My 500th Post: A Road is a Place (AKA “Kayak to Japan Then Jet Ski to China, Via Google Maps”)

Some of the best advice you can get from anyone is to kayak to Hawaii, then Japan, and finally, jet ski to China.

I have found that for the most part, if you live in America and use Google Maps, it will only help you for traveling within the U.S.  But evidently one of the workers for Google Maps got bored on a slow Wednesday afternoon and “planted some Easter eggs” for fun people like you and me.  No matter where you are leaving from, if you type in “China” as the destination, you will be instructed to kayak from the coast of Washington state to Hawaii, drive a car to the other side of the state, then kayak to Japan, drive a care to the to other side of Japan, then jet ski to China.  I’ll save you the trouble.  Here’s a link to Google Maps to try it out.

During the summer before 7th grade (1993) on church bus ride back from Six Flags Over Georgia, I heard a song on the cassette tape playing through the stereo speakers by Steven Curtis Chapman called  No Better Place.  The main part of the chorus says, “There’s no better place on Earth than the road that leads to Heaven.”  That’s when I realized that a road is actually a place itself- not just a means to get to other places.  I had never thought about it before.  A road is a location, despite its abstract shape and the fact it overlaps countless other places- other cities, other states, even other countries.

As the title proclaims, this is indeed my 500th post. That’s a lot of material from my brain. I spend an average of at least one hour on each one (I’ve spent up to 5 hours on a few of them), and considering that that my average post is 666 words long (strange but true), that adds up to an estimated bare minimum of 21 whole days of writing and 333,000 words used to do it.  I would actually predict that in reality I’ve used at least 500,000 words and 30 whole days simply in writing the content of Scenic Route Snapshots.

Sometimes I go back to the earliest posts back in 2009 and dress them up with better pictures and titles.  Interestingly, these older writings of mine are not only less physically attractive and appealing, but their content alone shows me that I’ve grown up not only as a writer but also a person.  This website, my main hobby, is like a metaphorical road of my life.  It shows me the similarities and differences of me now, compared and contrasted to me then.

A road is a place.  By looking down it we can see where we’ve come from and we’re were headed.  If we should find the road we are on is not leading to where we need to be, there are always intersections.  And u-turns.

Content as of February 21, 2011

500 Posts
5 Pages
8 Categories
6,277 Tags

Discussion and Viewership as of February 21, 2011

992 Comments
218,967 views all-time
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For Aspiring and Beginning Bloggers: Six Tips on How to Have a Successful Blog Site on WordPress (My First 200,000 Hits)

Today as my WordPress site reached 200,000 hits, I received another email from a fellow blogger asking me advice on how to improve their site.  I am now briefly sharing the secrets of my success which I have learned through trial and error since September 2009 when I started Scenic Route Snapshots.

Use WordPress, not BlogSpot: I have never used BlogSpot, but I’ve noticed the more successful bloggers use WordPress, like Stuff White People Like and 1,000 Awesome Things; the authors of both of those sites received book deals based on their blogs and the books have gone on to be top sellers.  I believe that WordPress offers the best layouts and the best tools.  I love how I can easily see my top posts each day along with my top searched items through Google; that way I can capitalize on the things I write about the best.

Write nearly daily: Now that I have written just under 500 posts here on my site and have covered so many different subjects, the chances of anyone typing in any noun into Google and stumbling upon my site are pretty good.  Right now if you type in “banana” or “red panda”, you’ll find me easily.  Not only does writing daily increase the quality of my own writing, but it also increases readership, in the likeness of paying to have your name in the drawing 20 times as opposed to all the others who just paid for one time.

Use too many pictures: Yes, I meant to say that. Use too many pictures.  At first I wanted the satisfaction of knowing that readers who stumbled upon my site were doing so simply because of the quality of my writing.  But I was really being unfair to myself, because who would buy a magazine if it didn’t have an attention grabbing picture on the cover and constant pictures throughout its content? Pictures are the #1 way to market your blog.  Even more so than facebook and Twitter, I have found.  Out of my 800 facebook friends, when I publish a new post and it shows up on my facebook wall (I have linked WordPress to facebook and Twitter), at best I may get 40 hits just from facebook.   However, a good picture in a post can easily bring me 100 hits daily for months.  My rule for pictures is roughly “one large picture per every 12 lines of typing”.

