What I’ve learned about blogging

This post is going a bit off topic, in that it deals with blogging more than biking.

After posting awhile ago about the blog and what it’s taught me about biking, it occurred to me that I’ve also been learning a lot about blogging.

Bike Noob has been more successful already than I’d ever thought it would be. I average about 100 page views a day — a small number, compared to some of the really big blogs like Bike Snob NYC, but substantial enough after being online for only five months or so.

So what’s important when blogging?

Comments are golden. I can count visits and page views, but when readers take the time to write a comment about something I’ve written, that starts the “conversation” that the Internet promised way back in the ’90s.

Commenting on others’ blogs is almost as golden. There are some devices the blogger can use to drive new readers to the blog, such as commenting on others’ blogs. That may prompt some of their blog readers to check out yours. I know I’ve picked up a number of regular readers that way.

Post at regular intervals. It doesn’t have to be every day, but shouldn’t be too long between posts, either. I’ve tried to develop an every other day routine. I’ve noticed that my page views fall off markedly when I go a day or two without adding new content.

Content matters. Well-written items that resonate with others’ personal experiences seem to attract the most views. It’s still a surprise to me, but my most viewed post is a little narrative titled, “Smoked by an old guy.” I felt I needed to post something that day, but I had nothing until I went out for my ride and the incident happened. I thought it was a cute, okay item. But the popular Kent’s Bike Blog from Seattle stumbled onto the story and linked to it. My traffic soared that day. “Smoked” has now had more than 900 views in just two months, and still gets several visits every day. (And now I’ve ensured that those views will continue to mount.)

Even the most mundane posts seem to get the greatest response. An entry on whether I should choose bandanas or sweatbands to keep my forehead dry drew 10 comments (a lot for me). Maybe it was the picture of my dog that did it.

In that case, here’s another look at Emily, my 13-inch Beagle.

By the way, I still wear bandanas, but my preferred SCD (sweat control device) is a HeadSweat — one of those things that makes you look like a pirate.

Sometimes, people discover you by accident. I use WordPress as my blogging platform, and WordPress generates links to what it thinks are related posts at the end of every entry. Sometimes those “related” posts bear no relation at all to the subject of the entry, but by clicking on the link, folks have found me.

Always check which sites referred visitors to your blog. It’s weird to find some blogs that link to you that don’t seem to have any connection to your subject. My favorite of these oddball links comes from “Being grown and sexy: Fashion, tech and politics from the prospective (sic) of an (sic) black male nerd.” What he finds of interest in a biking blog written by a white guy in late middle age stumps me, but I’m in his blogroll.

Nonsensical search terms can somehow connect readers with this blog. Every so often I check to see what search terms people wrote that brought them here. Some favorites: expensive beer bicycle jerseys, my foot goes numb with road shoes, one up two down, sidi soles number straps mean, and why do my jerseys stink when i sweat.

The most recent posts are not necessarily the most-read ones. Sometimes posts I did weeks ago show up as the most viewed on a given day. I have no idea why.

Some bloggers actually make a living from their blogs. I don’t expect to ever do that. (If you’re interested, Australian uber-blogger Darren Rowse’s Problogger site is loaded with tips to make the big bucks blogging.) I do expect to keep up my posts, and hope to keep interacting with commenters. Regardless of topic, the most important thing I’ve learned about blogging is to keep up the conversation.

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18 thoughts on “What I’ve learned about blogging

  1. Very good points. I’ve noticed many of the same trends on my blog. You’re not an engineer, are you? For me, that explains that addiction to my analysis of blog hit data!

  2. I’ a reader not a writer. I do enjoy your blog. One of these weekend I may just drive down from Dallas and meet with you Austin blogers. So far I have not found anyone in the Dallas Fort Worth area that does a bike blog, so you three guys from Austin are a close to home as I can find.

  3. 331, no, I’m no engineer, far from it. But I have experience with an earlier blog that no one read and that’s no fun. I’m getting a kick out of this.

    Pearl, you’re welcome anytime. Given the amount of traffic on the Texas site of Bike Forums from Dallas-area bikers, I’m surprised none of them is blogging.

  4. I found your blog recently … not sure I’ve commented yet (and I don’t remember how I found it). I have lived in Austin in the past though, and while I wasn’t riding at the time, I am now. So I enjoy reading about your rides in that area.

    Anyway, just thought I’d introduce myself. I subscribed to your RSS feed, so I’ll be reading regularly.

  5. I guess I’ll increase my page hits a little bit.

    I just installed analytics on my blog the other day, and few people read it thus far, but there are two or three who I seem to amuse, and that is a good start. I think one of the other things is to find a good “angle”–so far I just ramble, but maybe sometimes I do it well.

    The only search term that’s referred someone to my blog so far is “lazy bike trailer”, which is interesting in itself.

  6. Apertome, thanks for checking in. You have some wonderful pictures on your blog.

    Lazy, seems to me that in this day and age, lots of people are going to be looking into bike commuting — if I were you, I’d stick with that as a blog theme. BTW, if anyone knows how to get Google Analytics to install on a WordPress blog, let me know. So far, I’ve been unsuccessful.

  7. Great the hear the blog is going so well. I have had very similar experiences on cyclepig to the ones you mention here.

    The only additional one for me is Stumbleupon which has sent quite a lot of traffic.

    I am also not surprised that ‘smoked by an old guy’ has had so many views. It is a great post!

  8. Google Analytics should be fairly simple, though I’m not familiar with how WordPress works.

    If there is an option to create a custom template or modify the HTML of the one you’re using) you should be able to copy their HTML string into it just before the close body tag.

    Good luck with it!

  9. I had to go back and read your smoked by an old guy. It was great. What I really hate is when I get smoked by somebody on a mtn bike with knobbies and using flat pedals. That really hurts!

  10. Pig, Yes, I have used Stumbleupon with good results.
    Lazy, the problem may be in the template design I use, in which case, the look of Bike Noob may be changing in a few weeks. We’ll see.
    Red, been there, done that. I was on a group ride with a bunch of road bikers — and a mountain biker on knobbies was leading us all!

  11. Oh oh! Click me :) What’s odd is that I get a lot of traffic from some very very early posts. A lot of people find me by searching for Open World (an Oracle conference…that I attended 3 years ago!) That and Real Ale Ride Pics are getting to be my top search terms…I’ll have to give google analytics a shot…feedburner is nice for managing the RSS feed and such and it also does an o.k. job with other stats, although I think they might only be feed related stats.

  12. It’s my opinion that if people spent as much time and thought in creating content on their web site they wouldn’t need to post blogs.
    My web site is in the top 5 in Google and I have never created a blog. I optimized my site, that’s how it’s done.
    Atlanta PAW the best dog bandanas in cyberspace!

  13. Denise, for most of us, the blogs are a standalone item, not tied to a website, commercial or otherwise.

    It looks like your optimization got you to a biking blog that just happened to have a pic of a dog in a bandana. Kinda flukey.

    Tell you what, tho — if anyone is looking to buy a bandana for their pooch, your site is the place to go!

  14. Ooooh, I’m jealous! I hardly ever get comments. Of course, more people are interested in cycling than in me. I’m also jealous you got to go to the Edelman thing.

  15. Dara, I think you would have gotten more out of it than I did. But it was a good conference, and I got some useful stuff out of it. I’ll tell you all about it when I see you next.

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