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February 6, 2013

Blogging Like No One is Reading

172133_4680Blogging stats are important*, and I pay attention to mine, so I was a bit dismayed last summer when my traffic levels plummeted. Part of the problem of course was that it was summertime, when traffic always falls down a bit, but that didn’t fully explain what had happened. But then these things (particularly online things) are always about ebb and flow, popularity is fleeting, and I’ve found that whenever I get too confident about anything I’m up to, life itself has an amazing ability of administering a kick in the ass–which is always useful, I think, in healthy doses.

So what does a blogger do when her traffic falls off? I, of course, turned to my number one piece of blogging advice, which is Blog like no one is reading. It’s advice that is always useful, and never more so than during those times when no one is, in fact, reading. Blogging like no one is reading runs counter to traditional advice, which is to write for your audience, which is to jump through hoops and perform virtual naked tapdances in order to garner online attention, but I find such advice is always delivered by folks without a clue of what blogging is all about, with no real sense of the tradition it was born from.

To do the opposite of blogging like no one is reading is terrible advice for a variety of reasons. First, because most of the time, no one is going to be reading, and so there has to be something more than feedback from the outside world to push a novice blogger on. Second, because you’re never going to be able to predict what readers will respond to and what they won’t. It’s the strangest serendipity, and attempts to orchestrate this will absolutely drive you crazy. It will also result in the naked tap-dancing that just looks ridiculous, and never more so than when it doesn’t work and still, no one is reading. And there you are in your feather boa and your silly top hat, when dancing wasn’t even what you planned to be doing in the first place.

People to come for blogging for a variety of reasons. For many writers, a blog offers a way to keep a website up-to-date and active. An effective blog can be as simple as a news and events page updated monthly or so. Others come to blogging because they were advised to, because it would help their online cachet, though they don’t fully believe in the spirit of the thing. They believe that the blog is to bring forth results (ie traffic, ie book sales, ie fame and fortune) when the  fact of the matter is that a blog, at its most bloggish, is its own final product. So many of us blog for the sake of  the blog itself, a work of art, a creation, as eternal as a thing can be in ephemeral world of the internet. The blog is the point, the one thing you have control over anyway, rather than what anyone else happens to do with it.

The thing about blogging like no one is reading is that you really can’t go wrong. And you’ll find that this is precisely what the most amazing and popular bloggers out there have been doing all along anyway–creating something original and personal with their own interests in mind. That reams of followers were interested too was really just happenstance. (There are exceptions to this, but these are so often marketing tools rather than blogs proper. And if you don’t see the distinction between the two, then you and I were never really on the same page in the first place. And you don’t know what a blog is. But I digress…)

The thing about blogging like no one is looking is that it gives you some perspective, allows you to take a real good look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and change and develop accordingly. It is easy to get caught up in a run for readers, but when winning traffic becomes your sole preoccupation, then you’re doing blogging wrong. You’re probably not having fun either.

Anyway, of course, these are all the things you tell yourself during the summer that your blog’s traffic plummets. These are the things that offer consolation. And then when you discover that the reason behind the plummet was that your blog has been hacked and is now (unknown to you) packed full of invisible ads for Viagra and therefore search engines have seen fit to abandon you and so too has all your organic search traffic, well, you get your hack fixed of course. And the numbers come back. But you just keep on doing what you’ve been doing, blogging like they haven’t, which is what you should have always been doing in the first place.

*Note: Blogging like no one is reading and paying attention to blogging stats are not necessarily contradictory. Each has its uses.

11 thoughts on “Blogging Like No One is Reading”

  1. Panic says:

    Ack! How does one check for such hacks? Not that I’m even blogging anymore, but if I did, I’d like not to be a spam blog!

    1. Kerry says:

      Eventually, visible signs appeared and when we investigated, we found the deeper back throughout. I am sure you’re not a spam blog though. (Also, I miss your blog!)

  2. Anna says:

    Also remember that readers via RSS/Google Reader don’t show up in most site stats because they’re not actually viewing your page, just the aggregated content. Which is irritating if you’re counting on ad revenue, but can reassure that people are still reading if that’s a motivator.

  3. I agree.
    Blogging/writing is a lonely pursuit made more difficult if you waste time worrying about who your audience is.
    You will never please everyone.
    Write for yourself, write well, write honestly,
    gratefully acknowledge every comment.
    I love looking at my blog stats, especially the aggregators that track how long a reader has been on my blog.
    Sorry to read that your blog was hacked.
    I love reading your book reviews 🙂 in my RSS reader.

  4. Susan Telfer says:

    I just started blogging about home to keep track of my little projects and ideas and to make me write regularly, which I don’t seem to do with my “real” writing: poetry. Also, there is something so different and exciting about hitting ‘publish’ right away. ‘Publish’ for a poem is usually months or years later.

  5. Liz says:

    I so appreciate this post! I do blog like this, and, in fact, most of the time very few people read my blog, but blogging has lead to wonderful things for me. It was a way of recording things, and it was a way of outing myself as a writer when I was too proud to tell people I was aspiring to be one. It seems strange, but I’ve made good friendships because of it.

    I’m really terrible at it, though–i should probably take your course!

  6. saleema says:

    I love this post, and it totally encapsulates my feelings about blogging, as well as the philosophy behind all my favourite blogs that I’ve been reading for years. Though I’m sure you’d look lovely in a feather boa and top hat, I agree that there’s simply no need!

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