Lengthy post alert. You have been warned.
I have begun watching the stats on my blogs much more closely than usual as of late. A lot of us at the office maintain personal blogs with various levels of readership. For some, it is a personal diary, for others, it is a digital legacy and for yet others, it's just something to do.
Of the two or three blogs I have created, the one for Louise has significantly higher readership stats than the others. On the surface, that makes sense to me for several reasons. One, it has a tightly focused theme. If you go to her blog, you are expecting to see photos and quick little updates about the various things that my dog has done lately. There was a spike in readership (and reader comments) recently when Louise was having some bowel problems. One photo of her looking miserable had people checking back daily to see if the situation had improved or not.
Lesson number one would be that blogs that are 'about' something, or have a consistent theme are going to be more likely to generate repeat visitors than blogs that are just 'my diary' or tend to write about anything in general (such as this blog). The readership of this blog tends to be limited to people I know in one way or another which is fine by me. In contrast, of the people that visit Louise's blog, only a small percentage know me personally. There are much more visitors that come to the site because they are interested in pugs and initially know nothing of Louise. The stats on google analytics support this, as I can see the locations of the site visitors. The map for visitors to iTripped is filled with hits from places I have lived, or places where I know family and friends happen to be. Interestingly enough, I also see what places have NOT registered any visits from, even though I have family or friends living there. This is the sort of information useful for tailoring one's Christmas gift list.
So back to Louise's blog - her site averages about 35 hits per day and I am guessing that many are repeat visitors. Not necessarily all 35 people checking daily, but an average of that many people returning to check out the site roughly once or twice a week. In keeping with that, I try to make sure that I post semi-regularly to that blog - much more frequently than any other blog I have on the go.
Lesson number two is obvious: people don't come back regularly unless there is new content for them to see. Further to that point, the content also has to be something they want. The more regular the updates, the more frequent visitors will check back. If you always update your blog in the morning before going to work and never on weekends, your readers will figure this out and won't bother checking after Friday until Monday morning.
Another thing I have noticed is that I get a lot of feedback from people (again, on Louise's blog mostly) telling me how much they enjoy the photographs. Admittedly, Louise is a pretty easy subject to take a good picture of and since many people like that breed of dog, her site appeals to a moderately wide swath of people. These people are looking at the photos, and then clicking for the larger, high resolution versions. I see a similar thing over on Greg's blog, where he sets it up so a visitor who clicks on one of his daily images is sent to a completely different picture. People expect this and many visitors come to click his pictures specifically to uncover the hidden photos. This is really a followup on Lesson number two, with giving the visitors something they want.
The third lesson I have learned is that it is much harder to get readers to comment on Louise's site compared to this one. Maybe it is because the vast majority of people surfing the net do so passively, or maybe it ties back to the fact that the people commenting on this site tend to know me personally. However, the ones posting to Louise's blog tend to be her 'fans' and aside from my mother in law, tend not to be people in my social circles. On second thought, I suppose these people could be defined as being part of another circle - the folks who read Heavy Breathing. One thing I try to do is to post responses back in the same place, so if someone posts a question about Louise on her blog, I'll post a comment with the response. Conversely, comments on this blog tend to only loosely reference the post they are attached to.
In the end, I guess it is safe to say that I don't take my blogging too seriously. Where I have been more consistent and stuck to a more focused theme I have seen an increase in readership. Of course, one might argue that my efforts really don't matter much too - it could be that there simply are a lot of people out there who like pugs and I'm merely tapping into that. This whole post has used the metric of quantity of readers as a baseline for 'success' and that in itself is misleading. Unless I became interested in selling advertising space, it really doesn't matter how much traffic comes to my sites. What matters more, especially for personal blogs, is the relationship a site visitor has with the author when they visit and that is usually determined outside of the blogosphere, be they coworker, parent or friend.