Expanding beyond WordPress

I think this post belongs on Karandi’s blog as it’s 100 word anime that originally made me consider this question. But I m getting ahead of myself.

Some time ago I realized that although the WordPress community is absolutely wonderful and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, it remains for lack of a better word, “limited”. In numbers, not in wonderfulness. For a blog to *keep* growing and getting new readers, sooner or later they have to attract people who are not already on WordPress.

I was reading this very blog (100 word anime) back when I was a wee baby blogger. As I was watching it grow into the 4 digit follower range, I figured Karandi would soon exhaust the amount of WordPress folks interested in anime. Since I knew she was thinking of eventually making a living off this, then she would need to get those readers somewhere else. I started considering myself, how to get followers from some other avenue than the reader app.

This isn’t simply a question of getting your blog out there. I think I’ve spoken enough on SEO and cross-platform promotion. Besides, I was woefully unqualified to do so in the first place. This is more of a question of broad appeal. Once you get new eyeballs your way, how do you keep them coming back?

Dakaretai Promo3
just a suggestion

You see, posts about blogging tend to do very well on WordPress because most of us are also bloggers. (Not all but a pretty high percentage). As bloggers, we are of course interested in articles that apply to our hobby and could even potentially help us build a better blog. But to everyone else, those posts are generally uninteresting. Maybe the more talented writers could still make them entertaining enough for the layperson, but I probably wouldn’t have been that interested until I got my own blog.

Then there’s the personal post. These are tricky. They don’t tend to do that well with search words and the like but on the other hand, it can be a big incentive for new readers to follow your blog. Getting a sense of personal connection and a feeling of sincerity goes a long way. The downside is that this tactic tends to be much more effective when your audience can see you, even if it’s just in pictures. Putting a face to the name makes everything seem more concrete and “real”. Of course, you don’t want to overshare. Not only is it risky it may also turn people off. Finally, you need to make sure new readers can at least follow along if this is the first post they read from you but you don’t want to bore your faithful followers by posting the same thing over and over again.

I have also come to notice that our community tends to form its own little echo chamber. We talk among ourselves and read each others’ blogs so we often end up excited about the same shows or disappointed for the same reasons. However, these perceptions may not be in line with what most fans are thinking.

(As a slightly funny side note, I have now been blogging for the equivalent of 7 anime seasons and 6 of which have been declared “the worst” or at least the worst in recent memory. I have to check but I think I have a particularly beloved show in each of those seasons…)

Cheer3
yeah…this is pertinent

Basically, in order for me to not cap myself on WordPress users, I needed to figure out what other fans out there were talking about and what interested them. I specifically created my Twitter account to interact with readers. I briefly tried following “anime personalities” and accounts to broaden my horizons a bit but found that my readers tweets got completely hurried that way and it degraded the purpose.

I still do get some info that way. When a bunch of mutuals all like the same tweet for instance or when a particular topic gets brought up by a lot of different people. That’s my queue to look into it. I’m usually the last one to know.

Reddit may be the best choice to gauge general Otaku response. And MAL. But it requires a lot of effort. There’s simply so much information there that parsing through it to get an accurate read on what you should be writing about seems like a full-time job. I’ve given up for the time being but I want to get back to it.

The first thing I did when I decided to look into expanding beyond the platform, was to check out the competition. By this, I mean *professional* blogs like Honey, ANN, Crunchyroll, Kotaku and the like… What I found were top 10 lists…Lots and lots of top lists. I’m not trying to talk smack about them, on the contrary, I think it’s a particularly effective format, but it is rather omnipresent.

Tuesday's Top 5
sorry Karandi, it was the most fitting image

***I also publish weekly top 5 lists***

Otherwise what I found was a certain slanted perception of the medium and its fans. A lot of articles were either amateurish or so superficial it left me wondering whether the reporter had really seen the series they were covering. Others were just eager to identify as critics or journalists and NOT part of the anime fan community. Sometimes even showing lightly veiled animosity towards their readership. This tendency annoyed me so much in fact, I wrote an early rant post on the subject which remains one of my favourites.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good anime journalists out there. I once read a wonderful and thought-provoking piece on the Flowers of Evil published on Kotaku. It was clearly written by someone who had both a deep understanding of and love for anime. I don’t know if it says something that that was the last article he wrote there.

