blog

Why Doesn’t Anyone Read My Blog?

So, you’ve set up a blog. You post consistently, your topics are relevant and helpful to your readers, and hey- you aren’t too bad at this whole writing thing. So why does it still feel like the only person reading is your mom?

It may be a matter of accessibility. People won’t look at your blog if they don’t know how to find it (or worse, if they don’t know it exists). You’ve already done the grunt-work, now it’s time to add a little hustle to the mix. Here are four places you can apply said hustle:

1) Can people find your blog within your website? If you’re blogging as part of a business or a larger website, is there clear navigation to the blog portion of the website? Many businesses will link their blog right from the main menu, but there’s more than one way to get from A to B (with websites, anyway). Take a look at your sidebar, it’s another important piece of navigation real estate. Could you put a Recent Posts section in there, like Stonyfield does below? Or, maybe it’s a matter of creating a button or image that directs people to your blog home page when they click on it.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Take a look at other pages on your website- are there ways you can link to your blog on these pages? I got to this article about Organic Farming on Stonyfield Farm’s website  by clicking a link in their About page.

Stonyfield_Blog

If you look closely, they’re using the sidebar for additional blog posts AND linking in the menu. Way to hit the trifecta, Stonyfield.

If you’re having a hard time critiquing your website, have a friend take a look. Adding an unbiased brain to the mix  can only help, after all! Giving people alternate routes and clear signage is a great starting point. Now, let’s forge beyond your own territory.



2) Are you sharing on Social Media? Sharing a link to a blog post, old or new, lets people know that your blog is active and ready for readers. It also guarantees more eyeballs are going to see it- Facebook has over 1 billion users, after all. This could be a status update on Facebook or a quick tweet on Twitter. If it’s industry-related content, share it on LinkedIn. Think about where your people hang out online- those should be your target places. Facebook may have a bigger audience, but if your particular audience is hanging out on Google+, don’t turn your back on them!

This step can be accomplished in a few different ways, depending on your preference. If you’re more comfortable with the simple write and post, and can’t be bothered to remember to share on Facebook (or wherever else), you can automatically post to social media once the post is published (that link is for Wordpress users- there are other ways to do it if you have a different kind of platform though!). That means less remembering for you, and more readers for your blog! However, if you aren’t keen on automation and/or don’t want to share every blog post, you can always manage it yourself.

You don’t necessarily have to be the only one sharing your content, either. Wouldn’t it be great if people could share your posts once they’re done reading? You may have noticed some places have social sharing icons at the bottom of articles. You can have that, too! After finishing your latest post, all readers have to do is click the little bird icon and presto! your article just got shared via Twitter, my friend.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.



3) How about email? Do you have a list of e-mails? Maybe you have an e-mail newsletter that goes out once a month. This is yet another opportunity to promote your blog. If your newsletter for the month focuses on car maintenance, and you have an old blog post that ranks different brands of windshield wipers, go ahead and link to it. Readers will ideally click on the link, read the blog, and it’ll be in the back of their mind. Depending on what type of software you’re using, you can also integrate a feed that pulls in links to recent blog posts within your newsletter, or create a separate email altogether. Using an RSS component within your email management system pulls your recent blog posts into an email, and automatically sends to subscribers weekly, monthly, or whatever period of time you choose. Again, depending on what software you use, is customizable, so you can play around with formatting (i.e. title and featured image, title and a blurb, title, blurb and featured image- whatever boats your float).

The benefit of RSS is it brings your blog to the people. Let’s face it, we can all be a bit lazy at times, and may not feel like checking a website X number of times just to see if there’s a new blog post. Other times, we just forget. Having your posts delivered once a week/month/whenever is like having the paperboy deliver to your front step as opposed to going out, starting the car, driving to the store, buying a paper, and coming back home. It’s easy for you to set up, and it’s easier for your audience to read.

4) Can search engines find you? Just to clarify, this is not to say you should bend over backwards for the whims of SEO, but there are a few things you can do to make your work SEO friendly. No matter what game-changing rules come down the pipe (like Google deciding to nix authorship), if you are consistently creating relevant, meaningful content, you’ll be just fine. The rest is just detail.

