FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

BlogPrefect.com switched from the mail systems provided by BlueHost to redirecting the MX records to FastMail. This was done primarily for visibility and consolidation purposes. I shall be taking you through a How To on redirecting your MX records to point to FastMail from BlueHost. This guide also includes the step to include the DKIM signing key.

FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

This guide provides some assistance on setting up your MX record on BlueHost server end so that you can use FastMail to manage your email. The steps are fairly straightforward, you just have to wait some time when the MX records are updated.

  • Estimated time to change the code: 10 minutes.
  • Ease of coding: Easy to Moderate.
  • Time for the record changes to cascade through: Upto 24 hours.

Before getting started:

  • Make sure you have your domain username and password to hand.
  • Make sure you have your FastMail username and password to hand.

Notes and Disclaimer

Note 1: This change is considered “highly visible”. The exact words that FastMail uses. This means that you should schedule making this change when there is less activity. A good time is at night when you are receiving less email.

Note 2: The Subdomain I have that rests underneath BlogPrefect.com doesn’t have a subdomain MX Record setting like the one displayed in FastMail with the form of maindomain.subdomain.com. It appears as its own DNS record in the DNS zone editor on BlueHost, therefore it is considered its own domain for the purposes of email. This means you have to setup a new domain on FastMail.com and edit the MX records on the host.

Note 3: If you are hosted elsewhere (not BlueHost) these instructions can still work but please note that some of the settings such as “Host Record” may use a different character than @.

Note 4: For my own privacy and security I have redacted my host details and the DKIM signing key in the images displayed.

Disclaimer: I do not assume responsibility for any changes you make to your DNS record. If you are unsure of how to proceed I recommend you consult with a professional before continuing.

Disclaimer: FastMail is a paid email service and after a trial period will cost a fee.

Stage 1: FastMail Setup (The Easy Part)

1. Access “Settings” from the top left drop down.
2. Select “Domains” on the left hand side menu.
3. Click the “Add Domain” button.

Stage 1

Note that in this picture I already have my main Domain at BlueHost setup. Your version will be blank if you have not yet set up your domain.

 

4. Add your domain, e.g. example.com, you don’t need the www.

FastMail Settings 2

 

5. Press “Save” when complete.

Stage 1 Complete.

Stage 2: Make a Note of the FastMail DNS Required Settings

1. Press Edit on the Domain

p3

Note: you won’t get a unique DKIM signing key if you don’t save the Domain first. This is an auto generated alphanumeric long chain code that is hard to break.

2. Press “Show DNS settings”

This link can be easy to miss.

This link can be easy to miss.

3. Make a note of these settings, leave the window open so that you can copy and paste them later.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

Stage 2 Complete.

Stage 3: Edit/Add the DNS entries to the MX record in BlueHost

Note: You can do these out of order if you wish as long as you have amended 1 MX and 1 TXT entry and added 1 MX and 1 TXT entry.

1. Login to BlueHost
2. Go to Domains > Zone Editor

Domains > Zone Editor BlueHost

3. Select your domain from the drop down (if you have more than one). The page will expand to show you the DNS records.

Select Domain

4. Scroll down to MX (Mail Exchanger)

MX Records on BlueHost

5. Edit the first record by clicking edit. The default is set to Priority 0. You will be changing the priority to 10 and changing the points to field to FastMail’s SMTP mail engine.

Edit BlueHost

6. Enter the following, then press save.

After Edit Bhost

7. Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press add record. This will add the priority 20 element of the SMTP mail engine for FastMail.

Add P20 MX Bhost

8. Edit this TXT entry for SPF by scrolling down to TXT. SPF helps prevent spam.

Edit SPF Bhost

9. Paste in the “txt value” and press save. You will cut and paste this info from FastMail.

Edit SPF Bhost P2

10. For DKIM Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press “add record”. DKIM is another spam protection feature.

Note: The Host Record is mesmtp._domainkey, The txt value is the really long chain of alphanumeric code that begins “v=DKIM1; k=RSA; p=

DKIM Key

11. When complete you should see the following:

Records Complete

Stage 3 Complete.

Stage 4: Await Confirmation

Await your Confirmation, you will see when you go into Settings>Domains in FastMail that it has been approved. If you’ve made a hash of things you’ll have to check what you entered at BlueHost’s end.

FastMail Domain Active

You should receive this email from FastMail:-

FastMail DNS Confirmation Email

If you don’t receive this email, something went wrong. Propagation doesn’t take as long as 48 hours normally. Mine was ready in less than an hour.

If you did make a major mistake or in future want to leave FastMail, you can return the records back to the BlueHost default by pressing this button:

Reset Zone File

The default will direct all mail back to its original destination.

Stage 5: Setting Up Aliases

You will need to set up your aliases in order to send and receive as different personas of your domain. E.g. sales@example.com

I will show you how to setup 1 alias, then you just need to rinse and repeat.

