If you are a blogger, the odds are you have been going through the same experience as me. If that’s the case, keep reading. There is good news and hope at the end
IF YOU’RE A REGULAR VISITOR, you’ll have noticed my site has changed a lot these past months.
But first: Thank-you for giving me your time—for reading my posts, for contributing your thoughts, for your company. A few of you even share my posts on social media. I want you to know I try to return the compliment, by reading your work and posting it on my Twitter feed. This website is meant to foster a community.
Now, back to this change business. There’s a lot to cover, but I’ll be as brief as I can.
My five-year blogging anniversary arrives in ten days. In other words, I started waynekspear.com on January 21, 2010. At that time I was averaging 16 visitors a day. It was a fun time.
I paid no attention to traffic in the early days. That changed. I posted regularly, as much as four essays a week. After two years, I got curious. How much traffic was I getting? What did my audience look like?
The short answer is that I did a bunch of research, and I started collecting and analyzing data, and I concluded that I had no more than a few readers. I figured no more than ten people actually read a post, and that included my friends and family. After five years of blogging, the numbers are telling the same story.
So why is that a problem?
Having ten readers is great. If you’ve got this far, you are one of ten. You are great.
According to the data, 92% of the people who arrive at this site leave in under ten seconds. And another few percent leave in under a minute. Nothing I write can be read in under a minute. So I think of my readers as part of an elite group.
The writing i did between 2010 and 2014—those hundreds of essays—represents a lot of my time. I could have been doing a lot of other things. Each article took about an hour, so over four years that’s 600 hours.
My intention has been to build an audience and to earn income selling books and articles and whatnot. So to reach more folks, I started writing for the National Post. Some months later, in 2012, I was writing for the Huffington Post. I didn’t get paid for this work: it was done for exposure. And it didn’t work. Sure, more people saw my name, but my traffic flatlined.
Fast-forward three years, to 2015, and my daily average traffic is now 106 hits a day. Each of my posts gets, on average, about 18 hits. Keep in mind only five percent of these hits represent a reader.
In 95 out of 100 instances, a person enters words into a search engine, arrives at my site, decides in under five seconds it’s not what they are looking for, and bounces. (That’s the technical term for the non-engaged portion of your traffic.)
Okay, I could go down the rabbit hole now, and talk all about WordPress stats and what I’ve learned about the blogosphere, but again I’m going to give you the crisp summary. It’s worth repeating why I’ve written this post: you’ve given me your precious time, and I want to show my respect for this by explaining the changes on my site—and by telling you that more changes are on the way.
Also, if you are a fellow blogger, the odds are you have been going through the same experience. If that’s the case, keep reading. There is good news and hope at the end.
You see, I spent 2014 doing a lot of thinking and research and soul-searching. Not making money from writing wasn’t really my problem. It was the realization that my work was not connecting, that people couldn’t care less about it, that it just wasn’t good enough. I looked around the Internet and I found bloggers who, after a few months of writing, had thousands of readers. People took time to leave comments and to tell their friends about this amazing writer they’d found. Well, there was no denying that I was not this kind of writer. Why not? What magical thing did they have that I didn’t?
I also discovered that most bloggers were exactly where I was, pouring their heart and soul into writing that maybe a few people would read.
Trust me, that is the crisp version. The long version was a lot of studying, and a lot of messy and unpleasant introspection. In November I wrote a draft blog post that thanked my readers and announced I would be writing no more.
But then I got thinking. What if instead of quitting, I changed how I write? Make it more fun and accessible. I noticed that popular bloggers often have lots of pictures in their posts, and that they break paragraphs into bite-sized chunks with sub-heads and call-outs and CTAs. They write in a relaxed and even jargony style. So I started to do that.
Around this time I came across a fellow named Jon Morrow. I read a bunch of his blog posts, but here’s the one that blew everything I was thinking and doing out of the water: 20 Ways to Be Just Another Mediocre Blogger Nobody Gives a Crap About.
Yep, that was me: the crappy blogger no one gives a shit about. I’d managed to do every one of the twenty stupid things in this post. This pretty much sealed it: I was a failure.
