WARNING: I was high on caffeine, low on sweetness and off-the-charts on dry wit when I wrote this…
My pastor at church writes a short piece on the front of each weekend’s bulletin. This week’s words are particularly penetrating:
35,000 feet above the dusty plains of Pakistan, flying toward the 15 million people of Karachi, I studied yet another report on the re-positioning of nations in Godâ€™s world. After a mere half century, America is being replaced as the worldâ€™s leading nation.
America used to be the worldâ€™s biggest exporter, but is now surpassed by China. China also produces more cars than America. General Motors was the worldâ€™s largest auto company. This year Toyota has passed it. The American dollar is no longer the favoured form of cash. There are now more euros in circulation than dollars. Wall Streetâ€™s capitalisation has been eclipsed by Europe. Saudi Aramco now boasts bigger revenues than the worldâ€™s biggest listed company, Exxon Mobil. On purchasing power parity, China will be number one within 4 years. Its GDP will pass Americaâ€™s by 2027. On current trends China will win more gold medals at Beijing than America.
This century China will also have the worldâ€™s most powerful Christian church. Its missionaries are already appearing in the toughest countries I visit.
Bring it on, Lord!
Religious sensibilities aside, this short message from my pastor very consisely paints the picture of the world of today: rapid, unceasing change! And for most of us humble humans, change means pain, confronting fear and accepting a difficult-to-verbalize sense of angst deep in our souls.
But it gets worse for us bloggers! We’re dealing with this thing called the World Wide Web, which has never stood still even for one moment. Heck, it’s hard enough keeping up with WordPress updates, let along new plugins, new widgets, new websites, new services, new social networks, new forms of communication, new promotion strategies, new tricks, and… new emails!
There are so many distractions online, it’s hard sometimes to remember what we were doing here in the first place. I have the far-too-regular 3pm headaches to prove that (it feels like) I’m barely holding on from day to day. How about you?
As I have repeatedly written in one form or other, blogging is not about writing posts. Heck, that’s the least of your challenges. No, blogging is about cultivating a mutually beneficial relationships with an ever-growing online readership, and that’s hard work. And worse still, there are so many ways you are told to do that:
(numbered for easy reference by commenters)
- You should challenge/encourage/woo/entice readers to leave more comments, because good blogs have lots of comments.
- You should thank first-time commenters because that personal touch will greatly improve your and their sense of relational intimacy.
- You should monitor comments on your blog and converse there with commenters to answer questions and help them out. If you don’t do this you look like you don’t care about your commenters either.
- You should set up alerting systems and stay on top of your RSS feeds to be on top of breaking news in your niche so that you can post early and look like an authority/thought leader, because that’s what they do.
- You should be reading the posts and comments on similar blogs to yours so that you can add your own comments there, and (as it were) promote yourself, get links and “be part of the conversation”.
- You should be regularly adding new feeds to your newsreader and always looking for new and interesting writers.
- You should take the time to study the content of your competitors’ blogs to look for ideas for your next post.
- You should keep up with the latest ideas/tricks/techniques for promoting your blog and should be experimenting all the time with a new link-bait and SEO ideas, so that (ultimately) you rank better in Google and in other search engines, and get more search traffic.
- You should be twittering about every hour or so with witty and pithy commentary on the mundanity of your daily activities (trying not to feel so so lame because, unlike Chris Pirillo, you’re not always in a recording studio, airport or funky nightclub).
- You should be joining MyBlogLog, Twitter, Bumpzee, BlogCatalog, Digg and a load of other social network sites/services if you haven’t already, because these are the places to “network” with other people in your niche, and in the blogosphere generally.
- You should be building your friends lists up on all these services because everyone knows your success on Digg, Netscape, MyBlogLog and the other social voting/bookmarking sites is directly proportional to the number of friends (i.e. people you’ve never met) you have.
- You should be following up each blog you post with emails out to some of the gurus and thought leaders and uber-bloggers in your niche in the hope that they will a) read your email, b) link through to your post, c) read it, d) love it, e) post about it on their blog or f) add your blog to their blogroll or g) submit your story to Digg.
- You should be learning about and signing up for Text Link Ads, Google AdSense, Chitika, AuctionAds, ReviewMe, AdBrite and working out over time what optimal placement (for highest conversion rate) for each is on your blog page, making sure not to offend your readers along the way. No sense in not monetizing your traffic, now!
- You should aim for about a post a day, making sure to write “quality content”. Meaning you need to be original but not bleeding-edge, funny ha-ha but not funny weird, comprehensive but not boring, structured but not fragmented, insightful but not impenetrably dense. Got it?
- You should comprehensively “tag” every post so it is properly indexed by Technorati and other tagging services.
- You should use a comprehensive, real-time stats package so you can analyze traffic patterns, look at where people are coming from, see who’s linking to you, and so forth.
- You should take particular notice (in your stats) of the “long-tail” of your search engine referral traffic, and where you see repeated phrases and keywords, use these as ideas for future posts, in order to get more targeted traffic from search engines.
- You should use email, discussion groups, mailing lists, phone, fax, telex and carrier pigeon to cultivate an “informal” collective of diggers/stumblers/redditers/delishers and you should use the aforementioned modes of communication to (carefully and selectively) request “help” to get your best posts submitted/voted on/promoted.
- You should participate in carefully chosen discussion forums that are a close match for the kind of readership you want on your blog. The nicer and more helpful you are the more people will follow you back to your blog.
- You should cultivate a relationship with the A-list blogger/s in your niche with a view to offering or being asked to write a guest post on their blog; not for the traffic but for the respect you will gain from a different/larger readership.
- You should buy a phone that has a built-in camera, broadband connection and blogging facility so you can feel less like a technological neanderthal and more like Scoble or Justin with your moblogging prowess.
- You should — on a scheduled and regular basis — be standing apart (completely dispassionately) from your blogging to gain a sense of balance and perspective on your efforts, in order to be able to review and adjust your “workflow”, choice of tools, and approach. You will need to accommodate technological change, shifts in expectation of your readership, and the greater and greater need to cater to a Chinese readership, where the real money and traffic is.
Obviously it goes without saying that you have a day job and a family and all that stuff, so don’t get too intense about all the above… it’s designed to fit fairly neatly into an hour before work and a couple of hours in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. You have a real life going on too, after all!
Damn! I’m a good cynic when I’m in that kind of a mood 🙂
Now, where did I put the Tylenol?