The BlogPrefect Story So Far
And Why You Shouldn’t Write Meta Until You Can Safely Say You Know What You are Doing
You may notice my tagline on Medium. It is entirely self-indulgent but it perfectly sums up who I am. Sometimes you do have to consider yourself a God so as to feel like you have control, even though you don’t, and you really don’t.
I am a blogger. But I confess, a shit one. I’m not with the big-time but I do own two .coms and have self hosting. I’m not one of these laissez faire types who tries to bum my wares on free blogging platforms. I’ve tried it the hard way!
These words will form a moderate medium.com article but in it I will explain a little about my blogging journey so far (and all the things that piss me off about it).
In a Galaxy Far Far Away
I started out blogging in June 2013. I was having (and to some degree am still having) trouble in my 9–5. I have been at the same company for 13 years 8 months at time of writing. I have been entirely too loyal and it is not something that I recommend unless you are deliriously happy with what you are doing. I feel completely lost at the moment, not only because I missed another stage to step up to the next level, but because those that are getting those spots are as much as 15 years younger than me. It has come to be a problem overall.
My blog was a madcap plan to try and earn a passive money stream. I had been inspired by such prolific bloggers as Pat Flynn from smartpassiveincome.com and Neil Patel (who owns crazyegg and nets millions). I’m not linking to these two gents, I don’t want you leaving just yet.
I Made a Huge Mistake
I decided to make a meta blog. Meta in terms of it being a blog about blogging. It took me a while to realise that I had made a mistake on that front. I realised into the 2nd year that I was in fact a fraud and that a lot of what I ended up writing actually meant that I didn’t really know it well enough at all.
You can make the same mistake about writing about writing, that is a meta scale of writing.
Why do I say I didn’t know it well enough? I’ve been doing it long enough now, surely?
Truth is that I am what I class as unsociable. The social aspect of blogging is essential and I find Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and more besides, very uninspiring. I can work up about as much enthusiasm for regular updates on these channels as digging my own eyeball out with a spoon. I just don’t enjoy it.
Social Media is pre-requisite even though it is claimed not to be by some experts.
What I Don’t Enjoy About Social Media
Other than the qualms of random people who ultimately will have no allegiance or value in the long run?
Business promoting with social media is considerably different than just chatting with your friends. You have to pay your dues in a sense. Sharing other people’s work and liking their material or making positive comments about it ensures that you stand a chance of reciprocal action. I often found that even if I pleaded for that reciprocal action, I didn’t receive it and often I felt cheated by my effort to make comment but not to have it rewarded. It is the schmoozing of networking that I don’t enjoy, the mild insincerity of share and share-alike. I’m happy to say that I only shared what I thought was quality but in line with that you miss opportunity. A lot of what you do with blogging is about generating investment with like minds and the only way to do that is take an interest in their shit too. When the general quiet horde see that you have bigwigs with a boner for you, they’ll start eating up your work. Until that happens you will make high quality product but not the quantity of people to wave under the nose of.
The posts that always did best for me where the practical walkthroughs. Every time. Normally because people were desperate for a fix. These are ultimately the wrong kind of traffic in some regards as they are the people who would never visit your site again. They just need the quick hit.
A Few of My Articles Struck Gold
Gold in the sense that I got a lot of eyes on the page. The only problem was that it was always the kind of articles that I didn’t want to do well, as compared to the ones I did want to do well, and spent longer on.
That requires some explanation in itself.
Blogging about blogging is narrow in scope. There are a finite number of topic elements that you can talk about. Blogging widens out to more than just the blog platform.
- You can talk about methods of writing.
- Ways of using psychology to manipulate the user base.
- Social media influence in driving secondary traffic.
- Ways of making sure you content garners more hits via search engines.
- Images and colour and general placement of visual cues.
- Mailing lists to generate direct hits.
- Retention methods to keep your loyal fan base and grow it.
- Training and how to on tips and tricks.
- Methods to monetise activities and sell online services (or physical products if your blog is centred around that).
