How to Blog Like Rockstar: get over the need for cyber affirmation (Part 2)
May 9, 2005

One of the most common complaints I hear from bloggers new and old is, "I wish I had more hits." To them I say: welcome to the club, and be quiet about it already. Complaining about how you wish more people would visit your website is the antithesis of cool. Keep that stuff to yourself. Don't rant about it on your weblog. That is what nerds do. Are you a nerd? I didn't think so.

As discussed in the previous installment of "How to Blog Like a Rockstar," the three main coveted forms of affirmation are: comments, hits and links. Last time we found out that comments (or lack thereof) aren't what make or break a weblog. Today we're going to talk about the average blogger's over-obsession: hits (also known as the number of times/people to visit your site).

As a blogger, you don't want feel like you're writing for a party of one. And let's just be honest with ourselves here. We might front like you we don't care how many people read our blogs, but tell to the truth, deep down inside, we know it's important. It feeds the ego. Even the random lady in Bangor, Maine, catblogging and posting her favorite hot chocolate recipes wants to know people are reading.

On the more serious note, not only does having a lot of visitors make one's labor feel important, it can also lead to big opportunities, and for some folks, big money. To date, bloggers have received book deals, newspaper columns, speaking engagements, and even employment offers just from capitalizing on the marketability of the blogosphere. Hi-traffic websites can command more by way of advertisements. A prime advertising spot on the popular Daily Kos goes for $14,000 a month. Not bad for some nobody lawyer guy who's in love with the Democratic Party.

God Bless America.

I began Nykola.com in January of 2004 with a paltry 12 visitors a day. Thirteen of those 12 visitors were me. Every now and then someone would stop in because they did a Google search for "black girl," or "Seattle buses," but for about 1 month, I was my number one fan. To be honest, I never really cared who stopped by. The act of blogging was cathartic. Eventually, things changed, and when I had 30 hits a day, I thought I was the stuff. Remember...success is relative. Stop comparing yourself to other people.

My site traffic has steadily grown over the year and continues to grow as I remain consistent in what I know I'm here to do. I can only appreciate the couple thousand people that visit my site every day because at one point, no one did. And yet, my blog is still comparitively small.

Increasing your traffic is important, but *how* you go about the increase is what separates the rockstars from the obsequious brownnosers. Your traffic might not skyrocket overnight. Hits earned quickly are hits lost quickly. Don't lose your dignity in the quest to gain more hits.

And now I will offer my simple advice on how to get more hits. Take notes. This will be worth something someday:

Do Not Check Your Web Statistics Every Day:
If "it's not about hits," then for love's sake, stop checking your referrals every hour on the hour. I repeat: get a life. It's great to see who's linked to your site, but when it becomes obsessive, your motives are in the wrong place. The more you check your statistics, the more likely you are to be guided by what you see in those statistics. If you're out to be more than just an ordinary blogger, you won't be guided by the masses.

You might notice for example, that your traffic spiked when you wrote about Michael Jackson. This isn't a license for you to do a 18-part series on the life and times of Michael Jackson. That's how network television operates--by formulas. That's not how you blog like a rockstar. Quality should be your obsession. Don't give the people what they want; give the people what they need.

I probably check my site statistics twice a month (if that) and guess what? Bloglife still goes on. This might not be for everyone but I highly suggest going on sabbaticals from checking web statistics. You'll be better because of it.

Avoid "Get Hits Quick" Schemes:
Avoid them like the plague. It seems every day people discover new gimmicks to drive site traffic. Some gimmicks are good, but most are bad. Last year, I watched as many bloggers provided links to graphic photos of some of the American beheadings in Iraq. As millions of people performed searches for "Paul Johnson beheading," hits on those particular websites skyrocked for a day or two. I don't care what anyone says, most bloggers that linked to such a crude act were overtly seeking web traffic. Do yourself a favor, don't stoop this low. It's tacky.

Write like everybody's reading:
Since day one, I've fooled myself into believing that my website is the best on the planet. I write like I have an audience of millions. When the hits don't line up with my delusion, I don't care. I just keep writing.

GENUINELY Comment on other blogs:
When I had more time on my hands, I visited a lot of weblogs. As I was led, I started commenting on other blogs. I didn't drop little phony comments like, "Hi, I like your website. Please check out mine!" I didn't email the owner and ask for a link exchange. I didn't leave off-topic comments linking to my own site. NO. I genuinely READ the post and responded thoughtfully and at length. You'd be amazed at how many people will come to your site because they read something intelligent you wrote elsewhere online.

