***Welcome Instapundit readers. Funny, I should mention avalanches of readers only to receive an Instalanche.***
This is the question I find my self asking these days. This blog has long been visited mostly by those searching the internet for books and authors. Something like 90% of the traffic is new visitors with the vast majority of that coming from Google. As my life grew busy with work and children I spent less and less time reading and interacting with blogs; particularly lit and book blogs. And in a world dominated by social media, my reading comes less from specific places I visit on the web as links I click on. Add in the mass proliferation of blogs, including book review blogs, and I have lost any sense of community or connection with a particular group of people or readers. And as noted, the traffic dwindled down to just what Google delivered (and a few dedicated and loyal readers).
And then Google took even that away. I am not sure what was the trigger but something changed in late November and the vast majority of organic search referrals from Google disappeared. The one thing the blog used to have going for it was decent search engine juice. I used the book title and author in the heading for each post and so those seeking information on a book and/or author often found this site. And then suddenly they didn’t. Looking at Google analytics and other sources it seems pretty clear to me that the largest chunk of this site’s traffic has disappeared. The site has dropped off search engine results and is getting 97% less impressions and thus no traffic.
Sort of ironic that this would happen in the tenth year of the site’s existence. And I have to say it has had an impact on my motivation. Obviously, I haven’t had interaction or any type of community here for some time. And I mostly kept going because of the access to books and authors. But the sense that people were reading my reviews still felt like it was worth something. Whether it was a student seeking help with an assignment or a reader looking for another opinion on a book they read it felt like my reviews were being read and valued.
But when those visitors stopped coming it felt like that value was gone too. Suddenly I was asking myself “Why do I continue to do this again?”
And it really does come down to the books and authors. I love to read obviously, that much has not changed. And I enjoy connecting with authors even if I only occasionally do interviews or Q&As anymore. So I need to find ways to bring value to the site for myself.
I think there are a couple of ways I can do that.
1) I need to reconnect with some blogs and readers. I need to read and comment at blogs and websites in a way that adds value and makes connections. This will allow me to connect with fellow readers and lose the sense of isolation I have developed. It will also help me rebuild an audience. There is a natural conversation that can happen through this type of connection even in the world of social media (or perhaps especially within that world).
2) Relatedly, I need to focus on writing better and more often. Part of the problem has been not doing a good job with non-fiction. I procrastinate in writing reviews of non-fiction because I often feel pressure to deal seriously with the issues and arguments contained in books on theology, history, business and politics. I don’t feel able to write a “serious” review and so end up not writing anything. What I need to do is work at writing reviews without wrestling with the issues at academic or extended essay style length or depth. Writing short but intelligent reviews of more serious books takes skill and this is something I should develop. Even if few people read them it will be good for my writing and present a challenge. But I am guessing better reviews and more of them can’t help but improve traffic (especially when combined with #1 above).
3) I need to have a sense of my perspective and audience. What is my angle and who am I writing for? I need to think and develop this more but my gut tells me I am conservative but not overly dogmatic or ideological. A person who appreciates creativity and imagination in the arts; who is a humanist, a bit elitist, and temperamentally traditionalist but increasingly seeking new ways of seeing and talking about the world of ideas. Is there a readership for these type of views in connection with books and culture? Heck if I know.
As you might have noticed I yet again changed the theme. I was trying to find the right balance between blog and magazine style and tempted by all the varying possibilities that are available these days. I tried a number of approaches and returned to a theme I had used before. I think it balances visual elements, with some Tumblr like styles, but retains the right look of the still predominantly text focused site. I might continue to tinker with some things but I am hoping to stick with this for a while.
I am under no illusion that I will garner avalanches of visits and develop high levels of engagement. But I need to find a way to make this site seem both worthwhile and enjoyable. So that is the challenge I have set for myself. If you want to come along for the ride, thanks, and stay tuned.