Blogging is harder to maintain as the years go by. I refer to this as the “Wash Effect” and you will become familiar with this if you stay anywhere any length of time. Blogging momentum is tied with this wash effect. You have to keep moving in order to be relevant.
The wash effect means that your efforts are eroded if you don’t change things up, don’t continually work to make your value visible and generally make efforts to keep moving forwards.
Blogging Momentum, The Problem
If you can be disciplined and maintain your blog regularly and also do your part with the community to invest yourself in their material you will maintain forward momentum.
If you falter, however, expect your hard earned momentum to slip, if not die completely.
It is something that many bloggers can chalk up to experience. “That blog that got away from me 20xx.”
But What are the Facts HeadBoy?
“According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.” New York Times, 5th June 2009
Of course, this survey is 8 years old, based on data from 2008 and the sampling group isn’t reflective of the entire amount of blogs that were available during that year, but it does provide an interesting snapshot and a means for me to provide you some solid facts. Douglas Quenqua’s words seem quite emotive in this article with phrases such as “remnants of a dream” and “ambition – unfulfilled”. He’s not wrong.
As a blogger you come to understand that hard work in writing is a necessity and you pour hours into that aim, with hope. Hope can be dashed though. Victory can be a long way from your grasp.
The Audience is Hard to Win Over
This means that if you step off the gas you have all that hard work to do again.
The Internet is a transient zone where searcher’s time is limited. You have to be good at what you do and timely with it. If your schedule slips it is hard to get back on top of things. Followers will only remain as long as you keep on pushing out value and making all the right gestures, but even then your audience may become fatigued over time. If you pause this might give those questioning few the impetus to make it official and leave.
Keeping it Simple
Is difficult. The tools you need to maintain your ‘position’ may remove you from some of the pain of publishing but even the edge on these tools can dull over time.
It is often hard to go back to the basics to bootstrap your blog back into a shadow of its former self.
Bootstrap is a term quite often used when your computer starts up. It starts at the BIOS level then works its way slowly upwards to an operational level where all the services are available.
Bootstrapping your blog back to its operational level means that you have to be on top of your promotion methods and the way you stage your blog posts. If you’ve been away from your blog after a long period of down time you’ll realise just how much of a job it can be to adapt.
Blogging is not just posting. There is a lot more to it than that. You have to look deeply at how every element of what you put together, when you launch it and how people see it, is conceived.
Whilst You Are Cooking, You Cook Better
Blogging should be a habit. You should produce content on a regular basis, you should regularly promote it. You should develop a style to suit and you should encourage tribe building.
If you stop for too long it doesn’t mean you can’t produce quality anymore, it just means that you are not a practiced hand. Because blogging and methods of audience retention/pleasing change quickly, it is important not to get left behind.
It is a bit like a conversation. Keep that conversation ticking over and people are encouraged to continue joining in. Falter with that conversation and the embers die on the fire. You have to start a new conversation.
Am I Doing Enough?
Is a question you should ask yourself regularly. There is always something more you could do even if that means just writing more content or responding to a comment. The art of Kaizen, a Japanese methodology, suggests that you can improve everything but the returns from your improvements diminish the smaller you focus.
Diminishing Returns and the Aggregate Analogy
Aggregate, if you are not familiar, are the grades of stone used to pour onto the railway or roads. On the railway this stone soaks up Human waste, keeps the tracks level and weight distributed, whilst reducing vibrations and noise. Each stone is refined to a common size so as to be uniform. There are different grades of aggregate from big to small which is why it lends itself well to the following blogging focus on Kaizen.
The image above comes from Greenspec.co.uk, a green building design company. They provide great detail on aggregate used in concrete.
When your blog is young, every change you make is big in the grand scheme. It can be likened to boulders. The effort you spend on each element is incredibly valuable and has a large factor in your success. This could include setting up your MailChimp account for your mailing list, selecting your theme and deciding on your niche.
Those boulders disappear quickly and soon you’ll be onto rocks. Rocks are fairly crucial elements and you’ll spend the same time if not longer than you did compared to boulders. This could be how you decide to market your articles and what you use to entice your audience.
