Blog Promotion – A Hiatus and A Crossroads

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Blog Promotion – A Hiatus at the Crossroads

It’s been a weird couple of weeks, people.  In January, I managed to double my followers purely through networking.  I busted my butt for hours and hours every week, reading other people’s blogs, liking their posts and leaving comments.  In return, people gave my stuff a look and dropped comments, followed, or liked posts.  It was rewarding, but exhausting and unsustainable.

I need follows, views, likes, and comments to come to me unsolicited.  I’m standing at a crossroads, and I can’t really pick a path until I gain a better understanding of some things.

The Purpose of this Blog

If anyone has been able to identify a purpose for this blog, please notify me immediately.  I have NO IDEA what I’m trying to accomplish here.  My posts fall under two headings:  stories from college and random contemporary insights.  The first heading was initially my purpose.  These old stories are easy and fun for me to write (which got me into the habit of writing regularly), and are entertaining to read (I hope).  The second heading just kind of evolved.

I want people to read and enjoy my posts, and I’m trying to string them together in a way that tells a grand, coming-of-age story.  Beyond that, I want publishers to see my blog as a substantial platform that can be used to promote the books that will make me super rich.  Is that too much to ask?

I started doing research into ways to get more engagement from my time.  The two general methods of blog promotion that I’ve identified are Social Media and Search Engine Optimization.

Social Media

I know I should be using social media to promote my blog and that it’s a huge, obvious, step one approach that I’ve been ignoring.  The problem is, I don’t really want my family to see this blog.  It contains subject matter that would chafe their religious sensibilities and I don’t get to see them or talk to them often enough that I want to spend the few conversations that we have arguing about this stuff.  For these reasons, my family has ruined Facebook for me.

Twitter is still available to me, and I’m radically underutilizing it.  I just need a basic growth strategy that will bring followers from Twitter to the blog.

LinkedIn is a no-go for me.  I’m in the process of changing fields and I’m months into the job search.  I don’t want to broadcast my college drinking stories to the professional world.

Google+ and Pinterest are platforms that I’m totally unfamiliar with.  I get the gist of them, but I don’t really know how to make them work for me.

I’m working on brainstorming some work-arounds for some of these problems, but others seem pretty insurmountable.

Search Engine Optimization

This is where the gaping void where my blog’s purpose should be is really haunting me.  There’s a cornucopia of great advice and tutorials on how to make your blog easy for Search Engines to understand and categorize.  If you make their lives easier, they reward you by putting you at the top of the results on relevant searches.

The question is this:  How do I optimize a blog that isn’t about a specific subject, but is just a personal platform for whatever I want to talk about?

I know I could put in a lot of hard hours making myself the top result for people searching for my name, but I don’t see much value in that at this point.  I’m not a highly searched guy.  Additionally, I don’t want this blog to be the first thing that potential employers find when they’re making sure I’m not a criminal.

What would you say that this blog is about?  I’ve gotta narrow it down to some keywords that are broad enough that people search them, but specific enough that I can dominate.  Off the top of my head, “College” and “Humor” come to mind.  Combine those two, and you get an enormously popular website that I certainly won’t knock out of the #1 spot in Google search results.

Conclusion

I’m pushing SEO to the back of my mind for a while.  I will be focusing on a light social media promotion strategy that makes sure that this blog doesn’t get passed around to my family on Facebook.  I will also be looking into other outreach possibilities, including listing this blog in any directories or blog networks that I come across, and reaching out to other bloggers for plugs and guest blogging opportunities.

In the meantime, I’m going to scale back the volume of posts for a week or two until I sort out what direction to take my daily promotion habits in.  No sense in publishing all of my best stuff before I figure out how to find some folks to read it!

To Veteran Bloggers

Any help, advice, validation, encouragement, or informative reading material on the subject would be truly appreciated.

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44 thoughts on “Blog Promotion – A Hiatus and A Crossroads

  1. Write what you want, when you want. This is just my opinion, but it seems that bloggers who blog for the numbers don’t have much to say. There are plenty of examples of this type of blog… They should all be titled, “My family is sick and tired of listening to me, so now I’m talking to you.” I’ve also noticed, bloggers with high numbers, post something about every 15 minutes. I don’t think a good writer is like a slot machine. I am NOT a writer. This is just my opinion. I am an avid reader, however. Forget about the numbers, just keep writing great articles, as you have been.
    I’m glad Harper Lee was not blogging by the numbers.

