Something I wrote has gone 'semi-viral,' and I wouldn't have predicted it in a million years. But the statistics are inescapable, and there's a lesson to be learned here.
Last month was the best month ever for this blog, as defined by the number of page views - about 3700. And much of this growth is due to the unexpected popularity of a single entry. Here's the overview - a graph of Page Views per month:
The steady upward trend is great news. Most of us maintain blogs in order to attract and please a target audience. And the statistics can help us evaluate whether we're succeeding. The number of visitors to my blog has been steadily increasing since I set it up and wrote my first blog post back in February 2011, so it seems that my efforts are at least modestly successful.
But what are the visitors coming to see? Are they doing what I hope they will do, which is to be entertained and informed while at the same time gently being exposed to the books I've written and am hoping to promote? The answer seems to be 'Yes' - but with a significant twist. Here is a list of the most popular individual entries.
And therein lies the big surprise. The hands-down most visited post on this blog every day is not a current one, and it's not one that I ever targeted for attention. It's a nearly three-year-old entry - just the third one of more than 500 that I have now written.
That 'semi-viral' post simply presents a straightforward tutorial on how to write a specific form of poetry, giving a few classic examples then a bunch of examples that I wrote myself. Here's a link to that post, and the title I chose for it:
Does that sound like a winner? Sounds pretty 'nerdy' to me. The good news is that this entry is directly related to the underlying current mission of my blog - to help market my novel 'Ice King' and in particular the first installment, titled 'Out of Crystal Ice', which is soon to be released by All Things That Matter Press (ATTMP). The content of this entry refers to the book and gives specific examples that are part of the book (I use a short poem in this form as an 'epigraph' to every chapter).
By contrast, my deliberately constructed direct marketing blog entry - the one to which I have a link on the sidebar of my blog's home page, is only the 7th most visited entry (the one titled 'Ice King Free Preview'). Still, the poetry post also accomplishes the intended mission.
One might conclude that the lesson here is 'Throw a bunch of *bleep* at the wall and see what sticks'. But I don't think that will work if all you do on your blog is throw out *bleep* all the time. The other popular posts in the list suggest that diversity of content and genuine human interest are vital.
My other writing project is to write a book about my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2012. And many of my blog (and Facebook) followers were attracted to my on-line presence in order to follow that hike. On the list above, the second most popular entry ('Pinnacle and Pulpit') as well as the 5th, 8th and 9th are all focused on Appalachian Trail topics, and the most popular of these also have compelling human interest stories.
'Pinnacle and Pulpit' is about my encounter and extended conversations with a Transgender married couple--a significant rarity--a marriage between a man and a woman both of whom have chosen to change their sex through operations and hormone therapy.
'R.I.P.' and 'Connections' are posts that cover the heart-wrenching story about my meeting with and interactions with a hiker who lost his life in a drowning accident when he was within 100 miles of completing his Appalachian Trail thru-hike.
'Hiking Oregon Inlet Bridge' is also a hiking post, but not about the Appalachian Trail. It's about North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which I'm currently hiking; and I owe its popularity to the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Facebook Page, where they have been sharing links to my blog with their 5000+ followers. This is an example of networking for mutual interest. My hike benefits them through My Charity Donation Page. And they gain exposure with a wider audience.
The entry entitled 'Paradox, Of Huxley's Islet' is pure personal philosophy, though I manage to get in a mention of 'Ice King' there. It's a post that I shared with my ATTMP family of authors (nearly 100 strong)--perhaps I have them to thank for its popularity - Networking is always a good thing :-)
And similarly, the last post on the list features Stella G. Maddox, one of my fellow ATTMP authors, who has quite a significant following on Twitter. She writes clever and hilarious tweets about her parenting experiences that have been repeatedly recognized as 'favorites' by Huffington Post and other high-exposure web sites.
Okay ... so the stats seem to tell me that this blog is more-or-less on the right track. It's not exactly "trending" in the cyber universe, but perhaps it's the 'tortoise' playing the role of 'slow and steady' in contrast to the frenetic internet 'hares' that come and go in a flash. Of the more than 850 million currently active web sites, this little blog ranks up there among the top 19 million according to VampireStat.com:
Wow! My URL is worth about the price of a decent pizza! And earning 15 cents a day I can provide one meal to one starving third-world kid every other day. For those kids, that ain't chicken-feed.