Use too many words in your titles: For the most part, my more popular posts contain more than six words and consist of at least two nouns. In 2010, my most popular post was What Wile E. Coyote, Red Pandas, and U2 All Have in Common: They Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For.  While the content of that post was a bit abstract and even spiritual, the title was as cut and dry as I could make it.  Interestingly, that post was published in July 2010 (halfway through the year) and still managed to garner over 10,000 views by January 1, 2011 when I posted my Best of 2010 blog featuring it as my #1 most popular post of the year.

Write different series: As you find yourself writing about the same topics, turn them into a collection, then into their own page where readers can easily access them at the top of your page.  Take my dad from day one series, for example.  I literally have dozens of different posts in that one series.  Typically, if a person is going to read one of those posts, they are likely to read at least several more. That way, I’m turning one hit into seven.

Write about interesting stuff from an interesting perspective: Easier said than done, right?  Either you have the talent or you don’t. However, the fact that you are aspiring or beginning to write a blog says this about you: Like me, you find enough time in the day to write; meaning you probably have enough going through your head to write about; meaning you probably have writing talent.  To help you further, I’ve been documenting my viewership milestones into a series. I recommend you take the time to read it, as it includes other details to help you have a popular blog:

Nick Shell’s “10,000 Hits” series:

Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground: My First 10,000 Hits on WordPress

Being Original, Yet Never Really Breaking New Ground: My First 20,000 Hits on WordPress

Being Engaging, Yet Never Really Standing on Dangerous Ground: My First 30,000 Hits on WordPress

Being Excessive and Eventually Finding Coming Ground: My First 40,000 Hits on WordPress

Being Active in the Blogging World Yet Hanging Out in the Background: My First 50,000 Hits on WordPress

Being Offbeat Enough to Gain Steady Ground: My First 100,000 Hits on WordPress

If you have any other questions or want my advice on writing a WordPress blog, feel free to ask and I will be glad to help you.


2010 Report Card from WordPress including Blog-Health-o-Meter

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 170,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 7 days for that many people to see it.

 

In 2010, there were 314 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 451 posts.

The busiest day of the year was December 4th with 2,643 views. The most popular post that day was What Wile E. Coyote, Red Pandas, and U2 All Have in Common.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, wordpress.com, en.wordpress.com, google.com, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for roadrunner, cannabis, helicopter, dexter, and ali fedotowsky jewish.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

What Wile E. Coyote, Red Pandas, and U2 All Have in Common July 2010
1 comment

2

LOST Recap: Season 6, Episode 1- “LA X” February 2010

3

The Cannabis Conspiracy: Man is Taking Credit for God’s Free Gift October 2009
9 comments

4

Must Not Mustache March 2010
4 comments

5

Capital Punishment, In Theory January 2010
7 comments

Writing for Readers (and Reading the Writings) of the Opposite Sex

Are most of my readers men or women?  Let’s take a look at the demographics of Scenic Route Snapshots…

I like to keep up with the demographics of my readers, as best I can, by checking to see which posts are consistently the most popular and also by seeing which keywords are the most commonly searched phrases.  Because while I do write creatively and freely, I also want to be able to cater to “revisitors” to give them something worth coming back for- hopefully ending up in that coveted “Favorites” tab on their computer screen.

Another good indicator of who I am attracting as readers is by looking at my “tag cluster cloud” on the right side of the screen, entitled “What I Write About the Most”.  These are the topics I label myself to help readers in the WordPress community (the website franchise this site is published through) find posts about a particular subject they want to read about.  The more times I publish a post with that “tag word”, the larger it appears in the cluster cloud.  Here’s a breakdown of the tag words currently in my cluster cloud with an according “gender predictor” with each one:

Masculine: manspeak, men, wife

Feminine: Ali Fedotowsky, baby, Chris Harrison, dad from day one, Jake Pavelka, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette

Neutral: 1983, ABC (the network featuring LOST and The Bachelor, which I’ve written countless recaps for), America, American, Bible, blog, blogging, blogs, cancer, Christian, Christianity, coffee, comedy, déjà vu, English, facebook, family, Fort Payne, friends, funny, God, Google, Italian, Jacob (from LOST), Jesus, Jewish, Jews, life, LOST, Nashville, Nick Shell (while I am masculine, I appeal to both genders, as this particular post will explain), people, Starbucks, Thailand

While it appears to me that most of the topics I mention in my writings are gender neutral, the ones that are specifically feminine do outweigh those which are specifically masculine.  And even then, through the Manspeak series (categorized as “masculine”) is written to explain the way men think and speak, I’m inclined to assume that more women read the series than men, to understand their boyfriends, husbands, sons, and fathers.  (Click the title to get to the main Manspeak page: Manspeak, Volume 0: Introduction).

