Does the summer slump really exist for online writers?
Some people think so. I disagree. I received an email today from a website that was telling its writers to prepare for the ‘summer slump’ meaning a reduction in hits.
People, the email tells me, are far too busy going to the beach or they’re away on vacation or enjoying outdoor pursuits. They’re not on the internet.
This is nonsense. And it’s the sort of nonsense that encourages writers to expect that their work will do less well in the summer months. Online writers need encouragement, not to be ‘informed’ that their work isn’t going to be seen.
Besides, guess what? When people are at the beach, enjoying their outdoor pursuits or on vacation, they haven’t suddenly become non-surfers. This is not 2002.
Ask most people what is the most essential thing they would pack for a vacation- or even a picnic- and the majority would say their cellphone or tablet.
And only a tiny fraction of those people will be going somewhere where there’s no internet access. After all, even the astronauts on the International Space Station send tweets.
People on vacation are still as connected as they were at home. Gone are the days of huge and clunky computers attached to the wall by a spaghetti-tangle of wires. We get online via devices we have in the pockets of our jeans. Even as long ago as spring 2014, statistics were clear about mobile internet usage. Of Google searches for example, over 60% were conducted on cellphones – add to that the number of people who have acquired internet-enabled phones since then and the huge number of tablet users and what have you got? A pretty enormous number. And how many people go on vacation without taking at least one device on which they can access Facebook or their favourite social media sites? Only those who are not internet people in the first place and they were never your viewers anyway.
How can online writers beat the summer slump?
The email went on to tell writers what they can do to avoid this phenomenon which, by the way, is about as real as the Loch Ness Monster. I will agree that maybe there was such a thing in the early 2000s but at one time there were dinosaurs roaming the earth and it’s not that long ago that humanity thought the world was flat.
What does the email suggest? Cleverly (your heard the sarcasm there, right?) they say that online writers should create articles about summer days out, summer fashions, wedding ideas, the Emmy Awards …. ‘summer’ topics in other words. And where are those articles going to be in November? Or March. As dead as the aforementioned dodo.
Yes, it’s sensible for writers to tailor their writing to the seasons and to special occasions and events. Who doesn’t want to make the most of Valentine’s Day for example? But we realise that people buy romantic gifts for their loved ones year round and tailor our articles accordingly. I’ve all very well writing New Orleans recipes but call them ‘Mardi Gras recipes’ and they are only popular for a couple of days a year. But people are looking for Cajun or Creole recipes year round so why ‘brand’ your articles towards specific times when you can get readers all year?
By all means have a bunch of summer-focused articles that you update and promote when the time is right but you’re doing that anyway, right? But remember to update articles to make them applicable for as much of the years as possible. Don’t entitle an article ‘tips for summer barbecuing’ for ever. Use that title in the summer by all means but then remove the word ‘summer’ after the warmer months are over. People don’t search for grilling recipes in the cooler months? Oh yes they do and don’t forget the people who live in climates that have outdoor cooking weather all year round.
Promote articles at the right time
I truly see this – I honestly see people promoting articles on social media that are completely out of season. Why?I’ve no idea. One of the first rules of online writing and of social media is to add value. Perhaps it’s the first rule. And who, in all honestly, is looking for Thanksgiving entertaining ideas in February? If anyone at all, a tiny, tiny, minority. Don’t waste your valuable time.
Keep your editorial calendar crisp and relevant. When people are on vacation or enjoying a day on the beach,one of the first things they are going to do is get onto social media to brag about it and show their photographs. Grab them while they’re there. People are addicted to social media – a mere vacation or picnic isn’t going to keep them away.
Adjust your articles
Coincidentally, I am writing this on National Picnic Day. This means that my next task today is to select one of my recipes that’s great picnic food, adjust it accordingly and zap it out to social media. Tomorrow, it will revert to its usual state.
Imagine you have an article about the best chocolates available online. It takes only seconds to adjust that article according to the season or occasion. ‘The best chocolate gifts for Valentine’s Day’. ‘The best chocolate gifts for Mother’s Day’. ‘The best chocolate gifts for the holidays’. Etc. When there’s no occasion coming up, it’s simply ‘The best chocolate gifts’.
Yes, writing new articles is always a good idea. But don’t make them date specific and remember to polish and revive the articles you already have. New articles have the advantage of freshness but old articles have established URLs that are nicely indexed in search engines.Make the most of them.
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