5 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging

LetterX with text A2Zchallenge 2020

Day 23 of the A-Z challenge.

X is for The Unknown

I have next to nothing in common with Donald Rumsfeld , the former US Secretary of State for Defence. The one thing upon which we can agree is that “there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.”

The rest of his answer to a question in a 2002 news briefing about Iraq was gibberish but that one phrase about known unknowns has stuck with me.

It’s how I feel about blogging. Even after 8 years there is so much I don’t understand or know about. I’m hoping that the wisdom of crowds will come to my rescue. The book blogging world is full of generous people more than willing to share knowledge and expertise. Let’s see if you can help fill in the gaps in these areas of my knowledge.

1. Why Do Some Blog Posts Get Scant Attention? 

It’s a mystery to me why some of my blog posts get a lot of interest and others just disappear into a void.

Memes and list posts tend to attract likes and comments very shortly after they are published but then they disappear without trace. Certain book reviews may not get much reaction initially still get visited years later – a few have even ended up as some of the most popular topics I’ve written.

I’ve been puzzling about this for some time. I’ve figured out that the memes and lists posts don’t endure because people are not using search engines to find that kind of material. Book reviews are different – they’re often read a long time after the book is published. In the case of a classic, it may be even centuries later. So any post which is based on a review has a more durable quality.

How do I explain that a review I wrote in 2013 on a novel Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o is the highest visited post in the entire history of this blog. Thousands of people have read it, yet it’s had less than a score of comments. I suspect it’s on an academic syllabus for African literature and the people finding my review are hoping for analysis that will help with their assignment (I think they’ll be disappointed). Does that explain some high visitor numbers for my thoughts on Fear And Trembling by the Belgian author Amelie Nothomb?

All reviews of books by Welsh authors get lower interest than those by people from other parts of the world. Very disappointing but I’m not going to stop doing these because I strongly believe Welsh authors deserve even more exposure. At least I know why this is happening.

But others I simply don’t understand why they die the death. The headline isn’t interesting or maybe not specific enough? The first paragraph doesn’t interest people so they don’t read on? I’ve spent too long explaining the plot and now what I thought about the way the book was written or its themes.

Anyone find this happens to them and if so, do you have any explanations to offer?

Things I wish I understood about blogging Question mark lying on its side
Photo: Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

2. How To Make Images Workable Across Multiple Platforms

In my recent post about Using Images In Blogs I mentioned that often my images look too small on the page. I searched for some guidelines about how big images should be but didn’t find anything that was easily understandable. One blog expert said:

… don’t use anything that is more than one third of your content block 

Which is all find and dandy if only I knew what size my content block is or where to find such information.

Then there’s the problem that different social media platforms want images of different dimensions. The photo might look the right size on the blog but then when I use it on Twitter, it gets distorted or looks puny. Facebook wants something different and Instagram prefers vertical rather than horizontal format.

Does that mean I need different size/shape images for every social media platform I want to use? Seems like a lot of effort. Are there any shortcuts to get this done? Help needed please!

3. Which Social Media Platform?

“Don’t spread yourself too thinly” was a piece of advice mentioned more than once by bloggers who’ve taken part in this A2ZBookBlogging series.

It’s advice I am taking to heart. I simply don’t have time to keep on top of multiple social media channels. But this raises another question: if I can manage just one social media platform which should I choose?

Until now I’ve focused on Twitter. I’ve played around with Pinterest but abandoned it – it looks to me like an online scrap book and I couldn’t see how it would generate any traffic to my blog which is my primary platform. I opened an Instagram account earlier this year but haven’t done very much with it as yet. Then there’s Facebook, You Tube, Linked In; Reddit, Medium. The list goes on and on.

I’m willing to invest the time and effort to learn how to use most of these tools. But I want to make sure I’m investing wisely. I don’t honestly see myself as a booktuber (incidentally I’ve yet to find a really good book tube channel). Would Instagram be a better option than Twitter? Should I create a Facebook group?

If any of you have experience of social media platforms beyond Twitter, do let me know how you use them and how well you think they work.

4. What Else Can WordPress Offer?

Writing these A2ZBookBlogging posts has forced me to dig into WordPress more deeply than I’ve ever done previously. It’s been a revelation.

I never realised you could create carousels of photos or make the images round. Nor did I know you could add a list of recent posts to any page (I thought that was only possible on the home page). I’ve also found there’s a way to merge and edit categories and tags without having to visit each post individually.

I’m not convinced I need all those functions but just seeing what’s possible got me thinking what else does WordPress have to offer? Am I getting the full benefit of this platform or are there some valuable features I am overlooking? There’s a WordPress for Beginners site and blog which contains some helpful tutorials and “how to” articles which could well provide answers.

