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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?