    • Thanks for the perspective Tom. Those people that post every 15-minutes about tedious minutia are the reason why I can’t continue along the promotion path I’ve been on. There are a lot of posts out there to sift through in search of meaningful interaction with great writers (like yourself, sir!).

      Your advice, along with advice that I’m getting from other bloggers, is very similar to what my girlfriend told me. Her take is that I should just keep doing what I’m doing, just keep being me. If I want more readers, then I need to try and put the writing out in front of people rather than trying to alter what I am doing (and truly enjoying) in order to get some extra numbers. These are total strangers, after all!

      As I said in the post, January was an enormous month of growth for my blog. I think I got carried away with watching those numbers tick up, getting those emails about new followers from WordPress.

      • Your girlfriend is wise! You can write and this automatically separates you from most bloggers. The only thing, of any real value, that I can pass along to you is this; active bloggers and subscribers come and go fairly quickly, abandoned blogs are everywhere. I have mourned the loss of many of my favorite blogs.
        You can write… So write. Forget the stats… You may have only one reader and that one reader might just be an editor from Simon and Schuster.
        Best wishes, Brantley. You have real talent. I’ll be reading.

  2. I agree with the comment from Buffalotompeabody. You knew when you started this blog that it could get back to your family. Yet, you still did it. You could have used a pen name. A lot of people do. And you can carry it over to the social media. Or you could do the adult thing and do as you please and tell your family that they don’t have to read what you write. The ball is actually in your court, Brantley. And about your blog. I have another blog that is whatever I want to talk about. It has less followers than the excessive gardener. Focus not on content but intent. With the focus on the intent, the content will follow. You intended the blog to be about you? about college? Focus them into “think” pieces and your philosophy of life. That’s how you started. How about that zombie story you were writing. If you like science fiction you could go for that. There are so many different ways you could go. Just go with what is comfortable and satisfying to you. Don’t worry about the numbers. They will come. Best of luck. Lucy

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Lucy. It’s always been an interesting dynamic with my family. I’m an adult and I’m living my life the way that I want to, despite what my family would/would not approve of. For the longest time, little nagging disapprovals were things that I pretended to shrug off. I’ve matured enough now to admit that they bother me. I posted a picture of myself having a beer on Facebook (I’m twenty-freaking-five) and got a negative comment from a family member. I played it cool in front of other people, but it really got under my skin. There are so many things that I’m proud of about myself, but I manage to really beat myself up about the things that my family don’t like about me.

      The original intent of the blog was for it to be a sort of memoir told piece by piece with interlocking characters and profound growing moments. Every time I watch the sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, I see my game plan being executed to it’s fullest extent.

      You’re absolutely right that I knew as soon as I published this blog that it could get back around to my family. And yet I did it anyway. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into these stories, and that’s something that they should be proud of. If they aren’t, well then they just don’t know good writing! haha

      For a guy writing a blog about how he grew up and became an adult, it’s pretty obvious that I still have a long way to go!

  3. You have an interesting problem. How to become famous without your family finding out.

    What you might consider doing is creating an alter ego and setting up all your social media that way and you can also write your future best-sellers under your alter ego’s name. (Once you write that bestseller, you’ll l have to explain to your family why you are so rich, but cross that bridge when you get to it.)

    I think you might want to consider a broader umbrella for you blog that can grow with you as you grow. College humor might be what you’re into now, but will you still want to be writing it five years from now and think of how many followers you’ll have by then!

    Anyway, the main thing to remember Brantley is that nothing happens overnight. You have to have patience. Ray Bradbury wrote every single day for nine years before he hit it big with Fahrenheit 451.

    I always think of that when I get discouraged with my writing. And yes, I hear you on all the things you pointed out in your post. Reading and commenting is a lot of hard work. And it is tough to sustain especially when you aren’t in the mood for it. It’s kind of like a marathon that never ends. But if you really love to write that won’t matter to you because you’ll be doing what you love. You get to create something new everyday, Brantley, and receive instant feedback for it! And we are the first group of writers in the history of mankind to have that luxury available to us! And for free!!

