Thursday, March 15, 2007

What I've Learned About Blogging aka Where Did Everyone Go?

I thought I knew it all when it came to starting a Blog. How hard could it be? I've written a blog for for over three years now and before that, while in high school, ran my own website which was essentially a blog before blogs existed (and I edited all that HTML by hand -- Blogger is completely automated). If I've learned anything in the past week about blogging, it's that I didn't know anything.

Having a background in HTML, I thought would make things pretty easy on me. And with Blogger's automated templates, I figured it wouldn't take much time to set up. And while Blogger's blog-maker is user-friendly, I kept running into problems. The Digg buttons you see at the front of each post (like this one) wouldn't show up at first, then wouldn't keep track of my Diggs correctly (I finally figured it out thanks to Kurt over @ Clever WoT and a random website I found which explained the differences between the old Blogger system and these new templates Blogger has). Digg is a cool website. Users determine, by "digging" quality stories, the stories placement in the Digg world, and it allows people to focus on stories others (sometimes thousands of others) found useful and/or entertaining. So if you read a story on here you like, Digg it. Technorati is a very similar site. It essentially is a searchable database of Blog postings and keeps track of how popular your blog is based on how many people link to it (so far two do for me -- The previously mentioned Clever WoT and, of course, my Tigers blog). It took a while for that site to start indexing my posts.

And why is it important that my Digg and Technorati links work correctly? Well, it doesn't. But, they do bring traffic into the blog, which allows people to read my posts. Did I start the Blog just to check my traffic logs all the time? Not really. But, it is fun, and I won't deny wanting to get more people to read the blog if I can. Plus, analyzing traffic logs, to me, is fascinating because it really gives you an idea of how the internet works in many ways. Take the traffic for this blog since it started last Sunday for example, going through today, around 3:00.

As the post title indicates, the main question is, where did everybody go? Today, at the time of this post, I had 4 visitors today. That was after averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 or 40 a day previously. That's quite the dropoff. The spikes in unique visitors and page views is interesting too. Tuesday, March 8, was a huge day. That reason was two-fold. First, I had plugged my blog in a story on my MLive blog, and 113 folks followed. I also posted a story that night about the Mega Millions Lottery Drawing and posed it on Digg. The response (despite not receiving any Diggs from people) was instantaneous (people were interested in that lottery jackpot) and 41 people in the few hours after the post came over from Digg. That was a good night.

But, then, sometimes the traffic doesn't follow your expectations. For example, on Friday, March 9, I posted an entry going over the Las Vegas season finale and posed it on Digg. Despite the finale happening that night, all was quiet, and nobody appeared interested in my take on the goings on at the Montacito Casino. Saturday was the same. But, then Sunday, people apparently were ready to read about the finale. By Monday, the Las Vegas entry had 28 unique visitors, even more than my homepage, thanks in large part to the Digg page and searches on Google (apparently my Las Vegas entry hit the jackpot (sorry, bad pun) when it came to a great Google placement) and other search engines. 26 people found me from Google on Tuesday, most with search terms like "las vegas season finale" and "Las Vegas Season 4 finale" and the Las Vegas page had 34 unique visitors, twice what my front page received. Obviously the numbers are small, but interesting nevertheless that it took a few days, both on Google and Digg, for my Las Vegas post to at least garner some attention. And, now, if the 4 visitors today aren't an indicator, nobody seems to be searching for Las Vegas season finale information anymore.

Maybe my visits are down because I'm trying out Google ads, otherwise known as "Google AdSense" and it scared people away. I didn't start this blog to make money (hard to make money with 4 visitors or even 40 a day anyway) but I've never tried out Google's ad system before, and I had read a lot about it in the Google biography (can a company have a biography?), The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time

I'm not sure I like it, or any advertising, but it's interesting from a technological standpoint anyway. Sometimes it gets the ads right (like displaying CNBC business ads on the permanent link page to my Erin Burnett story or Las Vegas links on that page) and sometimes its way off. I may not keep it around. Just testing things, like I am with the links you see around. But, those I like because I love and order from them all the time, and would recommend their service to anyone. They ship fast (even their free "Super Saver" shipping), their prices are cheaper than any bookstore, and I've never had a problem in years of ordering from them. So why not link to relevant DVDs or books I talk about? Plus, I have a unique perspective on advertising on websites because when I ran a site back in high school, I killed it (in some ways) by going over-board on advertising. I've learned better than to do that again.

What really gets interesting is the geographic location of visitors. In just my little, random Blog, which hasn't had more than 700 visitors total in 10 days, I've had 54 visits from Canada (they love me in London, Ontario for some reason), 9 from the UK, 3 from China and even a guy from Turkey. And two separate people from Finland. To me, that's just incredible because my blog isn't anything right now, but yet, somehow, people from all over the world (literally) find it.

So, what was the point of this post? I'm not sure I had one other than to say, blogging is interesting, and I'm learning a lot about how Blogs work and attract visitors and use HTML. The internet has come a long way since 1998 when I was coding HTML by hand using Notepad (actually, a freeware program called NotePad Plus). I can say, though, that starting the blog has been just as fun and entertaining as I thought it was going to be when I started, so I'm not going anywhere for a while. Even if 4 visitors a day is all I have. Because, it's the loyalty of those four visitors (well, I think I was one of the 4, so, loyalty of those three visitors) that matters.

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Clever WoT said...

Beware the trafficrack. I know a lot of bloggers who compulsively check traffic and it gets to be no fun.

Also, AdWords isn't worth crap to the vast majority of blogs. I dabbled with it a year ago. I was getting roughly 150 hits/day and made $0.09/week with AdWords. Not exactly Scrooge McDuck money.

Scott Warheit said...

Yeah, I agree on Adwords. It's not even the money, it is more that it just doesn't integrate well into this templates, so the ads stand out, and don't look very good. If they aren't natural looking, it's no better then a banner ad, and we all know how annoying those are.

As for checking the traffic, yeah, I can see where it can get to a point of unhealthiness. It's still fascinating though. Two people from Beijing visited today (two of my 10 visitors). That just seems really interesting to me.



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