Growing pains – my views on growing an audience

I have noticed that a lot of people have been asking for advice on how to grow their blog over the last few weeks. I am not sure why that all of a sudden people seem to be asking me this.

Maybe I have passed a certain threshold of followers that has given me blogging credibility and people now see me as someone who knows what they are doing?

What I think has happened, is that many people have started blogs in January and seen that it is very difficult to actually get anyone to look at your work. So, they have started to do what any practical person would and are trying to gather information as to how to build an audience.

Well, I will address this again, but only briefly as I have addressed it many times. The first thing you need to understand is that after you put up your post on WordPress or any other platform, there will be a brief window of time where it is visible in a public space – e.g. reader. After this, it gets buried by everyone else posting stuff.

If you are writing about stuff that is of general interest, a post about how adjectives work, for example, there is a chance of getting some traffic via a search engine, but it will be tiny. I wrote about nouns once and now if you type ‘thematically meandering’ into google on the first page is that post – I have no idea why.

Presumably, if that post is high on googles rankings you would expect that post to be viewed more than others: it isn’t.

So, you’re not likely to get many people who stumble upon your blog; you’re going to have to go out and get people!

Marketing isn’t a massive Industry by happenstance. Read their work, comment on it, like and share etc. They may do the same for you, and you can grow from there. What I am trying to tell you is that it is a lot of work to build an audience, and you should probably spend a decent portion of your time marketing.

I attended a course once that was part of a scientific program, it had a lady there talking about social media and influencing – so we could better communicate our work. She said you should spend around 10 % of your time on marketing, and after this year of blogging, I tend to agree.

The Utopian dream of writing a blog post with your coffee in the morning, posting it online and having everyone read it and even make money from it is an utter fantasy! And we should all be embarrassed to have even thought like this.

It is no less passive than any other form of employment, and it is a lot of hard work! Sorry to ruin your fantasy, but isn’t that always the way?

Normal programming will resume next week.

Let’s talk sponsorship!

I need your help, I have come across an issue that, until now, I have never thought about seriously. Last week an email arrived in my inbox with the title “Let’s talk about sponsorship”. The email was from a representative of a software company that I had never heard of, asking if I would like to do a sponsored post.

My first thought was that it was a scam. It’s perfect for a scam; from the moment most people start blogging we are waiting for this email. Please pay me for doing a relatively easy job. There were links in the document and English was clearly the second language of the sender.

Obviously, the first course of action was to google the company. The website didn’t look too bad, but I could not decide if it was legit based on this alone.

I decided to converse with my would-be sponsor a little further, as this was a new experience to me. I was more than curious.

Here is a heavily redacted version of the email I received:

Hi Louis,

Thanks for your reply! ProductX is a editing software which can help you to edit, annotate, convert and OCR your PDF files.

I think you can write review our product from these aspects:

1. What is ProductX?

2. How is ProductX?

3. Introduce the features of ProductX, or compare with other products;

4. Add anchor text: ProductX (https://thierwebsite.com)

5. Word: about 700

What do you think of this review? What’s your budget to do that?

Thanks,

Employee X

Here are my honest thoughts that occurred after receiving this

Dear reader

  • I suppose this could be a good excuse to try and write in a different style. I have been finding it tiresome writing in the same style and this could be interesting.
  • How much should I charge? How would I take payment? I am not a business; I don’t know how this works, do I pay tax? I need to speak to someone who has experience in this. I don’t know anyone who has experience in this. Maybe I will ask them to cover the cost of this blog for a year?
  • I should just do it for free; then I won’t have to deal with the questions I have posed above.
  • Yes, I should do it for free, then it will be an excuse to do an interesting piece of writing and get my foot in the door of sponsored work.
  • How could I Justify writing one solo piece about this software? That would be extremely out of character. Maybe I could shoe-horn it into a post about all the different software I use for my studies.
  • Hmmm, writing for money is the last thing I expected.
  • I don’t think this is right for me. But maybe selling out is fine?
  • I need to find out more about this company.
  • Oh dear, the reviews of this company on trustpilot are the worst I have ever seen.
  • I will just ignore the email and carry on with doing what I want.
  • Note to self: develop and ethical stance on such matters, and have a plan in case this happens again and I actually like the company.

What would you have done?

How much would you charge?

I am sure that, like me, most of you have thought about this only in your dreams and do not actually have any legitimate plan for what to do if they actually became a reality.

I have been searching through WordPress, and have not found anyone who has written about this subject. To me, this is like the first time I was asked on a date. I feel awkward; I don’t know what to say ; I have been hoping it would happen at some point. What the hell do I do!