    Put all the time you spend agonizing over your stats into your writing and just have fun. Check them once a month! I’ve found the paradox of blogging is that the less you care about your stats the higher they go.

    • Thanks for the kind words Linda. It’s a goofy, immature dynamic I’m working with my family here. The more I dodge them with my writing, the more I realize that I have a ridiculous fantasy of acceptance in my head. I find myself believing that if my writing is popular and well-accepted by enough people, then my family’s disapproval won’t actually matter to me. I know for a fact that this isn’t true, but over and over again, I find myself daydreaming as if it is.

      I think my obsession with numbers comes from my background in the entertainment industry. When record labels or distributors are considering investing in a band, they look at the number of impressions they can garner (social network metrics, previous album sales, email list contacts, music video views, number of live shows played/year and audience size). The game has changed for the big guys. They want to see that you are capable of marketing your own products so that they don’t have to do it all themselves.

      I’m probably getting way, way, way, way, way ahead of myself with this line of thinking when instead I should be taking your advice and just writing as best I can as often as I can.

      I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback on some of my blog posts and each kind word is really soul sustaining. I think I’m addicted to it, hence the obsession with getting more eyeballs on the blog!

      • Well you are a really good writer Brantley! It is so hard not to get caught up in the numbers! They are right in front of us every day and we are working so hard, all the time that it’s kind of like a reward. But in the end it will drive you crazy!! (I’ve been there, done that!) And maybe you really should consider a pen name. That way you won’t have to have the worry of their disapproval always in the back of your mind.

  4. Hi Brantley,

    Im new to blogging myself (you’re actually my first comment!). What struck me is how you talked about so many of the same things that have been running through my mind about blogging. Its always a plus if you can write about things that people can relate to, or want to do. Im also in super-sleuth mode so my family doesnt find out about my blogging.

    It may not be ground-breaking, epiphany-inducing advice, but just keep at it. Ive read alot of your post so far, and you are very good.

    If you write it, they will read.

    • Thanks, Poppy! Though it’s slow-going, you can really get some love for your blog by visiting other people’s blogs and networking. It’s not a bad technique, just time consuming and if you get obsessive about the numbers it can be maddeningly tedious.

      You keep at it yourself! Blogging is very rewarding and you get some incredible feedback from some amazing people (see the commenters above!).

  5. Renard Moreau

    [ Soft Laughter ] Blogging can be hard work; it is not only about writing articles; you also have to visit the blogs of others, read what they wrote and leave them genuine comments.

    I also believe that you are doing rather well.

    I would like to point out to you that you must blog because you LOVE to do it and acquiring followers shouldn’t be your sole aim. Don’t worry, my friend. Those who resonate with your blog’s message will no doubt follow.

  6. To reiterate what others have said, a pen name is a great way to keep some anonymity (even for purposes besides keeping some distance between your blog and your family).

    Keep writing what you like to write. Humor/insight about maturing into adulthood is a topic that plenty of us can relate to. And that’s what I would say this blog is all about. : )

    • Thanks for the advice. I’m getting a lot of suggestions that I should go with a pen name. I’m starting to really consider it!

      Beyond that, I’m realizing that I basically just got scared of how much hard work blogging can be and froze. I was obsessing over crossing some sort of finish line when really I’m just doing this for fun anyway! I can be a little too motivated sometimes and it almost always leads me to burning out.

  7. Youve really considered alot…I wish I could help you with your answers, but I dont feel advanced in this area yet. Though I do enjoy your writing…If that helps at all!:)

    • That helps tons! I’m developing a plan that involves focusing on the writing first and foremost. That way I can make sure that I continue to enjoy this so much as I try to get more eyeballs on my stuff!

  8. I don’t know if you need to have a specific theme for your blog. It may help though since you could be identified as the expert of whatever theme you’re going for, where search engines find you quicker. I’ve used my site as a creative playground for experimenting with art and words. However, this year I’ll be more targeted in sticking to one area. Haven’t succeeded thus far but by March, I should be there.

    • That’s the big debate I’ve been having with myself. In the end, I’ve decided to stick with what I love writing rather than trying to cater to Google Robots.