At the time I realized that there was a niche for a more informal form of anime adjacent content for the wide public. An editorialist who identifies as a fan. Chronicles of an everyotaku if you will. I was so excited about the idea. I even had this vague concept of a weekly diary blog series, highlighting the events of my life from an animecentric point of view. I might still do it, mind you.

However, I’m not smart enough to have discovered something no one else has. If the niche really existed, someone would have filled it by now. Still, I can’t help but think there’s an audience for this type of content, I just haven’t figured out the proper format yet.

idiot
don’t get me wrong, I’m still a genius

Now that I’ve been blogging for a while, I have come to see that episode reviews get a huge amount of off WP views. However, I have the sneaking suspicion a lot of them may be trying to watch the episode online. Otherwise, character studies are pretty good for drawing the general public on my blog but do poorly with WordPress readers. It’s a bit of a balancing act.

I’m not yet at a point where I need to reach beyond the BBB WordPress boundaries. However, it pays to be prepared and I would like to find a way to do that without alienating current readers. For those of you who are bloggers, do you have any suggestions? Has anything worked for you?

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Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!

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46 thoughts on “Expanding beyond WordPress

  1. What about trying to get more of a baseline following? Does anyone have advice on that? My little blog is only 3 months old, and I’m going to stick with it and be patient, but with the eventual goal of earning a little something.

    1. Not sure, but the one thing that I know worked for me early on in getting some consistent readers was becoming a consistent reader and commenting on a lot of other blogs.

      1. t’s a good, even essential way for starters but you have to keep at it and it becomes difficult to upkeep once you start following 100s of blogs

        1. That is definitely a concern. I think you just need to set some time for it in your week (I set time each day) and then you manage to read a range at least even if you can’t get to everyone.

    2. I’d second what Karandi said. Interact with other bloggers. Leave a comment here and there. Most bloggers are pretty friendly so there’s nothing to worry about. Not everyone will follow back and some even may take longer to follow back, but it definitely helps to develop some familiarity with other bloggers. I went six months without interacting and not a single follower. I started interacting in September and now I’m at 100 followers. Patience is the name of the game so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen over night.

  2. It’s a tough balance figuring out the intersection between what you’re interested in and what gets readers. Like you said, it often seems like the type of article or the topic is just as important as the content. My Fate guide still gets more clicks than anything else, and that’s almost entirely because it does well in search engines.

    And I agree that our community is pretty great. I know I’m not good at keeping up with everyone’s content, but I’m still happy to have found so many awesome people here.

    As for twitter, my experience has been that it’s better for meeting individual people than really building an audience. It’s too easy to get caught up in your own bubble, and it seems like the best way to get a lot of followers is to already have a following from blogging, which defeats the purpose of using it that way.

    1. Twitter is a strange beast. It seems powerful but I haven’t quite figured out how to use that power…or if I even want to.

  3. I suppose to depends on what you want for your blog, do you want a core strong, if small auidance, or wide appeal?

    I’d love to have more viewers, but I also am afraid that if I get a larger viewship, I might find myself locked into doing things only they want. If I wanted to have a big blog, i would have to chase clickbaity outrage pieces that I loathe.

    Right now I am happy with my blog, because it is a hobby and not a source of income. I don’t know what your situation is Irina, but I would ask yourself: What do I want out of this blog? Do I want to make this a career, or am I just doing it for fun? Once you do that, I think you’ll have your answer.

    But maybe I’m wrong, or right. I honestly have no fucking idea, I just make posts on anime tiddies.

