If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap, than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
One million page views, that is. At about 15:15 UTC yesterday, I reached a total of one million hits since I started the blog just over 27 months ago. This is significant not only because 1,000,000 is one of those nice, satisfying round numbers and the gateway to a higher order of magnitude, but also because it’s the number I arbitrarily set in my own mind (about two years ago when I hit the 10,000 mark) to consider this blog a success. In many ways, it’s been successful for a long time, at least since reporters started calling me for prostitution facts rather than some prohibitionist; but one can’t really consider one’s work a success until one is satisfied with it oneself, and meeting a long-term goal is an important part of that (for me, anyway).
It’s funny how one’s perceptions of what constitutes “good” change over the development of a project like this. For the first four months, I was rather excited if I got 100 hits a day; now that’s a typical hour. In November of 2010 I experienced my first surge in traffic, more than tripling my number of visitors from the previous month for a total of 7893 hits; on this past September 26th I did nearly that many (7801) in one day when someone on Reddit posted a link to one of my columns with the statement “Today I learned Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of prostitutes.” Incidentally, that boosted the St. Nick column from a relatively minor one to the 5th most popular of all time, a testimony to the power of Reddit that I find very humbling considering that this was only one of dozens of topics on a single section of that site; my best day ever was only a tiny fraction of its traffic.
My next goal is, as you might expect, 10 million total hits, which I’ll reach in four to six years if my future rate of growth is similar to my past rate. Of course, there is no real way to predict blog growth; my daily rate was virtually stagnant all last year, only to surge several times since the beginning of this one. There’s really no way to know which events (such as an anonymous Redditor posting a link or a popular journalist sending a “tweet”) will result in momentary surges, nor what fraction of any given surge will become regular readers; if there were I’m sure the SEO spammers would be all over it like white on rice.
Even if there were such a magic blog traffic formula, I’d have no more use for it than I had for my friends’ well-meaning suggestions on how I could trick Google into finding my writings more effectively by giving them ugly, cumbersome titles or spending more time tagging the posts than writing them. I’d rather expend my effort on creating interesting, informative posts which appeal to my own sense of aesthetics, and then trust Emerson’s mouse-trap effect to create a beaten path to my blog, written each day from a house which is indeed located out in the woods.