Join an Alliance or Two:
Joining an alliance or placing your blog in an online directory is a great way to draw people to your site when it's new. Just make sure you pick groups to which you have something to offer.

About 3 months into blogging, I listed my site at "Blogs4God" and joined the "Blogs by Black Women" webring. That's the closest I'll ever come to advertising my own site. Later on, after I already had a steady flow of visitors, I was invited to join The Conservative Brotherhood. Nowadays, I stay away from site listings and webrings. They usually require a link back to them and I liken too many sidebar links to bumper stickers--extreme tacky factor.

Specialize:
Stop trying to be the Super-Walmart of weblogs. You can't be the one stop shop, so quit trying to cover every issue on the planet. I'll talk more about this later on in the series, but one of the key things that will drive traffic to your site is when you have something that other blogs don't have. The broader your efforts, the less the appeal. There is truth in the saying, "Jack of all Trades/Master of None."

Draw Readers, Not Tourists:
The most important and valuable tip I can give on increasing your traffic is to BUILD A READERSHIP. Lots of tourists will stop by your site, look around, and never come back. In the grand scheme of things, they won't grow your traffic. They might come because you linked to an interesting story or because your site popped up on a search engine. That's nice, but it shouldn't be the focus.

Don't make yourself a tourist attraction. Instead, build a relationship with your readers. It's a surefire way to keep people coming back, and telling their friends to check out your site.

Next up in getting over the need for cyber affirmation: Debunking the myths of link-hype.

For more see:
- Tips #1-3: Don't Emulate the Success of Others, Get Some Motivation, and Decide Your Genre

- Tip #4: Set Standards

- Tip #5: Be Yourself

Posted by Ambra at May 9, 2005 11:03 PM in Blogging
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I admit, when I'm bored I'll check me referrals. I've gone weeks without doing it once, and I've had times where I check twice a day. What I'm really interested in is which search terms lead people to my blog. It's always interesting, sometimes surprising. I also like to look at my referrals to see who's reading me, so I can check them out. I've found some great blogs that way.

In spite of my own bloggerly failings, I quite agree with all your advice. Sorry I haven't been around lately -- you know how intrusive Real Life can be.

At the risk of sounding like a complete fossil... rock on! (hee!)

I notice your sitemeter is closed. You don't check your referrals often, but nobody else can check them at all. Thousands of visitors a day? If you say so. Heh.

I notice your sitemeter is closed. You don't check your referrals often, but nobody else can check them at all. Thousands of visitors a day? If you say so. Heh.

Phew. Good thing I don't have to answer to you. Then I'd really be in trouble, eh?

I think you missed the whole point. What was discussed in this post is exactly why I keep it closed. I don't sell ads and therefore it's irrelevant to the content of my site. If it's irrelevant to me, it should be irrelevant to you. But you're probably a tourist. In which case, see my last point of the post.

Ambra,

I like to know what someone says about my site or my post and thank them personally or comment on their insightful post.

I like it when someone does the same to my site, even if it is a "hey thanks for the link". It show that they are paying attention.

Sometimes someone will link to my site and not use trackback, therefore I wouldn't know that they are linking without my referrer log.

But based on your tease about your next post, are you going to answer my question there?

Good post. I really like your blogging tips. Keep it up.

Okay maybe there wasn't a question in my last post, but you get my drift. :)

I think it's great that you have a lot of readers. I like blogging, and I wouldn't mind having more readers, but that's difficult because it's a narrow theme. But I'm not going to change because I love it. So I guess I'm "stuck."

Complaining about how you wish more people would visit your website is the antithesis of cool.

But one of my taglines is, "Singlehandedly making blogging uncool since May 2002" -- so, I can get away with complaining, right?

Right...?

Aw, nuts.

Oops.

Sorry. I could've sworn I closed that tag.

(sigh)

I'll just go away now.

No worries McGehee...I have some defective HTML. Bold doesn't work for anybody.

Your tagline is hilarious by the way.

Joan wrote: I admit, when I'm bored I'll check me referrals. I've gone weeks without doing it once, and I've had times where I check twice a day. What I'm really interested in is which search terms lead people to my blog.