    1. I don’t know about clickbait outrage peices. In my experience anything with ecchi or “boobs” somewhere in the post does very well. And that leaves you plenty of room to still post stuff you like.
      But I understand, views are not something you want to prioritize right now and that’s a very valid point of view

  4. Great post! I’ll give you the way I was able to go beyond WordPress myself. It may not work with everyone, but well, this is what I did. Take into mind, for this, you will have to be self-hosted. I mean, I don’t know if you are able to do it with the regular WordPress… If you have to pay for the top tier plan, then it’s just too expensive.

    Now, as you already know the animeshelter website was my step outside of WordPress. Or at least, the one we all know and love (I still use WordPress.org).

    Basically, the moment I changed there, I got way more views from Google. Of course, starting to talk about seasonal Anime helped xD

    Now, I don’t really think that episodical reviews will bring you new readers, or at least new followers. Like you said, I also believe that most people who will find you through Google will be looking for somewhere to watch the episode online. However, I do believe those type of articles are perfect to have in places like MAL, Anime-Planet, Reddit and all of that. This because we normally have discussions open for that matter, and since you already wrote a post analyzing everything, it doesn’t take too much effort to write a small summary and then at the end of your thoughts just add the link for the full post.

    HOWEVER, none of your efforts will bring fruits if you are not able to make users outside WordPress.com to follow you. I mean, I know that WP gives you the possibility to have people follow blogs through your email. However, you are not able to change when your emails are going to the person who subscribed. Normally, what you have is an automatic email every time you post something and that’s it.

    Well, think about someone who doesn’t belong to WordPress getting 3 emails from Karandi a day. Most likely, the person will just stop following her. The same goes for an email every single day. And, let’s not forget, if you follow a bunch of people in Worpress then your email is flooded with emails from WP and will probably not open even one.

    That’s why newsletters exist. I have one (or at least, you can apply to be there xD) The thing about newsletters is that you can write whatever you want. You can just make a weekly email highlighting your best posts for example, or you can just write an awesome introduction for the post you want people to read. This, of course, helps a lot in making those people outside of WP to return.

    Now, it’s not something that magically will solve this type of problems. Most of the time people who found our blogs/websites from outside WordPress are just looking for a specific type of information and won’t be interested in being in a newsletter. Nevertheless, I was able to gather around 40 followers through there, so it’s something to think about 🙂 Hope it helps

      1. Thank you! 🙂 Work has been hectic since I need to leave everything completely done so the passage to the person is going to replace me goes smooth, but with the job hunt out of the day, I’m having an easier time managing my time eheh

    1. That’s great advice. I have a newsletter for my fiction, but never considered using it for a weekly post update. I turned off the email notifications on Reader because I was getting more than a hundred emails a day so can completely agree on the overload.

      Out of curiosity, who do you use? I use Mailerlite.

  5. Please don’t take this to suggest I think I know what I’m doing. But I love how this post thoroughly examines some stuff I’ve been thinking about lately.

    Remember how broadcast TV dominated the ratings? The three major networks owned the airwaves. They refined and honed and perfected the formulas until TV was this homogenous collection of shows that were guaranteed to generate ad revenue.

    And then HBO and cable came along with interesting, “niche” shows.

    I suspect that if you want to profit over time, you’ll need to align your “why” with the right niche.

    Why do we blog? Do we just want to run up numbers like Honey’s Anime? I’d suggest there’s already a Honey’s Anime, and it’s doing a fine job of being Honey’s Anime. I think you’d be better served doing something else.

    Like what? Well, what we don’t have is another 100 Word Anime, or another I Drink and Watch Anime, or… Insert your site here. Those unique visions are what keep me visiting the sites (by that, I mean visiting the sites outside of my weekly prow).

    Maybe my perspective is different because I completely forgot about WordPress Reader for the first three years of my site! I built a following largely through SEO, but slowly and haltingly because I didn’t ask my wife (who’s a social media expert, among other things) for advice. That’s beside the point; the point is, I love the extra engagement that came with the WordPress community who discovered my stuff via Reader. I also love the engagement that comes just from Google.

