Blog Growth

I want to take a look at how a blog grows, what does and does not affect it, what you can do to...

Okay, that's a lie. I just want to geek out about statistics.

This blog has been running since May 2008. Other than the spikes, you can see that it has had a pretty steady growth. Let's take a look at the spikes, the dips, and things I think should've affected this growth but didn't.

Both spikes were a direct result of someone linking to a post (this one in Oct 2009 and this one a year later,  though I think that first spike is a fluke ... as I recall, most of those visitors came from Google looking for this picture). Although I definitely gained readers both times, there was no significant, long term change in the blog's readership, no matter how big the spike. This is almost certainly due to the lack of swearing, drinking, and scantily-clad women on my blog needed to keep people coming back.

MORAL: Swear more, dammit.

The dips are usually when I posted less, like last August when I disappeared for two weeks. Makes sense in a graph that shows monthly readership as opposed to per post.

MORAL: Post more often to artificially boost my number of readers per month.

In Nov 2008, I started posting blog links on Facebook and Twitter. There's a little growth, but not what I'd call significant.

In Sep 2009, I started posting on a regular schedule. Again, there's growth, but that's more easily explained by the fact I went to 13 posts/month instead of 8 (see moral to THE DIPS, above).

In Apr 2010, I got published and ran a contest. I got a few extra page loads that month (usually indicative of new people checking out old posts), but otherwise no big change.

MORAL: Nothing matters. Give up.

I don't really believe nothing matters. The graph obviously shows growth, but it also shows there's no single event to magically boost your readers (at least not this side of being agented). I'd say the growth correlates more with me getting better at social media than anything else--commenting on blogs, interacting on Twitter/Facebook, stuff like that.

Not that I'm awesome (I'm SO not), but I try to figure out what people do and do not like to read, and then give them that while still being me. And I'm slowly learning how to actually talk to people, even if it's just over the internet. Honestly, this is stuff anyone can do.

So do you keep track of your readership stats? Have you noticed any trends in what works or doesn't?


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Wait, there's no swearing? What about all that pirate-speak? :)

I love me a good graph, so thank you for that. Strangely, being a numbers gal, I don't look at the statistics much (of course, now I probably will have to, just to see what I can tease out of the data).

I don't believe nothing matters either. I notice when a particular post resonates, but I stubbornly stick to posting what I want to post - it's just no fun otherwise. Mostly I enjoy the conversation, and a tiny part of me wonders if too much readership would actually hinder that (see Nathan's blog - the readers talk to each other, less to Nathan, because how can you carry on a conversation with 150 commenters per post? You can't.).

As long as people still want to read what I have to write, and want to join in the conversation, I'm happy. :)

Heidi said...

Have you ever asked your readers why they decided to follow you? Or what makes them click on a post instead of sliding past it? Or what kind of posts they are interested in?

I first found you because I was intrigued by a comment you made on Natalie Whipple's blog. I don't recall what your comment was about, but I remember it was something I disagreed with--I get so tired of reading blogs that regurgitate the same things over and over, and I find it refreshing to read blogs where the author has opinions. That's why I keep reading yours.

Adam Heine said...

@Susan: I enjoy the conversation too, though mostly I think I want to give people something that helps them (or failing that, something to make them laugh). Still trying to figure out how to do that with every post. It's hard.

Heidi: How interesting that you came here because of something you disagreed with! (And now I'm curious what it was ;-).

I have asked what kinds of posts folks are interested in before, but there are issues (self-selecting group, frequent turnover of consistent readers, etc.) Mostly I watch how posts are taken--website hits, # and type of comments, retweets, etc. Patterns emerge after a while.

For one thing, that's why I believe my activity on social media, and focus on blog topics, has more to do with my blog growth than any single event. I could easily be wrong though :-)

Myrna Foster said...

I don't keep track of it. I just like interacting through the comments.

Adam Heine said...

@Myrna: Your blog has great comment interaction too. Honestly, I think not keeping track of things is best. I wish I could do it ;-)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I haven't checked out my blog growth (how do you do that, anyway?). I think if I did, I would find a spike around the time I mentioned the herpes virus on my blog (my baby contracted the cold-sore version of this virus which is not at all related to the STD). I got a lot of trash comments that time, of course. Thanks Google! :)


Adam Heine said...

@Susan: Ugh, sorry about the trash comments. I've been lucky in that regard.

As for how I check, there's lots of ways. Blogger added a 'Stats' tab in your dashboard recently, so you can see pageviews for the last 8 months or so without doing anything.

Paul said...

Guess I missed this post when it went up, but I would point out that the social media outlets only affect people in your network (who prob already know about the blog)and generally serve to increase touchpoints with your content. Which is to say, it simply gives someone who would have checked your blog anyway another way to do so.

Honestly, if you're interested in getting more people you need to access new pockets of readers - such as if other sites link to you or you post some google-bait entries. Some fraction of those people will stick.

I generally check only when you change your gmail status to a new entry. You could try counting comments if you wanted a metric of visitor involvement.

Paul said...

PS, I realize that without knowing the units that scale may only grow from 0 to 8, but thats still a good trendline. Also not sure how you're ID'ing "returning" visitors, as the % to uniques seems low to me for this type of site.

Adam Heine said...

@Paul: That's true, and very good marketing information!

The social media thing is kind of a web. In theory, if I write funny/interesting Twitter updates (for example), they will be retweeted and others will follow my Twitter feed. Then those new readers will (maybe) eventually find their way here.

Of course it's all moot anyway, as I have nothing to sell :-)

As for metrics, it is a good trendline, and I'm certainly not sad about it. It just struck me that, even when I did get linked by a super-site (or super Twitterer), it didn't affect the overall growth rate. Comments are one facet of measurement I've looked at too (but never in a graph--I'll have to try that).

As for returning visitors, that's a shortcoming of StatCounter (which is what has generated the graph). They can only keep track of visitors who allow their cookie, and tracking cookies like that are one of the first things many browsers block. I usually ignore the orange line.