1. Go to FastMail Settings > Aliases and Press “New Alias”.

Alias Screen - FastMail

2. Enter your new alias in the Email Box. Select the drop down to the right after the ‘@’ sign to select the correct domain if you have more than one. Press “Save” when you are done.

Add New Alias Screen - FastMail

3. The information will take 15 minutes to update so be patient. This 15 minutes will apply to each Alias.

15 minute wait. FastMail.

4. FastMail recommends that you add Abuse and Postmaster as two default aliases. This is so that spam issues can be mitigated. Other good suggestions include your  First Name, Sales, Support and Info.

5. Test your new email addresses by sending from another account. Make sure you can send and receive without errors.

Stage 5 Complete.

 

In Closing

I hope you found this guide useful. There is nowhere specifically written to take you through this process so I hope this has provided a sufficient short cut. If there are any refinements you think are needed or you hit a log-jam with your setup, let me know.

 

Sharing is Caring

Please share this with the world, not only to help your fellow man and woman but also because I asked nicely. You can use the sharing links to the left from SumoMe.

If you’d like to get in contact with me regarding this guide, you can leave a comment below, you can DM me on Twitter by following this link, or you can send an email to headboy [at] blogprefect.com.

Happy Emailing 🙂

 

Image Credits

  • FastMail Screenshots depict UI from FastMail.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The FastMail logo is copyright of FastMail.com.
  • BlueHost Screenshots depict UI from BlueHost.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The BlueHost logo is copyright of BlueHost.com.

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele

For my 200th article on BlogPrefect.com I wanted to cover some personal thoughts on Contact Pages, the specific question in the range of:

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele?

So why ask this question and why save it for my 200th article? It has a lot to do with the kinds of emails received on a regular basis through the contact page.

I’d always had this bleary-eyed feeling that my contact page would encourage people reading to get in contact because they wanted to interact further. They might want their say and they’d want to do it personally. The truth is, it’s never worked that way.

 

“I had a Dream”

Not quite as grand as Martin Luther King’s but on a blogging context, I had a dream that people would come to me for advice and a point in the right direction. That is what the contact form was for.

 

What I Received Instead

In the main I’ve received spam like I would on any other email account. The comical Nigerian, Chinese or Latin American mystical companies who would want to give me $10,000,000 to put in a bank account are just one of many spam emails I’d see on a regular basis. Since I switched over to FastMail to manage my MX records I’ve seen a massive reduction in that type of spam. Sweet relief!

typical-scam-email

Where people have used the contact page I have received Business Queries in the main and I’ll go onto explain my gripe with these.

 

Business Queries

Every month I receive 10 or so business queries that all follow a similar line. Those that pass the spam criteria normally originate from legitimate individuals but are very much a canvassing event. I have nothing against hustle so much, trying to make bank by door-stepping has been a process for centuries.

Here’s why it doesn’t work on me.

Cold emails are impersonal.

Essentially the process of writing in this way is cold calling and that will never have a great effect on me. I hate cold calling, it doesn’t work. It is that simple but it wouldn’t make a compelling article unless I divulge more on why.

 

Perception of Being Personal

An element of our social lives is being eroded due entirely to the use of technology. Whether you like it or not, you will engage in less person-to-person interaction now than you would have 10 years ago. Automation saves corporations money by reducing the amount of Humans needed in the process.

Everyone is aware that automation can be impersonal so there have been methods to try to personalise the experience.

Often you’ll find that in a mailing campaign that is targeted to a reader, you may wish to use the first name to address the person individually.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

You can waste so much time by doing things wrong. First impressions mean everything.

 

Common Tropes That Tick Me Off!

“And by the way, you are doing it wrong.”

I’ve seen this statement in a number of different guises. I’m not sure it is always wise to imply that “you suck”. You certainly won’t engender a business relationship easily this way. People don’t take criticism well. I ran an experimental feature a couple of years ago on Blog Prefect and felt the hostility that coincided with it.

Too much truth hurts from strangers.

 

“I’ve been looking at your site and I think you could…”

I could but do I want to. There are two forms of thought on why I didn’t implement something a certain way.

  1. I tried it and it doesn’t work for my audience.
  2. I don’t have the money to invest in the exact system that will yield the result.

Therefore most pitches will fail. In 3 years of operation I have not once engaged with an email unless I’ve had some kind of natural conversation with the source.

 

Doing it Right

If you wanted to try to impress me or get in my good books then you’d have to work with me. You would have to engage in a simpler exchange.

Trying to co-opt me cold through email isn’t the best route. Start out with something simpler like a message over Twitter or a comment on my latest blog post. Spend the time to build a rapport with me and then maybe you can present your intentions with a warmer attitude.

