Normally I don’t like talking about follower numbers, but 4000 is kind of a cool milestone, so I thought I’d mention some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
One of the key things I’ve learned is just how skewed a metric follower numbers are. Sure, it’s what we often end up focusing on and wishing we didn’t use to compare ourselves to others, but it really doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot when you start to scratch the surface. Why? Completely aside from the point that blogging should be waaaaaayyyyyyy more about meaningful connection than about numbers, here are a few additional reasons:
- While some bloggers stick around in the blogging world, a lot don’t. I’ve been blogging for close to two years, and a substantial number of my followers have packed up and moved on quite some time ago, but they’re still hanging around on my follower list. The longer you’ve blogged, the more likely you are to have a sizeable chunk of these absentee bloggers.
- A lot of people seem follow with no other apparent reason than hoping for a follow back. These are people who click the follow button but then never interact with your blog again. I suspect most of the people whose blogger names are written in a foreign alphabet fall into this category (and yes, I get my fair share of those).
- If you do a post about either SEO or monetizing, you will get bombarded with random dodgy SEO/marketing types liking your post and following your blog. And then you will never see them again.
- There are the spammy followers who are just hoping that you will click on their link and end up on their website. Some recent examples I’ve had: Lawsuits411, The Clear Choice Plumbing and Heating, National Motor Club, Hernia Mesh Today, naturalbladdercontrol, and Climbing Mount Rinjani Package. It’s not unusual for these types to unfollow and then follow again to put their link in front of your eyes one more time, because even if you weren’t in the market for hernia mesh last week, you might be this week.
- Throw in a naked man and some adult escort sites and you’ve really got yourself a party. There was one yucky dude I kept removing from my follower list but he would keep refollowing me. He was very persistent, and finally I just gave up.
- The more followers you have, the more likely it is that WordPress is to put your blog in front of the eyeballs of these various groups of irrelevant followers. When I hit around 1000 followers I had a massive upsurge in the proportions of meaningless followers. My percentage of engaged followers is much lower now than it was when I had 100 followers.
So, that’s why numbers don’t matter. But to look at the other side, how did I grow my blog in terms of actual readers? Well, here’s what I’ve done:
- I’ve been posting every day for over a year, sometimes twice a day. You absolutely do not need to post every day; you should post on whatever schedule works for you, and anyone who tells you otherwise should really just stop talking. However, the simple number-crunching is that blogging more often is going to make it easier to grow. It’s up to you to find the balance that fits best with your blogging goals. Need to take some time away from blogging? Consider republishing some older posts during your hiatus to keep your blog somewhat active. If you take a hiatus and your blog gets no traffic, keep in mind that a lot of your followers make their way to your blog because of new posts in the WordPress Reader or email notifications of new posts. No new posts, and you’re not going to show up in either of those ways. Try not to get discouraged and think that people don’t care about your blog anymore; instead, try to look at it as par for the course, and things will pick up when you get back to posting regularly.
- Interact in the blogging community as much as you can. I spend far more time reading and interacting with other people’s blogs than I do writing for my own. I don’t often take the time to do this anymore, but I used to actively search out new mental health blogs to follow by searching for mental health terms in the WP Reader and seeing what sites popped up.
- Build a good basic SEO foundation. I knew nothing about search engine optimization when I started blogging, but the core strategies I’ve adopted are creating internal and external links, and writing alt text for all my images. Initially I got almost no search engine traffic, but creating that solid foundation early on has definitely been worth it. I also do regular housekeeping involving cleaning up my directories, building more internal links, and making sure all my links are working. WordPress uses a lot of these same things to decide whether or not to put your blog in front of other people’s faces, so it’s maintenance work that can contribute to your blog’s growth even if you’re not concerned about SEO.
- Have a solid, sustainable social media plan. I am so not a social media person, but I do use social media for blog-related purposes. For me, Pinterest has been the focus for my blog promotion, and I like that you don’t need to spend a lot of time on Pinterest to generate a fair bit of blog traffic. Don’t waste your time on social media platforms that you don’t like just for the sake of your blog.
- I suspect it helps that I have a fair bit of evergreen content, i.e. content that’s still relevant well after it’s published. Lately it seems like a lot of people end up finding my blog via older content.
- Spread your blog link around wherever you can. This can be on social media sites, other writing sites like Medium, sharing sites like Mix, etc. Do guest posts on major mental health sites like Stigma Fighters. Make your blog visible on the internet.
What’s probably been the biggest factor overall is time. I’m not able to work much, so I have plenty of time that I devote to all things blogging. I recognize that’s something that a lot of people don’t have available to them.
To wrap up, I want to say a huge thank you to each and every one of you. I really don’t care about Hernia Mesh and many of the other 4000, and I certainly don’t want to climb Mount Rinjani, but I do care about all of you. 💜