I felt like a fraud on a lot of these subjects mostly because my beloved blog was doing poorly for traffic on every post. I had no sell, I had no retention and my motivation ultimately dipped.
I could have really rocked it but I didn’t have the inclination to chase it. In order to get a business in tip top form, you have to commit. Really commit. I found that after subsequent restarts in year 3, I just found it ultimately unfulfilling to chase. The problem is that reward is difficult to assess with blogging unless you have something to sell. Ultimately before you start selling, you need to build a base, without that base you come across as “another one of them”, a shameless salesperson.
Why Maybe I Had Stopped at Just the Wrong Moment
Building relationships can take a long while, people who come to you only do so when they see you’ve been doing good for a while.
I did get a lot of collaborations toward the end of my most recent writing stint but the offers have dropped off and I know that it doesn’t set the greatest example. I had 4 guys that I’d worked hard to reciprocate with and it was helping to drive more traffic, but that opportunity is dead now. I don’t see those same 4 people see where I am or what I’m doing. They all have moved on. People don’t know where I am and when a site doesn’t show movement for some time, you get downgraded by search engines. You are only as good as your last post in some degrees even though a large proportion of your traffic might come from a source you wrote years ago. Bots only come and check your site traffic numbers when they know you are still pumping it out on a regular basis and getting eyes on the page. If you provide a daily post, bots love you.
The problem is, you have to spend time to write and believe in what you write. As a blogger there are dry spells you can reach but there is more to it than just that.
As you get further along you start to make friends or at least illicit attention from rivals. Co-opetition is a thing, the word is from Business Studies and is a concatenation of Competition and Co-operation. You will see this a lot in the real world. Stores of similar types might congregate together. People like choice so like to see three different jewelry stores together so they can quickly compare and contrast. It is good for all the businesses that congregate as they all benefit from passing trade. You get this with blogging, you see similar faces writing guest posts, or being comment regulars on other people’s blogs.
The downside to that is that you can devalue yourself by comparing to those co-opters who are blitzing you on a regular basis. It becomes very disheartening when you work with someone who is just caning your arse for traffic and engagement and you are dwindling on a hiding to nothing. It can wear on you. The only thing you succeed on as a co-opter, is when you work with someone worse off than yourself, so that you can laugh at their stats and think better about yourself. It sucks especially if you have been proverbially ‘doing it wrong’ for years. This feeling is akin to being surrounded by a group of thugs who opt to put on the steel toe caps for your kicking.
You’ll find in blogging circles that ‘guilting’ readers is popular. Bigwigs, as I call big incumbent bloggers, are commonly going to try and guilt you into conceding that you’ve done something wrong. Guilt in psychological terms delves deep into a stronger motivation to ‘fix’ which gives those well armed incumbents an ‘in’, by providing that fix, sometimes at real world cost.
Perceived Ideas on Length
This isn’t a penis joke.
Its more about the length of an article and what hits the sweet spot.
Still not a penis joke.
I went to some degree to determine a winning blog post based on my stats. What size in terms of word count you should write in order to illicit the right reward vs time spent writing.
You only actually need to spend 1 hour writing a blog post in order to get one that provides you some return. 1 hour is easy to set aside. You spend 10 minutes planning, 50 minutes writing. You need to fill the top area before the fold with enough to hook your reader, then you can provide additional goodies further down. A satisfying conclusion normally rounds out a good article and if you ask for sharing and comments you are more likely to get them than not asking.
Some articles I spent longer on. Those that went into the 5K words mark would generally outperform anything smaller over a longer period but might not do brilliantly immediately. The more useful outwards links you link to, the better the article does as long as they remained in context to the article content. Interlinking with posts inside your blog is also a good idea, mostly because the odd curious clicker would be taken into other articles.
What I learnt whilst blogging was that size really doesn’t matter. You could write a 500 word article that might do equally as well as a 5,000 word article. It just depends on how the visitor came to your article.
Something That Bloggers Don’t Realise
If you set up a site as a blog and have opted for self-hosting (like I did), the stats will tell you that bounce rate is high, especially on Google Analytics. Bounce rate should be high for blogs, it is their nature. This is not something you are told but it is something you should know.
