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Saturday, January 12, 2008

General Blogging Thoughts

I've been blogging for awhile now, and I'd like to share what I've learned. My target audience for my blog is someone who is disgusted with the current economic and political system, and who is dissatisfied with the way mainstream media has completely betrayed them by failing to report the truth. My target audience for this post is an "amateur" blogger who is doing it for personal reasons instead of for a profit. IMHO, my blog is of a high quality. It would be nice if I could do this as a job. I don't see that as being realistic. I read that AdWords doesn't go well with political blogs, because the ads tend to be opposite to the blog's actual content.

My personal motivation for blogging is to share my insights with others. Based on my Google Analytics statistics, I appear to have attracted a regular readership of over 300 people. That is enough to make me feel that I'm not completely wasting my time. As long as my visitors trend is increasing, I feel like I'm making progress.

Originally, I was planning to pursue an academic career. However, universities are no longer a place where original research occurs. Universities are dependent on the red market for survival. A professor must receive research grants from the government in order to receive tenure and promotions. This means that anti-State philosophies, such as agorism, are not welcome for discussion by university professors. Any professor who supported such a philosophy would not receive any grant income. A "research" university receives the vast majority of its funding from the government via research grants; this makes most universities an extension of the State.

By working in the private sector, and writing in my spare time, I have more academic freedom than a university professor would have.

Here are my insights into blogging.

- By writing things down, it has helped me sharpen my thoughts. When I first started writing, I had a vague uneasiness that there was something intrinsically wrong with the Federal Reserve. I saw a clip of Ron Paul trashing the Federal Reserve and the IRS. I followed this with my own independent research. I was particularly confused by the Compound Interest Paradox. The Compound Interest Paradox is mentioned on several other websites, but my explanation is the simplest. The name "The Compound Interest Paradox" appears to be my invention, and it feels nice when other people use the name and cite my blog.

Recognizing the Compound Interest Paradox is a huge mental hurdle to overcome. It's incredible to believe that such a huge structural flaw could be present in the current economic system. It's astonishing that Congress would allow such a thing to happen. It's astonishing that the mainstream media never reports on the Compound Interest Paradox. It's amazing how such a huge problem has been completely suppressed and covered up. I suspect that people refuse to understand the Compound Interest Paradox, because they don't want to realize how badly they've been screwed over.

I'm past the shock of discovering the Compound Interest Paradox and the evils of the Federal Reserve and the income tax. It was also shocking to realize that these problems probably won't be fixed by voting or reforming the current system. There are too many people who think they benefit from the current corrupt situation, even though they probably would be better off in a truly free market. This naturally leads to agorism as the solution. Unfortunately, I can't accomplish anything by myself. My only recourse is to educate other people, and maybe I'll eventually be able to find agorist trading partners.

- Writing good posts is the key. I write on what interests me. Hopefully, others will also find my thoughts interesting.

- Use free blog hosting services. This really simplifies things. I like Blogger's UI. I make occasional backups of my blog on my hard drive, in case there's a problem with Google.

- Enable the RSS feed feature on your hosting service. Subscribe to your own RSS feed, so you can verify it is behaving properly. I use Google Reader.

- If you enable your RSS feed, MAKE YOUR YOU ENABLE THE FULL FEED. Some RSS feeds, such as Wordpress, by default only put the FIRST PARAGRAPH of your post in the RSS feed. This means that you have to go back to the blog to read the post, WHICH DEFEATS THE ENTIRE PURPOSE OF READING THE RSS FEED!

- Be aware that some people will read your blog only through the RSS feed. This means that they won't see reader comments, hence my "Reader Mail" posts. This means that they won't see the interesting bits you have in your blog's sidebar. This means that you should regularly provide backlinks to your best old posts.

- If you provide backlinks in your posts, and someone plagiarizes your content, they will usually forget to remove the backlinks! This happened to me once; the plagiarism led to a "blog reaction" in Technorati!

- Use Google Analytics or an equivalent service. I've learned all sorts of neat things from looking at my Google Analytics statistics.

-- It's very useful to see what articles are most popular.

-- It's very useful to see what keywords people are searching for and finding my blog. Search keywords can lead to subjects for future posts.

-- It's very useful to see who is referring traffic to your blog. Other blogs that link to your blog are themselves likely to be interesting. When you try to promote your blog by posting on other blogs or discussion forums, you can see how much return you're receiving for your efforts. I've gotten the most traffic from the Ron Paul Forum, but I've posted there a lot. My blog is relevant for most of the discussion there. Lately, the Ron Paul Forum has been overrun by trolls, which is a natural occurrence as a forum gains popularity. I'm thinking of moving on to other forums. I've been focusing more on "writing good posts" than "promoting my blog", because I already have a decent number of regular readers.

