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.


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

Thanks for 30,000 hits.

I think it should be a sin to bore people.  But it’s an insult to art when an artist has to resort to shock value to get a person’s attention.  Somewhere in between Stale Familiarity and Offensive Toxicity is a place called Spunky Creativity.  Off-beat and optimistic.  That’s the place I try to write from.

Writers, by nature, put themselves in a vulnerable position.  Anytime I publish a post that I know has potential to be popular, I usually am suppressing at least a little bit of anxiousness for it.  Because I am implementing (yet testing the limits of) #6 of The Code:  “Be edgy but not controversial.”

Will it be controversial instead of just edgy?  Will I somehow offend a reader unknowingly?  Will I expose too much of myself in the writing, seeming like a know-it-all, a jerk, or douche?

My favorite author, Michael Chabon, referenced this thought process in his newest nonfiction book, Manhood for Amateurs: “Anything good that I have written has, at some point during its composition, left me feeling uneasy and afraid.  It has seemed, for a moment, to put me at risk.”

As it tends to be the case, the edgiest posts I write end up becoming my personal favorites and the ones I am proudest of.  Because they have the most substance.  The most creativity.  And are hopefully the most engaging.

Here are several examples: The Cannabis Conspiracy, Introduction; Modern Day Scarlet Letters: R&B; Free Marriage Advice; Singleness; The Gift No One Really Wants; The Funny Thing about Jews; Emotionally Charged Words; Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People ; Water into Wine; BS Detector; What is a Christian Nation, Anyway?; Religious Views on Facebook Profiles

Grabbing a reader’s attention is one thing.  But having what I wrote stay in their head for a day or two, having them ponder about it, having them share that same idea to others either through conversation or by my forwarding my link, having them save my website in their favorites, well, that’s another thing.

It’s important to me that my website is not a gimmick, a trend, or anything that can be described as “cute”.  But I also have to make sure I’m not sparking a political or religious debate.  Because if what I write is in deed controversial (as opposed to just being edgy), I could wind up in a situation where my post gets attention just because of the long trail of comments of people arguing with each other, themselves, and me over the open-ended content I wrote about.

That’s not for me.  Let other people argue. (Often, controversial topics aren’t new and fresh anyway.)

That’s one of the reasons that my current #2 post of all time, Capital Punishment, In Theory, remains popular.  In it, I don’t question whether or not capital punishment is wrong or right.  I question those who support capital punishment with “could you be the one to pull the trigger if it was up to you?”  That’s not controversial, that’s deep.  And edgy.

If nothing else, when I write, I am simply trying to entertain myself.  So if I’m not intrigued by the material I write about, I figure no one else will be either.

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)

Rubik’s Cube Syndrome: Preventing Death by Boredom

So it turns out, there is a such thing as dying of boredom.  Therefore, I always have to be thinking.  Because seriously, there is always a new puzzle to solve.

Being that I’ve been writing for a website since August 2005 and have been averaging around 3 or more new posts a week, I have been routinely asked, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” and “How do you always have something new to write about?”.  The answer, my mind never really shuts off.

Some people’s minds never shut off because they continue to be overwhelmed with all the things they have to get done.  Some constantly worry about all the things they have no control over.  Not me.  I, instead, am constantly entertaining the random thoughts that float up to the surface.  Then I get near a computer.

But if I were to sit down in a therapist’s chair and really let my guard down and spill my guts, the psychiatrist would learn that I have a fear of being bored.  It’s more of an obsession of staying constantly entertained so that I can never enter a second of boredom.

I have these boring dreams sometimes where I realize I am dreaming and tell myself to wake up.  Seconds literally seem like hours in a dream. Usually, if I tell myself in the dream to lift my head off the pillow in real life, it works, and I wake up from the boring dream.

Maybe this is common knowledge, or maybe it’s an epiphany, but boredom is totally motivational.  Popular games and sports, great inventions, and stupid crimes are often born out of boredom.