In middle age, you are dealing with pebbles, every change has some influence but the energy expended doesn’t yield results in the magnitude that rocks do. This could be small things like the order in which your index is arranged on the welcome page.
By maturity, granules are what you will be used to. Every granule will be absorbing but produce tiny returns. When you reach granular level, small changes can be negligible to costly when compared to their potential return. This could be as simple as welcoming pages from different social media links from your Twitter profile page. It could also be an innocuous tailored greeting to Google+ users who’ve entered your site from a social media link.
Kaizen, A Japanese Study of Continuous Improvement
Kaizen dictates that everything can be improved by even the smallest percentage. In the early days of your blog, you’ll be thinking wider but as you eventually start to reach the goals you’ve set, your focus will become narrower. You will want to squeeze every drop from the sponge. Every tap that you tighten will save you money. To counter that need, as your blog matures, every micro managing activity actually costs you time and resource and may remove you from the core task at hand. It is important to strike a balance to the degree you make change. You may wipe out these micro adjustments simply by changing your blog’s theme.
Why Do Professional Bloggers Micro-Manage?
If you look at an Entrepreneur like Pat Flynn, then take a look at his income report at smartpassiveincome.com, you can see that every small avenue of his micro-management contributes to the end tally.
If you look in detail at his breakdown on any given month and subtract the largest contributory elements of his income, you will see that a number of side earnings provide Pat with a considerable boost to his overall net income per month. All those side products have to be micro-managed by Pat and his team. They fluctuate more than his core earning components from month to month.
Entrepreneurs spread themselves over many projects to reduce the risk when their main components falter. In addition, many smaller projects lead to bigger projects. You can see with Pat’s offerings that over time, he has expanded the base of his offerings to provide value over a range of problems and their solutions. Pat doesn’t purely focus on his BlueHost Domain referrals to make money but you’ll see that it does make up a large percentage of his monthly take.
Outsourcing is something I have mentioned before, not something I’ve done as yet. I’m still at the rock/pebble stage of evolution in my blogging. I have two blogs that are in different stages of development. The second blog has bypassed some of the pain I suffered in developing the first because I’ve learnt from necessity on what does and doesn’t need doing.
Remember that when you set to do certain tasks, they may have little return. Blogging and more specifically, retaining audience, is a game show. As long as the audience is happy, stimulated and invested, you have few worries. The moment that the warm glow fades will spell an unhappy time for you as the creator.
Outsourcing some of your daily grind is a Godsend, there are however, three ‘buts’.
Mistakes made by trusting someone makes it hard to commit to trusting someone, the definition of a trust paradox. Handing off is difficult at first but can be overcome if you communicate enough of exactly how you want something done. It is just difficult to initially nail it down and you might be concerned that the person you are handing off to may not have the same values you do. As a manager you have to man (or woman) up. If you are at a stretch point where you need to outsource, you need to get over this blog being managed entirely by you.
Being a penny pincher you are mindful that these services cost money so you are forever moving the acceptance criteria to hang on a bit longer before you make the decision. Blogging as an individual pursuit is a prideful activity, it cannot be denied. If you are successful, why hold yourself back from performing the core duties that interest and get the best value from you? The truth is that some parts of the blogging/entrepreneurial puzzle suck for some individuals. You will only ever satisfy the bare minimum of what needs to be done in areas you don’t enjoy.
Being prideful in your own accomplishments you feel a threat from letting others on board. You might be concerned about handling criticism on elements that you got plain wrong but are too proud to change. You objectify your decisions until you are blue in the face. Where does that really get you? In truth it holds you back. One key element that makes blogs thrive is feedback, without it you continue to make bad moves. Feedback I have received has enhanced the site. There is a lot people won’t say through politeness or lack of time. The benefit of having outsourced employees is that they will be franker with their opinion because they have a vested interest in you succeeding; it pays their bills in future jobs where they are invited back.
Outsourcing is the right thing but not to be performed before you have proof of sale.
Proof of Sale
This is something you work towards. You start out with blogging spending money if you are serious. I don’t agree with those who start out trying to be serious with Blogger or free WordPress. If you are not going about it in the right frame of mind (by means of being cheap) you will not succeed. Self-hosting is the way to go.
