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Blog Case Study – Is it time to Quit?

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.

Posting-Rate

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).

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Glen says:

    wow I have been blogging for 13 months now and though I have seen some gains not what I would like to see. I guess the first thing I will need to do is to look into moving off blogger and increase the number of posts per day that I crank out.

  2. Yes…you should move off of blogger asap! They are a real pain these days! And getting worse ; (

  3. Janeth says:

    I just started my blog and have a long ways to go.

    I took a look at Jack’s blog and he seems to still be blogging.

    Maybe he was just having a bad week.

  4. I have spent the better part of my day today on problogger.net — thank you so much for all of this information and expertise. I am an old lady of blogging, with my first posts back in March 2003 — I had no clue what I was doing (still don’t, for the most part, but that’s why I’ve spent the day here!!), but I jumped into it because my tech hubby told me blogging would be big, and a great way to support my writing — something about search engines and links. (Blogging was also the only way I found that I could control my own website–updating content–and not have to rely on a techie.) He’s usually right about the tech stuff, so I listen. Now he’s told me I should look into Google AdSense…and that led me here. I loved reading about this 6-month blogger, and Darren’s brilliant analysis.

    I would have to say, in 3+ years, I haven’t made much money to speak of, directly from the blogging (again, why I’ve spent the day here), and I can’t claim thousands of daily hits or visitors or whatnot, but I am building a steady, if smallish, following and there are many other benefits in networking and contacts–writing jobs, book sales, interviews, reviews, and other gigs–and people that have contacted me based on something I’ve written in a blog and they found it on a search engine.

    It’s been a great 3 years, but I do hope in the next couple of months I can implement some of these ideas and practices and at least earn enough to keep me in java and into the next book deal!

    Live, Love & Laugh,
    Sherri

  5. Mike says:

    It’s so true that the people that say it’s easy to make money off blogs only want you to buy their book. When you buy their book, it’s only basic information too. Really disappointing.

  6. Jose Tudor says:

    This is definitely a helpful post. And, I’d have to agree that if you want to make something of problogging you have to be in it for the long haul.

    I’ve been blogging for about 2 months and my adsense revenue is probably averaging about $1.00 a month, definitely not what I need to live off of.

    I can see already that it will take hard work to post multiple entries daily, and if I start additional blogs then that number increases by the number of blogs that I start.

    I think you need more than wanting to make money at it to devote serious time to blogging. A driving passion should be a prerequisite for deciding to devote the necessary time it will take to become a successful blogger. And, I think one needs to define what successful means for them.

    Jose

  7. James says:

    I wonder if you would publicly critique my blog (duckdown.blogspot.com). It has been growing in popularity and may exhibit different characteristics than others you have seen…

  8. Mike says:

    Good information here. I wandered into the party a little late for this blog, but I’m glad that I have come across this site, there is a lot of good information here. Thanks!

  9. Matt Batcho says:

    Sad to say that because of a previous engagement I did nto get to read the whole post, BUT since I am a new blogger and the information seems excellent I will soon be back. I read the first three categories and they are excellent. Information regarding adsense and placement are worth their weight in gold. The site that my partner and I have started MindsOfWealth.com has been taking babay steps. Since reading this I believe will be on the way to leaps and bounds.

    Thank You!

  10. nanette says:

    Great advice, thanks. I know you are right about moving off blogger – I am very new to the whole blogging thing – I will have to put that on my To Do list.

  11. Christopher says:

    Thanks for the case study. It is also good to have an idea of how much someone makes in the first few months of blogging with Adsense.

  12. MizJAI says:

    Wow, two years later and this little post is still helping people. Thank you problogger, and I will keep coming back for more tips. I appreciate what you do

  13. Ron says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time looking for ways to improve my new blog, I found all of your DO NOT tips here, as helpful as the DO tips elsewhere. Thanks for taking the time to help those of us trying to follow you down a road you’ve all ready navigated

  14. Mike says:

    Agree on the design/adsense placement. I think in building a successful blog income stream you have to treat it just like a business. It takes a long time to build reputation, content, grabbing your niche target…personally I think 6 months is really jumping the gun. I reckon at least a year…using social media sites effectively maybe less.

    Keep up the great work! Love problogger, my main source of inspiration for deciding to go into blogging. Kudos!

  15. Almakos says:

    when I first visited Jack’s blog I haven’t noticed adsense at all.
    Guess visitors reaction is :
    drop a blast look on blogger title ->
    realise that it is blogger template ->
    ->jump to post title and continue with text.
    | As a result Ads are skipped.
    no pics…nothing.

    In my case I guess I have just pics and no text ^^’ Guess it will also can result as a problem.
    I have just begun posting and trying to gather all experience possible. I treat problogger as an ultimate starting point for a quality blogging.
    Thanks!

  16. SEO Genius says:

    That was an excellent post, i have to admit part time blogging is very difficult and i have been blogging part time now for about 8 months however i am very patient and will stick with it until the end.

    What i want to ask is if posting once a day is good enough, would it just take a little longer to succeed in blogging or would it really benefit me more to try and post twice a day?

    I suppose the overall post quality is something to consider too.

  17. Gaje Master says:

    six months should be a trial and error basis for your blog.I would actually give it a year to go through the trial and errors of a blog and probably even longer. I am still going through trial and error but would never give up on my blog. My goal is to build my blog up and then move on to the next blog and still maintain my first blog.

  18. Sometimes that’s exactly what holds us back – we push ourselves to do too much. Sometimes we can accomplish more by doing less.

  19. Amber says:

    I’m just begining to research better blogging. I thought this article was very helpful and encouraging even thought the “subject” (Jack) was not so encouraging.
    Thanks for the tips.

  20. Vivian Love says:

    Read your article and then his 27 points. I have to admit, there is logic to his points. However, I keep thinking how can he think he can manage all of the websites and blogs successful. May be the first problem is stretch yourself too thin. The second one is to want success too fast. But then again, blogging may not for everyone, you know, like marriage is not for everyone.

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