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MommyBlog Traffic Building Tropes Of Varying Efficacies

MommyBlog Traffic Building Tropes Of Varying Efficacies

photo by uggboy on flickr

A while back, I mentioned that, in order to be catapulted into a higher realm of popularity in the mommyblogosphere, there was nearly always some kind of EVENT that had to take place in the life of the blogger. This EVENT was often (but not always) tragic, and was usually something over which the blogger could not possibly have any control. The upswing in traffic came as a result of the combination of the EVENT and the blogger’s desire to blog through it, and traffic grew as a natural result of people wanting to come back to follow the story, to see how things turned out. It is not surprising that this would happen in blogging when you consider that people come to blogs with a set of expectations built upon a lifetime of reading narratives with a beginning, middle, and an end, and some of these expectations carry over even into a genre that defies those expectations. I used to think that it meant that all you had to do, really, to sustain longterm traffic as a blogger was to keep at it for years and years at a time, and eventually the traffic would come, and to a certain degree this is true: most mommybloggers (and other personal bloggers) give up after a few months, so people who have been doing it for years and years do tend to build up traffic eventually if they are doing it with any kind of consistency. However, I’ve since realized the traffic situation is a little bit more complicated than just keeping at it day in and day out for years at a time.

What separates a five-year-old personal (or mommy-) blog with 50,000 pageviews from one with over 300,000? The difference is not, as some would have you believe, in writing skill or talent, though certainly these can help you. The difference is some kind of narrative hook that will keep people coming back to check in with the blogger. It is an offshoot of the EVENT idea, because it does not necessarily have to be an earth shattering, life altering horrific and astonishing event. It can be something much smaller or something that many people go through, but if the blogger writes about it in an unusual way or somehow becomes attached to it, then that can be the thing that is “their story” and then gets them into the area of a well known personal blogger, rather than just somebody who has been doing it for a long time. Below are some of the examples of things that have worked this way for different bloggers, and a discussion of how well they work, and whether they are something that can work for other bloggers. And before everybody gets up in arms, I’m not suggesting that anybody go out and do these things on purpose or pretend to do these things, I’m merely looking at blogs and narrative technique from a critical standpoint, not advocating action here. Everybody simmer down.

  1. Pregnancy.
    For a mommyblogger, there’s no better way to stay relevant than to get pregnant. Again. In some cases, again and again and again. This often results in a traffic surge, particularly right when the pregnancy is announced, though often continuing throughout the pregnancy and surging again right around the birth of the baby. If there are complications, repeat ad nauseum. This is a traffic strategy with definite benefits, including gifts from readers, lots of cute photos, memories captured for the ages, but people tend to lose interest after the kid hits age 2 or so, so if you depend too much on the baby crowd, you’re going to have to keep getting pregnant over and over again, which is hard to keep up year after year after year. Also, the bummer of it is that there are tons of people who can get pregnant, so you’re really not differentiating yourself too much by doing it and blogging about it. But it’s better than nothing, and if your blog is stale, it might be just the thing you need to get back in the swing of things.
  2. Infertility.
    This is far more effective than pregnancy as a blogging topic, both because of the uncertainty involved, the potential years and years of procedures and questions and decisions to make, and the potential support you can provide for others. Also, if you do ever manage to get pregnant, then you will be an inspiration for others, and your pregnancy will be far more meaningful than just an average mommyblogger pregnancy. If you don’t get pregnant, then you can be a paradigm of grace and dignity whilst undergoing the pain of trying to decide what to do with these decisions you never thought you’d ever have to make. As far as blogs go, infertility is kind of a narrative jackpot, actually — which is probably fitting, given that it’s a shitty card to be dealt in life.
  3. Depression.
    This one is tricky. It would seem like a good narrative hook, but since so many bloggers have it already, it doesn’t really work that well. You cannot really become known as the blogger who blogged through depression because it’s like, “Which one?” Also, most people these days have some form of depression for which they’ve been medicated. There was a brief period where talking about post partum depression seemed kind of important, but I’m not sure that it’s very revolutionary anymore. Also, bottom line — people might worry about a blogger who sounds depressed, but they don’t really want to hear about depression all the time. They need to hear stuff that is going to make them feel at least sort of OK about life in order to keep coming back to the blog. It’s tough to get that from somebody who is in a full blown depressive state.
  4. Child with Chronic Condition Of Some Kind.
    Mothers of kids who have some kind of condition that requires regular updates (e.g. learning disabilities, sensory disorders, chronic illnesses that are not life threatening) also have a narrative hook that keep readers interested over time. When readers get attached to the kids of the blogger, and then find out that they have some kind of problem, they will want to check in to see how the kid is doing as they age — did they get over the problem they had with chronic ear infections? Have they adjusted well to their new school? This works well to differentiate a blogger from a crowd of other bloggers who have similar stories, and as long as the conditions of the kids are not serious enough to make the readers feel emotionally taxed by reading about them, it can keep them reading a blog for years just to learn about how the kids are doing adjusting to new phases of their lives.
  5. Beauty.
    Blogs may be about democratizing the everyday, and putting media platforms in the hands of everyone, but the fact remains that we are all shallow motherfuckers. If a mommyblogger is exceptionally attractive (either by blog standards, or objective standards), and especially if she has a particularly attractive family that she features in photographs frequently, then she is far more likely to end up with a higher readership than otherwise. People like escapism, they like looking at pretty pictures of pretty people, and looking into their lives, even when they are bloggers. So if you’re pretty, put up pictures. It will probably help your traffic.
  6. Trainwreck Relationships And/Or Divorce. If a blogger is particularly bad in relationships, this can be a great traffic builder. Not only does it invite all of the people who delight in schadenfreude, it also gives all of the fixers something to do on their lunch breaks. Plus, when there’s some kind of meltdown, it can lead to the kind of traffic that crashes servers and leads to people having to chip in to move somebody off DreamHost and onto a dedicated server at LiquidWeb. Now, when a blogger is married and in a trainwreck relationship, this is a special situation, because people do not tend to want to openly hope for it not to work out, but they will still tune in, day after day, and wring their hands over what will happen to the children, &c..

