Monday, Sep 15, 2003
I watch my traffic logs. It's one of those things bloggers don't really talk about. There are those who try to keep their blogs quiet, a small publishing venue for friend and family. There are those who don't care who reads, but aren't out there trying to get the world to read them. These are the ones who don't look at their server logs, don't have webmonitor bugs on their pages, and don't really look into the audience while they're speaking to the world. Less catwalk, more mountaintop.
I'm one of the other kinds of bloggers; the ones who have their stats page bookmarked, the ones who can tell you without skipping a beat that their weekend traffic is 2/3rds of their weekday traffic, the ones who feel a pang during Thanksgiving and Christmas because they know they'll see it as a dip in their weekly traffic.
There are a lot more of us than you'd think. It's one of those things a lot of bloggers do, but none of them really talk about. What's a lot of traffic? 10 people a day? 100? 10,000? It's like talking salaries. If you do it to make yourself feel better, you'll easily find someone who's got you beat, and so much for that (strangely, I don't feel that way about salaries, but I figure some people do so maybe it's a useful analogy).
Back to traffic though. It's tough. Keeping the daily watches on where people come from, and how many people come by gives me a good read on the pulse of the site. I know that it takes one particularly good story to increase my daily traffic by 80%, but that it'll fade back to normal within 4 days. It takes about three weeks of consistant above-average content to start building my regular rolling average, and about two weeks of poor or no content for the numbers to start dropping, but when they drop, they have inertia.
I have two lists, one in my pocket, one in my head, of things to do on the site to double my traffic. Part of me wants to do it for the egotism, part for the knowledge that I must be doing a better job of content creation if I get more visitors.
But the other part worries.
Traffic is more than eyeballs. It's people. One surprising and valuable thing I learned these last couple years is that simmering the pot makes for a great soup of users. If I post things that might get a little bit of attention outside the regular readership, they'll come in and take a look around, read the comments, post a little, and stay if they feel like this is a place for them. This tends to create a relatively like-minded group.
On the other hand, when there's something that gets a lot of attention, a lot of traffic, the whole culture of the site gets overexposed for a few weeks or a month. First time visitors read the comments of other first-time visitors and the maturity of the site folds in half. Some of the regular readrs get discouraged and drop off, and some of the newbies stick around, thinking this is the norm and liking it. This is a full boil, and it can scaldan otherwise great soup.
I've been reluctant to bring the site up from a simmer, mostly for fear of scalding the pot, and to a lesser extent because I'm worried of failure; that I'll do amazing things and nobody will care.
I'm working on solutions to the first, one of which is to create less tenuous ties with you the reader. I'm working on making very easy logins, (possibly passwordless) and letting anyone leave comments, but those comments only appear on the site once they click a link in an email the site sends to their stated email account. The email account can be totally anonymous on the site, but it'll stop the user who just wants to graffiti, or who cares too little about their own content to click the one-time verification link. This site-reader relationship would have a lot of advantages to the reader as well, but we'll get to that later.
Another possibility is something more along the lines of Derek's POWlist. I love ths list because sometimes Derek's site falls off my radar and once a month or so I'll get an email from the list with a particular good or important post, and I face the decision of unsubscribing, visiting the site, or keeping with the status quo of getting these periodic updates. I love it because it's push without being pushy, and I can't even tell how many readers I've lost from Fury when their computer crashed, they switched browsers and lost their bookmarks, or gradually forgot to check Fury, when they never really intended to leave. It's a wonderfully soft way of keeping friends.
I want to cut loose with some bigger projects that would get attention from outside the blogging community. I'm sure that coming across AOLiza articles from the Wall Street Journal while moving yesterday is no small part of this resurgence. So I'm thinking about the best and fastest ways to cement the readers I have, in a worse-comes-to-worst eventuality, I can whisper to you "Psst! Let's ditch these new folks and make it like it was! The new site's over here!)
Or I could just put the new stuff on one of the domains I've owned for years and haven't gotten around to utilizing yet.
Anyhow, it's another late night at the Googleplex, and I should probably call it a night. I'm deciding whether to go to my new place with my newly-purchased bedding, make my bed, and sleep in the new place that feels so empty of both stuff and spirit, though an excellent canvas for both, given a little time, or trod over to Rick and Ammy's, where my toiletries and their guest bed are.
Heh. Ammy? I'm comin' over. The new place will wait one more day. Just so long as I put some things away before the second wave comes from Pittsburgh.
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Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
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