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Blog Struggles: Recovering From a Traffic Spike

Blog Struggles Article SeriesIn The Day I Looked Forward to Casinos, Drugs, and Penises, I discussed the after effects of a massive traffic spike:

A few weeks ago, this blog was hopping with comments and massive traffic. It was exciting. I threw myself into the joy and spent way too much time monitoring the blog and rejoicing in the sudden popularity.

And, as I knew from past experience, it soon died down. My blog stats leveled back out from the week long record breaking spikes, comments slacked off to a few “can you help me figure this out” and “I agree with you” responses. After two weeks, I knew things were back to normal and I found myself looking forward to casinos, drugs, penises, mortgages, software, hosting, website design, and all the other services promoted by comment spammers.

Yes, the day had come when my biggest thrill was hitting my Comment Spam Prevention panel in my WordPress blog and clicking the DELETE ALL COMMENT SPAMS button.

Pitiful.

Pitiful indeed. The day when marking comment spam gives you a thrill is the day your blog traffic spike is history and you can sing the After Digg Blues with me.

The Addiction of Traffic Spikes

Blog traffic spikes are addictive. Once you taste the thrill of a traffic overload, you want more. You have to have more.

You research which blog titles and topics are at the top of Digg and other social site submission and bookmarking sites. What are they blogging about that gets all the attention? You write down all the hot topics and play with ways you get blog about them, too, without ticking off your current readers.

You play with titles, finding plenty of articles that tell you exactly how to write a “Diggable Post Title” listing the Top Ten, 25 Must Have, or The Best 50! Or really go overboard and aim for that 101 ways! That’s a big eye catcher.

You start researching all types of lists and topics to put in your Top Ten list, and once you come up with one, hit Publish, submit it everywhere and tell everyone about it, then sit down with a cup of coffee and start hitting the F5 Refresh key on your blog statistics page, waiting for the numbers to change.

Traffic spike on a blog chartAnd they don’t. ARGHHH!

Oh, there they go. One visitor. Three visitors. Twenty-five visitors. Look at the number climb. Fifty! What? Forty-five? Oh, no, they’re dropping. Come on, keep going. Up! Up! Up!

Three days later, nothing. It all drops down again to status quo. Oh, maybe you picked up one or two new readers and in a month or three you’ll slowly start to notice the line arching up more than flat or down, but you want more, more, more!

Ah, welcome to the blog traffic addiction. The fast lane to blog burn out.

Recovering From a Traffic Spike

The after effects of a traffic spike are terrible. You watch the numbers go down, down, down. At some point, you realize that 98% of those who arrive from the traffic spike spot won’t be coming back.

It’s depressing. It’s humiliating. There was such a high with “they like me, they really like me” as the numbers reached upwards. Now on the downward drop like a stone, you realize that they didn’t like you for you. Not the real you. They were just in it for the excitement. The show. Show’s over.

When you exhaust yourself in the battle to be first, tired from the grasping effort of forcing yourself to come up with attention-getting content, you look around your blog and wonder why. Why do this? What does it matter? Honestly. In the long run, what does it all really matter. They ain’t coming back. You’re stuck with the one to two percent who might stop by once in a while, but the hundreds and thousands are gone, never to return.

What’s next?

There are three ways bloggers go from here, but only two paths. The younger, desperate blogger will keep grasping at the straws of big traffic dreams, until burn out happens, and it will. That’s the first path many bloggers take.

The second path is the one that finally gives up on all the buzz and adrenaline of traffic spikes and sits down to focus back on what is most important: the readers. The ones who keep returning. The faithful. The enduring. Those are the best ones to serve, the ones who deserve your attention. It’s time to pay them back for all the times they hung in there while you chased traffic spike dreams. Now is the time to write to them and for them.

You’ll find then that you will write better and wiser now that you’ve calmed down and settled more into your blog’s purpose and focus.

I Don’t Look at My Blog Stats

Personally, I hate traffic spikes. I hate it when the chart spikes up through the roof. Makes me nervous. Makes me anxious. More than anything, it makes me feel responsible.

How can I make all those new visitors happy? How can I meet their needs? How can I keep writing for them if they keep coming back?

Then the guilt sets in, the lack of worthiness. After all, I’m just a little blogger blogging my little blog, what could I write that would be of such interest? And how will I ever write anything better ever again?