What am I missing?

Edit to add glossary terms: Lunchables, Gluten Free Girl, creepythesis

Comments (54)

  1. I have always been emphatic about the fact that the only way I would ever get Big Time is if there was a personal tragedy that interfered with my ability to do good blogging. Seriously. I know my place – I live in a humdrum locale (Kansas City) and there is not much going on in my life that is particularly interesting to anybody other than a handful of friends and my mother (who really comes for the snappage of my kids. I am totally on to her.)

    I certainly don’t begrudge those who see spikes in their numbers due to tragedy.

    But Anna, I have to admonish you for forgetting one of the most obvious reasons folks see spikes in their numbers – Taking a Big Ass Stick and Poking at Blogging Bears.

    No? 🙂

  2. Jun 28, 2010

    Oh, absolutely, that works as a short-term traffic builder. But it doesn’t really work as a consistent traffic builder, like a story builder, which is what I was trying to talk about here. I think it might in the event of a lawsuit or something, because people would want to see what was happening on a day-to-day basis with someone. But what happens with a poking thing is that you get spikes and then you go back to your regulars and then you spike again. Maybe it results in long term traffic growth, but I’m not sure that it is a narrative that people are like, “Hey, whatever happened to that one chick who always was poking the bloggers with big sticks?”

    I don’t really have much of a narrative, myself. Most of my narrative stuff happened before I got to the blogging scene. I was a practicing alcoholic, but I quit drinking before I started blogging. I have major clinical depression, but I have pretty effective treatment now, since long before I started blogging. I had pretty bad morning sickness while pregnant, again before this blog, and even my stupid dating stories were before the blog.

    So, I’m stuck with poking blogging bears and providing useful content.

  3. Jun 28, 2010

    Dude I can feel people prickling from all the way over here. Prickling!

    I predict people missing the point here. You’re not saying folks go out and put themselves in these situations IN ORDER TO GET BLOG TRAFFIC, but that readers are generally attracted to these situations. Just like they’re attracted to these situations in soap operas, films, etc.

    I find this all interesting from a “the Internet is fascinating” perspective but less so from a “I guess I’m a mommyblogger” perspective since my existence on this here Internet isn’t at that level (or do I want it to be).

    I have an eensy weensy readership compared to the numbers you mention a lot. (50,000 pageviews? LOL MAYBE IN A YEAR.) But many of my readers are my friends, and they’re super supportive and comment-y and man that means the world to me.

    When I write about my son’s behavioral issues and tic and sensory issues and whatnot, there’s part of me that does worry sometimes that people will see that as an attention-grabby ploy. Same thing when I blog about my anxiety. (I would never, ever blog about marital issues but that’s just me.) Fortunately, no one has ever outright said anything like that to me because I think my head would explode right off my body if they did.

    I have no idea where I’m going with this. I need more coffee.

  4. Jun 28, 2010

    No, I don’t think people use these things to get traffic. But I looked at blogs of a certain age and traffic and compared them to other ones of the same age and relative “talent,” and tried to evaluate why one was more “successful” than another, based on my background in literary analysis. I came up with this list as an explanation. I know people will not like these kinds of explanations, and I really could give a crap. What we are doing here is creating a new form of cultural production that is going to be analyzed, whether we like it or not. I am going to be one of the first people to do that analysis, whether people like it or not. They can call it “attention seeking” all they want. I really don’t care. I have a feeling they are starting to realize I’m not going anywhere.

    I know that these are real people, and I’m not trying to trivialize their experience at all, or fault them for writing about what they do or anything like that. But I am saying — you have created a text that has become commercial, and the commerciality of it has a different value. And I want to figure out why that value is different for some people than for others. Not necessarily so I can replicate it, but so that I can understand it better.

  5. Jun 28, 2010

    I think the point you make here is so important. Take me for example. I will continue to express, passionately, that I’m in this to write and make connections. Not as a career move or to generate an income stream.