 

Don’t Appeal to My Greed

People are greedy in this capitalist present but that doesn’t mean that I would jump through hoops for greed. What is important to me is helping people in the best way that I can.

There are many systems and tools that I mention that are often free and provide me no kickback, affiliation or pat on the back. I present them because I’m of the opinion they work well. I, like many readers, like to know how I can get something for free or for the least taxing exchange possible.

At present I don’t have “customers”. I sell no products or services. Therefore eliciting additional customers where I have none is pointless.

 

Read My Blog, Don’t Assume

If you were pitching too me, you’d actually have to read my blog. It sounds dumb but you guys don’t. I have the stats to prove it.

90% of the “sales clunge” that I receive through my inbox makes no effort to show any true insight. Worst still you make an assumption on the purpose of the blog without understanding the direction.

 

I May Not Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

So if you’ve bothered to work on a rapport with me you’ll know that you have to be patient and be a friend in the mean time. The friend requirement sometimes means helping me out or just being a friendly voice.

Writing a pitch email straight up will have no positive effect. I’m not motivated to look at or agree on anything without knowing that I can trust you to some degree. Actions speak louder than words but on the internet most of your actions are words.

 

I’m Not Your “Low Hanging Fruit”

As dark as that sounds. You will have to work harder.

 

Screw the Form

Write me something that doesn’t look like you copied and pasted. Let me know that you aren’t just some VA, copywriter or random citizen that was employed by a slack-jawed suit wearer to bait me into action.

 

As For the Future of the Contact Page

I’ve considered taking it down for a number of reasons but for a number of reasons I want to keep it active. I am therefore torn.

Reasons to Take it Down

  • The removal will instantly reduce the amount of nuisance emails I receive. I have fully vetted and setup my contact form so that it reduces spam but there are still those who fall through the net on occasion. I could restrict more but at the price of alienating.
  • It doesn’t perform its primary purpose. I had intended that people with genuine queries could talk to me about content, problems with their blogs and other conversations related to blogging but this never happens.

Reasons to Leave it Up

  • It is important that if someone had a burning concern and didn’t want to whack my email in directly that they contact me some way.
  • The contact page is an important pre-requisite in a complete Blog and I want to let people know that I can be contacted. I want to declare that I take community seriously.

In summary I would be leaving the page up but I am thinking about re-tuning the purpose of those emails.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

 

Is My Approach Correct?

In performing research on other Contact forms I have noticed that they are set out in a very specific way. I would have to say that my contact page is lazy with a simple contact form and I need to do a bit more to direct activity here.

In a couple of weeks I hope to have bottomed out the changes to make this page a more useful entry point into conversation.

 

Other Sources on Contact Pages

In providing research on what is afoot I wanted to take a look at some of the high-ranking results on this issue. One that instantly stuck out was an article from BlogTyrant.

10 of the Best Contact Us Pages

Scrolling down to number 6 in the list on that article, Seth Godin‘s contact us page fits some way along the lines that I’d like to frame what the contact page is for.

Another useful search result was from katharine-writes.com

Does your Website Have… A (Useful) Contact Page?

It was interesting to read about whether you should or shouldn’t have the contact form and why throwing up just your email would encourage more people to contact you. My only concern there is that I’ve always tried to reduce the chances of spam by not leaving “mailto links” where bots can easily find them.

Another hugely useful article was written over at Barn2 Media by Katie

6 ways to stop Contact Form 7 spam on WordPress websites

I was unaware of honeypots and there were some other useful inclusions on the list of 6 that were an interesting read, and which I may look to include in my contact form.

 

In Closing

A contact page is something you need but you will always get individuals who will try to go for an easy win. I displayed in the image near the top of the page with the notion of a “driveby” in the subject line. It is very wasteful to cold call. Why not just do it right? It takes longer to cultivate but you are much more likely to hit pay dirt.

Being personal still rocks.

 

Care and Share

I will now ask for your aid in sharing my post. The bonus is that this is the 200th article by BlogPrefect over 3 years. I am happy to have reached this milestone in hopes that I’ve helped others through my observations.

I have changed my social media focus more towards Twitter in recent times because in terms of results I get more interaction with my audience than I would with Facebook or Google+. Therefore please feel free to share this on Twitter. You can also contact me there at twitter.com/blogprefect. I do of course accept shares wherever you’d like to push this content and all of the firm favourites can be found in the SumoMe share bar to the left of the screen (just look for the crown).

I am contactable through, funnily enough the contact page, via a DM on twitter, via this sites wonderful email address of headboy [at] blogprefect.com and through telepathic communication. Maybe not so much for the last one, it gives me a headache.

The comments are open so you are welcome to agree or disagree with anything I’ve written and point out any shortfalls or improvements that you think would be helpful to me or any other readers.

 

Image Credits:

Featured image by Jarmoluk via Pixabay, edited by moi..

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.

Share this post!!

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