I’ve said over and over again in interviews that label me an A-list blogger or some overblown exaggeration label that I’m not, that I’m just little ole me doing a little blogging.

If one person visits my blog, I’m happy. Wow. That’s exciting. If two people visit, then that’s a conversation that can happen without me being involved. They can talk to each other. If ten people visit, well, they can talk to each other, too, not just me, and that makes me happy. I can handle writing for ten people. I can get to know ten people. I can count to ten easily, can’t you? Ten is safe.

If 100 shows up, I’m worried. How can I ever write for 100 different people with different needs and wants? I’m nervous.

If 1000 shows up, I pass out. My nerves can’t handle that much responsibility. I can’t look at the blog stats. And I don’t unless I have to. They make me crazy. I do my best writing when I write for the ten. Multiply that number and it just blows the brain cells ability to confront that large of an audience. It’s just too much responsibility.

So I focus back on the one to ten folks and ignore the blog statistics. It’s much safer and it means I’m writing for you, the one I most want to get to know and help.



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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, the author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

39 Comments

  1. Posted January 16, 2008 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    For this visitor, at least, don’t change what you write about. Keep doing what you do. ;)

  2. Posted January 16, 2008 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    That’s why I’m getting comment spam? More people are reading??? I must have more lurkers than I thought. I’m already sick of the spam, but I’m still delighted if it means I have more traffic than I thought! :)

  3. Posted January 16, 2008 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Lorelle:

    Oh, how I love reading your blog posts. This one made me laugh because, my goodness, aren’t all bloggers somewhat addicted to their Google Analytics program (or something of like nature)? One of my favorite morning routines is to check the subscriber levels and traffic patterns. One day it goes way up and I’m all excited and then the next day it drops like a rock and I’m like, “Ouch.” It’s an emotional roller coaster for the sensitive blogger and I would suspect many of us fall into that category. After all, what writer doesn’t care about their readers (well, let’s give most of them the benefit of the doubt, shall we?).

    On another note, I wanted to tell you how much of a difference you made when you wrote about how to deal with abusive comments. I’ve been blogging since April 06 (still a baby here), and I almost never received negative or hurtful comments until one day I received a torrent of attacks on a story I wrote MONTHS AGO. You can imagine my reaction – I was shocked. Couldn’t figure out where or why they came out of the blue like that. So thanks for a fellow blogger, I was directed to that page about how to deal with negative commentators who specialize in name-calling and trashing others to the ground.

    Thanks Lorelle! You’re a doll and I’m glad there are bloggers like you who really care. :)

  4. Posted January 16, 2008 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I, too, find that when I focus on things that are about the processes Blogging, like the hits, like how many links I have, etc, I get very depressed very quickly. But when I focus on the content, on getting out the best scoops, and I realize how successful I am in that regard, I really begin enjoying blogging again.

    My posts are so much better on “average” days with normal news, and normal view flow, but when I have spikes, I too just about flip out. Glad to hear it’s not only me. It’s a bit of a sanity check! :)

  5. Posted January 16, 2008 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I love what you wrote here. I’m working on a blog post that pertains to writing for readers, not for ourselves. I love reading your blog for the insight. Oh, and kudos for using the word penis in a blog post. ;-)

  6. Posted January 16, 2008 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Ah, just blogged about something similar this morning. I have low traffic to my blog and while it can be frustrating to keep on sometimes there’s a side of me that has justified not going the usual route and follow what others are doing to build traffic. At first instance it makes me happy to see a video link to Family Guy boost traffic; used to make me think “Now, you’re under my spell and you will keep coming back to see what I have to say.” I realized if I myself visiting a site to see a video of Tyson-the-skateboarding-bulldog doing the macarena, chances are I’m not looking to see what the author has to say about climate change. It’s a trap some of us bloggers fall into in hopes of building traffic.

    In the end, what matters is…the reason for blogging in the first place. It may not fit a blogging pattern and that may be a good thing. Who wants to fit in when doing so makes you another brick in the wall?

    When Krzysztof Kieslowski, the filmmaker of Colors Trilogy, was asked of his feeling towards others whose films fare a lot better at the box office than his, he replied:

    “You mean the same kind of feeling Ingmar Bergman has of Steven Spielberg?”

