Eight Bad Habits of (This) Highly Unsuccessful Blogger(s)

You would not believe how much I am blowing it as a blogger. Well, wait, that’s not fair, maybe you would. Best practices, you say? I know what that means in theory, but you can’t tell me what to do. I’m crabby about the web, oh so crabby, even while I  love it madly, and I pretty much suck at doing all the things anyone with any sense does when they give in and go online. And in all the years I’ve been at it, have I changed my ways? Hardly at all.

How do  fail at blogging? Let me count the ways.

  1. I don’t have a niche topic. Okay, first I was an expat blogger in Austria, that’s how I started. But I mixed in a lot of politics and then, I forayed into food and cooking for a while. I did some hotel reviews and that was kind of fun, but really, that stuff belongs under resources, if you ask me. What’s this blog about, anyway? It’s not travel with kids (don’t have ’em) or round the world long term travel (we travel sporadically, with no real plan for what we’ll do next) and it’s not culinary or luxury or green (though certainly, I like all those things).  I guess it’s mostly what gets tagged as “experiential travel” but what the hell kind of niche is that?
  2. I’m not a team player. I ditched my gig at the monster-sized BlogHer network because I felt penned in, like there was no room to grow my writing. I ran the Uptake bloggers and BootsNAll writer’s programs through my ridiculously critical brain and decided that I didn’t need to associate myself with platforms that drive mad amounts of traffic, never mind that PR and advertisers love big numbers and the perks of being on a popular platform are huge. I never gave Matador a second look —  (though if you dig WAY back in the archives of Brave New Traveler, you’ll find me) and they just got a Lowell Thomas Award. Exposure. I mostly — not always — take the attitude that if you can’t pay the plumber with it, it’s not a good deal. I can name people who have had amazing benefits from participating with the aforementioned networks, and none of them are me. I clearly do not understand the value of a big platform.
  3. I have lousy, lazy web habits. No link exchanges here, hell, I killed my blogroll early on because managing it on the blog was just dumb and I couldn’t deal with random strangers asking me to be on it. I think my URL is in my email signature, but I can’t be sure. I have a Stumble and a Digg account, but can I be bothered to use them, even though they come with handy tool bars? No, no I can not. It’s only in the last six months that I’ve spent any time at all on Facebook — hey, did you know that thing can drive good traffic to your blog? Yeah, I didn’t.
  4. I don’t pay attention to traffic. Wait, let me rephrase this. I actually do pay some attention to traffic, but for type, not quantity. I’m more interested percentage of repeat visitors than in total numbers. I’m interested in how long people stay on my site. Nowadays, when I look at my overall stats, I view them for yearly growth and I need to do that what, once, twice a year? Yeah, I’ll dig up the stats when someone asks me for them, but I’m way more excited when an actual human — in person or virtually — says “Hey, I love your blog!”  (Thank you, Jere Canote! I love what you do, too!) That doesn’t show up in the bar charts and numbers grids.
  5. My SEO skills suck. Sometimes I remember to fill out the All-in-One SEO form at the bottom of every post, but mostly, I don’t. I can barely remember to fill out the tag field, and it’s right over there, I can see it right now while I write. What, I can’t take two minutes to add a few lines that would help me show up better in Google? Apparently not. I think all my links are Do Follow, which, if I understand correctly, Google hates. Or maybe I’m wrong and it’s the other way around, I have no idea. I can’t remember. I don’t care. I hate writing for Google.
  6. I say no all the time. No, I won’t run your sponsored content. No, that press trip is just a bad fit. No, I won’t promote your product/service/some third thing because seriously, my readers would think I’d been abducted by aliens. I won’t join your Facebook group, “like” your page, vote for you in a social media frenzy, retweet your link just because you asked me to, join that “let’s all promote each other” mailing list, participate in your virtual book tour (not any more), post stuff from your press release, or write about the awesome product/service/some third thing you’re promoting without first seeing it with my own myopic, judgmental vision. I’d probably update the site more often and have more traffic if I said yes to this stuff. But apparently, I’m cranky.
  7. I don’t respond to all my comments. I never know what to say in response to “nice post” other than a generic thank you that I think is implied. Nine times out of ten, I’m just telling a story that’s a closed loop, it’s not an open ended up for discussion kind of thing. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, it’s just that there’s no conversation there. I finally installed threaded comments (Why’d that take so long? See #3, above) and that helps, but I still don’t get in there and write a neat little response every time. And since I took the Recent Comments code off my sidebar, sometimes I don’t even see the comments until I’m in the guts of things. I should probably fix that.
  8. I don’t have a plan. Of any kind. Editorial calendar? What, huh? Mix of post types? Uh, really? Scheduled stuff out at least a month in advance? Write some stuff about some things I did, that’s the extent of my plan. Goals? I want people to see that I write well and can take a better than average photograph. But I didn’t get where I am today — where IS that, exactly — by making a plan. Which is kind of dumb. You’d think that at some point along the line I’d have stopped to take a look at what I was doing and/or why I was doing it, but whenever that opportunity came up, I went out in the backyard or down to the beach to eat salmon burgers.

