Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

14 February 2006
  Building a Lutheran Presence; Part 2
Increasing Readership and Raising Visibility for Confessional Bloggers

In Part 1, we examined ways of maintaining and improving the quality of our individual blogs. This included attractive and uncluttered layout, rich content, being intentionally and unapologetically Lutheran, and related matters.

Assuming that you write well, your layout is clean, your graphics sharp and uncluttered, your paragraphs of managable size, and your chosen topics of interest to others, you may have another question: "Why aren't more people visiting my blog?" So if you've lain the groundwork of quality in your blog, let's get on to the business of rounding up some quantity, namely an expanded readership.

No Blog Is an Island

If you want to reach others, it helps to join with others. The easiest way is through some form of blogrolling. You'll notice that the Alley has a rather large blogroll. This is intentional; if we were all professionals, I'd call it professional courtesy. I don't read all the blogs on my Confessional Lutheran blogroll every day, but I do keep an eye on them. I list them not because I agree with everything they say in total, but because we are theological brothers and sisters and because I've learned to trust the output to be interesting and edifying. You may favor certain blogs over others; this is fine. Give them top billing or a bright color scheme in your blogroll. But don't forget to list some of the others who are plugging away, making their own contributions to Lutheranism in cyberspace in their own way. Especially, consider reciprocal links whenever possible.

Reciprocal blogrolling is the backbone of increased readership.

Readers Follow Referrals

LinksIf you like what someone else said, mention it in your own blog. Even if you quote and give attribution, don't forget to also supply a link. It's nice when you link to my blog; it's great when you link to the specific post you're citing. Our readers are often in a hurry. If you take them exactly to the source, they're much more likely to read the material than if you just take them nearby. Also (and we'll take this up more in a moment), post-specific citations can have greater search engine credibility. To give an example of how this works, here's a previous post wherein I addressed some of these same topics. Remember that the word "link" wasn't idly chosen for cyberspace; consider the strength of a number of metallic links joined together to form fences, chains, and suits of armor. We bloggers can adapt this truth to our own structure.

Linked posts form a strong chain of Lutheran blogs.

Hang Out with Other Blogs

TechnoratiJoin Technorati, "claim" your blog(s), pick appropriate tags, and insert their code in your blog. Many people use Technorati as their first choice for blog searches, so it pays to be listed here. They place a premium on currency, so the more often you post and update your blog, the more likely you are to be found. In like fashion, add your blog to as many other listings and directories as you can. Many of the graphical buttons in my blogroll link to various directories. Please note their respective rules: Some require reciprocal links. Make sure you know your "feed" URL, also. It may end in "xml," "rss," "rdf" or something else — some resources are going to ask for it, so you'll need to know it. Don't forget the obvious; make sure you're listed with the Lutheran Blog Directory.

Keep it simple; keep it direct(ory).

Get Aggregated

Aggregators are dynamic directories devoted to specific topics. For these, you'll almost certainly need to supply your blog's feed URL. Each time you update, your newest post will be previewed in an appropriate place in whatever aggregators list it. One of the confessional bloggers is working on a new combination aggregator and blogroll compiler even now. In the meantime, there's already the Augsburg Aggregator, which is devoted to confessional Lutheran blogs only. It's run by David R. Bickel of Dawning Realm. Evangelical Christians (that includes us Lutherans) can join the Evangelical Aggregator. When you click the email link, you'll have the option to ask to also join the Blogroll of God. Go ahead and ask for it, too — it also requires TTLB listing (see next paragraph). If you support and post on pro-life issues as part of your blogging, you should sign up with the Pro-Life Blogs aggregator.

A little aggregation now beats a lot of aggravation later.

Embrace the Ecosystem

TTLBOne of the most enjoyable ways of building traffic comes from joining the Ecosystem at The Truth Laid Bear. I don't know all the nuances, but basically, you receive credit each time another member of the ecosystem links to your blog. The system is somewhat weighted; links to specific posts are, I believe stronger than links to the blogs. TTLB's NZ Bear devised a whimsical way of displaying the relative popularity of blogs within the Ecosystem. As you gain in notoriety, you move up through a parody of an evolutionary ladder. From Insignificant Microbe to Multicellular Microorganism — you might become a Flippery Fish, a Flappy Bird, a Marauding Marsupial, or even a Mortal Human. NZ's top ten bloggers move into semi-divine status as "Higher Beings." TTLB also sponsors blog communities, including the aforementioned "Blogdom of God." I've talked with him and, once he's gotten some of his backlog caught up, NZ says he'll look at helping us confessional Lutherans start our own community within TTLB.

