Tag Archives: Google Analytics

The Craft of Blogging: #9 Problems and more problems

I love the daily tasks of blogging: having ideas, drafting posts, researching images, making links, replying to comments and so on. I have been heard to say anyone who can access the internet can easily learn to blog. But recently I have come close to being defeated by some problems, and even thinking, shall I stop? I could stop.

Hacked!

A reader contacted me saying there was a rude message on the blog, a couple of months ago. Whatever they saw (“just below the picture of the books”) didn’t appear on my laptop so it was hard to know what they were referring to. I investigated a little but since the problem seemed limited and was invisible to me I first suggested that it was on their pc and then ignored it and hoped it would go away.

But two weeks ago the message appeared on my iPhone (although still not my laptop), and at the same time another reader emailed me to say that there was something strange on the title. This time I could see for myself that it was offensive, unwanted, sexual and very rude, and likely to put some readers off. It was spreading. Action was needed.

185 laptop macbookIt took some time to work out what to do. I am not naturally technical, or methodical. These two things may be related. I tried to find some source of assistance, a help line perhaps, but as I was away from home it seemed very risky to do anything more than tour the behind-the-screen mechanics of the blog.

Once I had returned home I installed more security, which identified the problem as a corruption of the theme (that is the appearance of the website). With much reluctance I changed it and so the blog looks different, but most importantly the rude message has disappeared.nice work badge DSC00129

And then the Analytics disappeared

No sooner had I solved the rude message problem than I had another problem. Google Analytics disappeared. It has been a useful tool (don’t ask me whether it’s a widget, plug-in or add-on) to monitor readership of Bookword. I have used it to see how many people land on the pages, which pages, how long they spend reading them, the proportion of readers who are first time visitors and where they come from. Since I have done a quick statistical analysis every Monday I can see trends and learn more about how Bookword is received.

138 google logo

For example, I know that book reviews are read as much as other posts but that they attract fewer comments. I know which posts are consistently read over months and months, which ones make a brief and popular appearance and then sink without trace, and how the readership is rising or falling.

Without the daily statistics I have to rely on feedback of a different kind: comments on posts, retweets on Twitter and the number of subscribers. These are useful in their way, but the continuous picture of the last eighteen months has been interrupted, and since I can’t seem to fix it, possibly permanently lost.

And then the bitly disappeared

An added irritation is that the short code, bitly, so useful for tweeting, no longer appears on the post. As a result it is harder to tweet from my iphone with a link, although with a little technical tweaking I could probably make it as easy as it from my laptop, frankly I’m fed up with trying to understand the technical language that explains (not) what to do.

And I don’t like the new theme as much

77 ipadI liked and was familiar with all aspects of the previous appearance of the blog and some aspects of this new one are not growing on me: the display of quotations, the presence of the sidebar on the posts, no bitly display. Again I’m fed up with trying to understand the technical language that explains (not) what to do. I may change the theme again in the near future.

I do like the fact that the rude, offensive and intrusive message has gone.

Continue blogging?

Waking early this morning, these problems and this post were doing unproductive loops in my head. I began to consider a break from blogging. I would be shot of all problems and the frustrations of the technicalities.

49 blog writingBut, dear reader, I like blogging and despite the distractions all stemming from the original hack, I will continue for now. Not only do I not like being beaten by the pointless and probably random activities of bot makers but I like blogging.

Any feedback would be welcome. And any advice

 

Some related posts in the Craft of Blogging series

#1 The craft of blogging … the medium

#4 The Liebster Award and the craft of blogging … Why do it?

#5 How I write my blog slowly

#7 Finding readers

 

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The Craft of Blogging – (7) Finding Readers

Is anyone out there? Is anyone reading my blog? I sometimes wondered, especially when I started, but even after nearly two years I check my blog readership most days. One reason to blog, for me, is because it is a kind of ‘citizen publishing’. So there’s no point unless I find readers.

138 google logoThanks to Google Analytics I know quite a bit about how many people read my blog each day, what they are reading and whether they are new readers or returners. I know that if I write about books, the physical objects, I get many comments. Acquiring books, arranging books, decluttering books, art made from books and books for prisoners – these have always provoked responses. My most recent post on this theme is Abandoning Books, which is still attracting interest.

Last SeptemberAnd I also know, thanks to Google Analytics, that some of my book reviews are ‘stayers’, that is that they are read steadily – every week they appear in my top 10 most-read posts. Occasionally another review will join the standards: recently my comments on The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen became even more popular than the evergreen review of Mrs Palfrey in the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor. Other reviews rise and then fall away again, like Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys.

mrspalfrey greenThis feedback is very helpful to me to understand the blog’s readership. The statistics are useful, especially as I am not interested in simply maximising the number of readers, for this is not a commercial blog. Rather I want to know which posts are being read.

Getting readers

Here are six things I have learned about building readership in two years of blogging.

  1. Quality matters

138 Oblique bookshelfThe advice from successful bloggers is to post quality items at regular intervals. One reason I am a slow blogger is that I want to be sure of the quality of my writing, after all writing is the subject of my blog. Not only do the books I write about deserve good attention but so do the readers of the blog. Sloppy writing on a post can easily put readers off. I have not returned to blogs where I have suffered this.