It’s a mystery to me, given my inability to incorporate the most basic of sensible blogging practices into place, that you’re here at all. Do you think I’ll get on attending to any of this in the near future? Probably not. Instead, I’ll just fuss over writing some obscure story about a Hawaiian guy I met in the lobby of an Anchorage hotel.

That, that I’m good at.

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74 thoughts on “Eight Bad Habits of (This) Highly Unsuccessful Blogger(s)

  1. And this is why we love you, Pam. Because you don’t care about those things. But you’re good at what you do…which is writing.

    I can relate to some of these, especially #5. Weeks will go by that I forget I even have All-in-One SEO, let alone use it. I look at my traffic, but I have no idea what to do with that information. I have a publishing calendar, but it usually goes out the window in favor of whatever I feel like writing in a given week. (That’s why I love having my own blog! I can get away with that!)

    • Bless you, Gray, and thanks. And the fact that you HAVE a calendar to throw out, well, that’s kind of amazing. How did you DO that? Seriously.

      • It’s my feeble attempt to keep myself organized so I don’t suddenly go “Oh crap! I have to write a blog post for tomorrow! AUGH! What will I write about?!” 🙂

  2. I have other priorities and am therefore trying (yet again) to get a bit more work ethic into my work.

    Actually I’m just trying to discover systems that allow me to do this sort of thing better, whilst still remaining lazy, and train myself to use them.

    Since part of this whole plan includes moving my site to WordPress, thanks for the tip on the All-in-One SEO thing.

    BTW… I’m coming up with sly stratagems to cope with #’s 1 & 8 on your list… and still maintain my lazy attitude. I’d be happy to discuss them with you over coffee or something–maybe… cupcakes!–should you ever get curious on the subject.

    • You must be kidding me about the lack of a niche. If ukulele isn’t it, I’m wondering what it could be! As for the plan, well, uh, yes, we could start with cupcakes.

  3. For us, I’d add “get yourself a website name that is long, easy to misspell and makes no sense to non-native English speakers (and little sense to many native English speakers).”

    Glad to know we’re not the only ones without a niche or plan…and still need to figure out how to incorporate threaded comments into our site.

  4. I’d also add: get a domain name with a hyphen in it and don’t get the non-hyphen version because you are too cheap and a giant telcom company can get it and steal your name.

  5. I added my own blog to the website tab because you just listed all the reasons why it blows. In fact, I wrote a really long about page wherein I gave myself permission for it to completely blow. When people actually do show up to read my writing, they are sort of surprised, which the geek in me appreciates.

    Great post and it makes me doubly honored that you have your TBEX org committee badge up there. You like us, you really like us!!

