5 Reasons Why Bloggers Should Use a Never Publish Folder

As a blogger, you are ultimately going to commit your writing to your CMS (content management system) at some point. Many bloggers write straight into the editor and then may either publish the work or leave it in draft for a time.

As you grow as a blogger it becomes more important to think about the big picture. The big picture consists of, but is not limited to:

 

  • Niche
  • Direction
  • Brand
  • Community
  • Values

 

When you start making account for all of this, you may start to drive your drafting back into a Word Document, Pages, an Email or a Notepad file.

Placing your work in compartmentalised folders allows you to organise what you are producing.

As a blogger you will realise that keeping a schedule is hard and that you have to ‘keep the meat filling the sausage’. It can be tough at times and I am no stranger to the ups and downs of trying to maintain a schedule.

Down to the 5 reasons of why to keep that all important ‘Never Publish’ folder

Reason 1: Eliminating Poor Quality

Sometimes you are not on your ‘A’ game. It is inevitable that you are going to reach a point of poor quality.

Green/Newbie bloggers do push out a lot of garbage along with their good posts in the first year of blogging. It is part of wearing the T-Shirt. You have to experiment in order to understand what your audience likes best out of the boundaries of what you are covering. Over-posting is common in order for you to gain traction with an audience, a lot of that hard work will be wiped away because certain articles just don’t cover the depth that the audience needs to find satisfying. You should be able to get a sense of what your audience reacts to and what they find uninspiring.

 

Reason 2: Eliminating Jumping on the Band Wagon

gellinger-band-wagon

It is dangerous to jump on the band wagon. You have to know what you are talking about. The other major issue with the band wagon is that most of the time, it was somebody else who creatively thought to ask the questions and somebody other than you to provide the answers. You could be late to the party, so late that you don’t get any warmth from what you’ve written.

There are those entrepreneurs who have made a fortune by making clones of popular services. Nothing is immune from reverse engineering. You’ll find that if you strike on something good, you will get a competitor analyse it before too long. That shouldn’t put you off trying though. It is normally the person who was best able to make something work first who gets the warmth from it. Everyone else gets an ever decreasing share of that warmth.

What you could end up with if you straight copy is a bland experience, ultimately forgettable to your audience.

Forget following the masses. Be original.

 

Reason 3: Avoid “Jumping The Shark”

fonzie_jumps_the_shark“Jumping the Shark” is a pop culture reference; it dates back to a sitcom called Happy Days where the Fonz literally jumps a shark with a pair of water skis. The truth was that Happy Days was suffering a sustained drop in ratings and in order to keep the show ticking over the shark jump was added as a gimmick. It was seen as a departure from the show’s spirit. Such a gimmick can be cited, in more modern settings, as the point where creative evolution declines or where the style change takes it away from what made it great in the first place, a shadow of its former self.

One of the major challenges with blogging is keeping the tone and intent the same whilst moving with the times. There are periods when you write something you hope encapsulates the passion for your topic but more often than not falls flat or lands out-of-bounds for your niche. Blogging has a difficulty in that owing to ‘hypercompetition’ the boundaries of niches are much smaller than they were in the old days. You can talk about a great deal in a blog but be washed away with the masses.

It is tempting to try to seek that one post that will change your fortunes but in truth you do better when you continually tweak your everyday to make it better. It’s about leaving no weak links.

 

Reason 4: Avoiding Inflammatory Personal Digs

There is a difference between opposing viewpoints and making a personal attack. On most occasions we can be relied upon to make the right call, tread the right balance of not destroying a person entirely. Sometimes on a rare occasion our objectivity towards a person can erode beyond a point where we are rational. We can enter a state where it is likely that we will do our own self-image harm if we engage in debunks.

It is important to remember that not everybody has the same moral and ethical code that we have. We can’t be friends with everybody in life, it just doesn’t happen. It is important not to get into tit-for-tat situations because they can quickly escalate. Self-image as a blogger is quite important because many bloggers sell through the positive influence that they exude. Whilst you can sell a lot on negativity consider what gain you will receive out of an attack. Sometimes it is better to put the guns back in the holsters even if that bandit is calling you a chicken.

These provocative situations need to be kept under a lid. It is right for you to defend yourself but it is much better to do this person to person or email to email rather than involve your audience.

Reason 5: It All Acts As A Reminder To Self

The best way to prevent making mistakes is to have some form of log of the stuff you have vowed never to release. You will discover by a quick glance, the kind of situations you know you shouldn’t have gone into further detail about and it will hopefully prompt you not to make the same mistake again. Obviously it can be tough to quarantine any work indefinitely, especially after so much work has been dedicated.

If you are running off niche topic in a big way then quarantine is the best answer. You could spark negative issues by going off topic which have long-lasting effect to your audience and their satisfaction.

