Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts on Blogging (aka The Numbers Game)

This morning my friend Alex over at northstory tweeted out a link to an article on blogging from Sweet Tea Saving Grace about the quest for better blog stats and numbers, and I have to admit, it really hit home for me.

I've been blogging in one form or another since ... 1996. My first webpage/blog - created at the end of my freshman year and hosted on my university server -  featured a giant picture of Calvin and Hobbes. At the time I didn't even know what I was doing was called "blogging." I was just writing about my life as a college student on my website. (Goodness how I wish I had somehow archived that hot mess.)  Then later I had a blog on all about planning our wedding in Hawaii (and you know, I am still friends with many of the women I met at that time.). After that, I had a blog on LiveJournal about being a newlywed. And since moving back to CA I've had the casacaudill blog living variously on Typepad, Blogger, and now Wordpress. All this to say that I've been doing this for awhile now.

But that said, I've never hit it big. Admittedly, I've never put in the time and effort like some of the big name bloggers out there, so in that case, it's not surprising that I am not a Big Time Blogger (BTB).

But ... I really do struggle with the comparison game. Kirsten was so much nicer and eloquent her post so if you want to read a nice person's take on this, I strongly recommend you check out her post.

My perspective is less ... balanced. You see, some of the successful blogs I come across (and in this case, I am defining successful as having traffic at 10,000 visitors/month, or those that are sponsored by major brands) are seriously lacking in quality and I get angry that poorly written, poorly designed, bad content manages to find such a following. These people - mostly women - get thousands of page views a month and I truly don't know why people are visiting. Typos everywhere, grammar that would make an elementary school teacher cringe, spelling that would make anyone cringe, poor photos, really bad layout ... and content that isn't fresh, original, or all that  different from what hundreds of other bloggers are writing about. Yet these women are being sponsored by major brands, doing giveaways for really expensive products, and are generally what you'd consider successful bloggers. And it really baffles me.


I don't want to play the comparison game because I know that logically it is not healthy. But ... I still do. When you strip out the web crawlers and the spam, this blog gets roughly anywhere from 1500 t0 2500 page views a month. I am very active on social media too so it's not like there isn't some level of cross promotion going on. And, the readers I do have are long time readers who tune in regularly to hear what I'm writing about. Several people who I respect and admire have told me that my content is good and that my writing is engaging. I'd like to believe them. So why aren't people flocking to my blog? Is it because I don't have a niche? That could be it. After all, I'm not a mommy and never will be, so maybe moms who flock to other mom blogs by the thousand don't have time, or the desire, to read about the exploits of a person whose life is so vastly different from their own. And once we sold our historic craftsman in 2013, I could clearly no longer call myself a house blogger. I was no longer writing about the drama associated with replacing windows on a house that is over 100 years old, or dealing with ancient systems or badly remodeled rooms. So yeah, I get that people interested in that stuff are no longer interested in me.

But I like to think that I am still an interesting person. I do a lot of cooking, but I'm clearly not a food blogger. We travel a lot, to great locations, but traveling and writing about it is not my job so there's no way that I can compete with a travel blogger. I wear yoga pants almost every day of my life (especially following my surgery when jeans just won't fit anymore) so clearly no one who is interested in fashion is going to be checking out casacaudill. I live in a great city and I sometimes write about it, but I'm not out there every day of the week attending events or openings or protests, so clearly I am not a local blogger either.

The other thing I struggle with is blog networks. Earlier this year I was invited to join a group of women bloggers whose mission, if you will, was to encourage each other and to help promote our content. Based on this description I readily accepted the invitation. I quickly regretted the decision. First of all, the level of support was ... cult like? I mean, you could NOT tell someone that they weren't the best thing ever. If you weren't 100% on board with everything they wrote, you would be verbally attacked. I questioned the tone and premise of one blogger and I was quite vociferously told that I was being a troll.


There was also a rule that in order to be part of the group you had to actively promote the other bloggers across all of your social networks every Friday. Okay, I understand that, but I could see no earthly reason why I would actively promote a blog about how to pack lunches for your school age kids, or how to have sex after having a baby, or how to get your kid to clean his room. I don't know the first thing about any of these things, and so why would I tell others - my readers - to read these posts? How do I know if what they were writing made any sense? Also, I struggled with why I was invited to join a blog network that was clearly targeted at mommy bloggers. I wondered if maybe people thought the pictures I post of my nieces and nephews had confused someone (true story: an old colleague of Alan's thought that my niece Nora was our daughter.) I removed myself from the group and didn't look back. Okay, that's a lie. I have looked back, and it's pretty much with confusion. Because it was there that I heard numbers being flaunted that I simply could not believe. And it made me super envious because I couldn't understand how those people were getting traffic that I myself could not. Aside from the promotion by group bull horn methodology, I couldn't see how they were driving so much traffic. And truthfully, no matter how many ways I've tried to both enviously and realistically parse it out, it simply does not compute. Maybe that means that even though I've been at this social media game a very long time that I'm not very good at it? Or maybe, like I've been told in my professional life, I'm just not very good at self promotion?

