A few years ago I was told by Blogger Forum that my little blogspot blog called Tallskinnykiwi had achieved Number 3 Top Site that week, beating out the Iraqi blogs, John Kerry and more importantly, humiliating the humorist blogger Dave Barry who I am sure never quite got over it. I thanked Blogger Forum for the award and then told them that i had actually closed down the blog a few months earlier when i moved to Typepad. I figured the traffic on my old blog would stop. I was very, very wrong. I had not thought about the long tail effect of my blogging.
About one third of my blog traffic happens in the long tail - in those memes and images and thoughts posted a long time ago that have now got some credibility and have climbed the search engine ladders to appear on front center stage. No longer fresh but suddenly aggregated because of a new-found relevance. You could say that they were LOST, but now are FOUND. Blogging for the long tail is now somewhat of a strategy for me. Let me explain.
Every day, hundreds of people come on my site for a tiny number of old posts. I noticed this recently when i took a month long blog fast. My daily visitors plunged but then levelled off and stayed the same at a certain point. When I looked closer at what posts readers were finding on the search engines [another cool feature on Typepad], there were a few dozen posts with Number One Google ranking and 2 images that by themselves attracted hundreds of daily fans:
This image called “foot foto”, which someone else created, gets number one ranking for “foto” and it has daily visitors from all over the world. At first I thought they were pro-lifers but now I realize they are probably Spanish speakers who are interested in photography. If i had time, I would write a decent blog post on image-editing or photo-touching and have someone translate it into Spanish . . . IF . .
An image search for “Muse” finds this one on Tallskinnykiwi staring at you on the front page, despite only having 4 links. Honestly, if i didnt look, i wouldnt have had any idea. Even more interesting is that number one ranking for Muse image search is my friend at JacobsWellChurch. Neither of us deserve to be elevated to connoisseurs of Muse art but there we are.
There are a few of my favorite memes that have ended up getting Number One Google ranking, at least for now:
Deep Ecclesiology [Google]
Postmodern Sensibility [Google]
Barna's Revolution [Google]
There are more and i might repost them in a series in the near future. But being first is a responsibility and not something we should LOVE (3 John 9).
- Search engine ranking is based on a number of criteria like permanent links (static links like those on blogrolls are better than transient links like posts), history (how long have you been there) freshness of posting activity, traffic, and not as much to do with metatags as the experts tell us.
- It probably also helps to have the name in the title of the blog post
- Search engine ranking can be squandered. Its a fickle thing. A few weeks ago, I had number one ranking for “how to write a blog post” but i didn't have any decent content on that post - just a link to a recent article I wrote . That post has since fallen off the page so far that i cant even find it. Google must have noticed that people were not accessing nor linking to it. What I should have done is gone back and edited that post with some helpful content.
- You never really know which posts will do well but once you find out, going back to tidy it up is a good idea. RECYCLE!!!
- There is a certain amount of ethical responsibility that comes with a high google ranking on an issue, and even more so with a person's name.
- Tim Ireland from Bloggerheads, a google guerilla who i met at WeMedia Fringe last year, is an expert on climbing search engine rankings which he does as a hobby. He could tell you a lot more than me.
Related: Long Tail and a new kind of hierarchy
Spiritual Thought: I guess i am saying that what I write today will be read by future generations tomorrow and my blogging needs to reflect that. A song from Asaph comes to mind.
O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old-
what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.“
Jesus and the long tail?
Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit would remind them of everything he told them [Luke 12:11-12] and that they should not worry what to say when arrested because it would be given them [Mt 10:19]. It was obvious that much of his teaching, especially in parables, would not be fully understood immediately but would come into play at a later time - a long tail of sorts.
He also taught his disciples that ”every teacher of the law ['Scribe'] who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.“ [Matthew 13:52] The blogs of spiritual teachers should be like those storerooms where there are consistently fresh thoughts that are daily, timely and relevant and also older treasures that find themselves suddenly aggregated out of the long tail into the present reality, given to the right people at the right time by the Spirit.