Blog Sabotage!

Long time readers have probably noticed a metamorphosis. Even more personal, focusing on life and issues outside of marketing, this has become much more of a writer’s blog than a professional marketer’s vehicle. Along the way over the past four months, I shed about 50% of my traffic! One could say I sabotaged my own blog.

Certainly if you are one of the seven angels of blogging doom, the critical pen is flying right now. Not so fast.

A year ago, I would have been freaking out about such a traffic dip (In fact, I was). This time I’m not.

The renaissance of this blog that began last summer was part of my effort to market the last book. In doing so I built superfluous traffic related to marketing. This was done by playing some popularity games known to generate eyeballs on today’s social web.

Then after SxSW I changed course.

Why?  If I had kept going as I was, when I launch Exodus this August most readers would likely have felt robbed. Imagine getting non-stop marketing blogs every week, year after year, and suddenly have a post-apocalyptic science fiction book dropped in your feed.

I also realized that from a reputation standpoint, I don’t necessarily need a well trafficked marketing blog to generate business. At this point in my career, continued public successes like the Demand Success conference, and general online visibility matter more.

Why not start a second blog? Because I want to write fiction, and am a man that works, who fathers a child, and who desires work life balance. I’d rather write one blog well than two poorly. So I made my decision, and redirected my resources rather than redeploy new ones.

If my blog was a garden, I pruned back bushes, cutting away dead growth, and replanted several vegetables and flowers. As a result, while smaller, those of you that visit and comment seem more engaged and frequent. Thank you for that.

Now I simply need to stay the course and let the blog grow. Here are the things I did to cut back and refocus:

1) Shifted Topics

I shifted topics, added essays, and focused more on science fiction, writing, essays, philosophy and general musings on writing. That was the first clear cut. People were visiting for marketing and social media schtick.

While readers still get a blog or two a week on marketing, it’s when there is something to add to the conversation as opposed to meeting a weekly quota. The lesser marketing conversation will continue, but it is not the business blog that old readers were visiting.

In addition, it’s been a while since I wrote an essay, but that has more to do with fatigue and readying Exodus. I expect to return to long form in the not too distant future.

2) Removed Share Counts

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Image by IkariCologne

When social sharing counts first became popular during the rise of Facebook and Twitter, many bloggers resisted including the numbers. We argued content should stand on its own merit, and become shared because it was good, not because it was popular.

But the social web thrives on attention and popularity. When people see high share counts, they are more likely to reshare. And to some extent — like almost every blogger — I succumbed to that.

As time passed, I even made fun of it with posts and commentary. After joining Triberr, my share counts swelled thanks to new distribution. And as those numbers grew, I enjoyed a new perception of popularity, right or wrong, with high public share counts. I am not sure that perception was accurate given the nature of Triberr (which I still love and use).

To this day I think many total share counts are gamed, the blogging equivalent of the steroid era in baseball. Automated tweets plus anomalies like Buffer counts cause me to snort when I see these numbers. For example, the Buffer reshare number is added to the total share number, in spite of Buffer shares getting double (or triple or quadruple) counted when they are sent through networks like Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn.

I know too much about share counts to consider them a valid metric, even if they create more traffic. Look, I want my stuff read. But I want people to share my content because its awesome or it caused them to think or some other reason.

If my content is popular because of its strength then I’m OK with that. I’m not OK with the perception of popularity based on reshares, though. To me that wreaks of an attention bubble. So I made the change in late April to remove share counts. You could call this move a return to old school values.

3) Cut Frequency

I found that writing essays, publishing four times a week here, once a week on the Vocus blog, and book development this Spring was exhausting mentally. I needed to cut something, or start sacrificing my work and family life quality. So I reduced a post a week, and also rerun the periodic relevant Vocus post.

Boy, that move from four to three posts was a precipitous blow. I lost 30 percent of my traffic by simply going from four to three blogs a week. Frequency matters a lot when you are building the fly wheel. It matters most to Google and the search indices, but it matters.

Now that I am through editing Exodus, I still have book work to do (production and marketing), and am not eager to return to a higher frequency. There is a short term fix for frequency that will be revealed during the September/October/November timeframe.

But after that I intend to go back three posts a week so I can start working on The War to Persevere: Book Two of The Fundamentalists this winter.

Conclusion

Sometimes the road less traveled is the one that feels best. I can live with the lesser result in exchange for focusing on my current writing projects, as well as writing what my heart desires.

What do you think? Pruning or self sabotage?

Featured image by Thomas Kilpper.

  • I can’t believe people would have tuned you out. I’ve REALLY been enjoying your posts and think you’ve actually fallen into your voice more over the last year.

    As to your final question, I wouldn’t say pruning or self-sabotage. I’d call it a well-done pivot. :)

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you, Margie. I do think it is about focusing on my real readers rather than people coming off of Google or random Triberr shares or popularity-based reshares. Community centric first, the rest comes (or not) depending on value. Thanks so much for your support!

