Let me state the obvious. Google Analytics is a great tool. I like it better than other options out there like Chartbeat. Google’s Optimize 360 is better (and way less expensive) than Optimizely. I could go on, but here’s the thing: Most of us don’t need these tools.
We’ve been hooked on page views, and unique visitors, since the ‘90s. Unless your entire business model is based on these metrics, they don’t matter. (And when you consider more than half of all traffic on the Internet is made-up of non-human traffic, I’d argue those metrics are increasingly useless to media companies as well. But then again, I’m a big believer that there are too many online media publications making the ecosystem unsustainable, and the survivors of the coming advertising bubble popping are going to be the media companies that have blended business models involving affiliate sales, e-commerce, live events, subscriptions / donations, and licensing. That’s not to say advertising won’t play a part, but it’s going to be direct and not programmatic. Programmatic is a monstrosity that needs to die. Direct advertising here means that if you’re a media company focused entirely on cats, PetSmart will work with you directly. And guess what? That means more humans, not less, in the advertising and marketing business. Fuck automation.)
Anyway, why am I telling you this? Because my generation and much of my audience (older millennials, Gen X, and the occasional Baby Boomer that doesn’t like my swearing but finds me funny and interesting anyway), grew up in a time where you could make yourself famous by being a blogger. I know you remember those days. I remember them distinctly, especially during the Great Recession because I was reading every book I can on the subject. So a lot of us have it in our head that if your blog is not some huge traffic driver today, you shouldn’t bother with it.
I disagree with that.
It’s 2017, almost ten years since the Recession and the days of “you can be famous by blogging,” and you should be blogging more, not less. You should also not install Google Analytics on your blog, and if you do have it, you should get rid of it immediately. Blog, but don’t bother tracking anything.
Personally, volume and velocity have always been my metrics for success. This goes back to when I was writing viral humor columns in the early ‘00s. I knew a post of mine was successful when I had a high volume of emails coming in from new clients/fans as well as high frequency of those emails coming in. In other words, in the first 24 hours that Fark or College Humor, or Boing Boing would link to a new humor column, I’d see a flood of emails coming in. I never bothered to look at the page views. I knew I had a hit on my hands. That might not work for you, and that’s ok. But my point here is that I didn’t need to look at the traffic to know if I was doing well or not. I didn’t need to obsess over what I was posting and whether or not I was bringing in the right kind of traffic, or bringing in more search traffic. Something to remember about optimizing your site for the search audience: The odds are pretty good that, of the actual humans coming to your site, few of them will stick around, and fewer still will develop any kind of brand loyalty to you and what you’re writing. Optimizing for SEO makes a lot of sense depending on your business goals, but as a person, it doesn’t make much sense. At least, not to me anyway.
Instead, you should look at a blog like a gym. I go to the gym three days a week and exclusively use the cardio equipment because my central nervous system, and my heart, are kind of fucked up, and I need the motion and activity to help keep things under control. Some of you might go to lift weights and get into super hot shape (god damn, do I love fit people that look like they fell out of a comic book), and some of you might go to lose weight. Whatever the reason, most of us go to the gym for maintenance. The blog, especially for those of you who write, is the same sort of deal. You blog because the process of writing is good for you. It lets you work some shit out. It made you feel better and accomplished after you’ve published something. It lets you try out new ideas (ideas that you can later profit from in some way.) Not to mention, blogging is an excellent branding tool. Because although you’re not too concerned about random search traffic coming to your blog, you are very much concerned about the person or company who is going to google you specifically. Whether they want to hire you as an employee, book you as a speaker, potentially buy your book.
Having a blog setup for the people looking to learn more about you is a no-brainer. You don’t have to be as honest and open as I am. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as privacy anymore, so I just like to own what I am, but having a place for new fans and interested parties to go is nothing but a good thing. So why waste your time posting on Twitter or Facebook or even Instagram when that stuff is so ephemeral? You know what I do with Instagram? I turned it into a blog. Every time I post there I automatically create a post on Tumblr using If This, Then That, and the post is archived as if it was a blog entry. If you do that, cool, but shit, you should be spending way more time than most of you are building up your blog. Getting a domain with your chosen name (if you’re transgender, I know getting a domain can be a tricky thing, so I encourage you to get the name you most want to be associated with), making sure it looks pretty but not going overboard because no one has time for excessively fluffy shit. And then just write.
If you want to be known for writing comic books, write about comic books you’re reading and the comic industry. Right now I am loving Dark Knights: Metal, and I should be blogging about it, but I have other things I have to do like finish “The End of Privacy” book. What’s your excuse? Write about the things you love or that you want to be known for.
Just write. And forget the analytics. That’s not the point anymore for you and a personal blog. The point is to write, preferably every day, and leave something behind for the people who are going to search for you to find.