    That doesn’t exclude me from being part of a cultural/media phenomenon as much as I’d sometimes like to distance myself from the more commercial aspects of it.

    And the commercial aspects and visibility certainly aren’t all BAD. I’ve been given an opportunity to participate in events and outreach type stuff that I’d never have been a part of had I not been blogging.

    As much as it makes everyone just a little uncomfortable (or a lot uncomfortable) to be part of something being analyzed, I think it’s good that you’re initiating these conversations.

    Personally, I think some/much of “blogging success” will always remain organic. There’s no perfect formula. Especially because there are so many different goals.

  6. Jun 28, 2010

    Yes, we saw the first parts of this with the #creepythesis a few months ago, which focused on just a few bloggers and actually didn’t look at the commercial aspects of things, if I recall correctly. I think that was a mistake, because one of the aspects of a successful soap opera is how plot twists are able to keep the audience engaged. In the case of a blog, it’s a diary of a person’s life, so it’s a little bit more complicated, but some people have lives more suited to the form, we are learning. Some of that comes from aesthetic stuff — better writing, prettier people, better blog design. Some of it is a life that is just more exciting — in a more exciting place, more stuff going on. But there might also be other patterns that can be identified that you can generalize that lead to higher traffic, like the list above, that have less to do with talent or aesthetics, and more to do with chance.

  7. Jun 28, 2010

    Although I think those who have experienced death and a spike in blog traffic would trade their traffic for the one they lost in a heart beat.
    It’s hard to imagine what you would do if you lost someone close to you and maybe reading about one person’s journey serves as some kind of guidance. I find myself turning to those blogs to get me out of a rough patch:”If they can do it I can too!” kind of mentality.

  8. Jun 28, 2010

    Yeah, death definitely leads to a build up in traffic, sometimes long term, though not always. That one confuses me. Because I understand the need to support and want to check in and see how a blogger is doing. But what confuses me is that not all bloggers who have experienced the death of say, a child, have long term traffic growth as a result. Why would it last for some but not others?

  9. Jun 28, 2010

    I think one you missed is being genuinely, virally laugh-out-loud funny. People genuinely enjoy consistent entertainment. They pass it around, share links, email posts to each other. It’s VERY hard to be consistently funny and I think those who are can be very successful as bloggers.

  10. Jun 28, 2010

    “Prickling” seems an understatement.

    I think the addition of Poking the Blogging Bears by Cagey is about the only thing missing. Oddly enough, with the notable exception of one excellently written Poking blog, I don’t read any blogs by women currently using one of those hooks.

  11. Jun 28, 2010

    Oh, I’ve laughed about this myself. My worst personal times were my best blogging moments. There were days I felt I’d hit some goddamn blogging trifecta. I think I said this to you on Twitter: A certain predictable segment of the population comes for the deathwatch and stays for the body count.

    I’d stress a nuance, though, that is, in my opinion, every bit as important as narrative but impossible to quantify. People might be lured in by drama, but they’re not going to stay if you don’t have a distinctive, engaging voice. (As I know you’ll appreciate, this is different from generic “good writing.”) What makes any infertility/pregnancy/birth/special needs/divorce story different from another? Sometimes very little. When you’re considering blogs within the same narrative niche, the difference between 5,000 page views a year and 50-Brazilian lies almost entirely in how the story is told. It’s not that narrative is unimportant; it’s just that having a story isn’t enough. You have to know what your story is, beyond “and then this happened,” and you have to know how you want to tell it.

  12. Jun 28, 2010

    Yes, people love to be entertained. The weird thing about humor audiences, though, is that they are fickle. They are not always as good at creating “community” as other kinds of readerships. Whereas a readership built up out of one of these other kinds of things is there to both give and take, a humor audience is really more just to take, and if you stop giving then they go away, at least from what I have seen. This may not always be the case, though.

  13. Jun 28, 2010

    Good point, Julie. And it does matter who is telling the story and how they are doing it for the long term retention of traffic, for sure. One thing that is interesting, though, is that it does not necessarily have to mean that people like you, though. With you and say, Rebecca Woolf, people adore you both and you are both good storytellers, so it’s not hard to understand how you ended up with your readerships. But then you have a case of the food blogger, Gluten Free Girl, who I actually don’t read myself but have started watching because she is kind of a cultural fascination for me because people just ADORE to hate her. And this seems to have almost, perversely, helped her retain a readership, against all reason. She is a blogging villain, almost.

  14. Jun 28, 2010

    I second Maria’s point about being funny. (I wonder if you left that out as a result of your background in literary analysis.) I read bloggers who are funny and smart. And I disagree that you don’t have a narrative. You try to understand stuff, how it works, why it works, why we should care. Trying to understand is a kind of narrative.

  15. Jun 28, 2010

    Well, it’s a narrative, but it’s not one that is particularly effective as a traffic building strategy, from what I can tell. But it’s too soon to say, because nobody has tried it in this niche, that I know of, for a length of time that would be comparable.