There are many stats that are uncontrollable in that these stats only improve when the investment, range and depth of your audience grows to a state whereby you have a community or tribe. There is normally an apex or a tipping point where the number of engaged is just right where the non-interacting mass become 80% more likely to engage.
It takes a lot of effort to get there.
There are those who by some virtue have a ‘perfect launch’ but they are few and far between. You should probably take note of those kinds of people as they are wired differently to you.
Why Being Non-social or Anti-social Doesn’t Make for a Blogger Pre-requisite
Blogs are tribes. You need people to interact to provide a visual cue that you are worth listening to or reading from. Numbers of significance are important because internet time is short and people don’t like wasting time. Your approach has to be pitch perfect.
I am social but not the right kind of social. When I write articles like these a part of me burns that I know I am probably wasting my time.
I decided to keep on blogging with Medium so as to enjoy the process at least. On Medium I write about whatever the fuck I want to write about. I use whatever language I want to and don’t really give two shits.
Not to make you feel a lesser person for being a medium reader of mine, which is a minority sport right now, but you are getting the unplugged version of Jackson writing. Hopefully you might have come across a spark of brilliance in there once or twice, or maybe in future there will be something that tickles your clunge.
I’d like to thank all the followers but if you are somewhat annoyed that I haven’t followed back, it is not out of anything personal. I just don’t feel like being overtly social. Its not that I don’t love your face or your words, its just that I am completely in the driving seat of being selfish and on medium I have no scruples about this. On my blogs I have to be perceived to care. Here, whatever.
The Ugly Truth About Blogging
Nobody gives a shit in the beginning. You could have bottled lightning but you don’t have any game.
It takes a lot of sweat to get a following and you will fuck it up a few times on your route there.
You are going to write some utter shite on your way. Even though you followed all those 10 point plans for writing better.
If you drop the ball for even a fortnight, you can hemorrhage followers. You cannot step off the gas.
Blogging is more about being ready to strike than hoping you’ve nailed it. Hoping you’ve nailed it is already looking too late. By the time you’ve published a post, it is already dying.
Gaming the System
This is something I spotted early on in blogging and this follows on from the previous sentence. There is a slightly unpleasant tinge that goes with the follow/unfollow routine, something rather tiring about the ups and downs of user engagement.
I see a lot of fellow bloggers ‘game the system’. They do this by many means. I have seen one guy who bought his follower base. I’ve seen another who ‘gamed’ his Twitter following to a significant number and farms this on a regular basis, chopping the dead weight and replacing it with potential engagers, using a third party system. I know you can do all that but should you?
There certainly are benefits to endowing your numbers but do you have quality? The answer is no.
There are many who find community building goes better when they work hard to actually have a small but engaged nucleus of followers. If you know you are getting it right with your trusted 30, it should translate that this number can be reflected further afield. Why invite people you don’t know in their hordes when you’ve already got something good going with that trusted few?
There are many third party programs you can use to chip away the dead weight, the non-followers and engagers, a lot of the reason these people engaging may be because what you are providing is crap. More importantly crap they don’t want, or crap they’ve seen and know they don’t want, just presented in a different way. How does it make you feel to be a crap peddler? To push out those stinky sales articles to people who might hate your face when they realise you are a money whore?
Of course, with trying to game the system, there are elaborate shill techniques. Some are subtle, others not so. I won’t go into them but you know when you’ve seen one. You normally develop the words ‘fuck you’ in your head.
Why have contempt for your own integrity?
Promotion, Promotion, Promotion
Writing is less important than getting it noticed regularly. For a time back in 2014 I was doing well with a chain of good events but once I dipped from that, it didn’t really matter how amazing my posts were doing, I was just left in the doldrums.
You need a lot of elements to line up right to win it. The ramping up of visibility happens over a long duration of time. Virality can be like winning the lottery and it doesn’t guarantee an upswing in your traffic on a permanent basis, just a localised bump for the time that the one right thing you did has some warmth. I always liken the effectiveness of a post to a half-life. Some articles have a much longer half-life than others.
