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Blogging Isn’t a Numbers Game: It’s a People Game

Last month I had the privilege of attending one of the biggest events in Australia—the AFL (Australian Football League) Grand Final. For those of you outside Australia, it’s kind of like the Superbowl of Aussie football (without all the cool ads and wardrobe malfunctions…).

Anyway, I was a guest (with my wife “V”) at the event of Virgin Australia and it was quite the experience.

The game is held at the MCG (a stadium in Melbourne) and was attended by 99,683 people.

During the Nathional Anthem moments before the game started

I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of being in a crowd close to 100,000 people, but it is a pretty amazing thing to be a part of—especially when so many of them are so passionate about supporting their team to win the season’s ultimate prize.

The game starts

As I sat there in that frenzy of flag-waving, face-painted, screaming fans it was easy to look at the crowd and almost see them as a single unit. Within an hour or so, the stadium had been transformed from a quiet, empty place into one that was teaming with life.

Buddy Franklin (one of the biggest AFL stars) takes a ‘Mark’ early in the game

However that crowd was actually made up of almost 100,000 small parts. Each person in attendance had entered through the turnstiles that day, one by one, having made their way to the stadium from around the city (and in some cases, from around the country). Each one came in their own unique way, with their own unique story, and their own unique expectations of what was about to unfold at the Grand Final.

Within seconds to go the game was tied up – this vital contest led to a goal that sealed the match for the Sydney Swans.

Each one also had their own experience of the day. For some, those expectations were exceeded as their team won. Others left the stadium dejected after seeing their team lose.

This was highlighted to me at the end of the game, particularly when I watched these two fans celebrating with such emotion.

Tension – it went down to the wire

Emotion – the win is in sight

Jubilation – the final siren sounds and pandaemonium breaks lose around us

It strikes me that all this is true for the “crowds” that read our blogs, too.

I was chatting with one blogger at the ProBlogger Training Event in Melbourne recently and they told me that they’d just passed the 100,000-visitors-in-a-month milestone. As we chatted, I told her that that’s enough people to fill the MCG, and an amazing thing!

However it is good to also remember when we celebrate these milestones that the crowds (whether they be 100, 10,000, 100,000, or 10,000,000) are actually more than just a number—they’re made up of individual readers.

The total “unique visitors” stat that many of us use to measure the success of our blogs is actually made up of real people who arrive, one by one, on our blogs.

  • They have unique journeys, and arrive from different places.
  • They each arrives at a different part of our blog (many on our archives).
  • They each come with their own set of needs that they’re looking to fulfil.
  • Each person has been shaped by their own stories and experiences.
  • Each has his or her own expectations of what the experience of your blog will be like.

Keeping this in mind as you blog is so important—it should shape the way that you write, the way that you build community, the way that you find new readers, and even the way that you monetize.

Don’t get too wrapped up in the overall number of visitors (big or small). Instead, focus upon the individuals who make up the crowd, and you’ll create something that not only grows, but really impacts the lives of those who read it.

A big thanks to Virgin Australia for the experience of going to the Grand Final – an experience of a lifetime.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I find this extremely insightful.

    I do admit to having an obsession with the quantitative side of blogging (the numbers), while I tend to forget the qualitative side (the people and their stories). At least this post has given me a great wake-up call, and has pushed me to remember that blogging really is a people game.

    Anyway, I think it’s not only a valid point, but it’s a significant one to boot.

    For me, I’m consistently impressed by the way people tend to leave long comments on my posts. That warms my heart in a way no other thing can. To be honest, sometimes I feel like I’m too busy to reply, what with clients and having to digest a lot of research everyday.

    Even so, seeing the comments make me stop in my tracks, and I think to myself, “How could I even THINK of not replying. God, they told me a bit of their story. I really need to appreciate that.”

    So really, that’s what I try to keep in mind everyday. I try my best to remember that appreciation and gratefulness are the name of the game, along with a healthy ability to listen and care about people.

    I know sometimes I fall into the numbers trap, but at least I know I’m making progress. I’ll try to make this post go on loop in my head as well, just so I don’t lose sight of the individuals that make up the amazing community on my blog.

    Thanks for this, Darren!