    The main thing with mommyblogs is that you have to do it for a pretty long time to gain traction. I was looking at blogs that had been around for at least four years or more and trying to figure out why they had larger readerships versus ones that had been around that long and did not, assuming they updated at a comparable rate and everything else is pretty much the same. Newer blogs might have higher numbers initially, but that doesn’t mean that they will sustain them later on, once their kids are older and they are no longer in the initial stages of commenting on everybody’s blogs and going to all of the latest conferences and participating in all of the latest blog memes, et cetera. Blogging traffic is kind of complicated to compare, based on where the blogger is in their career.

  16. Jun 28, 2010

    I left being funny out because I don’t really think it’s effective as a long term way of building huge traffic, to be honest. Personally, I think it’s an appeal to read somebody who is funny, but I think people are fickle about humor, and they go to where people say the funny person is. People are not good at figuring out what is funny on their own, in my opinion. They need laugh tracks. They need people to point them to shows like the Office and 30 Rock and say THAT IS A FUNNY SHOW, YOU SHOULD WATCH IT. The funniest writers in English Literature were usually not appreciated by the students I taught. Hyperbole is effective, but humor is usually not, in my experience. Unless you get a bunch of very perceptive people to point signs at it for the bulk of humanity and say this is funny shit.

    I’m kind of snobby this way, obviously.

  17. Jun 28, 2010

    Wait, there are other poking blogs?

  18. Jun 28, 2010

    I should have said intelligent humor, not humor. You couldn’t describe this blog as the New Yorker of mommy blogs if it didn’t feature intelligent humor. It’s what’s most special about this blog, so I would think your regular readers really appreciate it. Now whether that’s enough of a hook to build huge traffic longer term, I don’t know. This is comparable to the tradeoff between a more specialized premium product that appeals to a niche market vs a more standard product with mass appeal. You’ve already noted in your media kit that your audience is highly educated, mostly affluent, so I think you’re on the premium track. You probably have to attract and retain members one at a time with intelligent humor, not funny signs pointing this way.

  19. Jun 28, 2010

    Yeah, intelligent humor is not, in my opinion, the way to huge traffic. It could be, maybe, over time, especially as the internet grows in popularity. But the New Yorker comparison is important to note as well — by magazine standards, The New Yorker does not have a large readership, but it is extremely loyal. The people who get it, love it. But not everybody gets it. It does feel a little bit ridiculous to compare my blog to The New Yorker, but in that sense, it is comparable. You either get this blog, or you don’t. It’s not for everybody.

  20. Jun 28, 2010

    I think being funny is a nice add-on, but I don’t think it holds a blog up on its own. I certainly look for funny writers, as I prefer funny to earnest in most cases, but they still need to have content and narrative. Even the Bloggess, who I consider the funniest blogger I read, has a running narrative of hope in the face of mental illness.

    I admit that this is the biggest problem with my blog. I am amusing and can tell a story, but I’m not disciplined about ferreting the best content out of my life or finding the thread of narrative that connects everything. Since I’m just a hobby-blogger, that works fine. But I realize that were I ever to start a blog for profit, this would be a major challenge for me.

  21. Jun 28, 2010

    …then there are the bloggers that appear to have no filter whatsoever; it seems that whatever hits their brain scurries to the page. Whether or not they actually do have a filter is inconsequential: It’s in the ability to make it appear as if they don’t self-edit that draws traffic. They’ll (seemingly) talk about anything and take radical, against-the-grain stances that both titillate and repel members of their audience.

    People keep coming back to see what the hell they’ll do next. Their audiences consist of people that will cheer them on/live vicariously through their ‘boldness’ and those that come to goggle or wince. It seems that one of the hallmarks of this medium these days is to have someone to feel superior to. This is a sad truth, but it’s still a truth. I think if we’re all honest with ourselves and each other, we’ll admit to having someone in our reader that we loooooove to despise, or whose live-out-loud approach we envy.

  22. Jun 28, 2010

    That’s the side of the coin I find most fascinating: the ones who inspire people to go to great lengths as a result of their loathing. The only reason I’ve even heard of Gluten Free Girl is because there are people who make a second job out of trashing her. I have no idea what her deal is…but what could she possibly have done to make people devote that much time and energy?

    There are others who seem to inspire the same aversion, and I don’t get it, because these same people have lots of fans too. To be able to inspire emotions that strong…it’s fascinating.

  23. Jun 28, 2010

    Gluten Free Girl is passive aggressive and gives backhanded compliments, I think that’s why people hate her. For example, when she was reviewing Ree Drummond’s cookbook, she talked about how it was wonderful in spite of “scrunched up photographs” and the “simplicity” of the recipes.

  24. Jun 28, 2010

    Whatever could you be talking about here, Jett? 🙂

  25. Jun 28, 2010

    I don’t ferret out my best content at all. I used to make a much more self-conscious effort to craft POSTS on my personal blog than I do now, but what I found was that people really respond more to the times that I just write about whatever is going on with me that day. So now I write about that, more often than not, to the extent that I can with the constraints that I have put on myself about what I’ll write about on the blog. On this section, I write about what interests me for the business aspects, so these are much more self-consciously crafted posts. But ABDPBT blogs are way more free-form than they used to be. I have no idea what I’m doing over there these days. I’m guessing it’s showing. I have no idea if that’s going to work as a long term strategy or not.