-- I noticed that posting comments on other people's blogs very rarely leads to visits. If I'm the only comment, that means that blog isn't getting much traffic. If there's a ton of comments, the interesting comments tend to get buried.

-- I like "direct traffic" the best, because that means someone has bookmarked my blog.

-- It's nice to see the geographic breakdown of posts.

-- It's nice to see an increasing trend in the number of visitors.

-- Based on Google Analytics, I estimate that, on average, between 1/20 and 1/100 of the people who visit a blog post will leave a comment.

- Don't worry about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Leave SEO to overpaid website consultants. As you have more posts, more searches will hit your blog. As other people start to link to your blog, your PageRank will increase. Good posts are more important than search engine placement. I'm pleased to finally be the #1 search result in Google for "Compound Interest Paradox". For awhile, Google had me banished to "supplementary results", but that got fixed as I started getting incoming links.

- Don't worry about your "bounce rate". A "bounce" is when someone finds your blog, visits one page, and then leaves. Bounces can be good or bad. A bounce may mean someone visits your blog regularly and is just checking for updates. A bounce may also mean that someone found your blog and didn't like it. The latter case didn't cost you anything, did it? It's regular returning visitors that are key. Today's bounce might be a regular reader in a few weeks.

- Don't worry about your "new visits %". You want new visitors, because you want to grow your readership. You want returning visitors, because that means people found your blog, liked it, and came back. My "bounce rate" and "new visits %" have been nearly constant over time, even as my regular readership increases. Lately, my "new visits %" has been decreasing a little.

- Try to figure out how many regular readers your blog has. Google analytics tells you the # of times each visitor has visited your blog. A value over 10 or 20 means that probably is a regular visitor. It's hard to count exactly, because the same person may visit your blog from multiple PCs or multiple IP addresses.

- There are two ways you can get new readers. First, you can be directly promoting your blog. Second, other people could be talking about your blog and sharing links. If you're mostly getting new readers from the first method, the growth of your reader count is linear. If you're mostly getting new readers from the second method, the growth of your reader count is exponential.

- Put a link to your blog in your signature, when you post on discussion forums. If your posts are intelligent, people will follow and read your blog. By looking at Google Analytics, you can see which forums lead to how many visits.

- Post comments on other people's blogs. Make sure you put a link back to your blog. However, this hasn't gained me many visits. Other bloggers don't seem to take reader comments as seriously as I do. If the other blog doesn't allow you to post a link back to your blog, don't bother commenting unless it's really relevant.

- If you want to see the effect of your blog promotion efforts, stop posting on other people's blogs and in discussion forums for a few days. See if that has any effect on your readership totals.

- Answer reader comments. Reader comments, and my response, are frequently more interesting than the original post.

- Put your response to reader comments in a separate post. Many people won't go back to a blog page they've already visited, just to see new comments. On many blogs, I see interesting discussions buried in the reader comments. If a reader has their own blog, I post a link to their blog in my "Reader Mail" post, and I add their blog to my "hitlist". Someone who subscribes to your RSS feed won't see reader comments.

- Maintain a list of blogs you read regularly. They are both interesting and a source of topics.

- Maintain a "hitlist" of blogs you are considering adding to your regular reading list. Google Reader makes it easy to track this. By renaming the feed, I keep track of each blog's "score". I give '+1' for a post I choose to share. I give '-1' for a post that's lousy. I also give '-1' for a lot of posts without anything interesting. I keep track of when I added a blog to my hitlist. After awhile, it's obvious which ones are outliers, and they get promoted to my "Favorites" folder.

- When you make good posts on Internet discussion forums, such as the Ron Paul Forum, save them and also post them in your blog. I put these in my "Reader Mail" posts. Posting on an Internet forum can be frustrating, due to the trolls and the lack of editorial control. However, providing a good response to a troll will attract readers to your blog.

- Enable comment moderation. Remove comments that are obviously spam. You can easily identify spam comments, because Google search will show these posts on many other blogs. My policy is that any comment that isn't obviously spam gets posted, and gets a response. That policy should work unless my blog winds up being so popular that I can't respond to all reader comments. (One can always fantasize about such things.)

- Publish regularly. If you keep having new and interesting content, it gives people a reason to keep coming back.

- Keep a set of nearly finished drafts. If you go through a creative dry spell, your drafts will help you keep having new posts. Posts related to current events should be published as soon as possible. For example, redpillguy won't update his blog for weeks and then he publishes several things in the same day; it would be better for his blog if he spaced out his posts evenly. I have about 3 months of nearly finished drafts. They are unrelated to current events, so they won't go stale.