    • I’m enjoying the idea of adding a “why my blog sucks” tab to my about page. But I guess this post will do. And it is supremely awesome to know that people who I think of as quite serious about what they do also commit all these sins.

      Best FAIL club of all time.

  6. I’m on board with all these other folks that like your junk for these very 8 reasons. Keep on truckin, and I hope you have 9 bad blogging habits next year 🙂

  7. And here I thought I had a niche! I’m trying to be good at all of these, but it makes me wonder if that’s a worthwhile pursuit when so many excellent bloggers seem to disregard them.

    Above all else, I believe content is king. Guess that makes you a little bit of royalty.

  8. Thanks for writing this – I can associate with so many.

    May I add being guilty of dropping in and out of Twitter like a yoyo – never managed to find a happy medium, I’m either all in or I’ll go weeks without even a glance at it.

  9. I love your blog because you write good, interesting stories. I’ll add heartfelt, too. I don’t care much about the other stuff.

  10. I love this post! It made me feel SO much better. If an incredible blogger like yourself can admit to this then I don’t feel so poorly for not doing all that stuff either. You do a super job. Keep up the GREAT blogging. 😀

  11. thanks for your transparency. it seems like bloggers wear a million hats—i’m finding this out myself. did you care about this stuff when you started blogging or have you never cared?

    • I think what I’ve done is prioritize. At first, I didn’t know about this stuff at all. And now, I know about it and I just don’t do anything about 90% of it.

      Thing is, I care a LOT about writing. And that takes most of my energy. By the time I’m done caring about writing — and community, it turns out I care a lot about that, too — I just don’t have a lot left to spend on caring about this OTHER stuff.

  12. I’m guilty of most of this. Hell, I don’t even blog as much as I should. But I don’t care. It’s not a business, it’s a calling card – and recently I had a magazine editor (the paying kind) call me and invite me to pitch based on some of the articles I had on the blog.

  13. Pam, there are a handful of writers whom I really respect and admire. You’re one of them. I love that I can read your blog and her your voice in my head as I do so (Gosh, I hope that’s not creepy).

    I seriously suck, especially at SEO. It makes my brain hurt when I think about it. I’m also struggling to stay on top of things while I travel.I wish I could sit down and write like 6 posts in one day like others do, but it is just not possible.

    A lot of what you stated above resonates with me. It’s great to know there are other bloggers out there who feel the same as I do.

  14. I’m definitely a fellow cranky pants.
    I’ve turned down a number of “opportunities” because, as you so succinctly point out in #2, “…if you can’t pay the plumber with it, it’s [usually] not a good deal”. It’s the reason I’ve occasionally run things past you–I respect your opinion because I know you’re very analytical when it comes to cost/benefit and not swayed by pretty promises of “exposure” for the sake of exposure.
    For my part, I had my “niche” in mind long before blogs were much more than a gleam in someone’s eye…and I just decided to follow my own instincts with it. Checking my stats (yeah, I do that) tells me the audience I wanted seems to be finding me…the “fame” part of it, not so much so 😆

  15. I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed blogging a lot more since I stopped caring so much about how I’m “supposed” to do it. Now I pretty much write what I want, when I want. I pick and choose from all the coulds and shoulds and use what works for me.

    I write what I know, what I love, what I think is pretty cool. And I’m still a little bit amazed every day that anyone takes the time to read it.

    Glad to hear others have similar ideas.

  16. All these comments and you call yourself a fail? Hardly. Blogging is about engaging people, right? And you’re a numero Uno Ace at doing that.

    I do some of the things you listed, although not always on a regular basis. I have yet to create a Facebook fan page, for example, because I still can’t imagine sending out an email to my friends asking them to be my “fan.” (I do friend anyone who asks on my regular account).

    But I have no plan. I write about whatever I want to write about. I try some opportunities to see if they suit me, and ditch them if they don’t. My only niche is, “hey, I did this and it was cool so you might want to check it out” or “this sucked so proceed at your own risk.”