 

BlogPrefect’s Never Publish Folder

In over 3 years of writing I organise BlogPrefect post drafts (outside of the editor) into three buckets.

Bucket 1: Unpublished

These are the posts that are not fully fledged thoughts just yet, they are awaiting enough content to be transferable to the CMS (WordPress in my case). I try to keep this bucket’s contents small, mostly because every extra file and folder in this bucket becomes potentially wasted time. As a blogger, the less wasted time you have, the better.

Bucket 2: Published

Once the unpublished becomes published I move the drafts over into the published folder where they may sit for a time until I archive the post after it no longer drives meaningful traffic. Reviewing published posts is an important staple of blog management. Often you can find a lot of ideas from seeing the gaps in what you have written before. A lot about becoming more successful in a niche hangs on how you fill out the gaps that other bigger bloggers have left behind (the clearing in the wood).

Bucket 3: Never Publish

This metaphorical bucket is the nub of this article.

This third bucket is a sub-bucket of Bucket 1. There are certain times when I may have committed some time to writing a draft but later realise that what I am writing about may cause issues, is just not what I should be writing about or just isn’t that engaging to read for a would-be visitor.

 

At time of writing I have 5 ‘never publish’ articles sitting in this bucket. I’ll talk you through each one:

 

Don’t Upset a Hipster Geek

Sadly this was a non-relevant blog post. I belong to a science fiction group on Google+ and got into a bit of a spat with a certain individual about a piece of art (made from Lego) depicting an AT-AT walker. I am suffering some severe Star Wars fatigue, mostly from the very poor prequel quality and a massive merchandise drive. Cutting a long story short, we managed to have a civil conversation about it but we both agreed to disagree.

I wasn’t really sure how I was going to steer this article to be relevant for BlogPrefect.Com. This may have suited JackoWrites.Com better although ultimately it was a personal experience and one that you had to be there to get the full benefit from.

Word Count 1031 – First started on 26th July 2013

 

Great Expectations Legacy

This article followed another similarly titled piece. It was meant to cover in detail the issues with a game called The Sims 4. I decided to abandon this because whilst the original did well, it was off topic.

This article also came too late after the fact and there seems to be a lack of criticism web-wide on The Sims 4. You only tend to find true rants on YouTube.

Word Count 3925 – First started on 4th September 2014

 

How Not To Treat Your Customers

This was a piece on EA and Bioware, obviously as with the above post, it was not relevant to this niche but unlike the article above, I only committed 807 words to it so it wasn’t as big a loss overall. The article went into detail about how EA and Bioware made a chronic miss-step in their franchises, specifically Mass Effect which had the worst third installment. EA had also killed the Sim City franchise with a critical online only error, symptomatic of their need to greed. Many Sims fans are concerned that they are doing this to the Sims franchise as well.

Whilst a passionate article it was not suitable on BlogPrefect.Com for the audience I was trying to attract.

Word Count 807 – First started on 23rd August 2013

 

“Brian Randolph”

Brian Randolph is both a sinner and a saint.

I’ve had to change the name on this article because it was again, a personal look at someone who had been a patron on BlogPrefect.com during my stellar year.

Brian Randolph, known by another name, was a prolific responder. He spent the best part of a month replying to every article I posted during a very heavy posting month. He was the only commenter who consistently made comment on every post. In that way he was a saint.

I had deep concerns about Mr Randolph. It seemed even Enstine Muki agreed when he laid down his own scathing criticism at a number of frauds including Brian roughly two years ago (although recently he’s changed his tune). Brian was into some pretty shady business practices including a Pyramid/Ponzi scheme (rebranded as MLM).

I had started writing a praising article about him and his website but couldn’t pull the trigger. He was tainted by this MLM business. I can’t tell you too much more because if you garner too much detail you’ll know who Brian Randolph actually is. He gets around a lot.

The problem is, I like Brian. He’s a nice guy, a Buddhist with plenty of wisdom about blogging. He’s written several million words in his long blogging career and some of his books have been used by University lecturers in respectable colleges in the USA.

He still carries that taint and I don’t entirely trust him as a result. It’s why I didn’t deepen the relationship even though it may have meant “cutting my nose off to spite my face”.

Word Count 441 – First started on 6th August 2014

*If you head over to Enstine’s site at the moment you might catch a glimpse of Brian but if you come to this article in a couple of months time he may be less visible.

 

Using the Community for Help – Zero Second Bounce

As you may know by now, I love statistics. Statistical information rocks so having the opportunity to look at graphs and charts, dripping with statistical butter, makes my mouth salivate. Okay, maybe that’s a bit strong – you get the idea.

During my early first year with BlogPrefect.com I covered a lot on my statistics. Google Analytics was a favourite hangout zone for me and I would expend a long time looking at this data in intrigue.

