Friday, 10 February 2012
Guest Post On Now Smell This - The Sequel: 5 Things I Have Learnt From Perfume Blogging
I should have gone with Wordpress…
When I started Bonkers about Perfume, I gave almost no thought to the question of which free blogging software to use. A number of perfume sites I followed at the time had opted for Blogspot, the free domain service provider of Google-owned Blogger. It looked easy to set up, even for a technical numpty like me, so I just went with that, without making any inquiries such as consulting review sites etc. For someone who is a researcher by profession that was most out of character. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had chosen the other main free publishing platform, Wordpress. It has a much wider selection of templates, with a cleaner, clearer look and richer functionality, including threaded comments – though Blogger has just introduced its own basic version of this facility. Overall, I’d say that Wordpress is aesthetically superior, more robust/bugproof, and easier to interact with for both blog owner and reader alike.
By this I mean duplication of any kind: for example, reviewing the same scent as another blogger – quite possibly in the same week even, if there is a new release with a buzz around it. But as I mention in Point 4 of my previous post over on Now Smell This, I think multiple reviews are a good thing. And if you know you are not the first person to write about a given subject (which will mostly be the case), a nodding reference to the fact that others have trod this posting path before you never goes amiss (in the spirit of “playing nicely with others” – Point 5 of my NST post).
Now, although I said earlier that Wordpress has a wider choice of themes than Blogger, with any blogging platform you run the risk of picking the same layouts, colour schemes and fonts as someone else. For a long time I was concerned that my choice of a battleship grey background might be seen as copying I Smell Therefore I Am, and I also had a bit of a wobble on hearing that my travel theme was in use by a Canadian perfume blogger. He didn’t post all that often though, so after toying with a few alternatives I reverted to my original selection, on the basis that when it comes to choosing a design template, I had as much right to run with my favourite as the next fumehead!
At the other end of the scale from featuring scents that are very topical, as a blogger you can decide to write about a little known perfume you feel deserves more attention. My most read posts of all time concern a £3.99 dupe of Coco Mademoiselle from the European discount grocery chain, Lidl (see the "Popular Posts" sidebar). I didn’t consciously set out to write about it because I reckoned it would unleash a stampede to my blog, but simply considered it well made for the ridiculously small outlay, and wanted to get the word out to European readers. On the other hand, just because you are the only person writing about a scent doesn’t mean that you will attract lots of traffic – far from it. You might not get a soul reading your post, precisely because no one has heard of the fragrance in question! I am sure that has happened to me quite a lot, and I know I have clicked on and off other people’s sites pretty smartish if I don’t recognise a scent, or have no curiosity about it (sorry!). Which goes back to my point about choosing to write about things for your own reasons, whether you are the only one to do so, or one of many. Write as the spirit moves you, and let the chips – and the readers – fall where they may.
And whatever your reasons for taking up blogging in the first place, it is only human nature to be just a little bit interested in how well your blog is doing. When I started out, I made the mistake of listing Bonkers in the general section of Wikio rather than the perfume category – well, I couldn’t find it, to be honest – and have reconciled myself to being 2741 in their overall rankings (at the time of writing). Bizarrely though, Wikio (recently renamed “Ebuzzing”) has pronounced me No 70 in its list of Beauty Blogs, in which I didn’t even ask to be listed! The other curious thing that happens automatically is that you get picked up by various “aggregator sites” - repositories of online content with names as random as a box of frogs: “Pharmacy Degrees”, “Soccer News”, “India Times”, “Plastic Surgery Face Lifts” and so on.
And gradually, this baffling and arcane accretion of links will lead to a page ranking in the eyes of Google on a scale of 0 to 10, where – to give you an idea - Now Smell This is a 6 and the actual CNN website (to which I likened NST in my guest post) is a 9. To complicate matters further, there is the Alexa ranking system, measuring traffic from sites that have installed the Alexa toolbar, for reasons that completely pass me by. It is in fact quite possible to have a lot of visitors according to Alexa (where a low number is good), yet be a 0 in Google’s backlink-based system (where a low number is bad). Which goes back once more to my point about keeping everything in perspective. Yes, try not to fret about page views and unique visitors, referring sites and “bounce rates” – because if you do, you’ll surely go mad!
And finally, the market researcher in me finds the visitor stats to my blog quite riveting. You don’t know the identity of your readers, just their location and the name of their Internet Service Provider. Yet some of these ISPs are intriguing in themselves, especially the private networks that bear the name of the organisation using them: an oil company in the Middle East, a hospital in the Maldives, a steel parts distributor in Georgia, a lawyer’s office in LA. Now it is a fact of blogging that 90% or more of your visitors are “lurkers”, who read and move on, never leaving a comment. Given this lack of direct contact between reader and blog owner, you can have a field day imagining a backstory for the bedridden patient in the Maldives who is looking at your review of Jennifer Lopez Glow, including how they ended up in hospital in the first place. Was it perhaps a jet skiing accident? A nasty jellyfish sting? Or might it just be a member of hospital staff idling googling in their break, and not a tourist at all?
And then there was the day when 90 Norwegians looked at a post I had written on an obscure Damien Bash scent. If it had been a class project at a school or college, you would have expected all the readers to be in the same town at least - but no, they were literally all over the country. There was no obvious link to a forum or Norwegian website, so to this day the trigger for this sudden mass national interest in my review remains a mystery. And the other important point to mention – and the final reason for keeping a sense of perspective - is that, crucially, many of your readers will land on your blog by mistake… Some of the more peculiar search terms that have directed people to Bonkers include: “leopard fantasy”, “Bo Derek naked”, “Anne Hathaway’s cottage opal flash parfum”, “Slovakian hobbits biscuits”, “swingos hotel Cleveland”, “card nuisance call boss telling her to do some work”, “kidnapping lillies”, “what is the landform of Ohio”, “avocado” and “slime”.
Yes, any time I catch myself thinking that Bonkers is going places, and that I am starting to make my mark as a fragrance blogger, a quick scroll through the keywords used by recent visitors brings me right back down to earth again…!
Photo of lady blogger in top image from Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr CC, photo of blogging tips book from Search Engine People Blog via Flickr CC, photo of second lady blogger from Foxtongue via Flickr CC, photo of Maldives from Shayan (USA) vis Flickr CC, photo of avocados from nate steiner via Flickr CC, other photos my own