Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Be All That You Can Be - Digitially, That Is

Oh, no.  Not again.  I just spent hours and hours and hours that I can never recapture reading stuff I don't understand.  Why do I search the technology topics?  It's worse than looking at Cosmo before going shopping for a bathing suit.  I feel so hopelessly unfit, unfashionable and uninformed.

I love having a computer - specifically a laptop - that I can use to for fairly simple tasks.  I generally only have a few tabs open at any given time:  Facebook, AT&T (email), Accuweather, Ebay, Craigslist, and RealClearPolitics are my most frequently-visited sites.  I know that's boring but I'm just being honest.

When I need to know about something boring, particularly about computers or technology, I search the question or topic, and read until I find my answer.  Then I close the window and go about my business.  I'm rarely curious enough to go surfing around once I've found what I was looking for.  I squander enough time chatting on Facebook and dreaming on Ebay.  God help my children when I look up something about the Norman Conquest or anything else interesting to me on Wikipedia; I start link-hopping and lose track of time.  Last time I did that those poor girls didn't bathe for a week - I got very caught up in the bloodbath at Hastings and the Plantagenet succession.  So I have to keep my "surfing" to a minimum if I ever want to get anything done.

Turns out, this is the wrong way to be on the Web.  Especially if you want to build traffic to your own site, like my blog.  I should be interacting more at the sites where I find interesting stuff.  I am supposed to introduce myself everywhere I go, being sure to drop lots of hints about what I buy, where I live, my areas of expertise, etc., while I visit.

That's exactly the sort of indiscriminate information-sharing I've been trying to steer clear of and teach my children to avoid.  But it is the number one piece of advice for increasing readership.  One of the articles I read suggested registering at 10 new sites per day.  What?  By the time I do that, I've used all my allotted writing time.  Do I really have to flirt openly with 10 websites per day to get noticed?  Really, I'm just not that kind of girl.

But this is the advice I keep getting from Google searches like "get my blog read."  As poorly-crafted as that search term sounds, it netted about 2,760,000,000 results in 0.19 seconds and yielded some amazing articles with tremendous potential.  Problem is, they are over my head.   I enjoyed the initial pleasantries of "21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic,"  by Rand Fishkin (click here to leave my whining and read his article), but it quickly became a how-to for the cyber-savvy, which isn't me.  It's not that I can't understand the vocabulary, acronyms, charts, graphs or suggestions.  It's just that the thought of going to all those sites and registering and interacting with lots of strangers kind of scares me.

This article, and the other six I read before I was overcome with temporary pupil vibration and scrambled brain wave syndrome (the dreaded TEPVI/SCRABRAW syndrome - warn you loved ones!) desperately want me to become more connected to the Web via a multitude of helpful social networking sites.  To get maximum exposure, I need to be on Twitter, LinkIn, StumbleUpon, Pinterest and Reddit, in addition to Facebook, which already helps me waste an enormous amount of time daily.  How am I ever supposed to get the laundry done if I have to go 'round to all those places all the time?

And then there's the content.  Well, I write what I want to write, so there's no getting around the fact that my topics may not be from the top-tier buzzwords.  But all the experts say that, if the writing is good, all you have to do it drop in a few keywords so that the SEO (search engine optimization) machine can do all the work to get you found by millions of readers.  Um, sorry...does that mean I need to title all my blogs including the word "Kardashian?"  That could actually be fun, and I may give that a try one of these days.  I'll bet traffic would double if the title also included the word "affair."  How about this one:  "I Think My Husband is Having an Affair with a Kardashian."  I think I'll try it and see what happens.

So I have to join a bunch of online country clubs and special-interest groups, then I have to use subliminal tricks to embed my otherwise-innocent text with search-worthy terms.  I also have to let Google do some analytics and tell me all about you, my readers.  I have only twelve followers and only average around 20 visits per day (need to post more), but somehow Google can extract meaningful data from that traffic.  Google can tell me what other sites my readers visited, suggesting topics that may generate more interest.  Even with my tiny bit of traffic, Google says I should have advertisers.  Those must be some pretty desperate companies, if they want to advertise on the blog equivalent of "Current Trends in Telegraph Communications."