A few details that might help get your blog some attention: creating compelling headlines (somewhere in between chapter in a 1950s textbook and linkbait for easily distracted people), tagging keywords when applicable and relevant, and renaming your images (i.e. instead of IMG_05948.jpg, use spidermonkey_fights_mastadon.jpg). To reiterate, these changes are not going to move mountains for your blog, they’re simple things that can give you a little boost. For more on headlines, wording, and other content related issues, check out this article from ProBlogger.

Writing a blog shouldn’t feel like shouting into the void. If you have great content, share it with the world (or, at least, the internet) more effectively so that content you spent hours on will get more eyeballs on it!

Stay tuned, we’ll be launching a product for bloggers like in March that involves setting a lot of this up. Get on our email newsletter and you too will be the first to know when it’s launched. (You can also subscribe to our blog via email there. Boom.)



Tech Thursday: How to Get More People to Read Your Blog

This week, we’re going to discuss a topic that is near and dear to us: blogging. We spend a lot of time reading blogs, and writing our own blog posts, and have encountered some interesting material out there.

If you spend any time at all writing blogs (or content for the internet in general), this video is for you!

After you’ve written your blog post, there are a few things to keep in mind that may affect the number of people who are going to read your blog (and ideally, keep reading it!)

As a bonus, we break out into song this time around (it was bound to happen eventually…).



What I’ve Learned Writing 1,000 Blog Posts

1000-blog-postThis, my friends, is the 1,000th blog post on Breaking Even.

Now you may argue that other people have written blogs on this site but I have also guest blogged (that’s to say posted on someone else’s blog with a link back to mine) and ghost blogged (that’s to say written blogs on other people’s blogs as them without credit) so I figure I’ve personally written at least 1,000 blog entries over the course of the last seven (!) years since I began my personal finance blog in 2007.

As you’ve imagined, I’ve learned a few things about blogging, mainly by doing and watching other people doing. In summary:

1) A blog post is any coherent idea, from start to finish, written online.

So I could write a two paragraph blog about treating people with kindness or I could write a detailed analysis about why health care is so expensive that covers over 25 written pages.

A blog post isn’t the length of something or what software it’s written in or how many people read it. It is the start and end of an idea, in online form. Don’t listen to anything else anyone tells you about it. If you are writing regularly online in a place where other people can see it, you’re a blogger.

As a rule, my blogs tend to be longer than people recommend them being, but I kind of don’t care. When you know the rules, it’s kind of fun to break them. Also that brings me to…



2) A blog post is your own voice.

I have no dillusions that I’m saying anything amazing. Other people have likely thought (and said) ideas that I am saying, on this blog and elsewhere I’ve written online.

But what makes a blog a blog is your perspective. If you want celebrity gossip, there are any number of places you can go online but you go to Perez Hilton because of his point of view (and maybe snicker at how he reworks photos in Microsoft Paint.) So I’ve never worried about saying something original or so amazing/ridiculous the paparazzi would stalk me outside my house. I just write what I want and don’t care if they like it. No one can fake my point of view.

3) A blog post should be written in such a way that strangers or friends can read it.

I have very good friends and complete strangers who read my blog entries. When I write, I assume that the person reading is reading this blog post and nothing else I’ve ever written. So I will mention ‘My dog Gidget’, I won’t just say ‘Gidget’, since that would lose the strangers.

By the same token, I don’t just blog about Gidget existing because that’s barely interesting to me. I instead blogged about what it was like to get her from an animal shelter, which took my hassle and made it into a (hopefully) useful article animals shelters or people who are considering adopting dogs from out of state shelters. It’s a post a stranger or a friend could read or get something out of, which is always my aim.

If you are Oprah or Gwyneth Paltrow, please ignore this. You can write about you, you, you. But the rest of us need some kind of topic, however general.



4) A blog only gets better with practice and most people are either afraid to practice or lose interest before they get good.

I kept all my old blog entries on this site for a reason. If you want a good laugh, go back and read how seriously I took myself in 2007 when I first started.