I'm there with you. I find humor from google searches. The funniest were "cat dreadlocks" and "How to spank my child with a slipper."

Mustnag: I'll work on that answer..when I figure out the question...:-) It's like Blog Jeopardy!

Your piece compels me to make a confession: I love cyber approval. I "love" going to SiteMeter ten-million times a day and then getting frustrated when the hit count doesn't spike upward as it does on days when people like Reynolds, Hewitt, or Althouse link to my site.

But you're right, my focus should just be on producing an interesting, readable blog. Period.

A few years ago, my family and I attended an outdoor concert featuring The Waiting, a great but unfortunately overlooked band. The concert took place in a small southern Ohio town, some two hours from our house, and there was a lot of rain most of the evening. By the time The Waiting hit the stage, there were about fifty of us still in attendance.

They put on a tremendous show!

Later, I emailed them to say how impressed I was by their performance in a concert being seen by so few.

"We decided a long time ago," one of the band members wrote back to me, "that no matter how many people came to see us, we would do our very best."

That seems to crystallize your good advice.

Thanks for your post.

Mark: you've hit the nail on the head. Thanks for that story. I love that philosophy in life.

Hi,

Just came by way of Instapundit. Well written. I blogged for a year and stopped on my anniversary. One day I may start again. I've been giving a lot of thought to what my overall theme/topic area would be and so appreciate and agree with your remark about specializing.

Thank you.

Bitter controversy about traffic and referrals! The Mudville Gazette gave essentially the opposite advice recently.

To each their own, but... I like to know who is sending hits my way, and the traffic meter is one more way to monitor that.

Great post though.

I think that you are wrong about comments to a degree. I think that only looking at large volume web sites leads to a misleading conclusion. There are queueing theory reasons for this, in fact it is probably possible to quantify this effect. I am far less likely to comment on a thread with hundreds of other comments, just as a caller is discouraged from dialing a number that is always busy. Why should I post a comment that will be buried within minutes in a crowd of noise, rewarding the obsessive compulsive posters, regardless of strength of argument.

Of course, when one's audience is family, friends and colleagues, it's a lot harder to delete their comments.

But isn't there something just a LITTLE odd about a post preaching the virtue of being true to one's nearly solitary writing, evoking the image of the lonely artist in his garret, warming his hands at the heat-sink of his computer, when the post is then linked by Michelle Malkin and, several days later, by Glenn-boy his own self?

As my mother-in-law used to say, "Rich or poor, it's nice to have money."

I can't believe I missed a chance to use my favorite Yogi Berra quote, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

GF's post brings up another point, isn't this sort of like explaining how "size doesn't matter?" Maybe it doesn't, but some guys get a lot more action than others.

But isn't there something just a LITTLE odd about a post preaching the virtue of being true to one's nearly solitary writing, evoking the image of the lonely artist in his garret, warming his hands at the heat-sink of his computer, when the post is then linked by Michelle Malkin and, several days later, by Glenn-boy his own self?

Nope. It's ironic but it's not odd. After all, this post is about how to be a successful blogger in unconventional ways....If this post got linked by Malkin and Instapundit, it certainly wasn't because I sent them an email asking them to do so...I just wrote what I felt.

You'll notice also that I don't announce everytime Instapundit links to my blog....that's nerdy too.

Thanks for the very insightful post. All of your tips were very good -- things I have been thinking about but put much more clearly! And at my stage of blogging kind advice is always very welcome.
:-) Thanks again!

I think it also helps when bloggers get articles out there or have media appearances.

Nice articles and some very useful thoughts on blogging.

It's interesting to read the blogs of those who don't advertise and who blog because *they* want to rather than because they're trying to turn a few dollars on the deal. I find they're often more compelling. Not always, but often.

I've been blogging for about six months now, low numerical output, but hopefully thoughtful entries. I don't have a counter of any sort, I don't have advertisments, I don't belong to any alliances or blog-groups or any such thing. This is something I do for me. I have co-workers and friends that read it. They're my majority audience. Oh, and my pastor reads it! :-) I don't want to be a pundit of any sort, that must take far too much time. I'm too eclectic in my interests to maintain a focused blog, so I just enjoy writing about a range of things that interest me. And so far it's still fun.

I just got into blogging and I absolutely love it, so thanks, I keep track of this blog as well as 5 others so far.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
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