Like many bloggers – call us recreational bloggers – I write for myself more than for a readership. After more than 5 years in the blogosphere, some years writing my heart out and other years trying to wean myself from spending too much time at it, I have come to learn that having a platform for sharing my thoughts or experiences from time to time is important to me. As I explained in one of my past blogs, for me, to write is to think.
Of course, when you’re writing, you are writing for an audience, whether it’s an essay for your teacher, a long message to your friend, posts on the blogosphere, or articles or books for the greater reading public. One question that’s probably worth asking as a blogger is: what posts attract your readers? This may or may not matter to you as a writer; to a large extent you may be, as I am, writing mainly for yourself. However, it’s still an interesting question. In my case, looking for that answer muddied more than it clarified. It turns out that many of my personal favourites are clearly of no interest to the casual reader, while others that I wouldn’t have expected to generate more than passing interest have become impressive draws. How do these things happen?!
The blogging platform I use, WordPress, provides all kinds of statistics on hits to your blog, if you choose to look at them. According to these stats, in the past 5 years I have written 234 posts, and the top 10 of them (not including Home and About) account for a full 24% of the hits. That’s a little more than 4% of what I’ve written getting 24% of the traffic. If I were trying to increase readership, I would regularly analyze what subject matter appears to have strong, on-going interest and then concentrate on those topics. Of course, I am not trying to increase my readership – although the more the merrier – but after 5 years I decided to take a closer look, just for fun! This is my top ten list:
- Tales of customer service that go the extra mile? I’ve got one
- The Falkland Islands: it’s not about the penguins and the sheep
- Lessons from raising chickens
- The fable of the fox and the ducks
- Life lesson from Stephen Covey: tending the ties that bind
- The fable of the porcupine and the cows
- What is a balanced reading diet?
- A virtual cruise around South America
- Southern India: a study in surprises and contrasts, still overwhelming
- 5 mentoring tips for women
Although I admit that I wander into all kinds of diverse topics, I did start out concentrating largely on running and writing for children, and then rapidly expanded to experiences in farming, our travel adventures, and experiences in the world of work … oh, yes, and quilting. In the top ten: three on travel (#2, #8, and #9), three on farming (#3, #4, and #6), one related to business (#10), one just out of the blue from an article I had read (#7), and two focused on the importance of personal connections (#1 and #5), although there are lessons for business in those two posts. Nothing about running. In fact, there’s nothing in the top 20 about running. And nothing about writing for children until further down the list, unless I cheat and include my farming fables. It’s a good thing I don’t write based on what’s most popular, because in my case I’m not even sure how I would figure out what that is!
I will admit that the very most favourite of my favourite posts are about family and personal connections; #1 and #5 are two of those, plus Grandmothers, Granddaughters, and the Circle of Life (which makes #16) and Weddings and Family Stories, which has yet to hit the high numbers. It is heartening to see that most of these favourites, on a subject which is central to our sense of identity – connecting with others – have continued to attract interest across the years.
But why would my story about travels in the Falklands be of so much more interest that posts about Bhutan or Bolivia, or Botswana, for example? And why would lessons from raising chickens have created that much continuing interest compared to, say, lessons from farming or lessons from raising cows – or pigs, or horses?! Maybe it’s all those people thinking about getting into urban chickens, I don’t know. But it does surprise me. And why is my description of travels in southern India so much more popular than its sister post about travels in northern India? It’s a complete mystery to me.
I do know why 5 mentoring tips for women (#10) has continued to be read. That post was picked up by the web site of the Aspire Foundation, which mentors women worldwide. I can’t say whether any of the others have been linked from other web sites; I can’t imagine which ones those might be, but having a link elsewhere may (or may not) attract additional readers.
What are the take-aways from of this exceedingly scientific analysis (not!) of the summary data provided by WordPress? Why have a few of my 234 posts generated strong and continuing interest while the large majority has ended up in the “meh” pile? Was it the topic? It appears not. Was it the fact that it was picked up by other web sites and so was given new life on a platform with broader reach? Perhaps, in a few cases. But mostly, I think it is simply serendipity; a blog post that’s no different than the others finds itself with the right readers at the right time. It just happens to resonate, and you’ll never know why. The important thing is to enjoy thinking, enjoy writing, and enjoy sharing. And every once in a while, you’ll find yourself reaching out to more people than you could have imagined. And that is a good thing!
P.S. Perhaps an even more fun statistic from exploring the WordPress data is that in the past 5 years I have had readers from 156 countries! What about you?