Monday, December 29, 2008

Blogging Speed Bumps

Blogging Speed BumpsI hope everyone is enjoying that wonderful week between Christmas and New Year's wherein not much work ever gets done. That would include me and I'm going to be taking a bit of a break by reposting pieces from my archives. This is a post I wrote as a guest piece for 5 Minutes for Mom back in March but it's even more applicable to blogging today as that post-holiday lull hits hard.

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I've been blogging at Scribbit for almost three years--four if you count that first year of goofing around without much purpose--and I can tell you that there are some definite cycles that come with the business.

Ups and downs, highs and lows, durm and strang, whatever you want to call it it's there and it's deadly because it will make you forget why you started blogging in the first place and why you love it. You can be cruising along, everything going great--your stat counter ticking along like a dream--and *WHUMP* suddenly you hit a blogging speed bump. How you deal with those speed bumps will determine whether your blog has a chance at success or whether it will be yet another casualty along the side of the road. Call it blogger's road kill if you will (now that's a pretty picture isn't it?)

Here are a few of the trends--or speed bumps--I've observed in my blogging days and how I've handled them. Maybe it'll give you some solace that you're not the only one struggling on those days you want to take a hammer to your laptop.

1. Traffic fluctuates from day to day during the week. Monday is typically a high traffic day as readers come back from lazy weekends of bloglessness. At first this was counter-intuitive to me because I would have thought that people would have had more time for reading or writing blogs on the weekends but no, it's just the opposite. Weekends are about relaxation and don't be surprised when your weekend traffic stinks. It stinks for almost everyone.

Solution? I do easy stuff on the weekends. Saturdays I always host a product review/giveaway and Sundays I share a recipe. These are easy posts for me to do so it's a little break for me while still keeping up the pace of my blog. Find your own little way to take a break. Post your favorite picture, a one-sentence thought, something small and easier to come up with to take the strain of everyday writing off. You may even consider not posting at all on weekends--even big blogs like Design Mom sometimes take this route so maybe it's the path for you too.

2. Holiday traffic fluctuates the most. December is the busiest month of all--those days leading up to the holidays are a flurry of activity as readers look all over for ideas and gadgets to make their lives a little better. BUT . . . once Christmas hits the traffic plummets. Suddenly everyone's sick of surfing the net and they want to just enjoy the season and you'll see half the visits you would normally see--and I have to say that's a good thing. "Go home to your families, people! Enjoy a life and don't worry about the blogs on important days like that." Life's too short to spend Christmas at the office.

This is true for all major holidays, not just Christmas. Activity tends to build a bit leading up to the day then the day of the holiday it drops as people have more important things to do than read blogs. And that's a good thing, right?

Solution? Concentrate on good content before the holidays. Use good key words and focus on holiday-relevant content leading up to the day but plan on either not posting at all on the big day itself or posting very lightly. Find someone's else's post to link to, do a review of a movie you just saw and liked, post a picture of the family, whatever. Take a little break and put your feet up--you've earned it.

3. Traffic fluctuates seasonally as well. Every year I've been blogging I've found the early months of the year to be the most productive for building my blog. Maybe it's the spirit of New Year's resolutions but the months between January and summer are a period of growth that you should capitalize on. Once summer hits, however, traffic slows down as people head outside to enjoy the weather or to vacation in places where they can enjoy the weather so just expect that you could see fewer visitors during that time.

Solution? Once again, really focus your efforts on the times when it's the most effective. If your blog were a plant, you'd want to fertilize it when it's growing and blooming to get the most growth. Work at producing good content and getting involved in the community when it's the most effective--and don't give up when you see things are slowing down.

4. Finally, traffic just ebbs and flows for no reason at all. How's that for a statement? It's like a catch-all for any cycles I may have missed that have no apparent reason whatsoever.

Solution? To use a personal example, my own blog hadn't seen a lot of growth since last November. I'd done some things like a template redesign and tried out a few new ideas for content but nothing had made much difference. It grew a bit in December (as I predicted it would according to point number 2) but nothing much. Even after the first of the year I wasn't seeing a lot of results for my hard work.

Then, about mid-to-late January a couple of things happened where suddenly things were flying. My traffic shot up by 20%, my content felt better and I was seeing some payoff finally. That continued for a couple months and I thought, "Wow, this trend is here to stay, things are looking great" and then it happened, inexplicably I hit a speed bump and I was back to where I'd been the previous fall. All the growth I'd seen had, for no visible reason, disappeared and I was back where I'd been before.

Now I have to admit I'm very serious about my blogging, for me it's become a job and a source of income. I have plans to stick with it for the long haul and I'm enjoying myself completely but when this happened it was so deflating, so frustrating that for the first time I really thought, "Do I want to keep doing this?"

The more I thought about it the more I decided that I was tired and worn out and ready to quit. To see all my work come to nothing was so depressing and irritating that I wanted to toss my laptop out the window and swear I'd never return.

Luckily I have an amazing husband who acts as mentor, tech support and cheerleader who talked me down off the ledge and said, "This is just a phase, it'll pass but the only way you're going to succeed is to keep going." He said it enough that I finally decided to listen and I pushed through. It was only about three weeks but just as quickly as I dipped I rebounded and not only were things flowing great but I was well on the way up the hill again with a spring in my step, bigger than ever.

So for all of you out there who don't have the benefit of living with my amazing husband I'm here to tell you the same thing he said to me: These fluctuations happen, it's just a natural thing and you've got to expect it. The bloggers that make it through are the ones that will succeed in this crazy business--so decide whether you're in it for good or whether the next speed bump is going to take you out.

It's like anything in life, there are ups and there are downs, but the only way you'll know what's ahead is if you keep at it and don't give up.

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Technorati tags: blogging, writing

24 comments:

Lucy said...