Except I wasn’t. I was just a guy who didn’t know what he was doing. And once upon a time so was Jon. He knew what all the mistakes were because he’d made them. And now? He makes boat loads of money blogging.
So the good news is I can do better. I signed up for Jon’s course Serious Bloggers Only. Jon says you shouldn’t even bother writing anything on your blog until you have 10,000 subscribers. Instead put your effort into connecting with the influencers in your blogging niche, build a network, and write guest posts. He says you should put a note on your website, directing your readers to the guest posts you’ll be doing on those popular blogs.
I’m going to follow his advice, because maybe I’m delusional but I really do believe in my work. I just need to be smarter and more effective. So I’m studying marketing and business and other things most writers avoid like spoiled milk.
My partner doesn’t agree at all with the posts I’ve been doing since about last November. She says I’m dumbing it down, and that I’m smarter than that. I see her point. What I realized is that it’s not actually about my writing, it’s about cutting through the noise and clutter of the Internet.
When I’m finished this course I hope to have a few things sorted out:
• what is my niche in the blogging marketplace?
• who do I want to write for?
• what is my strategy for writing compelling prose that connects with readers?
• how do I turn this blog from a hobby (let’s be honest) into an income generator?
• in short: how do I stop being Just Another Mediocre Blogger Nobody Gives a Crap About.
I’m not going to stop blogging at waynekspear, but I am going to do less of it until I have completed the course-work and the strategies given to me by Jon.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts. I mean, if you’ve stayed with me this far, wow. Your thoughts are extremely important to me. I’m kind of dying to know them, to be honest.
Now, here’s why this matters to you. If you are also a blogger—I know some of my readers are—and anything I’ve written above is speaking to you, I recommend you visit Jon’s site. You deserve to have a community. I believe we should all be blogging to make a meaningful difference. You don’t have to settle for anything less. It took me five years to realize I was doing everything wrong. If I can help even one person to not waste five years making mistakes, this post will have been worth writing.
Find me on Twitter. Check out my latest book.
8 thoughts on “I’m tired of being a crappy blogger, and here’s what I’m doing about it”
Thank-you Nina! No, I never had multile blogs but there were times I thought ‘maybe if started more blogs …’ especially since, like you, I have a whole work side that is very different from my writing. So I was thinking about doing what you’ve done, to have a professional website and a more personal website. If there were 60 hours in a day, and I had about 20 to spare, I would have done it.
I think this website started out as an end in itself, but I have bigger ambitions for it. I realized that I what I really want is a community, and that blogging is not how you do it. The guest posting is really about building a community by participating and contributing to your niche. In other words, the community is already out there. So I’m spending less time on my blog and more learning about what other people are doing. Instaed of two hours working on my site, mybe I’ll spend an hour and then use that extra hour to read your site and others who I’ve come across. Also some guest posts can introduce me to people who wouldn’t ever stumble on my site.
I’ve actually found through experimentation that depending how I write something I wil get more or less email or comments. I have an academic and literary background, and a lot of my experimentation has to do with moving a bit away from the writing style I developed in graduate school. I find a bit more of a relaxed style tends to welcome the general reader more than a semi-academic style.
Definitely I want to sell books and my business. Writing a part of my living these days, so unless I go back to an office job I don’t really have the luxury of doing it just for love.
Thank-you for being one of the bright lights in this little blogging universe of mine. You’re doing great work at Multo Ghost — anyone reading this should visit https://multoghost.wordpress.com/ — and you’re exactly the kind of person I hope to meet through writing: varied interests, smart as heck, intellectualy curious and fun. And, yes, I’m still going to be here blogging 🙂
I’ll see you around the Internet! Thanks again – W.
Hmmm. Several of his points are variations of ‘give no excuses — real writers write everyday, stupid.’ — which, since you *are* a real writer, I take for granted you didn’t need to be told. I was happy to see the ‘write long posts’ point, because I run long myself (regularly 1000+ words, though I don’t think I get to 2000 all the time). And I like longform bloggers.
