Taking stock. Making plans
Well, this iteration of the site – the Hidden Hat era – is two weeks old. Time for a check in. The plan has been to post two tech articles a week and a third diary post. This, you might guess, is a diary article and it follows on from the site’s inaugural post. I have kept up with the plan so far.
Content marketing is a long game, and my desultory promotion (posting to Mastodon, Linkedin and the dying eX-bird site) has not yet afforded much traction. I can report a 109% boost in unique visits – though the sample period and starting position are both so small as to make that statistic of marginal use. Still, better up than down!
I have just spent a frustrating half hour with Google Analytics 4. I’m not sure who Google had in mind when they planned the Ux for that site, but it certainly wasn’t me. Anyway, my objective was to find out where my traffic has been coming from. Naively, I expected that there would a menu item for this. In the end I had to follow Destiny H’s advice from this discussion board. The process worked well but was far from intuitive.
Once the report was set up, I saw that my social media shares have had comparatively little effect so far. Google search is by far the largest referrer. That’s followed by the daily.dev which must have picked me up thanks to a previous submission of the old GetInstance site.
Of my direct promotion efforts, Linkedin squeezed out Twitter by a user or two. Mastodon did not register – which is hardly surprising given that I’ve still only garnered a few followers there (hint hint).
As far as site engagement is concerned, I have garnered three beta reader sign ups for Python for PHP Programmers which makes me very happy. Beta readers will ensure the quality of the book and sign ups are a good indicator of potential interest. The aim of the game here, after all, is to write useful books. So if you’re one of the beta reader sign ups so far, thank you so much, I’ll be in touch just as I have a chapter or two for review. I have also gained eight mailing list subscriptions over the period.
This is a reasonable start, but the figures will only form a basis for success if they’re at the foot of a curve and not a straight line.
And that’s where we hit the problem of marketing – and my reluctance to do it. Did I mention that I’m an introvert? Well, this isn’t therapy so let’s not linger there. However reluctant I feel about it, I have to get better at engaging with the world.
The growth strategy
I need to grow my traffic in order to make this venture a success. So, what’s the plan?
First of all, my daily.dev experience suggests that aggregators could be a big driver of traffic. So I need to go on a submission kick.
Search Engine Optimisation
With something of a heavy heart, I realise that I can’t ignore Google. I don’t love the idea of writing for search engines rather than people, but there is no doubt a balance that can be struck. So I will spend some time working on my SEO.
That means looking at what’s being indexed at what isn’t in the Google search console. It also means deploying a tool like seobility to get another perspective. I’ll schedule work to address the inevitable issues I find.
At a minimum I will probably need to get smarter about keywords and SEO-friendly content. That’s something of a dark art so I guess I’ll begin with some research.
New and refreshed content
Regular posting is obviously a driver for traffic. It’s also why I’m doing this. Producing words is the mission. It’s what I want to keep on doing. So I have a new content plan more or less in hand (so long as I keep up).
But updating existing posts is also helpful. So I need to schedule a review of my articles to assess which ones would benefit from an update or additional content.
I also need to start working more explicitly on the book, though I’m lucky in that the writing-in-public plan means that my marketing and the book overlap.
I don’t tend to do this very much at present, even though I wrote a post about automating cross posts to Medium a while back. It seems to work for titans like Cory Doctorow so it’s worth experimenting. I’ll cross post to Medium for sure. I may look at other platforms such as Substack for less code-focussed posts.
Speaking of Substack, I am beginning to build a list. It’s tiny at the moment of course, but I have promised infrequent but lovely mails. That’s a contract of sorts, so I should keep to it.
I’d like to create some special content items to offer prospective mailing list subscribers.
I also have a larger opt-in list acquired over the years. I’m not comfortable simply co-opting readers into the Hidden Hat list after a long silence, so I may send out a single shot mail inviting anyone who is interested to sign up again.
Toys and tools
As a coder, I’ve produced a few of these in the past (such as clustercatcher: a tool for detecting grouped repetitions in prose). I may create a goodie or two for Hidden Hat. I have to be careful here, though – I can easily get lost in a code project and lose sight of its actual benefits. Sometimes I fall in love with the means and disregard the ends.
Other site features
The site still needs some key features. In particular, article comments and a feedback mechanism. I’ll add those, as well as some improvements to navigation.
If you’ve read this far and want to help, I’d be very grateful. Sign up to the mailing list below for general site news and chat. Ask your colleagues to sign up as well. If you’re interested in the Python for PHP Programmers project then head there to sign up – you’ll get additional book news. You could also opt in as a beta reader right now. Soon you’ll also be able to pre-order the book. Follow me on Mastodon, Linkedin or X.
Thanks for reading. Next time: what is beautiful code?