      I know it isn’t the most perfect strategy, but I’m not really looking to do what most profitable blogs are. I mainly wanted to develop somewhat of an audience so that when I pitch novels/myself to agents and publishers I would be able to show them the number of impressions I can generate in support of whatever we are pushing. It’s a broad mission that isn’t super helpful in optimizing this site for search engines, especially since I’ve got some PG-13 stories on here that I don’t want future employers with Google to pull up. It’s why I’ve avoided using my last name on here as much as possible.

      On the other hand, there’s a popular children’s book illustrator whose last name is my first name and last name with a hyphen between it. I have Google alerts on myself just to monitor my web presence and this Vanessa lady totally dominates my name.

  9. I’d be glad to offer what I’ve learned about finding a focus for a blog but I dunno either. It takes some faith to suppose there’s an audience that wants to read what you have to write, and that if you’re visible long enough they’ll find you.

    I’ve never had luck getting a commenting community going on my blogs, though, so I have no idea there.

  10. Ah, congratulations! You’ve hit a milestone, my friend! I’m not sure where you are on the blogging calendar, but I hit the “I love blogging, but man this is a lot of work” conundrum right around year one.
    You are your own person, with his unique thoughts and ideas and feelings, so rather than advice, I’ll say this. There is nothing like connecting with another human you might never have known through the written word. I joyfully call two women (one in WA, the other in TX) soul sisters, both of whom I met here in the blogosphere. I am so terrifically grateful for having met them, as they are the loveliest of people and I am better people because I know them. However . . . the amount of time and effort it required of me to “interact” with people left me dull and unsatisfied. And when I did receive a comment, it really did feel as though people were only returning the favor, not because they genuinely wanted to participate in my life and vice-versa.
    The healthiest decision happened when I decided I would no longer blog or comment because “it’s been a while” or “there’s some empty, uncomfortable space inside me and maybe comments will fill it up”. Nope. For me, that hole is God-shaped, and people, as much as I love them, just don’t fit. Things got less complicated and icky after that.
    I hope, and I believe you will, find your balance.

    Blessings!

    • Thanks for the advice! Those rare, real blogging connections are so addictive that it’s easy to go overboard in search of them. I’ve scaled back my blog-reading because it had definitely gotten exhausting. Now I’m looking at other ways to get eye balls on my writing. The comments I’ve received on this post have helped me keep in perspective what’s important: writing quality posts and having fun! Those will be the cornerstone to all of my blogging endeavors moving forward.

  11. It seems to me you do have a theme – life, and how to live it w/ a sense of humor. my blog is similar – it focuses on parenting (b/c that is my life now) but it really just focuses on things that make me laugh about life – and hopefully others agree. 🙂 I love this blog!

    • Yes! I came around to a theme of “Growing Up.” It’s just tough to make it something specific enough for search engine optimization, but I’m kicking that can way down the road to focus on enjoying this blogging experience.

      Thanks for the kind words and I look forward to checking out some of your posts!

  12. underwaterraven

    I agree with the people who have previously commented – I think your posts are not only very well-written, but also very funny! I don’t know how long you’ve been blogging for, but I’m sure that in time the quality of your posts will get you tonnes of followers 🙂 If you ever want to do a guest post for my blog you’re welcome to anytime, although I don’t know whether having 2,000 followers is “a lot” on this site, or whether it’s enough to garner you the support and followers you deserve. Even so, I think a guest post would go down well, but it’s totally up to you 🙂
    You just keep doing your thang (I can’t believe I just said that) and you’ll reap the rewards!

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement. A guest blog post would be incredible and a huge honor! I will give it some thought and see what I can come up with. If you have any topics or prompts or suggestions, please let me know.

  13. Brantley, I can’t tell you the purpose of your blog, but I can share why I write mine. I have been diagnosed with a terminal disease. I started my blog to vent about the disease and to share it’s impact on me. It gave me a place I could write about whatever I needed to write about. 20 of my 1st 25 posts all dealth with COPD in one way or another. But I found joy in writing, and I started sharing life stories, (kinda like your college day stories), and my blog took on an additional purpose. I wanted to share with my granddaughter things about me, my family, her mother, that most likely we will never have an opportunity to talk about. I have been working my blog for a little less than 2 years, I have 250 folks that follow, and over 10,000 comments. I would suggest you write about what you need to, and about what you love. Write for you pleasure not mine. In time you will find purpose and direction. Take care, Bill

    • Thank you so much for the guidance, Bill. Your story is truly touching. I’m
      learning to appreciate blogging as a platform with which I can share my stories with the world. After stressing out over making it into something bigger than it needs to be, I’ve finally come to understand that the whole thing has to be about enjoyment. The numbers don’t really matter if you aren’t having fun.

