Don’t ever forget your blogging roots

One of the small things in life that I take great pleasure in is heading out to the store or running an errand and bringing a few of my kids along with me.   Riding in the car somewhere is a great opportunity to spend some “quality” time with your kids and can provide some great teaching moments.

While riding in the car over the weekend, one of my boys started asking questions about where our family was from, which started a fairly long conversation that he really enjoyed, including a few interesting and amusing stories.

Don't forget your blogging roots

My family, on my father’s side, is from West Virginia.  While for many, this conjures mental images of “Deliverance”, it’s a heritage I’m very proud of.  West Virginia is full of honest and hard working people, that while certainly “country”, they are also people that never forgot you and always put family and people first.  Making sure I never forgot my roots is important to my Dad, and now as a father, it has become important to me as well.

How does all of this relate the blogging?  Surprisingly, remembering your blogging roots is pretty important, or at least to me it is.  Here’s why …

Your blogging roots

I clearly remember the first few months after starting Side Income Blogging.  I remember checking Google Analytics daily to watch for visitors and looked forward to receiving those very first few comment notification emails.  I also clearly remember starting my very first blog on personal finance in 2006, and how exited I was as I started to receive comments and interaction from readers.  I remember many of their names to this day.

As you start your blog and it begins to grow, you’ll meet people that will have a profound influence on your blog.  These people include:

  • Every single one of your readers.  They are the foundation of your blog.
  • Other bloggers that help you, write for you, support you, and link out to you.
  • Your family who will support you and give you incredible ideas if you listen (this article is a perfect example).

Not only will you meet incredible people, your blog will have incredible moments that occur that will help it become more visible and help it grow.   These are moments like:

  • Getting linked from a large blog inside or outside of your niche
  • Being mentioned by a major news outlet
  • Going viral on social media
  • Ranking #1 for some high traffic keyword, even if only for a few days
  • Earning your first few cents

All of these people and moments, I refer to as “blogging roots”.  Someday, when your blog is big and influential, these are the people and momenets you absolutely do not want to forget.  Without these people and events, your blog would not be where it is.

Bloggers are forgetting their roots

Amy Andrews, from Blogging with Amy and I were chatting a bit about a recent change in direction she is making on her blog.  In that conversion, she said something pretty profound that has really made me think:

Back in the day, we used to follow blogs. Now we follow people.

When I first read that, I wasn’t sure I agreed with her.  But the more I thought about, the more I realized that she was right.  Gone are the days of anonymous/code name bloggers.  Relationships, especially those we have with our readers and our audience, are becoming more and more important.  Social media has really become the icing on the cake in this trend, almost requiring people to be “real”.  Readers want to know who you are, they want to see your face.

There is a disturbing trend though that I’m seeing in the blogging world: Over the past few months, I’ve emailed and tried to correspond with a number of “A-list” bloggers for various reasons, and unfortunately received very few replies.  A-list bloggers are the top blogging tier, they are the bloggers and blogs that come to mind when you think of high traffic blogs, large income earning blogs, and those blogs that really influence the internet.

The trend I refer to is one where these blogs and bloggers start out like any other.  They have people and events that spur their growth over time and help them become the big success they are.  The problem is that I see these bloggers frequently forgetting where they came from and turning their backs on the people that helped get them where they are today.  These bloggers are also forgetting who is keeping them where they are as well – their readers.  

Sure, I get that large blogs get lots of email and comments, but at the same time keeping up with email and comments has to be a priority.  Unfortunately for many, it doesn’t seem to be.  Sadly, making money seems to be the priority.  The irony here is that it’s the blog’s readers than generate the income.

Don’t believe me?  Think I’m over exaggerating?

Try this: Send an email to 5 really big name bloggers and ask them a thoughtful question.  Send them something on social media.  If more than one of them replies, I’d be surprised.  If you do decide to do this, please leave a comment below and let me know your results.  Feel free to call out the name of the blogger’s that did reply, because I think they need to be recognized.

Here are the top mistakes I see big name, A-List bloggers making::

  • Not responding to comments
  • Not responding to email
  • Not responding to questions
  • Not responding and engaging on social media
  • Only engaging within their cliques and frankly even being part of cliques

Since blogging is now more about the blogger than the blog itself, maintaining two-way and beneficial relationships is critical to your blog’s success. The two fastest ways to make me unfollow you and your blog are:

  1. Not replying or recognizing a comment I added to your post.  Recognizing can be “liking” or giving a “plus one”.
  2. Not engaging on a post I publish on my blog or create on social media.

When was the last time you saw an “a-list” blogger share something on social media and there were lots of comments and none of them from the blogger ?  Or even worse, they respond to comments, but only from comments made by other “a-list” bloggers in their clique?  I had this very thing happen a few weeks ago on Google+.  I responded to the blogger’s post and even asked a question.  There were other comments from “a-list” bloggers than received replies, but my reply was completely ignored by all of them.  I felt like I wasn’t even part of the conversation.

I’ve seen all of these scenarios far too often lately and I’ve stopped following most of these bloggers too.  Not just due to one instance, but due to repeated instances.  This will probably hurt me some, but I refuse to support “elitest” bloggers.

When was the last time an A-List blogger responded to one of your social media posts?  Oh, and responding due to you sharing one of their articles doesn’t really count.

My grandmother used to refer to all of this as “Getting too big for their britches“.  Many A-List bloggers have definitely gotten “too big for their britches.”