I’m not sure I believe his guest blogger suggestion, though since I’m obviously in the same cohort of bloggers as you are, my opinion doesn’t count for much.
(And did you really have multiple blogs?)
Re. the format/tone changes of your blog: I like your older pieces. I’m always pleased when I find a new one through the “related posts” links. I liked your meditations on the writing process, and I liked (still like) your posts on politics and First Nations issues, though sometimes they go over my head because I’m neither Canadian nor Indigenous. And the long thoughtful pieces on movies, and watches, and fountain pens…
I like your humor ones too — especially the ones that have a little bit of a satirical bite to them. But I can kind of see your partner’s point. They feel … different from the others.
I guess my question is: is your blog a means to an end, or a goal in itself? I know that some writers (like, book authors) comment that blogs — and social media in general — get in the way of their “actual” writing, and they end up dialing back. As in, if what you want to do is (say) write and sell books about First Nations issues, maybe it’s better to figure out how to promote and monetize that directly, rather than indirectly through a blog. So there’s that.
Anyway. I hope you keep on blogging, to some degree, and I hope you work out and start achieving your goals. As one of your “top ten” readers 🙂 I’m rooting for you!
Yeah, it’s the point for me. I mean, some people would say they write for its own sake, but writing is work. If no one is reading it then the term for what you are doing is therapy. I could probably use some of that, too, but it’s not enough to keep me motivated. Thank-you for the thoughts.
Interestingly (or not), I’ve found myself visiting your blog regularly since your format change. I can understand Nic’s concern, but I’m not dumb, and neither is Xander, and he has been enjoying it, too. In fact, I started to tell him about this post…and he’d already read it. You can still write creatively and intelligently regardless of the subject. I just think you’re now writing in a way that has the potential to connect with more people. And isn’t that the point?
Justin, Thank-you for the comment. I enjoy your work and your Twitter feed also.
Yeah, most of the people in this course (well over 100) are in the self-improvement/lifestyle niche, and there’s a pretty heavy emphasis on marketing. So if you’re writing poetry for instance they pretty much tell you up front there’s probably no market there, unless you write about how to be a better poet (i.e. self-improvement) and sign up a lot of aspiring poets. I think you can create a community around anything, but it has to fill some sort of need. And even then, the best writing isn’t going to connnect with people if they don’t know you exist. That’s why the first thing they tell you in this course is stop writing on your blog, and put your time into outreach and networking with the influencers. It reminds me a bit of going to LA to audition! You have to put yourself in front of the right people and pitch. Not easy, but more efficient than being dscovered on Google.
Let’s keep in touch. All the best, -W.
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Hi Karen. Thank-you for taking the time to commment. It means a lot to me. You make good points. It definitely takes time, but as someone who has written for thirty years, and five of them on WordPress, I do feel like I’ve been at it a while. Still I appreciate your perspective. I will keep you updated, and hopefully not be too confusing, ha! All the best, -W.
Thanks for writing this post. I know I’m in the same boat. But I’ve looked at a lot of successful fiction writer’s blogs and they’re not that great. But I think that the important thing is that you find a niche. I’m still looking for mine. It could be humor, but what does that do for literary fiction? Let me know how the course goes (@justinmeckes), but I fear it’s going to work most for nonfiction writers though that seems like what you might want.
Hi Wayne. I noticed your blog changes. Here’s my perspective. You went from mostly native people’s issues and history to a more literary bent. At first I was confused, and then I got the sense you were more or less experimenting. Maybe you were trying to get readers to engage more or you were trying to see what other subjects you could hash out or you were going through a phase. None of which is wrong. Sometimes it takes a while for a blogger to feel like his/her blog finally meshes. I’m not too sure you were doing everything wrong. What you’ve gone through is more a learning process than anything. Building a community sounds good. Just remember, the bigger the community, the more time will be involved with the blog. A blog is just one more tool to connect and/or engage with others and to establish cred. Your blog has a lot of great pieces on it and it’s well-designed. Not too shabby, and not mediocre. Good luck and keep your readers updated!