I'm also supposed to offer to guest-blog for some of my favorite bloggers. Unfortunately, the few I read are huge and mega-successful, like Confessions of a Pioneer Woman.   I expect that'll go over big.

Dear Pioneer Woman,

   I really love your blog.  You make me laugh and cry.  I love the pictures of Charlie.  Now that you have a bestselling cookbook and and a bestselling biography, you are probably tired of writing.  Plus you are just so busy being Pioneer Woman, it's probably a drag to have to stop and write about it all the time.  So on that odd day where you are hungover or there's a brush fire that your whole resourceful family spends hours and hours putting out, I'd be glad to step in and throw together a blurb so you can have the day off.  Just let me know.

Michele Arnett

Composing a letter is easy compared to some of the suggestions.  One tip is to add a link to my blog in my email signature.  I've been trying to figure out how to have an email signature since the first time I noticed how my husband's emails always end with the same long jumble of information, like his job title and three phone numbers, which I already know.  I'd like to have one of those cute signatures, because I write and answer a ton of emails (since I don't text and no one else I know talks on the phone).  I could add a nice signature and include my blog link, so that innocent, unsuspecting people would spend hours distractedly reading my wit and wisdom, thus increasing my traffic and making me more attractive to paying advertisers, like the Vienna Sausage people or perhaps a foot fungus treatment.

Naturally, every article suggests using design features that make your blog look professional.  I definitely need help in that department. (I wonder what the experts would say about the picture that used to be my header - me asleep on the chaise, with a book and 3 dogs on my lap - not very professional...)  My daughter keeps asking me to let her redesign my page, and I know I should let her work her magic.   I try adding gadgets (see the survey on the right sidebar) and changing around pictures, but it's really not my thing.  I'd rather be writing and let someone else be my style consultant, you know?

Below is Suggestion #20 from the article I mentioned.  See if this makes any sense to you:

 Many of you likely have profiles on services like YouTube, Slideshare, Yahoo!, DeviantArt and dozens of other social and Web 1.0 sites. You might be uploading content to Flickr, to Facebook, to Picasa or even something more esoteric like Prezi. Whatever you're producing on the web and wherever you're doing it, tie it back to your blog.
I thought most of these sites are for photos, videos and artwork.  Why would a writer have a profile on YouTube?  I thought that was for funny dog tricks and the secret cameras at WalMart.  Anyone who has seen my blog knows I am no photographer.  What on earth am I going to do for YouTube?  Produce a how-to video for making cushioned clothes hangers?  And what is a Web 1.0 site?  Clearly, I'm doomed to be trampled in the frantic race of ever-improving technology, just as surely as the pony express was trampled by the telegraph.  Woe is me.

So I think I'm going to hang up the idea of expansion/improvement/modernization.  I don't think I'm a multi-platform kind of blogger.  I don't think I'll be doing any guest-blogging gigs.  I don't think I'll subscribe to weekly updates of search terms and traffic vector/trajectory reports.  I think what I'll do is keep writing about what strikes me as interesting, without regard to Kardashians, Eli Manning or The Voice (popular search terms - can't hurt).  I'll keep working on my novel, which is going in crazy directions without my permission.  I'll remain a low-tech kind of entity, and allow the potential for advertising revenues and millions of followers to pass me by, because I'm too lazy and/or too scared to jump into the cybersphere with both of my virtual feet.

I'm just here, writing my schtick.  I won't waste any more time reading articles when I have no intention of following the advice.  Either people find me or they don't.  Right now I'm just like any other old. unremarkable hardbound book on the shelf, dusty with few signs of handling.  Hopefully one day I'll get moved to the nightstand.

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