(Captain's log): Last year, when my traffic levels were very low, I was definitely frustrated. I was putting a lot of work into this site and hardly anyone seemed to be reading it on a regular basis. From March until July or so, I rarely had more than a 200-hit day on the main page. 100 to 150 was a lot more common.
It took a few fortuitous links from higher-profile sites, and patience, and luck for my traffic levels to rise. Part of the luck was that I had already established myself as being conversant with military affairs, and in September after the attack, my traffic levels took a stairstep upward (I suspect because a lot of people wanted to try to understand the war, and I had a lot to say about it). It began a long rise which has continued ever since. (All other things being equal, I'd rather have low traffic and the attack not have happened.)
In case anyone's interested, here's the latest traffic plot, starting from when I began to log hits on the main page at the end of August. You can see the jump that happened in September:
Last week I topped 4000 hits in a day for the first time, and in actual fact it kind of scared me a bit, especially since it was such a radical rise over the previous high, and over my routine traffic levels which had been stable for nearly a month in the low 3000's.
Here's the thing that I never expected: getting a lot of traffic brings new problems with it. Ah, shed a tear; I'm sure that there are a lot of people who are just crying for me about this and would love to take my traffic off my hands. Yes, I know.
But while I'm very glad to have the traffic, it's interesting that it has indeed turned out to be a mixed blessing.
One thing which thankfully hasn't happened is a huge rise in hate mail. I do get some, but not much at all. I do not really get a lot of mail at all, in fact, anything from 3 to 10 pieces per day. Probably that's because the majority of people who want to feed back use my forum. But some of what I do get is becoming a problem.
Getting regular high traffic seems to be a function of two things: how many first-time visitors you receive, and how many of those become regular readers. The latter I call "stickiness" and as a blog-site owner you can control that to some extent. People who like your writing style or material will come back. But initial visits are a different matter; there's no way to suck people in; they have to be driven to you and there's no easy way to do that. Which is what frustrated me last year; I thought I was producing good material that people would like if only they knew it existed and knew where it was.
If it was hard to get noticed a year ago when I first started this, it's got to be a lot worse now when there are five times as many blogs going. And the same problem I faced last year now faces a huge number of people today: how to get the high traffic sites to link to them? So they write to me. (And, I'm sure, to everyone else they know runs a lot of traffic.)
Some are more blatant about it than others. One guy wrote to me and said, "I've linked to you; will you link to me?" I actually keep a list of everyone I discover has ever linked to me, and I had already added him to it (because I had found him in my referer logs). I wrote back to him and pointed to that page and said that more than 300 people had linked to me already, and if I put them all on my front page there would be no room for anything else. These days I typically add 3-5 new ones per day. (It's very flattering, but also a bit overwhelming. And those are just the ones I notice in my refers; there are probably others I've never seen.)
Others have been perhaps a bit more classy; one guy wrote and said, "Don't we deserve more traffic, too?" Well, yes, but everyone deserves more traffic. There are hundreds of deserving blogs out there and I must necessarily neglect at least some of them. I've chosen to make my list of linked sites short both to avoid fatigue for my readers, and also to make it so that the value of such a link is high for the people I do link to. Every once in a while I change the list, but it simply isn't possible for me to put every deserving blog in there unless it was even longer than the list of sites which have linked to me. (Some people out there have such lists on their sites; at a certain point your eyes start to glaze over.)
In fact, recently I added two more to it, and because it was too long I had to decide to remove one. And it hurt. It really did. Picking someone to take out was hard, and it really came down to a random selection. (I hope he isn't mad at me for it.)
Another kind of letter I get is of the form, "I wrote this and I think it's pretty good; will you link to it?" That leads to a different kind of discussion.
Blogs are as different as the people who write them, but you'll find two fundamental themes, with each blog being somewhere on the axis of how much of each appears. For lack of better terms, I suppose you could refer to them as "editors" and "writers".
One form of blog is the "informal portal". The general idea is to find cool stuff, link to it, and perhaps add a few words describing it. The link is the point; the words are there to encapsulate and sell the link. These people are organizers, searchers, they're the web's editors. They become popular to the extent that their readers like their judgment