For me, it all probably started when I was a small kid.  Kids have to do a lot of waiting around.  A couple of the children’s day care centers I attended were torture.  The ones without good, organized activities.  It must have been then that I learned to keep myself entertained under any and at times.  I never realized that until this exact second.

I wasn’t at all surprised last week when I came across this article saying that a new study shows that boredom can be just as dangerous to a person’s health as stress.  It is pretty easy to think of examples of older people who died shortly after they retired.  The first 2 that come to mind:

Paul “Bear” Bryant died on January 25, 1983.  That was 28 days after he retired from coaching the University of Alabama’s football team.  And actor Peter Boyle, who played Raymond’s dad on Everybody Loves Raymond, died the year after the show ended.

And surely we can all think of a senior citizen who died only weeks or months after their aged spouse passed away.  It’s sweet to think about, that one couldn’t go on without the other.  But it’s even more interesting after reading this article:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35328113/ns/health-heart_health/ns/health-heart_health/

I’m starting to realize that I evidently have a subconscious goal to memorize Wikipedia.  My regurgitation of the knowledge I learn there helps keep me entertained at all times.  Even while I’m being entertained.  Like the ultimate “picture in picture” experience.  Or Pop-Up Video.

For example, Friday night I watched the first 20 minutes of Meet the Fockers when ABC aired it (to whet peoples’ appetites for the next sequel, Little Fockers, which comes out this December).  During the opening credits/first 5 minutes of the movie, I pointed out to my wife all the Jews associated with making the movie:

*Note: If there is a “?” next to the person’s name, it means I am not yet able to verify for a fact if they are Jewish, but based on their name alone, they most likely are.  In other words, Jewish until proven Gentile.

Actors: Ben Stiller (Jewish), Dustin Hoffman (Jewish), Barbara Streisand (Jewish), Blythe Danner (mother of Gwenyth Paltrow, was married to the now deceased Bruce Paltrow, who was Jewish)

Music by: Randy Newman (Jewish)

Directed by: Jane Rosenthal (Jewish?) and Nancy Tenenbaum (Jewish?)

Written by: John Hamburg (Jewish?), Jim Herzfeld (Jewish?), and John Hyman (Jewish?)

Distributed by: Universal Studios- which was founded by Carl Laemmle (Jewish) and Dreamworks- which is headed up by Stephen Spielburg (Jewish), David Geffen (Jewish), and Jeffrey Katzenberg (Jewish?)

And this is interesting because less than 2% of Americans are Jewish.  To get a better idea of what a small number that is, Asian-Americans make up 4% of our nation’s population, and African-Americans represent 12%.

http://wp.me/pxqBU-kY

When I watch a movie, I am constantly seeing numbers and words surrounding each actor.  The actor’s height, hometown, and ethnicity.  I get an enhanced experience.

Recently I watched Hope Floats with my wife and here’s what I saw on the screen as soon as I saw Harry Connick, Jr:

6’ 1”

New Orleans, LA

Half Irish, Half Jewish

That is a glimpse at how my mind works.  And how I see everyday life.  Kinda like those Bing commercials about information overload.  When I hear a noun, my mind instantly pulls up the most notable memory from my own life and combines it with other interesting, random facts about it as well.

Last summer, a guy I graduated high school with named Kenneth Snipes, told me in a facebook wall comment that I could take the word “phone book” and write an interesting post about it.  I’m open to the idea.

In the 5th grade, one of my many favorite TV shows was The Dick Van Dyke Show (via Nick at Nite).  I remember an episode where Buddy (played by Morey Amsterdam, who was Jewish) told some people at a party that he could tell a joke with any word someone gives him.  So a lady said “horse”.  This was his joke:

If everybody in America owned a horse, the nation would be more stabilized.

If Buddy can do it with jokes, then I can do it with my writing.  I take requests.  In the form of a comment, just list a subject that you would like for me to expound on.  If I personally know you, I will attempt to also incorporate a memory I have of you in the writing.

See what my Rubik’s Cube of a brain spits out.  I will turn it into a story that will arguably be interesting and educational.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on boredom, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one