Jun 6, 2013 Community
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!”
Growing up, we had a sign in our kitchen that read, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s the same as the goose-gander message: a woman who is unhappy can make the life of her partner a living hell, so if you’re a man who wants to be happy, step one is pleasing your wife/girlfriend.
Too many bloggers consider themselves the goose in the blogger-reader relationship. In actuality, us bloggers are the gander.
In other words, just because something is good for you doesn’t mean it is good for your readers, and you should always be considering their needs first.
A great example of this is the idea of removing dates from your blog posts, which I recently wrote about on the NMX blog. Time after time, I see bloggers talking about how removing dates has increased their stats. But you know what? It’s annoying. As a reader, I am cranky when I can’t see when a post is written because I don’t know how to tell if the opinions or facts in the post are outdated or not.
Another example? Pop up advertisements. There isn’t a single person out there you likes them. Yet many bloggers use them because the conversion rates are so good.
You are not the goose. You are the gander. Your job is to keep your readers happy, even if the stats tempt you to put into place practices that your readers hate. Long-term, it’s not worth it. Remember, numbers don’t always tell you the full story. For every new click you get because your posts are dateless, what if three-long term readers stop linking to you? What if your pop up ad leads to conversions on an individual level, but those people decide not to share your post because they don’t want to annoy their followers with the ad?
Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Make them happy and you’ll be happy too in the long run.
May 12, 2013 Community
We human beings have a lot of pride.
No one likes to be wrong, especially on the Internet. Yet, the Internet culture is one of ridiculing people, complaining, and ranting. People are unnecessarily snarky and downright mean. Even when negative statements are justified, tact and manners seem to fly out the window when commenting online.
Today, I’d like to propose that we all take time to say “I’m sorry” a little more often, especially to people in our community.
Not “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which really means, “I’m right, but I want to say something that is mildly snarky while still sounding like I take the high road even though I’m fooling nobody.”
Not “I’m sorry you had issues,” which really means, “You’re at fault for this problem. No one else is having issues.”
Not “I’m sorry that I can’t help you,” which really means, “I don’t feel like taking the time or making an effort to help you, even though I feel bad you have a problem.”
Not “I’m sorry, but…” because as my friend Deb Ng has said, “Usually, things that come after a ‘but’ mean that the first half of the statement isn’t true.
I’m not even proposing that you start to take on people’s problems. Not every “I’m sorry” has to come with a solution attached. Sometimes, “I’m sorry” is just that – a notice to the other person that you want to apologize for the issue at hand, and that you’d like their forgiveness. You’ve made a mistake.
Because we’re proud, it can be hard to admit a mistake. I struggle with it every day. I am my father’s daughter; I am a stubborn person. Bull-headed, my mother is fond of saying.
“I’m sorry” can make your community stronger, though. When you acknowledge another person’s feelings of anger or sadness, you give them a gift that we don’t see often enough online. And that’s the real high road. If you can make someone feel better instead of worrying about saving your own face and hiding your mistakes, that’s when you’ve become a real community manager.
Apr 7, 2013 General Blogging
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
- Fun, “Carry On”
Despite starting this post with some lyric from a Fun song, I actually want to begin by talking about an awesome Amanda Palmer song called “In My Mind.” In the song, she laments that she thought she would be in a different place in her life by now. She talks about how she thought she’d be more disciplined, never getting hang-overs or losing her wallet. She images being thinner and a better defensive driver. She thinks about the future and how she’ll live a simpler life where she takes time to smell the roses, not like now when she’s so busy.
She thinks about how she’s not the person she wants to be. And then, she realizes that she’s doesn’t really want to be the person she thought she wanted to be…because if she truly did want to be that person, she would be that person. She is exactly the person she wants to be, despite that being different from her initial vision of perfection.
I want to save more money…but I want to go on vacation more.
I want to lose ten pounds…but I want that piece of cake more.
I want to grow my blog…but I want to spend my free time with my family more.
