Though you can buy credits outright, I'm doing the surfing thing right now. This has two benefits. The first is that I can broaden my horizons a bit, and see parts of the blogosphere I might never get to otherwise. The second, and most important, is that I get to see other blogs the way my new visitors are seeing mine.
I've learned a lot from this, in only a few hours of surfing.
- You're only as good as your top article
- If a user can't figure out the theme and purpose of your blog in 20 seconds, the visit was wasted, and he'll never be back
- 20 seconds is an eternity if what you're looking at is uninteresting
- 20 seconds goes by in a flash if what you're looking at is interesting
- if it's not "above the fold" (visible in the first unscrolled browser page), most visitors will never see it
- Links not above the fold will never be clicked by most users
- An attractive look goes a long way towards getting people interested - and an unattractive one gets them watching the timer instead
- The bare-bones "wall of text" design can be more attractive and draw a visitor in if the content is at least a little compelling to the visitor
- If a page is too "busy", the new visitor sees nothing
- Sidebar content is invisible until after a visitor has decided he likes your blog
- Sidebar content is ignored until after a visitor decides he will be coming back
- Ads that are relevant to the topic can be interesting content in themselves. Ads that are not just keep other, more valuable content, below the fold
- Diary entries about your bad day at work or your dog are just annoying until after a visitor decides he likes you and will be coming back
- Pictures, profiles, and personal information has the same effect as diary entries
- Random, scattershot marketing like BlogExplosion are great for getting "eyeballs"on the page, but getting them to return and to tell their freinds about you is the only thing that will build readership. A second visit, or a recommended visit predisposes the visitor to want to like it, and to explore the sidebar and below the fold. Word of mouth is and always will be the most effective marketing tool.
You might wonder what this is doing on this site. Am I just violating my second point above? Well, no, not really, though I bet a lot more of you BlogExplosion visitors stayed with me this far than would have otherwise. No, this is tangentially related to the theme of this blog. First, marketing skills are very important to many aspects of an independent life. In a society and economy where division of labor is a vital element, marketing - from your product, to yourself (such as at job interviews), to your opinions and advice - is a tool of independence and advancement.
Second, if you think that there is some conflict between "pure" art, or writing, or political punditry, and "crass commercialism", I want to give you some food for thought. Commercialism isn't crass, in and of itself, though it can be in specific instances. Commercialism just is. It's how we live, it's how we exchange value for value with other people. It's the inherently honorable corollary to being productive. Saying that you don't want commercialism to "pollute" your work is saying that you want people to appreciate what you do - to appreciate you - without providing them any value that they would gladly trade for. It's a profoundly greedy orientation to the world.
And finally, this kind of analysis of marketing overlaps considerably with some very intersting theories about how we learn, about how we filter, sort, and evaluate information we are exposed to. And learning is very much a part of what this blog is about. Learning is a key to every aspect of this blog - Life, Intelligence, Technology and Freedom. There's a link in my blogroll called "Creating Passionate Users" that has a lot of information about getting users interested in a software product, which a blog essentially is, but also a lot of more general information about how we learn and process information in our heads.
See, I didn't link to it in the article. I want you to go over there, down on the right, and look at my blogroll to find it. That way I get you to explore below the fold a bit, and to show you something you wouldn't have looked at otherwise. Maybe that'll be enough to get you to come back again some time, or to tell your friends.
Well, your 20 seconds are probably up by now, thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.