Well, grab yourself a thimble of prosecco and join me in a little victory dance – I have a new website! I think it’s looking like an absolute peach. I wish I could take all the credit for it, but actually I’ve been an incredibly lucky girl because a friend* of a friend** Stateside “reached out” to me and offered to help move me over from my original free WordPress site, to a self-hosted one. I didn’t get hugely involved in the bare bones of making it actually work, I just barked increasingly outlandish requests to my friend around the clock and expected him to get to it, pronto. I wanted widgets and plugins and buttons and pretties and sharing tools and analytics. Bloggy friends – you’ll be nodding along here. Yep, self-hosted. Freedom. Industry acclaim. Down with the cool kids. I’ve crashed and burned in your slipstream however, because most of you can code like badasses and are perfectly capable of managing your own website migration, and I cannot. But I am trying. Non-bloggy techy friends, I apologise if I’ve lost you already, have another thimble of fizz on me and gird your loins before reading on.
So, this lovely new site coincides with my blog turning two months old (actually I’m a couple of weeks out, but let’s roll with it for the purpose of romantic plot continuity). Jesus Christ and all his godfathers, when I started writing #1: Beef Stifado in the dead of night I had no idea of the world I was blindly tottering into. I just didn’t KNOW. It’s not just about the writing, is it? Being creative and tip-tapping away doesn’t even cover half of it. I thought I was the big cheese: all I had to do was download the WordPress app, start a free site, bang out a couple of posts and then wait for the book deals to roll in. Top of the non-fiction charts by Christmas, easy. Lo, it’s not a bit like that, sadly, at least not for me. See, there are all these THINGS that go on in the background of a successful blog. Things I’d never even bloody heard of before. Things that make me declare that the blogosphere is addictive, time-hungry, and a lot bit cray.
Here are some the most prevalent discoveries that have foxed, enlightened and cheered me since I hit publish on my first post at the end of May.
You mean toast, right? Wrong. I mean Yoast. This bad boy is all to do with your SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation. I don’t know a whole lot about that either, except that I accidentally seem to be doing alright because if you Google my blog title, the entire first page of results are “my” things. No, Yoast is a clever little plugin that sits backstage all areas throughout your website, and optimises your shizz. It promises to turn my accidental good Google luck into a fully managed process, where my target keywords are inputted and then analysed to tell me how search engines perceive my post. I can then tweak the focus by amending the placement of my keywords within the primary elements of my blog post…still with me? Ok, I’m at risk of losing you and we’re only on point number one. Suffice to say – there are algorithms. In the words of Chris Martin, “questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart”, but SEO is big news so I’m willing to get in amongst it.
You mean Linkies, surely? You can do grammar, right? Yes, but no. Linkys are like blog post networking events, and they are hands down straight up the best thing I’ve found to get my brand name known and my posts being read by people across the board. Effectively, there is a host, or a small group of co-hosts. They invite other bloggers to upload links to a chosen post into the “party”. Each person who links up is then asked to read and comment on a designated number of other posts, including the host’s post, and perhaps share a couple on social media. Bingo, your audience is widened, your website attracts more traffic and comments, and you actually get to cruise around the Blogosphere finding stuff that you genuinely enjoy reading. In a lovely, lucrative world, a blogger’s fanbase is so established that any new post gets pounced on by salivating readers immediately, and they don’t need to do any promotion beyond a quick automated notification that something new has been published. But where’s the fun in that?
Caveat #1: I absolutely do not get this. Like, totally over my head. Klout is an application that measures your social network performance against some sort of mind-boggling scoring system, to give you a Klout rating which then translates into leaderboards. Christ knows why it’s called Klout because all it makes me think of is clouting someone over the head with a dead cod. The first time someone asked to be Klouted in a conversation I was following, I thought they’d been supping at the crazy juice while trying to get a few too many posts published against the clock. To quote Wiki, Klout scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a higher ranking of the breadth and strength of one’s online social influence. While all Twitter users are assigned a score, users who register at Klout can link multiple social networks, of which network data is then aggregated to influence the user’s Klout Score. When you sign up, you select a number of areas of expertise, and you can then award fellow Klouters a Klout as an endorsement against one of their key skill areas. In truth, while I get the mechanics behind it, I don’t quite comprehend how this translates into real brand impression on the end reader. For example, if I’ve emailed you one of my posts and you email me back telling me it made you cry, THAT means far more to me than a Klout score of 100. But in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. Konsidering I’d never even heard of Klout six weeks ago, I should get a K for trying.
Caveat #2: I absolutely do not get this. Like, totally over my head. It appears to effectively be a random generator of the whole of the internet, based on you plonking in few fields of interest against your profile. Kind of like an uprevved version of the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on Google that no-one really uses. It works by users sharing content that others might also be interested in…for example, if you take a look to the left of this page, there’s a little floating toolbar with a few sharing icons on. You could “stumble” this page, and whack in a description such as “blogger girl is completely clueless”. Over yonder, some other dude might have a specific interest in clueless blogger girls (for wholesome, educational purposes, let’s hope) and bingo, my page is matched to his preferences and lands in his viewing window. He can then give it a thumbs up (yay!) or a thumbs down (boo!), but the former is more likely to boost traffic to my site. A few of my bloggy friends have said that StumbleUpon generates more activity to their blog than any other media platform, which is amazing as it really does confuse the shit out of me. But, having taken a quick squizz at my analytics, I have been “Stumbled” a fair few times, so I’m willing to play the waiting game on this one and see where it gets me.
BB (Before Blog), I would often spend the night feeds scrolling through Twitter, desperately trying to stay awake and ignore the sound of the dawn chorus. I would see a few tweets from my bloggy pals and think “woah, I wonder what she’s doing awake at this hour? Dedicated to the max.” I think I even replied to one once, asking why the actual eff was she up, brilliant post though, etc. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that seeing those tweets made me feel slightly less lonely in my awake-dom, while the rest of the world snoozed away. Then, once I’d embarked on my blog and realised that Twitter dominates all, someone told me to get an app that schedules tweets. Oh. So my friend wasn’t awake at the same time as me, after all. I totally get it now – scheduling means that you can still post to social media without having to actually DO it in real time, you can reach international followers in different time zones, take a weekend off but still retain a visible presence and so on. But a little piece of my innocent self got blindsided by technology – I imagine not for the last time, either.
I’ve saved the best until last. Somehow, while roaming around the interweb like Dick Wittington wearing a blackout blind, I managed to stray into the most amazingly supportive network of ladies (and a few chaps) who operate under the hashtag of TribalChat. The founder is the Mary Poppins of the blogging world, @Mummyinatutu. The woman is amazing, seriously. In May she wrote this brilliant article appealing for other like-minded bloggers to set up a tribe with her, to share ideas, give feedback, help to promote each other, and generally just have each other’s backs as friends and peers within the field. Tutu is always coming up with new ways for us to interact, and I have learnt so much from her and the tribe since being welcomed in. I genuinely wouldn’t know what the hell to do if I didn’t have these guys gently nudging me into various corners of bloggy expansion. I’m nowhere near where I want to be in comparison to most of the tribe, many of whom are legit megastars, but they’re helping me to get there just a smidge quicker. There wasn’t even a bogwash initiation ceremony! If you’d like to join us, tweet @TribalChatTweet and Tutu will tell you everything you need to know. #TribalLove
So, that’s my little roundup of two months as a blogger! What did I start this post for? Oh yeah, new shiny website. Explore away.
* Alex Brinkman of Green Tree Media LLC
** Grant Schildhouse, owner of First and Lexington and Godpapa to Mouse
– SJW July 2016