On Blog Traffic and Engagement: Efficiency and Time Management

I know “efficiency” is a cold word. Not really something that gives a body the warm-and-fuzzies. I know that if I start talking about visiting your blog efficiently, unless I am very careful, you must wonder how serious I am about the relationship-building part of this social media thing. That’s only natural. I hope that by the time I’m done today, you’ll be reassured about the human-ness of what I’m doing and see that I am not a Borg navigator with my computer plugged straight into my brain.

I’m going to stop presenting myself as a social media novice. I’m still not an expert by any means, but I’m at least at an intermediate level of skill at this point. That said, these posts always come with two caveats:

  1. What works for me might not work for you. If your goals are different, your content is different, or you have a smaller group of regular supporters to work with than me, growing your audience may require you to do things differently.
  2. There is always the chance that Diana, Jeremy, and I will reach a natural plateau and have to deal with a period of stagnation while we figure out how to manage a larger audience.

We have a combined blog following of about 2200 right now and a combined Twitter following of around 4,000 with no idea how much they overlap. We started a little over 7 months ago. While the growth rate isn’t staggering, it’s consistent enough to eventually reach the point where it overwhelms us. Our comments threads regularly make our blogs look much larger than they are – especially if we work to create a discussion. That’s why I’m so keen to make my social media activities as efficient as possible.

When we started, we made a list of problems we knew we needed to solve during the first year of our blogging careers if we wanted to meet our goals. Diana’s goal is to have a large, engaged audience for Part Time Monster. My goal is to turn Sourcerer into a fully-collaborative blog that I post at on the weekends, and blog at The Writing Catalog during the week. Both goals require us to have a network of friends who not only read our blogs, but also interact with us on other networks.

Here’s a list of the problems, in order of priority. I don’t have the space today to talk about how we solved them, but I’m happy to discuss them on the thread, or to write specific posts about them in the future if anyone is interested.

  • The content problem. Diana and I can’t maintain the sort of growth we need to be successful if we have to produce all the content. This problem is solved as long as we maintain enough contributors to keep the content flowing. We are always looking for opportunities to recruit new contributors.
  • When to post. Solved by doing research, and by a set of time zone tables I created last month that tells us when the largest concentrations of English-speaking Internet users are online. The tables allow us to quickly figure out what time it is in virtually every populated part of the globe, at any time of day.
  • Where to get art. Posts with art do better, plain and simple. Partially solved with original photos and Diana’s Pinterest account, but still not where it needs to be, efficiency-wise.
  •  Which networks to use. We looked into nine of them, and doing so cost me a lot of time and energy that could have gone into the blogs. We’ve narrowed it down to WordPress and Twitter for the time being, and Jeremy’s having such success with StumbleUpon that we’re thinking that’s the next network to build a real presence on.
  • Content v. Networking. These are equally important. Without regular content of a certain quality, we’ve got nothing to share. Without networking – building relationships with people based on shared interests and mutual respect – we’ve got no audience.

That last problem is the one I’m working on now, and the efficiency problem is on the networking side of the equation.  I have a minimum of 50 blogs that I know I should visit once a week and read two or three posts each. These are all nice, interesting people who do good work and have reciprocated my interaction to the point that I’d like to get to know them better, and who interact with me on multiple networks.

Up to now, I’ve been trying to keep up by using our blogrolls and my WordPress reader. The problem with that is, as I meet new people, if I don’t add them to the blogroll the minute I decide I want to keep up, I’m liable to not do it at all. And then there’s the problem of blogroll length. 50 sidebar links is probably too many. Also, people get lost in the WordPress reader. I follow hundreds with my personal account, but even though I keep the Sourcerer reader fairly exclusive, there are people I’m following I never see, even if I scroll through two or three pages, because my reader time and their posting schedules are too far out of synch. And there are week-long periods when I just don’t have the time to use the reader because I have so much else to do.

So here’s my next attempt to solve this problem. It’s so simple, I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. I’m setting up a group of bookmark folders. I have one folder for blogs to check in with a couple of times per week, and those check-ins will be built right into my schedule. Then I’ll have a folder for every day of the week, each with five to seven blogs, and I’ll visit those blogs once a week except when my life doesn’t permit me to do it.

The advantage to the folders is that I can open all the blogs in separate tabs at one time. Page loading and finding the links for blogs I want to visit are consuming a LOT of my time, and I’m only visiting maybe 25 blogs a week. The reason I’m limiting the folders to 5-7 is that’s how many tabs my computer can load easily at one time, and that’s about an hour of blog reading at the rate I read. I’m a bit of a speed-reader.

