I'm blogging consistently, but my analytics are in decline

A couple of months ago I decided to blog consistently, one article a week come hell or high water. Previously when I blogged, it was to solve a particular tech problem, or a brief guide to using tool X. These articles had great SEO results because people were searching for what I was writing about.

My newer format is journaling my experiences as a SaaS owner, tips on personal productivity, etc. However, the titles aren’t as searchable, because people are Googling terms like “There are no Shortcuts, Start Doing” (a post title from a few weeks ago).

Anyway, I’m starting to get discouraged, my readership is going down after enjoying a brief rise. Here are my weekly stats from my blog at http://ryanbattles.com:

So, my question for discussion is this: I wonder if I should keep journaling from a personal experience standpoint, which some people say they enjoy more, or stick to targeting long-tail, “searchable” articles that will nail me new visitors from search results?

Do you have experiences with either? Which do you prefer reading across the web?

Maybe you should ask your self what your really trying to accomplish.

To get folks to read or to write about what you really want to write about.

If your interested in folks reading, then hey, blog what you think will get them to read.

If you want to write about what you want, then stop worrying about readership and do your own thing.

You’re right, I should have clarified that. My purpose for blogging isn’t really at all about writing what I want, for that I have a private journal. My purpose in blogging is to grow an audience and build relationships with product owners, or aspiring product owners.

I will ask a question similar to spoiledtechie, but from a different angle.

What type of a readership are you trying to get?

“Use X for Y” may get you Google links, but they will not build long term readership. Most people will find what they are looking for and then leave.

With more human centred blogs, you will get fewer people, but you have a bigger chance of building a following. But it will take longer to build a readership.

From your comments, it seems you want to build a long term readership, so you are better off following your current path. You can still write occasional Google typey articles to get search engine traffic.

@ryanbattles, I just checked your blog and I didn’t find anything I could give you as an advice because it seemed as everything was ok: great design, good content, freebie to collect emails with a call to action in every blog post, you answer every comment etc…

I believe I am part of your intended audience so I pushed myself on thinking… what advice I could give to someone trying to reach me?

Most of the people I follow in this community I first heard of in bootstrapping podcasts and blogs I usually go. I think I have seen you here before, here in this forum, but I don’t remember seeing you in the podcasts I follow. Maybe you were there and I just didn’t see.

Thanks @fredguth for taking the time to look into the blog! It is encouraging when you call out those items that I’ve been doing above, good to know those are the right things!

I’ll take your advice and try to get around to other blogs and podcasts in order to get my name out there more.

I guess I fall into your audience so I took a look at your website (and signed up for the book, thanks for that!).

My thoughts:

  • Clean Design which I really like!
  • Non of your post headlines did appeal to me on the first look some are not really describing the post content, I always tend to read posts which teach me something (time is sparse…) so maybe you could work on that?
  • The posts content itself is good (I read only a few)
  • What works really good is displaying an image in the post list next to the post itself. I don’t know why but this increases clicks most of the time (at least for me)

For the traffic issue, how do you promote the posts to get more visitors? As you said the titles itself are not very SEO optimized so you’ll need to get visitors by other means…

It could be useful to dig into what kind of traffic is decreasing:

  • returning visitors
  • new organic search visitors
  • new referrals
  • new social

When I want to find new blog articles to read, my main sources would be social aggregators like Hacker News and reddit rather than a google search. It’s better if your readers would do this for you, but you could try to kick things off by occasionally posting your best posts to a relevant subreddit, say http://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/

The trouble with social sharing is that it’s a lot more spiky than organic search traffic.

@shantnu - Thanks for your feedback! You are right in that a human-centered approach will simply take longer, and I need to remember that.

@danielherken - I appreciate the constructive feedback! Thanks for letting me know what you liked/didn’t like. I do agree that I need to work on the headlines to make them either more catchy, searchable, or descriptive of the post content. Great insight there.

I think I might also play with the design of the listing pages to see if I can’t introduce an image as well.

@steveridout I never thought about that (digging into what kind of traffic is decreasing). I do think that will give me some better insight. Will do!

Also, I haven’t had much experience with either reddit or hacker news, but I hear people talking about them quite a bit. I’ll also be giving that a more serious look. Thanks so much for your help!

@ryanbattles I face the same problem. Write a blog with the right keywords, and you can get hundreds of views, but the visitors have no skin in the game. They read the blog and go home.

Writing long term blogs is harder, but don’t forget the silent majority. I was thinking of shutting down a book I was writing (because I felt no one was reading my blogs), when I got emails from people saying they found them very useful. They had just been reading quietly, not leaving comments, not tweeting or anything, but they were finding the stuff useful. It’s easy to get misled by the loud mouths who won’t shut up on Reddit, till you remember they are a very small minority. The large majority of people are very passive. Even if they think your blog is the best in the world, and really touched them, they will keep quiet.

Another question is: how is your conversion rate? (for instance, for your mailing list). Tracking traffic is fine, but unless you have a strong following it will have ups and downs. I’d focus on conversion and how your mailing list and twitter following are growing.

I love that your site is so clean, but I’d also consider adding the box to collect emails in a sidebar on the top (in addition to the bottom). I get a lot of signups on the sidebar. As usual you can A/B test to see what works best.

I don’t have an opinion for your original question, but where’s your mailing list signup form?

I think your blog looks interesting, but I rarely poll for new posts anywhere - most people who want to (eventually) sell me something have a mailing list where I can get the updates. Besides, that’s the traffic that should convert the best for you anyway.

List could also keep the people who want journal entries stick along while you write those searchable articles every now and then.

@kulmala Thanks for the insight Jaana. I have a free eBook signup at the bottom of each post (and the homepage), which also adds you to the list. However, I’m thinking of adding a top-level nav that has a direct link for a newsletter signup for those who are looking for one. I may also place it first on the homepage. Everything I am reading is re-enforcing the importance of a growing email list, so that’s a big priority for me. The fact that you didn’t notice it right away gives me pause to think more about its prominence. Thanks!

@kroger I also see from your comment that I need to do some layout work to get that signup form in there. Thanks for the feedback Pedro!

Oh, I see it now! But I was totally blind to it the first time. Maybe I stopped scrolling before it. It’s location is where I would expect banner ads to be. I really like to look of your blog though - it’s so clean and visual.

Fooled by randomness?

If you are expecting every week’s stats to be better than the week before, you are expecting too much I think. There’s variance at play, and regression to the mean. That is to say, your best week ever is more likely to be followed by a drop the following week than another rise. Read about the “Sports Illustrated curse” for a good explanation of why this is so.

Keep doing what you are doing, and see what happens after another few weeks.

Are you emailing your list to let them know you’ve posted something new?

Ahh Harry, you’ve uncovered something I’ve been procrastinating about. I’ve been putting off the email list because I was sending out an automated RSS-driven campaign, but stopped that because I wanted to personalize the email each week. Of course, I’m only at about 35 subscribers at this point, but you did catch me red-handed.

After reading your comment I spent an hour crafting a template in Mailchimp and sent out my first personal email notification of the blog post. Thanks @harry!

I know it will be uglier, but have you tried putting the ebook form in the right side whitespace at the top of the main page and each post in addition to the bottom?