Writing Off-Topic Posts to Expand the Audience of Your Atheist Blog

Off topic...
Photo by Thomas Leuthard [CC BY 2.0]

One of the many humbling things I've realized while writing Atheist Revolution is that I have little ability to predict which posts will appeal to readers. This seems like it should be simple, but I've never been any good at it. I can write a post and think it is bound to take off, only to see it flop. And I can write what I regard as a throw-away post that does take off. Both have happened so many times that given up guessing which posts will generate traffic.

There is an upside to this, though. Many of the posts that generate far more traffic than I expect them to are off-topic. And while I cannot be sure, I suspect that the traffic they draw includes some who would not have visited this blog otherwise. That is, these aren't people who are coming here because they are looking for atheist-oriented content. They came here because they are looking for content related to whatever subject the post addressed.

My suggestion for atheist bloggers, then, is to consider writing an off-topic post every now and then. View it as a way to expose your blog to new readers who might not otherwise find it. I have found atheist blogs I didn't know about like this. I might have been searching for information about something that doesn't have anything to do with atheism and ended up on an atheist blog because the author had written something about it. I have also heard from a number of people on Twitter who found me not because of anything related to atheism but because of another topic, I was writing about (e.g., horror).

I understand the desire to keep one's focus fairly narrow. Some bloggers worry that deviating from their niche will upset their regular readers. I have found that most of my regular readers are forgiving of off-topic posts. And I have also found that these posts can be an effective way to attract first-time visitors, some of whom may stick around.

In the end, what matters most is what you are interested in writing about as a blogger. If you are content to stay focused on your niche and never deviate, I am sure there are some advantages in doing so. I'm not content to do that. There's not enough content in atheism to keep me occupied. I enjoy writing, but I have a poor attention span and varied interests.

Lately, I've been posting most of my off-topic stuff at Medium. I did not expect to like the platform as much as I have. It has occurred to me that it might make sense to retire this blog and focus my efforts there. I haven't decided anything, and I suspect it will be some time before I do. All I've decided so far is that I plan to keep writing about topics outside of atheism.