    If my site’s successful, it’s because I’m doubling-down on why I want to have an anime blog in the first place. I stay away from anything that doesn’t articulate that vision. That way, people know what to expect and if they like it (and I don’t suck completely), they keep coming back.

    Here’s the painful part: Knowing my why, I’ve had to accept that I won’t be able to quit my day job. Or fund a new Mac Pro or even an iMac Pro. I’m not broadcast TV, and I’m not HBO. Maybe I’m the SciFi channel (though I promise to not drop series like SciFi did — I still can’t forgive them for cutting Farscape short or ending Stargate Atlantis early). My series reviews generally do well — well enough that I’m happy I’m sharing my enjoyment with others.

    But do you know what my most popular post has been, aside from the home page?

    5 More Funny and Light-Hearted Anime Series

    Does that prove Irina’s point about mass appeal or what?

    1. Lists are easy to relate to and everyone likes to see if someone agrees with them. I had my Sunday Sevens that were doing all right but nothing special. Seasonal episode reviews seem to be winning for me at the moment and I’m actually enjoying writing them so win-win.

      We’re seeing some interesting results with Ecchi Hunter, especially as our plan was to get search results over reader views. Maybe it’s the nature of the content, but it’s already exceeding our expectations. I may have to do a post looking back at the first month.

      1. Given my best review post ever is still the one that I threw ‘boobs’ into the title of, I know that if I honestly just wanted to boost numbers what content to include. However, despite all those extra views (and there are a lot of views on that particular post) there’s no actual conversation going on and clearly the majority of people aren’t hanging around to become followers or part of the community. I think just getting clicks can be relatively easy but building a community is something that takes a lot more time and work and there’s no single way to go about it.

        1. I have to say that I don’t know what your numbers, so maybe the numbers I find good may be garbage for you xD Nevertheless, I’m talking about posts having around 600+ views in a span of 3-6 months.
          But, for me, the posts that work the best are my First Impressions / First episode Anime about Seasonal Anime… Well, of course, the one that I have the most views is the one I wrote about Gotoubun no Hanayome. However, that’s a lot to do with the title “Who Is Gonna Be Fuutarou’s Bride in Gotoubun no Hanayome?” – it seems everyone wants to know that and I made a good enough clickbait title that makes people click and actually read a bit of the post xD

          1. The thing with posting as often as I do is that individual post numbers are relatively low while overall site traffic is pretty good (or at least growing over time).

    2. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
      Your point about knowing why is well made and I think it is something all bloggers have to ask themselves. It isn’t easy keeping a blog going if you don’t know why you are doing it and you don’t love what you do.
      I may not have started knowing what I was doing but over time I’ve found my way.

    3. This! 100% this!
      It’s like you say if you are just going to copy something that already exists and it’s popular then why bother… Unless you are able to bring something new, a huge company will always have more people and money to outrank you.

      That’s why understanding why you created your blog is important! It also helps a lot in staying on track and on theme as also how to communicate your blog, being it on your social media, or right in the text you are writing in your blog.

  6. This is honestly one of my more favorite posts that I have ever read about blogging and the experience! You really did have no luck with some of the past few seasons of anime either! 😆✌🏻

  7. Well, I think funny or ironic content reaches people the most. Also, definitely look at YouTube videos and what is trending. I definitely recommend shorter posts from time to time and LOTS of pictures. Definitely build up social media and use that to Garner more attention to your blog. But in social media you’ll have to post A LOT because that’s how you grow on there.
    I noticed the “professional” bloggers tend to write in a less articulate form that attracts readers.

    So overall, try shorter posts and if you want to write a longer one use LOTS of pictures! Build up your social media and use that to Garner more attention for your blog. An intriguing title will attract people (I need to work on that TBH 😭) Lastly, keep up with current events because those are what get the most searches.