Jane Friedman over at JaneFriedman.com provides a great summary as to why Self Hosting is the way to go.
Pay to Play
Hyper-competition is at the level where you need to spend to get ahead in some cases. There is no avoiding it. Social Media embeds monetary transactions in improving visibility for those with the cold hard cash. Search engines do the same.
That’s not to say that you should throw money at something. There are many people who seek to line their pockets on boosting you. It takes a while as a blogger to get into the right habits. If you seek boosting as the fire lighters to your barbecue, be prepared to singe your eyebrows. You should know how to cope and that kind of essential learning should not be shortcut.
Proof of sale as a concept is an important one to grasp. Your momentum should always drive you to at the very least cover your expenditure on establishing the system, even if you work for a charity or feel that you are running a valuable service in a Not for Profit model.
Finding The Sell
Finding the sell to attract the buyer is the difficult equation in blogging. It’s the rabbit you hope to pull out of the hat. Many dips in momentum and overall loyalty to remaining with your blog hinge on the hope of payback. Patience is a virtue, so they say. Many bloggers give up too early because getting established takes longer than you think.
- Firstly you’ve got to provide value.
- Then you must provide more value than those at the same level as you.
- Then you must eclipse those above you.
That doesn’t always work. There are some incumbents, old guard, dudes before you, that will always rock it better than you will. They will see trends and adopt strategies you’ll never see coming. Worse still, any good product or angle you might create, could get poached by those overlords who can pitch it to a bigger distribution than you. Your doors are open to everyone on the Internet including your competitors. Also, I rarely talk about it but you do get trailblazing newcomers that have all the components and kill it big. Don’t lose faith because you aren’t a superstar. You don’t have to be number 1 to earn good money.
Big Wigs and How They Factor
You have one key advantage that Big Wigs don’t have. Time to make honest responses to your followers. Getting down on the floor with the problems that affect you and your audience in equal measure.
Big Wigs don’t have time to play nurse maid. Their life is a hot soup of crazy. No matter how much they claim they are free and in charge, they are fully owned by their creation. You, as the entrant, have the time and resource to make the little changes that raise the novice up. The smallest portion of help can be enough to turn the engine. You have the chance to remedy what spills out of the side.
The only way to rise to the top is start from the bottom. Nobody is gifted top spot in Blogging without working or paying for it.
Making sales is not the first hurdle, finding a market is.
Something to Remember
There is a level of grind to blogging. It won’t always be fun. You won’t enjoy every aspect of it. As long as you make it a habit you can see the fruits of your labour. No matter how small your blog is, you have advantage over large incumbents, as you have the time to sit 1 to 1 with your audience member and help them. Big Wigs always bemoan not having that time, they bemoan not being able to outreach more because they realised how valuable that was when they were beginning, so you should cherish it too.
Consider how long to spend on micro-management, big changes can wipe out the ground you made. Have you explored the biggest issues first when returning or glazed over them in denial? Being the sole operator of your blog, you have to take accountability for failure and embrace it with humility and a resolution to remedy, because honestly, nobody else cares as much as you do.
If you can think back to a time where that favourite shop or favourite snack was on offer, satisfying your needs for years, but then was disbanded or discontinued. How would that make you feel? Your audience may be forced to feel the same when you go on a long break.
More questions for you to answer:
- What is avoidable / what is unavoidable to adding detrimental impact of your schedule?
- Is the reason why you stopped because of the excuse note or because the joy was sapped out due to your lack of performance?
- Have you taken the time to evaluate what was and wasn’t working?
- What’s your fresh start plan?
On my return from a protracted study period towards the end of my University degree, I wrote an article on writing free guides. This could be a good place for you to start thinking about your value as part of your fresh start plan.
Sharing is Caring
I’d appreciate that if you took value from this article you kindly share it. Feedback always welcome due to the mention earlier in this article.
Featured image from Pixabay by Unsplash (modified)
Aggregate image from Greenspec.co.uk
Grinding Image from Pixabay by Skeeze