I think most personal bloggers have an idea of how much traffic they would like. There are numbers of subscribers, or visitors, or comments, they aim for. Usually, those numbers are small because personal blogs are not (generally) driven by ambition. I still remember the the first time I got comments on my blog from people I didn’t know. I still remember the first time my blog was viewed 10, 20, 50, 100 times in a day. It’s always nice to see progress and if you are anything like me, each time a small goal is attained you fill the void with another. But at what point should we stop increasing those numbers in our head?
In the last two months I have had 2 major traffic spikes on my personal blog, one due to StumbleUpon and one due to a link from a blog in the Technorati Top 50. Rather than being thrilled, I found myself a little freaked out. I found the idea of dealing with that amount of traffic overwhelming. The beauty of slow growth on a personal blog is, for me, the organic evolution of relationships. My readers and I grow in our understanding of one another. We are building friendships and it is comfortable. When spikes occur, or your blog grows at a faster pace, I think things get harder.
My personal blog is a sanctuary. I don’t mean it’s private or closed: In fact, I try my best to make it open and I rarely censor myself. But it’s a living room not a town square. An influx of strangers can seem like an invasion and leave me feeling defenseless. It’s a crowd standing too close. Sometimes that’s a wonderful thing - it’s how friendships begin- but in real life you can only maintain a limited number of friendships and a blog is the same.
Most of the personal bloggers I know place a very high value on being responsive to their readers. When the numbers become too great, it’s hard to adjust your expectations of yourself and do only what you can. If you can’t reply (or visit, or subscribe, or comment, or email, or Stumble, or link, or reward..) the way you like to, the "invasion" creates a lot of pressure. For me, those spikes were something to be proud of because I was proud of those two articles. Until the added responsibility made me feel as though I had failed.
What I Am Left With
I’m not sure there is such a thing as too much traffic, but there is definitely such a thing as too fast. With those spikes, I learned how ill-prepared I was for them. I learned what expectations I have for myself when I clearly failed to meet them. I learned what I have the capacity to handle right now, and what I need to build on.
The weakness that was really highlighted for me by those spikes was that I need to be more organised. I can’t afford to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants blogger any more if I want to live up to my own standards of responsiveness. In my current schedule (I use that term loosely), there isn’t much wiggle room to allow for the extra tasks spikes generate, let alone the time for me capitalise on them, so I’m left with this… Next time I will do better. Blogs are perpetual learning. Have you ever been sent into a tailspin by an influx of traffic? Did it thrill you, or freak you out? What did you learn from it?