    And that’s why I actually enjoy getting on these Internets and putting it all down. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be any fun!

  17. Pam, some good food for thought in this post and its comments. I find it a little strange, that if bloggers are so influential, then why are people who comment on travel blogs, almost exclusively travel bloggers? The conversations on Twitter are also similar. Are travel bloggers communicating with their friends, fans and followers or other bloggers? Obviously I’ve missed the elephant in the room here. Can anyone recommend a good optician and a competent ear, nose and throat specialist?

    • Awesome question. But hey, influential according to who? The word “influential” makes me a little itchy, it’s some social media metric that’s not quite measurable, isn’t it?

      Yes, we’re communicating with our friends/fans/readers. It’s the echo chamber, we’re in it. Your hearing and vision seem just fine.

    • I suspect part of the reason comments on travel blogs seem to come mostly from travel bloggers may be the fact that most readers don’t seem to comment at all. I know I’m guilty of that!

      Most of my traffic seems to come from fairly specific searches (people looking for info on a specific location or event), rather than from Twitter or other fleeting SM messages…and a lot my blog visits on any given day can come on evergreen posts I wrote quite some time ago. Hopefully my readers find the info they seek, but the visit pattern doesn’t make for a real continual conversation in comments.

  18. Nice post.

    You’re welcome.

    Sounds to me that you’re in a marketing “Blue Ocean” carving out your own niche. You don’t care about riches, fame and traffic *because that’s not your market.* Your market is, the other nerds who keep coming back to your blog. Let’s face it Mandel. The currency you’re looking for is love. 😉

  19. Pam, I can totally relate. I’ve never once checked my blog stats, have never been on a schedule, and sometimes go without posting for a couple weeks.

    My idea of success? Trolling through my blog archives last week, I was actually moved by some of my own posts. (Some I forgot I even wrote!) True, there are posts I’m not happy with and those are always the ones I felt compelled to write because in the early days, I jumped on the giveaway/PR promotional bandwagon. No more.

    I owe you a major debt of gratitude. Reading other blogs, the format never really resonated with me. I tried to emulate them, but it was like swimming upstream. Discovering your blog…gave me the push to find my own voice. In many ways, that’s still a work in progress, but this journey, suits me better.

    Bravo, Pam! As always, thanks for the inspiration.

  20. At the risk of sounding like Stewart Smalley, I think your niche market is being you. You do neat stuff. You’re interested in neat stuff. You write well. That keeps me coming back to see what you’re up to.

  21. #1 loudly resounds with me. I hate having a niche. In fact, when people insist that I say what my niche is, I proudly say that my niche is niche-less. That’s my niche and I’m sticking to it.

  22. I did a similar post at the beginning of the year, and can agree with a lot of your stuff. However, I do obsess a bit over stats–but like you, am happiest that time on the page is increasing nicely! And I do use stumble–and it pays off very nicely. And I’ve always been a goal-setter, planner type, so I do that. But other things I am happy to share with you–we both write posts longer than 300 words. We both use polysyllabic words. And we expect our readers to be grown ups. I just wish I could write half as well as you.
    P.S. You do promote yourself with speaking engagements at conferences, which you didn’t mention.

    • I do that wrong, too. I almost always forget to go on and on about my blog. Usually, I just ramble off on some story about that one time, when I was in Hanoi or Port Townsend or Moloka’i…

      Adult readers. Polysyllabic words. Essay length posts. SOLIDARITY.

      • Vera, Pam-I’ve gotten a bit of grief for the length of my posts–definitely more than 300 words most days. And I do expect my readers to be adults!
        Gah…I’m more of a failure than I first thought!

  23. I have a niche, and I write for SEO, and I post regularly. It’s all so soulless sometimes that I had to start a couple of just-for-fun blogs on the side.

    Also? I accidentally deleted my Google Analytics account and lost years of data. Nothing changed. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to break free of the traffic mindset.

