Another month, and another question in the blogging carnival being run by Doug’s Archaeology. The carnival allows arcaheology-related blogs to participate in answering various questions about why and how the blogs are composed, and what experiences can be gained from running an archaeology blog. Whilst we’re not strictly an ‘archaeology’ blog we’ve been invited to participate thus far. 


So, this month’s question is: “What are your best (or if you want, your worst) post(s) and why? Compare and contrast your different bests/worsts.” Looking at the carnival posts so far this month, many participants seem to have gone for the ‘highest/lowest hits’ approach, and that’s one we can certainly relate to here. As previously stated, our hit rate is fairly constant, with a slow but steady increase over the months and years. The Heritage Journal, in it’s present incarnation has been running since 2009, but has been running in various forms since March 2005. In that time, we’ve posted an article pretty much every day, with a few exceptions – weekends tend to be quiet in terms of our readership so we miss an occasional Saturday. That’s a lot of articles to pick a best/worst from, we have published over 1650 posts so far! That adds up to over 400k hits since 2009, as measured by WordPress – I’m not sure if that includes RSS readers and other aggregators/republishers, which may swell the numbers still further.

If we were to look at statistics alone, then some of those early posts (and the first few dozen seem to have disappeared without trace from WordPress, so I can’t say what the first story was about) would win the ‘Worst’ title hands down – our readership was minimal, and getting even a dozen or so hits was seen as something of a victory. On the other hand, some of our most recent posts have almost gone ‘viral’, one story last December racking up over 4500 direct hits on the day of publications, and nearly doubling that figure in total hits since. And those figures don’t include those readers who head straight for our main page, rather than the story-specific links that we broadcast on our social media channels.


But enough of stats. Let’s take a brief look at why our figures have increased over the years, without looking at specific stories, and also what might cause them to dip.


Firstly, many of our early posts were very focussed on an audience that was quite different from our current readership. We were aiming primarily at antiquarian enthusiasts like ourselves, people who like to get out and about in amongst the stones, lumps and bumps that form our prehistoric heritage. At the same time, we were (possibly naively) hoping to attract ordinary members of the public, hoping to encourage them to maybe take note of what excited us about these places. However, over the years, that approach has changed. We still run articles that would hopefully be of interest to newcomers to our hobby, highlighting specific sites or site types. We now concern ourselves much more with planning matters (windfarms, housing and road developments), threats to the archaeological resource – whether that be from the aforementioned developments or from unenlightened detectorists – and reporting on community archaeology project successes.

As a consequence of this shift in focus, our readership now includes a lot more ‘professionals’; archaeologists, students, and decision makers. This was shown by one of our more popular posts looking at the work that volunteers do at digs. This morphed into a discussion about pay rates and amateurs versus professionals, with comments from all sides of the argument.

Marketing Tactics

Another factor in the popularity of a post is a more judicious use of marketing tactics, with regard to article titles. In this regard, we can recommend a short (free) report, entitled ‘Headline Hacks‘ which is full of suggestions and templates for titles that could improve your traffic. Using some of the suggestions in the report, it’s been our experience that any title that alludes to a list of some kind, or includes the words ‘how to…’ will garner more than the average number of hits. Likewise, any title that could be considered ‘contentious’ (such as our ‘Ed Vaizey insults every archaeologist and heritage professional!‘ story which gave the high numbers mentioned above) or is unexpected improves our hit rate. Most of our ‘dips’ can be related to either straying from our main focus, or forgetting to utilise the recommendations in the report.

Any discussion of marketing tactics wouldn’t be complete without a mention of social media. There’s a fine balance between announcing a new post, and spam. We use Twitter and Facebook, but to be honest, interaction with our readers on both leaves a lot to be desired, and is something we’ll be looking at during this coming year.


Finally, content. Anything that references Stonehenge, or Time Team, even by association (barely a day goes by without at least a couple of hits on our ‘Inside the mind of…’ stories on Raksha Dave from 2012 – or Carenza Lewis from 2013) is guaranteed to be an ‘above average’ article in terms of those pesky hit rates. Great content, that an audience can connect to, is what draws readers in. If you write it, they will come.

And for us, at the end of the day, despite all this talk of numbers and hit rates, it’s only about the content and raising awareness of sites under threat. And those high hit rates can only help spread the word, right?

See also our earlier responses in the carnival:

To read other blogs participating in the carnival, search Twitter for the hashtag #blogarch.