I just recently came across a very interesting blog post entitled How To Get a Million Hits, by political blogger Robert Stacy McCain, a.k.a.
The Other McCain. A word of warning to my progressive and liberal friends: Stacy is pretty seriously conservative, so it you visit his site you’ll get high blood-pressure, or cooties, or something. But regardless of your politics or his, he offers some sage advice. Visit if you dare!
If you aren’t a blogger yourself, and have no interest in ever becoming one, you can safely skip this post. It’s intended to be extremely Inside Blogball, so I’ll tuck the rest under the fold.
While Stacy’s advice is intended to be universal, it’s tailored mostly to political bloggers. I’d like to
rip off revise his thoughts and present them here so that those of us in the cocktailosphere can improve our reach and our readership. We have among us some good cocktail writers, and some good cocktail minds, and even some good cocktail writing minds. We have a great young organization, the C&SOWG, that is helping us all with tools, a sounding board, and outreach to the industry. We have a lot of technically and artistically savvy bloggers who on average have more skills than many much higher trafficked bloggers. And we have a great topic to write about.
But our traffic is miniscule, in the grand scheme of things—growing, but miniscule. Why? What we do not have, as a rule, is much in the way of Blog Fu. These are practices bloggers can do for themselves and for each other that grow traffic for everyone. Over time, Blog Fu grows a lot of traffic. We all do a few of these things a little, but none of us do them any of them, much less all, as a matter of routine. If we start, we will all have lots more readers, and lots of new readers.
So herewith I present, for your consideration,
R.S. McCain’s The Pegu Blog’s Five Rules to Garner a Million Hits:
- Shameless Self-Promotion!!
Snatch the link from my hand, young Grasshopper!
You must promote your blog in the blogosphere! This means doing several things, folks. First off, promote your stuff relentlessly to other bloggers. Most of us at least scan each other’s RSS, but we have lives. Make sure you give a heads-up to those fellow bloggers who you think might be particularly interested in what you’ve just written. Make sure you submit your stuff to Liqurious and TasteSpotting, and any other such site as might be interested in the post.
Reach out beyond our little corner of the blogosphere. SeanMike and I were discussing this on Monday in the Mixosoleum chat room. There are a horde of potential readers out there reading the wine and beer blogs. We need to be trying to get cross linakage with those blogs.
And if you write something that should be of interest to blogs outside the greater alcosphere altogether, pimp yourself out to them as well. Two pieces that I managed to get linked by high traffic non-cocktail blogs (Instapundit and Ace of Spades) gave the Pegu Blog more than 5,000 and 1,000 hits respectively. But don’t expect that kind of monster linkage to happen often, and don’t try too hard to make it happen, either. Watching your Sitemeter spin like a Vegas slot machine is more intoxicating and dangerous than an entire bottle of Bombay Sapphire. See Rule 5 below for more detailed thoughts.
Watch for the smaller bloggers out there whose subject matter is tangential to ours. Read and promote them.
Comment in blogs a lot too, cocktail and not. You might be surprised at how many hits I get here from comments I make elsewhere on related, or more often unrelated, topics. Of course, I’m not talking about comment spam. Just use your thoughtful writing skills to contribute to other discussions, and leave a trail of breadcrumbs back to your home for people to follow.
Whether the blogs you pimp yourself to are big or small is immaterial. Ask for the links, and you will slowly start getting them. And once you start getting links, you’ll start getting more links. No matter how much traffic they provide at first, you will build traffic.
…I relentlessly fill their inboxes with blogwhoring e-mails like Arnold Horshack trying to get Mr. Kotter’s attention: “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!”
- ‘Tis Better to Give Than To Receive.
Link the hell out of everyone who is remotely linkable. This is more layered than it looks. Obviously, link a fellow cocktail blogger when you refer to them in one of your big posts. We all do that pretty well. Still, do it more. But also, go out of your way to link other’s posts. If Marleigh writes something you particularly like, write some thoughts of your own and refer liberally, with links, to her as your inspiration. If Matt wrote a post three months ago about the rum you are using in a cocktail you’ve invented, toss a link back to his old post in passing. Even is you have nothing to add to Gabe’s post, just throw up a quick link, telling whatever readers you have that he’s written something worth reading. And if you haven’t posted anything in a while, and are still creatively dry, look over your RSS, choose the best thing Jay has written lately, and link it. It’s great karma, and it keeps your blog from looking neglected. (I’m talking to you Craig!)
Next, hat tip religiously. If you want to use Darcy’s piece on Non-Tasters, which you found via A Mountain of Crushed Ice, then don’t just link Darcy, but put in an H/T to Tiare as well.