And yes, I know this whole post makes me sound bitter and pissy. And maybe I am. But I'm also trying to understand how this world works, because clearly I've not figured it out yet.


  1. Lol, the cult network sounds intense! I now understand some friends/Twitter friends who constantly link to other peoples' boring blog posts!

    Anyway, it's not quantity of visits and followers, but quality!!

  2. I think I have similar numbers to you...but I just dont PROMOTE my blog. all these networks, perfecting my posts, organizing with sponsors, networking, pitching sites to feature my shit....I just dont have time. I love blogging and having my little online memoir to my life and my interests. I love all the friends I have made (online and offline) and I love the community...but I have a full time job. a boyfriend. friends. a need to spend entire saturdays being unproductive with a good book. It dawned on me one day that I just dont have the drive to do the WORK needed to get those kind of numbers. And I think I am ok with that :)

  3. I've had many of the same thoughts about blogs that are big with horrible writing and bad grammar. To the point that some of them consistently use the wrong word or make an obvious mistake over and over.

    What I think it comes down to is consistency (especially in a niche), work (one blogger told me she is at it 10 hours a day), and luck/longevity. I find myself discouraged and have l largely given up personal blogging. I just don't see the validity in an industry where known plagarizers still work with big companies. Sigh. My thoughts on this are disjointed.

  4. Well, I certainly agree with what you are saying. I got to the point where I didn't feel it was worth my time and energy anymore, and just stopped. For me it was freeing but it would be a shame to see your blog go so I hope you find a way to feel better about it (or hit high numbers).

  5. Oh, I'm certainly not going to give up blogging any time soon. I'm too big a narcissist to do that. ;-)

  6. Yes, disjointed. That's a good word for how I feel about it.

    Mostly, I don't want to be envious, but I can't help it. And then I feel like a mean girl for hating on these people who have managed to become successful ... in spite of their obvious lack of talent. ;-)

  7. Yeah, I think the time thing is a big factor too. So often I think, "I should blog about that" but then I don't because I feel like it just takes too much time. Of course, I'm okay with watching five episodes of New Girl a week, or faithfully reading Outlander fan sites, which isn't exactly a great use of my time.

    I don't want to be a complainer because I know it makes me look petty, but I sincerely and honestly don't understand who someone with an ugly looking blog who doesn't have a lot of talent in the writing department can manage to grow such a following. Truly, I am completely uncomprehending on how they make it work.

  8. I keep waiting for someone from that group to comment and I'm kind of scared.

  9. Oh goodness - I'm so happy to hear (read?) that I'm not the only one who's completely flummoxed about how some bloggers are successful.
    I know my grammar and spelling aren't the best (I usually get one email from my dad after a post pointing out an error), but even I'm sometimes shocked about what people post, and more than once have wanted to send them a link explaining the difference between 'their, there, and they're' or 'to, too, and two'.
    I don't get it - are brands not concerned about what type of writing/content they're affiliated with? Do readers not care about "small" things like correct spelling? Or should we be more worried about the possibility that the readers of these blogs don't recognize incorrect spelling and grammar?

  10. Obviously I'm not advocating for expertly written or 100% error free posts in the blogosphere because that's hard. Yes, there is room for mistakes, but some of these mistakes are so pervasive and glaring that it's hard to ignore them. You're right - they're/their/there is a huge one (as is your and you're) and if you, the blogger, cannot figure out which one is the correct usage on a regular basis, I have no reason to trust your expertise in anything. This is basic grammar, taught at the earliest grades, and to not show that you grasp them even a little bit shows me that you don't care. Why should I trust someone as a brand ambassador? And you're right again - why should I trust brands that do business with these people? Coming from the world of PR, I understand a little bit about how this process works, and I've heard horror stories from brand PR people about working with mommy bloggers specifically, so again, I know a little bit more about how this works ... but it just seems to me like we're in an age where brands are throwing shit against the wall and hoping to see what sticks.

  11. Yes, this, totally. In my niche some of it is who you know and some of it is luck - having one pin go viral (and I've tried and tried to figure out why one pin went viral and mine didn't, but ah well.)

  12. I cannot figure out, for the life of me, why something that I would consider just a run of the mill post will get hundreds of hits a day, but something I think people will like gets only like 50 total.

    The whole game is confusing, really.


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