The article felt like a bit of a stretch. The Zero Second Bounce referred to readers who had not even spent 1 second looking at my content. I later found out that GA is a bit harsher than other statistical measures in that it struck people off the list if they only viewed 1 page on entry to the site before leaving. The problem was that I was floundering on this topic because I didn’t know what I was talking about. I didn’t have the knowledge to form a useful frame for knowledgeable GA users. In other words readers would see through my shallow words. This article got parked.

Word Count 534 – First started on 19th July 2013

 

In Conclusion

There are more than five reasons why you should have a ‘Never Publish’ folder. Something to always remember with these list type articles is that the most important facts rise to the top, but there can be more reasons lurking underneath. You may be shocked to know that over on www.jackowrites.com I list a massive group of novel ideas that I quarantined indefinitely (around 700 hours worth by rough estimation). I had to do this in order to move on and complete novels.

The truth is that sometimes you have to enact the cutting blade to ensure you maintain quality. Don’t be afraid to park work that doesn’t meet the standard but if it is something that you think you need to be reminded of, don’t delete it. Nothing is ever truly a waste.

 

Sharing is Caring

If you have enjoyed, can relate to, or have found this article useful then please share.

You can contact me at headboy@blogprefect.com or hit me up over at Twitter

 

Image Credits

Featured image source by Tookapic via Pixabay

Happy Days, “Fonzi” image located from Wikipedia under fair use.

Wagon with horses image by Gellinger via Pixabay

The Importance of Email Lists for Blogging

There is no hard and fast rule to setting up an email list other than gathering a list of emails from willing participants and providing the audience with what they need. In this article I go into detail of the issues surrounding setting up any email list that you intend to use for blogging and some of the inherent problems a green blogger will have along the way.

The Importance of Email Lists for Blogging

Managing subscription and moreover the act of retention is an element of the marketing mix that many big wig bloggers cite as a critical element to their current success. Many smaller scale bloggers also swear by the power of the mailing list.

So Why Is It SO Important?

Attracting people to your site is hard enough as it is. Keeping those people is even harder.

Capturing your audience is important because your audience may form a small niche of very specific interested parties. If you are able to hold onto that kind of audience member, you can hope to predict the kind of reach your articles, advertising and products might have.

Email subscribers are those audience members who agree to be updated with new information at a time you specify. They are the audience you can rely on more to be receptive to your new content.

But an email subscription audience does more than just read your posts.

The Audience Can Provide Vital Feedback

Email has always been a method whereby concerned citizens can target you individually and let you know something is not working in confidence. There are many instances where a person might prefer to approach you privately to take care of an issue and explain in detail, rather than announce it to all.

You can pass out an audience survey. You might not get a 100% response rate so you may have to re-target those who didn’t respond.

You can include self-promotional material. In so many other locations where you advertise you might come across anger and discontent from those who see you self-promoting on a regular basis. Mailshot is different.

You can cross promote which is another large benefit. Say you’ve been working on a book elsewhere and you have a fair idea that a proportion of your audience might like that item, you can email your list about it. If you segment your audience by filtering those individuals by certain topics they respond to, you can have a higher chance of success in attracting the right people to the right place.

At Sign

Drawbacks With Mailing Lists

There are some notable drawbacks with mailing lists.

Setting up a list can be a science.

The list requires a fair amount of tweaking. It is not advisable to send out too many live environment tests otherwise you will upset your mailing list subscribers.

Getting your audience to initially sign up can be difficult.

With a blog (with the exception of a paid subscription membership) the audience member has no ties. They can dip in and dip out when they like. When a casual passer-by becomes a subscriber their attitudes change. They will have expectations.

 

Concerns for a potential subscriber:

  • Concern 1 Privacy. Will you abide by keeping details private?
  • Concern 2 Frequency. Will you spam me?
  • Concern 3 Quality. Will what you provide in email satisfy me? I.e. Not ads.
  • Concern 4 What’s in it for me. Is there something I get that is more valuable than me just going to your website on a regular basis?
  • Concern 5 Can I easily unsubscribe. Because I’m going to do this for a trial and if I don’t like what I see, I’d like to know that I can drop out whenever I choose.

 

These 5 concerns are commonly what your subscribers will consider before making that decision. In order to cajole the fence sitter, you have to provide information that sets that person at ease.

Your Own Privacy

Believe it or not, email is a two-way street.

As a list owner, you have to display your business address at the foot of each email, which for many bloggers is their home address.

Why Is That Problematic?

For the same reasons that the subscriber doesn’t want to receive spam, you may be targeted to receive unsolicited snail mail.

People know where you live so if you manage to upset someone, they know where to find you. That could have very real problems to you such as stalking, property damage, abuse and identity theft.