Like the idea of that 1st date, my answer is ‘I would love to, but not with you’.

Note: If I had left in the company’s name in, this piece would have been a post-modern anti-advert, which happened to be the exact word length the company was asking for.

One year of blogging, an interview with the author – week 52

I thought I would do I post in a question and answer style, just to make things more interesting for myself as the writing style has become tiresome of late.

So, why did you start and why have you continued to write?

Thanks for the questions. I started writing, as I explain in my ‘About me page’ to practice the fundamentals of writing. I had been writing, and keeping it to myself, for three months before I considered making a blog.

The initial motivation was that I liked the idea of making a blog as a technical challenge, and getting feedback on my work from the writing community.

I have continued to write because I am disciplined and I have come to enjoy the routine of doing so.

Are you sure? Did the idea of those superstar bloggers making lots of money by merely blogging not come into your decision at all?

I have always liked the idea of working for myself, and the idea of doing it via blogging is appealing. However, as someone who has a relatively high level of training with data and statistics. I know that this was not a feasible goal. As far as knowing how much this fantasy had an effect on me I cannot quantify.

Okay.

What were your expectations when starting out?

I didn’t really have any, I putting things out onto the internet and watching to see what happened. One year later I still don’t have any goals for the blog.

If you don’t have any goals for the blog then why continue?

It’s a habit at this point.

I see you have put out a lot of posts of, let’s be honest, average quality. Is this because you’re lazy, inept or have genuine contempt for the reader.

I definitely don’t have contempt for the reader. The quality, I think, is related to the amount of time I put into the posts. I have a lot of hobbies and interests. Writing and blogging is not always a top priority.

Let’s change direction a bit. What has been your favourite thing about blogging for this past year?

Interaction with people. I have had no bad interactions, and the vast majority have been pleasant, which is one of the reasons I had for starting a blog.

So you have a poor social life in the non-internet sphere and are trying to plug that hole with semi-anonymous people online?

No, you’re barking up the wrong tree there.

Okay, so what has been the worst thing about blogging?

I realised you can’t just write and expect people to read it, you have to go and get an audience, which is a bore.

Don’t you like marketing?

It is the worst thing! I think it should be a meritocracy.

But surely those who are the best at marketing are the ones who are the best bloggers?

Shut up.

I notice you have been nominated for many of these ‘Blogger awards’ by you fellow bloggers how do you feel about that?

They are pointless, so far I have not been able to turn the critical acclaim into financial gain. But I notice many of the greatest artists of all time have died in poverty.

Did you just compare yourself to a great artist?

I was taking an exaggerated, sarcastic, position for comedic effect. It apparently went over your head…

Do you find your snarky, sarcastic attitude is some kind of defence mechanism?

I like to think it is because I like that kind of humour.

Let’s get back on track.

Sorry

I’ll only ask a few more. As it says in your tag-line ‘Just your average PhD student trying to enhance their CV’, have you enhanced your CV?

Probably, because you can comfortably lie on your CV and make things sound much better than reality; however, it would depend on what I decide to do next as to how important my blog would be.

Would you recommend blogging to a friend?

Only if they wanted to get better at writing, or promote something online.

If you could start over again what would you do differently?

I could start again. I am not sure if I would do anything differently. I would probably track more statistics, just for the fun of it.

Also, I might have tried to make a site with WordPress.org: for the challenge. Perhaps I will in the future.

Do you have any concluding remarks?

Thanks to all of those that have commented on my posts and have helped me along the way. Thanks for all the love and support.

One year blogging review

Three months after I had first started my blogging experiment I wrote what has been by far my most successful blog post. It was an account of everything I had learnt during my first three months, and crucially, it was honest. I had many people comment underneath telling me how they knew something strange was going on but didn’t know exactly what it was until I pointed it out.

I have written 73 posts this year with a total of 20,000 views, the three-month review post has 1800 of these views which makes it responsible for roughly 10% of my total views. If I had set myself a goal when I started blogging, I am sure I would be happy with where I have got to.

I am going to talk about what a lot of people will be thinking about when they start blogging: money. So, how much money did I make with 20,000 views? I lost about £30. I paid this money to remove adverts from my blog, and I also got to choose my URL. So, I have no adverts and no other source of revenue, and therefore I only lose money. If I paid for the premium account where I can place adverts in my blog, I think I would have lost around £70. If you’re not selling something from your site, and you’re getting fewer than 100,000 views I would not recommend paying for any upgrades, you will only lose money.