  24. Feeling SO much better now, thanks! And to think, I was considering paying a “consultant” to tell me how to be better about numbers 1 through 8. You’ve saved me money!

  25. This list is a godsend. Sometimes I feel mutant for not getting SEO and forgetting to complete it after a blog post. And accepting sponsored this and that when frankly it doesn’t feel right. Kudos to you for writing this!

  26. oh, pam, i am laughing so hard. YES. (and in the FAIL part, you forgot the hashtag #FAIL, LOL).

    travel blogging is sort of inbred. we all know each other, and read each other. but yes, reaching an audience outside of us is a good thing, too.


  27. I’d say the one area where you’re very successful at is coming across as a real person with her own ideas. And not some smarmy blogger who’s only interested in playing the social media game.

    Saying “no” a lot is probably one of the most useful tools for maintaining authenticity.

    The other items you’ve mentioned sound like the voice of experience.

    Your post brings to mind watching a veteran pro athlete. No wasted movements. All energy and focus is devoted to the most important stuff.

    • I’m super flattered by this, Steven, thanks so much.

      I reckon it’s probably good for everyone to decide for themselves what’s important — and to know WHY those things are important. There’s so much noise around what we’re “supposed” to do, but not enough about why.

      Tempted to ramble, but really, just wanted to say thank you.

  28. I’m here because of the story. Sure you won’t be making money off of me, but I love reading your stories. You have been on my blog roll for years and even if I don’t read your stuff every week, I always come back. I don’t like this “professional” blogging anyway. If you are gonna have a blog for professional purposes then that should be clear in the blog, there is nothing wrong with that. But if you are writing for your pleasure and sharing stories then none of those marketing stuff stats should bother you and the success of your blog should never be measured against that. I personally blog whenever I feel like it, sometimes months go by without a word. But I don’t really care who reads it, I write mainly for myself, friends and family, and so that some day I can read the stories and remember. I sure learned a lot from your travel reviews, when I go to any of those places I check what you have to say about them. And not making a ton of money off of it makes you credible. I hope you hang around for a long time.

  29. My worst habit – I don’t have a Facebook Fan Page. So many people have bugged me to do it but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t know. I only use Facebook for friends and people I’ve met in person, I need something to just be mine and not Bacon is Magic.

  30. Could I be more “guilty” (now there’s a loaded word) of all of these?

    Well, ok, some of these.

    Well, okay – number 3.

    My big beef with all this stuff is that it’s one big emotional vampire. And vampires, despite what Joss Whedon and Stephenie Meyer would like us to believe, don’t really give a fig about the living. They complain when we’re dead the same way we give the work coffee machine a kick when it runs dry, but they don’t really *care*.

    Traffic and links and Alexa and SEO and all that stuff….you can improve your chances, sure, but in the end you’re still a little boat in a storm, flung up high or sucked down low by the next wave. That’s just exhausting. Draining.

    Stepping back from all that, testing how much you can step back and still remain in one piece as a blogger, is….what’s higher than essential? It’s that, anyway. It’s maintaining sanity. Which is a good thing in the long run, I feel.

    Oh, and I know for a fact you’re this modest about your extraordinary talents. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re fooling us on that “I don’t plan” thing. Because that’s exactly how people seize power. Yes.

  31. I’ve been told for months that I should be blogging, but I just couldn’t seem to nail it down. Now I realize why — I somehow knew ahead of time that I would have every single bad habit you mention! I think now I will just give myself permission to write what I please, when I please. Obviously it works for you — I can only hope I’m able to write as well as you.

  32. Pam, I love your blog. I love it precisely because it’s not “10 (blank) things to do on your (blank) vacation,” but because it’s so wide open and leaves room for inspiration.

    That’s why, when I started blogging for myself, I pretty much followed the same formula. I can write niche for clients. I can pretend to care about SEO then, too. But for my own blog, it’s where I can ignore the walls and just write what I want.

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