THE LITTLE WEBSITE THAT GREW!
Recently this website clicked over to 340,000 visits.
Maybe not a great deal by some standards, but amazing to me. When I began in late 2012 I had no idea about SEO (search engine optimization), effective tags or stop words. It must have taken me twelve months to reach 10,000 views. By contrast, the last 100,000 have come very quickly. There are now over 350 published articles on the site.
I post regularly, but with my biography of Dr Victor Ratten well behind schedule this will have to change.
I do love checking the search engine terms that lead people to my articles. I often think I must be the only person in the world with a recipe for laurel berry jam. People who google ‘nude women bathing ‘ must feel a bit let down when they reach my innocuous story of a sojourn in the German spa town of Baden Baden. A variety of dubious search terms relating to bottoms end up on Editor Des’ humorous piece, ‘Bottoms Up’. And what on earth prompted someone to Google the following, ‘What is the effect of liniment when I drink it?’ ‘Is bell ringing for old people?’ and ‘Mentally unstable people in Katoomba’.
One of my most regularly visited articles is, SS Waratah, Australia’s Titanic The comments left have been as interesting as the story itself, especially from relatives of those who were lost in the ship’s mysterious disappearance .
Messages left on the story, Church Strauss Syndrome; A Rare and Baffling Condition have sometimes reduced me to tears. I was diagnosed with this incurable disease in 2012, but am in full remission. Sadly, most of my fellow sufferers are not. All I can do is offer some hope, direct them to support groups, and increase public awareness of the syndrome.
It takes longer to leave a comment on a website than on facebook or twitter. Those who consistently take the trouble to do so are hugely appreciated. You know who you are and I thank you.
For an author, a website can lead to all sorts of opportunities, such as invitations to speak at conferences or on radio. Public speaking always alarms me, but it does get (slightly) less nerve wracking with experience. A site also provides a platform for backstories relating to published or future work, and thus is a great research tool.
Editor Des, has contributed quite a few articles. They are invariably cheeky, (usually at my expense) and whimsical (although he probably doesn’t know what that means). Thanks though, Des. Like me, he often writes about our Blue Mountains village of Blackheath and on the subject of gardening. It grieves me to admit that his most visited piece is, Pauline Conolly’s Garden; the Shocking Truth. OMG Des, how could you?
My partner Rob (aka Dr Bob) is our final proof reader and unintentional critic. He is notoriously hard to impress, so if he laughs Des and I know it must be pretty funny. If he says, ‘Oh, that’s interesting’, we know it must be! Rob is also my go-to Mr Fixit when I get into a muddle. What a star!
I have been privileged to host guest posts on a wide range of topics, from working in the Antarctic to book reviews, busking, baking, and being robbed in Barcelona. Many thanks to every one of you.
I have always had a strong connection to the UK, which this website has increased. In extraordinary circumstances, a story led to me meeting my lovely first cousin Annabelle for the first time….. in England! And how special to have lunch in London with Sabrina, a descendant of my convict ancestor Solomon Shadbolt’s wife. I have connected with so many of my Larcombe, Shadbolt and Singleton relatives all over the world.
A couple of years ago the site was selected for inclusion in PANDORA, the National Library’s archive of websites. It was judged to be of permanent research value, and a significant contribution to Australian social history. Oh dear, I’m not sure what they make of Editor Des’s stories, but I feel very honoured. This validation of my work led to the creation of the Facebook group Australian Social History, which now has 1,100 members. Please feel free to join.
What do my readers seem to love the most? In no particular order; humour, food, mystery, and nature.
The articles that have created the biggest spikes in my visitor numbers, are the piece on Church Strauss Syndrome and Enough to make a Mother Weep, the tragic story of my ancestor Catherine Bryant and her daughter Eliza.
Links to a website from other sites are pure gold. I particularly appreciate a link from Worcestershire Walks to my literary pilgrimage around Great Malvern. It is a self-guided walk around the sites of interest in my first book, The Water Doctor’s Daughters.
Social media experts suggest that it’s best to have a particular theme for a website, but I’m afraid mine reflects my curiosity and interest in all manner of things. To me it’s a bit like running a little newspaper.
Recently I have been writing about the social history of my local area, and posting the links on Blue Mountains FB sites. The interest has been overwhelming, and so heartwarming. People love to hear their own stories and those of their ancestors.
I have rarely ventured into the areas of politics and contemporary social issues; there are far more knowledgeable commentators than me. However, sometimes staying silent is impossible. Bullying and the tragedy of dementia are two topics I felt I could not avoid. The triple whammy of Brexit, Trumpism and Australia’s own ultra right political movement led me write; And I Thought I Was Only Left-handed.
It is a great privilege to host a website; one I hope I have never abused.
AS ALWAYS, YOUR THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE WELCOME. HOWEVER, DON’T FORGET TO COMPLETE THE LITTLE ANTI-SPAM SUM, OR YOUR WORDS WILL VANISH INTO THE ETHER.