  • I don’t get it. Why do some bloggers get to pivot, and they get a pass, but you don’t? I can’t tell you how many times other A-listers (I include you in that list. Shut up and take the compliment) have pivoted what they are doing, and their numbers continue to rise, no matter what they are doing or what they are promoting.

    I think part of the issue is that people come in looking for content to make them better at whatever, to shortcut their way to something, and aren’t really thinking about Blogs as a social construct.

    Blogs are more about sharing a journey with someone cool, learning with them, and sharing cool stuff. Really, whatever the blog is about is secondary. Amber can write about Pit Bulls all day. As much as she likes. It’s great stuff, even if I don’t give a damn about Pit Bulls. You can write about fiction. Go to it. Fascinating to see you have interests out side of your self-defined bailiwick!
    I’m going to agree with Marjorie. Nice pivot. Keep it up! Rock on, and don’t let the bastards get you down!

    • geofflivingston

      Part of the issue was the way I built the blog traffic up. If you serve the coupon crowd, and then cut your deals, you lose the audience. Then as a brand or writer, you have to have the stomach to go through the rebuilding process, or being smaller to do what you want.

      Thank you so much for your vote of support. It does mean a lot, Justin.

  • jeffespo

    At the end of the day, burnout is real. As with life perspectives and needs change. I find myself reading less and less pundity social blogs because often there is a catch or tie in to hiring them, paying for content or hawking of books that really don’t say anything new, but really repackage an old idea from say the Art of War and adding social or new media to it somewhere…

    • geofflivingston

      I definitely feel like there is nothing new, everything is a new wrinkle, or someone adding their flavor to an unaccredited idea family. Most of the game is in the software side and the evolutions being made there. If there’s nothing to say, why speak? That’s my thinking on this.

      • jeffespo

        I have been thinking the same thing and will probably be moving more onto where my true passion lies nowadays with the kids. But will probably keep my soapbox for the times I feel like I have something to say…

        • geofflivingston

          That’s the way!

  • You are carving your own path, and one which I delightfully join you on. Your voice is clear, your words evocative and your topics and thoughts resonate with me (as you know:)

    I’ve spent much of my life on the road less traveled…watched others make way more money, get the accolades, be put on a pedestal for the choices they made. And although some days the green-eyed monster raised its ugly head in me, I always knew (and know) that the path I carve, though lonely sometimes, is the choice I’ve made.

    You know my favourite saying: “This above all to thine own self be true.” You couldn’t be any truer, and I luv ya for it my friend. Cheers! Kaarina P.S. You must come to Ontario/Toronto for a book reading and signing!

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you! We’ll see how it goes, but yeah, I definitely needed to move toward fiction and get this demon out of me! LOL. I really can’t imagine spending the rest of my life known as and writing about social media marketing. Onward.

      Can’t wait to see what’s next for you, too! The restaurant gig seemed like fun from afar!

      • It was, and that contract’s now concluded. On to other things! It was interesting to read Craig McBreen’s post today, indicating that he is going to “split” his blogging into two: one biz, one “other”. I thought about that for myself, but I resonate far more with the direction you’re going in…being one/ one being. Onward indeed :)

        • geofflivingston

          I just don’t have the time for that. Or perhaps the right phrasing is that I am not willing to invest the time to do that.

  • It’s pruning. Your goals have shifted as has your mindset. It’s only natural that your blog would follow those things. You’d be at war with yourself all the time and be completely exhausted if you were to fight that progression or to try to maintain two blogs.

    • geofflivingston

      I feel exhausted as it is, I just can’t imagine doing more. Nope. Trying to be smarter and do less or optimize is the name of the game. Thanks so much for your help with the book, Erin!

      • I hear that. At least you have a well-earned vacation coming up.

        I’m also glad to hear that you’re already planning the work for the next book.

  • FWIW, I started following via RSS (as opposed to catching the occasional post via your Twitter account) only after you pivoted. “Thought leader” marketing blogs are a dime a dozen and boring as all hell IMO. Keep it real and I’ll keep following.

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you, Tac. This means more than you could imagine!

  • RandyBowden

    I enjoy your writing Geoff, pre and post prune. Keep traveling the road and sharing the adventure and by all means maintain the life balance.

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you, Randy. You’ve been awesome, and I am so glad we met through Triberr. I think people underestimate the community strength on Triberr. I look forward to walking the virtual road with you even farther.

  • Brian D. Meeks

    I’m of the opinion that decisions like this are alway for the best. Happiness has value and though I enjoyed making 75K per year at GEICO, I’m happier making under 10K, working part-part time, scrapping by, and writing novels.

    I have every intention of NOT remaining so poor, though, because I believe the path I’ve chosen is my best chance of success. Can success be achieved in something one likes? Maybe. The chances, in my humble opinion, greatly improve when the something is loved, not just liked.