  26. Jun 28, 2010

    I think you’re right about the hooks. I’ve had 330,000 pageviews in 5 years, so I’m not a titan, but people do tend to stick around. I started the blog as a healthy, employed, happily married adult adoptee and mother of two adopted children from China. Today my mom is dying an agonizingly protracted death from Alzheimer’s, I developed fibromyalgia and was laid off my job and my husband found a tiny spot of cancer on his tongue in 2008 after battling cancer for 6 years as a teenager and young adult. I’m still happily married, still an adult adoptee and trying to tell tales about my kids that don’t violate their privacy as they careen into adolescence. So life happens, and I blog and slog through it.

  27. danish
    Jun 28, 2010

    What about the ones where people love to hate them? You touched on it slightly with Gluten Free Girl, who I’ve never really read, but I’m thinking of MckMama and Sandi from Lucky Thirteen and Counting. I feel like you can’t really pigeonhole them into one of those categories– and they are just generally train-wrecky.

  28. Jun 28, 2010

    I’ve never read either one of them, but I think MckMama has a kid with a chronic illness, doesn’t she? I have a feeling that this might have been her hook initially. Now Lucky Thirteen, I’m not sure. I’m not sure what her traffic is like, but her crazy family size alone is a hook in and of itself — maybe a category for just totally unusual lifestyle choices? That are blogged about without apology?

  29. Jun 28, 2010

    So are you saying that a small, loyal readership is not a large enough base on which to build a successful blog? Then ok, I guess you need a hook.

    How about literary analysis?

    Just kidding. (Although I for one would happily read those posts!)

  30. Jun 28, 2010

    It depends. How small are we talking? If we are talking only 50,000 pageviews per month, it’s going to be hard to turn that into a full time living. You can do it through products and some other kind of platform, maybe. But long term, no, that’s not going to translate into a “successful” blog, if you want it to be your full time job.

    For it to be your full time job, you need to get into the millions of pageviews, eventually. Or into the hundreds of thousands, combined with other gigs. It can take you a few years to get there, of course. But there are people who are still at the 50,000 pageview level after many years. They are not going to go up much more unless they do something different, I would assume.

  31. Jun 28, 2010

    You mentioned the other day that you think Design Sponge is successful in part because readers designing products view the site as an attractive platform for advertising. That’s an alternative (non-narrative) hook. Similarly, you’re developing a site that bloggers rely on to build and promote their blogs. Do you really think you also need a personal narrative? I suppose it couldn’t hurt.

  32. Ella
    Jun 28, 2010


    Mckmama came to fame (now it’s more infamy than anything else) when she blogged about being pregnant with a child, who, due to a heart ailment, she was told would not live after delivery. Said, child, Stellan, did in fact live. Then he was diagnosed with SVT (heart condition) which nearly killed him. It’s unfortunate you never read her because she would make one hell of a case study. Stellan is now “miraculously healed through the grace of God” as well as Mckmamas undying devotion to God, according to Jennifer McKinney, who is MckMama. Let’s not forget the talent of the surgeons who performed the life saving ablation that saved his life.

    The thing about McKinney is that she blogged and live tweeted every single moment of Stellan’s hospitalization. When Stellan was coding and near death, she tweeted the entire thing.

    A lot of people claimed that she “exploited” his illness to a great degree, for clicks. I’m not entirely sure I disagree with that assessment, especially after some of the things I’ve read over at “MckMama Without Pity”. While I don’t agree with everything they cite, they do have quite the list of her inconsistencies, which she’s called on quite often.

    The outright hatred of MckMama alone is a huge draw to her site and she knows it! I think the MWOP site has substantially increased her traffic at times despite the fact that they offer a feed of her site that lets people read what she’s saying without giving her revenue-generating clicks.

    McKinney kind of leans towards the Pioneer Woman brand of blogging lately. Lots of kitsch and giveaways. But make no mistake, Jennifer McKinney is NO Ree Drummond!

  33. Jun 28, 2010

    Susan, maybe. If this blog becomes that kind of resource, then yes. But the interesting thing is, though I do think this blog fills a niche that is lacking in the blogosphere at large, it has not caught on. The mommybloggers do come read this blog to find out about business stuff, even if they don’t always comment (though they are becoming more and more willing to do this, thankfully). What is interesting to me, though, is that many of the mommybloggers have done things with monetizing that the rest of the blogosphere could learn from and yet my audience has NOT caught on into the mainstream in the way that you would think. I talk about stuff here that is not talked about on sites like ProBlogger, but that audience has not crossed over. Now, this is partially my fault, because I have neglected (lazy? reluctant?) to do guest posts on those blogs to get any readers over here. But still, I would think some word would spread.

    I have to think there is gender bias at work. I know people will say that is an easy scapegoat, but how else can you explain that the post I did on Design Mom’s Mayflower Model was so wildly popular on Kirtsy and never even was mentioned on Digg or StumbleUpon? Are male probloggers under the impression that product placement is something they cannot do? Or is it just that they don’t think they can learn from women?

