A recent experience has made me re-evaluate why I maintain this blog.
The original reasons why I started this blog were to write about some of my more interesting life experiences and to rekindle my interest in photography. For years my wife had been telling me that I should write down the stories that I’ve been regaling my friends with; and boring her with, to get them out of my system and perhaps produce a book. The book could even be illustrated with my old photographs.
I knew when I started blogging that there wouldn’t be very many visitors so I just plugged away at my stories, howling away in the dark , as it were, hoping that I might build up some kind of readership. For about the first six months I never received more than about 70 visitors a day but then all of a sudden I noticed a huge jump to about 1200 visitors a day and that’s when I started getting my first notifications from my ISP (I’m not on the WordPress server) that I was beginning to exceed my allocated bandwidth. Something seemed to be wrong because I wasn’t getting any comments. I was beginning to question what was going on here.
Were the 1200 visitors a day, all lurkers?
My wife being the brainiac that she is, suggested that I start using Google analytics to analyse what the WordPress visitor stats actually meant. Thanks to Google analytics I found out that most of the traffic I was getting was from people looking for images and those execrable scraper sites. I was getting about a thousand people a day just looking at two images; one of the punk, and one of bare breasted woman with tattoos. The picture of the punk is not a particularly good photograph but it does capture what a punk from the early 1980s looks like. Sure enough the posts about the punk and the tattoos used to get comments but they were more along the lines of, “punx not dead!! punx rule!!!” or “tatoos are great and you suck!!” All of this was not what I was hoping to achieve with this blog, but it did to help me crystallise in my mind what I was subconsciously hoping for.
Not only was I putting my efforts out on display, I guess I was also looking for approval, dialogue and a sense of community.
Yep I’ll admit it, I do like the odd pat on the back but I also appreciate a conversation that goes beyond motherhood statements, with like-minded people. In an effort to dissuade people coming to my site merely to steal my images and my bandwidth by linking to them, I changed many of the image filenames to initials so they couldn’t be searched for by their name. I also added the anti-leech plug-in to this blog so those shit bag scraper sites couldn’t lift my posts and use it as their own content or steal bandwidth by linking to them. Another thing I did, was instruct my ISP to stop the search bots from looking at my images so they didn’t appear in internet image search engine results.
These changes to my blog made my statistics drop right back down again and over the last couple of years I’ve seen them rise back up again to a point where I was quite often getting between 700 and 800 visits a day. According to my WordPress statistics I’ve had over 300,000 visitors and I can tell you that my id and ego really liked these figures. My super ego had the crap beaten out of it by my id with a wine bottle and it is crouched in a corner, quivering, too scared to to make its presence known let alone offer an opinion.
I still wasn’t getting very many comments but I put that down to the fact that I’m not particularly good at cultivating a community like Pat Coakley (who I learn from every day in so many ways) and I took heart from bloggers such as Shane Adams and Cafe Selavy who produce high-quality content but hardly ever get any comments.
I told myself that Pat, who is a trained psychologist, basically has a fifth degree black belt in ego wrangling and therefore is very adept at putting people at ease, making them feel comfortable enough to make comments. I, on the other hand, know that I can be a bit prickly and what I have to say is not to every one’s taste. I don’t avoid confrontation and as a matter of fact I think I have a self-destructive urge to seek it out, which of course can make some people feel wary. This of course doesn’t encourage people to leave comments. I just contented myself with the fact that I was getting quite a few visitors.
Last week my fragile little temple of delusion came crashing down.
All of a sudden I was only getting about 40 or 50 visitors a day.
I did some searching on the Internet and came across an article about how Google had changed their search algorithm because of all the black hat spammers out there. I suspect that this new Google algorithm has affected how people come across my site.
With this sudden crash of my visitor statistics I was hit with a crisis of confidence. Luckily my ego is like a shield of steel (4 years in art college will either toughen it up or crush it) and I have constructed a new delusion for myself, to help me cope, and it goes something like this; ” oh those old stats only reflected low quality visits from people searching for free images and now the new stats reflect the high quality visitors I was really trying to reach in the first place”.
Oh well, it works for me.
One thing though, this crash in my stats has made me think about, is the nature of approval and my need for that approval. One of my favourite bloggers, Robert Krzisnik wrote a great post about why we might all be doing what we do, when we blog.
Since I’ve been discussing the whole “pat on the back thing” I thought you might all enjoy this little animated sketch from that comic giant, Lenny Bruce.