Unfortunately it is non-negotiable. By law you are required to provide your address so as to prove that you have no intent to abuse. This issue came about due to the spam that entered people’s inbox considerably during the earlier days of email. Now there are robust measures to track down spam and to prosecute those who make flagrant abuses. Spam still gets through.

Terms of Service

You are bound by rules by the mailing list provider, these rules vary from provider to provider.

Reading the small print is something we commonly overlook but it is worth investigating this from time to time to ensure that you are not making any breaches.

In Terms of Maintenance Fees and ROI

Certain providers are expensive at first. Your ROI or Return On Investment is not guaranteed.

Whilst email is heralded as a major tool, some organisations charge considerable monthly or annual fees even at the basic levels of traffic. It may be difficult to commit to a service where you are uncertain of what capability you have.

Big Wig Bloggers may try to convince you that signing on the dotted line will easily pay you back but it is not guaranteed.

Methods of Attraction Lose Effectiveness Over Time

Often it can be hard to strike on the perfect incentive to encourage subscription. There are certain individuals who you will never reach this way regardless of what you try.

In June, I wrote a guide on how to create free guides. A free guide is a common but effective way that Big Wig Bloggers lure subscribers.

Ebb and Flow

Losing and gaining are uncontrollable elements of your list but there are events that can trigger extremes.

An important thing to consider is that you are not likely to keep everyone happy all of the time.

You can certainly do a better job of providing variety but email list subscribers are an external factor who can be affected by stimuli beyond your control.

Each subscriber is a unique individual.

Segmentation (by means of placing certain readers in categories) can help you manage to a degree but you will have some individuals who don’t conform to the norm.

The only constant in management of mailing lists is unpredictability.

Control is an illusion.

Extreme #1 Something Stupid you Wrote

It happens. People say and do stupid things. Sometimes you might commit the crime in ignorant bliss and other times through choice. The important thing to remember about blogging is that you own every mistake and you have to pick yourself up from it.

The technical phrase in Formula 1 racing is “damage limitation”.

Have a bad start to the race and you could end up at 9th position from 1st. The damage limitation comes in racing back to 3rd. You don’t have the speed to win but land some good points for the rest of the campaign. You know that it was the best you could do from a bad situation.

It may not be obvious what happened and might drive yourself mad trying to discover why internally.

Pro Tip: Ask why they left. You are likely to get an answer from at least one person. It might not be what you want to hear but at least you can keep the rest of your crowd happy by mitigating the damage.

Change might not always be required. You might have to accept that these leaving individuals don’t share the same values you do and in order to stay true to your niche, or your space in that niche, you need to cherish those values.

Extreme #2 Something Epic You Created

This is what everybody wants. Some viral hit or some campaign that worked this time. What is more important is not determining how this flood came through the gate but more how to look after these newcomers.

Then you look at how they arrived and try to replicate that magic formula in work committed in the past and to drafts not yet published. Sounds easy doesn’t it. It’s not.

Extremes aren’t that common. What will occur, if you are pushing out content regularly, is an ebb and flow. Small gains, small losses. People will leave because they have moved on. Some people might join but only stay a short while to see what they can get. Others might have been there a long time, stopped opening emails for months and finally decide to go. Some individuals might unsubscribe-subscribe to get your next free giveaway.

Opt-in

Should not strike fear in your heart but there are many ways to go about it.

The most traditional methods are by either using the sidebar to the left or right of the screen or by adding it to the article template at the foot.

Sidebar & Article Body?

Because they are so obvious and are overlooked by most visitors, they aren’t very conducive to successful signup.

A sidebar signup is more effective if it scrolls with the screen as a reader moves down the page, otherwise by the time the reader has reached the bottom or a point where their interest fades, the signup has already disappeared and they’ll have to take an extra action to scroll to the top (which they don’t).

Footer Opt-ins are only useful if the reader reaches the end. Period. You have to be sure that the article you crafted is a diamond. An additional option is to embed a simpler Opt-in before the fold, the fold being that invisible line where a reader will take their first scroll action to “read more”. The only problem with a before the fold opt-in is that the reader hasn’t read enough yet to decide if you are worth it.

More Invasive Methods of Opt-in

There are some more invasive methods of Opt-in. Some can work better than others, some can damage views. The damage is done in terms of making a negative impression with the individual you invite in. There are some people who take extreme umbrage to adverts. On YouTube, Adblock Plus is so widely used by viewers that YouTube have had to launch YouTube Red to shore up the loss in advertising revenue.

Takeover

This kind of Opt-in is activated almost instantly after the reader has clicked into the website. An Opt-in will be the only window they can click on where the goal option will be highlighted more prominently than the cancel action.

