You’ve heard the saying that a hobby is fun until you monetize it. There are exceptions, but the premise is of course that once you start attaching dollar figures to your dreams you kill them in the pursuit of the opposite of what made them great in the first place. If you think of delving deeply into site analytics as a form of monetizing your efforts (with traffic), analytics could be killing your writing in the same way.
If you have a commercial site and are creating content specifically around traffic, that’s one thing. But if your efforts are creative first, analytics can be distracting.
Any good writing coach will tell you these types of barriers will strangle the life out of your output. When you start down the path of writing for other people and not for what inspires you or makes you excited, you’re on a collision course for writer’s block like you’ve never seen. Early into starting one of my first blogs I was a writing machine; that was probably one of the most prolific periods of my twenties. At one point way back then I decided to install Google Analytics into the blog, and my number checking became more and more compulsive.
Before I knew it I started to feel like I was pandering for traffic, and though I was successful in my efforts my writing started to feel empty. The posts that were getting thousands of views per month seemed to steal the focus from the ones written with heart and not SEO, ones that small segments of readers seemed to like a lot. But the groupings of readers for those posts were small, so they weren’t the focus. As much as I may have touted ‘quality over quantity’, analytics had created an obsession with numbers to which I’d based my success.
There were a lot of things going on in my life that led to a long subsequent dry spell, but I was lying to myself not to acknowledge that as one of the big problems.
It’s always been a gray area for me when blogging, being a marketing and SEO guy professionally and a creative type personally. I may occasionally blog about topics you’d generally see on sites trying to sell services, but I have nothing for sale on blogs like this one. This is purely an outlet. If you’re in a similar boat, that fact is something we all need to remind ourselves of from time to time to keep the material fresh.
SEO and site promotion are important, but should always be secondary to the creative stride. As I’ve told clients professionally, all the traffic in the world doesn’t help you if your content is boring and people leave. Measuring your traffic is a good yard stick for what’s working and what’s not, but it’s a slippery slope that must be walked carefully. People can tell when there is no you in your writing.