There have been various accusations in recent months that blogs are all about generating controversy to bring in more hits. These accusations have come, largely, from people who don’t have a clue about how to grow a blog, and have been total nonsense.
Now Shane Brady actually looks at the evidence. He looked at the Alexa (not a particularly good service, but it’s what he’s got) traffic data at Skepchick and FtB during the recent rounds of battling with the anti-feminists. The conclusion: yes, some spikes are seen in Skepchick’s traffic, not really seen at FtB (we’ve got enough diversity here that we’re pretty well buffered against transients), and none of it translates into sustained increases in traffic.
This post cannot possibly answer all the questions on this subject, but I do think it offers some perspective on the effects of controversies on website traffic. Controversy does not appear to be a valid strategy for increasing long term web traffic on skeptical websites. Furthermore, people (including myself) should put to bed the criticism that web traffic is a motive for generating controversy. Intentions are hard to know, but the results tell me that it’s not worth discussing any more. Of course, I could be way off base, and all criticism is welcome.
I could have told him that. I’ve been at it for about ten years, with my share of controversy, and none of it really contributes to long-term growth: not Expelled, not the cracker, not every little sudden surge from Reddit and Fark and Digg. Those give little bursts of attention from people who weren’t interested in your blog in the first place; they visit to see the source of all the commotion, and then they leave.
What makes a blog grow is 1) regular updates, 2) consistent themes, 3) maintaining the attention of other blogs out there, 4) cultivation of an interactive readership that adds value to your blog, and 5) time (slow steady growth is best, and it can’t by definition happen overnight). Probably also good writing, but I wouldn’t know much about that, and I’ve also seen some gloriously well-written blogs that idle along with light traffic because they ignore my top 5 suggestions.
Now can the dweebs who dismiss blogs as noise generators for traffic please shut up?