In my view they are annoying and tick me off on most sites where I come across them. They are as welcome as an old pensioner flashing her sagging boobies at me (and as off-putting). You may feel differently, you may defend this type of Opt-in and you are entitled to your opinion. I personally think they suck. In my own dealings with them, they make me far less likely to return to a site where they are in operation because I know I’ll be stopped before I read.

Delayed / Strategic Takeover

Rather than the more blatant big brother, the delayed Opt-in simply works on a preset timer. After 3-5 seconds of reading, the Opt-in will kick in. The strategic version only triggers when a reader has reached a certain point or hovered over a certain element such as the close or back button. The latter option is not so bad – it at least gives the reader a chance to evaluate what’s on offer before being bashed over the head for an email address and inside leg measurement.

Leadpages Popup

Leadpages Popup 2

Why I Dislike These Forms of Opt-in

My personal reason for disliking it is that it feels a bit heavy-handed. Not giving me the time to check out whether I actually like what I’m reading is of concern. I need time to determine whether what you are cooking is tasty or tasteless. Another problem is that if you are already using guilt to try to position me, you are starting off on the wrong foot. I am deeply cynical of the type of salesman who needs to guilt people on “what you are doing wrong”. If we are already doing something wrong, we’ll go find a solution, we don’t need to be reminded of our current ineptitude.

I liken this Opt-in and its variants to the Egyptian shopkeeper routine. They are the kind of person who will sit in the door frame of their shop. It doesn’t welcome you in. More off-putting is the thought of not being able to leave if you don’t want to purchase something. It doesn’t build trust. It definitely builds friction.

These heavy-handed marketing techniques work better for those who already have roaring business. These kinds of operators are looking for readers to be decisive because their time as a supplier is precious, they already have buyers to satisfy so they can afford to be blasé about upsetting some of the little guys and gals along the way. Top tier is where this operator hangs their hat; if you have to ask how much it is, you don’t want to buy it.

Split Testing comes in useful for Opt-ins

It can be useful to determine what design, and words that accompany those designs, move the audience most. Opt-Ins and associated lead pages are big business. One of my over-mentioned Big Wigs, Pat Flynn, has a large amount of money invested in LeadPages. As you can guess from the term “lead”, the system uses set methods of psychologically tried and tested methods to get a passer-by to signup.

Steps To Complete

An important mention is the amount of actions it takes to sign up through an Opt-in. You can have a single action signup which simply accepts the details that someone enters.

A two-step process normally consists of a single button which transports the reader to a different page (hopefully open in a new window) where they fill out their details then submit.

What is important to remember is that the list provider may demand some form of first time authentication such as clicking on a supplied link to the new subscriber’s email account. All of the steps are manual and requires the user to approve the process at the end stage. This process can add additional steps to what was otherwise a simple task.

Options for segmentation can be introduced at this stage so your reader can be entered into a main catch-all type list, then be added to niche interest lists at their own choice. This does mean operating more lists but it can be helpful when providing users with the right information.

So other than sending emails out, what else do I do with my mailing list?

Analysis: Two Types

There are two types of highly valuable analysis you can do with email lists.

The first is through analysing open rates. You can tell what titles are working. Open rates are simply a ratio of emails sent to emails open. Most list suppliers use the terminology of campaigns when talking about lists you setup. A by-product of open rate analysis is telling you who your most engaged subscribers are, which may provide insight on how to better structure your articles to have a wider appeal.

The second analysis type gives you an idea of your marketing makeup. Important criteria including age ranges, genders and other vitals that compose your core readership, will be revealed. You can determine trends that should aid in focusing on specific groups.

The ability to analyse how well your post did and who is reading it is golden because Search Engines aren’t as expedient for certain activities as feeding an audience with what they need to read. You can think of your mailing list as an evergreen tree that will provide views all year around regardless of how you are ranking.

Not everyone is going to read every post every time you create a new entry. Sometimes what you’ve written won’t be what that person is interested in or they are otherwise preoccupied elsewhere and miss it that week. For whatever reason don’t expect everybody to be engaged with you all the time. Open rates aren’t sexy big numbers (unless you are very special or have a tiny group of super fans).

What To Do With Repeat Inactivity?

You will get a cruise ship full of subscribers who have dropped off the reading radar eventually. There are certain ways to deal with the situation and it is your choice at the end of the day but I’d recommend the following:

  • Identify a list of inactive readers (most list providers will give you analytics to generate that list).
  • Place these inactive readers into a new list.
  • Send an email on that list requesting that the reader re-affirms their subscription, set a deadline and request a returned email response.
  • Send out 1 further reminder to those who have not responded before the deadline.
  • When the deadline is reached, terminate/delete all inactive users from the list.