5. Should I Plunge Into Self Hosting?

This is the biggest of my unknowns.

Until now I’ve used WordPress.com platform, upgrading from the free plan to the business plan. This gives me far more flexibility with the choice of themes and plug ins and also means I don’t have WordPress branding on the site.

For a personal blogger this gives me as much scope and functionality as I did (it would be different if I was using the blog for business). However it’s more expensive than using the WordPress.org platform which is a self-hosted option (though I would need to pay a separate company for a hosting service).

Being self-hosted would give me even greater flexibility to add more functions and different themes.

But I’m hesitating because making the switch has some disadvantages and some risks.

First I’d need to find a company offering a reliable web hosting service at a reasonable cost. They would be storing all my files so I’d want to make sure their servers were secure and properly maintained. Then there’s the question of whether I can move all my existing content across without screwing up.

These are big questions which is why I have hesitated for more than a year whether this is a wise move.

Anyone here made the switch? If so, am I right to be nervous?? 

Can You Help?

I’ve told you all about the 5 areas that are gaps in my blogging knowledge. I’m wondering if you have the same questions or if you’ve figured out the answers. Leave me a comment to let me know if you can help.

Text 5 Things `i wish I knew About Blogging against blue background with heading A2Z of Book Blogging

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on May 1, 2020, in Blogging and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Oh yeah I definitely agree that it’s a mystery why some posts do better than others!

  2. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Ahhhh so many of these questions seem to be a bit of a crapshoot, I’m afraid! Why do some posts get more attention than others? No one really knows, I think 😅 I have similar confusion about my content that seems to get traction on Pinterest – some Pins that I think are beautiful, shareable gold get no attention, but others that I think are pretty average go properly viral 🤷‍♀️ What can you do…

    The only thing I feel I can maybe help with is the last question, the shift to self-hosting. I’ve used the free WP platform in the past on previous project, then it came time to set up KUWTP and I decided to take the plunge into self-hosting as a Proper Grown-Up Blogger. I know it can seem really daunting (and I’d imagine there’ll be a few hiccups with the transition), but it is really, really worth it. Even though the paid WP.com might give you marginally more control/options than the free version, it’s nothing compared to the malleability of self-hosting. It’s not as challenging as people think it will be – and, even if it is, I’m sure you’re up to it!

    • Thanks for the reassurance about self hosting Sherree. Did you have any problems about moving content over? Were you able to keep all your followers?

      • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

        Ah, see, this is probably the limit to my advice – I didn’t have years of back-content to migrate, I was (pretty much) starting from scratch. I think there are a lot of self-hosting plans that offer migration assistance/automation though, and a lot of other bloggers have posted tips and tricks from their own experience, so its definitely doable!

        • i have over a thousand posts to migrate – hence why I am nervous, But hey, if others can do it, I should be able to …..

  3. Really interesting questions, and probably ones I would ask too! I stick with the platform I have simply because it’s easy for me to use and I’ve heard there can be problems switching (and I think it’s sometimes more difficult for people to comment if they’re on other devices). As for social media, I don’t go much beyond Twitter – there are so many that I could never keep up….

  4. Thanks for this ! It’s helping a lot ! And yes! My one particular post is the most visited one till date and now I find the answer for it !

  5. I have no wisdom to offer only a couple of unexplained examples on my own blog of reviews that pop up time and time again. One is Hannah Kent’s Burial Rights, a very early review on my blog, the other is Andrew Miller’s Now We Shall Be Entirely Free. Over the past few days an obscure, out of print in the UK, novel has gained over 50 hits. I know there must be links out there somewhere but have not been able to track them down.

  6. I definitely agree that reviews have more lasting value, however, I have never really figured SEO. So my daily views are embarrassingly small. The blogosphere is also less lively now than it was five years ago and I didn’t post for months at a time. Still, I feel like I understand the YouTube algorithm than I do Google’s (although YouTube is owned by Google). I got the .com premium account two years ago. The business plan is double the price and with my views the way they are, I don’t feel like it’s a good investment for me. The reason why I would even consider the business plan is for the plugins. I don’t have access to most plugins with the premium version. Karen, your blog is one of the first I followed in 2014. I’m happy to see that you are still going strong!

  7. This is an answer to Stargazer. I discovered that a more than one aggregation site/blog reader was stealing my entire content and using it to bring readers to its site, not mine.
    Now I do not care much about stats but I do care about having my content stolen. So I changed my settings so that people only get the first paragraph or so of what I’ve written and then they have to visit my actual site. I can understand if this irritates some people. but sorry, that’s too bad, If people like what i write then they’re going to have to be bothered visiting my site.