And good quality posts include interesting pictures and links.

  1. Post at regular intervals

Regular intervals? Well, I am not sure about this. Do they mean frequent? I’ve said I am a slow blogger. I vary posts irregularly between five and six days. I don’t have any evidence that the variation affects my readership. Some people say that there are good days for posting. Certainly I know that the day fewest readers visit my blog is Saturday. But I doubt whether the day of posting makes much difference to bibliophiles.

  1. Have a subscription button

138 subscribeI encourage readers to subscribe at the end of every post. [Have you signed up?] This means that a steady group of people receive notifications of new posts.

  1. Use twitter to promote the blog

I follow and am followed by many more people on twitter than on my blog. Many of them declare bookish interests. I use hashtags to promote blog-related tweets including about my posts and often they pass them on … hooray for social media. The bookish ones I use are described by blogger Paula Read Nancarrow. I also use #readwomen2014 because I like to promote women writers. I blogged about that here.

  1. Use other connections

When I started blogging two years ago I sent all my friends the link via email. I now have an http link in my e-mail ‘signature’ which I rarely remove. Sometimes I send a friend a link to a post I think will interest them. And I do the same with my reading and writing groups. I try to comment frequently on other blogs. After all I can’t expect comments on my blog from readers unless I do.

  1. Other suggestions – websites, wider social media eg Facebook,

You will read advice to get yourself listed on bookish websites that list blogs, and to use other social media (especially Facebook). I am sure these can be useful. Anyway, I think they may be beyond my current technical capacity!

The young Jean Rhys

The young Jean Rhys

Bloggers with large followings: what have you done to promote your blog? What advice do you have to give bloggers who want to reach more readers? What am I missing?

 

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The Craft of blogging (5) … How I write my blog slowly

We all blog in our own way I’m sure, but writing a blogpost for me is not very different from any other writing: fiction, short fiction and non-fiction. I know that I need to think about purpose, audience and my main points. And I need to draft it and revise it and revise it again several times. This post is for bloggers who want to think about the process of writing a good post.

People who know me will not be surprised to read that I plan ahead. I have a flexible schedule for my posts that currently takes me to mid-November. I have recently learned that I am a ‘slow-blogger’. This means that I only post about every 5 or 6 days, not every day. (For more on slow blogging you could read the NY Times article: Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a snail’s pace.) Apparently the normal pace is to post every day. I don’t think I have bookish things to write every day. I’m going for quality on this blog. And sometimes I need to write the damn things!

Here is my typical process to write a blogpost.

Stage 1. It starts with a bright idea.

I keep a bright ideas file. Sometimes the ideas for a topic are triggered by events: for example the centenary of World War I was the original idea behind my next post on women war poets. Or I might just get an idea when I’m out walking. Or I read a book I would like to tell people about.

114 ScheduleStage 2. Scheduling.

I usually have two or three posts on the go, the closer to scheduled publication date the more advanced the post. I try to include a book review about every three weeks or so, including one that features older women in fiction every two months. The next one of these is on the schedule for mid-August: All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West. Some posts are scheduled to coincide with events: such as the publication of our book. It’s mostly very flexible, so I can respond to things quickly, even if I am a slow blogger.

Stage 3. Scavenging.

As the publication date approaches I collect material: my own notes on a book, a review I have read, related articles, links, leaflets, and I often jot down notes on scraps of paper which go into the files.

Stage 4. Now comes the writing.

I usually start with a rough outline based on the main points I want to make. Then I draft the post in full, revise and revise and revise. And I decide on the tags that I will use to attract a readership to the post. If I am writing collaboratively I will often have noted the main points during a conversation. For some reason these often happen on a train. I send the draft to my collaborator and she returns it with revisions and so on.

114 ResearchStage 5. Researching.

I like this stage. It’s like scavenging but with more purpose. I often need to take photographs for the post: book covers, poppies, places associated with my topic. I look for links, other reviews, relevant articles, associated websites. This activity often runs parallel to the writing.

Stage 6. Final polish.

I read the piece aloud, check for directness, humour, opportunities to be generous where I can (this is a feature of blogging I especially like), where I need to avoid being too clever. I am looking for the hook, the call to arms. I’m using the checklist I described in a previous post in this series: my checklist for blogposts.

Stage 7. Publish and promote.

I press the PUBLISH and subscribers receive an email alert of the new post. I also use Twitter to promote the new post. Then I check on Google Analytics for number of times the page is read. It’s hard not to be addicted to those Google Analytic stats. Even harder to keep away from the real time stats.

77 laptopStage 8. Respond to comments.

Another pleasure is reading responses to the blogpost. Some are from loyal readers, others from blow-ins (That’s not intended to be a rude phrase). The thousands of spam comments are filtered out by a widget, thank goodness.

So lots of planning, outlining, researching, redrafting and revising. Just like any other writing. And to finish here’s a summary of Olivia Fine’s wise advise – Essential Blogger’s Tips from the British Library website. (You can find the link to the full version here.)

  1. Be yourself
  2. Address the reader
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Include pictures
  5. Can you skim read it?

Have any of you bloggers noticed you do things differently? Do you have any comments on my process. Any tips for me or others?

 

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