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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?

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 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 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.

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