Monday, December 19, 2011

1500th blog post!

The blog post that proceeds this one, about the carol services I have been to this year turned out to be the 1500th entry on the blog.

This fits handily with the 154,041 page loads since I put statcounter on to the blog about a year in, enabling me to monitor who visits the blog, what they searched for, what they read, how long they visited, whether they came back, how often, which were the most popular entries etc. A few years later I also had the benefit of Google Analytics which does pretty much the same thing.

25,000 unique visitors on average visit each year, last year it was 26,000 and a staggering 7000 people are regular visitors each year.

In the last month, the main referrals - where someone linked to me from - are the Daily Post, Dale Street Blues presumably, Facebook, Blogger itself - I must have featured as a sample blog at some point this month, Twitter and cemeteryscribes.

Most traffic though comes through Google, which is not surprising given that Blogger is a Google platform and they always promote their own sites above those of say wordpress in their search results - or I am assuming that is the case. 934 people in the last month came to me via a Google search for key words which they found on my page.

Depending on the day and the time of day when you search, and how recently I made a new entry, if you search for simply "Louise" or "Baldock" I am often on the first page of Google UK. Now you tell me whether that is exciting!

I began writing the blog in April 2006, 5 years and 8 months ago.

In that time I have won national awards from Total Politics, four times. In 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, this year making it into the top 75 left wing blogs. You can link to the results for each award by clicking on the logo to the left of the blog, this will show who else was awarded and where we all appear on the list.

But it hasn't been plaudits all the way. Readers will know that the injudicious use of the "b" word concerning political opponents, written on the blog in 2007 in a story about candidate fixing, was consequently reported to the Standards Board by one of them in 2009 (obviously a slow reader), and this resulted in my being forced to resign from the shadow cabinet following all the fuss. (The standards board chose not to investigate or take the case forward, but the local newspaper did a hatchet job after being sent a leaked letter and the damage was done).

I was determined not to let that stop me blogging though and have gone to write long articles about infertility, the monarchy, the AV debate, written a short story for Autumn, publicised community events as an online notice board for organisations in the ward I represent, commented on art, literature, culture, gardens, plants, parks, holidays, cars, weddings, funerals and citizenship ceremonies, LGBT events, particularly Pride, days out and days in, and generally had plenty to say about all sorts of eclectic things.

The most popular articles remain the two about fake golden virginia and dodgy cigarettes being produced and sold in Kensington, 20 people a month read those, every month, for several years now. I hope I am helping some people to stay away from counterfeit tobacco products as a result.

The many entries about our beloved Deane Road Jewish Cemetery and the funding we have received from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support its restoration get lots of visits from people keen to set up their own projects and looking for inspiration and advice.

Interest never declines either in stories about cash machines and having to pay to draw out your own funds in poorer areas.

I get asked to undertake a tremendous amount of interviews with media students at Liverpool John Moores University (and I always say yes) as part of their studies, enabling them to practice their questioning skills and their film techniques. I do smile to myself thinking about the poor tutors on the course thinking "Here's that Louise Baldock again!" as they mark their students work. These requests often come because a student has chosen to write about a subject that I have written about and they have found me through a search engine - inner city regeneration is a very popular one.

I have seen many other people start blogs and then falter over those years (and amen to that in some quarters!), they often don't realise how much commitment and perseverance you need to keep on writing stuff, how you have to keep a little corner of your mind alert to things that people will find interesting and want to read.

You really do have to put the work in and in some years I have written much more than others. In 2008 I wrote by far the most number of entries, an amazing 393, that is more than one a day, it doesn't surprise me though to see it was that year, given my passion for culture, it was Liverpool's year as European City of Culture and I was making the most of it by going to so many fabulous events.

This year I have written only half that amount, although have written some much longer articles as opposed to streams of shorter ones. Of course with my interest in all social media, including Facebook and Twitter and my professional website at I guess I don't have the same time to give to the blog either, without  short-changing other forms of social media.

I am occasionally asked to give presentations at conferences about the use of social media and how you can use it to promote yourself, ideas, political campaigns, community issues and so on. While I describe the many different ways in which one can engage with the wider public through social media, through blogs, websites, facebook, twitter etc, I do tell my audience that I am not an expert by any means. Rather I see myself as a "jobbing" social media proponent who uses all of those means but is not ever going to be called into Newsnight for my views (just as well really, to be honest).

Because my blogging is eclectic and I concentrate mainly on Liverpool rather than the national picture, I certainly don't get the same following as the national political sites for instance. But that was never my aim. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people out there who want to write about national politics and about who said what to whom during a debate in Parliament. That has never been a market I felt I could or would want to break into. I prefer to keep it local and relevant to a particular readership. And I try to pitch my contributions to people who I probably know and who can feel a connection with me when they read what I write. And I never wanted to write a blog that was just about politics, I like to talk about a much wider range of subjects, as my readers are very well aware.