If you have to decide to start blogging to make some passive income, I would argue that you have been sold a lie. There are professional writers, who are much better than you or I, who make no money doing this, so why should you expect to? If you want to make money from your blog, you need 100’s of thousands of views per month, and to create enough high-quality content to achieve that you will need to work an awful lot. Most certainly a full-time job. As with any media-related job, it is only really the top 1% that make anything close to a living from their blogs.

Most of the people who make money from their blogs are usually using the blog as one of many ways to generate traffic towards their product; making money from merely writing blog posts is extremely rare.

I hope you other reasons as to why you would like to blog; perhaps you just enjoy writing and would like an outlet for it, or like me, you wanted to improve your writing skills, blogging is great.

Playing the blogging game

Aside from improving your writing/communication skills, you probably will want people to read your posts. To achieve this, you just cannot rely on posting and leaving the posts to spread by their own merit. If this were the case, marketing and advertising wouldn’t be the monolithic industries that they are.

So, how do you get the views that you may or may not deserve?

First of all, I want to show you my stats, not because I want to brag, but so I can illustrate my points. If I zoom out far enough, you can see my views for the year.

You can clearly see, that I discovered how to play the game much better in April. In February I published 9 posts and got 42 views; In November I published 4 posts and got over 700. The difference is that In February I had 10 followers and in November I had 2500. So more followers do equal more views; however, I started gaming the system in April and stopped in September, and in those months I had between 2.5 and 3.7 thousand views a month. These are tiny numbers in the big scheme of things but are a still an 8769% Increase over February.

In this post, I explained exactly how I achieved this, and the moral quandary I found myself in, but in short.

On WordPress, as of 2018, you can:


Like up to 120 posts per hour – doing this usually notifies the recipient and prompts them to check out your site. I have found that roughly 5% of posts you like return a view to your site.

Follow up to 60 people per hour – I have not done this other than to find out the limit, so I do not know what kind of returns you can get.

I have not done the research to see how many comments you can leave as I cannot be bothered, if you wanted to do this legitimately you would have to bother reading peoples content and then tailor the comment. Which I doubt anyone would do.

All the above, apply to other social media platforms, with slight differences, but the underlying principle is the same. It’s the ‘hey, come and look at this idea’; if you say this enough, some people will come.

Use this information as you see fit.

I suspect some people are making some money selling scripts to automate all this, but I have not found any with an extremely short search. Maybe there is an opportunity for you if you know how to code!

More advice to new bloggers based on what I have gleamed from a year of blogging.

Below is my stats for the year.



The ‘About this blog’ page is the first page someone will land on if they enter my site. This made up 25% of my views so I would recommend you try and make this your best page!

After that, it is ‘Homepage / Archives’, which is exactly the same thing, so I am unsure as to why it is categorised twice. Perhaps the ‘About this blog’, page was not the home page at one stage.

My blog posts only made up 60% of my views.

Looking at ‘Referrers’ it is apparent where most of the people who came to my site came from, and that is the WordPress Reader. All other sources have fewer than 100 referrals. What should I make of this?

Well, I had 0 following on any other site when I started, and I still have next to none, which is why all my referrals came from WordPress. If you have a well connected social media platform, that you would like to leverage, then you can expect much more views from outside the platform.

Whereas I am trying to grow my followers on other platforms, add me here. You will have a much better starting point if you have a following somewhere else.

That is all I have learnt so far.

I am sure there are ways that you can game the system even more.

One mystery I am yet to figure out is the re-blogging of your own posts. There is one person whom I am always seeing appear in my feed, and the likes on the posts are always around 350. If it was posted 5 minutes or 5 months ago, the likes are always the same. What on earth is going on?
It seems as if he is reposting his own posts every few hours, and they look as if they are new. I am not sure how this is happening, if you know, please post below.

Well, this wasn’t quite as much of an epic as my 3-month review, but I hope there was some useful insight in here. I am still learning so bear that in mind.

My advice for successful blogging based on a miniscule amount of experience (1 year):

  • Be consistent – this goes without saying to be honest. People cannot read what is not there and people do not normally read the same thing more than once. So you need to keep it coming. I have found writing a few months worth of posts in advance a great fail-safe for when I don’t feel like writing as I can still post regularly.
  • Don’t expect people will read your work just because you have posted it online, there are billions of blog posts online, how many of them have you read? You need to find a way for people to come to your site.
  • There is nothing wrong with thinking big, but be smart and understand that blogging is not a get rich quick scheme.
  • Don’t rely in on motivation as it comes and goes; discipline is the best way to reach your goals. Especially when they will take a long time to achieve.

