have to work out the middle ‘?’ section at some point though – otherwise you just end up with a big, useless, pile of underpants.

Oncle_VaniaSome people do drawings and plans and stuff while planning their novel – and I am one of those people. If you saw these at the end, they might seem like some genius piece of pre-planning. In fact they often happen mid-way through, to focus things, clear things up, explain them, realign them.

ErnestHemingwayHere’s something else which might help – I know it helps me: Your whole first draft is planning. If it’s not good – you can make it good. Ernest Hemingway said ‘the first draft of anything is shit’ your job is to make it not shit.

And that, my friends, is my basic approach to novel planning. I start with the underpants, aim for the profit and fill in the route between the two several steps ahead of myself as I go. By the end of course I could show you a full plan for the whole thing and make it look like I did it in advance. But in fact, I did it before, during and after.

Song of the Sea God visualDon’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.