Blogging is dead if you fail to measure it

My friend and colleague Chris Brogan recently wrote an excellent post reiterating a point many of us have been making since the earliest days of social media: build on land you own. Here’s a post from 2010 on the same topic. Blogging as a communications and marketing method certainly isn’t dead.

There’s one caveat to Chris’ argument that blogging isn’t dead: we don’t know if our specific blog is alive or dead unless we measure it. Your blog could very well be dead if no one takes any action of value.

What should we be measuring for your blog? Like all forms of content, we should be measuring three buckets:

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We should measure our blog by how much audience we can grow, from subscribers to social followers. While audience isn’t the end goal, an audience of zero means we can never grow.

We should measure our blog by how much our audience engages with it. When we share our blog posts to social media, in email newsletters, in meetings, how many people engage with it?

We should measure our blog by how many people visit it, how many people take action on it, how many people convert. Does our blog generate real business results and revenue?

If the answer to any of these buckets of metrics is zero, there’s a good chance your blog is dead.

What if your blog is dying, but not dead yet? Should you be posting to rented properties instead? Before you make that leap, I recommend investigating when your blog was growing, rather than fading. What did you do differently then? What topics did you write about? How did you do your outreach? Understanding what made your blog grow, what need your blog served for your audience, is the key to the building its growth.

Here’s an easy exercise to try. Copy 10 blog posts that were popular during your blog’s ascent into a text file. Copy 10 current blog posts into a separate text file. Paste both sets of text into a word cloud generator. What is different now to what you were writing about then? Is there a difference in content?

To understand whether distribution is your problem or content is your problem, analyze your content first. Once you’ve ruled out that content is the reason for your blog’s fading popularity, then focus on potentially changing way to distribute your blog and how you distribute it.


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What Instagram’s Algorithm Change Means for Marketers

Past advice can be dangerous in digital marketing. What was effective even a day ago can suddenly become ineffective or counterproductive overnight.

Why do things turn on a dime in digital marketing? Unlike human-based mental algorithms, machine algorithms change in a nanosecond and the change is absolute. Humans take a while to accept a new truth, such as the Earth being round or the planets revolving around the sun.

When a machine changes its algorithm, we lack the luxury of time. We must adapt to the new reality immediately. When Facebook changes its News Feed, when Google changes its search algorithm, we must change as quickly and completely as the machines do – and never go back to our old ways. Twitter just did this with its Timeline.

Instagram announced a new algorithm, taking effect in the weeks to come, in which timelines will be rearranged to show content most likely to be relevant to the user, instead of the chronological timelines that appear now.

Why? Why would Instagram change the rules so dramatically? The answer is unpleasant but simple: engagement has dropped significantly in the last year as marketers and influencers have cluttered the service with junk.

Using SHIFT Communications’ advanced research facilities, I looked at the top 700+ “influencers” in fashion, food, travel, beauty, and more, as determined by both reach and engagement:

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How is engagement faring among the superstars of Instagram?

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You don’t have to be a statistician to figure out which way engagement is headed. This is why Instagram is making a change. There’s so much clutter and junk on the service that audiences are engaging less. Combine that with competitive pressure among the 12-24 crowd by Snapchat, and Instagram has to do something to win back hearts and minds.

What does this mean for past advice about our Instagram strategy, tactics, and execution?

When social networks use algorithms to decide what content we should see first, they base the set of metrics they use in their algorithms on engagement. Facebook tracks how many people click on a link in our posts, how many people like, comment, and share.

Instagram values two actions most: comments and likes. The service offers no official re-sharing mechanism.

The strategy and tactic of flooding Instagram with low quality images worked fine in a chronological timeline world. When the new stuff shows up first, the more new stuff we publish, the better we do.

If you want to make the most of Instagram’s new ‘friends first’ algorithm, focus on engagement in every photo.

Take more interesting photos.

The photos of your office that no one likes? Get rid of them. Take more interesting photos.

Take better photos.

Use a tripod to reduce blur. Use filters and cleanup software to make your photos more visually appealing.

Stop hashtag spamming.

Hashtag spamming worked in the old world where adding as many hashtags as possible to your photos ensured people would see them in search, tap through, and look at your pictures.

You forgot to not do that
You forgot to not do that.

In a landscape where algorithms favor engagement, irrelevant hashtags will increase your view counts but decrease your likes and comments. That will kill your engagement scores.

Instagram’s new algorithm favors engagement. Disregard old advice about putting up photos of just anything and hashtag spamming if you want the new algorithm to work for you, not against you.


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2015 Year in Review: Blog Posts You Liked

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Nothing says the New Year’s season like looking back at the year that was. This week, I’ll be taking you on a tour of the year that was, 2015. Sit back, relax, and let’s see what you liked.

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

I chose the top 10 blog posts of 2015 based on the number of total pageviews in Google Analytics. There are many posts which got attention that I wrote in previous years, but I figured for the purposes of a 2015 retrospective, we should look at just the stuff that I wrote in 2015.

#10: What a Single Email Address Unlocks for Marketers. I wrote this post to help you understand the true value of an email address.

#9: Combine Bitly, Google Analytics, and Google Sheets for Winning Metrics Analysis: This post will teach you how to set up the beginnings of a true social media funnel.

#8: Why You Should Join My Marketing Technology Team at SHIFT: a post I wrote when I was hiring for a marketing analyst on my team. By the way, SHIFT is always hiring for exceptional people.

#7: How to Build a DIY Stop Motion Camera Rig: I love creating things with PVC piping. This post walks you through the instructions for a stop motion rig that uses your smart phone. Why pay hundreds of dollars when you can build your own for under 20 bucks?

#6: Is Your Site Mobile Friendly? Now Your SEO Depends on It: when Google announced its mobile friendly testing service, they telegraphed their intentions to make mobile SEO a driving factor in 2015.

#5: How to Download Your Facebook Archive: I don’t like having my data exists solely in the cloud. I wrote this post to help you download valuable conversations and data you’ve posted to Mr. Zuckerberg’s service.

#4: The Sunset of Keyword Based SEO: Keywords were once the most important data you managed in SEO. 2015 was the year that all changed.

#3: How to Track Offsite Conversions with Google Analytics: As an author with books on Amazon and other services, I needed a way to track inferred conversions. I wrote this post based on my experiences.

#2: Unsolicited Review: the Wacaco Minipresso GR: I bought a portable espresso machine in 2015. This was the review I wrote after owning it for a short time. I still stand by what I wrote.

#1: How to Manage Workflow with Sticky Notes: I shot a video describing how I use the Eisenhower Matrix for prioritizing work and turned into this blog post.

The above list proves that no matter what your domain of expertise, you can’t reliably predict what people are going to like. I would never have guessed that a portable espresso machine review would be my number two blog post for the year. I would never have guessed that Google Analytics, a topic I am passionate about, would only manage to claw its way to #9 in my list.

Tomorrow, let’s look at my top social posts of 2015, and then to round out the work week, we’ll look at some Top 10 digital marketing content from a variety of people from 2015.


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