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 weddingchannel.com 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.