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The value of blogging about your textbook

Kathleen Almy
Kathleen Almy

As a supplement to a February 2012 TAA webinar, “The Benefits of Blogging About Your Textbook”, presented by Kevin Patton, TAA created a group in the social media site LinkedIn to allow participants to interact with both Patton and each other prior to the webinar.

This special LinkedIn group spurred some terrific discussions and insight from other TAA members, such as Kathleen Almy, associate professor of mathematics at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois.

Almy is piloting a new developmental math course called Mathematical Literacy for College Students related to Carnegie’s Quantway initiative, and is blogging about the book being written for it and the course pilot, in her blog, “Rebel with a Cause”.

Following is an excerpt from a discussion by the group in which Almy answers some questions about her blog posed by other group members:

Q: How do you determine the value of blogging about your textbook?

KA: “[When I first started,] I wasn’t sure if it would be worth my time and whether anything would come from that time. But I’ve found people from all over the country who are interested in the initiative my book is related to and the materials we’re writing specifically. Through the blog, we have more interest and exposure. I’ve gotten speaking engagements from people just reading it and wanting to know more. Those have given me a chance to interact beyond what the blog can show. So it has opened doors that I don’t know I would have had otherwise. To me, that’s valuable. Since my situation is one of a new author, exposure is very important.

It was hard at first to blog regularly, but I’ve grown to really enjoy it. I feel like I get to tell our story of how the book and course came to be, which isn’t so easy to do in the book itself. It provides a nice narrative.”

Q: What type of content do you post in your blog?

KA: “I try to write weekly updates from the pilot of the new course that the book is being written for so that readers can get a feel for the development of the course and the atmosphere of the class. It’s a different way of teaching math to a specific population, so faculty want to know a lot of detail. I also post videos occasionally and other samples. Any other related documents, events, presentations, etc. are also posted. I have a widget in the background that tracks usage, which helps me see where visitors are from, what they’re looking at the most, and how they got to the blog. It’s fun seeing the traffic change over time and what posts are the most popular.”

Q: Tell me more about the widget. How do you use the data from it? How does all this activity track in terms of adoptions, sales, etc.?

KA: “I use a widget from Statcounter that tracks visitors, length of visit, and how they found the site. But I take its results with a grain of salt since there are limits to what it can provide. Still, it gives me a feel for how people are finding my site and what they are reading on it.”

Q: How do you direct the blog to the audience most likely to have interest in the subject matter?

KA: “I did some reading when I started blogging so I could learn how to get my website address visible. It takes some time but it’s very doable. List the website on your email signature, post links to all new posts on your Facebook wall, and give out the blog address at presentations. The more people that go to it, the higher it goes in Google’s list. It takes a little bit for a website to get on Google’s radar so that it appears in a search. There is also something you can do to submit it to Google so that it is aware of your site. So more clicks on it help visibility. [You also need to pay attention to] your title keywords. Think about popular buzzwords in your field that people will search for. The more of those you can include in the titles of your blog posts, the more often your site will pop up in a search. There’s actually a whole science to this that companies use to get their sites visible at a certain level in Google. It’s called SEO (search engine optimization). Practices like these help your site show up to the people you want on it.”