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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Seven Ways You Can REALLY Help A Blog Succeed That Don't Cost You a Dime

It's been a long time since the days of paid membership sites (for anything but porn).  Even the most famous people's blogs or sites with multiple updates a day from professional writers rarely cost money like they did back in the 90's.   Blogs are ubiquitous, free entertainment that keep many readers enthralled for hours, and they often are labors of love to their creators, making no more than pennies a day.  Writing About Writing's total word count for last year would amount to a thousand pages.  I have probably spent a thousand hours (give or take) on it, and I recently got my first paycheck from Google for $107.00 along with a little less than $30 in donations.  You can do the math.  (Or, if you can't, that's about 13 cents an hour.)

Of course, any one of these bloggers would no doubt be thrilled to get a few dollars from a generous patron.  (My tip jar is just to the left if you're feeling philanthropic....at all....and my Patreon is to the right if you're feeling like a sustaining support is more your speed ~clears throat~.)  But we're coming out of a long, hard recession and not everyone wants to give money.  And not everyone who wants to give money has the money to give.  Even five or ten bucks can make the difference at the end of a pay period between squeaking by and not quite making it, and as much as I want W.A.W. to maybe someday resemble something kind of like a job (Narrator's voice from 2019: "It would"), I would never want someone to choose it over a sandwich and have to go hungry for lunch.  Plus, most blogs (certainly this one) are kind of two bit theater.  It's not like this is the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition in 3-D IMAX with surround sound caliber entertainment.  I'm lucky if I can get a post up without an absolutely embarrassing grammar mistake--to say nothing of the host of missing commas. I know some people might be well within their purview to think that sort of amateurism is not really worth their hard earned money.

However, if you like a blog, but are strapped for ciznash, there are lots of ways to support it and help it thrive that don't involve spending a penny.  And while I hope you might consider one or more of these for your pal Chris here at Writing About Writing, you can do this for any blog and help them, probably more than you know.  Google is getting smarter and smarter about filtering out keyword rich content in favor of things people actually react and respond to so the audience interaction to media you want to consume is more valuable than ever before.  In the end, a few simple button clicks might have a ripple effect that ultimately helps a blog more than even a small donation.

1- Become a member/follower/subscriber.  It really helps.  There are a lot of ways you can follow Writing About Writing, but picking one or two (even if you then proceed to mostly ignore the notifications) can be tremendously helpful for the profile of a content creator. A lot of external sources judge a blog's popularity by how many members it has. The number of members can affect everything from advertiser interest to google page ranking. Checking in every day and reading is absolutely awesome, but you could be more supportive just by becoming a member (even if you proceeded to turn off notifications and just kept checking in every day.

2- Share something if you like it.  No really.  No REALLY. NO.....REALLY.  Most blogs don't have some fantastically huge readership that will make its every post go viral. Their creators are walking a fine line between promoting themselves on social media and trying to keep all their friends from unfriending the ever loving shit out of their face if they don't knock it off. (I have three private messages in my Facebook inbox threatening me that if I don't turn down the volume on self-promotion, they'll unfriend me even though I am a font of witty and poignant insights, general hilarity, and spectacular cat memes).

Even if you have quite a bit of overlap in your friends-list with the artist or content creator you're sharing, you won't have exactly matching ones. You'll hit a few people that creator can't. (Even more true algorithmically.) 

The other is that a lot of people just ignore the bloggers self-promotion. Sometimes that's literally having them unfollowed or using an app like Social Media Manager that filters out certain posts, but even if people aren't using such blunt instruments, sometiems a creator's self promotion kind of....blends into the background. ("Oh there goes Chris again." *scroll wheel*) The simple act of resharing something can bring it back to someone's attention. (No seriously, I've been told more than once: "I totally just ignore your posts, but then I saw that Mary liked it, and I decided to give you a shot.")  Some of my most successful posts happened after I did everything I could to promote them, they died down, and then ONE person shared them on G+ or FB and they took right off again.

You may also have access to social media that the blogger does not.  For example, I have no karma on Reddit, nor am I interested enough in Reddit to get any, but one of my Skyrim articles was put on Reddit by someone who does have karma and it got me an extra five hundred hits.  (About three days worth of traffic at that time.)  They may have never even heard of Bing or Digg.  Being a bit of a cheer leader for the blog you want to support like takes about a minute, costs you nothing, and helps immeasurably.

3- Click those social media buttons.  Click like the wind!   I know many folks want to be an enigma wrapped in a mystery and never have a social medium "know" you. That's okay, but those.....FUCKING like buttons are basically running the world right now. Everything is algorithms and algorithms are desperately blunt instruments still....they can't tell if you liked something or loved it or it made you mad or made you think-even-though-you-disagree or you just want to be supportive of the person who posted it or.....  They just know that you clicked a button, so now they're going to show it to a few more people.  And so on and so on.