  8. Thanks for a great series of useful posts about blogging! I moved from wordpress.com to wordpress.org when my blog was relatively new. There has been no issues on the new platform, but it’s a matter of how much you need the added flexibility, whether it’s worth it. Also, if you stay within wordpress, you can move your comments to the new platform, but not your likes. And you don’t get the same visibility of your posts in the wordpress reader, unless you pay for a jetpack upgrade.

    That reminds me, I’ve wondered why you (and a couple of other bloggers I follow) require you to go the actual blog instead of being able to read the posts in the wordpress reader? I know many lazy readers (me being one of them) need extra incentive to go to the actual blog, so perhaps you would get more readers, if you could see the full post in the feed?

  9. Thank you for sharing about your unanswered questions! You can’t imagine how relieved I feel to know I’m not the only one!

    What a brilliant move to crowd source your questions! May I borrow your idea?!

    I share your frustration with different image formats for different platforms! Who thought that was a good idea?! My main blog post image is formatted for Pinterest. When I want to promote that post on Instagram I take it into PhotoGrid and add a background to fill in the right and left margins to make it square again. For twitter, I don’t worry about it! When I promote my blog post on twitter it simply catches a horizontal band of my vertical image…..sometimes it looks ok and sometimes it doesn’t! Oh well! I’m not going to create a third image!

    Re which platform to invest in???? it depends on what you hope to gain. Here’s my experience:

    Twitter:
    Pros: best for click throughs to blog post, best for promotion (followers are generous with retweets), easiest to gain followers, joining a retweet group is possible (or create your own)
    Cons: for me it’s been difficult to build a community (accounts that I know well on twitter, I’ve previously connected with on insta or the blog)

    Bookstagram:
    Pros: definitely for bloggers looking for a community (although there are cliques), joining engagement groups is great for community and support, bookstagram is a huge welcoming community, it’s a good way to build brand recognition and get to know other bloggers (some people like it for the friendship…I use it strictly as a blog promotion tool…although there is an engagement group for people living in my area which I belong to and I’ve attended a couple of their events…I was able to give my bookcases to one person and I connected with another person over breakfast and gave her boxes of books for her little free library)
    Cons: very few click throughs to view blog content (in this sense is it worth it to spend the time engaging?)

    Pinterest:
    Pros: you can join collaborative boards; over TIME the click throughs to your blog will increase (my recent post had more click throughs from Pinterest than any other sour end…..but it has taken a year to see these numbers…I began to see an increase in views as I joined collaborative boards)
    Cons: no community (a promotion tool only)

    Facebook (I have a business page that is separate from my personal account…although I cross post)
    Pros: it will reach people who don’t use other platforms
    Cons: slow to gain followers compared to other platforms, shares are hard to come by

    Bottom line for me: it’s worth it to engage with all the above platforms because I’ve gained followers from each one ….and each platform reaches different people. As you engage across platforms you see friends from other platforms so you are building a larger overarching Supportive community!

    I wish I knew the answer to why some blog posts get more attention!!!! i Know that lists and memes generate lots of clicks …..top ten lists And “how to” posts are especially very popular on Pinterest! I have one post that is an outlier and has received substantially more views than any other post ….I went back to read it once and I wasn’t particularly impressed (it’s an early post that needs updating!) …but it was a heavily buzzed book and in that sense it’s “evergreen” content! The posts that receive the most comments tend to be controversial topics….one post that has received lots of comments is “Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?”

    I have heard that going self hosted is a real headache and probably not worth it! I need to upgrade to the business plan so I can do more with plugins.

    You have created a great series Karen! i look forward to it every day!

  10. Like everyone else, let me say a heartfelt thankyou for this series. I will probably refer back to it for years to come. My most popular site for years has been a review of an old short story collection called the Rainbow Bird. I can only assume there is a famous Indian book with the same name. I have almost no experience with other platforms. The facebook account I have attached to my blog has mostly friends from my personal facebook account. I suspect a facebook page would work better in that people could view it without having to give me the reciprocal privilege of me viewing them.

  11. I can potentially help with one of your questions; I’m transitioning my blog from a personal to business focus because I am getting a bit of work from it. I’m currently working a web designer to do this, and she convinced me that staying on wordpress is worth it. I have over 600 posts and switching to self-hosting wasn’t worth it (in her opinion). The new website she’s working on for me looks fabulous, not wordpress-ey at all, but its still on wordpress. She also pointed out that my site is ‘secure’ and this can be hard to find with other hosts, which also affects your SEO…

  12. I’m following the comments on this post because we share a lot of the same questions – especially about social media platforms! Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful but I’m glad it’s not just me who’s unsure about these things 😊 X x x

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