In our personal lives, we have milestones. Some milestones we work towards and others happen, whether we do anything or not – like birthdays.
Some birthdays are considered milestone birthdays – like – when I was a kid – 16 – because it brought with it the freedom of driving.
On the night of April 19, 2015, sometime in the darkest hours of overnight (at least here in the US,) the www.DNA-explained.com blog reached a blogging milestone of sorts – 5000 subscribers. And those are just the folks I know about. Blogging management software tells us how many subscribers via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter we have, but it doesn’t tell us how many people are following us by RSS feeds. I know there are quite a few, because one of the very first requests I received when I began the www.DNA-explained.com blog in July of 2012 was to set up the RSS feed subscription ability.
We also can’t tell how many times our article has been shared, reposted, tweeted and retweeted.
Bloggers using the WordPress platform have software that tells us how many page hits we receive, per day or per article, broken down in various ways. Many people who subscribe via e-mail read the articles in their e-mail, so they don’t actually visit the page itself. A normal day sees www.DNA-explained.com get about 10,000 page hits, so that’s in addition to e-mail subscribers. A really popular or controversial article sends that off the charts.
The great irony is that when I started the blog, I wondered if even 100 people would be interested. My real reason for creating the blog was so that I would have a public location to write about topics that I felt needed answers. Additionally, I manage several projects at Family Tree DNA, and I wanted a way to provide information to project members about items such as sales and new features without having to send group e-mails to each project. Why? The Cumberland Gap projects have about 10,000 members between the Y and mtDNA groups, and sending that many messages with your e-mail address listed as the sender is a really good way to get your e-mail address blacklisted as a spammer. Blogging solves that problem, because I write it once and anyone who is interested can subscribe – and anyone who isn’t interested, isn’t bothered.
I started by taking the most common questions I received and writing the answer – one time – in the format of an article so that I can forever refer people to that article for the answer. So you might say I started blogging in self-defense:)
From the beginning, I set up topic categories so that searching would be more effective. (The blog is fully searchable.) Categories are anything that might be a key word, like DNA types (Y, mitochondrial, autosomal), company names, or topics one might be searching for, like Native American, haplogroups or admixture.
What do you think the most viewed categories might be?
- Family Tree DNA
- Y DNA
- Mitochondrial DNA
- Native American
What are the most popular articles, over the entire timespan of the life of the blog?
Of course, these articles are older as well, so they have had more time to accumulate views.
I can tell you unequivocally that the article I refer people to the most to answer the question, “What kind of DNA test should I take?” is:
I try to vary the types of articles from general interest to education to technical. Previously, I wrote and published research articles in JOGG, but now I can publish just as effectively on my own blog, and write for a non-academic audience.
One of the really surprising things, to me, has been the popularity of my 52 Ancestors series. I almost didn’t do this series. I really didn’t think people would be terribly excited about reading about MY ancestors, even if they would also be ancestors to a few other people. I was wrong. People love stories.
I have written this series in my own voice – documenting the good, the bad and the ugly, warts and all – including the mistakes I’ve made, and I think I’ve made them all at least once. Hopefully it will help someone else avoid those pitfalls. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for the many helpful suggestions I’ve received as a result of these articles. Genealogists are overwhelmingly fantastic, sharing, people.
Every article in the series also ties to DNA, in some fashion. How I’ve used it, how it could be used if I could find a proper test candidate, or why it can’t be used. Case studies make great examples. Twice now, I’ve had people reply and have found a suitable DNA candidate to represent an ancestral line. So yes, these articles also serve as “cousin bait.”
I want to thank all 5000 of you e-mail subscribers plus the unknown number of RSS subscribers and everyone who reads this blog forwarded, reposted, retweeted or reblogged. I hope you all enjoy reading the articles as much as I enjoy writing them.
Please feel free to share these articles with others so that we can continue to educate people about genetic genealogy. There are still far more people out there that haven’t tested, than have. Together, we can illustrate how genetic genealogy is a game changer – and hopefully whittle that number of genealogists who haven’t tested to zero.
Overly optimistic? Possibly. But hey, you have to have goals or you can’t achieve milestones!