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.

Plagiarism and Stealing

Recently, I’ve witnessed several acts of plagiarism and stealing. As the need for content and attention (a result of good marketing ideas) increases, it’s likely individuals will engage in more thefts.

Unfortunately, stealing ideas and content is something that impacts all businesses and individuals trying to monetize their online activities (here’s a piece on how to detect plagiarism).

It’s too damn easy. Copying and pasting content, whether it’s via source code or simply highlighting text on a screen, makes all words accessible. Blogs are frequent targets for plagiarism.

The intense demands of content creation and the ensuing burnout that many individuals complain about creates a sense of desperation. Publish or perish, as academics used to say. When publishing becomes difficult or impossible, some people turn to stealing ideas and content.

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Beating the Algorithm

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Image by MUMA Monash

In the old days of “influencer relations” (you know way back when in 2009), PR professionals targeted the magic middle and top tier bloggers, which triggered larger blog coverage, and then more often than not traditional news media.

Since then digital media companies straddled the space occupied by both traditional journals and the top tier of bloggers. They use algorithms to detect hot news stories before they trend in the blogosphere, then break the news before traditional players and bloggers alike.

Specifically, Mashable, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Google and the others use algorithms listen to chatter on the social web. When hot trends bubble up they source the content provider, assign a reporter, or in the worst cases use narrative science — computer-based news writing — to break the story first.

This effectively takes power away from PR executives to affect the news cycle through traditional influencer outreach, and in turn, empowers the crowd to determine stories.

Some news outlets use the crowd to validate top stories, too. Validation is embodied by shares on social networks and comments.

For example, USA Today features stories on its web properties based on the posts that get shared the most. The old assignment editor loses weight in these scenarios.
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Falling in Love with Writing Again

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In its purest form, writing offers artistic value to our world, inspiring people, making them think, debating ideas, and challenging norms, even in marketing. The creative side of the profession, the part that speaks to the soul, demands better than a top five list or a mechanical landing page.

A blog post should contribute a small nugget to a professional’s life. An essay should revolve around an idea and debate its merits, pros and cons and leave the reader spinning with their own interpretations. A book should leave a reader enchanted with dream and vision.

And by books, I’m not talking the trade books many of us bloggers tout as our professional mantras, rather books of grander scale and intent. For example, a novel that offers societal commentary. Or even a great history or nonfiction accounting of some facet of life or place.

Writers achieve full potential when they touch others, catalyzing minds with ideas, conviction and passion. That requires effort and thought on the part of the crafts(wo)men.
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Awakening from Delusions of Grandeur

is the ego a window to the soul
Image by alshepmcr

It’s a strange world we live in online. Delusions of grandeur call, singing like that sweet Siren in the midst of the sea. To win, we must appear like we are Doing Important Things, but in the end we find our lives dashed on the rocks.

I’m speaking about the competitive rat race to see who can get the most social media rock star badges; keynotes, books, followings, awards, blog mentions, yeah!

I have to admit, I got caught up in this hooplah again during the past year. Then I looked at my real life (the one I physically walk around in), and my toddler clinging to my pants leg crying every time I moved to the door, afraid that she wouldn’t see me again for days.

Well, when that happens it’s time to reevaluate what matters.

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Just Quit and Leave

Dolphin Tale Wave

How often do we see big dramatic ends to blogs, declarations of account deletions, mass unfollowings on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.?

I’m not sure what anyone gains out of these posts and statements other than attention.

Personally, I find a pie in the face works just as well!

All jokes aside, I know some folks enjoy the discussion, but I don’t. It’s a waste of my bandwidth, and in the case of social networks, these declarations seem to cause more drama than anything else.

People don’t need to justify pulling the plug on anything online. How anyone chooses to invest their time is a personal choice!

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