A year in blogging – Webcowgirl’s most popular posts of 2010 – and tips for improving your blog stats

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Here, in order, are the top several of my blog posts of 2010, with the number of hits each received.

1. Best (Top Ten +) cheap restaurants in London’s West End Theatre-land 6,128
2. £25 off two “top price” tickets for War Horse – except matinees, Sat PM 3,014
3. Review – Carlos Acosta Premieres – Sadler’s Wells at the London Coliseum 2,477
4. 12 best ways to get cheap theatre tickets in London 2,336
5. Shen Yu “Divine Performing Arts” Ensemble – Chinese Art Spectacular – Royal Festival Hall 1,837
6. Review – 11 and 12 – Peter Brook’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord at the Barbican 1,377
7. Review – Paradise Found – Menier Chocolate Factory 1,082
8. Review – Passion – Donmar Warehouse 1,061
9. Review – Or You Could Kiss Me – Handspring at the National Theatre 907
10. Review – Macbeth – Cheek by Jowl productions at The Barbican 895
11. Review – South Pacific – Lincoln Center 893
12. Review – Accomplice, London – Tom Salamon and Betsy Sufott at the Menier Chocolate Factory 823
13. Review – Cinderella – Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House 810
14. Review – London Assurance – National Theatre 793
15. Review – Earthquakes in London – National Theatre 769

This year, getting “hits” became more important in determining what I would and wouldn’t write about, as time to write started to be at a premium thanks to 1) my new job and 2) upping my show viewing by about 20%. However, for the blog readers of the world, it appears that saving money continues to be high up on their list of priorities, as finding cheap places to eat before a show, cheap tickets to the terminally expensive War Horse, and cheap theater tickets in general were the motivations that caused the most visits to this blog. Seeing a good show? Not so important. Keeping expenses down? Very high. I’ve added to the mix of reviews here by sharing tips on cheap tickets when they come through – I want lots of people to go see shows, not just people with lots of disposable income, and I consider sharing this kind of information very useful to the people who read this blog regularly. Unfortunately the cheap War Horse tickets only seem to come up about once a year, right at the start of the school year, so I’m afraid most visitors seeking help in this area are best advised to save up or give up.

Star review of the year was without doubt the Carlos Acosta writeup from his solo show at the Coliseum. I savaged this show horribly, and Carlos fans were quite offended. However, given the cost of tickets, I felt it was worthwhile to sound a warning to people who were wondering whether or not these high-priced seats were worth it. I began to feel that for die-hard Acosta fans, he could have sat on a toilet for 90 minutes and they still would have said it was a great night out. For the days before the “real” reviews got to this show, there was only my review out there in internet land, and I wanted people to know this was NOT a good value evening. Note to bloggers: get your review in early, it does drive the traffic!

In an odder vein is the continued popularity of the Shen Yu / Shen Yun Chinese Performing Arts review. This is one of my oldest reviews, yet the group that I reviewed continues to tour and people continue to look for information on just what exactly this group is doing. It’s a religious cult, people: you will be proselytized to, yet only slightly more than in Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London. I notice they’re returning to the London Coliseum in 2011, which will be good for traffic on my blog, as people determine whether or not the 40 quid “cheap seats” are worth it. I’ll hazard a guess that the answer is no, unless you’re already into Falun Da Fa, in which case it could be a spectacular evening for you. THAT SAID, can I mention that I support religious freedom, and that having my post against the artistic merit of this evening be used as proof of how bad Fa Lun Da Fa is has upset me a lot, enough to make a disclaimer again on the subject. I am against bad art; people can practice their religion as they please, but I’d prefer they’d not sell an evening of proselytization as “Chinese traditional dance at its finest.”

However, a show going on TV is also good for the popularity of my reviews, and both South Pacific and Royal Ballet’s Cinderella got good spikes when each was on their respective national television. Thanks, guys! I’m mystified by why I, a mere blogger, would get good traffic for shows that much more prestigious reviewers have covered; I can only guess that my use of tagging and the titling/cross-referencing to other posts helps get me up in the Google statistics.

For the rest of the reviews, I’ve found the most general guarantee of high traffic is to get a review in before the official press night. “Real” reviewers sneer at bloggers for this, as do theatrical performers and staff (who will tell you in your blog and on Twitter that you’re a low down dirty backstabber for daring to put up a review of an “unfinished” work); but this is the niche that bloggers can most successfully exploit. An early review, well tagged and publicized (I use my other blog and Twitter to do this), will get piles of visitors from people trying to figure out as soon as possible if they should go see a show. Contrarily, a review late in the run is pretty much effort wasted. Unfortunately this can also be true of any review of a fringe show – if a show has 10000 seats available for its run versus the paltry 500 a Union Theatre run might have – then just less people care about what you have to say. I will still review fringe shows because I do care about trying to push an audience toward good shows – but I am much more unlikely to bother writing up a review of a poor fringe show as less people will ever see it and the effort seems ill-expended.

At any rate, looking at the stats, it’s the National which is getting the most views, closely followed by my early reviews of other shows with long runs at decent sized venues (the Barbican, the Donmar Warehouse, the Menier Chocolate Factory). Not one of my Sadler’s Wells reviews has hit the top 15; Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella barely hit the top 20 (at #20, in fact). My dance reviews in general get poor traffic, and yet I keep writing them in part to work on my craft. I yearn to be like Clement Crisp, and yet I will never get anywhere close to his level of erudition and wit unless I keep working on writing, writing, writing about dance. But then … so few people read these reviews. It’s discouraging.

However … I continue to write, I continue to support the arts, I continue to try to use this blog as a way of spreading the message about what to see, what to skip, and how to get the best value for your theatrical dollar. I remain, at my heart, a fan of the performing arts in their varied forms. And I will continue to write … though I expect in 2011 I will be writing (and seeing) less.

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One Response to “A year in blogging – Webcowgirl’s most popular posts of 2010 – and tips for improving your blog stats”

  1. A year in blogging – Webcowgirl’s most popular posts of 2011 – and tips for improving your blog stats « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] at the other top hits, I see the same trends as last year: people come to reviews when bloggers are the only game in town (see ‘em early and write […]

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