I just stumbled upon an interesting post by Jack Krupansky who will celebrate his first six months of blogging by quitting his blogging activities (on 18 August). Jack writes:
‘I’ve put a huge amount of work into my FIVE blogs and gotten next to nothing in return. Sure, I’ve made a few good contacts, but I was doing that with email and my five web sites before I even started blogging.
In fact, since I could have been doing things that might have been more productive during the past six months, my lost opportunity cost is quite high.’
Jack will also stop commenting on others blogs and will kill off his blog aggregator and stop monitoring other’s blogs – again because of the unproductiveness of these endeavors.
Since I saw Jack’s post earlier today after a link from Business Week’s blog I’ve been pondering why it is that some blogs do well and others don’t. I’ve got nothing really profound to say and don’t want to come across as knowing anything much about Jack’s blogging (although I’ve followed a couple of them via RSS this past two months). I will make the following observations though about his approach that perhaps might shed a little light on the unproductiveness of his six months.
I want to do so not to attack Jack but in the hope that perhaps it helps us all learn something about blogging on a professional level. I do so respecting his decision to pull out of blogging – I’m never going to argue that people should blog on at all costs – as I’ll say later – there is a time and a place to stop blogging and perhaps for Jack that time has come. However here are a few things I notice about his blogs.
1. Posting Levels - the first thing I was curious about was how many posts Jack had done in his six months of blogging. I took a quick look through his blogs and found that since February across his five blogs he’s posted 407 times at an average of 2.43 posts per day for the 167 days that he’s been blogging so far. These posts have been distributed over the months as is shown in the above chart. Obviously things started well (he started half way through Feb) and have tapered off in the past three months.
407 posts means his blog’s have 407 pages on them (plus a handful of category pages/front pages etc. Although this sounds a lot its actually a reasonably small website in comparison to many that are out there. While his posts are of a good quality I would suggest that 2.43 posts per day means the blogs will only ever grow by 870 or so pages each year – this sounds a lot but again if you compare it with many successful commercial sites I’m not sure it could compete.
As I’ve written before – if you expect to earn a good income from your blogging (or anything else) you need to put a significant amount of time into it – 2-3 posts per day is probably not going to cut it.
2. Endurance – We all know of websites that shoot to fame and popularity just weeks or months after launching – but the fact is that the majority of sites (blogs or not) take time to develop, mature and find a readership. As a result profits are often low (if existent at all) in the first months.
Jack comments in his post that he’s only earning enough from Adsense on his blogs to buy a coffee once or twice per month. It’s a disheartening thing – I know I’ve been there.
I looked back over my Adsense figures yesterday and went right back to the beginning of my relationship with the contextual ad system. I added Adsense to my blogs (I had two at the time) in October of 2003. At the time I’d been blogging for just under 12 months and had written around 600 posts on a personal blog and a fledgling digital camera blog.
Even though I already had 600 posts and was getting 1500 or so visitors per day my first month or two of earnings averaged at about $1 per day.
My advice to Jack (and other bloggers) is that it takes time to build a blog up in terms of both traffic and earnings. My earnings have of course exponentially increased since that time as I’ve added more content, started new blogs, grown my blog’s rankings in search engines and learned about how to use Adsense more effectively on my blogs.
3. Use of Adsense – the first thing I noticed when I looked at Jack’s five blogs is that the placement of his Adsense ads is perhaps not very well optimized. Jack’s chosen to use the default color scheme running across the top of his blog as a banner ad. It’s great that Jack’s got his ads above the fold in the top half of the screen, however I’d suggest that both the positioning and colors are letting him down.
I’d recommend blending the ads more into content and positioning the ads inside or closer to the content itself. I guarantee this would increase the rate of click through that the ads get considerably.
4. Use of Blogger - I’m a blogger snob – I’ll admit it. Although I know some blogs that do pretty well on Blogger’s free blogging service I rarely recommend to new bloggers that they use it. When I started my first blog I did so on Blogger and within a month knew that I’d soon have to move to my own domain with a proper design and a better blogging platform.