  2. Simon says:

    Like your comment: crowds (whether they be 100, 10,000, 100,000, or 10,000,000) are actually more than just a number—they’re made up of individual readers.
    Simon
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umAJfkNLUAY

  3. Ben Troy says:

    I agree, I am just starting my own blog and that is actually what I have in my plans. No irrelevant articles at all. We have so many blogs that blog about nothing already.

  4. People are coming one by one, then two by two…and it is nice to have a “family” of commenters that make blogging totally worthwhile!

  5. I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about the numbers! What a relief, because my numbers fall way below my hopes and dreams.

    But focusing on individual people, I can do that. I enjoy that. That makes blogging worthwhile.

    Thanks for always reminding us of the spirit of blogging.

  6. It becomes so easy to get caught up in the stats, they are so easy to obsess over. We get so stuck on the tangibles we can track, unique visitors, click through rates, bounce rate, and sales that we some times forget that each one of these numbers are a person as well.

    Love the new perspective!

  7. Jacko says:

    Yeah if its one thing that I have figured out about blogging is it’s all about the people.

    Good point I take it as a reminder of why everyone shows up in the first place. All have different names and backgrounds but all have one common interest.

  8. Matt Brennan says:

    Excellent post. You always need to keep your readers’ perspective in mind. How is what you write going to be received by your audience?

  9. This is very true. A few weeks ago I was moaning to my coach that my company wasn’t making money and he said to me: it’s not about the money, it’s about the thing itself. He explained that the thing itself fir me was about connecting with the writers and really understanding how I could help them be more crative. I took that advice to heart and am now forming relationships with art schools to do beta testing work for web courses for copywriters and journalists. That has created new possibilities I never expected because I stopped focusing on the numbers and the dollar figure and focused on the thing itself – helping writers launch careers. The thing Itself for bloggers I suppose is: creating content that truly connects even with someone.

  10. Steven says:

    I have always been a strong believer in quality versus quantity and agree wholeheartedly with your post. It amazes me that my competitors ‘buy’ Facebook likes, when it’s patently obvious. I derive business and hard cash from my followers, both blog and Facebook, rather than some fake inflated statistic.

  11. That’s what I found out the hard way.

    I’ve been starting and dumping blogs since 5 years. I even commented on this blog a few times linking to blogs, and by now these blogs are already dead. :)

    I was too focussed on numbers: subscribers, comments, likes, adsense-income that it took all the fun out of it.

    I think the most cliché piece of advice ever is the most true: blog about something you love.

    If you blog about a topic you really love, then you’ll write quality content, which in turn will attract quality visitors.

    I recently started writing short-stories and poetry and although there are so many similar blogs I’m already starting to seperate myself by my writing style. One of my posts was even featured on a pretty big deal parenting blog 2 days ago. Where I wrote a satirical story on experiencing a toddler in its terrible two phase.

    Anyway, I’ll wrap it up.

    Thanks for this great post, Darren.

    Regards,

    Daan van den Bergh

    • Tom Southern says:

      Hey Daan! I can relate to your blogging history because I got way-laid along the same road.

      I’d like to take what you say a step further and offer this: That the connection isn’t just about writing about what you love, it’s writing about what you love in a way that connects, moves and inspires others.

      It’s also much more to do with inspiring others to be okay with what they love.

      Cheers!

      Tom

  12. Samuel says:

    What an experience Darren!

    I went to a blue jays game in Toronto and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but going to games is actually fun and makes baseball entertaining!

    Focusing on your readers is so important! They determine if you sell much of your products and come back for more.

  13. This is especially true when you write a ‘niche’ blog- like mine. I could label myself a mommy blogger or a spirituality blogger, but it is much more specialized than that even when I try to write a general post. I am who I am- so I have to expect to have small numbers. That’s okay.

  14. Interesting post and pictures Darren,
    I can’t agree more, you know when it comes to blogging, i have my mentors and I’m proud to say that you are one of them because I’ve learnt a lot from you so far and this post is not exceptional.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

  15. You are actually amazing Darren! Blogging is all about having fans and making them continue staying and cheering and without them it is like you are in a positive and active game or there isn’t no blogging at all! It is so encouraging indeed and I find something new here to get a best start up again. Thank again for posting Darren. I look forward to sharing more in your next shout out!

