Did any of you read the post about book piracy I wrote last week? I’m proud of it, and not just because I worked hard to articulate what I was thinking. I wrote it on my 8th anniversary of joining WordPress, so it was a bit of a victory dance. I’ve been blogging longer than I was in secondary school you guys! I’d be lying if I sat back and basked in the glory of the milestone, though. Mostly I did what I’ve done every anniversary for the past four years or so: sucked in my breath, looked at my stats page and wondered how the hell my site was so much more popular when I wrote total bullshit. No, really. Look:
But then I looked properly at the visits vs views and noticed something I hadn’t paid attention to: in 2012 I had 16,000 views but it was the same people, coming back frequently. I’ve had more visitors since then and people seem to come and stay at a relatively steady rate. This was a huge revelation to me, because I’ve spent the last five years watching view rates go down and wondering why I even bother. There is nothing more depressing than shouting into a void, and it’s reflected in my writing: I was blogging about South East Asia pretty constantly until I got home and people (mostly offline, although there’s overlap) made disparaging remarks about my trip. If no one wants to hear me talk about the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, I thought, I won’t bother. I don’t, as I mentioned in the piracy post, get paid for this. I have things in my life that bring me more satisfaction than typing an 800-word post, adding alt text to some carefully selected images then posting it just for none of my subscribers open their emails.
But apparently blog traffic isn’t looking as bad as I thought it was. Which has got me thinking about what constitutes a reader. How many readers do I have? I’ve always judged it roughly by comments: when I follow a blog or person, I probably don’t reply to their every post, but I drop in with a comment or a retweet or the like every five posts or so. If someone comments on here every five posts – which works out as roughly one a month or thereabouts – I’m pretty chuffed and think of them as a reader. Bonus points if they follow any social media accounts!
But then the picture gets weird again, because comments fluctuate year-on-year. I can’t see a trend and some of the things I’ve really thought will get people talking just haven’t.
Possibly I should discount the stats page completely and focus on producing great writing that people will like, but that comes back to comments again because most posts get zero comments (ones that like what I’ve said or ones that disagree), then once every few months one will get half a dozen. It’s tempting to make up some wacky opinions to get a response, but I don’t want to say weird shit for the sake of it.
This isn’t a cry for help: if I continue blogging for another eight years, it’ll be because I’ve got something to say. If I stop, it won’t be because I’ve gone more than five posts without a comment.
I normally end posts with a question – because then people will answer in a comment, geddit – but clearly that has been doing jack shit so I am just going to put this out there and try to be content that I’ve written a decent post. Happy Bonfire Night!