My Battle as a New Blogger
Prior to starting this blog, I was always fascinated with blog posts about blogging. The content intrigued me; I felt like I was getting an inside baseball look at how sausage was made (yep, mixing metaphor’s). Additionally, the sheer number of bloggers that wrote about blogging surprised me. I didn’t expect to join the ranks of bloggers that blog about blogging (blog, blog, blogging, blogitty blog blog).
I figured I might do a six month reflection piece, then just an annual blogaversary post to mark the occasion, but didn’t think just over a month into the process I’d have much to say on the matter.
Turns out I was wrong. I’ve been quite contemplative about my blogging life, but have been hesitant to publish any of my musings. My goal after all is to create content that will benefit my kids. I can’t imagine 20 years from now they’d find my reflections about my dismal first month blogging stats very interesting.
However, as I’ve morphed into my blogging alter ego, I’ve had a handful of insights that may actually be worth sharing. I’ve crammed all these reflections into one post and hope that the following lessons add to this blogs mission.
Lesson 1 – I Just Want to be Liked
In my personal life I’ve never really cared much what people think of me. I just figured I am who I am, if you like me great, if not, that’s okay. I certainly would never consider changing who I am to win someone’s approval.
My assumption was this laissez faire attitude would just roll over to my blog identity as well. It hasn’t (at least not without some work). Maybe it’s how measurable one’s success is as a blogger that has made it difficult. Or maybe I care what people think more than I thought I did. Either way, it’s created a bit of a crisis of conscience or at least a crisis of confidence.
The problem with blog statistics is the excruciating details that they provide. You not only know how many page views you’ve received, you also know how many different people viewed those pages. You can see specifically what pages they visited.
All of this information has led to a lot of questions.
- Why are people viewing my home page, but not clicking on any of my posts? Are the first couple paragraphs not compelling enough to make people to want to read more?
- Why don’t my visitors want to read more than one post? Am I not intriguing enough to make them want to hear more from me?
- Why did that one post that I was really proud of get virtually no traffic?
- [After reading other bloggers monthly blog updates] – Why are these other bloggers getting more traffic than me? Getting more comments than me?
- Is my content just not good enough?
- I know I’m not the best writer, but is it really that bad?
- Should I be doing something different?
- And why am I so popular in Serbia (That’s right Serbia I can see you checking in on my blog every day).
You get the general gist; there is a lot of self-doubt and second-guessing. Which is somewhat humorous because when I started I didn’t expect to get a single visitor in my first month. But after getting that first visitor, I was hooked and wanted to get more and more.
Every new record I set was both exhilarating and defeating. It was great to raise the page view bar and I was thrilled that day. However, that new number becomes my benchmark. When the next day had half as many visitors I viewed it as a failure. The reality is I would have been thrilled with that number 48 hours earlier.
The Real Problem
While my borderline obsessive checking of my site stats is not ideal, it really isn’t the most problematic part of this crisis. The real problem comes when I start doubting my motivations and intentions.
I have no problem with challenging myself to write better content or to make a more appealing website for my visitors. However, I am not okay with contemplating changing my content to get more clicks.
I know that if I wrote more salacious titles for my posts I’d likely get more clicks. If I did a monthly blog update with my numbers I’d probably generate more interest, but that doesn’t fit what I’m doing here. For some bloggers, it is part of their mission to generate monthly revenue. Monthly blog updates is the perfect platform for these bloggers to measure their success.
But, it’s not my mission. If I started adding a monthly blog breakdown, I’d be doing so for the sole purpose of gaining more clicks. I’d be selling out my original mission in the process.
Quality over quantity
The problem with doing something that is designed to generate traffic and clicks is that it attracts the wrong people to your blog. People who click on the salacious title probably aren’t going to be interested in hearing my moral of financial lessons to my sons.
While I may generate traffic with this approach, I won’t build an audience with it. As comprehensive as the stats are, they don’t allow me to see how well my material fits each visitor. For that I rely on the comments section, which is an inaccurate measure since not everyone chooses to comment.
So I am left in the dark. With a tool that allows me to measure the quantity of visitors, but unable to determine what really matters: the quality of my visitors. (I should note that I use the word quality not to place some value on whether my visitors are good people or not, but simply to identify if my material is a good fit for the visitors I am getting).