Here’s the kicker, though: it’s okay to realize that your goals can be trumped by other stuff, as long as you’re moving forward in your life. It’s okay to love yourself even if you’re not perfection.
Goals change over the course of your life, and that’s okay, because it’s not important to reach goals that aren’t what you really want, even though you may have previously wanted said goal. This is where the Fun song comes in. What is important is that the “past is the sound of your feet upon the ground.” If you want to see changes in your life, you have to get out there and make those changes happen.
Always be moving forward, despite not achieving your previous idea of perfection. You are exactly the person you want to be. The work you put into life dictates what you get out of life.
Mar 12, 2013 General Blogging
Most birds have a variety of songs they sing. Some, like a mockingbird, will mimic the birds around them, and even copy human whistles. Others stick to singing the songs of their own species, learning several varieties. The Brown Thrasher, for example, will learn hundreds or even thousands of songs over the course of its life.
But the Indigo Bunting only sings one song.
This bird makes it count, though. Indigo Buntings sing a very complex song, comprised of six to eight notes instead of just two or three, and combined in different patterns to create a masterpiece.
When this bird is young, it creates this song, singing notes different from its father. Each bird pulls inspiration from its neighbors to create something unique. There is no one song of the species like you’ll find with other types of birds. Indigo Buntings in one neighborhood will sound different from Indigo Buntings in another neighborhood.
And none of them will sound exactly like their fathers.
You don’t need to sing a thousand songs to be desirable, and you don’t need to repeat the successful patterns of others to be brilliant. Look inside to find your one song, and learn to sing your one song very well.
In case you’re wondering, facts about the Indigo Bunting and other songbirds can be found here.
Image credit: Dan Pancamo
Mar 8, 2013 General Blogging
It really bugs me when people say jerk things while hiding behind “freedom of speech.”
Because there’s something about freedom of speech that we’re all ignoring. It’s there in the corner of our eye, but we choose to look away. We will ourselves to forget, and we live our lives content with the fact that we don’t remember something very important.*
What we’re all choosing not to look in the eye is that freedom of speech isn’t a fact of life. We aren’t born with it, like skin or hair, and it isn’t guaranteed for any human. It can be taken away, and no one really has to give it back to you. Someone can’t change the fact that you breath (without killing you at least), but someone can censor you. Pretty easily, actually.
If you live in the United States or another Westernized country, chances are that your freedom of speech is protected by law. But laws can be changed. Freedom of speech is not a law of nature, like gravity. Human beings created law because we like order. Our laws are not a fact of life, and they only exist when those in power allow them to exist.
And that’s why it bothers me when people use their freedom of speech to be hateful, cruel, or ignorant. We’re incredibly lucky to have the ability to speak our minds, and it’s a freedom we might not have forever.
Words are extremely powerful. How will you use yours? Will you use yours to be an ass on some forum you like to troll? Or will you use yours to make a difference, even a small one, in the world?
*If you get all the Doctor Who references at the beginning of this post, we’re bff. This post is not about DW, but sometimes I just can’t resist.
Feb 15, 2013 Blog Content
There’s this oft-touted blogging rule that your content doesn’t have to be great. It just has to be okay.
It has to be passable. It has to be good enough to teach the reader something. It has to be clean. But it doesn’t have to be fantastic. Because if you spend your time worrying about perfection and pushing yourself to write incredible content, you’ll waste time. Instead of writing one amazing post, you could write 10, 20, maybe even 50 “just okay” posts.
And that’s what people want: more content. They don’t care about being wowed. They care about walking away with a kernel of a concept or a brief set of directions, and you need to give them this content as often as possible. Plus, if you get hung up on writing the perfect post, you’ll never post anything. Or so proponents of this rule would have you believe.
Well, I think the “just okay” rule sucks.
While it’s true that a post doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect to be worthy of reading, you should be shooting for greatness, not mediocrity.