Blogging is about a progression. It takes time to find your voice, your style, your point of view. But you can only get that by producing and often. (More on this idea here about how I’m taking this same ‘It’s gonna suck but get way better’ attitude and applying it to videos.)

 5) A blog won’t make you rich unless you are very very lucky.

Most great bloggers I know (and I think even the now financially or otherwise successful ones) started blogging because they love to write. And most of the time, it took them years to get noticed. Yup, YEARS.

If you come at it with an unpure motive, people can sense it. You won’t be passionate and you won’t stick to it.

The most my blog ever made me was $15/month in ad spaces. Sure I was blogging daily and I could have written ‘sponsored posts’ endorsing products or stuck ads in more ridiculous places but point is, don’t do it for the money… because it’s not going to work out except occasionally make enough cash to buy you lunch. It’s like enrolling your kid in Little League and expecting they’ll make the pros: it’s sad and vaguely mean to put that kind of expectation on a person, even if that person is yourself.

I’m sure I’ll write 1,000 more blog posts (and likely more) in the course of my life… and if I printed them all out, it would be a couple small books! But I do hope I keep getting better and remember to keep loving it. Because that’s the best part.



But What Are You Doing? How Website Updates Help

whyupdatingyourwebsiteisagoodthingWe had a client we did regular services with us for six months. When it was time to renegotiate the contract, she decided to not renew.

A few months later, she emailed us. “Well you must have been doing something because my search engine rankings tanked.”

I like to think I’m not a jerk that charges people for something without doing anything. But I can see what she is getting at. She knew that we were doing something; she just didn’t understand what we were doing.

What do we do on a continuing basis to help a website do better and better in search engines? And why didn’t her search rank tank right away the moment we stopped doing our thing?

What We Do In Our Website Updating Service

Some of the things we (and definitely you) can do to keep your website doing well:

Update your software. You’d be surprised how many very smart people don’t do this. Updating your software not only makes your website less prone to hacking, it also just makes it work better. (Note: HTML sites don’t run on a particular software so you don’t have to update them. But they have their own set of issues, trust me.)

Put new content on your website. How do I know I need to put something on this website? When someone asks me about it. Someone didn’t understand why we charged people to update their social media accounts so I wrote a blog post. Someone wanted to know ALL the specs for the projector and screen we rent so I made a page with the information.

If you feel like you write the same emails of information over and over again (or answer the same questions over and over in person or on the phone), why not put that information on your website?

With the information we write content, create graphics, and can otherwise keep new information on websites we maintain (though I will say we just need a bit of information from a client to do it well).

Update social media accounts periodically with links to your website. You might notice approximately once a week, I have a day where I promote my own crap on Facebook.

selfpromoteypost1

selfpromoteypost2

Notice there are two elements to these updates:

  • What to do (and a reason to do it right now- eye catching image, thought provoking question, time sensitive info)
  • A link to make it easy for them to do it

Everyone has something to push out there, trust me. It could be to subscribe to an email newsletter, review your business on TripAdvisor, take advantage of your upcoming sale, etc. The goal is just not to do this promotional stuff every five seconds (or even most days) so when you do it, it is actually meaningful.

4) Make your website work better. As you use a website, you probably notice some things could be more seamless. Like that new map you made looks crappy on your mobile site. Or the form you want people to submit has only 1% of people that fill it out. What you’ll want to do over time, as you and other people use the site, is tweak it so it works better and better.

You might say, “Gee Nicole, this sounds a lot like putting new content on my website.” but I assure you it is different. Think of it as stepping back from your website and looking at it with fresh eyes once in awhile from a visitor’s prospective. (Hint: Google Analytics data can help you make a lot of these decisions.)

As you can see, there is no shortage of things that can be done in a given month to a website. What is important is carving out the time to do them (or having someone do them for you).

Search engines (and regular people) want:

  • Your website working well and continuing to improve (fast load times, pages that link to one another, etc).
  • New information to discover.
  • New ways to get to your website/other places online they should be.

By regularly updating your website (and ways to get to your website), you are giving search engines and the people who use them all those things.