The bookmarking system won’t be fully-implemented until later this week, but once it is, quite a lot of you will be seeing likes and comments from Sourcerer once a week, and some of you will be seeing them twice a week. It’s my way of saying thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and I’d love to get to know you a little better. Getting this part of my social media life straightened out is every bit as important as maintaining my Twitter growth at this point. WordPress is my social media home. It’s the network I love best, and I feel as though my presence here has been minimal for too long.

If you’re using social media in a way that requires you to handle a large volume of information, you need a schedule, but a schedule alone is not enough. You also have to be aware of the fact that time can be budgeted the same way you budget your money. And you need to budget your time. This week I set one of my browsers up to open Sourcerer’s admin account, Facebook, Twitter, Tweetdeck, and a Google search when I open a new window. That alone has helped immensely already. It’s saved me at least a couple of hours this week.

If you’d like me to discuss any of those other problems I mentioned above, or another topic related to blog traffic and engagement, let me know on the thread and I’ll pencil it in on the calendar. Have a great week!

(A quick blogwanking note. Here’s the reason I post these on Sundays, allow them to run long, and rarely include art. They do just as well on Sundays as they do any other day of the week. They do just as well without art as with it, and length doesn’t seem to be an issue as long as I keep it within bounds. So far, every one of these posts has generated a good thread and turned Sunday into a weekday in terms of views, but when I post them on a Monday, I just get an ok Monday. So, I’m thinking Sunday is a good day to speak to bloggers as bloggers.)

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34 thoughts on “On Blog Traffic and Engagement: Efficiency and Time Management

  1. I’m interested in your time zone schedule–it was something I had to think about when traveling in Portugal and Spain, because most of my readers are Americans. I ended up trying to post in the evenings there so that it would at least be daylight hours in the U.S., but it’s hard to know when people are ACTUALLY at their computers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Timezone scheduling is a good idea. I’m still experimenting with different posting times and get confused. Can’t imagine managing multi-contributor blogs the size of yours. I’d be a nutcase. Um, bookmarks. I’m having a “duh” moment. Should’ve thought of that too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hannah had the same reaction when I mentioned the bookmarking idea on a thread last week. That’s what inspired me to write this post.

      I’ll explain the time zone scheduling later today in a separate comment and reply again to send you a notification. Just doing a quick check-in right now, and have to be offline for a while this morning.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting post. I’m a bit of a slow learner. I set my daily posting for 1 minute past midnight, and it appears at midday where I live (New Zealand). I’ve never been able to find what/whose time WordPress uses. I suspect 1 minute past midnight is not the most efficient reader-grabbing moment, but at least my posting appears when I eating lunch! Thanks again for a fascinating piece.

    Like

    • I think blog times default to GMT when you set them up.

      If you go to your Dashboard/Settings/General, you can change your blog time to anything you want it to be. I keep mine set to local time just to make scheduled posting easier. I think that’s the right menu, if not, let me know & I’ll figure it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok. The thoughts on scheduling and time zones. We assume, based on early research, that Internet traffic peaks at 9 am, Noon, 3 pm, and 7 pm local time in every country where lots of people work eight-hour days in offices. We’ve not done a ton of work on that, so not 100 percent sure. And that is a very general rule. Twitter and Tumblr don’t work that way. They heat up on the weekend. Facebook and WordPress seem to follow them pretty closely.

    So we never post more than 4 times per day, and only do that on weeks when we have a lot of time to put into the blogs. More than that, we feel, is a waste of content.

    If we only post once per day, we post at 9 a.m.eastern. If twice, at 9 am and 3 pm eastern. If I have a short, late post, like notes to collaborators, etc, I try and get that out by 7 pm eastern at the latest, and let it sit all nite.

    The reason we’ve chosen these times is that 9 in New York is 2 pm in the UK. Those are the two largest concentrations of potential readers, so we try and publish to news feeds when they’re BOTH at or near a peak as often as possible.

    The time zone tables I have start with U.S. Central time (my local time) and move westward through seven time zones: London, Moscow, New Delhi, Singapore, Sydney, Honlolulu, and San Francisco. I arranged them this way for my own convenience. It’s just easier for me to keep it all straight if the tables move from early to late from my location to the international date line, then back to the Americas. I chose the time zones that I did because having them at 3-4 hour intervals across Europe and Asia allow me to know where it is everywhere on those continents with a minimum of calculation. I limited them to 8 because that’s enough to do the job.

