Thursday 22 October 2015

What does every good blogger do when their viewing figures drop? A ReadItDaddy Editorial...

Tumbleweed, just in case you were wondering!
I'd imagine that just about every blogger out there, book or otherwise, suffers an 'identity crisis' at one point or another.

As you ramp up the effort to fill your blog with interesting stories, book coverage, reviews and just about everything else, you quietly, silently check out your readership stats and unique page hits for the month. Sometimes it makes for some puzzling reading!

I'll stop right there before you think this is a terrible self-pitying tale of woe. It isn't, but read on if you like to be mildly entertained, by all means.

SO we reinvented things in August, gave the old Blog a bit of a tidyup, put in some new ideas, tracked each review / story for a given week and stuffed them into a neat 'league table' style view, we've really been pouring on the effort to make sure that even though I've got practically zero spare time (and Charlotte has even less, poor moo) we're bringing you reviews of as many of the latest children's books as we possibly can. Seriously, we put the pedal to the metal and still really enjoy doing so.

Alas though, it's almost like the more effort we put in, the weirder (worse) things get with our stats. The month of the blog rejig, we dipped to our lowest monthly unique hits for the last two years, barely scraping just over 9,000 hits. Things picked up a bit in September but there's a lesson there - if you've got a fairly successful formula going on, and people like your blog's layout, I guess the message is "don't for goodness sake fix it for the sake of a spruce up!"

Our audience is also changing. At one time we were predominantly viewed by folk in the UK. Now the US outstrips the UK's readership almost 2 to 1 (which is good news for us as we do cover an awful lot of stuff from the states now, which I guess pays off nicely). Once again there's a lot to be said for thinking about blog content more globally, rather than just playing in your own back yard.

Final thing to draw from the stats is that you lot really love Firefox and not as many folk have fallen in love with Apple as I'd thought (either that or you're all reading the blog using Firefox on your Macs :)

I thought it'd be a great idea to set up a survey to eke out what's working and what's not. The survey results offered up an even stranger set of results than the stats appeared to. So far we know that most people come here for the book reviews (YAY as that's where our primary effort is), quite a few come along once a week just to see what book of the week is, some don't visit at all (Eh? So you're taking a survey about a site you don't visit? Alrighty then!), some hate our Twitter feed (Boo to you!), no one bothers with our Facebook or Pinterest presences (aha!) and there's been a resounding YAY for extended Chapter Book coverage (which we're working on) and a resounding NAY for self-published stuff (which, sadly, doesn't surprise me at all).

I guess the best advice to give anyone who thinks their viewing figures have dwindled is to ask yourself the following questions:

1) Why on earth do you take up bits of your spare time writing a blog in the first place? (Answer: Because we love books and we love doing this, and we love sharing our thoughts on books with lovely folk like you)

2) If your viewing figures dip below a certain threshold of acceptability, would you quit? (Answer: Probably but referring to point 1 - we'd probably still write about books SOMEWHERE even if we never got sent any, we've always said that and it's still utterly true and might encourage us to visit our library and our local indie booksellers more! No bad thing!)

3) What are the competition doing that you're not? (Answer: We don't consider anyone to be our competition - no that's not a big headed statement, all bloggers approach book reviews in a multitude of different ways and we LOVE that it's like that. We are quite envious of the time others have to devote to book coverage and reviews but that's as far as envy goes. If everyone started competing, it'd very quickly be over and done with and there's definitely no sense in a book-reviewing blogosphere that only has a few folk in it).

4) What could you do differently to bring folk back? (Answer: If we knew the answer to that we'd probably be doing it already, DOH! We are getting the message about chapter books and giving them more proper / rounded off reviews of their own but we'll still be keeping the roundups each month because there's no way we can read and review that many chapter books each month, no way and we read a LOT!)

To summarise, writing about books is a pleasure (almost as much a pleasure as reading them in the first place). Any sort of feedback (either from you lovely folk who take the time to drop a comment off at the end of a review or article, or from lovely folk on Twitter or Facebook who like what we write) is like oxygen to us and it does mean a lot that people still pop by. If there's less of you than before, then we still consider ourselves lucky if even a few visitors per month show up. We've still seen half a million folk pass through our 'doors' so what's not to be happy about?

If you do want to help though, please do check out the survey and tell us what you like and don't like.