Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blog statistics

Writers who start a blog in the hope of generating interest in their latest, or yet-to-be-written, book, sometimes find that attracting visitors to that blog proves to be a problem. One or two commenters on pieces on this blog have recently remarked on it.

Well, here are some data sent to me by Gav of Gav's studio. Gav has enough knowhow to be able to analyse the traffic to his blog and then to present it in the form of a graph. What the figures show is that when he started his blog, in January this year, he had precisely zero visitors. Numbers rose reasonably steadily in the next few months, levelling out in the low hundreds.

There was, however, a dramatic peak in July: 2192 unique visitors, sampling over 6,000 pages. The reason for this, Gav says, is that he was writing about Live8, and that was what people were typing into Google at around that time.

These figures confirm what I have heard and read from other sources: namely that the choice of title for a post can greatly influence the amount of traffic coming your way from casual enquiries made in the various search engines.

Perhaps the moral is, if you want bulk traffic, you should write posts with titles that people are likely to be searching for. On the other hand, such 'false pretences' traffic really isn't going to sell many books, is it?

The best advice I can offer, to those in the blogging for marketing purposes category, is to build a blog which offers something of value, interest, or concern to people in a particular field of activity, over a period of months or years. And then, if and when you have a book to sell, your existing audience might, perhaps, be willing to give it a try.


pundy said...

Any author, whether he or she realises it or not, faces the same challenge. If you write a book you're going to have to sell it in the first instance to either an agent or a publisher. They then have the challenge, on your behalf, of selling it to a loyal reader, a casual reader or a member of the general (mainly non-bookbuying) public. At the end of the day it's partly a function of marketing and partly a question of whether the book is any "good" or not.

Brenda Coulter said...

On the other hand, such 'false pretences' traffic really isn't going to sell many books, is it?

Right. It's not casual visitors you want, but repeat visitors. While it's true that in a huge batch of visitors you're bound to pick up a handful who will bookmark your blog, I don't think it's very productive (although I've made lots of jokes about it on my own blog) to court the sensational in order to snag traffic from Technorati. It's much more efficient to spend your time writing quality content on a consistent theme or themes--as you do, Mr. Bookman--because those who stumble upon your site will have come from similar sites and will be highly likely to return to your place.

pundy said...

Brenda Coulter makes some good points but I suspect the truth is that the idea of using a weblog to promote a book is a deeply flawed business model.

Consider this:

I yield to no-one in my admiration for the GOB and visit his site daily. I haven't bought any of his books though. Why would I when I can get unlimited free access to his wit and wisdom.

In addition, I visit the Guardian website several times daily to view its informative, authoritative and up-to-the-minute reporting. Thanks to this online resource I no longer buy the Guardian newspaper.

It's the old problem of cannibalising your own readers.

However, even if we accept the untested assumption that regular visitors to your blog will buy your book where does that leave us?

Let's say you set a sales target somewhere between my book sales (zero) and JK Rowling's (zillions); say, 5000 units.

It follows that we're going to need a regular readership of 5000 for our blog. There are at least two main problems in attaining this goal.


In the first instance at least our potential readership is likely to come from regular surfers who already populate the literary blogosphere. The GOB is pretty much at the top of the heap here. I don't know what his daily readership figures are but with his (passive) connivance I have been trying to finesse some of his readers over to my own bookselling blog. Visitor numbers have been in the tens, not thousands. Literary cyberspace is populated by dozens of witty, intelligent, well-written blogs but I am willing to bet that all but a few of them have a tiny readership. That target of five thousand readers is already beginning to look pretty daunting to me.

Furthermore, as Brenda Coulter points out, the GOB has built up his readership through his expert knowledge of the publishing marketplace. One wonders if the average author would have such marketable knowledge. The last thing we want is another "expert" blog on the travails of a struggling author. I am an expert in starting and growing small businesses and I'm pretty sure I could build up a loyal readership of budding entrepreneurs for my blog. But I suspect very few of them would have the time, or inclination, to buy my novel. Even if it was any good.

The other problem is content.

The GOB makes it look easy but I suspect that an awful lot of effort goes into making his blog informative and readable. I'm only approaching the third week of my own blog and already I'm struggling to find interesting and witty things to say to keep my reader(s) hooked. The journalistic skills the GOB possesses in such rich abundance are not the same skills required by a dedicated novelist.

Sadly, I'm already beginning to wonder if an author's time and efforts wouldn't actually be better directed at perfecting his/her masterpiece in the hope that an agent will pick it up in the traditional fashion.

Bernita said...

Pundy, re: the "time and effort" argument.
Producing on a blog IS writing, and practice in articulation, in brevity (at times) and concentration.
The knowledge that someone out there somewhere is actually reading what you produce sharpens one's attention wonderfully, as opposed to prose that maybe, someday, sometime, as the result of a query, might actually blaze before an agent or editor.
Further,one cannot constantly bang at one's work-in-progress or one goes blind. The modest change is rest.
Blogs may or may not be a useful marketing method, but they certainly may help the writer.

Picking up Women said...

The journalistic skills the GOB possesses in such rich abundance are not the same skills required by a dedicated novelist.