    I hope that helped! You honestly have more experience than I do but these are the things I do! 😊

  8. I’ve only been around a year, but I already feel like I’m doing something wrong. I love the people who decided to follow me, but I feel like I’m not doing enough to gain more attention. I have no problem with traffic (for some reason, Reddit is always a good place to gain that), but maintaining a dedicated readership is the hardest part about blogging on WordPress. What exactly can I do to get people commenting more? It’s not something I can answer.

    I’m just proud to have what I have right now, but I’ll always be on the lookout for opportunity.

    1. I hope I’m not being presumptuous, but I’ll offer three words of advice:

      Know your why.

      If you know that, then it’ll come out in your posts. That’s how you gain long term readers.

      FWIW, I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to your posts. Every week, I read about 350 blogs, and given the quality of my memory, if you stick out enough for me to remember your site, you must be doing something right!

    2. One thing I’ve noticed, both from my past activity and in others’, is that you shouldn’t get down on your (digital equivalent of) knees and beg for comments by going, “Please comment! I noticed I don’t have many comments and I want to get more!” (or something of the sort). If you’re specifically targetting comments and get to the point where you admit you don’t like how many comments you’re getting, this is a sign you might need to change your approach to suit the platform or the target audience more.

      One thing I’ve found that generally works is to ask questions at the end of your post (or wherever they work so people won’t forget to answer them) that can be answered by everyone but are subjective enough that people will have different answers to them (such as “What are you watching for summer 2019?” on a post about upcoming summer 2019 anime). Also, have a schedule and/or post regularly + often if that works for you.

  9. It’s difficult to say. As you say, WordPress has a good community of people who are intelligent, articulate and willing to engage with each other’s work. That happened due to the very nature of the site we congregate on; if we weren’t intelligent and articulate we wouldn’t be bloggers, we wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be reading each other’s stuff.

    The reason why I don’t particularly rate sites such as Twitter and the like as a means of getting eyes on your content is that they’re generally designed for kneejerk reactions. That’s why we get top 10 lists and hatebait; that sort of thing is going to get an immediate reaction. “An In-Depth Character Study of Integra Hellsing” will excite those people who are already up for a long read, which tends not to include Twitter in particular, but much of Reddit too; “10 Reasons Why Integra Hellsing is Shit” is going to immediately attract the attention of people who both love and hate Integra Hellsing, regardless of whether they read the whole article.

    (I have no opinion on Integra Hellsing, by the way; if my suggestion caused your brow to furrow, Irina, then that’s exactly what I’m talking about!)

    Looking at my stats, too, a relative minority of people who pay me a visit come from Twitter. I might get a spike if I write about something controversial or “current” — last time Anita Sarkeesian started spouting her nonsense, I wrote a piece critical of her, for example, and that did very well numbers-wise — but that’s not really what I want to be doing. My aim for the majority of my blog is to provide something “timeless” that people can read at any time, and so I tend to steer away from anything that “dates” itself. That, in turn, however, also causes fast-paced communities like Twitter to not pay that much attention to me.

    Reddit is a funny one. Occasionally I’ll have a huge spike in traffic on a seemingly random subject, and almost without fail it’ll be because someone linked me on Reddit. It always makes me a little uneasy when that happens, to be perfectly honest, but to date I don’t think I’ve ever really had any “trouble” as such.

    I think an important thing to remember, though, is that the more you focus on writing “for the numbers”, the less you’re thinking about what you actually want to write about and your passion for the subject. This is why I opted not to use WordAds with my premium package; I don’t want what little income I do make from MoeGamer to be dependent on dragging people’s clicks in kicking and screaming. The people who support me on Patreon do so because they believe in what I’m doing and want to show their support — or perhaps just enjoy the small rewards I offer.

    Long-term, I think models like that are going to be much more sustainable than click-based revenue models. People are already tired of clickbait, but the problem just seems to be getting worse month after month.

    1. I really don’t get Reddit. I’ve tried to look at a few anime focused discussions and it doesn’t really feel like anyone is discussing so much as just posting their view and then running away. Do you know how it actually works because I just can’t figure it out?

