I like to think this web site is moderately popular. Maybe
a little quirky, a bit unfocused, perhaps a little too geeky
for some and far too un-geekish for the real geeks, but
fun and informative for the few who read it regularly (estimated
at less than 1,000 right now, by the way). I can point at
some decent stats: under the 100,000 mark in both Alexa and
Technorati (under 50,000 in the new Alexa stats), more than 80 Stumbleupon mentions, a decent Google PR
(though it was a heck of a lot better until very recently), but really, that's small
potatoes: truly popular sites get thousands of readers per hour. And
yet, we do manage a healthy visitor count - almost 200,000 a month,
give or take. How's that possible with just 1,000 readers or less?
No, not at the stats. Those are very real. We really do get six to
seven thousand visits daily, but very few of them are regular readers.
Most came here because they were sent here by Google or Yahoo or whatever:
over 90% of our traffic comes from search engines and only a little less
than 9% is from referring links and direct traffic. There's overlap,
of course: a regular reader can also get here because of a search -
even I sometimes find a long forgotten post when I'm searching for something
elsewhere. But the important point is that search engines are largely
responsible for the traffic here and it is their activity in ads that
pays the bills. Without those visitors, this site would join the
depressing majority of small sites who only make coffee money (if that!)
from their blogging efforts.
The blogging secret
So, what's the secret? How do I write articles and posts that attract
so much search engine traffic? Well, once again, the answer is simple:
No, no, not by special keyword techniques, not by hidden text, not
by cloaking, misdirection, doorway pages or anything like that. I "cheat"
by raw volume.
I started this site in 1997, ten years ago. Since then, I have
posted steadily and consistently. Not necessarily every single day,
but pretty close to it. Actually closer to two posts per day, on average.
Not every post is long or memorable, but
heck, you throw enough darts and you are bound to hit the bullseye
once in a while, right? More importantly, you are bound to use
a phrase or two that nobody else happened to have used much and when
some seeker of wisdom types that phrase into a search box, bingo,
up pops your site. Have many thousands of articles out there in
the search indexes and you don't even have to match very often to
get a lot of traffic.. the raw numbers and the randomness of chance will
do the work for you. That's why I say it's cheating: I don't
know how many searchers actually found what they wanted here, but
the point is that it doesn't really matter: Google et al. will
keep sending them because there is a large pile of articles with
potential matches sitting here.
Raw volume vs. popularity
In a pithy phrase, being prolific is as good as being popular,
at least for advertising income. Ideally, of course, you'd like to
be prolific and popular, but popular can require talent, luck and
hard work, while prolific only really demands the latter. Prolific
doesn't pay all that badly, at least in the tech field: I'd
estimate that each reasonably decent post you make is worth about
$10 in ad revenue over a five year period. Some will be worth less,
some more, but that's probably a pretty accurate expectation. I say
five years because if you are writing in the tech arena, the value of
anything you are writing about usually fades fairly quickly; in
other fields (accounting or law) your work might have better
longevity, and in others (pop culture, politics) it might be far
worse. If you think your subject matter will fade away in two or three years,
cut that number in half, if it will last longer, increase it. It
should give you a decent idea of how much time you can afford to
invest in blogging (assuming you care about it being financially
justifiable - you may not).
The hidden payoff
Of course if you do someday become popular, all that prior work
instantly becomes even more valuable (the stuff that hasn't aged
into insignificance, anyway). Look at authors like Stephen King:
he wrote a lot of shlock junk that sold for peanuts (or couldn't sell
at all) before he "caught fire". After he became famous, that old
"junk" was republished and made more millions for him and his
publishers. So the (somewhat depressing) $10.00 figure may be
worth a lot more if the world ever does finally recognize your
talents and full worth.
But even if it doesn't, that's not so bad, is it? I estimate
I've earned about $30 to $40 per hour from blogging writing (that's just from advertising, it's much more if I count the consulting work that came because of
the website) - not
bad pay for doing something I would do for no pay at all. Of course
that comes from the "prolific residuals" - five years ago the figure
would have been less, and five years from now it will be more
(assuming I keep writing, of course). If I hadn't written so
much in the past, my current earnings would be far less. For
this sort of "on the fringe" blogging, it's just a numbers game,
and the numbers come from volume rather than glory.
Some standards, please
I'm not advocating publishing junk just for the sake of building
volume, though I suspect that you could do that and actually do just
as well as I have - maybe better, because it takes less time to create
junk. But I think I have at least a chance of gaining more popularity,
because I do care about what I write, I do put real effort into
it. If you aren't doing the best you can, what possible hope could there
be? More importantly, what would you take from it? Beyond
prolific, there is something else you can have even if you aren't (yet)
popular, and that is pride. Being proud of what you do is important,
and I simply can't understand those who do not care about that.
Prolific, popular, and proud. Now there's a goal worth working
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