In April 2016, Priya and I started this blog, i.e. We are the living. Here, we write all articles from experience, as we try one thing after another to improve our lifestyle. Before that, in January 2016, I started Tech 101, a blog where I explain software technology by making analogies from our day-to-day life. After our all-India trip during 2017-18, we started a third blog named India 360, where we document our trip so that you can plan your own.
I am sure that many of our readers, especially the most loyal ones, have derived a lot of value from our blogs. I hope that we have touched their lives in a positive way.
In this post, I am writing to say that I will NOT be blogging anymore this year. I hope to resume in January of 2021.
Why? Read on to know more about my decision.
Why I write this post
This post gives my honest view of blogging as a hobby. Possibly, you too are a blogger, with blogging as a hobby rather than as a profession.
This post tells you that despite your love for blogging, there will be a moment when you have to decide to take a break from it. If that’s the case, it’s okay to let go of your own creation when it stops serving you. It is okay to take a step back and question what you have been building all along, without getting emotionally attached. It is good to acknowledge that you need to redesign your life.
For me, the letting go is temporary, but for others, it may be permanent. And that’s okay. You probably made the right decision.
Blogging is not an easy hobby. I use the word ‘hobby’ since only a minuscule fraction of blog writers ever turn it into an earning profession, business or a side gig. The number is much lower than what we believe from success stories.
Blog posts take time to write and may cost money to maintain. It takes a lot of brainpower to come up with new topics. It takes discipline to crank out a post week after week.
We would encourage everyone to write blogs, but there comes a time when we need to ask: are the benefits worth the time and effort? In my experience, the answer these days is no. I will explain why in the paragraphs below.
Here is our typical blogging process.
- The subject:
- The posts in We are the Living are based on our experience. Every month, we read a new non-fiction book and apply the teachings to our lives. If the teachings work for us and improve our lifestyle, we share it with you.
- For Tech 101, the posts come from my experience as a software engineer. If I find that no one is able to explain a software concept in a way that a non-software person can understand, I feel inspired to write a post about it. But you don’t need to be a non-software person to enjoy Tech 101 posts. Even software engineers have enjoyed my analogies with our day-to-day world.
- For India 360, we pick a city, district, theme or a route to write about. Sometimes we pick a travel tip.
- After choosing a topic, I usually draw a mind map. I edit the mindmap all day until it satisfies me. But I don’t spend more than a day on it. Otherwise, it would be perfectionism and no action ever taken.
- Next day, I write the contents of the mind map into the first draft of a blog post.
- I never edit right after I write. I leave a gap of at least one hour. Sometimes, I return to edit the post only the next day.
- My edited version often has no resemblance to the original version as I hack away, add to or drastically change what I wrote.
- I add images and videos to the post. A post with images is more pleasing than one that has just paragraphs of words and no graphics.
- I use Google Keyword Planner to find suitable keywords to tag the blog. A keyword planner reveals keywords exactly as people are using them on search engines.
- By the time the post is ready, I’ll have spent two days on it and about 4 – 5 hours of writing and editing effort. For 1 post on all 3 blogs, that would be about 15 hours.
- Next, I use Mautic, my mailing list tool of choice. None of the mailing list software tools, whether open-source or commercial, is capable of formatting a blog post in a way that’s suitable for email. Videos don’t get embedded. Fonts get changed to the email provider’s default. Images get misaligned. And so on. Some manual work needs to be done. A thorough inspection and a set of changes take 15 minutes. For all 3 blogs, that’s 45 minutes to one hour.
- I’ll have spent 16 hours to set up 3 blog posts in a week.
It’s a time-consuming process, but worth it if the results match or exceed the effort. And that’s where I have been served some seriously sour grapes.
I can understand a blog that is four months old and struggling to gain traction. But our youngest blog is already 2 years old, while the oldest one is nearly 5.
None of our three blogs gets even 1000 views every month. There are months where we have crossed 500 and we feel good about it. On average, 15 to 25 people visit each of our blogs every day. Our most popular post every month is the one that gets 30 to 50 views. That’s not what you want to see after 4 years of blogging.
