A few months ago, I decided to try an experiment with this blog. From May through July, instead of posting daily, I would only post once per week. That way, rather than scrambling to say something relevant 5 times a week, I could invest my time in one good, solid post.
Here’s what I learned from my venture into minimalism.
1. As predicted, my site traffic dropped off a cliff.
According to Compete, I had:
- 9,900 unique visitors in April
- 11,400 unique visitors in May
- 2,600 unique visitors in June
- July stats not yet available
According to Google Analytics, I had:
- 7,500 page views in April
- 7,491 page views in May
- 3,583 page views in June
- 4,877 page views in July
Finally, my Alexa ranking hovered around 162,000 when this experiment began; it’s currently at 245,546 as I type this.
This overall downward traffic trend is unsurprising, since I was only creating 20% of the content that I usually do. (In fact, if anything, I should be surprised that my page views didn’t drop by a full 80%.)
2. Posting once a week does not guarantee a high-impact read.
I initially thought that posting once a week would result in a heavy amount of traffic to each week’s single post.
I was wrong.
According to bit.ly, here are the number of first-week clicks on my bit.ly link for each blog post during the experiment. (The numbers from my link are listed first, and the total clicks for all bit.ly links to that post are in parentheses.)
- Apr 26 — 220 (1291)
- May 3 — 50 (399)
- May 10 — 72 (155)
- May 17 — 99 (169)
- May 24 — 81 (1671)
- May 31 — 56 (59)
- Jun 7 — 34 (182)
- Jun 14 — 40 (115)
- Jun 21 — 96 (109)
- Jun 28 — 99 (197)
- Jul 5 — 46 (51)
- Jul 12 — 145 (194)
- Jul 19 — 105 (624)
- Jul 26 — 50 (273)
Granted, these numbers don’t reflect RSS subscribers, email subscribers, “walk-in” traffic, etc. But it’s still worth noting that during the entire experiment only 5 posts got more than 200 clicks in their first week.
Now, let’s look a bit closer. Here are the topics of the top 5 posts:
- April 26: The Golden Rule for Conferences
- May 3: Sorry Guys: When It Comes to Your Audience, Size DOES Matter
- May 24: I Tweet, Therefore I Am… Empty?
- July 19: 3 Myths About Social Media Debunked
- July 26: What I Learned by Reading Everything
All 5 discuss social media, and since my audience is primarily social media-driven, the success of those posts makes sense.
But even a nod from an influencer doesn’t guarantee a traffic spike. For example, neither my Jun 7 or Jun 28 posts cracked 200 click-throughs, even with lunchtime retweets from Chris Brogan.
3. There’s no obvious predictor of success.
Now let’s look at the 3 lowest-performing posts not published on a holiday Monday:
- May 10: The Paradox of Quality
- Jun 14: 5 Reasons NOT to Listen to Your Audience
- Jun 21: The Popularity Paradox: Why Do We Hate Pop Culture?
See the difference?
The top 5 posts all discuss social media. So do 2 of the bottom 3.
At least 3 of the top posts are written in a confrontational style. So is one of the bottom posts.
And the ill-circulated pop culture post still generated 28 comments, which is a healthier discussion than some of the top posts engendered.
Evidently, I have not yet figured out the recipe for guaranteed traffic. In fact, the only proven lesson I can extract from the low end of the spectrum is that holiday Mondays are disastrous for blog traffic. (Nether May 31 nor July 5 cracked 60 clicks.)
However, while the cumulative traffic from these 14 posts would add up to a decent 3-week average, it’s a weak 3 month haul, compared to the stats from my daily blogging days.
Again, this makes sense. When you blog 5 times a week, you have 5 opportunities to connect with readers. If you only blog once a week, your post has to be stellar, or else your blog becomes a dead zone for a week.
4. Withdrawal from Daily Blogging Is Survivable.
Although I really do enjoy blogging 5 times a week, and while I did initially experience “daily blog withdrawal” in the first month of the experiment, I quickly adapted to not having to be relevant 5 times a week.
I was also concerned that my drop in blog traffic would somehow hurt my personal brand, but my Twitter followers have risen in the interim (probably because I’m spending more time there), and so has my overall workload.
In fact, I’m busier now than I was when I was blogging 5 days a week — which, I think, may be the actual takeaway here:
Now that I’m blogging less, I actually have time for all the work I should be doing.
5. So… NOW What Do I Do?
Continue blogging weekly?
Resume blogging daily?
Never blog again?
Actually, I’m trying another experiment.
For the next 2 months, I’ll blog 3 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). My goal during that time will be to learn:
- If I can maintain (or improve upon) my current workflow
- If 2 extra weekly posts will satisfy my creative urges
- If (presumably) increased traffic creates new opportunities, or if my business operates independently of my blog
And, luckily, I only see one holiday Monday on the calendar…
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