Everyone dreams of being able to build up an audience, create some products, set up some affiliate marketing deals and then make money while reclining on the beach.
It is a false dream. Even if you get all those things in place, you cannot just kick back and watch your bank account get fatter. There will always be more work to do.
I have never had a big following on this blog, for lots of reasons, the main one being that gathering a large audience was not/is not my main goal here. The folks who read Smiling Tree Writes may not be many, but they are mostly people I think of as friends and that I would like to know better. This is the place where I write in my own voice, where clients can read samples of my writing, where I can ask other professionals open questions, and where I share thoughts about life and owning a business.
Even with a very small following, traffic on this site suffered in a big way during the last 2-3 weeks. My father in law became gravely ill in mid August, and passed away on August 27. During those few weeks, we were traveling and staying in Eastern KY, where internet service is spotty at best, and besides, my mind was occupied with family concerns far more than with business worries.
It was interesting to take a look back at the traffic here, though. There were several things in place that probably helped keep a few visitors dropping in, but for the most part there was very little activity around here. A grand total of two comments were left in my absence, and the number of visitors over two weeks was about the same as I would usually see in one normal day.
Here are some prematurely drawn conclusions based on my statistics from the last few weeks:
Social media matters. Under normal circumstances, I spend a fair amount of time each day participating in conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and a few other networks. In fact, most of the traffic here comes from those social networks. There is a direct correlation between blog traffic and social media participation.
Commenting makes a difference. In late June/early July, I set a schedule for leaving comments on other blogs. My plan was to leave a minimum of 20 comments on other blogs each week to try and find out if that would increase traffic here. Turns out, that is harder to do than it seems. I had trouble finding enough blogs to read, and then, some didn’t leave room for comments, I couldn’t think of anything relevant to say, or other people had already said it all. However, I was beginning to see a slight increase in traffic here that was probably attributable to all that commenting.
Even tiny gardens need water. This is a tiny blog, but if I don’t respond to comments and post new content with rigid regularity, the itty bitty following it has taken a couple of years to build disappears. Quickly.
There are millions of blogs, and only a fraction of a percent of them are well-known. You can bet that the owners of those few big names don’t spend the majority of their days taking it easy while the money rolls in. Blogs require work, and when you stop working, people stop visiting.
What’s the longest period of time you left your blog on autopilot? Did you see a major difference in traffic? Have you found anything specific (social media, commenting on other blogs, etc.) that impacts your statistics more or less than you expected it to?