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.

Six month review – Week 27 as a PhD student

To get a PhD all you need to do is convince the examiners you have put in a shift’.

Today, I had my sixth-month review. As far as reviews go, it was quite a pleasant experience. The review is in place to provide moral support rather than an examination. I suspect these ‘reviews’ were demanded by the students as there is a lot of self-doubts that is stirred up during the early period.
I had never heard the term ‘imposter syndrome’ before I started my PhD; almost as I stepped through the door, I saw a poster advertising sessions that included ‘coping with imposter syndrome’, amongst over mental health-related courses. Since then, I have heard many of my fellow students talk about it; if you read blogs that are written by PhD students, you will likely see that many of them are writing about mental health issues. If you read the article on the Times Higher Education’s website, you may believe that a stroll through a university wouldn’t be too dissimilar to that of a psychiatric hospital. I have never had any periods of depression — I have been sad, I am not a robot – and I optimise my life for happiness. I often plan things so I will take on the least stress possible; I am not a perfectionist I am a completionist, which seems to me like a much more enjoyable position to be in. With the constant reminder that PhD students are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, I think it is doing me a disservice as It feels as if I am waiting for it to hit. I am on the event horizon and waiting to get sucked in.

A lot of the questions that I asked my reviewer were about completion rates for a PhD student; he quashed my fears with the notion that he had not seen anyone fail who had put the work in. The rare few people he had seen fail did not do any work, and it was apparent they were going to fail. I can now relax and not worry too much about failing. That is until I forget about this conversation, and the dark cloud of doubt descends.

I have been learning computer programming in my spare time for the last few years using the Python language. I enjoy coding, one of the great things about it is that you get instant feedback about how your program is working. Because of this immediate feedback, it feels as if you’re making progress quickly. As a treat, after my sixth-month review, I took Friday afternoon off and entirely devoted it to coding. I managed to make an image recognition program with the help of some pseudo-machine learning techniques. By the end of the evening, I had a program that could recognise numbers I had drawn in pant and tell me what they are. For those that do not code, this could seem trivial, but it was fascinating. I must spend less time reading blogs and more time programming; it has been the best hobby I have taken up, and trust me, there have been many hobbies I have taken up and subsequently given up. I intend on spending a good chunk of time this weekend getting to grips with machine learning.

Overall I feel pretty good about my PhD at this point, and I am going to get stuck into the paper I have been writing over the coming weeks. Not this weekend though as I have a spa day on Sunday!

The meeting – Week 18 as a PhD student

I will start this week with a quick update on my experience of publishing these posts. I posted two posts on the first day of making my site; It has become clear to me how important a headline is. One of my posts is titled ‘An unexpected PhD student’, the other is titled ‘ Week 1 – mediocre expectations’. I will let you be the judge of which one got 100% of the views that day. I don’t know why I expected the fact that being a PhD student would be more interesting than the run-of-the-mill fitness or lifestyle blogs. Oh, how I was wrong. This adds another dimension to this experience; previously, I thought people would click on my posts and give me feedback on my writing. My current belief is that I will have to become a lot more savvy with self-promotion and become the corporate-waster I despise. Although, It will probably look good on a CV…

This week1 I had my first supervisor meeting, I had to give a presentation about all the work I have been doing, and mostly justify my funding to my industrial sponsors. At my university, this occurs every 3-4 months, with larger formal reviews at the 6six month and one year mark. I am glad to say it went well, and that my supervisor’s – all four of them – are very supportive. I had been looking forward to this meeting as I have not had any feedback as to how I am doing; this is worrying as you feel as if you could potentially be wasting your time – and their money. I saw this meeting as more of an opportunity than an interrogation, as I needed the feedback. I am glad I do not have to prepare for it anymore though as I am bored of preparing presentations for the meantime. On that note, I have been asked to present a poster at the end of the month; another couple of weeks not working on my actual work is upon me. I should reframe my thinking, and see it as an opportunity to improve my communication skills; at the moment I see it as a chore.

If you have read some, or all, of my previous posts. Firstly, Thank you! Secondly, you will see that I have been complaining about not knowing what to do, and wondering if I am doing enough work. Well, ladies and gentleman, I now have too much to do; it took 18 weeks for this to occur, what a joyous 18 weeks. If experience is anything to go by, the time will start to pass a lot quicker! I have been preparing for another presentation that I have coming up next week, so my week has been quite boring. However, I did manage to do something other than prep presentations; I have started work on my first academic paper, mostly just the research but I did manage to write my first line, which as we know, is a start. A lot of the research involved looking for journals I could publish in; it looks as if anyone can start a journal as many journals had websites I would describe as home-brewed. There were not many that I will consider for publishing; I think that sticking to the big players – those owned by Elsevier etc. – is the best strategy for me at this point. Writing this paper will be a massive undertaking, and I expect it will take a year.

I have finally finished Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, to be honest, I don’t recommend it. Unless you want an endurance challenge, I don’t think it was interesting enough for me to recommend it over other books. I will be running back to non-fiction for a while; I am unconvinced that reading fiction is a good use of my time. I have mentioned in the past that I have been writing code as part of my PhD; I have come across a few barriers recently regarding the installation of python packages. I have had a little bit of luck, but I am still stuck, however, I will continue to work on the problem as it is deep-rooted now, and I want the satisfaction of solving the problem. A less mature version of myself would have given up, and gone with another, a lesser method of achieving the same goal – measuring the colour of leaves objectively. I think this resilient mindset is something that is worth cultivating. It may be a cliché, but I believe that the work is much more important than the result. It is just important to take time to appreciate what you’re doing and enjoy the ride, as the happiness from the result is very short acting.

1. I need to find some more opening phrases.

Note

As with all these posts, they are roughly 4 months behind the present. Interesting how all the problems I had at this point are the least of my problems 4 months down the line.

One month review of WordPress

I thought I would just share my experience of posting on this platform for the past month. Without any effort on my part, other than writing posts, I have gained 6 followers, 43 views and 22 likes. From looking at the accounts that have followed, I have realised that all but one are liking and following in the hope I will do the same to there blog, and therefore, increase their followership. This does not work.

Without doing anything to promote my blog, all the readership comes from WordPress’s Reader. I would like to see how far this blog can grow organically, so I do not intend on spending money to promote this. However, I may soon upgrade to the next level of WordPress package so I can get a better URL, and more importantly, remove ads. I will upgrade once I have a few more followers, maybe 50?