7 Reasons To Not Care About Blog Traffic

Published on January 8, 2010 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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Bloggers care about traffic.  I think that’s just the way it is.  If you’re an artist, you care about people seeing your art.  If you’re a photographer, you care about people seeing your photos.  If you’re a writer, you care about people reading what you write.

I suppose I shouldn’t speak for every person who blogs; I can only open the human experience for one person—me—examine what I find, observe others around me, and make inferences about what they may be experiencing as well.  And what I find when I open my human experience is that I care about traffic.

As I consider why this is so, I find there are a few reasons, but the core need I seem to be trying to fill is the one for validation—I want to know that what I’m writing, and who I am, is deemed worthy by others.  The more others there are, the more validated I feel.  When my site traffic goes up, I feel as if what I am doing is more consequential than when it’s down.

There are plenty of strategies to increase your blog traffic, and I assume many of them work.  I remember reading a post about 250,000 people showing up at this one blog over a 24-hour period.  The post was crafted as a case study in response to a reader request, and it was very well written.  But when I finished reading, I noticed two competing thoughts.  The first was this:  That’s amazing; how can I get this kind of traffic one day? The second was this:  Who cares?  What’s the lasting value of getting a quarter of a million people on your site?  Money, fame, more readers—at the end of the day, none of these will satisfy.

I don’t mean to pretend to be a purist here, saying “produce great content, and they will come,” while casting the medium for the message as unimportant.  I suspect this kind of thought comes more from a place of jealousy than purity.  I even think promoting your blog or whatever you may do with your time is worthwhile; after all, if you have a message worth sharing, you might as well share it with all your might.

What I’m really getting at is the heart behind these desires.  I find that if I look to numbers to validate who I am and what I do, I will never be satisfied.  It’s the drug that leaves me hanging, and I need more of a buzz the next time around.  But if I write out of a place of obedience, from a position of faith that longs to see the fruit of hearts, both my own and those of others, transformed into Christ-likeness, I have the opportunity to find great satisfaction in who I am and what I do—not because of who I am and what I do, but because of the faithfulness of the One who produces the fruit in the first place.

I think this is the crux of the matter:  we shouldn’t be in the business of trying to quantify spiritual fruit.  We’re tempted to do so—how many people attend our church, how many books we’ve sold, how many people we’ve led to Christ, how many people read our blogs, how many Facebook friends we have—but we fall into the trap of trying to call these things “fruit.”  We can, and should, seek to bear “much fruit and so prove to be [Jesus’] disciples…[so the] Father [will be] glorified” (John 15:8).  But bearing much fruit and quantifying what we believe to be “fruit” are two different things entirely.

All of this is meant to be written as a confession.  I am not discussing anything here that I am not guilty of myself, and you may find these do not apply to you.  So enough soapboxing—here are 7 reasons to not care about blog traffic:

  1. It reinforces fruit-by-numbers theology.  I tend to measure my fruit in writing by the size of my readership.  Jesus taught another way—to abide in Him, because apart from Him, we can do nothing.  He taught us that abiding in Him would lead us to bear much fruit to the glory of His Father.  He didn’t teach us to measure how much “much” is.
  2. It feeds an impulse to focus on self.  The times I focus most on this kind of “fruit” are the times I am thinking a lot about myself—how I can best position myself, how I can become a more well-known voice.  Thoughts like these cause strivings not meant for us, and they lead to a dependence on self rather than a dependence on God for effective ministry.
  3. It strengthens the temptation to compare ourselves to others.  No matter how high my traffic may go, it pales in comparison to other bloggers I know.  The temptation to compare is overwhelming, and traffic stats can be the kindling to this destructive fire.
  4. It tends to define fruit as something other than how God defines fruit.  This is like fruit-by-numbers, but it goes a little deeper.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—not rising blog stats.  I confuse this kind of fruit with the metrics-based kind far too often.
  5. It focuses on the fruit rather than the obedience.  I think there’s a delicate balance here.  I’m not sure we are to ignore fruit altogether; I think Jesus would have us seek to bear “much fruit” for God’s glory.  But the core focus of the obedience of abiding should be in the abiding.  The abiding comes first—then the fruit.
  6. It’s neither sowing nor reaping—it’s counting the harvest.  Jesus told us to pray for God to send more workers into the harvest.  Workers at harvest don’t simply count the harvest; they actually harvest.  When I go through my blog stats, I’m not harvesting anything—I’m just counting.
  7. It can be used to emphasize the glory of man rather than the glory of God.  When my stats are going through the roof, I’m not often making much of God in my spirit.  I’m typically feeling pretty good about myself.  God-glorifying blogging honors God in the writing, in the praying for readers, and in the conversations that follow.

Question:  What has your experience been like—the same as mine, or something different?

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com Dennis

    Thanks for this post. I got caught up in the numbers and when I hit a point where they were not going up I rebelled against God. My writing took a turn in an embarrasing direction as the numbers became an idol standing between me and God. Eventually my numbers went down to single digits. Fortunately God is patient and merciful, calling me to repentance and putting me back on track.

