As I get ready to launch a new website, I've been thinking about what my priorities are with it, and how to measure if I'm accomplishing what I want to accomplish. And so, one issue I've been thinking about is whether measuring things like blog hits or unique visitors or time spent on site is important (regardless of community), or if providing value to a community of people I help to build is the most important (regardless of size).
I tend to lean heavily towards the idea of building a meaningful community that I provide value to, and get value out of, online and off. And while, of course, I'll run some analytics to see how I'm doing (I'd be sad if my posts got like, less than 100 hits or something), I'm not really concerned with pageviews. What I really want are new community connections, invites to events where my presence could be useful, and emails where people thank me for consistently producing the website. On some level, sure, 10,000 readers are better than 1000, and 1000 is better than 100. But don't I want to get them organically rather than through some form of artificial insemination? I think, yes.
Look, if your business model is to build a blog that gets lots of pageviews, and that in turn allows you to sell ads, I think that's fine. I don't even have a problem with getting those pageviews at any cost. But I think a lot of people are going about that wrong, tactically. So, here's my advice for pumping up those pageviews and really building a highly trafficked web property. Ready?
(1) Delete your current blog. It's really not worth the effort.
(2) Start a free blog using Blogger or something.
(3) Search Flickr for photos that are legal to use via Creative Commons.
(3b) Make sure those photos are of beautiful people.
(4) Add some personalization using free photo editing software.
(4b) Be creative with lolcat captions ("I POKE U LONG TIEM") or funny mustaches.
(5) Post photos relentlessly.
(6) Get to know everyone doing the same thing and link it all up.
(7) Measure pageviews and sell ads for lubricants and dirty movies.
(8) Count your cash on your brand new yacht.
Operating costs = $0 / year
Time spent working = 4 hours / week (Tim Ferriss would be so proud)
Estimated earnings = $1,000,000 / year
If you think this is silly, well, maybe it is. But when it comes down to it, if the thing you care the most about, if the thing you are most competitive about, is eyeballs viewing your page, why spend time interviewing people at events or researching technology trends or giving opinions about sports? I could beat you out in a tenth of the time with out-of-focus bikini shots that someone else took with a kiddie camera.
Oh wait – you want to do something meaningful? That's cool. Then don't worry about the pageviews and uniques and ad rates and all the rest of it. Worry about great content that builds a community you can activate. I know people who can declare a meetup and fill a huge restaurant with people on a few day's notice. I know people who can turn a city topsy-turvy with a festival. Can you activate your community to do useful and interesting things, or just game them into clicking on links?
I guess the real question you have to ask yourself is, What business are you in?