When I started blogging back in 2003, blogging was an exotic activity practiced by a few. There was this sense that being able to serve as a curator and link to others was extraordinary, and that those bloggers who had a coherent point of view were very special.
Fast forward to 2009, where everyone and their neighbor have a blog of some sort, over 4 million people use twitter, and we rely on crowd-sourcing to help us discover interested and relevant information.
Not only is there lots more noise, there are lots more interesting bloggers with something valuable to share. Instead of having three or fifteen blogs I might read about organic gardening or Web 2.0 or parenting, there are 3,500 or some equally stunning amount.
At the same time that the number of blogs has exploded, some bloggers have grown into mini-moguls. Josh Marshall, Markos, Perez Hilton, Dooce, Maggie Mason, Mike Arrington come to mind, along with many others, as bloggers who’ve grabbed–and kept–a lion’s share of the attention in their category, garnering enough traffic to expand their blogs into blog networks of one sort or another. Not only is it hard for a new blogger to come along and break into those ranks (Pioneer Woman is the recent superstar that comes to mind), it’s hard to even get close to them.
Knowing these home truths, I made the decision back in September/October to try to start blogging here more regularly, and to do what I could to build my traffic–damaged by a domain change and feed switch from susanmernit.blogspot.com to susanmernit.com), along with some spotty and less than inspired posting (or lack of)–back up.
Five months into the endeavor, let me tell you–it is damn hard. Yeah, the traffic has gone up, but it’s rough.
While I would not trade away the pleasure of sharing my views with people I care about, or exchanging ideas with others in the blogosphere–many of whom I don’t personally know–I don’t feel like I have actually succeeded in creating a blog people read and return to on an ongoing basis. While I’ve written posts that have gotten significant attention and traffic, being a regular read of destination for a larger number of people just doesn’t seem to be happening in the way I’d hoped.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve given some thought to why that might be, and I am pondering what changed I’d want to make to bring the traffic up (as well as making the decision to change nothing and continue just as I am)
Factor 1: Tech blogging has become a breaking news experience for the most part
This isn’t a new meme, but over the past four years, tech blogs have become ever more the trade journals of the industry, competing to break stories about new products, business deals and technologies. As someone more interested in writing about the back story, user experience and tech in society, this is not a category I want to enter
Factor 2: Lots of other tech blogs focus on round ups and how tos as ways to build their SEO traffic and deliver service value
Mashable is the epitome of the tech blog where one recurring feature is to cover the reader with data on a topic, and to list dozens of resources. ReadWrite Web does this as well. The 50 things about X is not my thing, but I do recognize that doing more lists, round-ups and service stories would be a way to increase traffic to this blog.
Factor 3: This blog lacks community
For whatever reason, mostly laziness and lack of time/making it a priority, I haven’t worked hard to create community on this blog. Readers do comment, but I do a poor job of engaging with them. By not working hard on community, I’ve bypassed one of the main reasons users engage with a blog–because it’s a flash point to have conversations with others that have value. If I want to grow traffic here, building more community seems critical.
Factor 4: Is the voice right?
There’s no question that the distance between who I am and the way I write is very short; this voice is authentic and all that. However, I’m not someone who uses her blog to share lots of personal stories, aspirations, debates and struggles.
As impassioned as I am about women and tech, feminism, creating positive social change and so on, I don’t write about these things in a very personal diary-like way on this blog. Should I? Am I missing a chance to engage more people by not writing about myself more specifically? Or is that just off topic from what most people find interesting? I have no idea.
Factor 5: You tell me–what would you like to see more of here that would make the blog more interesting to you on a daily basis?
Where should I be putting more effort that would improve the value? I promise to listen to all suggestions and try those that make sense to me–and let you know what I think about all of them.