  16. Shelby Roth says:

    This is a very unique and inspiring write up Darren! Truly blogging cannot sounds successful without a team and that team is you and it also needs cheerers who inspires and at the same time getting inspired by you; sounds so interesting and encouraging indeed! Just like in the field, you would always desire to keep your fans’ mentality focused and perceptive or discerning and finally fulfilled at your triumph, same would you keep your audience always wanting more from your blogs! I love the pictures in your blog, this time round you actually came up with a very real eye-opener content and I complement you on this.

    Thanks a lot for sharing. I look forward for your next!

  17. That is really big crowd. I feel the inspiration!

  18. Mi Muba says:

    How fabulously you connect the football audience with blog readers; they are common in:
    Emotions
    They gets thankful if you give them a great post, a nice widget or free advice
    Expectations
    Whenever they come to your blog they expect something more interesting than the previous one
    Reactions
    If you make them bore the exit without a second’s delay
    Jubiliation
    If you do something great over your blog; a free ebook, a pictorial display of your personal life or like that they jubiliate with you
    Devotion
    They don’t come occasionally once you develop a reader-blogger relationship with them.

  19. That’s an outstanding article.This kind of article will help others to catch the content easily and if any one was coming to this for any clarification i am sure that they will get from here .I am also a continues visitor of this blog.
    At last thanks for sharing this article..

  20. Saskia Bader says:

    Very true that blogging is so much more than numbers. Even though good numbers can be motivating, it’s all about the readers who make the blog a success. Thank you for this really inspiring post. It’s a really exciting imagination that the readers of a blog may fill a stadion (well, mine are still too few for that but it’s an interesting thought).

  21. Ben says:

    I’m an Aussie and I’m glad you enjoyed the AFL Grand Final! The 100,000 is a pretty big crowd and has quite an atmosphere.

    I agree with your point about not focusing on just the total numbers, and that individual visitors are important – sometimes i get too caught up in increasing the numbers and forget they’re actual people!

  22. If I paid attention to how many people showed up to my blog every day, I might become depressed. lol I haven’t got a whole lot of hits, but I chalk that up to the fact that I have a new-ish blog (less than a year old) and I have yet to switch over to self-hosted.

    What I do pay attention is who the people are coming to my blog—what they say in the comments, the types of things they search for to get there, and the posts they find most interesting.

  23. Tom Southern says:

    Darren, so true! It’s just another way of taking something you and your readers all have in common with each other, and making sure it touches each reader in the way they’re most likely to feel valued.

    It’s about getting involved in the “match” with your readers; realising they’re more than readers, they’re individuals coming to you to find their own unique answers to that question you all share in asking.

    For example, same match, same goals, same penalties, same set-pieces but each person got their own individual experience out of the match; some good, some not so good. But they felt valued and willing to return again, and again; to support their team.

    Once you realise that blogging is about letting each person find their own unique answer, you realise that you’ve connected in a special way because you’ve let each person guide you into answering more of their own unique question. They’ll realise this too, and keep returning to you for the experience you give them.

    In the past, I’ve realised this is why bloggers whose traffic stats are big, often struggle to convert this traffic into income. Old style, money-focused blogging ignores this, and fails as a result, because it doesn’t realise that letting each individual making up those traffic stats needs to feel free, and good, about wanting the answer to the same question in their own unique way.

    It might not be the answer they’d like, e.g. their team to win, but they feel valued, and respected by the genuine desire you have to give them what they want.

    This year, I’ve made the switch. I’m going to focus on people who share in finding answers to a problem we have in common. I’m not going to push my answer onto them. I’ll let them find their own answer because blogging isn’t about telling and being authoritative. It’s about leading people to their own unique solutions.

    Thanks Darren.

    Tom

  24. Also, thinking of visitors in terms of number completely ignores the real value of them.

    Numbers don’t comment, challenge your thinking, corrects your errors or salute your progress.

    Real people do that. People that your blog should be trying to converse with.

    Thanks for a great reminder!

  25. Lola S A says:

    I like this analogy and I really hope I can meet the unique needs on my readers – it makes one feel a sense of achievement when you know you are able to solve someone’s problem of share useful knowledge.

  26. Richard says:

    Stats are so obsessive. One get easily caught by it.Internet is full of so many blogs that contain nothing at all except some great designs.

    Focusing on the your audience and providing them solutions to their problems, is all what matters.