John Scalzi on how not to increase traffic to your blog

John Scalzi has an amusing (and profanity-laced) post about how not to increase traffic to your blog. It is a response to some blog post with ‘5 Ways To Get More Traffic To Your Blog’ or some ridiculous title like that.

I find this interesting for two reasons. One has to do with this quote:

I go to conventions and writers’ events, as most of you know. And invariably the most annoying person there is the aspiring writer or neo-pro who is simply there to network, and does so in a graspingly obvious fashion: the guy who goes from group to group, looking for the right people who will eventually let him trade up to standing in a conversational circle with, oh, let’s say, Neil Gaiman, so he can ever-so-casually drop the name of his latest book/story/whatever into Gaiman’s ear.

I know people like this, and although they are annoying, I do find it fascinating that there is such a strong disconnect between how these people perceive themselves, and how others perceive them. Because as Scalzi says:

There’s nothing wrong with networking; there’s nothing wrong with talking about your book with Neil Gaiman (or whomever) either, should you get a chance. But it’s all in how it’s done. To repeat: People aren’t stupid. They know the difference between someone who is engaged in a conversation for the pleasure of the conversation itself, and someone who is marking time in the conversation until they can once again open their mouths and talk about them.

(Boy, he has it easy if he only meets people that wait for others to stop talking.)

I can’t think of anything that demonstrates as clearly and quickly that civilized society is based on unspoken rules than someone completely and blithely ignoring those rules. You end up in this confusing situation where your strategies for dealing with life stop working. Having to explain that one cannot do X or Y (obviously) is simply too embarassing, and might offend. What do you do? (When you figure it out, go hang out with Borat and spoil his jokes.)

The other reason I find Mr. Scalzi’s post interesting is because I have been focusing on this blog and what it means to me lately, and I have thought about the morality of various techniques for increasing traffic to my blog. I’ve done some hidden things to increase traffic – in particular, I have repaired a ton of old posts and slugs and redirects, plus I’ve done some basic SEO things that just make sense and most readers won’t notice.

Then there are severals things I could do to increase traffic, but don’t want to do because they make me feel dirty. This includes the techniques Scalzi rails at, as well as trying to write posts that are too obviously link-bait. It is not that hard to write posts that scream “click me!” – you know, “20 Ways To Become More Productive”, followed by super shallow content. Evil.

Similarly, I will comment somewhere and add a link to this site, but I haven’t quite found a context yet where I don’t feel a bit silly putting this in an email or forum signature:

Intelligent Artifice

… feels pushy, no?

I am more or less writing what I want to write (I’d like to write more in-depth stuff once in a while, but that’s my problem). Occasionally a post takes off, sometimes this is nice, at other times it is surprising and amusing.

I came to the conclusion that this site will never become hugely popular. It is not very focused. The ostensible subject, interactive entertainment, is fairly esoteric – many of my ‘normal’ friends, intelligent people all, don’t get half of what I am writing here. Not every one of my posts is a well-thought out essay, and most of my real readers (i.e. not the WoW nude patch people) are people who know me. But you know what? I like it that way.

(Via Scalzi’s feed no, he sneakily started publishing to a different feed than the one I’ve been subscribed to for ages *shakes fist* – I got it via Making Light, bless them.)

Comments 3

  1. bleh wrote:

    I happen to appreciate the things you cite as drawbacks about this blog: i.e. the brevity and lack of focus. When it’s not games related, it’s usually something I find at least passingly interesting anyway. I enjoy seeing the occasional link to a Ridley Scott interview or silly video, as these are nearly always things I find enjoyable that I wouldn’t have run across otherwise. As for brevity, why, ’tis the soul of wit.

    Posted 22 Oct 2007 at 11:29
  2. Darius K. wrote:

    Great article you’ve linked. He gets to the heart of my networking philosophy: it’s about making friends, stupid.

    To address one of your points, the only forum where I link my blog in my sig is the IGDA forum, and that’s because my blog is full of breaking in advice which I know is relevant to a large number of IGDA posters.

    Posted 23 Oct 2007 at 8:50
  3. Jurie wrote:

    @bleh: Thanks. I didn’t write that to fish for complements :) What I meant was: If one were to seriously build a site from scratch, it wouldn’t look like this one. But I like it this way :)

    @Darius: Exactly – sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.

    Posted 24 Oct 2007 at 12:48