One reason it’s useful to have access to three blogs is that I get to compare the stats. That allows me to have a much better picture of what works and what doesn’t, what times are good for posting, etc., than I would otherwise have. I’ve been puzzling over a curious thing about Sourcerer’s and Part Time Monster‘s stats for awhile now: For most of our blogging careers, Sourcerer has generated the same number of page views as PTM with many fewer followers. I think Diana and I may have figured out why. It’s about a fundamental difference in our blogging styles.
First, a brief history.
Part Time Monster did much better in terms of views and followers for the first two months we were blogging. This was expected. I was mostly posting videos and reblogging here during November and December. I was doing most of my real writing at The Writing Catalog and the Monster.
Sourcerer caught up to PTM in views in January, but not in followers. We had a crazy-good month at both blogs, but Sourcerer did better. This also makes sense. We did a solid week of contributor debuts early in the month, and I got very lucky with link placement in both the pingback index and the discussion forum during the first couple of days of the Zero to Hero Challenge.
From that point until mid-March, Sourcerer and Part Time Monster gained followers at about the same rate and generated almost exactly the same number of views. We crossed every thousand-view milestone up to 9,000 within 48 hours of one another.
In mid-March, Sourcerer’s follower growth stalled and I noticed that PTM’s daily traffic seemed to be stabilizing. We still got the same number of views on a weekly basis, but Sourcerer’s views tended to come in spikes. At that point, I figured it was only a matter of time before PTM began to pull away, and I was right. That happened in April. Part Time Monster’s about 1,000 views ahead of Sourcerer at the moment, and will soon have twice as many followers.
Here’s why I think Sourcerer kept pace with PTM in views for so long, despite lagging behind in followers. Aside from award posts and the occasional article that she just has to comment on in a post of her own, Diana doesn’t really link to other blogs, and rarely reblogs. During a normal week, when I’m not involved in a blogging challenge or otherwise too occupied to read a lot of blogs, I link to other blogs a lot. I do roundups. I reblog on the weekends and any time I need an update but don’t have a piece ready. I put shoutouts at the ends of posts now and then. That’s the only difference in what we’re doing that’s significant enough to explain why I’ve gotten the same views with a smaller following.
Those days are over now, I think. Part Time Monster passed 10,000 views almost a week before Sourcerer did, and I expect the Monster to reach 12,000 before we reach 11,000 here. By midsummer, I expect PTM’s audience to be so much bigger than Sourcerer’s, I’ll have done everything I can do from this blog help build the Monster’s audience. At that point, a major social media restructuring will be in order, and we’re already thinking about how to do that.
Now, a few other observations for those of you who are trying to build an audience for your own blogs:
The April A to Z Challenge is one of the reasons PTM is pulling ahead in views now, and one of the reasons PTM has almost twice as many followers. I did the challenge with The Writing Catalog, for two reasons. That’s the blog that needed the help the most, and doing it here would have required us to interrupt the flow of our normal content – something I really didn’t want to do when I signed up for the challenge in February.
A to Z has been good for both PTM and The Writing Catalog – we’re both still seeing increased followers from it 10 days later. But Sourcerer’s traffic took a nose dive during the last two weeks of April because I was too busy to maintain my personal presence here.
Another reason PTM is doing so much better for followers is that Diana uses her WordPress reader consistently to like and comment on other blogs. I didn’t use my reader very much from Mid-March through the end of April because I was too busy. The week after I stopped using my reader every day is the week Sourcerer’s follower growth stalled. Our traffic appears to be recovering, and all you have to do is scan our archives from the last week to see why.
I posted three short, easy-to-comprehend posts about Twitter early in the week and we ended with a great Batman post from @quaintjeremy on Friday. In between we had a 6-month anniversary post, some photoblogs, and music. In other words, aside from the fact that we didn’t talk about inequality this week, we’re back to our normal routine. I’ve also been using my WordPress reader religiously for the last week, and it’s definitely made a difference. Which brings me to a few blogging tips.
Not everyone cares about audience, but if you’re consciously trying to build one it’s important to understand that a blog is not just a publishing platform you use to communicate with social media. Blogs are social media in their own right. It’s not enough to simply post and go on about your business, no matter how good your content is or how consistently you publish. The principle of reciprocity applies to blogs just as much as it does to Twitter. If you want people to read and like your work, you have to read and like other people’s work unless you’re willing to just pay for traffic. Here are a few things that really help:
- A unique gavatar image. It doesn’t have to be a photo of yourself, but it needs to be something that allows people to recognize your likes if you visit their blogs regularly.
- Make sure your gravatar points people to your blog, and make sure your account is set up to link your WordPress handle to your blog when you comment.
- Set your blog up so that post likes are clickable from your front page, and turn on comment likes. Comment likes are a good way to acknowledge that you saw a comment when you don’t have time to respond, or don’t really have anything to add.
- Respond to as many comments as you can, even if you just say “thanks for stopping by.” This is especially important if you’re only getting a few comments, and for first-time visitors to your blog.
- When you comment on other blogs, don’t just say “nice post.” Say that, and then find one specific thing you liked, and write a sentence about it. Substantive feedback is nearly always appreciated, and lets people know you actually read.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. It’s simple stuff, but it’s important.