Promotion, Content, Neutrality: Increase Website Traffic


Meet Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of ETERNAL and TANTALIZE (both Candlewick).
Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins).
Cynthia’s upcoming releases include HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton, Nov. 2010), BLESSED (Candlewick, Feb. 2011) and TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY (Candlewick, Feb. 2011).

She is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Her website at was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.

Promotion, Content, Neutrality: Increase Website Traffic

For PR Notes today, Cynthia will talk about increasing traffic on her website.

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith

  • Q: Cynthia, your site is one of the most popular children’s literature sites on the internet today. Let’s talk about how to get traffic to your site. It’s not enough to simply put up a website, you have to make it something that people want to come to. Do you track your traffic? How? What kind of traffic do you get? Per month? per year?

    CLS: Thank you! The main site received 2.8 million unique visitors in 2009, and my blog, Cynsations, is the largest feeder after Google. Traffic typically dips between mid-July and mid-August; however, it doesn’t suffer (and sometimes even profits) from major holidays.

  • Q: List 3 things that have helped increase the traffic to your site. Have any of the social media sites been responsible for a large lift in traffic? What sort of posts get the best traffic?

    CLS: Promotion, Content and Neutrality.

    • Promotion. The blog is cross-posted to Blogger, LiveJournal, and MySpace. It’s also syndicated to facebook and JacketFlap. In addition, I tweet the URLs to my posts. These strategies have all been successful, as has the fact that I typically include PowerPoint slides of the blog (at its various locations) toward the end of my real-space presentations.

      I’m honored to say that my readers tend to respond most enthusiastically to news of my own children’s-YA books and my own personal essays, though perhaps these shine more because they are fairly rare.

    • Content. Beyond that, it’s very much a case of content is king. The more substantive the interview or article, the better! Most popular are thoughtful discussions of the craft of writing itself.

      Many readers also have mentioned my Cynsational News & Giveaways posts, which are essentially round-ups of great links from throughout the kidlitosphere. I’m quite selective, highlighting Web resources that have what I call “significant takeaway” when it comes to information, insights, and/or inspiration.

    • Neutrality. I make a particular effort to highlight positive posts, sidestepping flame wars, rants, or doomsday predictions. (I’ve been around long enough to see most of them cycle through a couple of times before anyway). A lot of my readers have expressed thanks for that. They like that Cynsations lifts them up.
  • Q: So much of your site is devoted to reporting on the children’s literature world, and doesn’t directly discuss your work. How do you fit your work into the mix of posts that you do? Do you devote special posts to your work? Do you weave it into announcements about other people’s work?

    CLS: If I have big news-such as a book sale or new release or an illustrator being signed to one of my books, I’ll do a special dedicated post to that topic. Ditto if I have a major event report.

    But usually, my professional news is found under the header “More Personally” in the weekly round-up. I may share, say, a peek into my writing life/process or a link to an interview with me or offer a short report from a special event on the road.

  • Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith

  • Q:You offer a service to the children’s literature community by interviewing authors & editors, announcing book releases and awards, etc. It takes time! What is the best part about doing this? What is the worst part about doing this?

    CLS: What I love is participating in the conversation of books. I learn so much and often find myself inspired by those I feature. The challenge, as you say, is time. As a working writer, I have to be careful that my creative energy goes first to my manuscripts.

  • Q: In terms of publicity for your own work: do you think your site has raised your profile among librarians, teachers and teens who might read your work? In other words, beyond the success of the site itself, is your site successful in helping promote your work?

    CLS: It’s definitely raised my name recognition, but as for how much that’s helped me connect my own books to readers, that’s hard to say. Honestly, I don’t worry about it. I just think of maintaining a web presence as something I do to give back to the community, and, to whatever extent it cycles back my way, I’m grateful.

  • Q: Any tips for other writers on how to get traffic to their sites?

    CLS: My top recommendation is to keep one’s site updated. I’m forever going to author sites, looking to link to information about new releases, and that content is nowhere to be found.

    Beyond that, think about who’s visiting—your specific audience—and what will keep them coming back again and again. Maybe it’s a writing tip; maybe it’s a recipe or coloring page. The answer is likely to be as individual as you are. So, look inward and then project out.

  • Mary Nida Smith
    July 7, 2010

    Darcy, thanks for this helpful informative interview. Thanks Cynthia, and congrats on your new books.

    Mary Nida Smith

  • Cynthia Leitich Smith
    July 7, 2010

    Thank you for the interview!

  • Shannan AT
    July 7, 2010

    This is a great interview. I just adore Cynthia and her blog. She is just so giving of herself for the sake of the craft and not always about herself. I truly want success for her, well, besides the fact I like her books, but because she cares so much about others. How can one not support that? ;-)

  • Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
    July 7, 2010

    Great interview. Cynthia’s site was one of the first places I found when I started writing, and I have always been grateful for her willingness to share her insight and expertize. She definitely helped me get to where I am today.

    I love Cynthia’s outlook that she’s giving back to the community as well. I think we’re all in this together, new writers and established writers, and we’ll all make it if we lend a hand when we can, and share what knowledge and gifts we have.

    Have a great week, ladies!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  • Janet Fox
    July 7, 2010

    Darcy – wonderful interview, and helpful comments from Cyn. Thank you!

  • Natalie Aguirre
    July 8, 2010

    Greath interview Darcy & Cynthia. Thanks for all the great tips on promoting your blog. I love Cynsations. It’s such an interesting, informative blog. I appreciate all the time you spend on it. Thanks.