I wish you all a great 2019 and hope you achieve everything you have planned.

The Gamification of Traffic

It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money

I have had a cursory interest in the gamification of moving online traffic ever since I started this blog. I developed this interest as soon as I realised people liked my posts without reading them. The reason they were doing this was that, if you have your default settings, you will receive an email inviting you to go and view their blog. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that you can quickly like a bunch of posts and drive some traffic towards your site.

To me, ‘gamification’ is where we —  the players — try and drive as much traffic (the scoring system of the game) to our sites as possible, by various means.

I have also mentioned previously that I have been learning computer programming as a side project. I imagine you have put two and two together and guessed what I am about to say next. Well, the actual answer is 3.99. I did make a Twitter bot. I was in need of a project to do and thought that this would be a big challenge. It turns out it took all of five minutes for me to be registered as a ‘developer’ and get access to Twitters API.

I followed a short tutorial, and now I have an automated script that follows everyone that follows me. This is a very tame thing to do when you have access to the API, I could have followed all my follower’s followers, and their followers, and anyone who fit the search criteria that was provided by my script. What I am trying to say is, I could have followed, retweeted, liked, and all the rest of it, at the pace of a machine.

Inevitably, I would have gained many followers as this is what happens everywhere on the internet. Liking, sharing and commenting are the three things anyone online marketing expert will tell you to do if they are telling the truth, if they are professional, they will use the words ‘interact or engage’.

I choose not to do this for a few reasons, firstly I don’t want to get banned, and secondly, I’m lazy and don’t want to have to sift through tons of useless tweets to see the things I am interested in.

I am not sure how I stumbled upon this site, but stumble I did. I found a site that industrialises what I have just been talking about, not only will the program, follow/unfollow to your heart’s desire, it will also suggest content for you to tweet about.

Here is a quote from their site.

Following relevant people on Twitter is a great way to gain new followers. Find people who are interested in similar topics, follow them and often they will follow you back. This is a great way to build up your Twitter account.’

Now I have seen this I cannot un-see it.

If you’re anything like me, cynical, you will have come across some profiles that follow thousands and have thousands of followers. Then you look at their tweets, and there is practically no engagement. To me, this a sign of some strange things going on. Why should I be surprised? Of course, this is what happens.

This is the game, some people choose not to play, some people are ignorant of it or ignore it, and some people play it better than others. This could be said about everything in life.

When I was a teenager, I used to play a game on MySpace, yes MySpace. The game was a simple game based around Prohibition-era gangsters. For a while I was playing perfectly innocently, then I joined a group of players. One of which was top of the leaderboard for our region. He showed us the ropes, and by ropes I mean bots. Cut to several months later, we were all at the top of the leaderboards. At the time using these bots was the most natural thing in the world, no one ever got banned, and we figured everyone was using them, after all, everyone we knew was using them, and many people were making a lot of money from them. What the moral of this brief aside is I am not sure, but I do know that fair playing fields do not exist.

                        It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money W.C. Fields.

I am wondering if social media is a failed project. I can imagine a world where all of our interactions online are done with bots on our behalf. If you’re not going to improve the social standing of your social media identity, then you will be relegated to the lower rungs of society, where you will be interacting with everyone else who is ‘not an influencer’.

Soon your social standing will sink so low that you will only be able to talk to people in person! Which as we all know, does not scale. How could you geotarget your audience and benchmark their CTR (click through rate) if you have to interface with them organically? The only space for your clickbait titles will be on your t-shirt, that you didn’t even buy from an exclusive online store.

I think I may have gone off topic slightly.

Presumably, we want people to see our work, for whatever reason. Otherwise, we would keep a diary. So, do we sit and wait for people to come, which I assume is very sub-optimal. Or do we spend some time ‘marketing’ our content? Furthermore, If we choose to play the game, do we strive to play the best we can? Or do we make up the numbers?

follow me on twitter!

lessons learned from working with an editor

First of all, here is the post

I have now written my second ever guest post. In exchange for a piece about the afterlife on cafephilos, I got the opportunity to have someone else edit my work. I think this is important for my development as a writer and look forward to working with many more editors. To those that have already reached out, don’t worry, I have a list and content will be coming your way soon.

I would like to reflect on what I have learnt from having someone edit one of my posts and share what I have learnt.

Keep paragraphs short, as people tend to glaze over when reading a wall of text, especially as there is so much content to choose from.

here is an example of what I had.

