Am I delivering a blog brand experience? Lord, I hope not!
I gotta hand it to John Pozadzides: even though he’s one of those big-shot dispensers of the very kind of received blogging wisdom that I was railing against last week, he sure doesn’t buy the malarky about narrow niche blogging being the best way to attract and keep an audience.
I’ve been hearing people advising authors to stick to only one topic per blog for some time now. And they are just plain wrong.
Any possible SEO [search engine optimization] advantage is more than outweighed by the fact that authors and readers become bored by the same subject after a while and content becomes stale and painful. Not to mention the fact that you’ll only keep a regular subscriber for so long without some variety. (Oprah doesn’t talk about the same thing every day, so why should you?)
Instead, write about what you know and love… all of it. As an example, my blog has 42 categories and 2,300 tags. I average 15-20,000 page views each day, with a record day being over 140,000.
Of course, here at Via Negativa it’s more common for me to write about what I don’t know (but still love). But one way or the other, with advice like that to mitigate the effects of his unexamined assumption that big audience = success, I happily sat through a video of his entire speech at WordCamp Dallas, and have even decided to follow two pieces of his advice. First, as this post demonstrates, I’ve started adding title text to links — the words that appear when you mouse-over a link (or a linked image, but I’ve been doing that for a while). The visual editor in the brand-new version of WordPress makes it easy and convenient, so what the hell.
I also decided to add a “Related Posts” feature, though not with the plugin Pozadzides recommends. This one searches the entire database for keywords and uses complex algorithms, apparently. (I’m always a sucker for complex algorithms, because I don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are or why they work.) You can see it in action by clicking on any post and scrolling down to the bottom, right above the big gray block of info. I currently have it set to display a maximum of five Possibly Related Posts, with the parameters of relatedness set wide enough that something should always turn up. The results are listed in descending order of relatedness, which is to say that the most closely related post should always be at the top. And it seems to work pretty well, knock on wood. For example, the first Possibly Related Post for Consumer, that story about feeding a shrew in a box, was an essay from last year containing a photo and description of a dead short-tailed shrew.
I may not care about total numbers of visitors, but I do care a lot about engaging and entertaining those who do show up — and I’m always looking for ways to improve access to the archives, especially considering that I’m probably never going to get around to categorizing all 900-odd uncategorized posts from my days on Blogger. In the sidebar, you’ll notice a new Browse section that includes a Random Post link. It might be fun to use that in combination with the Related Posts feature. I’d appreciate feedback on these or any other new features of the site, especially from regular readers.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention another new feature that affects browsing. I now have the ability to display a smaller number of posts on the main page of the blog from what appear in monthly archival pages, category archival pages, and search results, thanks to the
Different Posts Per Page Custom Post Limits plugin. So right now the main page is set to display seven posts, down from ten — which always seemed too many to me for a front page, but not quite enough for exploring the archives. All the other settings are currently at 15, and display complete posts rather than excerpts. I’m very open to suggestions and criticism on this.