  34. Jun 28, 2010

    Well, let me tell you — the “troll”/”hate site”/blogger relationship is really a lot more a part of this whole thing than people realize from the outside. It’s really a lot more of a symbiotic relationship than they would have you believe. I mean, not that having detractors is a fun experience, of course, but the chemistry of traffic is weird. Even a giant blogger like Dooce benefits from having a site out there that is talking smack about her. It revs things up, gets things going on her site, gets people refreshing the pages more often and rallying support. It’s not that she wouldn’t have the supporters anyway, it’s just that it keeps things fresh.

    This is why you’ll sometimes see even a big blogger do something and you’ll think, “Why is she doing that, when she knows that is just going to cause problems?”

    I’ve heard a lot about McKMama and probably someday I’ll head over and check her out but to be honest it sounds like kind of a headache. Also, I don’t relish the idea of having to find out that somebody with a sick kid is an asshole or exploiting the fact that her kid is sick. If I find that out it’s going to depress me.

  35. Jun 28, 2010

    I’m putting a reply here because I couldn’t indent further below. I agree that to pull in bloggers from ProBlogger, etc. you will probably have to at least comment and maybe guest once in awhile on those blogs to get the cross traffic. Re: Digg and StumbleUpon one thing that might help is giving your readers the option to share your posts on those sites. But I think you might be on to something with the gender bias. For example, I found that trying to cover personal finance as a female was not easy as personal finance bloggers divide into males who blog about nuts and bolts technical finance and women who blog mostly about frugality and home economics. I made more male than female blogger friends (I think women are bored by technical posts), but the guys mostly relate to the other guy bloggers. You can tell by the jokes in the comments that it’s a pretty male club. I don’t think it’s as hard core as men not wanting to learn from women as it is that the bloggers seem to group themselves with other bloggers talking about stuff they’re interested in and then gender division just happens as a result. Like the men always watching the game after dinner while the women wash dishes and talk about their children.

    So the real question is, if you’re a female can you succeed as a blogger writing about a topic that bores women or about a topic that men normally think of being something that mostly just guys talk about?

  36. Jun 28, 2010

    Aha! But there’s no Kirtsy option here, either, and yet it was shared on Kirtsy and became popular within a few hours! And my posts NEVER become popular on Kirtsy. Now, given, Gabrielle is one of the founders of Kirtsy, so I’m sure this helped. But still, the point is, it made it to Kirtsy without me providing a button.

    The thing with the PF bloggers that is interesting is that they will show up here on occasion because I’m on that list on Wisebread, and they act all confused, because this isn’t a textbook PF blog anymore, though I do think it still fits. I still talk about making money and how to do it. But they usually ask some dumb question like, “I’ve never heard of Dooce” and then leave.

  37. Jun 28, 2010

    Well, I obviously have experience with this, and I have theories. People come at first because it is a rubbernecking thing. Although that makes it sound bad and it isn’t – many many people come by to express condolences and the like. But then, why stay? I hope the reason people have stayed with me is because I continue to write well. I have a story to tell and I think I have a distinct and relatable voice. If you whine, if you complain, if you don’t try to connect with your audience, people won’t come back. I write about my grief often, in an attempt to make others understand it. But I don’t ever say “why me” because there is no point. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I want them to feel better about their lives, love their families, and realize that life is what you make it.

    I think some people assume that if something bad happens to them, they will automatically become a big famous blogger person and that’s not the case. And it’s gross that some people WANT that. I want my daughter, I don’t want readers. But that’s not the card that life dealt me. I have to adapt or perish, you know?

    And in the end, if everyone stopped reading me tomorrow, I would still blog, I would still tell my story. I do it because it helps me. The fact that it helps others, too, is icing on the cake.

  38. Jun 28, 2010

    Hi Heather,

    I think with you, there was maybe some rubbernecking but there was a HUGE support effort more than anything else. And you’ve already retained your audience for a long time, so I would guess it’s not going anywhere. I have to assume that it is because they like you and like your voice, which is great.

    The thing that happens with these kinds of things is that the EVENT, in your case the tragedy, *can* bring attention to a blogger who might otherwise not have been noticed as easily. Like there might have been an audience out there for you all along, but it would have been that much harder for them to find you without Maddie. What you’re saying is that people think that Maddie is the only reason you have one, and I agree — I think that’s really unfair and not true. The people who I’ve talked to about you always say the same thing — I love her, I love her blog.

    I think that the authenticity probably has something to do with it. It so happens that you blogged through tragedy and that was your story, that got you attention, it’s all in one package. Some other people have had tragedy occur but haven’t really dealt with it the same way, and it hasn’t worked the same way for them. And to want it to happen for them, that’s crazy. I don’t think anybody who is sane would really believe you’d trade your daughter for readers. I mean, that’s just really sick.