“The world doesn’t need any more mediocrity or hedged bets.” – Anne Rice
Write a keyword-rich post about Topic X might end up driving a lot of traffic to your website. But if ten other websites have already written about Topic X and you’re basically just regurgitating information in an SEO’d way, rather than adding anything valuable to the conversation, you’re just cluttering the Internet.
This isn’t just about cluttering the Internet, though. It’s also about pumping out posts that aren’t fully developed. Is the post you’re publishing the best it can absolutely be? If not, why are you hitting that publish button?
Publish your best content. Some posts are going to be better than others, but you should always strive to push yourself toward greatness. Don’t settle for “just okay,” because you’re setting yourself on a slippery slope. Be awesome in the truest sense of the word. Your readers deserve it.
Jan 28, 2013 General Blogging
There once was a very stubborn caterpillar.
All around him, the other caterpillars couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were to change into butterflies. The big change was going to be a scarey one, and a lot of work, but it would be worth it, they pontificated. Pushing themselves in this way would make them stronger, better, happier.
But the stubborn caterpillar was happy as a caterpillar. He liked crawling along tree branches and eating big, green leafs. He didn’t want to change his life at all.
His caterpillar-y friends could do little more than shake their heads.
“He isn’t living up to his potential,” some whispered behind his back. “If he only worked harder and focused, he’d be on his way to becoming a butterfly.”
“He is afraid,” others theorized, when the stubborn caterpillar was out of earshot. “He’s scared that he might not like being a butterfly, so he’s pretending to be happy as a caterpillar.”
“He doesn’t understand what he is missing,” still others would say. “Once we become butterflies, our lives before will be insignificant. He just doesn’t understand that the pain will be worth the reward.”
When it came time, the caterpillars made their cocoons, one by one. All but the stubborn caterpillar, who was not bound by the laws of Mother Nature in our tale and simply went on being a caterpillar.
Was he lazy? Maybe. But he was happy.
Was he afraid? Maybe. But he was happy.
Was he missing out? Maybe. But he was happy.
And on his little caterpillar-y death bed, he breathing his last breath never once regretting the fact that he choose to be happy in life rather the feel pressured to constantly grow and evolve and be someone else’s idea of better.
Dec 2, 2012 General Blogging
We have this obsession with doing everything faster.
How can I write blog posts faster? How can I use social media faster? How can I build my blog faster? Of course, this need to be faster seeps into daily life too. We want to cook faster, clean the house faster, and get to wherever we’re going faster.
Yet, in the past few weeks, a number of my friends have expressed frustration with this “gotta be faster” lifestyle. And I have to say, I agree with them.
Next time you’re looking for a way to do something faster, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why you want to get it done so quickly.
In life, there are things you have to do and things you want to do. If it’s something you have to do, go ahead and find a way to do it faster. I hate cleaning the bathroom, so of course I want tips on cleaning it faster.
But I love cooking…so why would I want to learn to do it faster?
There are instances when cooking faster makes sense, like when you’re trying to prepare for a dinner party, but sometimes we get so obsessed with being faster that we forget it is great to do things slowly as well. Faster doesn’t mean better.
Do you love blogging? Than stop looking for ways to blog faster. Slow down and enjoy the process. After all, if you’re constantly trying to do everything faster, you’re probably going to age faster as well.
Oct 28, 2012 General Blogging
In pursuit of perfection, we make compromises.
We say we’re only going to work during regular business hours, but we stay up late to get one last blog post written before falling asleep at our desks. Again.
We say we’re going to spend more time with friends and family, but we’re never fully “there” because we check out smart phones every few minutes.
We say we’re going to take vacations, but rarely do we go untethered, giving excuses like, “I’m building a business, so I can take long vacations in the future,” even though the future never seems to become the present.
In pursuit of perfection, we make compromises with our lives, forging deals with our loved ones and learning the meaning of “sacrifice.”