      1. You’ve pretty much nailed it already. Ostensibly it’s like a forum with threaded conversations, but as you say the nature of it tends to be that people do drive by “witticisms” and then depart. That or start screaming arguments.

        There are, as ever, exceptions to this rule, but when it comes to larger subreddits most people are whoring for karma rather than looking for actual discussion.

          1. Good morning pop-pickers, it’s Billy and the Fish here with your breakfast show! Huhuhuhuhuhuh! (klaxon noise) We’ve got a great lineup of guests and games today, but first here’s Whoring for Karma with their new single, “(Please Like Me) I Post Memes In Lieu of Actual Communication” (shattering glass sound effect) (klaxon) (clown horn) (fart)

  10. Lots of interesting points. If you want to reach more people you need to be more varied in general, but then there’s a lot to be said for a smaller more engaged following.

    Also the more niche the content and site the better Google will rank it for those searches. If it’s too varied Google won’t know where to put it.

    I think the best ways to grow are going to be widen to new media such as podcasting, YouTube, etc. It’s also good to make sure your content is set for SEO, including images and tags, including the keywords with the body of the post.

    As you’ve pointed out it’s hard and there is no one way to do anything. You’ve just got to experiment and see what works for you. However, if you do find the magic fix all, please let us know!

    1. Regarding keywords in the body of your post, be a bit careful with that. Google specifically warns against “keyword stuffing” your posts, so don’t overdo it. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66358?hl=en

      This mostly relates to the practice of hiding irrelevant keywords “invisibly” on your page, but also applies to writing unnatural prose such as “Hello anime fans! Today on The Anime Blog we’re going to look at the hot new anime, Naruto: The Anime, because anime is the best and we all really love anime around here! Do you like anime? Let us know in the anime comments below, or drop us a line at i-love-anime at anime dot com.”

      I don’t think I’ve seen anyone here doing such a thing, but just bear it in mind 🙂 If you’re making a specific effort to include keywords, make sure you do so in a way that remains natural.

      1. That would be terrible to read if they did that. Still, is there some kind of indication of keyword stuffing given you do need to include key words?

        1. It’s just common sense really, I guess. If you’re writing about something, you’ll naturally mention it specifically a few times, so you can make sure that you include the appropriate keywords at intervals that don’t appear to be too obtrusive.

          To give some examples, when I’m writing about a specific game, I try to make sure that I don’t use “the game” too much, and drop in a few mentions of the title here and there. That just comes naturally as part of the flow of writing. Same when writing about a character; rather than using “her” or “she” all the time, every so often I’ll use the character’s name in various forms — short forms, nicknames, full name.

          Saying it like this makes it sound a lot more structured than it should be; your writing should remain as natural as possible, because reading something that is obviously baiting keywords.

          This is one of my best performing posts of all time, for example (vaguely NSFW warning): https://moegamer.net/2018/04/09/honey-select-unlimited-lets-talk-about-sex/

          It works for a few reasons, chiefly because it’s about something not a lot of other sites have written about (due to its “controversial” subject matter — oh no, sex is scary) but also because it’s something that presumably comes up quite highly when someone searches for “Honey Select Unlimited”. When writing that post, I didn’t make a particular effort to keyword-stuff it, the name of the game just naturally came up at frequent intervals as a means of making it read naturally. Related keywords also crop up regularly, too — again, not through a particular conscious effort to ensure I mentioned certain things, but because the natural writing process caused them to come up organically.

          Short version: keep it natural 🙂

          1. I cut a sentence off partway through that. The one that doesn’t make sense should end “because reading something that is obviously baiting keywords is offputting and distracting”. 🙂

  11. I’ve been trying with games and other stuff on the side. It has driven maybe a little bit to the site, but largely my site has driven people to my other works and that’s how I have been making /any/ money lately. It really is tricky to make a blog pay, especially if you aren’t paying premium like myself. This was an interesting article with plenty to think about. At the end of the day you are right though, it is about striking a balance and hitting an unfulfilled niche. It’s marketing at its core.

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