  7. Posted January 16, 2008 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    @ Amber in Albuquerque:

    The reason you are getting an increase in comment spam is two-fold. One, it is not traffic related. It is link related. The more incoming links, the more comment spam bots follow the gold-bricked path to your blog. Two, there are just more of the bastards out there. You’re more likely now to get spammed just by the sheer numbers. Ain’t it fun be so popular. :D

    To the rest of you, thank you for your kind words and insights. I’m really enjoying this Blog Struggles series as it touches so many of you, and we’re understanding that we have more in common than different. I like that.

  8. Posted January 16, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    All I care about is having my friends visit and hopefully comment. Ever since I posted a picture of the Earth several weeks ago, I’m getting over a thousand visits every day from searches! None of that means a thing unless the random searchers turn into readers. It all comes down to blogging about what you like, not what search engines like.

  9. Posted January 16, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, thank you so much for writing this. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one avoiding the focus on stats.

  10. Posted January 16, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    P.S.

    Lorelle, you are worthy. Your blog and your posts are some of the best out there.

  11. Posted January 16, 2008 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Delurking here to tell you that I thought this post was perfect, like you looked deep inside our blogging brains and read the thoughts we wish we didn’t have.

    I react the same way when I get a traffic boost or falloff. It’s a really strange phenomenon that can make me feel elated or depressed.

    Thanks for saying what we all think.

  12. pixeltheatre
    Posted January 16, 2008 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Once again, a great post. Lorelle! A nice reminder to keep all of this work in perspective.

    Keep up the great work!

  13. Posted January 16, 2008 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I just added yuor site … to my blogroll. Great blog you have. Lots of interesting content.. May I have a favour to ask of you.I would like to have the same translate box like on your site.How can I do this?

  14. gemini1968
    Posted January 16, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I really liked this post. I try to remain focused on my writing and the quality. I take heed to what you say Lorelle when you talk about writing posts that people can chew on and that informs or teaches in some way. I have about 9 faithful readers and it’s always a pleasure when they show up.

    Thank you for reminding me what’s really important. We all need to read it and hear it from time to time. You are definitely on my blogroll. :-)

    Keep up the good work.

  15. Posted January 16, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I have a small group of regulars who read and comment on my posts. And when I say a small group, I mean a SMALL group. But I am content when they show up day after day to read what I have to say.

    Yesterday, I had a post than mentioned Britney Spears. The result was an increase in spam comments. Thanks goodness for Defensio which caught the spam and isolated the junk comments. Otherwise I might have gotten overly excited to a false increase in readership! :-)

  16. Posted January 16, 2008 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    @ himalman:

    My method is explained in Instantly Translate Your Blog and it only translates the first page of the blog, not whatever page you are viewing. It’s a limitation of WordPress.com blogs only. If you have a full version WordPress blog, see Translation and Multilingual WordPress Plugins.

    And never put your email address in a comment.

  17. Sue
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    …..And I though I was the only pathetic soul who’s first task each morning is to check email and my blog visitor statistics! Thank goodness I’m not alone, and seem lucky so far not to have recieved any comment spam. I love checking the traffic on my blog, but secretly my biggest thrill will be to check a Blog I really enjoy, or someone well known in my field of interest and find I’m on their Blogroll.

  18. Posted January 17, 2008 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Ha! You totally hit the nail on the head with the “addiction” description. I love that I’m not alone in my “problem”.

    Thanks for another wonderful post.

  19. Posted January 17, 2008 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I get a spike maybe once a month. Makes me sad. I guess I need to work harder on my blog. But I totally get what you’re saying.

  20. Posted January 18, 2008 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    This happened to me yesterday and for the first time I started getting a message from my hosting guys about hogging bandwidth. I never heard of such a thing. What are they talking about? Somehow Google sent me here as I try to come to terms with what this means. And my gut instinct is to do exactly what you are talking about. I have maybe 700 repeat visitors and that number keeps increasing according to what Google Analysis tells me. So why worry about traffic spikes. Except if they cause my blog to go off line and my regular readers can’t read it! That’s what I worry about.

  21. Posted January 18, 2008 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle. I am new-ish to your blog, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying what you have to say. This topic really caused me to stop and think (and then blog ;-)).