This is the point where you want me to tell you to stop it. It’s the point of my post where you’re hoping I point out that this is a real quality of life issue and that you have to learn to take time off to smell the roses. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but screw the roses.
If you don’t love, breathe, live your blog and the online business you’re building, then quit. This is a tough world where true people are really making an liveable income from blogging. I don’t begrudge anyone for making the decision that family time is more important than blog time. That’s a decision only you can make.
But go into that decision knowing the truth. The old cliche, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” applies here. You can put your soul into your blog and make it a business or you can do it as a hobby. If you choose the latter, some complaining about the sacrifices you have to make. No one is forcing you to be a blogger. I like Margaret Atwood’s point #7 in her advice to writers:
You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.
In pursuit of perfection, you will run yourself ragged, and you’ll never truly achieve that perfection. Put on your helmet, rise above the mediocrity, and find joy in the ride. It’s going to be a bumpy one. But if you’re not really willing to reach for it, stop lying to yourself about it and instead find happiness in the compromises you choose not to make because something else was more important than working on your blog. That’s a valid path too.
And if you do make the decision to reach for perfection? Be honest about the hard path you’re traveling. After all, the last thing we need is another jackass talking about how easy it is to make money online.
Sep 27, 2012 Monetization
I have a confession to make: when I was a child, the story of Little Red Riding Hood terrified me.
It’s not really that I’m afraid of wolves. There’s just something ultra creepy to me about someone pretending to be something they’re not. The wolf in the story pretends to be the girl’s grandmother, and though her instincts tell her that something is wrong, the big bad wolf still gobbles her up (or at least attempts to, depending on which version of the story you’re reading).
That level of deception is scary to me.
I’m still afraid of the big bad wolf, and unfortunately, he’s lurking around every corner online, it seems. Wolves are hiding everywhere, pretending to be something they’re not: financially successful.
Recently, I’ve seen many of my blogging friends talking about this issue: “top” bloggers who are spewing advice left and right about how to be financially successful as a blogger, even though they barely make ends meet themselves.
We need to stop equating popularity to financial success. Those to things do not always work hand in hand for bloggers. You can have millions of readers and an empty bank account.
And that’s okay. What makes me really sad about this entire problem is that it is okay to not have all your ducks in a row financially yet. It doesn’t take away the fact that you’re creating damn fine content or building an amazing community or doing whatever you do well. You don’t have to hide in someone else’s skin, pretending that you’re a success on all levels. Your successes, whatever they may be, cannot be taken away from you, even if you aren’t financially successful.
I don’t feel ashamed at all to tell you all that I do not make six figures as a blogger. I’ve never sold a product that did better than “okay” and I’ve never had a quarter where I didn’t have to supplement my blogging with client work (which thankfully, I enjoy probably even more than blogging for myself). I do okay when it comes to blogging income, better than most if Technorati’s latest report is a true reflection of the blogosphere, but I don’t have some kind of spectacular story of how I became a bajillionaire with my blog.
My financial success as a blogger is mediocre, but I think I’m successful in other ways, especially with my content creation. I’m extremely proud of my body of work online. My lack of a six-figure income does not negate that success.
Who’s afraid of the big, bad blogger wolf? I am. Because if you’re a wolf hiding behind a mask of financial success even though your bank account reads zero, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. You’re forgetting the ways you are successful, when you should be celebrating them, and people are probably looking to you as a financial role model when you’re the last person qualified to give advice in such matters, rather than looking to you for advice on topics where you’re an expert.
If you’re a wolf, be a fucking wolf. Howl at the moon, you majestic creature, and stop pretending to be something you’re not. Grandmothers are great, but you don’t have to be one to be successful.
- How Any Blogger Can Become an Authoritative Blogger (kikolani.com)
- Why Bad Bloggers are Sometimes Successful (blogworld.com)
- The #1 Lesson of Blog Monetization (And Internet Business) Which Almost Everybody Gets Wrong (blogmarketingacademy.com)