- Don't worry about post length. Some advice says "short posts are best". Other advice says "long posts are good". A post is as long as it is. If you have something REALLY long, you can break it up into a series of posts. I haven't noticed any correlation between post length and popularity.

- I've given up trying to predict what posts are going to be popular. Sometimes, I think "This post is going to be awesome!" and nobody reads it. Sometimes, I think "This post is boring and obvious." and then it's one of my most popular all-time posts.

- One post per day is a good frequency. Quality is more important than quantity. Some blogs have 5-10 posts per day, with the occasional interesting bit. I'm not interested in wading through noise to find the occasional decent nugget. Some blogs have multiple authors, which is annoying if there's one author I like and a handful of fools. IMHO, you're better off each having your own blog and linking to one another, than having a bunch of authors on the same blog. I'm not interested in "guest bloggers" here. If you make a post that's relevant, you can provide a link in the comments section somewhere.

- Whenever possible, write about current events. I had already figured out the evils of the Federal Reserve before the subprime mortgage problem made headlines. When I posted on The Subprime Mortgage Lending Scam, it related my criticism of the Federal Reserve to current events. My post on Taxes on Bonds' Home Run Baseball has been hit a lot in search engines. Those visits have been mostly bounces, but maybe some of them will come back later.

- Keep a set of partially finished drafts. Blogger's UI is very good at managing drafts. Sometimes, it's enough to save a post title for future reference. Some articles can be finished in 15 minutes. Others take a lot of work. You should dedicate some blogging time to cleaning up and finishing articles in your draft queue.

- I like to provide backlinks to my favorite posts. This also helps you avoid repeating something you already discussed. I can mention the Compound Interest Paradox and assume that any regular reader of my blog knows what I'm talking about. A new reader would be smart enough to follow the link when he thinks "Compound Interest Paradox? WTF is that?" Also, if someone is a new reader to your blog, they may not go back and reread your older posts. If you backlink to your best posts, then new readers will find them. Anybody who reads my blog a little will rapidly discover that the Compound Interest Paradox is important.

- After you publish a post, don't go back and edit it. This will cause people with the RSS feed to get your post twice. After you publish a post, don't go back and change the timestamp. This might cause the URL to change and break people who link to your blog. Even if your first post on a topic is incomplete or wrong, you can always post on that topic again later.

- I am planning to start taking my "best" old content and publish updated versions. I'm going to keep the old version, so that old links work, along with the new version. Apparently, in the blogosphere, any post older than a month or two usually isn't worth linking to anymore. My post on "The Voting Scam" generated a ton of traffic when I first published it. According to Google Analytics, only 227 people have read it; presumably, there still are a lot of people who would benefit from reading it. This is an experimental idea; I haven't tried it yet. I'm waiting for the "1 year anniversary" of my favorite posts.

- Keep repeating the same themes over and over again. Each iteration, I get better at explaining things. I continue to be critical of the Federal Reserve and income tax whenever possible. I'm pretty sure that returning to a gold or silver standard in a truly free market is the best thing to do. I try to promote the agorist philosophy whenever possible. The biased false counter-arguments to each of these valid arguments tend to be repeated over and over again.

- I experimented with participating in and hosting blog carnivals. My blog is relevant to a whole range of topics. I'm not sure if this is leading to increased readership. The Market Anarchist Blog Carnival appears to have been a success overall, based on its popularity according to Google Analytics. On the other hand, hosting a blog carnival doesn't accomplish anything I don't already get with my "Reader Mail" posts. Submitting to other blog carnivals doesn't seem to have a high return on effort. I suspect that hosting or submitting to a blog carnival isn't worth my time.

- The best advertising is word of mouth from other people. Once you have some core regular readers, they will sometimes post links to your blog in their blog or in discussion forums. This leads to even more traffic. Word of mouth is the best sort of targeted advertising. This sort of growth tends to be slow, but it does appear to be steady.

- Finish one draft per blogging session. This is good discipline, but I'm having trouble following it myself.

That's the insights I've had about blogging in general, from the point of view of an "amateur" doing it for his own entertainment and hoping to enlighten others. Even though I'm blogging for free, it's my rational self-interest. I need a certain number of people in the agorist community before I could profitably join it. I would love to be able to trade agorist-style, if only I could find trustworthy trading partners.

1 comment:

David_Z said...

I've found that WordPress automatically truncates your posts in RSS, despite what you've set your "preferences" to display the full feed. I use the Full Feeds Widget to overcome this problem, I recommend it for anyone else using WP.

This Blog Has Moved!

My blog has moved. Check out my new blog at