The people I write about - often with praise - like our local community police team, or the staff in the Registrar office for instance, are all regular visitors and will often talk to me about things they have read here.

The only thing that disappoints me, and I have never quite known how to surmount it, is the small number of people who actually comment on the articles they read. I get stopped in the street (no really, I honestly do) and in the workplace, by council officials or people from the many organisations I am part of. I get emails and texts about things I have written, I see them shared on FB and Twitter, but the place where a comment would be logical, right here, is rarely the place where it actually happens.

I wonder why that is? Do readers find it difficult to master Blogger's comment system? Or do they think I wont publish them if they write them? Years ago when the blog was under permanent attack from a certain political party, I often deleted comments, but these days I publish 99% of them. Do people fear having their identity known? I only wish I knew what holds people up from writing here where we can all share. What are your thoughts on this? I know I wont get them here, but you can stop me in the street and tell me if you like!!!

Anyway, if you are still with me, thanks for making it all possible, worthwhile, rewarding and exciting. I look forward to sharing the next 500 posts with you.


Kath said...

Only really started reading it recently to be honest but, it's interesting stuff. Just hope that I can be half as interesting with mine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lousie, this is my first visit of many I hope. I get on the PC when I can. Usually when my Daughter has respite, because she needs 24/7 support and the PC is in another room ( long story ) As you know I am active on some Parent/Carer groups and when I get the chance I post on Twiter and FB..I can't be consistent though so the best I can promise is 'now and then ' I agree with you about posting 'local issues' I wish more colleagues of yours would concern themselves more with the local politics than National..Most of us know about the bigger picture but the impact is here locally and how we manage it...Have a good, festive, peaceful week..Glen Fletcher x

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks Kath, do try to keep writing, the more you write the more the readers will come. I have learnt that they fall away when there is nothing new to read... good luck!

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks Glen, it was good to meet you and hear from you at our recent select committee meeting, you should keep in touch, I will always do my best to reply and be helpful. I do wish my colleagues would keep a blog but over the last 5 years or so it has only been me and Paula Keaveney that have ploughed on, many others have tried and failed to keep up the momentum in the interim. It is a lot of work and we all have so much other things to do that I am not surprised that so many have fallen early by the wayside. I hope you and your family have a great Christmas, knowing that Prescot Drive at least is safe

Kath said...

I'll try my best with the blogging, just hope that I can find topics to talk about that people want to read. But, on a different note - I'm pleased that Prescot Drive is safe as I know so many of the families I work with get a break there. x

scouseboy said...

Congratulations on your 1500th post x

Tim Beaumont said...

Hi Louise

There are several reasons why I personally don't comment as often as I could:
1. Time - when I'm on the computer my priority is keeping up to date with casework etc. Bed is usually calling by the time I finish leaving me little time to do anything more interesting.
2. The positive nature of your posts - people tend to engage with something they find antagonistic. As you tend to write stuff that I agree with, I feel less of an urge to comment. I wouldn't want you to write more stroppy blogs but perhaps I should at least comment 'I agree' when necessary.
3. The unpleasant history of political blogging in Liverpool - a couple of years ago the atmosphere was genuinely toxic and it put me off adding comments as it felt pointless and would only be exploited by opponents. Blogging/commenting was something I didn't really want to be part of as it just felt so negative.
4. I see you in person anyway so it seems hardly worth bothering you on the blogs, but I take the point that you, like all of us, need encouragement.

So my new years resolution is - be more confident about engaging with new media!

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks Tim, that is a helpful response to the question I posed at the end there. You are of course right to say that it is controversy that draws attention and response. One of my former bosses in the NWLP regional office used to say "If you want to draw a crowd, start a fight". And that is clearly relevant here. I don't write things that are hugely controversial these days, particularly because of the former blog that we all allude to but don't ever like to name. Anything I wrote here that was particularly critical of other parties created vicious entries on that blog or repeated and regular complaints to the Standards Board from two of the three other parties in the council. None of those were ever upheld although one was investigated so thoroughly that I had to be interviewed on to a tape, which was very menacing. On that occasion the investigating officer decided that the charges were manufactured lies because the proponents could not even get their story straight. But we don't want to rehearse all that stuff again. In the end that venom has gone, and we can all be the people we want to be again, and engage with social media with a much lighter heart.
And I do take the point, as I wrote above, that many people do talk to me in person about the things that I have written. There has been much joking about Donny Osmond for instance this week (I am writing this on Jan 17th) following a subsequent entry, and lots of comments about my hats, but nothing recorded on the blog. I guess what matters to writers like me, is to know that people are enjoying the read, and I should worry less about them commenting here and just be glad the readership continues to remain at such a high level. Thanks for taking the time to comment this time though, I really appreciate it. xx