It turns out that life is a lot like this. You’ll meet tens of thousands of people in your life and befriend hundreds if not thousands over the course of your lifetime. But upon meeting them you won’t always know if they’ll be a good fit in your life. You won’t know if they’ll accept you for who you are or reject you, making you wonder if you should change in order to fit in.
This is what I want my kids to understand. You should never change who you are to gain acceptance or be liked. I want them to value the quality of their relationships and not the quantity. I’d rather they have a few close friends who know them and accept them for who they are than have a large group of friends that they have to be disingenuous to be a part of.
My Blog Life
This is something I figured out long ago in my personal life, but now it looks like I’ll have to relearn it in my blog life. I think a good first step would be to limit my stat checking. It’s like limiting your interactions with a friend who is a bad influence.
Checking my stats was fun at first, but has turned into a source of more doubt and second-guessing than it has encouragement. Ultimately my stats are not helping me to be my best self as a blogger. If my goal was to grow this blog that might be different, but my mission isn’t going to be realized in the number of visitors I get each day.
I am grateful for my visitors, but I know I can’t allow my content to be driven by page views. If I’m true to myself and create content that is meaningful to me, then my audience will find me (If you build it, they will come.)
Lesson 2 – Comfort Zone Schmumfort Zone
One of the many benefits of starting this blog has been to push me out of my comfort zone, both with my level of productivity and with my level of vulnerability.
Prior to starting this blog, I spent what little free time I had binge watching whatever was popular on Netflix. However, since taking the plunge and plopping down $100 for this blog (the cost of 3 years of website hosting), I’ve found myself spending my free time engrossed in blog activities.
I’ve even created more free time in my schedule by waking up early or staying up later. It has been an unexpected benefit of taking on this venture. A benefit that is perfectly in line with my new minimalist pursuits.
At the core of minimalism is the desire to cut out the things in your life that aren’t adding value and to replace them with things that do. Binging on 2-3 hours of Netflix each night wasn’t really adding a ton of value. Sure maybe half an hour to an hour was good to help me decompress, but after that it just became a mind-numbing pacifier.
Now I fill my extra time writing these posts for my kids (and whoever else stumbles upon them). This is something I’ve wanted to create since even before my kids were born. However, without the accountability this blog created, it was too easy to spend my time “relaxing” instead of producing.
Turns out when you push yourself out of your comfort zone good things can happen. All leaps into the unknown are scary, but the rewards of having taken the leap usually turns out to be worth it. You just have to be willing to live with the discomfort for a while.
Lesson 3 – Blog Without Fear
I’ve allowed fear and self-doubt to determine the course of my life for far too long. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I started this blog.
- I have a great idea for a post!
- Old Me: That’s a bit personal isn’t it? Plus you’re not really adding anything to the conversation anyway. Why put yourself out there like that when it’s so obvious?
- Blog Me: I love that idea! Write it and post it ASAP.
- It’d be cool to reach out to this awesome blogger I’ve been reading for years.
- Old Me: Why would he want anything to do with you? You’d just be wasting his time. Don’t be that guy.
- Blog Me: You should totally do that! You’ve got nothing to lose.
- It’d be a blast to go on that podcast.
- Old Me: It’ll be so awkward. You don’t even know those guys. What if you come off like an idiot? Then it’ll just be out there for the whole world to hear.
- Blog Me: Go for it. It sounds like fun!
For some reason my blogging alter ego just doesn’t let fear win. When I’m making a decision for the blog, I say yes. I don’t talk myself out of things. The results have been amazing.
I feel like I get it now when those self-help guru’s chant, “Say YES to yourself!” But it doesn’t feel cheesy or like I have to join a cult. It just feels like I’m a slightly better version of myself when I say yes more often and don’t let the self-doubt win.
What Have I Said Yes to Now?
When I thought of the idea of publishing 11 consecutive posts over the next week and half, I decided to go for it. It was an opportunity for me to take on something I would have previously found an excuse not to do. This came with the added benefit of stretching myself out of my comfort zone yet again. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing!
Tell me what you think: Bloggers, do these lessons ring true for you as well? What else have you learned from taking on this blogging adventure?