My estimate is that is that at least 85% of my readers are women and no more than 15% are men.  Not only do my Bachelor/Bachelorette recaps increase my female readership, but also so does my dad from day one series, which chronicles my thoughts as an expecting father. And that’s a peculiar thing to me- that I can write so frequently to the appeal of the feminine mindset, which works so differently from my own.

It’s happened throughout the course of history; from the Bible being written by all men (though there are countless female protagonists like Ruth and Esther) to the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling (whose real name is Joanne Murray, but who was strongly encouraged by her publisher to use a more masculine pen name that would better accommodate her targeted audience of young boys), men and women have been successfully writing for not only their own gender, but for the opposite as well.

But even though men and women think so differently, more important is the fact that People Who Write share a common trait with People Who Read: an artistic drive that supersedes gender differences.  I am completely bankrupt when it comes to sports trivia or fixing a garbage disposal, but I can come up with something new and creative to write about everyday that connects to the appropriate readers.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for supporting my masculine-and-feminine-friendly writings.


Being Excessive and Eventually Finding Common Ground: My First 40,000 Hits on WordPress

Thanks for 40,000 hits.

In my 313 posts on Scenic Route Snapshots, I’ve covered so many random topics along the way that if you type into my search box on the right side of the screen (“Curious? Type any word in the box…) the first off-the-wall word that comes to mind, you are quite likely to pull up at least one entry.  Try it right now if you’d like.  Go ahead, I’ll still be here.

Here are a few examples to try: John Candy, 1977, duckbill platypus, moped, or Ohio.

It all goes back to #9 of The Code: Write an excessive number of posts every month. They won’t all be awesome, but it’s often the ones that I predict won’t really connect with readers that are the ones that really do.  The more I write, the better I’ll be, and the better I’ll know how to connect to readers.”

Perhaps the greatest example of this theory occurred this week: WordPress hand-selected  The Korean Sauna Experience: Friendship, Friendship as a feature story on their “Freshly Pressed” homepage ( wordpress.com/).  Accordingly, my daily traffic has benefited:  The first day I was featured I got 1,748 hits and the second day 1,646.  (Last week’s daily average was 584.)

The funny thing about this is- of the hundreds of posts of written in the past five years, that particular one in my opinion, is definitely not one of my best.  At 1500 words, it’s over twice the length of most things I write.  It’s seems a bit of a bore to me- though I have to keep in mind that it’s an event that I experienced six years ago, so it’s no longer that exciting to me.  But for someone hearing it for the first time, I could see how it could have a different effect.

The point being, I simply lazily posted a familiar story on my website- just another brick in the wall.  But it caught the eye of the right person and found favor with them, which has increased reader subscriptions and daily hits.  In part, because I post an excessive amout of my writings.

I’m way too scatter-brained to come up with a smart theme like http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/, which is creative, yet focused.  Maybe I’m just a conditioned channel-changer, a product of the 1980’s.  Getting exhausted by having to think about the same concept for everything I write about.  So I just write about whatever comes to mind, which by default, ends up being about one of the following things: My Categories: Nostalgia, People, Storytelling, Spirituality, Writing, and Recaps.

So what I can’t accomplish by being clever enough to come up with one solid money-making idea, I plan to make up for in my excessiveness- by typically publishing an average of 28 posts every month, basically one per day.  (Usually I don’t post anything on the weekends, but at least 2 or 3 every weekday, averaging about to about one a day.)

I guess when it comes down to it, I’ve set a secret goal to publish more posts than anyone I know that has a website.  So far, I’ve been successful at meeting that goal.  Doing my best to slowly take over a corner of the Internet, so that whatever noun a person types into Google, they will easily find their way to me.

So in my Spumoniness, I am able to reach out to several demographics of people.  And my hope is that in the end, I won’t be just a gimmick or a fad that people eventually forget about as I fade away into obscurity.  I want to be here in the background of your life, writing the coming-of-age literary soundtrack.

Other posts of this “10,000 Hits” series:

Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground (posted April 11, 2010)

Being Original, Yet Never Really Breaking New Ground (posted May 18, 2010)

Being Engaging, Yet Never Really Standing on Dangerous Ground (posted on June 10, 2010)

My Categories: Nostalgia, People, Storytelling, Spirituality, Writing, and Recaps

What’s my writing style?  Spumoni.


