It’s January so that means we’re now into the third month of the Blogging Archaeology blog carnival. In November, we talked about our reasons for blogging and in December, we talked about the positive and negative aspects of blogging.
This time around, Doug has asked us to reflect on what we consider our best (or worst) blog posts. He left this open to interpretation so each blogger has approached the topic from a different angle. Some have gone for a more quantitative approach, examining specific blog posts and focussing on blog stats whilst others have taken a more holistic approach, identifying trends and making general observations about their blogging efforts. I’ve chosen the latter as I feel a blog is pretty much the sum of its individual posts and features. So what have I learned from my own blogging efforts? And what kind of useful information can I garner from my blog stats?
Lessons I’ve Learnt About Blogging:
I’ve been running this blog for almost a year now and I’ve found that every now and again, one needs to sit back and reflect on one’s work. Why do some posts attract a lot of interest while others are largely ignored? How can we reach a wider audience? What can we learn from our mistakes and our successes? Here’s what I’ve learnt over the past 10 months:
People *love* lists. A quick look at the blog stats shows that on any give day, my list posts are by far the most read. 10 Fantastic Free Resources for Learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs was one of the first posts I posted on the blog and it has had over 2,500 hits since it was posted last March. Other popular list posts include 7 Egyptology Blogs You Should Be Following (1,337 hits and counting) and 10 Biographies of Early Female Archaeologists & Explorers (514 hits at the time of writing). My most popular post was The 10 Scariest Tomb Raider Enemies: The Core Design Years, which got over 15,000 hits thanks to a shout-out on the official Tomb Raider blog. This post has very little to do with archaeology but it proves that people really love lists.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. While a lot of the blog’s traffic comes through Google and other search engines, the majority of the blog’s readers got here via my Facebook and Twitter feeds. A few shares and retweets from your followers can go a long way to boost your stats and help you reach a wider audience. I must point out, however, that there’s a fine line between self-promotion and spamming. Make sure you chat with your followers and take the time to share other people’s tweets, photos or Facebook posts. If you do nothing but post links to your blog posts or continually pester people to visit your site, you’ll soon lose your credibility and followers.**
Original content wins every time. Granted, it can be hard to define “original content” as it feels like everything that can be said about any given topic has already been said but I’ve found that the posts that got the most hits were ones that I spent hours researching for and writing. When I first started the blog, I wasn’t sure what would work and what wouldn’t so I reblogged other people’s posts and experimented with a few blog features. One feature I used to run was “Unearthed”, which consisted of (almost) daily digests of interesting news articles and links I had come across. I soon found out that I was spending way too much time sharing other people’s content and not actually writing any blog posts of my own so I ditched “Unearthed” after a few weeks and focussed on creating original content. Since then, my readership has grown exponentially and I feel like I actually have something to contribute rather than simply regurgitate other people’s work.
My Personal Favourites:
I don’t normally like to brag but there are a few blog posts I’m quite proud of. They’re not necessarily the most read blog posts but they’re ones I really enjoyed working on and feel they deserve a mention here.
The Hunt for Himiko: Will Archaeologists Ever Excavate the Hashihaka Tomb? - This blog post looked at some of the current archaeological research into early Japanese history and the real-life search for Queen Himiko and her lost kingdom, Yamatai. I was recovering from a bout of depression when I wrote this and I remember how therapeutic it was to focus on something other than my turbulent state of mind. I spent several days reading up on the subject, learning more about Japanese archaeology and the problems surrounding the excavation of royal tombs. My passion for archaeology was reawakened during this rather dark period in my life and this blog post reminds me how important it is to find something to hold on to when it feels like life has come crashing down on you.
Arte-Factual: Buddhist Symbols of Barkhang Monastery (Part 1) and (Part 2) - My other personal favourite was the 2-part series on the Buddhist symbols seen in the Barkhang Monastery level of Tomb Raider 2. This level, which happens to be my all-time favourite level in the Tomb Raider games, is set in a fictional monastery in Tibet and while the developers took some liberties with the layout of the monastery, numerous Buddhist symbols and ritual objects (e.g. Buddha eyes, prayer wheels and eternal knots) can be seen throughout the level. I’ve been interested in Tibetan culture and history for many years so it was a pleasure to share my knowledge of Buddhist symbology with others, albeit with a Tomb Raider twist.
Fun Facts & Silly Statistics:
I thought I’d finish this blog post with a few fun facts about The Archaeology of Tomb Raider. The WordPress stats page might not be perfect but it offers a wealth of useful (and not so useful) statistics for bloggers to work with.
For example, I know that:
- The majority of my readers are from the USA, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.
- I have no way of knowing whether the sole visitors from Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Angola, Haiti and Uganda were actually looking for this blog or whether they stumbled upon it by pure accident.
- I have only had one visitor from China. I believe WordPress is banned there but it’s possible that some people have accessed my blog via a foreign VPN (many expats living there rely on VPN connections to access banned sites).
- My Daily Links feature from 31st March 2013 is the least read blog post with only 8 hits in 10 months.
- The strangest search terms used to find the blog were “snow face photo vote”, “tomb raider chicken itza”, and “can u locate all movies that have archeology students that awaken an egyptian goddess from a tomb”. It’s worth pointing out that Google now encrypts a lot of search terms and results so I might be missing out on the really dodgy stuff. (Seriously, not one person has come here looking for “Nude Raider” or Tomb Raider porn? That would be a first.)
That’s all for this month. If you’d like to learn more about the Blogging Archaeology blog carnival or find out how you can take part, visit Doug’s Archaeology for more information. You can also follow the progress of this carnival on Twitter under the hashtag #blogarch.
** If you’re a blogger, do consider connecting your blog to your Facebook, Twitter and/or other social network accounts and add some sharing buttons to your posts. This will allow your readers to share your posts on social media sites and allow you to cross-post your blog posts to your own social media sites with the minimum of fuss. If you’re using WordPress.Com, you can find everything you need to know about connecting your blog to social media on the Settings>Sharing page. Twitter users will have the option to include their username in any tweets that are sent via the blog. I highly recommend that you use this feature as it’s a great way for you to see who is sharing your blog posts and it’ll also help your readers find you on Twitter. ;-)
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