Why It Takes A Few Months To Stop Working

Let’s say you’re on vacation, eating like a glutton and drinking like a fish. The next day, do you feel like crap immediately? Of course not. It’ll take you a couple of days but if you’re like me, you’ll gain 5 pounds and feel like crap around day 4 or 5.

In a similar manner, if you stop updating your website, Google (and your friends) don’t notice right away. Google might come back in a few days to index your site and see nothing has changed… Then it’ll wait a week. When it comes back and sees nothing has changed, it might take two weeks to come back and crawl your site.

Your friends are similar. They’ll come back and see if you have a new blog and when you don’t, check a few days later. When you don’t still, they might remember to check a few weeks later.

Point is it takes awhile to get into a habit and it takes awhile to get out of one too. That’s why it took a few months for the client to notice her site’s momentum online losing steam; it had been losing steam the whole time, just slowly enough it hadn’t been noticed.

The best way to keep your website’s appearances up is to maintain. As we’ve seen, even five hours a month can do wonders.

How To Make This Happen

To make this happen, you’d do it like you’d do anything else.

1) Schedule a time. For me, it’s a once a month 3 hour block where I write my blog posts. For you, it might be an hour a week. Whatever works.
2) Start with a list of ideas. A blinking cursor is an intimidating thing so instead, make yourself a list of things you want to happen in the next few months. (Some of mine: Making a ‘Speaking’ page with form where people can book me, update portfolio, write blog about getting Pinterest followers) Then you’ll have a hit list where once a month, you can probably hit one big thing (ex: making a whole new page) and a couple little things (ex: changing your about photo, making a new photo gallery).
3) Have an accountability partner. This is someone you’ll have to answer to, ideally once a week, about what you’ve been up to. It can be a friend, colleague, just someone willing to check in with you. It’s amazing what a deadline can do. Maybe you can hold each other accountable about website updates!

So whether you want to call it a ‘new years resolution’ or not, updating your website will help your online (and offline) business in the coming year. Promise!

What’s Your Blogging Motivation?

When I saw the Ramit Sethi quote below, I laughed very hard and very alone in my office for about five minutes:

For 99% of people, starting a blog is a terrible way to make money. You might as well take your money, shred it, spend a year sewing it back together by hand, and then light it on fire. You will still have saved time and heartache.

I laugh because the imagery is amazing. I also laugh because it’s true… which probably is leading you to say, “Why the heck would I even blog then?”

The money you’ll make blogging, or at least the substantial amount of what you’ll make, won’t be actually on your blog but related to your blog. I’ll get into that a bit later on.bloggingmotivation

Here are three motivations for you to blog:

Motivation 1: Blog because you love to write. 

I started a blog for this very reason. You know when people ask you when you are 9 what you are going to be when you grow up? I always wanted to be a writer.

I was told by a couple ‘important’ people that I wasn’t a good enough writer to be published anywhere. So after a few frustrating attempts to charm the uncharmable in the competitive world of writing (apparently my dream is not very unique), I decided I’d start a blog back in 2007 and write. Write to practice writing, write to learn things, write to meet interesting people, write to get better at websites.

From the stats on this website, I see thousands of people are reading what I have to say. And if I would have listened to those couple important people, I wouldn’t be here today saying it.

So if you want to blog because you are tired of the gatekeepers who tell the world what’s good and not good, blogging is a great project for you. Your writing will be known and someday, you may even get paid to write on other websites.



Motivation 2: Blog because you want to get traffic to your business website.

Let’s say you want more people to come to your website. You can pay thousands of dollars a month for Google Ads, slick SEO dudes in India to do mysterious things for you, and other tactics. But honestly the best thing you can do to get traffic to a website is to have a blog.

Search engines love blogs (this graph via Hubspot):

what-factors-do-you-attribute-to-traffic-increase

People love blogs:

Bloggers love blogs for obvious reasons (I mean basketball players like to watch other people play basketball too, right?). And as someone who regularly follows about 800 blogs, I would say I’m a more ‘heavy’ blog reader than someone who doesn’t blog at all.