There are different degrees of lurking so it is important to give some readers the benefit of the doubt before you cut them dead. Lurkers aren’t a bad thing because lurking individuals can swing back to the engagement fold if properly stimulated. They may just be busy at the time.

Many individuals may simply either stop because the content has no meaning to them anymore, it gets lost amidst all of the other content they receive on a daily basis or the email address may not be used anymore. Whatever the reason, these inactive readers are now dead to you, in the nicest possible sense. What you will be left with is a hearty serving of engaged readers and a fresh platform to continue.

You can also put together an exit survey which may help simply define what other problems may have led to the reader leaving.

Another Reason To Prune The Inactive

Some list providers charge you for the volume of emails you send and the number of individuals in a list. Therefore, it is a good rule of thumb to keep that list lean and active.

Ways To Improve Your Service

A good way is to see what other people do with their list. Join a few lists to see how your competition layout information. Remember that not everything will work for you in the same way. Each blog is unique. It doesn’t stop you trying a few ideas.

 

In Closing

  • Mailing lists are your window to direct interaction with a collection of your hardcore followers.
  • Mailing lists are valuable because they take a long time to grow but have far more potential to feed direct traffic to your site.
  • Mailing lists should be started earlier rather than later.

 

Share Me Please

I spent a long while on this article for the benefit of humanity. Please share me to the world.

I can be found over at twitter and you can email me directly at headboy [at] blogprefect dot {com}.

 

Image Credit

Featured Image from Pixabay by JackMac34

LeadPages Opt-ins courtesy of Leadpages.net, used for illustrative purposes only.

 

Return to Blogging

This month BlogPrefect has focused on restarts. It is an activity that some bloggers will undertake during the length of their blogging career.

 

Return to Blogging

In this fine month of June I have covered a selection of restart topics, not necessarily in their logical order. You should tackle each as ordered below.

  1. 10 actions to restart your blog – This article provides 10 thought-provoking ways to promote activity on restarting.
  2. Blogging Momentum – This article details reasons behind why as a blogger you might falter and what you need to bear in mind and have ready when blogging.
  3. Spending the Right Time on Blogging – This article looks at the 60 minute challenge, a method I devised in 2014. This method helps keep overall writing time short but provide a readable article that helps fill a gap. A note is not to rely on this kind of article all the time but it helps to pad out and experiment with niche related ideas in a low time versus risk method.
  4. How to create a free guide – Guide creation is something that you can do to boost a number of areas of your blog, namely the mail subscription and by means of providing a giveaway to your audience. Giving helps establish a relationship. This article provides some insight in how to go about it.

 

The Penalty of Stepping Off the Gas

I’ve always known there was a penalty for inconsistency.

BlogPrefect’s traffic analysis for the past 6 months will be unveiled on the 4th July. In two of those months namely April and May, there were no articles written and as you might expect, overall site views and engagement tanked. Some of the figures resemble numbers seen back in the gloomier days of 2014 and BlogPrefect began its light in the sun mid-June of 2013.

The truth of blogging is that you have to continually push out content to hold station otherwise all the hard work you put in to grow is eroded.

I’ve managed to post consistently for the whole month and the green shoots of recovery have returned. Charting by the middle of the month of June it was clear to see that many of my measures had demolished the previous month’s tally.

 

How Do You Determine What’s a Normal Level of Operation?

It is difficult to determine what should be a normal level of operation when monthly totals can fluctuate.

What is more sensible to acknowledge is that all figures shouldn’t retreat more than 5 – 10% of the previous month because your site will be receding.

If you are losing more than 10% you could be hemorrhaging which is as unpleasant as it sounds.

 

Older Content Often Out Trumps New

Commonly older content has had more time to shine and dig its way into the search engine algorithms.

Something that might have done badly when you initially threw it out into the wilderness comes back again later with more ferocity because it is on topic again. This only happens if you had some minor pickup in the start.

Minor pickup? The article got some warmth in its inception. That is to say that a number of readers in the order of 10 or more viewed it.

I’ve always found it surprising over the 3 years of BlogPrefect.com to see what resurfaces again. I have written over 190 articles and some I’ve poured many hours into. Some of those articles have resurfaced but not the ones I had expected.

Don’t be disheartened if you have a shallow splash up front. It might come back again later but if not, just make sure you haven’t spent too long developing it.

 

Length of Time Spent Per Article/Post

You know how those teachers at school, when giving the class generalised feedback on how they did in the mock exam, would extol the virtue of working smarter rather than harder on their revision?

If you haven’t got that kind of memory, you would have at least heard of the saying “Work Smarter, Not Harder.”

There is some truth to that.

As you can already guess by now, this article you are reading seeks to summarise the month’s activities and consolidate thoughts on a restart to a blog because it is something that BlogPrefect.com has had to go through.