My choice was Movable Type at the time and I noticed a marked difference in the performance of my blog within days of making the switch. Not only was the system more reliable (blogger can be slow or even out of order at times) my site’s got indexed much better in search engines and readers seemed to respect me more because I looked like I knew what I was doing due to having a unique design (I got it done by a blog designer).
I don’t want to knock Jack’s design – but I do find his blogs rather template like and without character. They have no branding or visually pleasing elements.
5. Blogspot Domain – Jack observes in his post that his five blogs are not as productive as his five websites. I don’t know how long his sites have been going in comparison to his blogs or what his stats are like but I do notice one thing about his sites – they all have their own unique .com URL.
I’m no search engine optimization expert – but I do know that search engines seem to like real domain names.
Each of Jack’s blogs is hosted on a free .blogspot.com domain – I suspect this has some consequences for his SEO.
Now by this point of the post I’m starting to wonder if I should hit ‘publish’ on this post. I’ve never taken the liberty to critique another person’s blog before – but I do so in the hope that it will help Jack and other bloggers in the same sort of position.
I will say that Jack has a few things going for him (to balance my critique above). For one he can write clear and helpful posts, secondly he’s a prolific commenter on other people’s blogs and seems to work on getting himself out there and getting to know other bloggers (an important part of being a good blogger) and thirdly he seems to have a good handle on researching his posts and using technology like RSS to find content. Lastly he seems to have a good handle on some worthwhile topics – topics which can be quite valuable in Adsense, but topics that also can be incredibly competitive to become established in (perhaps another thing going against Jack).
The last thing that I’ll say is that there ARE times to quit a blog or even blogging altogether. I’d suggest that 6 months is too soon and not long enough to give a new blog – but that really the length that you give it is not just about giving it time – it’s about your own situation and the other opportunities that you have. Like Jack has said in his post, the opportunity cost of blogging is too big for him to continue to ignore it – if there are things that he could do with a better long term return then he’d be silly not to do them.
On the surface I’d advise taking a little more time to implement some of the changes above to see what impact they might have. Of course I say this with no knowledge of Jack’s situation and don’t know if he has the luxury to be able to do this. I guess it’s really something for a blogger to decided for themselves.
Update: Jack’s posted another post with some Additional points (warning – there’s 27 of them) regarding his pulling the plug. I have to say that much of what he says is incredibly depressing and I kind of want to run over the pull the plug now myself.
Maybe I’m in a more cynical mood than when I first started writing this post now – but reading Jack’s 27 points actually makes me feel a bit peeved off. Maybe I’m reading it wrong but there is a sense of ‘whoa is me about it all’ – and a something about the way he writes that makes me wonder if Jack thinks he deserves to be raking in the cash.
He indicates he’s moving on to the next thing – but I wonder when he gets to it if he’s going to pull the plug again in another 6 months if it doesn’t suddenly go brilliantly. I know lots of people like this that run from one thing to the other looking for the next big thing, looking for the quick dollar that will solve all their problems – I just hope that they stick at something long enough to enjoy the rewards.
Although I hate to think what rewards Jack wants – he says he’d yawn if Jason Calacanis sent him a $20,000 cheque to be one of his bloggers – he wonders if a 10,000 fold increase in traffic would really achieve anything.
He then posted a post saying he’s grateful that no one has left any encouraging words to keep blogging – he writes:
‘The only way that I would continue is if somebody can show me how with half the effort I can get twice as much done and have 200x the results. ‘
I’ve got news for Jack – actually its news for all of us – making money from blogging is not fast money, its not easy money and its not quick money. Yep there are a handful of people out there saying that it is (they usually want you to buy their book) – but there is no escaping the fact that blogging for a living is hard work and can take a long time to build. If you’re not willing to wait and put in the hard yards you’re probably in the wrong business (although I strongly doubt that there are any businesses that you can double your work load and see 200 times the reward).