    I have tables for 9 am, Noon, 3 pm, and 7 pm local time, and the four tables fit on two pages, which I keep pinned to a bulletin board beside my desk. I built them using the World Clock feature at timeanddate.com and printed them out. http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/

    I’ll put all this in a post and share the tables at some point. I built the tables originally because I was trying to figure out why a quarter my Twitter followers are from the U.K. and 15 percent are from five cities on the American East Coast. Once I looked at them, we modified our posting schedule by an hour to be better-synched with New York/London, and that one-hour shift seems to be paying off.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s cool, thanks for sharing the work you did! I’ve been using the extremely scientific method of posting a) whenever the post is ready and b) whenever I happen to notice a bunch of my friends online in Facebook chat…

      Like

      • well, that is one way to do it. Or two ways.

        I don’t recommend just posting when it’s ready unless you finish a lot of posts early in the day. But I do that occasionally myself. Sometimes I just want to post something.

        Posting when you notice your friends online is not be a bad idea, if a) those friends actually read your blog and b) your circle of friends that doesn’t necessarily keep the 9/Noon/3/7 schedule.

        Like

        • This month I’ve been scheduling posts ahead and I do like it better. Although now I’m out of scheduled posts and have nothing to post tomorrow except some colorful language.

          I’ve actually noticed fewer hits from Facebook since I made the fan page, even though most of the people I thought were clicking through followed the page. Not sure what I’m going to do about that yet, I may just start sharing the fan page posts to my personal page again and see if the numbers go back up. (However, my friends are mostly online around 12:30 at night, and I’ve been scheduling posts for around lunchtime. So, possibly moving posts to 9am, and then doing a reshare late at night on FB…)

          Like

          • Facebook is screwy. I’ve given up on it for the short-term. We’ve had things do well there, but they’re all very specific, not-repeatable posts so far. I rarely even share to my timeline from the blogs anymore. Mostly I just post flower photos straight to FB. That’s what seems to get the best response.

            Like

            • People do like pictures. For a while Facebook always topped my referral list, but now it rarely appears in the list at all, and the only things I stopped doing were posting to my personal page and posting at night.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Your network may be different than mine. And Facebook does seem to be better at the later peaks.

                When we’ve gotten the good referrals, it’s been things of local interest, personal drama, and things where we tagged tons of people, which we can’t do often or else people will block us.

                Never had good FB hits from a pop culture or social media post. I don’t share to the personal timeline because the attention I get is consistently not worth the time it takes to pull up the fanpage and click “Share.” It’s not very much time, but it’s long enough to write a couple of sentences on a WordPress thread.

                Like

  5. Okay. Wow. Your research into this is beyond impressive. It is far mor advanced for where I am with blogging but I read all of what you have written and it is really an accomplishment. So glad I bumbled into you guys.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thankfully, most of it can be boiled down to simple rules of thumb. But the boiling down has not easy at all. I did not expect to be this far along, either with the problem-solving or the size of the following, this early in the game. I certainly didn’t expect to see the kind of engagement we get on some of our posts.

      I’ve found a lot more experienced people willing to help than I expected, and Diana’s done a lot of the work on this stuff. She’s the one who figured out the internet peaks.

      Like

    • I thought of that earlier. I think you’re right.

      Also: There must be a Batman page soon. With Batsignals and stuff. We’re closing in on six months of Batman.

      Like

    • Hey, when you get this, help me brainstorm a list of pages. I know the blogging and the Batman are next. I’m also going to turn mine and David’s A to Z posts into the beginning of a literary glossary, and probably throw in some of my early posts on rhetoric, too.

      I’m inclined to not do individual pages for things like Penny Dreadful and Will’s Doctor Who/Paradise lost series. I can either do a “short series” page for that stuff, a page for each contributor who does serial blogging, or themed pages like “Television Reviews” or some such.

      What else have we done that needs to be collected so we can share a link to an attractive page instead of sharing a category archive?

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        • alright, then.

          building the Blogging page now. Nothing else to do,and can’t sleep yet. It’s too late to start the Friday post, even got the Follow Friday done, and the social media is experiencing a bit of a lull.

          I’ll tweet you a link to the page if I get it done tonight.

          Like

              • Yeah, I’m contemplating updating some of my pages and/or adding a few. I’m probably going to add a page of links to articles I’ve guest posted (mostly PD at Sourcerer right now) and a page dedicated to Top Ten Tuesdays. When I get back to photographing them, I’ll probably make a bathroom graffiti page.

                Like

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