So what am I saying with all this? People read blogs and they drive traffic to your website, which gives you an opportunity to make money if you sell things there.



Motivation 3: Blog because you want to be seen as an expert. 

Have you ever walked around talking about how smart you are about, say, growing plants? How did that go for you? I bet if you actually did that, everyone would think you were kind of a jerkface.

Now what if you had a blog with pictures of your tomato plants being taller than your house with interesting ideas for getting rid of slugs? Now that’s much better isn’t it? It’s the antibrag: you just put awesomeness out there and let people find it.

See with a blog, people can see how and if you know your stuff. And since it’s out there working for you 24-7, the blog is introducing people to you that you have never met.

Just last night, I went to a gathering. The friend I went with said that one of the party hosts (who I had never met) has always wanted to meet me. “Like you’re famous or something.” my friend laughed.

That, my friends, is the ‘blog effect’.

Any substantial money most people will make from blogging is indirect. You’ll be hired to speak at conferences or to write for other websites. You’ll sell products on your website or throw together an ebook that people will pay to download. You’ll be seen an an authority on whatever and be hired by people to help them. Yes, it is money you make because you have a blog but not from the actual blog itself.

If you want to pull off enough advertising revenue to impress your grandparents, that will be a long hard road which you may never get to the end of. The most successful blogger I’ve ‘met’ who admitted the truth to me said they made about $11,000 a year off ad revenue from their very popular blog. A nice chunk but not much above the federal poverty line. If you are making about $100/year off your blog, you are considered in the 90th percentile. This is not to discourage you from blogging… just from blogging for this reason.

What is your motivation? If at least one of the above motivations speaks to you, give it a shot. But if you are tempted by the fruit of another motivation, you might just want to look at another way to use your time.



Is Someone Copying Your Blog?

contentscrapingandyourblogAs a blogger, I’ve long had my eye on content scrapers, which are people who steal content from your website and, with little or no changes, put it on theirs.

Search engines love blogs so in an effort to get fresh website content that people are looking for, content scrapers hope to take the work that someone else put into writing and use it for their own gain.

I used to pay attention to this when I was a daily blogger but have since stopped, in small part because it made me mad that someone copied my work but in larger part because I realized the people who were doing it were desperate and probably not going to get very far. I have bigger fish to fry.

Matt noticed a few weeks ago that some websites, when he copied a snippet from them, added a URL back to the original post. Of course, I hadn’t noticed this so I immediately looked into it.



Here’s an example of what I mean.

Let’s say I go on the Time’s website and find this article:

articleintime

And in this article I found something I wanted to save, somewhere. I highlight and copy the text:

articlewithquotehighlightedtime

 

When I go to paste that text, here is what happens:

If you want some insight into why the Department of Justice put a gate hold on the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, here’s a number to ponder: 13 million seats—gone. That’s how many airplane seats have disappeared over the past year—seats removed from the system by the airlines as they reduce capacity.

Read more: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2150624,00.html#ixzz2dw7wHcn4




As you see, the quote is preserved but an attribution link with tracking code is automatically added.

I thought this was kind of neat so I installed Tynt on my site.

Something I didn’t think of when I did this was the fact Tynt could now track when content left my site:

tyntreportcontentcopying

 

Now as you see most people who copied text from this site (26 this week) just deleted the tracking link when they copy… but 6 didn’t and people got to my site from it. Interesting.

What’s my most copied article you ask? Here it is: http://breakingeveninc.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-google-apps/ (At least 2-3 copies a week, who knew it was that good?)

So what’s my point in all this? If you write online, there is a pretty good chance someone is using your content (at best, getting information and attributing and at worst, stealing). But there are tools that can allow you to not only measure this but to make it a little more annoying to do so.

Have you created a pdf or some other piece of content people can download? Put your watermark on the bottom then have some fun like my friend Peter did:

someonecopyingpeterswork

If you really want to go after an offender, this blog post is a pretty detailed how to: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/content-scrapers/

This blog post, however, is more to tell you that it can be an amusing past time to watch where your ideas go… and that I’m going to keep my eye on Tynt for awhile longer.



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