  22. Posted January 18, 2008 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    @ davidlind:

    The issue of bandwidth when a traffic spike hits – well, it sucks. Web hosts have gotten stingy about bandwidth allocation, making money from charging for overages when he limits are set way too low to begin with. They are also setting limits on database access (X number of hits per hour). So, no fooling that traffic spikes suck when you have an uncooperative host.

    There are a ton of articles that will tell you how to survive a traffic spike with WordPress, but the key is to switch to the most minimalistic clean, non-graphic WordPress Theme for the duration (with a note about the switch on your blog), and to turn off every Plugin your blog can live without. You can add cache Plugins and such, but start with shutting down the hits on your server and database first.

    And congrats on the attention. But don’t live for it. That’s when it gets ugly in your spirit. It can become an addiction, as many have said here.

  23. Posted January 19, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle. I have been making some changes as you suggested. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer some of my questions. And I actually wrote a post about it not too long ago. Games to Play With Your Wife.

  24. Posted January 20, 2008 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    The link I left won’t work for awhile because I decided to change hosts. I am in the process of changing the dns stuff over to hostgator. They say that their “swamp” plan has unlimited bandwidth. We shall see. Just as long as it’s not another quagmire…Scary stuff for a senior with bad eyesight.

  25. Posted January 20, 2008 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Great info. Thank you.

  26. Posted January 20, 2008 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    @ davidlind:

    Thanks for letting us know, and don’t worry. The web is patient. :D And so shall you be. Good luck.

  27. Jersey
    Posted January 21, 2008 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    I am so glad that WordPress doesn’t charge for traffic spikes. How many other “free” servers do — instead, they turn your site off, right?

  28. Posted January 30, 2008 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    What an encouraging post! I just started my blog and used to feel that no one was reading them unless I had the traffic spikes! Oh, how much I’ve learned otherwise from this post! Thanks!

  29. Posted February 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi, thanks for the great article.

    I have just started my own blog and have been worrying whether mines will be one of the many that fade into obscurity.

    But this article has made me realise that although the big numbers can be nice, blogging for the enjoyment is more important.

  30. hobgadlng
    Posted March 10, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Wow, this post hits close to home! My new blog had 2 traffic spikes in the last week (spikes for me would be laughable to you!). Instead of spending my time researching newer articles, I found myself refreshing all of my charts – AWStats, the WordPress dashboard, and Google Analytics – almost obsessively! Then it leveled out, exactly as you mentioned. I have a few extra hits a day still, but those peaks are far from the norm. I hope to at least see steady growth over time, I know consistent traffic just won’t happen overnight.

    Fun article, though! I enjoy your blog quite a bit.

  31. Posted March 10, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    @ hobgadlng:

    I don’t define a traffic spike by any criteria. If it gets you excited about your blog, who cares if the spike is 25 or 25,000. Good for you and congrats.

  32. Suzanne Langley
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    After checking the number of replies to this post I would say that you have a good number of genuine followers and posters, and I can see why from the quality of some of the previous posts that you have made.

    You can now count me in as a regular to your site and I can reassure you that this comment is not spam, but a reply from someone that has just stumbled across your blog whilst surfing the internet.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers (a newbie).

  33. Posted March 26, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    thanks for the post. i hope to read some more.
    Best regards from Sebbi

  34. Posted April 9, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Wow. So right! I’ve been there before! I try not too pay too much attention to all the nasty comments I can get at times. But it’s surprising how many there is!

  35. Posted June 2, 2008 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I needo check my stat everyday and Think out of the Box how to add more traffic.
    Let ask your selt and you will get the answer.

  36. Posted June 26, 2008 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    Dear, Lorelle
    I wonder why traffic is so important for you, you do not get any profit from your readers, this blog is just for fun, so enjoy it.

  37. Posted June 26, 2008 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    @ Sam:

    Obviously you didn’t read the whole post. :D And I do get profit from my blog, but indirectly. This blog is part of my business and proof you do not need ads on your blog to make money. And traffic is NOT important to me. What is important is serving my customers – my readers, which is where the focus should be.

  38. Posted November 13, 2009 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    lol…I had two big spikes, that’s why I came over here to read this. I feel SO much better now….Thanks

    Doug

  39. Posted May 2, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    This design is wicked! You most certainly know how to keep a
    reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own
    blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job.

    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how
    you presented it. Too cool!


16 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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