Frustration is the difference between what you think it should be and what it is. I used this expression endlessly during my career. I have found that people will be happy with just about anything if they are prepared for it. What the heck is that supposed to mean? Well, it actually means two things. In every situation, you can make something that is what everyone thinks it should be, or you can change what everyone thinks it should be. This is called “managing expectations.” This post will help you manage the expectations of your readers and help your readers find you with greater frequency.
In case you’re not familiar with those cute little things at the bottom of that new post you’re reading, they are called Tags. A Tag is a topic that many people write about in their posts. It’s usually a one-word description, such as “memoir” or “memories,” and should reflect the content of the post. The first thing you will want to remember about tags is they are not all-encompassing. Just because you type “for your children” as a tag doesn’t mean it’s a tag.
So, how do you know when a tag is really a tag? When I write a post, I think about what that post is really about and I make some notes. Most of my posts deal with family, persistence, perseverance, humor, etc. Then I go to the Reader http://en.wordpress.com/read/following/ and I type in one-word subjects under Tags. If I type in J T weaver, the result will be exactly one post. The reason is that only one post was written about J T Weaver within the last year. I was not surprised to discover this factoid.
So far, this doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. Why would I care about what other people are reading? Well, millions of WordPress readers rely on tags to help them find new posts in subjects that they are interested in reading.
To illustrate this process let’s look at some examples. The above example, “for your children,” is not a tag, but “children” is a very large tag. “Legacy of Love” is not a tag, but “love” is probably the largest tag in WordPress. This is where you need to be careful. When you are picking out tags for your post, ask yourself, “Is this post really about “love” or is the word “love” just written in the post. Why does that matter? It matters because a prospective reader is probably searching for posts about a certain subject; in this case, love. When they discover that your post isn’t really about love, they will stop reading, not follow your blog, and never return.
If you read my post “My Mother’s Birthday,” and many of you have, you will notice that it has just a few tags: character, children, learning, life, literature, non-fiction, perseverance, persistence, and WPlongform. For this example, it’s important to note the possible tags I did not use. I didn’t use: tulips, jonquils, garden, child, mother, father, newspaper, Sunday, church, and many others. The reason I didn’t use them is that the post wasn’t really about those subjects. Yes, I did mention them in the post, but it wasn’t the subject of interest.
Consider that you are a reader [of course you are] and you are looking for posts that are about tulips. You just love everything about tulips and you can’t read enough about them. You happen across “My Mother’s Birthday” with the tag: tulip. Hazzah! You say, this might be a good one, it even has a picture of a boy holding tulips, and you jump right into it. Only what you found was that it wasn’t about tulips at all. It was really about parenting small children and the things parents learn about innocent kids learn as they grow up. Well, you have no interest in parenting, or children, or anything else except tulips. You’re not very happy right now. This writer has misled you, your precious time was wasted, and you probably won’t ever go back to that blog again.
Now that we’ve covered how tags work and how they serve your readers, you are probably wondering what do you get out of all this. Let’s continue using my blog as an example. When I publish this story about tags, WordPress will automatically send an email to each of my 2806 followers notifying them of the next electrifying post by J T Weaver. That is very cool and many of you will drop whatever you are doing just to try to be the first to hit the like button and tell all your friends. I wish you all the best of luck with that.
More importantly however, are the tags. I have tagged this story: Education, Essay, General, Humor, Learning, Non-fiction, Teaching, and WPlongform. If you go to the Reader and type in each of these tags, you will see that there are thousands of posts in each one of them. That means that thousands of writers are writing about the same thing and thus, have an interest in this subject. If we are conservative about these estimates, let’s say that each of these tag subjects has 1000 readers who regularly scan and follow each of the tags I’ve used. I’ve used eight tags, adding 8000 perspective readers to this post.
Some of those readers will think so highly of this post that they will become a new follower. Some will hit the like button, some may submit a witty comment, and some may even share this post with hundreds more of their Facebook and Twitter friends. There could be a Freshly Pressed or a Pulitzer Prize in it for me, and all because I used the right tags to advertise my post to the people who are interested in this subject. I managed the expectations of my readers properly and they are not disappointed or misled. As Sally Field famously once said, “they like me, they really like me.” [sigh]
© J T Weaver