Building a Blog, Part IV: Update Early, Update Often

Now that you have your blog set up, the tricky thing is to keep it updated; this is particularly true if you don’t have someone whose job is simply to run your online profile. Fortunately, it’s easy to have posts go up on your blog every day without actually having to write something every morning; WordPress allows you to write a post and schedule it to appear later.

If you’re at the Add New Post screen, on the right hand side above the Publish button you’ll see the words “Publish immediately”, followed by an Edit link.   Clicking on that allows you to schedule your post to go up at some time in the future.  (Do watch out, though – this defaults to 24-hour time, and if you’re not careful you could set your blog to publish in the past instead.  That, of course, could create a time travel paradox and kill us all..)

The first three articles in this series, for example, were all written last week.  Why not just post them immediately?  Well, then you’re not giving your customers any reason to come back!  Which would you rather have: a potential customer visiting every day to read your new posts, or visiting once a week when you upload them all at once?  Additionally, if you use the SEO tools we’re going to talk about in a later article, the search engines will notice every time you post an update, which helps keep your site fresh in the rankings.  Most importantly, though, look at it from the user’s perspective.  Your readers are either using an RSS feed (more on this later), in which case they’ll only visit when you post something new, or they aren’t, in which case they get annoyed when your site hasn’t been updated!

Time for an example.  One week ago today, I launched a new blog called Good News About America; I’ll be using it as an example for many of the things we’ll be talking about.  Notice that there’s no professional artwork or design involved here; it uses a standard free template that anyone can download and a few easy-to-use plugins.  The only things at all unique about it are the header (simply a few words photoshopped onto part of a photo I took) and, of course, the content.

As you can imagine, only a few days after launch, the blog doesn’t have a ton of visitors.  It is, however, being regularly indexed by the search engines and has already started receiving some traffic.  As an experiment, I deliberately stopped posting for over 24 hours; here are the results: [1]

Pretty impressive, eh?  In the first five days, I had 34 visitors, 116 pageviews, 290 spiders, and 8 feeds.  On day 6, I had exactly one of each.  However, after posting a new article and waiting a few minutes:

The second screenshot was taken less than an hour after the first one, maybe half an hour at most after the site was updated, and already it’s been spidered four more times. By the end of the day, it had been spidered 38 times and had 9 feeds.

What should you take from this?  I’m hoping these three points:

  1. Your blog should be updated daily, at minimum
  2. You should be monitoring traffic to see how changes affect your visitors
  3. You should be letting the search engines know when you update, something we’ll discuss in tomorrow’s article.

Next time: WordPress plugins you absolutely need to use.

Footnotes:

[1] The reason there are no statistics for the day the blog launched is that the tracking plugin hadn’t been installed yet; we’ll talk more about it in the article on adding plugins to your blog.