The experts say you should spend as much time promoting as you do writing. That is where I have major issues. I hate promoting. It sucks a hairy dick. I won’t buy promotion effort because I want to know that where it is being floated is the right place for it. I want to know the kind of people I am pushing my inspiring words to because it means more when I see how they found it. Those same people are more likely to be the ones I go the extra effort for in returning the favour because I want to thank them. That’s how reciprocity works.
You will find that a lot of the popular articles may not be the best, they are just provided by the best. The writer could be writing some degree of tosh in their piece but they have paid their dues. This is why you should take every recommended article with a pinch of salt. Who did they know (and blow) to get here at number one spot. Cynical, yes, accurate, yes.
The Incumbency Angle
Being an incumbent is the reward that somebody had by sticking with it back from the dark ages of that subject. If you stick with something a good few years, people are more inclined to believe you know your shit. You are also likely to have a site that indicates some kind of development and some range of conversation.
Incumbents dominate and push new starters to the fringes. This is especially true considering that Google and other search engines value form.
It is a bit like betting on Vettel or Hamilton to win the British Grand Prix, you know they have form and you know that both of them stand a good chance to have the mental attitude to pull it off. Conversely, If you were to bet on Lance Stroll to win, you are throwing your money away. He could win but it would require a raft of variables to come together in order for the stars to align. It would require all of the front runners ahead of him to have some unexpected issue, being caught on the wrong tyres during the rain, something like that. He’d also have to have the bottle to keep the lead amidst all the other hungry mid place runners, people like Grosjean and Magnussen, both with better form. You don’t get a Baku 2017 very often, especially in a sub par Williams.
This is where your blog is at if you face an incumbent. Your value is infinitely less than incumbent value to a search engine. The only way to step up the chain is to get noticed by the right people and carve a different line. It takes a lot of effort and is invariably bullshit. You will have to swallow that annoyance like shards of glass.
May seem like a made up word but it is something I charted a lot in my psychology of effective blogging. You, as a new blogger, face the “Hypercompetition Sea”. It’s depths are cold. You have to learn how to not be washed away over time because as well as thousands of people writing about the same thing you are, a thousand new people are going to do exactly the same in a year’s time.
Nothing is new.
The only key unique selling point you have is your own unique style. You are invariably going to be talking about an identical subject to somebody else. So the best tool you have in your tool-chest is you.
On the Point of Writing UK English
Blogging is American. Like space in general, Americans have claimed blogging because they invented it. I make no bones about continuing to write in UK English. In the Hypercompetition Sea, it is one element of writing that makes me unique.
Year on year, my traffic is predominantly American, so it is the typical American that will read my blog contents over any other nationality. As a reaction to that, some of my content does have to change to please that larger audience, I on rare occasions try to shove in something an American might say ‘Yee-ha’ or ‘A-men’ to (possibly without gun shots into the ceiling).
I have seen some bigger British bloggers write in US English. My only thoughts about them are that they are sellouts. Yes, you can appease your biggest audience by making it all nice and spice for them but what about your own integrity? If I chose to abandon what makes me me, I am a fraud. I don’t want to be the Jeremy Corbyn or Emmanuel Macron of blogging, speaking of frauds.
Occasionally I try to find anecdotes that Americans can relate with. There is certain pop culture references an American won’t get unless they have lived in Britain for a good 10–20 years and I’m sure that is also true for many other nationalities. With blogging under a certain niche you have to be respectful of the larger mass of your audience.
It’s like if an American mentions something about Jimmy Kimmel in a means to try and explain something funny about blogging. I don’t know who the fuck Jimmy Kimmel is and I don’t want to know. It does not enrich my life. There are a lot of American comedians I don’t find funny, so don’t do that unless you want me to leave your blog post thinking you are a cheese dick.
In Expletive Summary
I’d ask for you to share but I know you are going to bitch out on me (if you even read this far), so instead I’d just like to say fuck you and have a nice day.