  39. Jun 28, 2010

    Oh, you’d be surprised. People think I exploit my daughter’s death all the time. I have lots of trolls. But I tell her story because she’s no longer here to do it. It’s my job as her mother to keep her alive through my words. I saw Elizabeth Edwards speak once, and she said, “if we curl up and die, it’s as if their lives didn’t mean anything.” So that is why I go on.

    And, you’d also be surprised – I have people email me all the time, “I had {insert tragedy here}, how come I don’t have the readers you do?”

    For what it’s worth, I think this is a perfectly fine topic to write about. There is always an intangible to this sort of thing. Heather Armstrong shot to fame because she was fired over her blog, but people STAYED because she was a great writer with an awesome voice. Event = notice. Talent = audience.

  40. Jun 28, 2010

    I would guess that the accusations of exploiting Maddie’s death have something to do with people’s own anxieties. Like, some people will give you a little bit of time for grieving, but then you are expected to move on and just get over it or whatever, because if you give an accurate portrait of your grief, which is (I would imagine) that you don’t ever fully recover from a loss like that, it makes people have to think about it, and they don’t want to. Some people cannot deal with that, so they excuse you of exploiting it. Which is just crap.

    But, as I said above, the blogger/troll relationship is a necessary evil. Bloggers cannot have huge traffic without trolls, I’m convinced of it. You can get big traffic from positive sources, but to sustain it over long periods of time, there must be a negative thing that keeps it going. Not that it makes it feel much better.

  41. Jun 28, 2010

    probably. I’m lucky that my trolls keep it to comments and twitter accounts.

  42. Jun 29, 2010

    I’m stunned that someone could actually sit down and type that out and then send it to you.

    People suck.

  43. Kate
    Jun 29, 2010

    I couldn’t reply directly, so the response that got me to stop lurking was:

    “The thing with the PF bloggers that is interesting is that they will show up here on occasion because I’m on that list on Wisebread, and they act all confused, because this isn’t a textbook PF blog anymore, though I do think it still fits. I still talk about making money and how to do it. But they usually ask some dumb question like, “I’ve never heard of Dooce” and then leave.”

    I think you just explained (to me, an outsider) why you are not getting much respect or faithful traffic as a result of problogger, digg, stumbledupon, etc. Very few people like to feel stupid or left out. Your posts, which are insightful & witty for sure, are full of references that hold very little meaning for most people which probably results in the one time visitors that say “I’ve never heard of Dooce.” They hold very little meaning for me and yet I keep trying to figure it all out. For instance, it took more than 3 google searches before I gave up trying to figure out which blogger’s relationship strife crashed servers, caused a community to come together, move from Dreamworks, ya da ya da. I still have no idea. No idea who Gluten Free Girl is or why folks might not like her. I would guesstimate that I don’t get about 80% of your references which is less than when I first started reading. In 2014, I might actually make it through a whole post and get every wink, hint, joke and nudge. T’is like a NYTimes crossword and in this metaphor I am still trying to figure out the section and page for the puzzle. I don’t imagine that crusade is shared with many.

    That said, I wouldn’t go adding references to “male” blogs and their scandals all willy nilly because one of the best parts of your posts (besides your humor, writing, nerve, etc) – one of the rarest things on a blog – and the only thing that makes my google searches easier – is the thoughtful, funny and open discussion in the comments. I don’t imagine that would exist if the regulars were not also insiders.

    I know you stick yourself out there enough already, but perhaps occasionally, you could help your new readers out. This would probably work best on a post that seeks to teach bloggers about increasing traffic/ad revenue (presumably these readers wouldn’t be as in the know) After you finish writing your post, think about all of those thousands of published business case studies that include names, background info and data on the businesses that they so expertly pick apart and then you could go back and start adding some blog names/titles/urls in the place of the more obscure (or difficult to google) references. Look to your own blog to see what happens when you write about bloggers and use their names – Dooce invites you to drink some iced tea and be BFF; Jessica Gottlieb calls you a troll BUT still feels accountable enough (to you? readers? the interwebs?) to submit receipts for a washer and dryer TO YOU; some mommy bloggers resolved their conflict (sorta) in the comments section on YOUR blog (I don’t recall their names; it was a few months ago; new readers should read your blog and comments in their entirety to figure it out).

    These responses from the topics of your posts give your blog credibility for the unnamed seventh category of traffic building: the blog that provides education as a result of some revolutionary decision or extraordinary mission (explains the high readership of blogs written by the experts/blogging pioneers/fanatics of cloth diapering, being a green moms, attachment parenting, homeschooling, even couponing & living frugally)

    More juvenile responses from bloggers will at least put you in some version of Category #6.

    I am done rambling now.

  44. Jun 29, 2010

    (this is in response to Kate’s comment, #30)

    So maybe there should be a glossary section, and every reference that might be obscure to an outsider has a link to the corresponding glossary entry. And then, bonus: Every click through to the glossary is another page view.

    And the glossary itself could be a destination. Like, there could be amusing descriptions and witty commentary about terms like “mythical hobbit” and “Lunchables.” So those of use who are only visiting the mommyblogger neighborhood but live in another niche would have a place to go to keep up, without having to try to do it on Twitter (which I can tell you is hard if you aren’t following/followed by a lot of mommybloggers).