In order to maintain the schedule and regain momentum, I had to create one article using an old method I had pioneered back in 2014. This method still works by the way.

The 60 minute challenge is an easy system to implement when you are running low on usable content and need to satisfy a more aggressive posting schedule to get yourself level again.

I wrote 10 or so 60 minute articles and found a number of them got some mild interest. Focusing yourself to write for 60 minutes helps the creative juices flow and teaches you a lesson on gathering information.

The only sticking point is that you need ideas to base around so it is down to the quality of your research.

 

Trending Culture Cynicism

Following popular trends are what you should do but is not always the best thing to do.

Why Headboy? Why?

The answer lies in a deep labyrinth of curiosity. Sparking audience imagination is valuable. If you only ever cover what somebody else has been writing, what can you claim is your own?

There is a lot of wheel reinvention for some bloggers to capture the same thin market. It is not always about who was first on the topic but how well they rocked it. I feel though, despite this, you can only flog a dead horse so far. Who scrolls to the tenth page of a Google results page?

Sometimes you have to step beyond what everyone else is talking about and cover a topic meaningful to you and your select audience. It may not be on point with everyone else but it doesn’t really matter as long as it is important to your audience.

 

Following Cycles is Better

Following Cycles is Better

Not motorcycles or bicycles but cyclical topics. These are the kind of topics you can dip your feet in for a time, leave, then return to later when you know and have researched more.

You can apply this to any type of blog, in any niche. Heard it here first.

There will always be one element of whatever you are tracking that will come up time after time.

As an example I have considered what a boat building hobbyist blog might cover repeatedly:

  • How to waterproof your new boat

It is something that everybody has to do when they finish their project before they take their new boat out on the water. It’s time consuming and there are some tips and tricks. Better methods might be brought to the market over time.

  • What tools to have in your toolkit

Subjective as it is, there has to be a base minimum set of tools that any boat builder needs from novice to veteran. As new flashy equipment is made over time, that toolkit can change.

  • How you can save money on your build

Everybody is money conscious so there are bound to be new ways to cut costs whilst maintaining quality. Methods of making those savings can change over time.

 

Remaining in Niche Topic

This will be critical to your success. Diverge and invite doom.

A certain Big Wig Blogger suggested that on a rare occasion you should cover a passion topic because it makes you easy to relate to. The problem is that until you have a tribal following with email subscribers bursting through every orifice, you should hold off on the personal passion angle.

If remaining in your topic boundary means that you have to postpone the launch you had planned for week X so that you can deliver on topic in week Y, you should postpone.

Big Wig Bloggers earn their personality/ego posts through having done enough in the early days to get enough willing participants to buy into their philosophy.

  • You don’t have those numbers yet. Be honest.
  • Your approach can only change when you are a true leader.

You can add some small sprinkles of your stories, your anecdotal evidence, and the analogies that were important to you when you were growing up.

It is just important not to wade too deep into self-indulgence. Self-indulgent posts were a topic I covered in detail, they are a type of post you should avoid writing unless you are on a free hobbyist platform such as blogger where everybody is self-indulgent.

 

Norms Are the Enemy

Not people called Norman. Not invading French.

“Normal is an inflexible concept in a diverse world.”

You should work to rules but try not to stick to routines that don’t return.

The only way you will know this is looking at your statistics.

  • Experiment
  • Try something new
  • Look for the gaps that other people have left

 

Robust Methods of Analysing Statistics

You have to spend time with purpose when looking at your stats otherwise you can spend hours chasing your tail.

Stat watching is a fun pastime. It is perhaps the most favourite element of my blogging work. I take great joy in analysing my data even if some might perceive my numbers to be awful. I have no shortage of passers-by, stuffing in cold calling emails through my contact page about how they can get me more traffic.

You can get carried away with over analysing data that in truth is completely uncontrollable. You are often at the mercy of your audience.

So if you have a transient audience

  • Your data will be erratic

You could liken your audience to simple passers-by at a remote gas station. You might see the odd few regulars but most people will be passing through and may never grace your door again.

If you have a loyal following

  • Your data will be predictable

You could liken your audience to a quiz night at the pub. The same old faces and occasionally some new ones will turn up for a fun evening and will come back repeatedly. The important aspect is community spirit.

 

Bounce Rate is Not Wise to Dwell on in Google Analytics

Blogs are traditionally high bounce compared to sites like Amazon because of why you are likely to arrive at a blog and what as a reader you are likely to need there.

With Amazon, you already have the intent to buy, or at least see what’s on offer. You arrived there organically (through typing in the address, following your bookmark or being prompted by an email). There are many items that could catch your eye so you are likely to visit many pages on your visit and the overall duration of your stay is likely to be high.

