internet Uncategorized

How did a month of daily posts affect my blog traffic?

Just before Thanksgiving, I made several “creative resolutions”: I would blog every day, no matter what, and I would avoid checking my blog analytics until Christmas. I was determined just to write—without getting sidetracked by page views, followers, or blog traffic.

I’m happy to report that I accomplished the writing goal. I’ve posted something to this blog for 38 consecutive days—easily my longest streak ever. Every morning, I wake at 4:30, plop myself down on the couch, and hammer the keys until I finish a post (or until I run out of time and publish anyways). I’m more proud of some posts than others, but I’ve at least established some consistency.

I nearly kept my second resolution. I had originally planned to wait until Christmas Day to check my blog analytics. But some creative reflection yesterday made me curious enough to peek at the numbers. I expected a marked increase in readership, after a month’s worth of content. The reality wasn’t quite so rosy:

My blog’s pageviews since November 16.

This pageview data seems so inconsistent that I hesitate to draw any conclusions. (The session and user counts show similar contours.)

Looking at the acquisition numbers, most of my traffic comes from Facebook. Yet there’s little sign of progress on that front; I’ve earned just three Facebook page likes since my blogging stint started on November 16:

Page likes
My Facebook page likes since November 16.

There’s a clearer spike in my Twitter follower count:

My Twitter followers since November 16.

But twenty followers hardly constitutes a major shift. Plus, the uptick has stalled—my follower count has flatlined since the start of December.

I find these graphs discouraging. I didn’t expect a “hockey-stick” trend, but I hoped for modest, measurable progress. I wanted some reward for my diligence—some motivation to write in the upcoming year. Instead, these middling numbers tempt to me to abandon my blog (again). Confession: I nearly skipped writing this morning for the first time in a month.

Understand; I’m still determined to continue making something on the Internet. But between family commitments and my full-time job, I have very limited spare time. I’d rather not spend those precious hours writing posts that no one will read—especially since I’ve sacrificed other hobbies to maintain my writing momentum. For example, I’ve exercised far less often this past month than I’d like.

Maybe I need to make a course correction here. Should I narrow my blogging niche? Rededicate myself to self-promotion? Break out my blog into its own brand? Or should I stop blogging for a while and adopt a different medium? Is 2016 the year that I finally try my hand at podcasting?

One thing’s clear: my consecutive-day streak will likely fall victim to a TV-and-Christmas-cookie bender this week. And that’s okay; vacations should be spent relaxing and recharging. The holiday break provides a good opportunity to reflect and retool for the new year.

Besides, after a month of waking before 5 AM to write, I’m exhausted.

internet Life Uncategorized

Early resolutions for Internet creatives

The end of the calendar year always feels bittersweet. On the one hand, the holidays are fun. I enjoy the chance to escape the daily grind, the time spent with extended family, and (let’s be honest) the unhealthy, delicious food.

On the other hand, as each year rolls past, I find myself reflecting on how little progress I’ve made towards my creative aspirations. Most years, I feel as if I didn’t make anything interesting—outside of work projects, which ultimately belong to my employer.

This year will be different; I’m aiming to get the jump on late-year regret by establishing some new habits. Whether you call it a “Creator’s Advent Calendar,” or an “Early New Year’s Resolution”, here’s what I’m hoping to do between now and Christmas:

  1. Post something on this blog every day. Finding time to write was never easy. But the arrival of our first child in March sent our schedules into overdrive. Our curious, energetic baby fills every day with exploration and wonder, from the predawn hours till well after sunset. Add in my 8–5 work day, and I’m left precious little time for hobbies.

    If I want to write, I’ll have to do it before the baby wakes. If I want a full hour to write, I need to roll out of bed no later than 4:30am.

    That’s only sustainable if I establish an early bedtime, too. Turning in at 8:30 does feel a bit silly. I also miss out on some choice prime-time TV: the presidential debates start too late; I can’t watch the end of my hockey games; and “must see” episodes “must wait” for Hulu. Those are sacrifices I’m willing to make, if it means I won’t feel like death the next day.

    What counts as “posting”? In short, anything counts. The daily post could be a full-length article like one, or a several-sentence commentary on a link to another site. The goal is regular momentum, not voluminous content. The habit is key; it makes writing an automatic part of your day. Conversely, if I skip a day, suddenly I’ve skipped three. Go a week without posting, and, before I know it, I haven’t written for months.

  2. Ignore analytics. Checking my blog’s readership too often sabotages my motivation to write. Building an audience is tough, and I get discouraged when few readers notice my work. So, for a few weeks, I’ll ignore the stats. I figure it’s better to neglect the numbers for a while than to get derailed by disappointment.

    My Google Analytics tracking script will continue to run when readers visit this site, but I won’t be checking the results until Christmas Day at the earliest. I’ve disabled the graph widget on my WordPress dashboard, and the Google Analytics site itself is strictly off-limits.

  3. Record a podcast every week. For years now, I’ve wanted to toss my hat into the podcast ring. My multiple missteps and false starts mostly result from a lack of clarity; what, exactly, do I want to talk about? What can I offer that no one else can? I like geeky movies and tech, but how many more thirtysomething white dudes do we need weighing in on those topics?

    One podcasting possibility? I could resurrect my long-dormant interest in the Bible. Although it feels like another life, I earned my Master in Divinity degree a few years back. Those school years—spent studying millennia-old languages; exegeting obscure texts; and learning about the ancient world—often seem like wasted time. Outside of the church, there just aren’t many outlets for those interests. My full-time job—spent working in SharePoint and Photoshop—doesn’t demand much Aramaic.

    But what if I could corral that passion into a podcast that interests a broader audience than Bible nerds and the devout? I’ve long contended that biblical allusions saturate “secular” American culture to the core. The entertainment industry loves to recycle narratives and themes from scripture. Politicians can’t resist the tempation to spout faux-religious platitudes. Who better to dissect these appeals to biblical authority than someone with a background in biblical interpretation? It seems like there’s room for an irreverent weekly summary of “Scripture in Culture.”

    We’ll see. Of my three goals, this feels the least defined–and therefore the least likely.

  4. It’s hard to build something great. It’s even harder when you’ve got a full-time job and a curious, nap-resistant baby on the loose. But if I can maintain these three habits between now and Christmas, I may finally beat the New Year’s blues that haunt me each December.