Especially when I was younger, I thought the idea of an afterlife was a great idea. I guess because it was sold to me on the proviso that you get what you want in heaven. As someone, who at the time thought of school as a chore, It seemed like being able to do what I wanted was a small price to pay for all the hoops that would need to be jumped through. As usual, with age comes wisdom, and that wisdom has given me doubts about how good eternal bliss would be, and ask a few questions as to the practicalities of such a location.’

After editing.

When I was younger, I thought an afterlife was a great idea. I was told that you get what you want in heaven. I guess that’s what sold me on it. It seemed like being able to do whatever I wanted to do was a small price to pay for all the hoops that I would need to jump through.

But as usual, with age came wisdom, and wisdom has given me doubts about how good eternal bliss would be. I nowadays ask a few questions about the practicalities of such a location.’

Be concise.

With the aid of a human editor, the wheat was separated from the chaff. My sentences were overly wordy. Why say something you can say in two words in ten words. I had already read this, but seeing it in the flesh really hit the idea home. Why must I always learn the hard way?

In a few weeks, I may post the original, so you can see for yourselves the difference between my work and mine and Paul’s work.

Final thoughts, and advice to people who want to write guest posts.

Depending on whom you’re writing for, the more freedom you will get to write in your own voice. When writing for cafephilos, my copy kept the essence of its original character, which is a delight. However, when working with the British Nutrition Foundation, there was a lot more editing as they had a very strict style that they wanted to present. Eventually, it became to have to keep editing and I became sick of the article, I let them do what they want with it.

So, the take-home message is to know who you’re writing for, this may save you some time. When deciding to do a guest post, take the writing style of the publication into consideration and decide if you can be bothered to conform!

I will leave you with one last thing, do you think this line was cut after the edit?

 

Of course not, that is why Christmas was outlawed in the year 2020 when it was considered too degrading of moral fibre. Okay, enough with the pretentious meta-textual self-aware shit.’

find out here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion and Spirituality – part 1

When I was younger it seemed that religion was the default setting that we were programmed with; this is a view I no longer have. As soon as someone told me that God ruled everything, I asked ‘who made God?’ I have never been given a suitable answer to this question. In fact, I have only ever been given two answers; the first is: ‘He has always been there’. The second, ‘we cannot know’.

The first of these answers is insane, and I am not sure how absent-minded you have to be to swallow that without hesitation. The second is more compelling, although it is more dangerous. The reason I say it is more dangerous is that there are people who claim to know about God, and these people have real power over you in the only Universe we can be sure exists. They say they know what ‘God’ wants and command us to do what ‘God’ says, whether it is to mutilate our children’s genitals or my personal favourite commandment, the tenth. Not only is keeping up with the Jones’ a sure fire way to remain in debt to the man, but it is also a sin. It would seem marketing is even eviler than I thought.

‘You must not be envious of your neighbour’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour.’

Shortly after this, I heard about the ‘Big Bang’. My question was almost precisely the same ‘what was there before the Big Bang?’ The only answer I have been given to this is ‘ We cannot know’. The difference is, with the Big Bang, the numbers add up, and those numbers tell us that the universe is roughly 14 billion years ago.

When I was a teenager, I started to ask my peers if they believed in a God. Most of them did not. In my family it is only my grandmother that believes in any form of spirituality; I don’t know precisely what her beliefs are, but she does believe in heaven. I was lucky not to have anyone’s beliefs thrust upon me: I was allowed to think for myself.

Since I have learned that there are people that do believe there is some supernatural being or an entire supervisory Justice-Leagueesque team of supervisors, I have been interested in why people believe this answer. I have never heard an argument for the existence of anything supernatural where you do not have to make big leaps in imagination and except things because someone else says so. It is not often in my discipline that I come across anyone willing to believe; whenever I do come across them, they are never above average regarding their ability to use their initiative.

If you’re willing to believe a negative, because you cannot disprove a negative then you must surely think the following. There is a tiny invisible, undetectable penguin that accompanies each of us around. If you cannot prove me wrong, it must be true.

I will write about life after death in my next post, but before we depart ways, I will leave you with one final thought.

There are estimated to be 4200 different religions I believe in zero, and therefore I believe in zero percent. If you do believe in one, you believe in 0.0002% of religions. Of all the different God’s that have been dreamed up by humans which is well more than 100,000, what are the chances the one you believe in is correct?

 

P.S –  The term atheist… Do you think it is stupid as I do? After all, why do you need a word to say you do not believe in something? I don’t have a word for my non-belief in the penguin I previously mentioned, should I have?