With your blog, how deep is someone likely to permeate? How long are they likely to hang around? It may only be 1 post that interests that reader, they get what they want then leave. Hence the high bounce rate.

Big Wig Bloggers are a great deal more effective at enticing passers-by to go deeper by pushing the right buttons and by having the depth of content that can fulfill enough solutions. The way they display their content is logical and they’ve spent time designing the user’s journey. It’s all about funneling you through to get to a certain goal.

If you have not been blogging long, or just don’t produce at frequency, it will take time to develop enough trapping or ensnaring content.

One thing is certainly true with bounce rate; the less you are doing, the higher it will be.

 

Motivational Encouragement

I wanted to conclude the article with more than a few words on motivation. Blogprefect.com had to take a hibernation for two months to allow me to perform well on my final project. Without that time I knew that I would not be able to provide quality in my final work. For me, the motivation was always with completing my degree. I’ve spent time, money and effort in furthering myself. The degree came first without compromise therefore BlogPrefect.com had to take the compromise.

Understandably, that’s not great for you the reader.

When you have written consistently for a period and build up all of your research, analysis and handling techniques — continuing to provide quality is easy. It is when you pause from the conventions you’ve built up that the task becomes harder.

  • Approaching a big article to return to your audience with, is daunting.
  • Producing a big article after months of consistent planning is easy.
  • Downing your tools is never good, especially with Blogging.

Before considering more than two weeks of non-blogging activity, consider what difficulty you might have getting started again. If you think of your blog as a nuclear power-plant then consider how long after decommissioning it will take to bring the plant out of “moth-balls” to an operational state. That time will always be longer than you think.

 

You Can’t Be “On The Pulse” All of the Time

You are going to have some posts that perform poorly regardless of the time you spend marketing them. The timing might be wrong, the topic might be wrong or how you chose to present the information might be wrong. If you don’t get the feedback, you won’t know. Regardless, it’s wrong.

Sometimes you just have to accept that your product was an NI or Needs Improvement event and move on. Failure teaches more than success.

You have to know when to surrender and fight a new battle.

Social media and other veins of marketing require you to be up to a level of reciprocity, activity and dependability before they yield warm numbers again. For all the time you waste trying to push something new on the block from a time in pause, you are wasting your overall effort on getting back on track. You should be producing consistent content instead.

  • Not all tactics work forever.
  • Novelties often wear off.
  • At some point you will need to explore new options again.

 

Maximising the Good Times

Maximising the Good Times

When you are on a roll you should do more than the satisfactory. Having ideas in the bank saves you when you have no ideas on the boil. Returning to a WordPress posts list in the dashboard to find you have no drafts waiting is a bad feeling. You’ll be left scrabbling to understand what direction you need to head.

There is a problem keeping drafts too long though. You should aim that all drafts shouldn’t sit for longer than a month. You should intend to use every piece you craft otherwise you waste time needlessly. If there is an exception to this it should be an Epic post. With an Epic post you have to know when to release it.

In terms of continuing, you should have some form of checklist that reminds you what the purpose of your blog is. Many Big Wig Bloggers have a mission statement buried away within their blog. It could be in their welcome, on their about page or somewhere near. Some Big Wig Bloggers keep pinboards or shoe boxes full of emails, letters and other signs that their audience love and have gained from what they are doing. Sometimes you need praise to keep you in the hunt, even old praise.

Critics

You always get people who knock. These are the people who cast dispersion on what you’ve done. The important thing to remember is that if readers make noise on what you are doing wrong, you are having some effect. You are getting noticed.

Participants on the Internet or the web are fairly polite. Rather than tell you what’s up they simply ignore you. It is the positive reinforcement trick. Do a good job, someone might give you a treat. Do that job wrong, expect to be ignored.

Occasionally you will get one person who is “brass necked” or courageous enough to tell you that you have a major failing and the argument they present is worth looking into, even if you don’t initially agree. You can be as magnanimous in defeat as you want and seal that hole but you better make sure you seal it good.

 

In Closing

  • Pull up your socks and get out there.
  • Make some noise.
  • Savour every blogging day.

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Connect with me on Twitter @blogprefect

Image Credits

Featured Image via Pixabay by Suedelbien

Bike gears image via Pixabay by Stux

Cake image via Pixabay by Cbaquiran

 

Blogging Momentum

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

Blogging Momentum

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?

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

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.

Boulders

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.

Rocks

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.

Pebbles

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.

Granules

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

taok - 001 - kaizenflag

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

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’.

But 1

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.

But 2

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.

But 3

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

Big Wig Bloggers

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

Blogging Grind

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.

 

In Closing

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.

Picture Credits

Featured image from Pixabay by Unsplash (modified)

Aggregate image from Greenspec.co.uk

Grinding Image from Pixabay by Skeeze