Even after two years of blogging, I’m still not rich and famous. Why is that, and how can you avoid the same moderately unpleasant fate? In this post I’ll discuss some blogging mistakes that (still) interfere with the success of this site.
#1 Lack of focus
Pretty much every blogging-related guide begins with “pick a niche”. Having a focused blog has many advantages :
- You get more RSS subscribers. People like to know what to expect and don’t like sifting through (subjectively) irrelevant fluff. If your blog is focused on widgets, you’ll get RSS subscribers who are interested in widgets. If your blog has a few posts about widgets, but is otherwise all over the place, only people who share several of your interests are likely to subscribe. To put it otherwise, there’s a lot of people who care about politics. On the other hand, there are significantly less people who care about politics and underwater kickboxing.
- It helps with SEO. If you have a site focused on a single topic, you can put your main keyword(s) in the domain name and use relevant category names. You can also get links from other niche blogs and niche directories. On the more obscure end, semantically related content lets you reap the benefits of latent semantic indexing.
- (More) relevant AdSense ads. In my experience, generalist sites are more likely to show mismatched contextual ads than niche sites. It’s especially noticeable when I publish a new post – the ads are usually based on something I’ve written about in the past (e.g. converting video files) and may be completely irrelevant to the actual post. Of course, the results usually get better after Google analyzes the actual post. Sometimes.
- If you try hard enough, you can become an authority blogger (or at least a contender) in your field and achieve SUCCESS!!™. Becoming a recognized authority is a challenging enough goal in itself, but for a generalist blogger it’s a nearly impossible one.
All that said, this blog has no focus. The recent skew towards WordPress and blogging in general is purely incidental. You’re just as likely to see posts about … copyright issues and transhumanism, or maybe my numerous cats. The reason is simple – if I had a niche-specific site, it would get updated twice per month at best.
#2 Irregular posting frequency
Speaking of which, a regular update schedule is another thing that’s missing on this blog. Opinions differ on how often you should post, but the general consensus is that one should stick to the same posting frequency.
The idea is, again, that people like to know what to expect. There’s also an individual “comfort zone” of posting frequency for each reader – you need to post often enough to keep them interested, but not so often that they feel overloaded with information. Obviously, this is not something where you can easily find the optimal solution – every subscriber will have different preferences. However, if you vary your posting rate too much you risk losing your existing readers.
Compared to the early days, I’ve improved a lot in this respect. When I started out in 2006, I might post every day for a while and then suddenly disappear for several weeks. Now I usually stick with writing 2-3 posts every week. However, the intense desire for procrastination still gets me from time to time, and I end up ranting about something after midnight (which probably hurts the quality of prose a little bit).
Sidenote : It might be interesting to see/gather stats on posting frequency vs. popularity vs. topic.
#3 Personality issues
You probably don’t even know if I’m male or female – it’s certainly not mentioned anywhere on this site (I checked). Eh, I don’t even have an “About” page!
Well, should I? On the one hand, Nobody Cares About You. On the other, people are more likely to trust you (and your opinion) if they know there’s a real person behind the site. It also helps if you have some relevant credentials to show off and a cute/professional photo. Conversely, an anonymous schmuck posting under a nickname doesn’t impress credibility.
Nevertheless, an unhealthy mix of cynicism and nonconformism has so far prevented me from creating a public bio. I’m okay with revealing personal information (for an extreme example, see : my full browsing history (updated in real time)), but doing it to knowingly manipulate people’s opinions just seems kinda uncool. On the other hand, all communication is manipulation, so I expect I’ll eventually create an “About” page of some fashion.
There’s also another aspect to this “being a personality” stuff. The acclaimed masters of blogging say that your writing should be personal. That is, you should let your personality show through your writing and have something that differentiates you from the hordes of other bloggers.
I say that, at least in this general form, the suggestion is bullshit.
It’s not about having a personality. As any experienced marketer would tell you, it’s actually about being likable and/or someone the reader can identify with. As a result, the general advice to “just be yourself” really only works when you’re a naturally attractive person.
And I’m a pretty weird, antisocial guy with about 0.6 friends. Does it show?
#4 Neglecting social networking
Again, almost every guide to blogging, SEO and online marketing strongly recommends to leave comments on related blogs, participate in relevant forums and use social media sites (Digg, Youtube, etc) to the fullest extent. As you might have guessed from the previous section, this is not something that I do. In fact, I’ve posted about two comments on other blogs in the last 12 months. The lurker is me.
Of course, you don’t have to fall into the same trap. Go out and start expanding your social network right away. I’m quite serious.
Why social networking? (warning : some cliches follow)
- From the SEO perspective, comments on other sites help drive visitors towards your own site. Also, if you keep in touch with other bloggers, they’re more likely to mention you (and your site) in one of their posts.
- It’s the age of the global crowd. Internet users congregate on social media sites, so that’s where you have to be if you want to get their attention.
- Every comment, guest post, YouTube video and social bookmark you create is another entryway to your blog. In addition to the direct benefits of promotion, this Web 2.0 actitivty also offers the advantage of diversification.
- Reputation economy is upon us. More (positive) contacts = better reputation.
I read several posts about blogging mistakes prior to writing my own. What I found interesting were the implicit assumptions about what it means to be a good blogger. Learning what one considers a mistake can tell you a lot about the actual goals and interests of that person.
There was some talk about technical issues (platform choice, RSS feeds, etc), a bunch of posts about self-discipline (getting ideas, posting frequency), and a huge amount of marketing stuff (SEO, social networking, branding). Consequently, a good blogger = a technically savvy, skilled marketer specializing in self-promotion.
Of course, traffic and popularity are ultimately means to an end. Therefore, blogging is also only a way to achieve something – to get your message out, regardless of whether the message is a sales pitch or an idealistic rant about the environment. So this is one more mistake some bloggers make – to forget why they blog and concentrate on the act of blogging itself.
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