So, I’m still dealing with my summer slump, as you might have gathered from the (comparative) lack of posts this week.
I’ve been doing a bit more thinking about posting schedules, and why we bloggers are often so hellbent on sticking to them at all costs, though, and last week I happened to stumble upon a good example of why I’m trying to move away from that a little.
I was doing some background work on The Fashion Police at the time, and, as part of that, I found myself going way back into the archives of the site. Now, The Fashion Police is almost as old as this blog is, and at one time it was my main commercial blog. At that time, I used to update the site multiple times per day: in fact, at one point (one very short-lived point, I hasten to add), I was actually forcing myself to crank out no less than ten posts per day for it. Ten. Posts. Per. Day. And, OK, they were REALLY short posts, so it wasn’t quite as alarming as it sounds (Ten very short posts back then would probably still amount to fewer words than the posts I write for this blog now), but even so: what the hell was I thinking?!
Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking: I was thinking that the more frequently you publish new blog posts, the higher your traffic is for that day. And I was right about that, as it happens. I was also thinking that if I DIDN’T post something new on a particular day, my traffic would drop – and I was right about that, too.
Take last Thursday, for instance. I’ve been on a daily posting schedule for a couple of years now, but last Thursday I didn’t have much to say, so I just didn’t post anything. And, because of that, traffic for that day was over 1,000 pageviews lower than it would normally be.
One. Thousand. Pageviews.
I mean, I know there are plenty of bloggers who think that’s nothing, but for me, that’s a lot of pageviews to lose. Just a few years ago, I’d have been lucky to even GET 1,000 pageviews in a day, and now I can get 1,000 EXTRA pageviews, just by making sure I have something new to publish every day. You can see why I’d want to do that, can’t you?
Well, I didn’t do it last Thursday, and I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn’t matter. I guess I was hoping my blog would turn out to be made of magic or something, and the visitors would just keep pouring in, even although there was nothing new for them to see. LOL, I’m so cute, aren’t I?
So, yeah, that didn’t happen. In fact, it turns out that if you don’t post something new for people to read, they won’t bother visiting your blog that day. I know! Shocking, right? I mean, who woulda thunk it?
OK, OK, so this obviously isn’t brand new information I’m giving you here. I’m sure everyone knows that posting more often brings more visitors to your site, and, conversely, posting LESS makes your traffic drop. The received wisdom in blogging is that this shouldn’t matter one little bit, of course, because you should be blogging for YOU, not for pageviews! Yeah, THAT ol’ chestnut. The fact is, though, I’m NOT blogging “for me” – I’m blogging to make a living, so, yeah, a drop in traffic isn’t something I can really just ignore.
Luckily for me, it doesn’t have an immediate effect on my income, but in very general terms, the higher your visitor numbers, the more you can charge for collaborations etc, and that’s one of the reasons some bloggers obsess over “the numbers” and start to panic when they see then start to fall. It’s also why some bloggers put tremendous pressure on themselves to post every day (or every second day, or whatever their schedule is), and get kind of stressed and burnt out as a result. Readers will always be kind enough to tell you not to worry, because they’ll stick around through a slump, but while that’s obviously appreciated, it doesn’t fix the drop in traffic you get when you don’t post, so you just keep on and on doing it, in a frantic bid to stay on track.
Now, in last week’s post, I said I wasn’t going to do that. I said I was just going to blog when I felt I genuinely had something to say, and I wasn’t going to worry about the drop in traffic I knew I’d get as a result. I have to be honest, though: it’s hard to ignore the figures. It’s hard not to see my pageviews jump off a cliff one day, and not instantly think, “OMG, I have to do something about this!” On that Thursday when I didn’t post, I made the mistake of checking my stats at around lunchtime, and I instantly started panicking and thinking, “OMG, I have to post something – ANYTHING AT ALL – or my blog will be dead by this time tomorrow!”
Then I looked at The Fashion Police archive – because hey, remember how I was talking about that, way back at the start of this post? I looked at the archive from that brief time when I used to do multiple posts a day, and honestly, I didn’t even remember writing some of those posts. Most of them, actually. It’s not just because it was a long time ago, either (I actually have a pretty good memory, which I use to taunt Terry when he can’t remember exactly what he was wearing on this day in 2009 and I CAN…): it’s because I didn’t really give a crap about any of those posts. I wrote them because I felt I had to – and also because, back then, people used to complain if I didn’t have a post up at 9,30am on the dot. (No, seriously, they used to complain. I know!)
There isn’t any value to doing that. I mean, I guess there is at the time – that blog used to regularly get 250,000 pageviews in a month, and a large part of that was down to the multiple updates, so if it’s pageviews you’re interested in – and ONLY pageviews – then sure, keep crankin’ out that content. It doesn’t have any value in the long term, though, because, as I said, I didn’t even remember writing most of those posts – and when the author of the posts doesn’t even remember them, no one else will either, will they?
No one is looking at them, either. When I looked at the analytics for the site, those older posts get zero traffic. No one ever reads them. I don’t expect they ever will. And when I looked back at them, I didn’t think, “Well, at least they got me a ton of pageviews at the time!” I just think, “Wow, what a complete waste of time!” By contrast, there are posts on this site that are several years old, and which still bring in a decent amount of traffic: because they’re useful to people. Or they just liked them for some reason. And so they keep on working, years after they were written.
I’m not saying every post has to be useful: I don’t believe that at all. But I DO think you have to always ask yourself why you’re writing each post you publish. If you’re doing it because you care about the subject, or it’s fun to write about, that’s great. If you’re doing it because you feel the information will be valuable or entertaining to someone, that’s also great. Even if you think no one will ever read the post, but you just really, REALLY want to write it, for one reason or another, then again, that’s great – you should totally write that post. (And I will read it, because those posts are normally THE BEST, seriously.)
If you’re writing it just because you think you have to stick to a schedule, though, or because you don’t want to see your traffic drop, even for a day, and you’re willing to publish anything at all just to stop it, that’s … probably not so great, really. And I mean, when you’re blogging for a living, you can’t just ignore all that stuff, either: you can’t just kick back and think, “What the hell: I’ll just take a few weeks off and hope I still have a business when I get back!” (Actually, I think doing exactly that – thinking you don’t have to take it particularly seriously – is one of the biggest mistakes many would-be “pro” bloggers make. But that’s a whole other post…) But you can’t afford to just crank out pointless content, just for the sake of it, either.
So before you write that next post, ask yourself what you’ll think of it if you look back on it in a few year’s time. And if the answer is, “Huh? What did I write THAT for?” it might be a good idea to come up with a different idea instead…