Am I trying hard enough?

Motivation is an important tool for a blogger. It is the essence of what keeps you writing and it might be the essence of what you may need to encourage your audience to do something. Often motivation can come down to one question. This question is a personal question only discernable by yourself or others who know exactly where you are at.


Am I trying hard enough?


Am I trying hard enough

Gazelle… It can wait… Got to catch some zees… It was a good thing this log was here.

Image Source: Flickr by Tobias / Paraflyer

We could discern that asking this question is a self-incrimination of ourselves. We could also say it is rhetorical (a question which does not require an answer because it is already implied).


So where is this trap of self-incrimination?

Its a trap

Image Source: by Josh Alves

By asking the question we doubt our resolve!

To counter this, you wouldn’t ask this question if you already knew you were working at your maximum capacity. You couldn’t pedal faster on that bike because your lungs would burst. You can’t lift that atlas stone because it is too heavy and even if you got it off the rope circle you’d break your toe when you were forced to drop it in defeat.


If we doubt our resolve is there some truth in it?

Most certainly! From a mild observation (a blog prefect one), it is Human nature to reach an operating level and coast for a while. You get to a point where you are challenged but not over challenged and you get into a comfort zone.


Comfort is your enemy!

The Comfortable Uncomfortable

This man’s track suit disturbs me! Image Source

Life is change and the comfortable resist change. Change is natural and going against nature can have some tragic events. Being flexible is your tool against change, sometimes you have to flex towards being uncomfortable for a time to smooth out the change but you can never avoid it forever so better to do it sooner rather than later.

Want a reminder of comfortable, click here to read my article on the comfortable uncomfortable.


As a rhetorical question

Only you truly know the answer. Someone could say you are doing enough but another person might say you are not. You can only use your inner moral compass as a guide. If you stop checking the compass you are being somewhat amoral and in that state lays that famous river in Egypt, denial (boom boom).


So if you already know the answer what should you do about it?

Try harder. Think smarter.

Once you are working so hard that you can’t possibly ask yourself that question, then you know you are trying hard enough.


Is there room for trying even harder?

Always! Sometimes it can be the route to an early grave, you can lose relationships along the way, and it will swallow the last vestiges of the fun you could have had but there is always trying even harder.


You should think about trying hard enough, period

It’s healthier, everything comes in time, and it goes easier on your relationships. The only pressure you have as a blogger is the pressure you put on yourself.


Avoid the “satisficing” trap

Its a trap

Image Source: by Josh Alves

Good enough is the enemy of best. When you have the time to do better, don’t settle for good enough. Take yourself incrementally to better and you will succeed far more. This doesn’t mean blowing your cash on expensive solutions, this means scoping the best component to satisfy your audience in the best possible way. The best component might be free but it may take a bit of effort. Don’t shortcut the hard stuff.


In conclusion

So when you next ask yourself that question, you’ll know the answer. It’s time for some positive action because you are getting too comfortable!

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How should you prepare for down time when blogging?

Currently I’ve been operating at a high posting level for a number of weeks and due to an increased requirement to be part of a group project for my commitment to my degree I’ve had to step off the blogging bus in order to be able to move forward.

There may be times when real life has other plans for your world domination efforts and in those cases you have to prepare for the results of being out of the limelight.

There may also be times where you need a break, plain and simple. You might not be going on vacation but your brain is over capacity. Blogging requires a lot of thought and upkeep so it is okay to relax occasionally.


How should you prepare for down time when blogging?

How should you prepare for down time when blogging

Source: Pixabay by ZimZamZulu

Keeping up appearances

Time may be a factor but there are small things you can do to keep the blog in the mind of others. Such activities include writing comments on articles where you can spare time. Ideally if you have your favourite writers you should keep them warm with a comment or two. It doesn’t take long (it shouldn’t take long!) and you can keep a little bit of interest up.

Say that you don’t have time to actively use Twitter or Google+, you can at least respond to anything directly sent to you. Just be disciplined in not getting too deep into the whole shooting match like you normally do. You are having this down week to pull back from the onslaught you are used to so don’t commit!


Planning ahead

If you can see that you need a break to gather your thoughts or have some competing responsibilities then planning ahead is important. At this stage a posting schedule can be helpful where you’ve pre-planned posts for the period. I’ve had to do this for September because it will be my biggest revision month before my final exam for the module. I’ve plotted everything for a month and need to produce that content in order to keep the boot pressed to the neck.