TTLB Ecosystem code note: Sometimes bloggers add others blogs to the ecosystem in order to improve their own rankings. If you attempt to add yours and get the error message, "Weblog URL is a duplicate of an existing weblog," yours has already been added to TTLB's scan. New adds are given a code snippet so their status can be displayed. If you don't get the code because someone has already added your blog, please email me and I'll send it to you. You can put the code in your blog's head, sidebar, or footer; just make sure you display it somewhere on the front page; i.e., in the template, not in an individual post.

Darwinian evolution — bad! TTLB evolution &mdash fun!

Count Your Blessings Visitors

Web counters aren't just feeding troughs for the ego. Good counters tell you who's coming to visit and from where. Perhaps you suddenly start getting new visitors, as happened recently happened at Luther Library. Our counters from eXTReMe Tracking and Sitemeter showed that they came as the result of mentions on other blogs. eXTReMe is particularly good at letting you know what search terms are bringing visitors from Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and other search engines. While I certainly wouldn't advocate "keyword stuffing" in your posts, it doesn't hurt to know why folks stop by.

Install a counter or two and learn what they're telling you.

Rely on the Robots

Finally, you're going to have to put your blogs into the hands of the impersonal algorithms of the internet search engines. Even if all the other Lutherans link to you, an awful lot of potential readers may not visit any of their blogs. But all this linking isn't for naught! The magic of the search engines includes a weighted system of who links to whom. Thus, as more of us Lutheran bloggers link to each other, we not only refer visitors among ourselves, we also boost each other higher in the search engines. The way the math works, you eventually help yourself by linking to others. I told some of the importance of blogrolling, linking, and getting higher in the search engines in an earlier post. The information is important enough to repeat. I wrote about a particular search engine hit at the confessional Lutheran blog Ask the Pastor:
I clicked the eXTReMe Tracking button for Ask the Pastor and went to the Referer Tracking 1 page, which shows the 20 most recent referrers, the 20 most recent search engine queries, and the like.

One of the search strings came through Yahoo search for bible adam sons. When I checked, the first hit was for "Ask the Pastor: The Wives of Adam's Sons" while the second pointed to "If We Are All Sons of Adam" from the Stormfront White Nationalist Community. To which would you want an inquiring soul to turn?

I bring this up because, while search engines use often complex formulas, the number of sites (and blog posts) linking to another site heavily influences which posts come out on top. Now consider that Yahoo says this search returned "Results 1 - 10 of about 2,410,000 for bible adam sons." Poke around at some of the other links over the next few pages and you'll discover such wonders as Serpent Seed Doctrine (currently ranked #20) and "Cain and Abel, the Biblical Story" (ranked #33). The first is another white supremicist, Christian Identity cult site while the second begins by saying, "Cain and Abel are types of men. These are not historical figures but their story is our story."

The way I look at it, confessional Lutheran bloggers should do what we can to keep the truth near the top of the search engines, burying racism, evolutionary biology, and other false doctrines and philosophies of men as deeply as possible. So I encourage you to blogroll all the orthodox Lutheran blogs you regularly read, then consider expanding your blogroll to others you know are edifying, even if they're not on your regular menu. Even if a person never visits this blog, one of my links may have gotten another's site listed high enough on a search engine that someone may have found what was otherwise lost.
My thinking hasn't changed since 18 October 2005, when I first wrote those words. If anything, I believe even more strongly that we confessional Lutherans must do whatever possible to publish our own blogs and promote those of each other in order to keep "burying ... false doctrines and philosophies of men as deeply as possible." For example, if you click the above-mentioned Yahoo search link, you'll no longer see the solidly Lutheran post from Ask the Pastor listed at the top. Unfortunately, you'll find several neo-Nazi distortions among the first ten sites returned.

Search engines will always be "good news ... bad news" propositions. The bad news is the astounding number of sites with whom we must compete, many filled with outrageous untruth and glorious false doctrine. The good news is that almost every one of the previous steps I listed will improve our chances of being read above the trash that passes for truth on the internet.

Climb the search rankings through blogrolling, reciprocal linking, directory listings, and feed aggregators.

In Conclusion

If this post and its preceding partner struck a chord with you, please do what you can to implement their suggestions in your own blogs. If you think highly enough of them, remember that a note in a post with a corresponding link back is always appropriate recognition for the work of a fellow blogger.
ggmyhow does one add the blogroll to his blog?

That's something that's being worked on right now. We're trying to come up with a way to maintain a global blogroll of confessional Lutheran blogs and then a way to have it easily added to sites.

Stay tuned!
A quick question for new bloggers...How do we create a link within a post, like you did in Part 2: Building a Lutheran Presence, called "Previous Post" or to a Bible passage using Biblegateway.com, or to another post in another Blog?

I cannot find the tools necessary to create such a link in a post.

Please help.

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