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This year I decided to launch my personal blog, and it's been more fun than I ever imagined! Blogging is attractive in similar ways as publishing: people reading and discussing your work. Bonus: Writing about data and science provides me with a great subject matter, and lots of fun graphics. I have lots of cool ideas in the pipe, mostly waiting for free time (in short supply during grad school) to write them.
There is a glut of information online about how to build your blog traffic and increase readership. Some of this I've actively worked on, some seems like obsessive nonsense. A lot of it is spam. Here are seven of the lessons I've learned about building a blog. This is largely an empirical study of blogs, including my own, and meant in good fun...
1. Spend time worrying about the design of your blog/website. The default (e.g.) Blogger themes are nice, but they need to be fine tuned. There are lots of little tweaks that are easy to make, and make a huge difference (I think) in the aesthetic.
2. Stop worrying about the design of your blog and write. If your website looks like a Dieter Rams masters class, but only has 3 posts, then you'd better keep your day job. For me, the joy in blogging is writing and discussing ideas with people, not worrying about button placement.
3. Let other people do your work for you. Lots of people re-post material, some advocate for outsourcing or splitting your writing workload. I like to get post ideas from my friends/family. I also use Blogger (currently) to host/drive my blog, as it takes all the work out of backend and lets me focus on the parts I enjoy! I don't want to be a web developer
4. Post often. Duh. Otherwise traffic dies off... fast.
5. Post before Mondays. As this figure shows, the analytics on my blog indicate that Mondays have the highest traffic. This may differ based on where you get readers from, and of course your type of content. I've seen it written that Thursday is the best day to post, in time for the weekend e-traffic. I think this matches my results.
6. Prey on people's insecurities. Again and again I find that one of the best ways to gain blog traffic is to write about gaining blog traffic. If you've ever watched television you know that diet pills and enhancement drugs are big business. It seems sensible, therefore, that if you want to easily get large traffic, write about how people can solve their problems without significant effort.
7. Participate/advertise in social media. I like Reddit and Twitter, but haven't had much luck with stumbleupon yet. YMMV of course. These kinds of outlets provide impulsive blog traffic, and converting this to moderately increased long-term readership is the goal. The figure below shows the impulsive response my site has experienced from (mostly) Reddit, with an increasing baseline of traffic.