      Thanks for visiting. I will definitely be checking out your blog!

  14. I am new to blogging and you also were my first commenter. Not to mention your comment had substance and was relevant.

    Having similar issues as yourself. This post hit home and the comments have some great advice. If I think of anything of value to you on this issue, you’ll be the first to know.

    I am not personally worried about numbers. My initial goal is getting feedback to know if my points are getting through as intended, not creating misconceptions, gaining additional perspectives, adding to my knowledge, improving my writing skills, speed, etc. Writing outside a technical environment is not something I have much experience in.

    I was thinking of writing a similar post, but thanks to this one, I focus on other areas. I am thinking of reblogging this one along with some of my own personal thoughts on this. Not right away as I want to put more thought behind this.

    • Thanks for your insight. Reading other blogs and leaving comments is the best way to gain followers, but it can get very tiresome if you overdo it (like I did). If you arent sweating numbers, you should to have a problem avoiding this mistake.

      I’m working on a series of novels and I know that publishers want to see that you have some sort of platform from which you can market your work to interested fans that you have relationships with. That’s my long term goal with this blog. At the time of this post, I was getting too carried away with trying to accomplish that all at once.

      • Of course for the potentially small number of readers who will provide the feedback I want, I probably need to grow my exposure so they can find me.

        One aspect of my writing I am working on is attempting to write smaller more focused posts with one or a small number of points. Feel this is necessary to communicate effectively to a wider audience. May also be an effective way to expand the readership as from what I see, short appears to be more likely to go viral than long these days. Of course you still need to find the one person in the right place to kick start the viral spread.

        Been difficult to adapt as the shortest stuff I usually wrote in the technical world was about ten pages. Note: I still plan to have a mix of these shorter format, longer and maybe even multipage posts.

        Something to consider anyway.

  15. No idea how to optimize a blog. I wouldn’t want to put ads on my blog or use Twitter or share any of my posts with fb friends or family, as you say. You don’t want to have to start censoring yourself because Aunt Jen may see it and be offended. I thought I would use blogging as a platform as well, but now I just use it to vent and don’t care about getting rich or publishing a book at this point. But your gravatar looks very enthusiastic, and you are young enough to have energy and apparently a lot of hair, so pursue your dreams. And as far as I know, there aren’t any WordPress Police who shut you down if you don’t have a coherent theme.

    • Thanks! Sometimes I think that my hair might be a selling point, but then it keeps growing and becomes curly and ridiculous and I feel self-conscious and shave it all off.

      I’m not as worried about the stuff mentioned in this post as I used to be. I still want tons of eyeballs and all of that good stuff eventually. For now, I’ve just taken the advice that so many great bloggers have given me: I’m just having fun with it and not worrying about any of that other crap.

      • My hair is like yours except it was red when I was younger. In those times, both red and curly were not well received. It eventually faded to blond and I finally grew it out and went with pony tail. Did not like pony tail ringlets at first, but does not bother me any more. Some of the front hair does not grow enough to stay in pony tail and falls to one side of face. Finally, an easy to maintain, consistent style I actual like. Not that I focus much on this, but I was a little self concious in the younger years.

      • I don’t mind the curls so much, it’s just the in between phases that look ridiculous. At certain times, it feels as if all of my hair is growing directly out of the side of my head and I look like Bozo the clown.

        Do you have to contend with humidity? On a typical Florida day, my hair abandons the structure of its curls to stand up and be counted as a group of individuals.

      • In Manitoba I get the humid summer clown thing going on and the dry air winter ball of friz at those hair stages.

        Time for me to get off this tangent away from the blog post theme. Was my first chance to share my bad hair issue with someone.

  16. Re: purpose of blog.

    We blog for ourselves. If others enjoy, comment, complain, whatever, it is fine, but we blog because something in us needs to blog. I do it primarily for record keeping so I can go back and check things, but I’m also enjoying the ride. When I don’t, I won’t blog.

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