Like a post and not trying to be some social media ninja (which you aren't anyway because the system is literally designed to get information even from you)?  Click. Giggled a little? Click.  Image made you smile. Click.  Getting a little more liberal and free with your clicks for a blog you support will really help it. You can even like something but decline to post it on your wall (or feed) so that vigilante bands of your friends won't show up at your doorstep and demand that you answer for your endorsement. This tiny, almost insignificant effort, is unbelievably supportive. A lot of search engines (Google in particular) use this system of positive feedback as part of their search algorithm.  Some of my posts have gone from buried on the third page of a certain Google search to the second result simply because ONE additional person gave it a +1.  Plus it's just a nice way to say "nice job" that takes you only two seconds....tops.  It's okay to be generally conservative with your Like/+1's on the blogoverseasphere at large.  You don't want to just go giving out props to just any ol' snicker-doodle recipe.  But if you like a blog and want to support it, you can be a little more fast and loose about clicking the clicky.

Plus...you know...CLICKY!!!

4- Reply--especially to game the algorithm.  Who knows what's going to game the algorithm tomorrow. (Right now it's GIFs of all things.) But if you reply with....whatever gives that post the most algorithmic ju-ju possible, it's free, easy, and really helps the artist/creator that you're trying to help out.

5- Disable your ad-block just for that blog's domain.  [EDIT from 2019: I no longer run ads. I hope I never have to. I would like to scratch out a living without selling out to the worst aspects of consumerism. My blog is all donation and patron based. However, if you do love a blog that runs ads, this is still a good way to help.]

Is the blog you want to support running ads?  Most web-surfers are using Firefox or Chrome which have some pretty sophisticated ad-block add-ons that most people use. And you SHOULD use them?? Click the wrong thing without one of those ad-blocks, and a giant talking penis will jump out of your screen and start singing to you about how it enlarged itself with the help of a Nigerian prince. However, you can turn off the adblock off for just a single domain or even a single page and basically tell it "this is okay."  (And, hey, if that domain has annoying ads in other places, you can just turn it RIGHT. BACK. ON.)

Usually, unless you're on Pornhub or welshslutsholdingtrout dot com, the content you're enjoying is probably going to be running ads that are much less aggressive, and possibly relevant to the interests of the blog.  (The pages get "crawled" by some kind of word search program, and even though it sometimes gets things comically wrong, most of the ads will be of interest if the blog is of interest. My ads tend[ed] to be about Creative Writing programs, self publishing, computer writing programs, grammar checkers, books, and the occasional geek activity like World of Warcraft or video games.)

6- Spread the word.  Like jam on toast...or something.  An awful lot of blog traffic is from people who stop by once. They read one article or find an image they're looking for, and that's it. They never return.  Even if they like what they see, they probably don't come back. I'm a bit creeped out to find how much traffic my site gets from people just looking for pictures of herpes. (And that's probably not one of my more....shining moments.) Only one in about ten thousand people who stops by casually ever becomes a regular reader of any frequency. But something you know that social media is still trying to figure out how to detect is who might really dig the blog/content you want to support.  No social media will ever be able to say, "You know who would like this?  Billy.  Billy would totally dig the shit out of this." Introducing a blog to someone who you know would be into it might be the single best thing you could probably do to support that blog. Traffic is traffic, but a single fan (who keeps coming back and might themselves share or spread the word) is better than thousands of hits in the long run.

7- Everyone loves a hug. If you like a blog, or an article, here's a concept.  Say so! Tell the blogger. Most bloggers don't get a lot of positive feedback. Mostly they only hear when someone doesn't like something or they use the wrong your/you're. They get hate mail, sometimes death threats. They get to read people tell them their work is shit like they're not in the room. Give them a comment on a post that you like. Tell the blogger you like their work. Ask a question about something. Only the most outrageously successful and viral bloggers get so many comments that they won't greatly appreciate a few encouraging words or take the time to answer a sincere question. (Hell, I still answer the insincere ones.) This might not help the blog directly in terms of traffic, but it will give the blogger a morale lift and encourage them to continue. This isn't easy, and it's sometimes really nice to know that it's appreciated.

So don't worry so much if you can't bust out your credit card because you maxed it on groceries, don't think the blog is quite good enough to drop a movie's worth of scrill on, or just hate PayPal's problematic policies towards sex work enough that you can't bear the thought of them getting thirty cents of your donation.  There are lots of other ways to help that won't part you with so much as a penny and take no more than a moment's effort.

7 comments:

  1. I think people feel like they're signing their name as an endorsement with the "Like" and "+1" thing. And totally with a share.

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    1. They do. That's why some niche things (like this) will never ever go as viral as a quick laugh like The Oatmeal or something. People might like it, but they'll be thinking "who of my friends is really into writing?"

      But I guess if you want to support a blog more directly, you lower that bar just a teensy weensy bit.

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  2. Can't we just take you for granted and then bitch about how you sold out when you give up blogging to write for Forbes?

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    1. It would probably be "...to teach junior college kids how to write an essay." Yeah, I mean that's the typical M.O. right? Give local/small/indie arts no support; complain when everyone sells out.

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  3. I like reading your posts and subscribe to you on FB too (where I think you are absolutely hilarious!. I like that you point out what we can do to help the blogs that we like, I never thought of it that way - good advice!

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    1. I'm just seeing this comment for the first time today. (I'm not sure why.) But thank you!

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  4. Thanks for (re)sharing this - really helpful. (Also, I smiled at this sentence: "I'm lucky if I can get a post up without an absolutely embarrassing grammar mistake--to say nothing of the host of missing commas." - the adjective is grammatical)

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