The Secret Life of Blog Posts


Once posted, your blog entries develop a life of their own, for better or for worse. Some wither and die, others flourish and keep attracting attention. It took me a while to realize I have at least some control over this.
 
Early in my blogging days, pleased with my own creativity, I often attempted to give wise-cracking names to my blog posts. I thought I was making  them sound intriguing, when in fact I was obscuring the issue at hand, and making it needlessly difficult for potential readers to find stuff that I desperately wanted them to read.

Looking back at my list of posts, I myself can’t figure out what some of them are about, judging from the title alone. Why be cryptic? Why be a smart-Alec? (What’s the feminine of ”smart Alec”? Smart Alexa? Smarty Pants?) 
Here are a few examples:
When will they ever learn? [Learn what? What are you getting at?]
Some respect for the dead [Er... what are you talking about?]
Suspicious minds [Are you referring to that Elvis Presley song? No? What a pity!]  

Yes, okay, after reading the posts the titles do make sense. But that’s not good enough. 
Looking back, I can see why certain posts keep getting hits, by web surfers who have absolutely no interest in what I have to say. It’s the blog title, of course. One such case is my late sister’s story, which I uploaded as tribute to her memory. The poor girl died 29 years ago, and the number of people who still remember and love her is dwindling. The story is titled 405 South. So yes, lots of people looking for driving directions involving this route innocently click the link when it comes up in their search results. I bet that, when they see it’s a piece of nightmarish fiction by a dead girl rather than matter-of-fact, helpful directions of how to get from X to Y, they grimace and move on. I bet not one of them got distracted, took the digression, and actually read the story.
[On the other hand, an old friend of my late sister’s, who’d lost touch and didn’t know what became of her, Googled her name and had a nasty shock.]

Like most bloggers(?), I often go to my Stats page to see who’s been reading what, which of my posts is popular, etc. Do you want to know which is the Numero Uno big hit? From my first posts in March 2008 to the present? Of all the subjects I’ve ever covered, some of them pretty important to me and my readers, the winner is “Obliphica oil: What's in a name?" ; a trivial rant about the name obliphica, which I found objectionable. It garnered more hits by far than any other post. I guess lots of people Googled the word, perhaps wanting to know where they could get this fad oil at the best price. And they couldn’t care less that I thought the name was silly.

Another post with a misleading name is An Open Letter to the Grievance Committee. Unsuspecting souls looking for info on a local grievance committee to whom they could complain about some injustice, say, found a post that had nothing to do with any actual grievance committee; it was a post strictly relevant to freelance translators and editors who are put in an uncomfortable situation by clients. An important post, in my opinion, to me and my colleagues. But giving it an inappropriate  title was a mistake.

In recent months I have tried to make the names of my blog posts less “clever” and more to-the-point, making sure they contained a relevant, informative key word or phrase.
 E.g.: Kindle, cataract surgery, tips for lectures and presentations, Linked In, etc.

Puns are great fun, and if you can make a pun and still get your message across loud and clear – great, go for it. But if you want readers far and wide to find you because of what you have to say – keep it simple. 

3 comments:

Tami said...

Interesting, Nina, thanks, and touching to read about your sister. No doubt that checking the statistics teaches one that many of the "readers" are very accidental visitors. I admit I am always looking for a witty, or at least catchy, title. Reminds me of one time in my BA when I handed a paper in English Literature called Blah, blah[don't remember], An analysis of Richard II by W. Shakespeare (thinking it's pretty cute, obviously...). The professor mecilessly wiped out the "W."...

Nina R. Davis said...

Thanks, Tami, glad you liked it.

e-scripts said...

I, too, am often an "accidental" visitor but I do take time to read the blog entry. What actually catches my attention is an interesting title. I love stories and articles with humor so using a pun in a title isn't exactly a bad idea, but as you said, your main goal should still always be to get your message across.

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