A few days ago I had a long phone discussion with another translator. As we were talking, for over an hour, I think, one of the things that we were discussing was how we write our respective blogs and how many people see our blog posts. When I asked him how many views he had per month, he said “about a hundred”. I said:“A hundred? You mean a hundred a day?” And then I proudly stated that I have at this point about fifteen thousand views a month and the view count keeps going up, although when I started writing my silly posts in 2009, it was only a couple of hundred and then a mere few hundred views a month up until the end of the first year.
He explained to me that he writes his posts mostly with his (direct) customers in mind and that most of the people who read them are in fact his customers. His blog is how he communicates with them, he said. He e-mails links to his posts to his customers, which is how he grows and maintains his readership and base of clients. He was surprised that during a period when he felt uninspired and did not post anything for a while, he got e-mails from his customers wondering what was going on and why was he not saying anything to them anymore.
So he started writing again because as Paul Simon put it in the sixties, you’ve got to keep the customer satisfied. And it’s working for him, even though his blog has relatively few views on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis.
My own blog is not aimed at my customers as it is written mostly for other translators or people who have something to do with translation, such as people working in small agencies. I don’t write my posts for the PigTurds or Plusquamperfects and the like, although I do sometime write about them. I guess I am not really a savvy marketer at heart. Although I doubt that any of my customers reads the atrocities that I am committing on my blog generally twice a week, I do sometime try to tone down what I write not to unnecessarily offend people that I do not want to offend, and sometime I reject a music video even if I like it, for instance if it is too racy. (For instance, the music video of the song “Criminal” with Fiona Apple).
Maybe I should try a little bit harder to stay away from highly suggestive scenes in the music videos I use, some people would probably say. Sex does not really have anything to do with translation, does it?
I also try to write mostly about translation and stay out of politics, although my political views are probably pretty clear to most people who read my blog. For instance, I try not to keep repeating that it no longer makes sense to bother voting if you can only choose between a Democrat and a Republican because the differences between them are at this point mostly cosmetic and largely rhetorical. It is as useless as holding elections in Hong Kong if only candidates who are approved by the Communist Party of China can participate in an electoral spoof. CPC over there, Wall Street over here, same difference.
Most people in my country of residence seem to agree with me as less than a third of voters bothered to show up at the voting booth in the electoral spoof at the beginning of this month.
Maybe I should try a little bit harder not to write about politics in my blog about translation, some people would no doubt say. Or maybe I should try writing a new blog, about politics this time.
Just because a post has a lot of views does not necessarily mean that it was a really good post, and when nobody seems to read it, it does not mean that it was about nothing or poorly written because many other factors are in play.
Such as who is really your target audience.
Blogs about translation will necessarily have a very limited audience – translators. A few years ago I came upon a blog written by Margaret and Helen, two grandmas riding around in a wheelchair who hate Republicans. One lives in Texas and one in Maine, so naturally, they communicate via a blog that has over six million views now. If you go to that blog, which is designed as an exchange of letters between two grandmas, don’t forget to check out the post “Jesus Loves the Legal Little Children” – it has examples of new Bible translations. How can I compete with a really funny grandma who writes about her family members and politics when I write about …. translation.
Just because a post has relatively few views does not mean that it is no good, and just because it is popular does not necessarily means that it is really swell.
If a post does have a lot of views, it does mean that you hit a target, but it is not necessarily the target that you meant to hit.
One of the most popular post on my blog so far this year, although it has only 2 Facebook likes (and I once had over “2k” Facebook likes” on a post called “Translator’s Dementia”), is a post that I wrote last Thanksgiving about how difficult it is to calculate the number of calories in one section of Toblerone chocolate. The reason why it is so popular is pretty clear – it has nothing to do with translation. Most people don’t give a damn about translation, and who can blame them. But just about everybody is counting calories these days, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So they go on Google and write “how many calories are there in one section of Toblerone chocolate?” and since it happens to be the title of a post I wrote, they end up on my blog.
Not exactly my target audience, but as I said already, I am not a very good marketer.