Lastly, if you get a link from someone else, especially one that sends you some traffic, and most especially one from outside of your normal sphere of blog colleagues, update your post with a linkback. Just stick in a line at the end of your post like:
UPDATE: Welcome Drudge Report readers! While you are here, why not look around? You might also be interested in my posts on absinthe in a Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail, or my discussion of Bulleit Bourbon.
This will tell readers of your post (whether or not they came from that link) several things:
- Someone actually cares enough about what you just wrote to link to it.
- Some reasons to stick around your blog.
- A place to go for another take on what they just read.
And it is a nice thing for the person who linked you.
Reciprocal linkage is the essential lubricant that makes the blogosphere purr with contentment. If somebody’s throwing you traffic, you should either (a) give them a link-back update, or at a minimum (b) keep them in mind for future linkage. Because you don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a kharmic unbalance in the ‘sphere, where you’re always taking and never giving.
- Don’t go dry.
Stacy’s third suggestion is largely irrelevant to us in its specifics, dealing as it does with sources of political fodder. Frankly, most of us do a darn good job with our content. Most of the time I have more to write about than I have time to write it, a condition I suspect I share with others around the corner of the blogosphere. And we do not post as often, nor need to, as the political bloggers do. But it is a good idea to keep something regularly coming out of your blog. Post often enough that people will want to come back, or even better, will find it easier to subscribe to your RSS.
Stacy also suggests looking for something you think is stupid, and whacking its author around but good, which brings us to item four.
- Controversy generates traffic.
Here, I think his advice needs to be turned on its head for our use. Political blogs need heat and passion to drive traffic. We need to create a cocktail party-like atmosphere.
First, don’t talk politics. I probably violate this rule more than most of us. But when I do, it is couched in non-personal fun, and it is always on topic. Jacob Grier violates my advice on this all the time, but he’s a Libertarian; They’re cute and non-threatening. If you do go political, I’d consider using a method popularized by a certain rabbi about two thousand years ago, and speak in parables. Course, even that can get you into trouble, believe me I know from recent experience. And just look what happened to the rabbi! Politics can get you traffic, but use it like bitters, just a drop, and not enough to offend.
And otherwise, we have no need (nor, fortunately, inclination) to attack each other. No one fights at a good cocktail party. A few zingers here and there are fun though, like Gabe’s and my back and forth over his effete snobbery regarding bottled juice. Snark on each other mainly as an excuse to link.
But none of this means that the occasional heat should not be brought! I think the most entertaining, enduring post in the entire cocktailosphere is this one, by Jeffrey Morganthaler. A good brutal fisking of a hapless outsider is an excellent occasional pastime.
- There are other ways to generate heat besides controversy.
Stacy’s Rule 5 is specifically about cheesecake. Now, while even so august and sober a blogger as myself has on occasion found himself posting pictures of the Tuaca bodypaintalympics, and Intoxicated Zodiac makes sex in cocktails one of her regular bits, I’m not talking about cheesecake… solely. Sure, it’s fun. Who isn’t tempted to throw in unrelated stuff in a post, or even in the middle of a larger post, stuff like the forthcoming Barack the Barbarian comic book from Devil’s Due Publishing, featuring arch villainess Sarah Palin complete with animal skin bikini and librarian glasses? (Go ahead, click that link. You know you want to!) (Oh yeah, H/T: Jammie Wearing Fool)
But I think that for several reasons it is more useful for us to talk about
Link Baitin general, as opposed to
Cheesecakein particular. Link Bait are posts that are crafted specifically to get traffic, as opposed to directly
advancing the mission of your blog, whatever the hell that means. You can write about, link about, or post pictures of, all sorts of things beyond the direct world of cocktails that can serve as Link Bait. Post something on wine paraphenalia, or kitchen appliances. Write about street parties near you. Go even further afield from cocktails on occasion. It won’t kill you or the cohesion of your blog if you are posting often enough to begin with. My whole Basement Bar Design series is really an ongoing Link Bait project. That said, to go back to Stacy’s original Rule 5, if you have the following two pictures supplied by a distiller that illustrate your story, which of them do you think would do more for your traffic?
Link Bait can also fight MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) syndrome. We have a tendency to be fairly long form writers around here (how long is this post by now?), so the occasional venture into traffic fishing is a good idea. Off topic stuff can refresh both your readers and you.
But whatever kind of Link Baiting you occasionally indulge yourself in, don’t forget rules number one and two! The best bait in the world won’t catch any fish if you leave it in the boat. And when it works and you get linked, return the favor to whomever took the bait!
I hope at least some of you have slogged all the way through this post, and I appreciate those of you who did. I may have gone a bit over the top with some of my examples in this post, as I tried to illustrate what I’m talking about….
Over the top?
Now you show up, guy? This had been my longest post ever without you sticking you oar in.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and let’s discuss to what extent you think this is all good practice. And in the meantime, expect a few more emails from me, pimping my latest stuff, if you haven’t already gotten one from me offering up this one!