This does mean you might be a bit busier than you were hoping so you’ve got more to fit in but it also means you will avoid the potential of losing out. Keeping up the momentum is important in blogging because people can soon lose trace of you if you are not consistent.


Make some time to monitor

With your down time, you might want to holster your guns, step back off the gas pedal, and put on your comfy pants. You may still need to view your stats but you don’t have to do this as often.

Why? Because although you are away, you want to make sure that your site is operating as intended. Hopefully if you’ve built up some steam, people are coming to your site regardless of whether you’ve posted in a while or not and they are coming either through old forged links on sites, social media or through the search engine wormhole. You want to make sure that your host is providing you with the best service and that you can get on top of a show stopper quickly.


Shorten the length of time spent writing

You may find that you’ll have to throttle back from in depth articles but you can quite easily step over to some shorter punchier articles to push out in the meantime. Whilst in depth articles are generally viewed considerably more, short articles can also do well.

You may also opt to gap out your work a little where you might have been producing something daily now you only have time for every other day or every 3 days. Be expected to lose some of your viewing figures but do know that people will still come.


Keep some draft articles back for the rainy days

This is a good general piece of advice but one that fits this requirement very well. Often it is useful to keep a draft or two in the bank for that time when you will be robbed of a chance to react. Keeping a general article in the draft list, ready to go, will give you some flexibility. Even if you’ve only written 70% of your article it won’t take long to crank it out just to show that you are still alive.


Hire a caretaker

There may be a point where you need someone to step in and keep your article numbers up. You might have used this person in the past for guest posts of ghost writing and you know that you can trust them to produce content that works. Better still, you can decide the outlay required for that period and simply let them run their assigned course. You might even be able to get a bit of a discount if you pay them a deposit up front. It is important to make sure you’ve got a quality writer who is reliable.

My only side note is that if you rely on your persona to push things forwards, it may be better to employ someone to ghost write in your absence rather than have the post attributable to them. I would also recommend reviewing their work and keeping an eye on what the audience is saying. You may need to step in if the numbers suggest viewing is going south of the border. You might have to factor a little bit of loss during this period.


Use your time away as a case in point for a story

If your competing demand was interesting enough and is okay to share, why not write about it? Pat Flynn wrote about his air trip to a conference whilst on the aircraft! If it is personal and you’d rather not go into it, don’t mention it. If you don’t want sympathy, simply move on when you return.

There is always a possibility of putting something interesting together. People like stories about overcoming adversity because it can often spark a similar memory in others about a complex situation they had to overcome.


How do you handle your down-time?

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Navigating information overload

We are all working in an information soup at this precise time. The Internet is a gateway to countless untold items of interest, and in part, there lays the problem.

I wanted to cover three points in this article.

  • The annoyance of not finding quite what you want
  • Something distracting that takes your eye off the ball
  • Seemingly no end to the information river

Navigating information overload

Navigating Information Overload

Image Source: Commons by Moebius

The annoyance of not finding quite what you want

Say that you had a very specific search term in mind for Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask or DuckDuckGo.

You punch that query in and none of the matches exactly cover what you are looking for. In fact, most of the results cover something else very specifically but that results is not what you are interested in.

So you adjust your search numerous times and find that nobody is talking about that problem.

Say that you want to avoid a particular website’s result because you’ve been there already or you know it will be biased in a way that won’t help you.


Something distracting that takes your eye off the ball

It’s often those links in the footer of an article that are in some way sponsored links. The ones that take you into a networked article zone and you get lost for 30 minutes on speculation about the next Marvel film. It could be related videos in YouTube. It could be anything that takes you from your original place of viewing.


Seemingly no end to the information river

I find this with Twitter more than anything else. This is mostly because the churn rate of tweets (those coming through the pipe) is far greater than I can process.

I followed Ricky Gervais for a time on Twitter and found I had to stop following him very quickly. The reason was that his information didn’t add anything of value to my day and came through so often that I just grew weary of it.

What can you learn from all of this? What key thing should you do if you are searching for a purpose?


Stick to a game plan.

Searching can become very unproductive if you go into it with no plan of action. Say that you are trying to research your next article and you already have a title in mind but then you need to add something else useful to it and you need to research a bit before you find what you are looking for. Basically you should have some form of search plan. It doesn’t have to be written down but it may aid you if you have a little notepad document open or a physical notepad so that you remember what you are there for.


