Have you Googled your Own Name Lately?

One of the things that I try to find for almost every review, blog post and article I write, is to find the elusive “source.” From artists to songwriters and musicians, I want to link to whomever it is I am referring to in the most authoritative way possible. By “authoritative,” I mean that I want your “official” site, not a fansite or a MySpace page if at all possible. You’d be surprised what Google turns up.

After two weeks of actively seeking out these resources more frequently than I have in the past, I can completely understand why Wikipedia reigns as “the” resource. From professionals that don’t even have their own website to my inability to find the person’s “contact” page, I’ve been more than a bit frustrated in my quest to promote other people’s work. It’s no wonder why fansites for celebrities big and small rank (and subsequently profit) so well for their names.
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Putting Yourself Out There but No Comments? Here’s why.

The line used to be “everyone’s a critic.” Now it’s more like “everyone’s gotta blog.” In my opinion, whether you update frequently or not, it’s essential to having a blog or personal website for your own name. (Sidenote: you’d be surprised how many people who reached celebrity status, don’t.) Well, when you get a blog, you have to do the work to promote it by commenting on other people’s blogs, writing good content and keeping it updating. You might say blogging is “high-maintenance,” which is one of the reasons why they get abandoned. It’s not just a “post and readers will come” sort of a scenario: it’s a “post, promote and hope readers will come.”

As writers, we all know how important content is for a blog. If it isn’t written in a language readable to humans, it probably won’t attract us (or Google, for that matter). Besides being well written, good content also means having something that is sooooooooo cool, so fabulous that people will gape in awe.

Finding that amazing content is a lot harder than it looks — especially for a writing blog — because a lot of sites make their money by being cool, almost like the Ripley’s Believe it or Not phenomenon for the blogosphere. Boing Boing, TechCrunch and ThinkGeek immediately come to my mind, but there are others. That’s not to say that your blog can’t get attention by “repurposing” or “pointing out” cool content (Search Engine Optimization, anyone?).

Enter the comments. The writer side in us loves the appeal of having people comment on what we write, because it’s like a teeny tiny “thank you” for taking the time to write a post. Yeah, don’t hold your breath. Just because it’s published online–even on a place where people are reading your work–there is no guarantee you’re going to get people interacting and commenting.

Here’s my take on why:

Why Readers Don’t Comment on Blogs

    Your Comment System Needs Improvement: From complicated log-ins to “yet another password,” overly complicated means of commenting can be a turn-off. One of the ways I want to improve my comment system is to figure out the “direct reply” WordPress plug-in, so that I can directly reply better to people who comment. (Here’s the WordPress Thread Comment plug-in from WordPress.org.)

    Timing, Timing, Timing: In my experience, comments can depend on when you post a topic and how long that topic is visible on your front page. They can also depend upon whether or not your content is hitting the reader when they have time to comment. If they’re at work, for example, maybe they physically can’t comment.

    Doesn’t Grab the Reader: If the content isn’t spectacular, and doesn’t hit the reader in that sweet spot, then they’re not going to post a comment. Comments require an emotional commitment on the part of the reader — they have to have a legitimate reason to want to post.

    Your Readers are RSS Feeders: RSS feeds are such a time saver, but they are also a barrier to commenting. I view RSS readers to be a lot like window shoppers; they can read headlines and snippets of your content, but they don’t have to click through. That “click” is their commitment to your blog. Asking them to comment as well requires another step toward reader-writer commitment, so you had better be ready to offer them something good.

    The Tone of Your Content isn’t Genuine: Blogs have the trouble of sounding too authoritative, because everybody is an instant expert. Something I struggled with when I started my blog, I try to go the route of “this is my opinion and your experiences may differ,” and that’s what has worked for me. Readers aren’t stupid, so if your content sounds too much like a sales pitch or talking down to them, then chances are your blog might get ignored.

Web Analytics Can Help you Prove your Theories

Anyone can make inferences as to why people aren’t commenting on their blog, but to get into the specifics you’ll want to check your web analytics toolkit and figure out “why.” For example, a post I did about two free fiction submission sites you don’t want to miss received a lot of attention and more comments than I usually get. Why? Someone thought the post was worthwhile enough to use StumbleUpon, causing it to be my highest-trafficked post on my blog.

From abandonment to click-through rates for RSS feeds, you can find out a lot of information about your reader’s behavior to ensure that you’re writing great content that they’ll want to read (and you’ll want to write). The same can be said for commenting, in my opinion, because they are somewhat related. I like to think about it like a party. Before you can ask people to have a conversation, you have to invite them to your party. Before you can invite them to your party, you should probably get to know them and engage them, to find the right group of friends that will stick around.

