2023 ended up being a significant year for this blog. For the first time since 2014, this year’s traffic increased over the previous year’s traffic. Just barely, but for the first time in a decade, yearly traffic is up on this blog.
As for what I did to spark the increase, well I did increase my posting volume this year, this will be my 79th post this year versus 38 for 2022. That likely accounted for most of the increase.
But as I as diving into my stats, I started looking at the numbers for the life of the blog. This blog started in 2009 so it’s been around for almost 15 years. In crunching the numbers, I noticed that around 2014, there was a profound change that happened on this blog, and I suspect it’s indicative of what happened at most blogs around the same time.
First, let me show you the number of comments per post each year for the lifetime of this blog:
2023 – 0.5
2022 – 0.2
2021 – 0.1
2020 – 0.7
2019 – 5.4
2018 – 4
2017 – 2
2016 – 5.4
2015 – 3.5
2014 – 5.6
2013 – 6.3
2012 – 13
2011 – 18.1
2010 – 17.8
2009 – 8.2
What’s interesting about these numbers is 2011 was the best year for comments per post, but it was also the year where I wrote the most posts. I wrote 192 posts that year. That’s an insane amount of engagement on this blog, especially when you compare 2011 vs 2023:
2023 – 0.5 comments per post from 79 posts
2011 – 18.1 comments per post from 192 posts
Another stat I wanted to focus on was the number of visits sent to this blog from Twitter over time. Twitter has always been the social media platform that I’ve devoted the most time to, and it’s always sent me the most referral traffic. So we can just look at the number of yearly visitors I got from Twitter, and use it as a sort of proxy for all social media sources as a whole. Here’s the number of Twitter visitors this blog has had each year:
2023 – 556
2022 – 295
2021 – 613
2020 – 509
2019 – 524
2018 – 2357
2017 – 3150
2016 – 2383
2015 – 5827
2014 – 12,700
2013 – 18,700
2012 – 10,600
2011 – 18,000
2010 – 8,999
So looking at both sets of numbers together, we can draw some conclusions:
First, the number of comments per post was super high here till 2012. It was down a bit from 2013-2016 (still solid numbers), then dipped again after that and totally cratered from 2020 on.
Second, the number of referrals from Twitter was quite high until 2014. Starting in 2015 it began to fall almost every single year. The highest amount came in 2013 with 18,700 visitors from Twitter, and 2022 had just 295.
What those numbers suggest is that around 2014 or so, Twitter started to get ‘sticky’. Users were less likely to leave Twitter to come here and read my blog. They were more likely to stay on Twitter than come here. This makes sense, as Twitter was really growing around this time, and it was becoming an online ‘destination’ in a way that blogs had been for years.
Social Media Killed Blogging
I think the comments and Twitter numbers together tell us the story of what happened here. One of the benefits of being a content creator on social media platforms for almost 20 years is I have the advantage of being able to compare the social media and blogging environment 10-15 years ago versus now, and to also spot trends and changes.
Around 2010-2012 is when Twitter and Facebook really started to get mainstream popularity. As this was happening, bloggers started to wonder what this would mean for their blogs. Plugins started popping up around this time that would let you take Facebook comments and send them straight to comments section of your blog posts. So many thought that the rise of Facebook and Twitter would actually boost readership on blogs as well.
It turns out, that wasn’t the case. In fact, Facebook and Twitter seems to have actually siphoned off blog readers onto their platforms. As well as the bloggers themselves! Prior to 2010 or so, most bloggers spent the majority of their online time either on their own blogs, or reading and commenting on other blogs. It was a very decentralized experience.
One of the so-called advantages of the rise of social sites like Facebook and Twitter was that now we were all in a centralized place. In some ways that was a good thing, but in others, it was bad. If you weren’t a big blog reader and just wanted to stay in touch with friends and family, Facebook is perfect for you.
But if you were an avid blog writer and reader prior to Facebook and Twitter, you’ve probably lost a lot of that in the years since.
Here’s a question for those of you who have been reading and writing blogs for over 10 years: How much time did you spend on blogs 10-15 years ago, versus today? I’m betting you spend far less time today.
In 2008, if I wanted to find someone and see what was happening in their life, I went to their blog. In 2023 if I want to do the same, I visit their Facebook profile.
In the process, I think we have traded having a deep connection with a few people online, to having very superficial connections with many. I know that when I started blogging full-time in 2006, I had a small group of about 5-10 bloggers who I read every day. I commented on their blogs every day.
Today, I follow thousands of people on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. A good portion of them are connections I made years ago, who I have never spoken to.
When social media took off, the cost associated with it was the loss of our blogging communities. Not all, some bloggers are still thriving. But there are very few bloggers from the pre-Facebook/Twitter days who are enjoying today anything close to the traffic and engagement they saw before Facebook and Twitter.
I miss the days of having fewer and deeper connections. I miss getting emails telling me about Seth Godin’s new blog post. I miss reading Gaping Void and seeing a new post about the new post that Kathy Sierra wrote.
We traded the decentralized blogging experience for the centralized convenience of social media. We traded having a few good blogging friends, for having hundreds or thousands of ‘connections’ on social media.
If we could turn back time and make the decision again, I wonder if we choose differently?