Organic Google search results account for more than 50% of our traffic. Which means that 250 – 350 visitors get led to our blogs every month. This translates to 8 – 12 visitors from the world’s largest search engine every day.
On social media, our shares get clicked 80 times per month. This includes a combination of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and LinkedIn. This is an encouraging number since we share on social media only every weekend. So each weekend sees 20 clicks across the four platforms. But that is still discouraging considering each of our 1000+ friends list, 100+ followers and 500+ connections.
Our email lists have an average of 50 email addresses for each blog. You would think that since they voluntarily signed up to receive our posts by email, they must be interested. Right? Not necessarily. Our emails are read by 15 – 20% of the people on our mailing lists. The industry average is about 25%, so our results are not very far off. But we still have work to do.
Across all the blogs, more than 80% of our traffic ‘bounces’, i.e. they get out of our blogs after reading just one page. They don’t stay on to read other articles.
But thankfully, 15 – 20 % of our traffic is from people who have already read an article on our blogs previously. So they are repeat readers who have been loyal. Perhaps these are the ones who regularly click on our social media posts or read our emails. They also spend an average of 6 minutes every visit, meaning that they read articles for a considerable time.
New visits, mostly from search engines, form 80% of our traffic. But they spend just 20 – 30 seconds on a page, probably because the content is less relevant to them.
What about our YouTube channel?
Yes, we do have a channel where we share videos from our travels. They complement the India 360 blog. The numbers aren’t inspiring. Most of the videos are stuck between 50 to 100 views after a year of posting them. A few new videos are stuck in the 20s after an initial burst of views. None of the videos, except one, has even 1000 views per year, i.e. more than three per day.
Recently, I started making videos in documentary style, where I use my voice as an informational voiceover, while relevant photos float on the video. None of such videos crossed 100 views.
Thankfully, there’s one video that stands out. Our video showcasing the evening time Aarti on Ganga river at Rishikesh has picked up nearly 150,000 views over 4 years. This is a bright spot in our content creation efforts. But we haven’t been able to repeat that performance despite copying some of the concepts from that video.
Our engagement results aren’t very inspiring either. Each of our blog posts receives a handful of likes and even fewer comments. Very rarely do our posts get reshared on social media. It’s usually done by family members and close friends.
Typically, blog posts receive readership and grow in popularity only if existing readers love, comment on or share them. Search engines also attach higher rankings to posts that are shared more often and are referred to from other websites.
What about writing on Medium and Tripoto
Been there, done that. No change.
Instead of being outdone by better writers over search engines and social media shares, our Medium and Tripoto articles were outdone by better writers on those platforms.
We have been consistent at blogging. For the last 4 years, we have dished out one article every week. But we haven’t been good at producing content that people really love and talk about. Many people admire what we write and laud our efforts, but haven’t found the articles worthy of leaving a like, commenting on or sharing with friends.
Our articles have been too generic, too plain and too mainstream for people, search engines and social media to consider ranking them higher, sharing them, featuring them, liking them, commenting on them or talking about them.
Now four years on, I am tired of writing content without a reasonable response rate. I need to learn how to write engaging content that makes people want to read more and share what they read with their friends. For that, it is important to pick a popular niche and be an expert in it. I am figuring that out.
Meanwhile, I am freeing up all the time that goes into blogging, i.e. 15 – 16 hours every week, towards my primary goal, i.e. building technical courses on Udemy, a more sustainable activity. It will be a while before I choose to blog again.
But do remember that the blogs and our YouTube channel with all their existing content aren’t going anywhere. I may occasionally tweak the SEO settings of certain posts to see how they respond on search engines and if they receive organic growth.
An important trend we noticed is that infographic posts are doing the best, i.e. data represented within images, charts, graphs and diagrams. They are doing even better than videos. So we may indulge in posting infographics about topics we enjoy.
None at all. Otherwise, why would I criticise my own creation? 🙂
Blogging is an experiment where you discover yourself, your knowledge, your audience and what they love. While 2021 may seem a little far, I am taking that much time away for good reason. I will certainly be back because I love blogging. Enough to make me return. But just not yet.
So, goodbye until I return 🙂