Loved this post. At first this was just all experimental to me. I was really out of my element technologically. I love it now because of all that I have had to learn. It's a wonderful techno teacher. I've also decided that I cannot be PioneerWoman. With all those followers, that is just too much pressure on me to be cute, knowledgeable, funny, interesting ALL of the time, reaching of journalistic heights, timely yet still all those adjectives.....ok I'll stop. You get the drift. I think I'm happy just being the cake. Any comments that come are pure icing. Ahhhh..nice!

Omah's Helping Hands said...

Thank you for this post. Being new to the whole blogging world, I almost gave up from the get go. I have plans for building my site for more than what I am doing. At first I never really expected it to even move at all. Now I'm hooked, but must admit, it gets frustrating when there is no comments, even though you are getting hits. The hits slow way down and then away they run again.

It is nice to have a better understanding of what is going on, and what to expect.

Marybeth said...

I have found the exact same thing-- but it's nice to have it verified in this post. Thanks for putting this all down and encouraging others with your words!

Jenna Consolo said...

Great advice. I'm relieved to know it's not just my blog! I hope to do some building in 2009.

Gray Matters said...

Great information - I'm not even sure how to track my stats. I guess I can't complain if it's not growing until I take it seriously enough to learn the behind the scenes stuff.

Lara said...

You're just so smart. :) I have definitely noticed the traffic dips around weekends and holidays. Thanks for the great avice.

janeywan said...

You have a wonderful blog, I read it religiously. I guilty of reading on google reader which probably doesn't show up in stats, don't know.

I've never considered making money off of my blog, (good thing) it would indeed be a hugh challenge to keep people coming back for more.

Keep your chin up, would hate to see you quit!

3 Bay B Chicks said...

This is such a great, great post. Thank you for re-publishing it. So helpful to those of us who are facing many of the pitfalls and frustrations that you described. I will be passing this along to my blogging partners-in-crime for sure.

Happy Holidays!

-Francesca

Enzie Shahmiri said...

Great post Michelle! I have hit these bumps too, but I am happy to say I have so much stuff I love that I just keep on posting anyways.

I even added another blog Sur la Table Cuisine just to house all my favorite recipes and decorating stuff that doesn't belong into the art blog.

I wish more people would add comments though. It does get rather quiet at times!

Lu said...

Great post! I am in my first year of blogging so this helps, and it is reassuring.

Kathryn said...

These are great tips! I recently hit a speed bump and this post was very encouraging. Thanks!!

Steph at The Red Clay Diaries said...

Thank you for another great post. :)

To apply your Point #2, I think I'll link to this post sometime this week.

I always enjoy reading your instructional posts. They're always clear and interesting.
Thanks!

Chrissy Johnson said...

Keep it up! I hit a road block in September (or October?) on mine and unfortunately haven't been blogging since. I'll be bookmarking your post once I get back in the saddle.

Jubilee on Earth said...

Hmmmm... I'm a lurker who reads your blog (without clicking on anything) via my Google Reader pane. I'm guessing that your stats don't count that? I often wonder how many are reading my blog via some kind of RSS feed reader (data which my stat counters and such don't grab). Keep blogging... it's just possible that people aren't much in a "commenting" mode. I get that way when my Google Reader gets full.

Cheers, and happy 2009!

~Maria at "Jubilee on Earth"

http://michigal.blogspot.com

MommyTime said...

Thank you so much for this encouragement. I'm not trying to make money from blogging, but it's still hard sometimes to see the inexplicable fluctuations. It's nice to know that it's just a normal ebb and flow and not something more serious (which of course, in my paranoia, I often assume). I know, I'm silly.

Amy said...

I agree and the traffic fluctuation happens and also the dips and highs. I am trying to be patient, but it can be hard when you are doing everything on your own. I try to remind myself that slow and steady growth is better than my fifteen minutes of fame, but it is hard :)

Patois said...

This was a great one to re-post in the doldrum week.

* TONYA * said...

This is a fabulous post. There are so many times I have wondered why traffic slows and then picks up again and wondered whether this is all worth it. You inspire me to keep on plugging along. Thank you.

JENNIFER said...

it was reassuring to read this and then all the comments made me realize I am never alone in my worries...everyone else is going through the same thing with their blog.

When those site meter numbers drop I sure try to ignore it but cannot help worrying a little :)

Cascia said...

What a wonderful post. This really hit home for me as I am experiencing one of those blogging speed bumps. I am also planning on blogging for a long time. I take my blog and writing very seriously and hope that someday I will make enough income from it to supplement my husband's. But right now my traffic has dropped considerably. I am trying a few new ways to promote my blog but it is still a struggle. Sometimes I wish I had more time to spend on it. Thank you for sharing your wise tips!

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

That was SO TIMELY and SO HELPFUL to me, Michelle. I needed the pep talk and to know like even you feel what I'm feeling sometimes. Thank you for this. I'm so grateful. (Pulls self up by bootstraps and moves on.)

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Most definitely timely and so very helpful for me, too. I go back and forth between totally ignoring stats and then obsessing over them. I tend to obsess when traffic is down, of course.

Thanks for the perspective!

Laurie said...

This is a great post for the winter doldrums. I have them, too, right now. My audience is much smaller than yours, but I have learned alot from your blog. Sometimes I just laugh and enjoy your writing. Feel free to skip sending me a comment. You have lots of comments to respond too, and I can't imagine saying something to everyone!

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

This post has had me thinking, so much so that I came back to comment a few days later.

Remember when Sitemeter crashed IE a few months ago?

I removed the code temporarily, but never got around to replacing it.

Wow--what a relief. Of course I am not running ads so I don't *have* to check my stats. But it removed so much internal pressure that I didn't even realize I had.