Bookmark for later

Say you come across something that looks interesting but you are on a mission. This is why bookmarks were invented. Bookmark the page in your browser, put some useful notes against what it is for then move on to your goal.


Setting an audible time limit

Often people work better to some implied time constraint. Setting yourself an alarm that sounds should push you to try and complete your goal in a timely fashion. Being under the cosh is normally a great way to keep your goal in the frame of your mind, to be honest, time is money. You don’t want to dally with this task. You want more time to enjoy some entertainment or get something pushed out.


Remove anything that is non-productive

If you’ve battled with something that no longer gives you value, why on earth would you keep it going? Sometimes the best part of battlefield surgery is to cut off that immobile limb and save the patient. People relate guilt with not trying hard enough for long enough but often there is no harm in declaring defeat a little early and working on something that does work. You can lose more time through trying to make it work than moving on with a more productive plan. Cease the day!


Learn how to search more effectively

This guide from Dharmesh Shah is very helpful for Google searches. There are more useful tips just a search away (ironic).


If you don’t find the result rapidly in one place, try in another.

If Google comes up blank, try Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo. The famous “filter bubble” might be in effect that is preventing you accessing what you need because you’ve been looking at too many searches that profile your results in a different way.

YouTube is not the only video receptacle. You may find Vimeo has what you need.

If you are looking for an image on Google Images and can’t find what you need, Bing’s image search might help you (by comparison they are both on a similar level and I would have no issues using either).


Silence the voices

If you are actually hearing voices in your head, consult your Doctor and avoid the assault weapon rack at your local supermarket.

If you are getting bombarded by nonsense and it shows no sign of getting better, mute or remove the source. You don’t need that distraction ruining your day!

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Should you be worried about Google?

I wanted to throw out a bit of a debate on Google because I am personally of two minds.

Google is the prime feeder of my site, in terms of the social media referrals I get and the search engine traffic referrals. Google is my helper in that regard. It makes sure my site eats and that new people may stand a chance of reading my content.

On the other hand, Google have been doing some questionable things. Very corporate things. Very suit and tie sort of things.


Should you be worried about Google?

Google First Day of Summer

To set the scene, I mentioned in one of my previous  articles a specific line as follows:

So some of these tools can be dangerous! I’ve mentioned in Question 15 that Google can steal your search information via Google Analytics, in order to provide paying ad customers a boost, essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. – Jackson Davies, 20 Questions You Should Ask Before Purchasing Expensive Marketing Tools, 18th June 2014

I have to be a bit more specific on what is occurring so that you understand what the situation is.


The curse of “unknown search terms”

If you look via WordPress stats (if using a WordPress based blog (which I’d recommend)) or via Google  Analytics (which you can use with Blogger and Tumblr) then you will spot “unknown search terms” very quickly. In fact, it will be your largest search term number in most cases.


Because Google have systematically been censoring this information.

There are two trains of thought on why this has occurred.

The Amtrak train travelling to Buffalo

Amtrak trainThe obvious reason Google has restricted this information is so that people using their analytics tool for free aren’t given a free pass to information that their paying customers receive on their ad revenue schemes.

There has to be an incentive to buy into a scheme and increasingly turn search engine optimisation into a science to create an ever increasingly complex and chargeable feed. An industry is sustained by making the bar ever higher.

The fault of this lies in those who succeeded in the past. There has to be a way to penalise everybody else and raise the bar.

It is like looking under the hood of a new car. Unlike an old car where you could fiddle with the parts, get the carburetor working, you now have a sealed unit which requires a licensed garage to work on.

I see this working out badly for Google in the long haul but before that happens, there are going to be a whole load more screws tightened.

Why Buffalo as a parallel? Because Buffalo is an abstract destination, you don’t know why they are destined there but you do know that going to such an abstract place signals something dodgy. Not that Buffalo is a nasty place but you’d much rather it was travelling somewhere more popular.

The Bullet train to Tokyo

Bullet TrainOn the other hand it is Google trying to do searchers a service.

Before I elaborate fully I have to explain Blackhat techniques.

You may hear of BlackHat techniques passed around if you are ever involved in finding ways to backlink your site. Backlinks are generated by commenting on other people’s sites but specifically with a link running back to your site. Backlinks can occur through links in comments, through the gravatar that goes with the comment, through any hyperlinks in articles written by yourself featured on other sites or lovingly given by somebody else, in the sidebars or other pages within somebody else’s website. Basically any hyperlink pointing back to your site. Blackhat doesn’t only refer to linking but can cover a selection of marketing sins. Artificial shortcuts that otherwise put your work ahead of somebody elses by doing something artificially or underhand. Something that could be of low quality.

