Another instalment from my third week of lists, a clinging-to-the-trees, back-to-school-special, dreading-impending-winter edition all about holidays, blog-post-writing, and being a pro-active holiday blogger: because ’tis nearly the season for oodles and oodles of words about how we spent our holiday hours.
Last year, for example, the day following Halloween I wrote a post detailing my pumpkin project, a re-creation of a Minecraft-style gourd using a print-out template I found on the web. I posted some progress photos, rambled on about the experience, and hit publish. Not quite a year later (and as of today) that post has over thirteen-hundred views and is the twelfth most visited page on this site… all mostly thanks to search traffic.
What does that tell us? People are either reading holiday-esque content more frequently than other content, or I somehow hit on a magic keyword formula. (Or more likely, a bit of both.) And either way, it does put me in mind to comment a little bit on either (a) advice for folks actually hoping to generate traffic or (b) caution for those just concerned about a higher volume of random strangers reading what they write, and offer up:
6 Ways to Holiday-Proof Your Blogging
[ 1 ] Tackling the Two-Week Lead
Whether you are actually hoping to get more eyes on your content or not, think along a timeline of roughly two weeks: two weeks is a solid window of time in which to (1) write and post, (2) be crawled and indexed, and (3) correctly steep your links through the various social networks. (If you are writing for and/or running a site more popular than the average site and two weeks seems more like an eternity to you… well, why are you reading my gibberish.) This is a time-frame for those average bloggers out there with a sporadically indexed site and average back-linking. Anything you write and post will, on average, be as high-profile as it’s going to get (without additional promotion) at roughly two weeks from when you conceived it. Writing a costume-idea list for All Soul’s Day? Think mid-October. Pondering an article on New Years party planning? Think about interrupting your last-minute Saturnalia shopping to get it on-line by December 15th. Simply remember: Two weeks of lead is what you need.
[ 2 ] Writing Advice, Ideas, and Insights
You have roughly three seconds to grab the attention of a new reader before they click away.
If you are hoping to generate traffic then then this bit of advice and insight is for you: some of the most popular posts on-line are posts that offer step-by-step instructions, itemized lists, or clever and well-defined insights into a topic. If you are trying explicitly to generate page views for your words and pictures, don’t just ramble — no matter how eloquently you might do so — on an unfocussed, unfiltered emotion or feeling about the holidays: define your scope, rough out a plan, itemize your thoughts, and write a careful, easy-to-follow collection of steps, ideas, options, points, notes, or nuggets of information. You have roughly three seconds to grab the attention of a new reader before they click away.
[ 3 ] Planning for New Readers and More Traffic
Straying into serious holiday writing means you are going to get a whole stack of new readers. There is nothing unique about this. Any time you stray from your standard content, new people will search and find what you wrote. But many bloggers don’t stop to consider that writing about holiday-themed topics is… yes, really… straying from your standard content. We merrily wax poetic on holiday meal preparation, Solstice sacrifice techniques, or proper care and cleaning of your Boxing Day camp-out-in-line equipment, never stopping to think that these words — literally, keywords read by a search engine — are significantly different than the standard fare of lamenting self-indulgent trivia we produce the other eleven months of the year. New people will find your site so ask yourself: have you (a) written a proper “about page” or (b) turned on the spam-filtering software in your comments, or even (c) ensured your blogging software, plugins and other tools are up-to-date and able to handle the faster load-times and increased security needs that come along with more traffic? Look into it: there are far better sites than this to investigate these topics.
We all get a little bit gift-giving (or receiving) giddy as the holidays approach. But we bloggers with our grand public outlet of chaotic random writing have a subtle but important trap to avoid: see, extolling our grand thoughts about what we want to buy, receive or otherwise yearn to share over the holidays is a fun way to add what seems to be a personalized opinion to our writing, and maybe grab some referral links in the process. The mine-field appears, however, because not everyone is playing the consumerism game on equal footing: there are money interests, perceptions of shilling, perceptions of politicking, appearances of wanting too much or too little, hints of expectations and illusions of faux-esque high-mindedness that tend to irk otherwise quiet readers into flat-out giving you what’s for… or walking away and never coming back. Modern consumerism is the vast, un-level playing field that skirted with careless abandon will piss. people. off. period. You can dive in deliberately and openly and play the game, but you shouldn’t touch that metaphorical ball unless you’re looking to jump onto the field for regulation time. Sort of like sports metaphors… just don’t do it unless you know the rules.
[ 5 ] Keeping Things Just Private Enough
…could easily leave you sleepless on Christmas Eve at your in-law\’s house for reasons outside the scope of Santa.
Blogging about the holidays has generally had an interesting side effect from my own experience: more random eyes on my content. I don’t mind. Regular readers may get the impression or generally think I’m being really open or candid about things, but ninety-nine-point-nine times out of a hundred I hit publish only when I’m fairly certain there is nothing overtly or explicitly private in my content: I call it keeping things “just private enough.” See, it’s a balancing game: I could be really guarded and private and never disclose anything…. but then what would be the point or interest here? The tactic is more of a general alluding to private things while never giving away an abundance of incriminating information or details that could compromise my security. For example: exposing details about out-of-town travel during the holidays is that obvious bit of personal information that, coupled with a larger readership on your site thanks to high-interest content, could easily leave you sleepless on Christmas Eve at your in-law’s house for reasons outside the scope of Santa. I don’t have hard-and-fast rules: but you should at least bear this thought in mind when you’re writing and publishing this season.
[ 6 ] Resolutions Gone Awry
Another way we go overboard as bloggers over the holidays — and I am terribly guilty of this myself, so I’m not judging but rather lamentfully warning — is by buying into the commitment mentality that creeps in over every one of us during the holiday season. As a blogger it is doubly-treacherous territory because, while everyone makes New Years resolutions and grand statements about the life-changes we are about to undertake as of January first, we bloggers tend to write those commitments down. I’m not claiming that writing down goals is necessarily a bad thing. But I am noting that public commitment is a double-edged sword of metaphorical peril for anyone accountable to an audience. Pay careful attention to what you gleefully promise in your late-December posts, unless you want to start a new late-January series titled “why I failed my New Years resolutions…” Just saying…
The author has learned the lessons of holiday blogging the hard way, burning out his own holiday ambitions with epic waves of regret-filled posts and a whole other category of random content that has taken on a life of it’s own. Do you plan to live-blog the Festivus fun? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below: