July marks the two-year mark for this blog.
I was posting random things for maybe 18 months before that, but I had no idea what I was doing. I had no focus at all. Don’t bother digging back to see those posts; they are not worth your time.
But in July of 2011 I began to post things that look more like blog posts (Here’s the first post that began my official-I’m-taking-this-serious blog), and began to write on topics that fit in one way or another under the banner of intentional spiritual living.
So, July feels like the blog’s birthday to me.
In those two years 8,757 people 1 have stopped by loading up a little more than 22,000 page views. It sounds like a lot! It’s not really. What it means practically is that about 28 of you a day stop by my blog. So, there’s definitely people showing up here. Yay!
In that time, it’s been interesting to see what posts have been of most interest to people. So, here’s a quick annotated “Top Ten” list of posts from the past 2 years. Maybe you missed some of these:
My Top Ten Posts…
…based on what people actually read.
10. Are your core values real or aspirational? I did a series of posts on core values that still gets strong traffic. That’s why those posts got transformed and expanded into my first little book, “Discovering Your Authentic Core Values.” You to have a strong desire to live an authentic and real life. That’s cool, because that’s something I care deeply about. Seems like that’s coming through in the writing!
9. How to get what you want from God. My most prosperity-Gospel-ish title to date! What do you know? People click on that stuff! Unfortunately for them the post is less about getting what you want from God, and more about learning how to want what God wants for you. I am not a very good prosperity preacher.
8. Core Value Word Art. In one of my core value posts and in my book, I recommended creating visual reminders of your personal core values. I made some posters for my own personal core values and posted them as examples. It’s crazy to me that this post, which is basically just 4 pictures, still gets any traffic at all. But it gets a lot more traffic than some posts I’ve taken hours to write! Oh ego, why must you cause me so much pain?
7. A new season & my personal core values. I went through a process of articulating my core values with my therapist. That process eventually became a series of blog posts and then a little book. This post was a personal declaration of my desire to move forward with a more value-driven life. Seems like it resonates with people. Have you sorted out your own core values yet? You might want to. It’s kind of a theme around here.
6. About Me. One of my highest traffic pages is the good old “About Me” page. I guess that’s good. People want to know who’s the chef responsible for this meal. It probably means that I need to re-work this page and make sure it’s the most helpful that it can be. I’d love to hear any input you have for how this could be better.
5. Negative core values & how you can change them. This post has more traffic than all the core value posts except one. The idea that we might actually have core values that aren’t good for us seems to interest people. The principle is this: you already have core values. They are the deeply-held beliefs and commitments that motivate your behavior. Some of those just aren’t good for you!
4. Why the church has to stop saying that sexual sin is the most important thing. One of my most popular posts is about sex! Imagine that. Actually this was in a series of posts, drawn from a sermon series I did, about things the church is doing that are getting in the way of the gospel. This is one of the most commented-on posts I’ve ever written.
3. You are God’s Poem. Ephesians 2:10 is a big deal to me. It’s a passage that opens up a whole discussion of who we are and what we’re here to do. This is one of the core posts dealing with that. My blog analytics make it clear that people are searching (both, you know, psychologically and via Google) for a sense of purpose. This is about as good a picture of purpose as I’ve ever found.
2. How to identify your real core values. This post is the central concept in my little book. (You can get it on Amazon here. Both e- and dead-tree versions). Even though it’s more than a year old, it continues to get consistent traffic. People really seem to be looking for a clear sense of direction for their lives.
And now, drum-roll please… the number one post out of 134 posts, with double the traffic of anything else I’ve ever written online:
1. Brennan Manning: The ragamuffin who taught me Jesus’ heart. When Brennan passed away in April, I wrote this tribute to him which is also a pretty good window into the Gospel. So, the lesson for me? This is going to become a tribute blog to dead celebrity theologians. No, I’m kidding. I’m glad that lots of people cared about Brennan. He was a true prophet.
So what have I learned?
From digging through all my blog analytics, I’ve come to three conclusions. I’d love to hear if you think these are accurate.
- My posts are too long. Two years ago my average post length was 2000 words. Today they are closer to 1100. But that’s still too long for the blog format for most people. People scan when they read blogs. If I want to make an impact, I need to write both content and quality that people will make it all the way through. So, this year, I will see about working on tighter, more focused posts.
- I don’t seem to be hitting the target all the time. This is embarrassing to say, but my top 10, even my top 20 posts, are depressingly old. The core value series is almost a year old. The most recent post in the top ten is the Brennan Manning post. Everything else is quite old. I’m not sure what that says, but it says something about what I’ve been writing in the last 6 months or so. I’ve been working on getting clear on my audience and focus, and I need that to inform my topics more.
- People come to blogs looking for a how-to focus. I don’t like this fact very much. I think that your theology and values inform everything you do, so the “how to’s” come later, after much personal reflection. But the internet seems to be very much a “how to” medium. I wrestle with how to apply that to a spiritual focus, when I don’t believe that spiritual life is a 3-steps-to-victory kind of thing. This feels like a call to push deeper into what I believe, and try to understand the felt needs that can be authentically addressed. Then I could use “how to” language about things that feel deeper than most 10-steps-to-something-cool blog posts.
So, what do you think? What’s your favorite post you’ve come across here and why? And what counsel would you give me for making this next year even more meaningful?
- Technically, that’s Unique Visitors, the web analytic name for a single computer with a single IP address ▲