I did it — I clicked the delete button on my most popular blog entry. I hated to see the hit counts on my site dip, but it was the right thing to do.
I started blogging more seriously about a year ago. I redesigned my website, honed the focus of my blog topics, and worked on increasing my following. I got serious about my social media accounts for my blog and promoted my new posts to my target audience.
The focus of my blog is traveling, my experiences exploring the world, and my journey to fulfill the dream of living abroad by 2023. My husband and I are two years into a five year plan to develop income streams that will allow us to live where we choose. We want to see more of this world, immerse ourselves in other cultures, meet new people, and fill our days with the people, experiences, and pursuits we are passionate about.
As a result, I’ve written several articles about preparing to be an expat in Europe, cost of living, and other considerations if contemplating a nomadic life. As I research what to expect and what we need to know to prepare for the life of a nomadic expat, I’ve shared that information with my readers, along with articles about our travels.
Currently, we live in Southern California where we own a home. Before we take the final step to move abroad, we plan to sell our house here and invest in property abroad. While researching topics related to home ownership here and abroad, I kept running across articles about California’s “exit tax.” Forums and Facebook groups posted comments about how the state of California will charge a tax to any residents who try to leave the state — thus the “exit tax” label. I even had friends ask if we were aware that it’s not so easy to leave California and the state will make us pay if we try to move away.
All of this sounded crazy, but so many people were bringing the “exit tax” to my attention that I decided it warranted research and a better understanding of how this California law might impact our plans. I researched what the law was about and what it meant for California residents, then wrote a blog entry titled “Exit Tax?!?! Can I really be taxed for moving out of my state?”
Since the article is unposted and you can’t see it for yourself, I’ll tell you now that California doesn’t tax anyone for trying to move out of the state. The law dubbed the “exit tax” merely states that if a resident owes taxes to the state (income taxes or any other taxes), they are required to pay those taxes before they leave the state instead of waiting for the normal fax filing deadline in April to make their payment to the state.
So, in summary, the “exit tax” is not a tax at all and there is no additional taxes paid to California if you leave the state. The only impact is the timing as to when you pay any taxes already owed to the state.
I posted the article on my blog explaining this in detail, then promoted it on Facebook and Twitter, just as I have my other blog posts. I hoped the article would attract attention and bring readers to my blog, and it did just that. The click-throughs on my social media links to the article sky-rocketed compared to my previous post promotions and I excitedly watched the traffic to my blog increase exponentially.
For the first week, I was ecstatic about the traffic coming to my website, convinced this was going to be great for my blog. I hypothesized that anyone who may be interested in moving out of California may also be interested in moving abroad and travel, and therefore interested in my blog. My Facebook and Twitter links to the article were getting lots of comments and shares/retweets. Surely the people who came to my website because of this great article I wrote would stay on the site, look at other posts, and even sign up to get updates from me, right?
What I got was a lot of people commenting on my links, clicking on the article, and coming to my website only to leave immediately. Comments ranged from blasting California for being the worst state in the union for trying to tax people who want to leave to profanity filled threats against politicians. People shared and retweeted the posts with others as proof of why they hated California, the governor, and anyone who works for the state. They clicked on the article, but only stayed a couple seconds then left the site.
Obviously these people were not reading the article or they would have understood that the “exit tax” is not really a tax and is not at all what people think. They weren’t reading the article and they weren’t spending any time on my website to see all of the other great information and stories in the blog. Not only were they not “readers,” but they seemed to have absolutely no interest in travel, experiencing the world, or moving abroad. In fact, most of them seemed to be doomsday preppers and anarchists — not really my audience!
I watched the comments continue to get more violent and vulgar for a couple more weeks, then decided that my article was not really helping anyone and was likely hurting my website. My blog had a lot of traffic to the article but no one was signing up to hear more from me or reading the other articles. I had lots of hits, but the bounce rate was really high. I had people interacting with my social media posts, but the rhetoric was offensive and had nothing to do with my mission as a blogger.
I’d been so excited when the article got traction and took off, and became just as quickly deflated when I realized that it wasn’t really traction but more like spinning bald tires deeper into thick, messy muck.
For the sake of the blog I wanted to build, I had to make a tough business decision. As much as I liked seeing the stats for the traffic to my website during those three weeks, I knew that the increase meant nothing. The growth wasn’t real and the audience I attracted had no interest in my blog content. The heightened bounce rate hurt my SEO ratings and did nothing to help my standings in searches for travel topics.
That’s when I deleted the most clicked-on article on my blog.
The number of visitors on my website dropped again after I killed the “exit tax” article. I’ll admit that I was disappointed and felt like I took a major step backwards. But even with the stats dropping back into to the pre-“exit tax” levels, the people visiting my site stayed to read the article that brought them to my blog, and quite a few even read more than one article.
It’s been a slow and steady climb to build my readership, and I’ve not had another blog entry take off as quickly as my “exit tax” article, but the gains are real even now if they aren’t momentous.