Thanks for 20,000 hits.
It seems like only six weeks ago that I was thanking my readers for this site getting its 10,000th hit in Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground. Wait, wait a minute… It was.
That was on April 11th. How did that happen? Why did it take seven months to get the first 10,000 hits (September 2009 to April 2010) but only five and a half weeks to get 10,000 more (April 2010 to May 2010)?
Here is a reflection/tutorial for anyone wanting to know more about how to obtain and build a readership and following by using a WordPress website, based on what it took for me to get my first 20,000 hits.
Just like the first million dollars are the most difficult for a multimillionaire to make, so is the case with getting any new form of art off the ground and flying. It’s the snowball effect. I have now posted over 250 of my writings on this site alone.
Each month that passes, that’s another 20 to 40 new posts to add to the library to be recycled. On any given day during any given hour, there are more people reading my older stuff than my new stuff. Then the new stuff becomes the old stuff and is read by newcomers.
Something almost magical happened back in February. Suddenly, people started subscribing (getting all my new posts through e-mail); on top of that, the number of hits that month quadrupled from the month before and have been steadily increasing since then. So really, after that fifth month of this site’s active existence, things exploded.
On December 30, 2009, I went to www.godaddy.com and paid 10 bucks for the domain name www.scenicroutesnapshots.com. Yes, it’s too long of a name. And when I tell people audibly, they often don’t understand what I’m saying. But it’s a name I believe in because it best represents what I write about (Dr. Deja Vu: The Scenic Route). And really, once a person goes to the site once, they can easily go back to it again. Besides, people don’t end up on my site because I told someone about my site, they go to my site because of Google searches, facebook links, and cough-cough-Twitter-cough cough.
Another huge part of it is this- I accidently found a niche. I half-heartedly decided to start doing a recap of The Bachelor when the Jake Pavelka season premiered in January, not realizing that people actually cared about it. But they do. Very much so! Much of the quadruple increase from January to February has to do with my Bachelor recaps.
So aside from the snowball effect, and aside from finding an unlikely niche, what else has helped readership growth? I want to know, not just for myself, but also to help other fellow writer friends.
I believe in something I call “learned talent.” Which may be a phrase I just made up. Basically, I learn from other people’s talent mixed with my own trial and error. It’s the writer’s initiative to become better through regular practice and a willingness to cater to readers while still staying true to self. And that concept is something that is often given as advice from the judges on American Idol to the contestants as they make it past the Top 10. Be you, but also stick with what you know works and what other people will like.
Particularly in writing, “learned talent” has a lot to do with the writer’s “voice”. The tone, the choice of words, the subject matter, the level of professional distance. I am not as talented as any legendary writer I could name in this sentence. But just like an actor can change their accent or demeanor for a role, so can a writer “tweak” their own writer’s voice.
Because I believe, like a Rubik’s Cube, (The Truth and Irony about Solving a Rubik’s Cube) it’s all about figuring out the formula and acting on it, I am under the educated impression that what I lack in talent, I can make up for in simply learning how to write in a voice that leads with confidence and optimism and what I call “business-casual professionalism”.
A lot of this comes down to Rule #7 of my Writing Code:
“Write about weird stuff but make it seem normal. Or write about normal stuff and make it seem weird.”
My current literary role model is Michael Chabon, whom through his series in Details magazine, I learned better how to get in touch with my nostalgic side and hopefully make it seem interesting; not too technical or too abstract. A happy medium that invites the reader to connect to the same train of thought. In one of his newer books that I recently began reading, called Maps and Legends, he reiterates my #7 Rule:
“Let’s cultivate an unflagging reading as storytellers to retell the same stories with endless embellishment… The key, as in baroque music, is repetition with variation.”
Retell the same stories with endless embellishment: Be original yet never really break new ground. The familiar with the fresh.
Repetition with variation: Take a subconsciously familiar thought and then put a new spin of originality on it. So that readers feel a sense of comfort (the old familiar thought) along with newness (the author’s personality and his or her unique perspective).
And really, isn’t that really what’s for sale here anyway? The writer’s personality?
Facts are only so important. So is a plot. But ultimately a story or an article is only as entertaining as the person telling it. And a lot of the reasons we think a writer is “good” is because we relate to them, in some uncertain invisible ways.
Whether that writer reminds us of our own self and the way we naturally think, or they remind us of one of our friends, or ultimately our alter-ego, Tyler Durden (the man who the nameless protagonist of Fight Club imagines himself to be friends with), there is some reason we feel connected.
Of course, just like doctors and lawyers refer to their work as their practice, I too recognize that this site is and always will be a work in progress. This is me paying my dues. Learning as I go. With an end in sight. Or maybe I should say a new beginning in sight…
Below are the reader stats for this site. This shows hits per month. September 2009 is when I exclusively began writing for this site.
Months and Years