    Yeah, I could see something like that.

  45. Kate
    Jun 29, 2010

    Great. Do you have any idea how much I am not going to figure out from googling “lunchables“? Hurry up with that glossary already – and put a feed on it.

  46. Jun 29, 2010

    Kate, thanks so much for delurking to add that comment. This is a great idea. I actually thought about doing something like this once with my main blog, but it was with the more satirical posts. What you are talking about is something that explains, quickly, references to earlier posts so that people can catch up. And it reminds me of when I was trying to figure out this community, how I needed something like that, too, it took forever to figure everything out.

    I’m trying to think how to best do it. I guess a glossary would be the best idea, so that people can just click on a term and figure out what Lunchables means in this context.

  47. Jenna
    Jun 29, 2010

    The two I’m thinking of are career (either starting a business or changing careers or going back to work) and some sort of diversity issue (mix race marriage / kids, religion, adoption, etc).

  48. Jun 29, 2010

    I subscribed to Heather’s blog just the other day because I thought the video with the baby was hilarious! I did read some about Maddie and it’s heartbreaking, but I didn’t feel hooked or subscribe because of Maddie. I’m a brand new reader who signed up because Heather is funny and an excellent writer. And I like it that she keeps writing about Maddie. It’s what I would do.

    I LOVE the glossary idea and agree 100% with Kate that new readers need it. But not only new readers. I recently took a three-week vacation from the internet and needed to get a Phd to catch up on your blog!

  49. Jun 29, 2010

    I’m thinking we need an ABDPBT Wiki, actually. I’m going to see if I can figure out a way to add something like that. There are some plugins for glossaries for WordPress, but I’m not seeing one that is presented as being the best. A Wiki might be better because then, in theory, users could add terms as they were necessary. Though I would have to edit this because spammers would have a field day, if my brief experience with the forums was any indication.

  50. Jun 30, 2010

    Well, I saw humor n=bounced about a bit in the comments section, so I wanted to throw in my two cents on the issue.

    I often think about my audience loyalty.

    I went through a situation once with another blogger. She was getting a touch too stalker-y and scary, and when I nicely asked her to please cease communication with me, she went crazy.

    Attacking my on almost every form of social media, without ever actually using my name. She knew she was talking about me. I knew she was talking about me. People close to me could totally tell she was talking about me. And, during one of her posts, as she went on and on as the victim of cliques and invisible web a-listers, I saw all my readers in the comments section. Siding with her. Cheering her on. Agreeing with her. All the while, having no idea she was talking about me.

    And I thought, huh.

    If I wasn’t funny, would they still read me. Without the strong emotional connection to an event in my life, would they still hang around for years and years?

    I’m not sure. Some email me over bonds of my pregnancies or anxiety issues, but it wasn’t as jarring as some of the other reasons traffic spikes and maintains.

    And it’s because of that, I know i must always be moving forward, taking the next step, the next plunge into the abyss of new and profitable.

    So, that’s what i am doing now.

  51. Jul 1, 2010

    I think you have a combination of community and humor, though, Brittany. You are not JUST a humor blogger, you are a funny writer who writes about your life as well. I see the problem being when you are a humor writer who just goes for making people laugh, because people do enjoy that kind of writing, but if they do not get some kind of personal attachment to you, then they won’t be loyal over the long term.

    Bottom line, they have to be able to get something from you that they cannot get from somebody else. Humor, unfortunately, is something that goes in and out of fashion. You’ll always be funny, but what people are saying or thinking is funny or in vogue from one minute to the next might change. For example, the fucking LOL cats. I don’t find them funny at all. But millions of people do, and tell other people that they do. Ten years from now, we’ll be like, what the fuck? There is classic humor and there are fads. Classic humor never goes out of style, but you might get people who cannot appreciate the difference, you might benefit from the fads one day and get screwed by them the next. That’s the only reason I don’t depend on humor as a long term strategy. I always figure it can help you, but it cannot be your only plan.

    But then, I don’t think any one of these should be your only plan, actually. I think you should always have like twenty plans going at once and hope like five or six of them work out, so you never have to be dependent on just one thing. Because I’m always sure that the bottom will fall out.

  52. Jul 1, 2010

    Very interesting. Let’s see, I’ve been pregnant, suffered through infertility and I have a child who is dealing with OCD/Anxiety/Depression. I don’t focus on any of these issues for any length of time, so I’m all over the place. I think you are tapping on to a formula of some sort though. The “poking method” gave me a bit of a chuckle.

    My current blog has an underlying theme of relocation, which isn’t any sort of hot bottom for traffic.

  53. Jul 1, 2010

    hot BUTTON, I don’t know where “bottom” came from. maybe I was hoping for better ratings 😛

  54. Jul 15, 2010

    What you said about a good blog having an underlying theme of strife or a big event in someone’s life is so true. You have to hook readers and make them want to come back for more, because in the end if the readers lose interest advertising your blog doesn’t really pay off.

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