Ten Years of Down the Road

What’s the point of blogging if nobody reads what you write?

This blog had the best February in its history. Readership is usually down in February, but not this year!

stats2017

But so what? Who cares?

Some bloggers say that it’s folly to follow your stats, that it just creates a better-faster-more mentality around your blog — everything you do has to gain lots of views or it’s not worth it.

I’m not so sure. What is the point of writing and clicking Publish for your words to go into the infinite bit bucket, never to be read?

If you don’t care about being read, you don’t need a blogging platform, you need a journal. If you’re putting it out there, some part of you wants someone else to see it. Your stats show you that your work is being viewed.

And so: why not write to be read? Draw readers in with strong titles and sparkling opening paragraphs, as I described in this post? Write with good flow to keep readers engaged?

When this blog was young I wrote several stories from my life, stories that I still love. I used to think it was because I had few, if any, regular readers when I first published them that they got so few views. So when this blog had caught on (to the extent it’s done that) I reran them all, hoping they’d get more attention. They didn’t, not to the extent of my normal posts, anyway. I’m thinking about Restored in Bridgeton, and A Place to Start, and Re-Integrating Joy. And Holding Up My Hand. Especially that one. Please go read it.

While I could edit a few of them to make them stronger, I think they all still stand pretty well on their own. Yet every last one of them ignores my tips for drawing readers in.

Especially Holding Up My Hand. That one could be in a magazine about the Christian faith, I think. It might be well read there, well liked. A faith magazine brings an audience primed and ready to read stories like that. But even then, it wouldn’t just present it as I did. It would almost certainly at least subtitle the story: “How a young boy’s first walk to school with his mother became a metaphor for his faith journey.” There. Now you know what it is about and why you should read it.

My blog has become more about photography since those early days. I’m more likely to write a camera review or a how-to post now. But I still like to tell stories from my life. Once in a while, I might write one like those I mentioned above, ones where you have to just take it on faith that it’s going to be good. I hope I’ve built up enough goodwill with you that you’ll read it anyway.

But I’ve also rewritten a couple stories with titles that tell you better what you’re going to get, and with opening paragraphs that draw you in better. And they have done well. I’m thinking of A Good Icing, which I rewrote as What the Ice Storm Could Have Taught Me About Myself. The rewritten story got way more views and comments than the original, more views and comments than the time I reran the original. My retelling is a better story, and it connected with many readers.

On your blog, write what you want how you want. But my experience has been that if you want readers, you need to show them value. They have so much to read that you have to draw them in and keep them interested. Your writing must relate to them. If you ever become deeply established, or a celebrity where people would read anything you write because it’s you, then maybe you’ll be off the hook. Until then, get on with this.

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21 thoughts on “What’s the point of blogging if nobody reads what you write?

  1. Jason Shafer says:

    So profoundly true and your words drip with experience. Writing is like meeting a person, but without the aid of facial expressions, body language, or inflections of the voice – you have to capture their attention if you want the relationship to go anywhere.

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  2. Very true and useful Jim! I know I wrestle with titles, veering between ones that I think sound cool, enigmatic and poetic, and the “Ronseal” titles that do what they say they’re going to do. Like your Good Icing / Ice Storm example.

    If I may say, on a personal and rather selfish note, I hope you retain the high proportion of photography based posts, and don’t become another blog about how to blog. Your love of classic and vintage cameras (and pictures of the cameras and what you’ve captured with them) is what drew me here and remain my favourite posts.

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  3. I try to stay away from writing controversial blogs, or blogs expressing hate. There is enough of that going on in the world . However it seems like its what the world desires. The bad boy or bad girl gets all of the breaks. Perhaps thats why my blog gets passed over. I love pictures and photography related blogs as well. See you on your next blog!

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  4. All excellent advice. Which I struggle with in my own efforts. You hit the dilemma of blogging – that wrestling match between the individualist who answers to no one in his expression and the traffic seeking sycophant who is obsessed with page views.

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  5. I’m going to go in the opposite direction here a little bit – I actually was drawn to this blog because of the personal stories (some of which are listed) and not the photography based posts.

    It isn’t easy to please everyone! I do think that when you write about what speaks to your soul, the passion comes through and people are drawn in. As a reader and sometimes writer, I applaud authenticity and individuality and hope it remains on this blog and others in spades :). Statistics aren’t everything.

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      • Hi! Sorry, I just read over my post and realized it may sound critical. I mostly just wanted to acknowledge that it is difficult and that I appreciate your authenticity (and that of other writers who put themselves out there). I think that even if you get fewer views on those personal posts, they do have an impact but I see your point about wanting a robust readership.

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  6. Greg Clawson says:

    I was first drawn to your blog for the camera/photography articles, but I stayed because you are not afraid to bare your soul about your trials and tribulations in this life, that is rare.

    Your blogs have helped me in this journey we call life. I am sure there are many others who also benefit, but when faced with such unvarnished truth it is sometimes hard to comment without much introspection.

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  7. jon says:

    What Greg said. Arrived for cameras and photography, keep coming back for insights and sincerity. Also your links to other interesting blogs is a great public service. By the way, I hope your foot problem clears up, and soon.

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