  • Debbie

    I want to thank you for this. As one who was at one time a lay leader in Church and ministry (and hope I still am only not so "visible") and who felt (and dare I say "preached") a smilar message as significant,important and often denied in the church this meant a lot. I am now mostly at home ministering in ways that mostly only God and a very few people (so few you can count them on less than one hand) can "see" or recognize — and those only because they are very busy praying for me — a ministry they undertake with no notice from others but me and God.This post spoke to me, soothed my heart and encouraged me. I don't write a blog (maybe someday), but your point is broader than that and true for whatever we undertake for the Lord and in His power. Bless you. I am a first time visitor, but I will be back. I think you may have found a faithful reader in me. I look forward to reading your new book. Blessings.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

    You're welcome, Debbie. It's fun to see God connect to hearts through words. Glory to Him and blessings to you. I hope you're encouraged by what you read if you do come back; and thanks for your quiet ministry.

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  • http://www.VickiLyons.com Vicki Lyons

    Thank you for the reminder. You are so right. I totally agree with you, and I admit, it is a temptation to be caught up in the "numbers game." It's fun and exciting. It's also a human need to be "validated." We feel that if we attract the multitudes, then our message, work of art or song must be more powerful then if we don't. Not true. Sometimes God uses our message to reach one person. Like Proverbs 25:11 says: "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver." God doesn't call us to reach the multitudes with our message (hopefully our message is His message); He just asks us to relay the message. Your blog is a great reminder for us all. It's not the traffic to our blog that counts, but the obedience to write the blog.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Amen. I didn't recall that Proverb, Vicki. It was well used here. Thanks for your encouraging and edifying words…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

    I love the humility of the bottom of the barrel. I've been there many times =). Thanks for the comment…

  • http://teachingsfromthetrail.com Amy

    Interesting that your post comes the day after the largest day ever on my blog. I was giddy when I checked the stats this morning. The truth is, these are largely empty numbers. How many of those people will be back? How many were touched by the message? That's the fruit that counts. I'm finding that the person most impacted by my writing is me (sounds selfish, I know). God is using my writing to teach me, stretch me and break down my walls. No one need follow along for him to do that work. I just need to be obedient and write. If others gain something along the way, all glory goes to God.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Amen as well. I know exactly how you feel. Writing changes people, most of all ourselves. You have a wonderful perspective; thank you for sharing it.

  • http://wordsofeternallife.org Mike

    Hi Chris, Thanks for this post, and also the the one on "How Not to Waste Time Blogging", both are good pokes at my pride. My traffic numbers are generally low and I do get a kick to see an upwards spike, likewise my mood drops when the numbers are down. At the low times I question whether it is worth the time and effort but have had a few people say they have been reminded to lift their hearts to God by reading something I've written so that's worth the work.

    On that note, I find your blog does help turn my heart to God and that is valuable fruit. Keep it up and remember John Piper's advice about God-honouring blogs!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Mike, that's just about the best encouragement you can give; thanks for sharing. I'll try to keep JP's advice in mind. You can call me out on it if you find me straying…

  • http://twitter.com/saltandclay @saltandclay

    Wow. If this doesn't fit me to a tee, I don't know what does! I have just been wrestling with the "serpent of comparison" and his brother the "serpent of significance" (not my phrases,but oh so appropriately taught to my by Tiger McLuen) and this blog spoke to me BIG TIME! I will have to print it out and revisit when I catch myself logging and and giving that either elated "I GOT LOTS OF HITS" or the dejected, "NO ONE IS READING".

  • http://flowerdust.net anne jackson

    Thanks for sending this my way. Keeping it saved as a reminder.
    My recent post A Decade and an Earthquake Later

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      You're welcome; I find I need to reread it every so often myself. Oh to be free completely!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Jonathanj Jonathan

    Darn. You just smashed my efforts. lol.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Jonathanj Jonathan

    Darn. You just smashed my efforts for traffic. lol.

    Read, repent. In that order.
    My recent post Being a Christian: It Means More than “Believing”

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/klreed189 Kyle Reed

    I think we do this with everything we do. The need for validation is huge. If you have numbers it must mean you are saying something good right?
    But I think if you strive after that validation, the numbers game, you can quickly sell out to get more numbers and lose your soul of who you are.

    I think numbers show you what people are looking at and interested in, but they are not absolutes.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      The need for validation kills me. I didn't even know it was really there until I started more public ministry. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Neil

        Are these the 'Validation Errors' I keep seeing in the backend of my blog? :-)

        Hi Chris – I'm glad I found you – I followed you all the way from a fantastic guest post you performed at Mr Hyatt's last year. I look forward to devouring everything you've written – your writing is so honest and cuts straight to the heart of the issue at hand.

        Be encouraged to continue encouraging!

        Neil
        - – - http://www.LookingTowardsHome.com

        • http://cravesomethingmore.org Chris_Tomlinson

          Neil, thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you found your way here and hope you're encouraged by what you read to make much of God in your life! Please continue to share your thoughts and weigh in as you see fit. Thanks again!