Never forget your roots

Don’t turn your back on the people that helped you grow and become successful.  Don’t ever forget the people that read your blog each day and take the time out of their schedules to add a thoughtful comment on your blog and your social shares.

When one of your readers takes the time out of their life to write you, respond.  Those people are writing you because they respect you and nothing says “I don’t care about you” more than not responding or not giving them a little of your time.

I’m not one to call out people often, but there are two bloggers that immediately come to mind as text book examples of putting readers first:

  • Sean Ogle of Location 180 – Sean has replied to every email I’ve sent him, and also engaged me on social media.  He even proactively sent me an email!  Sean is very approachable and clearly appreciates how important his readers are.  
  • Darren Rouse of ProBlogger – Darren is a name that would probably make it on the top 5 successful blogger lists of most anyone.  His blogs are incredibly popular and I can’t even begin to imagine how many comments and emails he gets everyday, yet me manages to reply.  I’ve exchanged a number of emails with him over the years and when I’ve mentioned him on social media, he almost always finds the time to reply.

Sea and Darren are two shining examples of bloggers that haven’t forgotten their roots and understand the importance of putting their readers first.

I sincerely hope that all of you reading Side Income Blogging and working to grow your blogs become huge successes.  Just make sure once you’re there, that you don’t forget the people that helped you get there and the people that help you stay there.  You have my word, I’ll never forget.

Always put your readers first

Photo by: stephen bowler

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How to delete a WordPress page or post and not lose your traffic

Heraclitus once said: “The only thing that is constant is change.”  This applies to your blog as well.  I find myself making constant little tweaks, adjustments and changes to my various blogs and websites.  In some cases you can just delete things and change things with little to no risk.  However, there are a few changes you have to really be careful with, and this is especially true if you have any search engine traffic coming to your blog.  In particular, you have to be very careful when renaming or deleting WordPress pages or posts.

Don’t worry though, I’ll show you a trick that allows you to rename and delete and not lose any search engine traffic as a result.

Delete WordPress Page

The problem with renaming or deleting WordPress pages or posts

When you rename or delete a page or post in WordPress, that page or post is gone and no longer accessible using the prior permalink or URL.  The problem with this in most cases, is that the search engines have already indexed the page and have it stored.  When search engine users search, find your page or post, then click on it, they get the dreaded 404 error page which basically says “Page not found”.

This is not the experience you want visitors to your blog to have.  You always want to do your very best to avoid having your visitors ever see an error message.

How do we fix this?  Fortunately there is an easy solution.

301 Redirects

301 redirects are a way to tell your visitor’s browser: “Hey, the content you asked for isn’t here anymore, but here’s the permanent replacement page”.  The great thing about a 301 redirect is that to your blog’s visitor, the whole thing is seamless.

Fortunately, a 301 redirect works for search engines and search engine bots as well and is Google’s recommended way of handling renamed or deleted WordPress pages or posts.

A 301 redirect is done by adding a special statement to your .htaccess file.  The .htaccess file is a double edged sword though.  While you can do some amazing and powerful things using that little file, you can also really mess up your blog.

Unless you really know what you’re doing, I don’t generally recommend updating or changing this file directly.

For 301 redirects, I recommend using a plugin instead.  There are a number of 301 redirect plugins available.   The one I use and find easy to use is: Simple 301 Redirects.  I did notice that as of the writing of this article, that the plugin hasn’t been updated in more than 2 years.   I still actively run it though, with no issues.

Once installed and active, this plugin will add an option to your Admin console’s Settings menu named: 301 Redirects.  Clicking on this will display the following screen (although your fields will be blank).

Simple 301 Redirects

Adding redirects is easy.  You just put the changed or deleted URL on the left and put your new URL on the right.  You can see from my screen shot above, that I’ve renamed categories, renamed a few articles and deleted a few things.  The deletes are the redirects that go from a page URL to my main site URL, as there isn’t really a replacement for them.

While it might be temping to redirect deleted pages or posts to other unrelated pages or posts, I don’t recommend this as this could confuse or frustrate your visitor.  I always recommend redirecting deleted pages or posts to your main site URL.

Also, be sure to never redirect to a page that is redirected.  This will result in a circular redirect, and an error being displayed to your visitors.

Test your redirects

Once you have your redirects in place, I recommend testing them.  First confirm that your redirect works and that your browser redirects to the expected URL.  Then I recommend that you test out other related URLs to insure they are still working.  For example, if you redirected a category page, test out your other category pages.

If you want to be double sure, you can also use a redirect check tool.

Redirects can cause havoc with your site if you aren’t careful, so testing redirects is important.

Why delete or rename WordPress posts or pages?

If you’re fairly early in your blogging journey, you probably haven’t needed to rename or delete pages or posts just yet, but I can almost guarantee you will at some point.  One of the most common reasons for renames is for search engine optimization.  You may find that a keyword phrase that you initially targeted isn’t working or that you’re getting traffic for a different set of keywords and want to optimize for those instead.  Including your target keywords in your permalink or URL is an important strategy in ranking well on search engine result pages (SERPs).

Unfortunately, I also find that sometimes what I think are great ideas, turn out to be, well, not so great.  This often results in a delete and redirect to my home page.

In 99% of the cases, you should always redirect your renames or deletes, even if the traffic is minimal.  While I am unable to confirm this, most search engine experts believe that 404 (page not found) errors can negatively impact the quality of your site from Google’s perspective and cause your site to rank lower on SERPs.  Given how easy these plugins are to use, there really aren’t any good reason not to use redirects.

Photo credit: Ben Gillin

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