If I was smart, I would listen to the authors of “how to be a writer” and “how to have a popular website” books when they clearly tell me, “Find your niche and just focus on it alone.”  Then I could be like the fortunate clever-minded writers who all now have book deals simply because of the popularity of their WordPress websites:

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

http://stuffchristianslike.net/

http://1000awesomethings.com/

Here’s the problem though- I’m not attracting just one type of reader.  I’m luring in several different types of people who are both completely unrelated to each other and yet at other times couldn’t be more alike.  It sort of reminds me of the way that MSN’s home page (http://www.msn.com/) is set up.  Their main categories are news, entertainment, sports, money, and lifestyle.

By default, I have ended up emulating that concept, only mixing it up with my own alternative, off-beat main topics.  Instead of the mainstream-friendly Neapolitan (chocolate-strawberry-vanilla) topics, my twisted version is more like Spumoni (chocolate-pistachio-cherry). *Ironically, Spumoni came first (from Italy), but by the time it became popular in America, it evolved into Neapolitan.

I have come to the conclusion that there are ultimately six main categories I write about: nostalgia, people, storytelling, spirituality, writing, and recaps (of TV shows, mainly).  (“Uncategorized” is an additional generic title given to all my posts as well.)

Of course I struggled with making “Jewish references” and “humor” their own separate categories, but just like a few other “should I make these their own categories?” categories, certain topics aren’t simply things I write about; they’re a part of everything I write.  It would just simply be redundant; stating the obvious.

Being able to read through an entire one of my posts without coming across the words “Jew”, “Jews”, or “Jewish” somewhere in there is about as rare as biting all the way through a Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookie without eating a chocolate chip.  And I would hope that there is at least a little bit of irony that comes across as humorous in most of what I write as well.  I shouldn’ have to label it “funny”, otherwise I may be defeating the purpose.

This is just a cool picture. In reality, I do not actually offer newsletters (unless you subscribe to this site; that would count), competitions, free ice cream, or much more.

So who am I attracting on a daily basis?

Fans of LOST, Dexter, The Bachelor, and/or The Bachelorette.  Jewish people.  Christians.  People who grew up in the 1980’s.  People concerned with healthy living.   People who found my website by searching one of those things and then saved my website in their “Favorites” and forwarded the link on to their friends.

In other words, my readers are as random as I am.  Random Spumoni.  Takes one to know one.  Welcome to the club.

The Edge of “Me Too” Culture: What Makes People Famous

My sister is my editor. She is the first to read what I write, typically two days before it’s published. If I am working on a piece that I feel may be pushing the envelope/over the top/too forceful, I let her proofread it for me. And most of the time, she tells me to keep it the way it is.

Just last week she labeled one of my drafts as “edgy”. Then later that day as I read a chapter in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Magazine Articles on my lunch break, it stressed the importance of each article I write needing to be short, informative, and edgy. There that word is again. Edgy.

Thanks to WordPress I am finally able to track the number of daily readers along with knowing which things I write are the most popular posts. So far, it has consistenty been those “edgy” ones that I ran by my sister before posting. People like edgy stuff. It has now been statistically proven.

We live in a world of “me too” culture. “Anything you can do, I can do better” has become “anything you can do, I can do, but it will probably be a crappier version, but still, I can do it too.” Anyone can sing, dance, record music, make a computer app, do a video series on YouTube, and write blogs. The more crowded a venue, the more mediocre and blandized the general talent becomes. That’s why people are drawn to the edge. The edge of what’s normal. The edge of what’s familiar. The salt of the earth.

People tend to talk about how crazy life is. (Instantly the intro to Jon and Kate Plus 8 comes to mind, along with Michael Buble’s song “Everything”). Yes, life is crazy. And it’s also pretty mundane. So when people look for entertainment and/or enlightenment, they tend to venture off the main trail to find it.

Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty would most likely not have won American Idol in their days. But their uniqueness and off-beat perspective found a way to draw people in through their odd lyrics and quirky personas.

It’s pretty obvious in any episode of Howie Mandel’s “Deal or No Deal”. The contestants always have some sort of stupid gimmick. An annoying catch phrase or weird favorite color. It becomes the theme of that episode.

From Seinfeld to Super Mario Bros.  Things that are both weird and common attract people.

For me it all goes back to Junior High when I realized the irony of the phrase “everyone is special and unique”. Yes. Yes, they are. But if everyone is special and unique, then they’re all the same. Standing in the in-between of what’s familiar and what is off-beat is often where audiences form.  Nothin’ draws a crowd like a crowd.