    • geofflivingston

      You are courageous! I’m not ready to quit my day job, just yet, but I definitely see writing as my hobby, and am now treating it as such. I do think love for something does greatly improve your chances that you will be successful. You can’t discount passion.

      • Brian D. Meeks

        It is less scary when one doesn’t have a wife and children…and when that person actually LIKES Ramen Noodles.

  • As someone who is on a similar (slightly different) path, pruning is certainly the term. Incidentally, I have noticed my overall traffic might be down, but the per-post readership is up. Maybe you have found the same thing?

    More importantly, the most fulfilling aspect of writing longer but fewer posts that I never feel like some of the content is filler or flush, which one almost always has to publish in order to maintain a daily. Good choice overall. If I wasn’t reading your stuff, I’d say see you on the other side. But since I am, I’m glad we’re taking similar journeys on parallel paths that will likely lead to the same destination.

    • geofflivingston

      I actually saw a steep decline in May and June as I made my moves. July has seen growth again, so I feel like I have gotten rid of non-loyal readers, and am now rebuilding around my core.

      Like you, I, too, feel like the content is more me, and less bs. It’s no coincidence that we are on the same path, though. We’ve both been at it the same amount of time! I love reading your blog, too as you know, and I am sure we will continue to be peers for many years to come!

      • You know it. And yes, the new uptick is a good sign. There is traffic and then there are people. I like people better.

  • smart choice to prune, and a justifiable pivot. and I like that you’re keeping everything on one blog, for what it’s worth. I believe that when you’re true to your art, and do good work, things seamlessly come together in a creative way. Sure, a strategy is never overrated. But imho there’s nothing wrong with showing that you’re human by writing about your other interests. it’s quite refreshing when we learn to let go…and break some rules in the process. congrats on the road less traveled…and for paving the way :)

    • geofflivingston

      Ha, now if I can just stay on the road. It does feel right, so we’ll see where this leads. Hope all is well with you!

  • Kelly McDermott Harman

    So you lost some followers when you followed your heart. It happens. Respect how brave you are. It shows in the many things you have written over the years. You have a whole new world of people waiting to find you on the new road of writing that you have pursued. You have my admiration and I cannot WAIT to read Exodus!

    • geofflivingston

      Thanks, Kelly. You’ve done some amazing things yourself over the past few years. Amazing that life keeps revealing wonders and new journeys. Can’t wait to catch up!

  • Pamela Morse

    I think you are doing what you told us to do. Not to worry, I see you developing a more interesting style and wider range..Love all serve all does not mean that you try to please the public. It means that you make the most of your talent..I may consider breaking my 20 year fiction fast to read the Exodus book. The Leon Uris one certainly changed my perspective…Too much reflection on these numbers is useless..You are gaining deeper meaning..how do you count that?

    • geofflivingston

      I love that. What’s the ROI of your parents, as Gary Vaynerchuk said. Asa measurement guy, I can’t help myself, but this feels right, so onward. Trust our guts! Thanks so much for this feedback, Pam.

  • I follow you and your blog and career because you are friend and I value what you say. I have friends who don’t say smart stuff, and I read stuff for the subject matter without making a friend.

    Frankly, I prefer to have both.

    So when you change, I not only accept it, I EXPECT it. You are not a marketing department of ninnies: touting a company line. You are the one and only Geoff Livingston.

    DISCLAIMER: This doesn’t not infer that I will like your novel or mud sculptures, and especially not your politics. I WILL respect what you do and expect it to be worthwhile work. You ROCK dude

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you, Warren. I definitely like to think I offer more than just marketing.

      When I think about where we’ve been and now, I can only say that we’re still standing, and that is an amazing accomplishment on the social web after all this time. I appreciate your insights, and look forward to interacting with you further over the years.

  • I used good ole Robert Frost’s Road Less Traveled just last week…love that poem and what it represents.

    Pruning, self-sabotage…or evolving?

    I was actually thinking of this evolving blog when I wrote both my Father’s Day posts and my Wedding Toast for my oldest daughter. FYI, both of them received excellent traffic (for me), but they sure weren’t related to social media/leadership/life lessons taught through sports analogies.

    Oh well, I will be who I am…

    • geofflivingston

      I suppose evolving and preparing for the future is the end result. I agree, the more personal the blog the more interesting it is. I enjoy seeing your insights, too, and love your sports analogies.

      We are so far into the marketing blogging game that the posts don’t mean much anymore. There are so many of them out there that is is virtually impossible to differentiate!

      • Agreed, and as there is only so much time to read, readers start “pruning back” to the sources they trust.

  • Write for yourself and good things will come from it or so my experience has taught me.

  • RogierNoort

    Well.., I for one am happy you metamorphosed, metamorphosized.., anyway, changed you heading. I love this blog, the personal approach, the journey… It’s very daring.., and revealing. I agree with @MargieClayman:disqus on the “well-done pivot”.

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you, Rogier. I have to say that I enjoy writing for it more, now, too. Perhaps the fact that it also feels better is a great tell.

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