Here’s a tough day: it’s the day you finally admit to yourself that there aren’t many people reading your blog.
This is especially bad if you’ve banked on your blog becoming something more than a mere hobby. Perhaps you are hoping your blog will bring in much needed money or opportunities for you. But the stats don’t lie, and it looks like no one is reading. Should you keep writing?
Blogs, more often than not, fail. I’ve read that most of them fail within the first three months. If true, three months is apparently the time it takes for discouragement to defeat the will and creative spark to keep going.
Should you keep writing when no one seems to be reading?
Why You Keep Writing, Despite Low Traffic
I’ve been blogging on my personal blog for over 12 years. I’ve never had a significant amount of monthly traffic in all of that time. While I’ve had a few posts go viral over the years, with corresponding traffic spikes here and there, it has never been a blog of “100,000 visitors in a month!”
But I don’t mind. I didn’t start that blog to be all about traffic. Instead, it’s always been about the writing.
Bear with me for a minute.
As Garrett wrote a while back, blogging has the unique ability to help you, the writer, almost as much as anyone reading it. It helps you refine and work through the ideas you have. There is something peculiar about writing out your ideas that gets you to confront weaknesses, find connections, and even change your own mind. As you might imagine, I’ve changed my mind a lot in 12 years of blogging. And, you know what else I’ve accumulated over all of that time?
A fascinating record of a journey.
I can track my progress on particular projects and ideas, I can see how my thinking evolved, I can watch how I changed my reaction to conversations with people, I clearly see how my writing has improved, and I’m surprised by how many projects I’ve worked on that have stemmed from that blogging experience. Writing, whether on a blog or in a notebook, achieves this same result, but writing on a blog and making it available for public consumption and outside opinion has an added level of personal growth thrown in.
Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory may have an interesting application here: what happens when you stick to blogging over a long period of time, regardless of traffic? You accumulate hours of practice in not just writing, but working with ideas.
That is not a waste of time, by any means, but it might not be what you were hoping for.
When To Stop Writing Your Blog
You stop writing your blog when you’ve determined, beyond doubt, that it is a failed effort and foolish to continue.
How do you know if that’s the case? You must make sure you know what it means to fail, and then decide how far into the land of failure you’re willing to travel before you throw in the towel.
Our own thoughts about what failure is matter, because we are motivated by results. If something seems to be working, we keep doing it. If it continues to fail, we aren’t motivated to much effort into it.
Make Sure You’re Actually Failing
You can’t know if you’ve failed unless you know what failure looks like. You might wish you were the guy who blogged about getting 100,000 visitors in a month, but you forget:
- You have a different niche with different potential.
- You aren’t devoted to blogging full time, and still have a “day job”.
- It’s the first blog you’ve had, and you’re learning.
- You didn’t get a mention by a big-name blogger yet.
- You haven’t had a chance to guest post.
- His headlines don’t work the same with your audience.
- You’re not him.
Perhaps you think that numbers don’t lie. Compared to other bloggers, your numbers tell you that you are a failure. Are you sure that you are?
If traffic numbers matter to you, remember that the traffic number from today doesn’t mean much because it is out of context.
The only comparison you should be making is not with other bloggers, but with your own blog history. Track your numbers. Watch to see if your traffic is growing, and at what rate. Monitor if traffic increases as you make changes to your site. You need to know if the number shows that your traffic is growing over time, and what that might project.
Decide What Failure Would Be
Failure is based on a goal you’ve set, and whether or not you reach it. You cannot know if you’ve failed if you’ve never decided what your goals for your blog will be.
1. Write down what your goal for your blog is. Be specific.
You need to know what you define failure as, so that you know when you’re looking at it. This means writing down the specifics, and not relying on emotional “feelings of failure.”
If your goal is to make money from sales on your blog, and you are accomplishing that, but your traffic numbers aren’t impressively high, do you consider yourself a failure? You shouldn’t. Your goal was a certain amount of money, not a certain amount of traffic. More traffic might bring in more money, but not always.
If you decide failure is not having 5,000 hits a week by the end of the year, then you have something concrete to work towards. If you decide failure is when you don’t blog twice a week but traffic has nothing to do with it, you know what failure looks like.
2. Hold on to your goal, and refer to it when you get “good advice.”
Once you know what your goal is for your blog, and what failure might involve, you will know who to listen to, what advice to try, and ultimately, when to stop. Goals are where you want to get to, not how to get there. You should be fixed on what you ultimately want to see happen, not on the methods used to get you there.
Remember that there are more goals for blogging than more traffic and email subscribers. That design trick to get more email sign-ups? That might not fit with your goal, and it might even interfere with it.
On my 12-year-old blog, I never once had a specific traffic goal. I look at my traffic stats out of curiosity more than anything.
Writing for more people was never my intention; my goals have been about how I write, what I write about, how what I write resonates with people in their lives. I am more concerned about other projects that springboard from my blog writing. I have to be careful about how much influence I allow the “get more traffic!” crowd to have on my feelings about my blog.
Their goal is not my goal.
Never let others define what failure is for you. Your blog may be a success as far as you are concerned, even if that big-name blogger would disagree.
A Word About Impatience
We are all in a rush to succeed.
Time plays a factor in most of our definitions of failure, especially if money, income, or your professional job (and a need to show a return on the investment of blogging) is involved. You have a timetable in which things must happen, and quitting is viable when things don’t work. Blogging is a means to an end, and not a meandering exploration of personal growth.
For those of you with the luxury of allowing patience to do its work, however, keep blogging.
Sudden growth stories have the sexiest headlines and get the most attention, but slow and steady can still win. There is a benefit in the exercise of the exercise.
How To Keep Running When You’re The Turtle
So let’s get to the guts of it, then. How do you keep writing when it seems no one is reading?
- Goals Matter. You keep your eye on the goal, and wait until a set time before throwing in the towel and acknowledging it didn’t work.
- People Matter. You don’t mistake 100 readers a day with “no one” because those are people who are still reading. You don’t know when the person who shares your blog with the right people at the right time might happen to come along. Every person matters.
- Discipline Matters. Climbing a huge hill is tiring, and you won’t see the great view until you push through. Stay disciplined and keep doing the work according to your plan.
In the 12 years I’ve put into blogging, thoughts of failure and persevering have waxed and waned. But quitting, after blogging so long, is impossible.
A dozen years of seeing everything I come in contact with as a possible blog post–I’m not sure how I’d stop. Figuring out how to package up thoughts and ideas and write a post for even just a handful of people has become a habit, as much for my sake as theirs.
And, even more than just a habit, I am curious to see what develops after 10,000 hours or maybe even 20 years of blogging. So far, blogging this long has forced me to think about ideas in a way where I must be able to nail them down in words and confront them dead-on. It’s made me experiment with writing. I’m not willing to give that up just because only a handful of people read each day.
How long will you blog?