Google affect algorithms into their search engine to root out these hacks and penalise sites that flaunt the basic concepts of going about things the wrong way. Traffic drops away significantly from those doing wrong.

The possible removal of data surrounding search terms removes the would be Blackhatter being able to capitalise on this data freely.

 Why Tokyo as a parallel and why the bullet train? Tokyo is a known destination and Google’s actions on this front try and steer people under a known and accepted path. The bullet train is the sweetener, bullet trains are awesome, they go fast. Everybody loves them. This is the candy Google wants you to eat. This is the candy Google wants you to spread. This is the candy they hope you lose your teeth over.


Analysing the trains

When speaking of the Buffalo route, I believe this is the core reason why Google has done what it has done. Whilst Bing and Yahoo are search engine players alongside other giants that are non Google in origin, there is no doubt that Google are the biggest player in this search engine Oligarchy with no signs of challenge. “Googled”, as a term, was entered into the dictionary. Google sit atop a mighty throne bathing in milk and honey.

Google as a company has a higher GDP than a large number of developing countries.

Which also means that they can pretty much do whatever the hell they want.

So if they want to “Rob Peter to pay Paul” they can. That is exactly what they are doing.

In so doing they realise they are upsetting some people who didn’t feel they were doing anything particularly wrong but have been penalised anyway. In order to pacify these riotous voices they send up the Tokyo bullet train line of thought as a red herring.

Now I support good quality search results. I hate finding rubbish results and occasionally I still do find rubbish results on Google in page 1. You may have run across some rubbish results yourself where what you got back doesn’t bare relation to the words you put in.


The face of disinformation

This man is Matt Cutts. He is Google’s appointee of disinformation. He rides on the bullet train to Tokyo.


He is a likable guy and most of what he reports on makes sense. Unfortunately it is all designed to counteract those Google policy makers who travel on the train to Buffalo. Despite what Matt says, Google respects the green dollar above all things. They started out playing nice and edge Microsoft out of its dominance. The problem is that they grew into this corporate money beast that want to steer information.

Google want to sit on your lap every time you run a search, watch a video or take a phone call.


Other companies that draw similar concern

If I mention Rupert Murdoch you should know what I’m talking about. In Britain he pretty much owns the largest share of media. His empire owns and controls a massive stake in news outlets, dominates the satellite television supply, and generally causes the government issue. He was the basis of “Carver” in one of the bond films. Rupert was fairly recently caught up in some very dodgy dealing around the point of phone hacking where many of his lieutenants have been arrested and convicted. The problem with Rupe is that he is untouchable. He has too much money. He’d get out of it somehow. He’s as slippery as a ferret and has the teeth to match. His son is a chip off the old block too. Fab!

Another such villain is Bernie Ecclestone. If you are a Formula 1 fan, you might have heard of him. He’s getting on a bit now but he is another gentleman who is literally untouchable. His organisation generates huge amounts of income from allowing tracks in certain countries. Perhaps the most annoying things that have transpired during the past 10 years include somewhat questionable deals with Qatar’s race track and allowing the race to run despite the civil unrest. He has also been responsible for some other questionable activities during his reign and many wait with bated breath for him to either retire or shuffle off the mortal coil.

Herein lies the issue of allowing a domination victory.


Fundamental issues

Now we all know that Google exist in this world to make money. Many of us readers strive to make money to live how we want to. There’s no harm in that.

The harm comes in forcing people to swallow something that should be more free and less controlled.

What we should all be aware of is a basic fact. You never get anything in life for free or as my father says “there’s no such thing in life as a free lunch!”

Anything that can involve marketing comes with a catch.

When you have a dominant player in the marketplace, they flex their muscles in unacceptable ways. It is their way or the highway. Google can dictate without recourse. They permeate mass sectors of the information market and can haunt your soul.


What to do?

The situation is going to get worse. For those people fortunate enough to have built up a business prior to these policy changes, they have a massive historical advantage over any new starters today. They were lucky enough to be around in the period when there was a free lunch.

We are only seeing the embers of that once great fire. We won’t be able to get those results like the old guard did and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it can work that way anymore without paying to get ahead.

We have to adapt to the challenge. We have to support fairer players. We have to see through the disinformation. We occasionally have to vote with our feet or cry foul.

Most importantly, we have to take action!