In my previous post, I called out Google as playing a huge role in pushing users away from blogs and into the social media silos. But bloggers themselves are equally to blame for chasing users away. In this post, I’m going to call out what bloggers did wrong and how to correct things going forward.
Trying to Make Money Off Your Readers
Back in the day, we started blogs to share stories and ideas. We started conversations, we received comments, and we built networks with fellow bloggers. It was fun.
Then money poisoned the well. Suddenly, that early spirit was gone. Now one started a blog to make money. Why else would you invest time and effort into blogging?
I’m not against blogs making money, but not from Day 1. Develop a voice, see what topics are interesting to you and to your readers, adjust, and build the audience further. See where it goes. It might take months or years to figure that out. This blog has gone through many phases.
Attempting to make money off your readers, especially when you first start out is a mistake. Building a blog is a learning process. It is also a process of building trust with your readers. Readers will forgive you and show patience if they see you improving, but if they see you hammering them with affiliate links and pop-ups, they’ll lump you in with the millions of other huckster blogs with no unique voice. They’ll leave before you find your voice or you’ve had time to develop trust.
The biggest problem with the monetization path is that many bloggers will define their success not on the quality of their posts, but on if they earned enough money. And most blogs make little to no money, especially in the beginning.
Full disclosure: I make money off my coffee website. It is 20 years old and has over 100,000 unique monthly visitors. I didn’t monetize the website until year 8. I also primarily consider it a reference site and not a blog.
Old School Bloggers
As an old-school blogger myself, I have tremendous respect for my fellow bloggers that didn’t quit or run off to social media. They kept it going. Big props for that.
However, sometimes their blogs look like they are still in the 2000s. Being old-school should not mean being ignorant of modern web practices. The two big mistakes I see old-school bloggers making are not having a secure website and not being mobile-friendly.
Getting an HTTPS certificate is now free with many web hosts. Secured web traffic is eligible to run on the faster HTTPS/2 protocol. Regular old HTTP is quickly becoming a sign that a website is of poor quality.
I have a lot of respect for Dave Winer, but he is dead wrong on this topic. If you search on my blog, what you type in the search box is encrypted. When I write this blog, everything I enter in the editor is fully encrypted. I see the early days of HTTP as a bug that has since been fixed. Dave’s post reminds me of some guy I know that refused to upgrade from Windows XP.
And even if I’m wrong about security, Google delivers readers to my blog. I’m thankful for that. Many of you found this blog via a Google search. When Google told me and the rest of the world they would rank secure sites higher back in 2015, I made it happen. I want more readers. Shaking your fist at Google doesn’t accomplish that.
As for mobile-friendly, this is the new world. Most reading on the web is now consumed by mobile devices. If your blog is not mobile-friendly, your readers will be less likely to stick around. Making your old-school blog mobile-friendly (aka “Responsive”) is an easy win.
Now for the biggest mistake bloggers are making. They aren’t maintaining their websites. Pages are moved, links break, and comment systems become overrun with spam. Going to an older blog where things are not maintained is like walking into a restaurant where no one is cleaning off the tables.
I have broken link checkers running all the time on all my sites. If there is a broken link, it won’t be broken for long. I keep up with updates to themes, plugins, and security a few times every month. I run speed tests. I back up my sites weekly.
Too many blogs have become littered with broken links and missing images. This makes your writing look less credible. I’m also convinced the search engines see your site as less trustworthy.
ABC. Always be cleaning.
Enough For Now
I could probably rant on the mistakes bloggers are making for 10,000 more words. But these were the big ones. Fix those issues and you’ll be ahead of the pack.
One last word on making money. The true value of a blog is how writing clarifies your thoughts and has the power to improve your life. Then you receive ideas and feedback from comments. Those further your education and growth. That value far exceeds making a 5% commission on an Amazon link.