MommyBlog Traffic Building Tropes Of Varying Efficacies
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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