06 October, 2009

Book Bloggers: Top Post Analysis

Yesterday, I posted a list of responses from speculative fiction bloggers on their most popular posts. The variety of replies was fairly large but did tend to cluster around a couple blogging 'principles', notably the infamous list. Sadly, the data itself was a bit limited, so this is more of an observational study. Distilling the list to its most basic forms, we get the following:

Lists: 5
Meme: 1
Interview: 3
Original Article: 3
Review: 5
Huge Giveaway: 1

To be fair, the responses are pretty much what I expected and generally conform to many of the common assumptions about blogging. While I broke them down into the category of best fit, some of the posts were definitely hybrids, professionally straddling two or more of the categories.

[Organize Your Content]
The number of top posts that are lists is fairly unsurprising given their general popularity throughout the internet, and meme's too, although to a lesser extent. A list is a simple, efficient, and visually appealing way to present information. Given that the average internet reader has the attention span of a five year old, organizing your content in a simple and visually appealing manner is highly recommended. In the same vein, ideally, you have graphics instead of text for any subdivisions on your blog - check out Temple Library Review for a good example of simple yet efficient graphic representation.

[Quality over Quantity: In-Links]
The internet is rife with tips and tricks on link building, especially for bloggers. The sad fact is that most of those tricks are either irrelevant or can actually harm your site. From the small sample below, we discover that a quality link is worth a lot more than a tangle of minor ones. The most successful posts were picked up by popular authors on their blogs or large online pubs - just check out Renai's review of the new Hitchhiker's book which garnered around 20k page-views. [Suggestion: Go to the Source] You just finished writing your best review, which is both insightful and well written. Don't waste your time leaving comments on the twenty other reviews blogs, instead, focus on the big fish. Draft a nice email to the author, letting her know that you thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Point her towards your review, and maybe even ask for clarification on a certain point, or even an interview. Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost... in a good way.

[Get It While Its Hot]
As was pointed out by a number of the responding bloggers, writing about highly anticipated content works well. If you are just starting out though, this does not mean jumping on the band-wagon and parroting every piece of news that comes your way. Pick your fights. Statistically, only 1 in 20 blog posts will be a hit, so don't force it. Do your research, keep up on your posting, and find the right moment to pounce. Then again, as pointed out by Dave, anything that is highly anticipated, such as The Gathering Storm, is bound to snag you some traffic. The choice is yours, but focusing on original content is much more beneficial in the long term - don't say I didn't warn you.

[Watch Your Keywords]
Looking at a couple of the most successful posts, I cannot but help issue a friendly warning. Watch your keywords. While getting lots of google traffic for the word "sex", "hot", and "naked" might be fun every now and then, they aren't conducive to repeat customers and can actually harm your site. Rank too high in any of those and chances are you will get tagged by search engines as having adult content. That isn't to say don't do it, but definitely don't abuse it. If you are looking to sharpen your aim a bit with keywords, I highly suggest using this google tool to help you find the most popular ones relevant to your target audience. Hope it helps.

[Content is King: Act Natural]
No surprise here. Every single one of the posts submitted is good, intelligent original content. They reveal little known facts, make sexy lists, conduct original and engaging interviews, and regroup disparate but fun sources of information, but most importantly, they are written by bloggers who care. It might sounds simple and fairly naive, but actually enjoying what you are doing is the first step towards running a good book blog. Without el passion, you will end up sounding unoriginal and cold. Ken's interview with GRRM might have been short and a bit silly, but he knows a ton about the author and his questions were fun -- never forget that genuine interest always comes across.

[Search Engine Optimization] n' all that jazz.
Some of the best advice you will ever get as a book blogger will be to ignore most aspects of search engine optimization (SEO). The most basic guideline of writing an SEO friendly post is to have it be 10-20% keyword rich, which will simply destroy any hope of writing a competent review. Imagine using the word 'book' and 'review' over and over again in every post... Focus on good content, and if you have the time follow these simple rules.
- Name your images properly before uploading them and always use title or alt text.
- Don't fret over keyword density, but make sure to use anchor text effectively.
- Link to your own posts with proper anchor text.
- Chill, because most of this stuff doesn't matter in the long run...
- Use heading tags within posts. This just makes it easier for search engines to understand your content.
- Use post titles efficiently and effectively.
- Don't spam your tags, a handful should always suffice.

I could talk about a lot more stuff, such as meta tags or social media, but I fear that I have already veered a bit off course. Maybe if there is some interest I will write on those topics in the future. Generally speaking though, the one thing every blogger on the list has done to get where they are, is post consistently. Keep up the good work, remember the 1 in 20 rule, and may your top posts be many!

I glossed over a few things, letting the links do some of the explaining, but if anyone has suggestions or recommendations, please post away.


Krista said...

This was a really cool thing you did. For us new bloggers like myself it should be a lot of help. Thanks for taking your time to do this. It's great stuff!

Off topic--
Just wondering, but are you an aspiring writer or maybe you are a writer? Your posts seem to flow nicely and are refreshing to read.
I read and replied to your DUNE review, which really just blew me out of the water! I should be getting my copy of DUNE any day now...

ediFanoB said...

Well done Alec! I should stop blogging right now. So many things to learn. You make me feel guilty about the quality of my posts. I promise I try to improve.

Unknown said...

Thanks Alec for taking the time to compile all this info.

I haven't been blogging that long, so I'm always looking for ways to improve my blog and my writing style.


Tia said...

Thanks for the extra exposure, and for pointing me to a bunch of blogs that are new to me. The hints are appreciated, too.

Dave said...

I'd say this is useful info for all bloggers, not just those writing book blogs! Heh... I have to agree on the "racy keywords" thing. Did one post about "Celebrity Upskirt: Statue of Liberty" but that search engine traffic doesn't stick around for more than a few seconds when they realize there is no nekkid Britney.