I‘VE BEEN AT WORDPRESS for fifty-one months now, and I’ve posted 550 entries. Just for the heck of it, I’ve spent several weeks studying the data I’ve collected from the WordPress “dashboard” as well as from other sources. I drilled down into the data, as you kids like to say, until I hit oil. Now I’m rich, so screw you. This will be my last entry.
I’m guessing that the three people who will land on this post fall into one of two categories.
—> the people who are keen to see what I’ve learned, and
—> the people who are about to click the BACK button
Here is what each of you will get from this post if you read it through to the end.
Keen to see what I’ve learned: depression, and some laughs, and depression
About to click the BACK button: Schadenfreude (that’s a sausage dish from southern Austria.)
So here we go.
Note: this 100% scientifically rigorous research may not apply to your WordPress site. Consider the following principles to be rough guidelines only. Also please note that if you are the owner of a widely-read, money making blog, I hate you. There, that’s the disclaimer bit done.
Finding 1: 94% of the hits on my website are not readers. How do I know this? Well, I have a program that tells me how long my visitors stay on my site, and I know that only 6% of my traffic spends more than one minute. It takes at least a couple minutes to read most of my essays, so I think I can safely conclude that there are not superhuman speed-reading aliens visiting my website, and that most people land and then right away leave.
However, there may be speed-reading space aliens out there. In which case, I am Matt Walsh, only with speed-reading space aliens instead of angry reactionary traditionalist Catholics.
Finding 2: At least 55% of my subscribers are spam. Do you get excited when people subscribe to your blog? Yeah, I used to do that too. Then I actually went through all the data, and I discovered that the majority of my “readers” didn’t even exist, and that many of the ones who did had websites like this:
Pretty obvious what’s going on there, right? I was amazed to see how many of my so-called followers were pushing the “blog and get rich” scam, where you hang out at the world’s most glorious beaches, posting stuff with your laptop, whilst making crazy money. If you want to know more, these folks have a book you can buy for $45. I didn’t get one, which is why I’m not rich (yet).
Finding 3: October and March are the highest WordPress traffic months. January and July are the quietest. April is the cruelest month, according to T.S. Eliot.
Finding 4: 15% of my posts get 90% of my traffic. It’s like the 80-20 rule, except with different numbers. And the, um, rule is also different. In a related statistic, 85% of my posts get less than 50 hits. Using finding number 1, we can infer that only 6% of this traffic actually leads to someone reading something, which means that almost ninety percent of my posts are getting low single digit reads. Awesome.
Finding 5: This is probably just me, but I’ll include it anyway, because I worked it out. 81% of my posts have no comments, but 81% have at least one “like.” There it is again, the 80/20 thing.
Finding 6: Chances are that people are following you so you’ll follow them. Maybe it’s rude of me to say this, but I’m going to put it out there. If you are following my site because you like my writing, obviously this does not apply to you. You are awesome, and I love you – needless to say in a platonic and respectful manner that is totally legal in your state.
A diversion (you can skip this part): Remember MySpace, back in the old days? I used to have a band page there, and pretty quickly I realized that all my “fans” or friends or whatever they called it were really just other bands who wanted me to fan them. It was like a neighborhood full of flower shops where all your “customers” come in, not to buy some flowers, but to tell you about their flower shop down the road. Nobody ever sold anyone flowers. So that’s why I left MySpace.
I forget the point of this story. If you know what I’m talking about, please email it to me so I’ll know too.
Above: An actual screenshot of my actual MySpace fans. Wow, they are all in bands too! What are the odds!
Finding 7: Viral posts don’t matter. Once in a while you’ll be Fresh Pressed, or someone with a lot of traffic will share, tweet or re-blog something of yours. Your traffic will shoot up like mad. At that point you’ll have a little fantasy in which you see yourself being interviewed on Ellen.
Ellen: Wow, so tell me how you became such a rich and famous writer.
You: Ha! It all started with me being re-posted by [Name of Super Popular Media Outlet Goes Here].
Fact is, within a week your traffic will be pretty much where it was pre-surge. Definitely enjoy the attention, but be aware that it doesn’t mean anything. Your long-term goal is to build an audience, and if you’re like 99% of us here on WordPress, that’s going to take years of work. (Remember: I’ve been doing this for over four years! And I write for newspapers!!) I’ve had not one, but two viral posts in the past month. A viral post is a crap shoot: a lot of people will be coming to your site, but a lot of them will not return. At least that’s been my experience. Maybe you’re special. Anyways, sorry for sounding like your dad here.
Finding 8: Hi, dad.
Finding 9: Search engines are your best friends. Not literally, because that would be weird. I get almost 100% of my traffic through search engines. Even if something I write gets tweeted or Facebooked, that’s only because someone found my work on a search engine. I’m not going to give the SEO speech here and teach you about optimizing your website for higher traffic. About 43% of your “readers” will sell you a book on this topic, if you’re interested.
Finding 10: A list should always have 10 items.
Another diversion (you can skip this part, too): What is it with all the blog posts that go:
– 10 things you should never do on a date
– 15 things you don’t know about your iPhone
– 25 strategies of popular bloggers
– 40 things men do that women hate.
Goddamn it, people, stop pretending your lists of shit are articles!
I’ve been writing for decades, and blogging for over four years. I know people have rules and tips and blah blah blah, but I’m hardly the person to tell you how to get readers and win awards. The above findings are about all I know to be true, real and reliable. The Internet is a big heap of steaming poop with some diamonds hidden away. (I think. I’m still digging.) For every reader who sends me a thoughtful email, I get – not a word of a lie – 1,897 spam message about Viagra, Louis Vuitton, and Nike shoes. I’m not complaining, however, because I actually like my bag and the drugs were well below retail.
I guess my point is that if you have read this far either you’re my dad or a nut case, just like me, and we should both seriously consider therapy.
Hugs, kisses! Bye bye.
6 thoughts on “What I Have Learned About WordPress”
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A lot of what you’ve written I could say about my blog, too (and I did, but then deleted it ’cause I was afraid the comment was too long). Having no clear-cut topic is definitely an issue in holding an audience. But if it’s what we do, it’s what we do….
I know what you mean about the freshly pressed comment. Ironically, it seems that the thrown off posts get the reads – while some things I’ve spent days working on get no reads. Weird. What I think is that my best work has no relation to what readers are reading. I’m always amazed at the posts that go viral. It’s never the ones I would have chosen.
I dabble in a lot if interests, and I don’t really have a focus or clear blog identity, so it’s hard for my readers I think. I guess my niche is people who dabble in a lot of things. But it’s probably also disappointing for people who follow my website, because they won’t get tomorrow what they got today. It will likely be competely different. I have to be true to myself though, or what’s the point of writing. Gosh this is turning into an essay. You’ve got me thinking! Thanks.
I’m in the same bucket as you: most traffic from searches, the sporadic viral post. The one time I did get freshly pressed, it was for a spur of the moment post of a style I rarely write. So whatever “real” followers I got then, most of them probably eventually lost interest…
In my case, getting most of my traffic from search engines isn’t a bad thing. I kind of think of my site as a “reference source”, albeit for a fairly niche topic. Don’t know how you think of your blog, though.
Good points. Thank-you for that.
Only a week after my signing in on WordPress it became evident that followers have relatively little value. However, comments that showcase the commentator’s interest on the subject matter are pure gold. Therefore I am often inclined to follow the people who have devoted some of their time in reading one or two of my texts. Why? Because a good writer knows to read.