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. Admittedly, I don’t always practice what I preach due to time constraints (and a touch of procrastination, too), but commenting is a good way to build community and to get other people familiar with your own work and personality. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have to find some blogs to go comment on today! Have a great one!

Kudos to These Fellow Writers

Today I have a few kudos to hand out to these fine writer folk. I hope you’ll join me lending a round of applause to these fine writers.

    Bill Aicher — Congrats to Bill Aicher, for not only completing the philosophical thriller The Trouble With Being God, but for taking that next step. Now available on Lulu.com and shortly through Kindle, may your book find a home in the hands of those who will appreciate it.

    Greg Stolze — Second round of applause goes to Greg Stolze, an amazing writer who put his unpublished works to good use. Greg is raising funds to release his unpublished backlog under Creative Commons and donating the funds to charity. Kudos.

    Matt M McElroy — Congratulations to Matt M McElroy (of Flames Rising fame and my SO) for taking the leap of faith this month on his project, 31 Days of Monsters. Each day in October, he has featured a different monster from a different author and yesterday he posted his take on a ghost, his first piece of fiction featured on his webzine. Over the past five years Matt has spent a lot of time featuring other folk and their talents, so it was nice to see him writing something to share with everyone else.

    Fred Schepartz and Alex Bledsoe — Sometimes, the hardest part about being a writer is promoting your books. Congrats to these savvy writers for landing a gig reading their fine vampire novels at Barnes and Nobel on the East side of Madison. See the Madison Vampire Coven event on Facebook and join them! They won’t bite!

Well, that’s all for now. I hope your projects are going strong and your creativity is flowing. And remember, be excellent to one another. If you have something you’re proud of, feel free to post them in the comments or contact me. I’m going to try to do this on a more regular basis; watch for new updates about some of the awesome areas I’ve been branching out into!

Be Excellent to One Another!

In this politically-charged environment filled with demands, vitriol and rumors, I just wanted to pause for a moment and say that the words of Bill and Ted still hold true– BE EXCELLENT TO ONE ANOTHER. Whether you’re in customer service or running your own business, now more than ever it’s really important to remember what it means to be human — for no other reason than this: Do one kind thing, make one person’s day. Do one bad thing, the entire room will hear about it.

So the next time you’re flipping someone off on the road or get into an argument with a customer, remember that the basic principles of “being a good neighbor” still hold true. This election will (thankfully) be over in just a few weeks.

This has been a public service message from one citizen for peace, love and happiness. Now go do something nice for someone else, and PARTY ON!

My Number One Distraction from Writing is the Internet

The internet. Filled with webcomics, social media and news, its plethora of mini-games and interactive tools can sometimes distract me from getting a large word count out the door.

I find that as part of “creating my workspace” to get a lot of writing done, I can’t shut it off completely because I really like the notification feature when I get an “important” email. Instead I go invisible when wi-fi is available and I close my browser.

I know that the internet is my number one distraction because getting an email is like feeling a little ray of sunshine, like you used to feel when you had a pen pal when you were a kid. Although I have to admit that pen pals are much cooler, because you get “stuff.” There’s nothing like getting a physical, non-spammy letter or care package in the mail. Kind of like that scene in Harry Potter when the mail shows up. [Insert diatribe about how the world of Harry Potter might have been changed by the internet.]

Anyway, so part of this idea of finding space to write has evolved into setting aside blocks or chunks of non-internet usage and figuring out exactly what I use the internet for in my non-work hours to boost productivity. On the surface, it sounds a bit lame to be “scheduling” social time on the internet but it’s like that analogy of “get your homework done so you can get out and play.”

My personal belief is that it’s important for me to stay on top of social media for the day job and beyond. Some of social media for me is experimenting and playing around with the tools to see what might work for what I need it to do. It also allows me stay on top of how the internet is evolving because you never know where a new rival to Facebook might pop up. Either way, I can’t ignore my social media channels or do away with them completely, but limiting them is probably a good idea.

So to get more writing done in November for Nanowrimo, I know I’ll also need to go through my 1,398 emails and my 74 unread emails in the one account — should probably check my other accounts, too. Good thing this heated election will be over early November, because that will be one less thing I’ll be following that closely.

The more I think about ways to get off the internet, the more I realize (Delete.) how dependent I’ve become on internet communication. (Delete.)

Make that 72 unread emails and counting.




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