Who are you writing for?

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Woman There is a lot of blogging about blogging, including ways to increase your Google and Technorati rankings, get more traffic to your site and increase the pool of readers who subscribe to your RSS feed.  Certain notables such as Guy Kawasaki have written about it, as he very publicly set out his intentions to crack into the Technorati Top 10. He says:

"I love this Technorati ranking thing. I know it probably doesn’t mean much, but it’s fun. I’ll never play in the NHL, and I’ll never start a billion-dollar company, but I could get into the Technorati top ten. Everybody has to have goals, and this is one of mine…"

He got some flack about it since some felt that he was trying to manipulate what should be a natural, open system.  In the comment section of his recent conversation with Seth Godin, Guy shared with a reader (Little Purple Cow) that he may change his position:

"Hurray for Seth on his lack of interest in the Technorati rankings. Guy take note. Links do not make the blog. Content is king and you’re both members of the royal court.

**************

Little Purple Cow,

You know, I’m coming around to Seth’s and your point of view on Technorati rankings. The reason why I’m fading is because links more than 180 days old don’t count anymore, so if people blogrolled me when I first blogged, it doesn’t count anymore.

Maybe I’ll take down the counter. Am I secure enough to do this? Hmm…will my readers still love me?

Guy"

I am with Little Purple Cow that Guy really shouldn’t worry about ranking.  He has a very interesting perspective that is helpful to creative working types and aspiring entrepreneurs.  Nature will take its course, and if he worries too much about numbers, he will waste his valuable energy.

Matthew Stibbe of the excellent blog Bad Language also makes mention of his interest in Technorati rankings in a recent post.  He is another example of someone who really shouldn’t worry about his stats, as long as he keeps writing useful, smart and pithy posts.  As a fan of his work, I don’t care whether he is 10,000 or 100,000 on Technorati since I visit his blog regularly to learn something, chuckle or improve my writing.

We can get so caught up with rankings and statistics that we miss the fact that the small but powerful audience that reads our blog is the perfect demographic for our products or services.  You don’t have to build a relationship with everyone in the world with your blog, just those that I fondly call "your people."

The paradox is that by only focusing on what is useful to your audience and writing well, your stats and links will improve like the venerable Kathy Sierra or Joel Spolsky.  I can’t imagine they spend hours each day trying to improve their Technorati rankings, rather they sweat over what will help the users of their blog "kick ass" (one of Kathy’s favorite terms).

I am not advocating totally ignoring statistics of your blog since they can give you a very useful picture of who is linking to you and which topics that you write about garner the most interest.  But if you want to create a long-term, sustainable relationship with your readers, focus on these questions:

What, really, is the purpose of your blog?  Who are your writing for?

If you, like me, are writing about things related to your work and business, the purpose should be to write useful, interesting, thoughtful pieces on issues your audience thinks are really important. 

Here are some guidelines I use to keep me connected with the audience I care most about on this blog:  people who feel stuck in their corporate job and desperately want to get out and try entrepreneurship:

  • What problems do they face?
  • What really scares them?
  • What is not being said on this subject on other news sources or blogs?
  • What can I share that will make their life easier?
  • How can I make them feel more supported and confident?
  • Who can I put them in contact with (via links or references) that will give them good information and advice?
  • What will be fun and interesting to write about?  (This is a selfish point, I know, but I must enjoy what I am doing in order to maintain energy for the hours I spend writing my blog)

You know you have hit a bad patch when you choose subjects for the sole purpose of increasing your link popularity and incoming hits.  This will cause you to lose your way and disconnect from your true, authentic voice, the one that your hard-won audience came to you to hear in the first place. 

I am not saying that I am a big enough person to stop checking my Technorati ranking altogether (ok, ok, it is 4,768 at 3:33pm Pacific on Aug. 14 if you really have to know).  I have already publicly confessed that blogging is a power over which I have no control on the very funny Bloggers Anonymous.

What I do know is that the thing I adore about blogging is connecting with my people.  I feel more clear about how my clients feel, what they need and what I can provide for them than I have in years.  Their comments and emails give me so much motivation to keep learning and growing in my field so that I can contribute something that has meaning and that truly makes a difference.

If you find yourself stat or ranking obsessed, sit down, take a deep breath and focus on your audience.  They will tell you what to write about. 

12 Responses to “Who are you writing for?”

  1. Chris says:

    I agree, content is king, although, it is kind fun to watch your blog go from 2 million, to 250K in the rankings.

  2. Howdy Pam,

    Just wanted to let you know that a few days ago I included Cubicle Nation on my “Links That I Like” section with a little review of your blog. And while it won’t help in your Techno rating, I’m glad to include it.

    I never started my blog to achieve any ranking, but I have to admit I am currently obsessed with my Alexa ranking due to a list another blogger put me on.

    I have no hope of cracking the Techno Top 10 anytime soon, but I’m happy with my small, yet warped, loyal readership.

    Dave

    _____

    Thanks Dave! Not just for the link but for the wonderful post of endorsement. I small, warped, loyal readership sounds like my ideal audience. I hope many of my folks visit your blog as well – we may be from the land of the misfit toys (you have seen Rudolf the Rednosed Raindeer, haven’t you?), but boy do we have passion and gusto.

    Rock on and let’s let rankings be damned.

    All the best,

    -Pam

  3. Starbucker says:

    Your post really made me think as to why I really started to blog – it’s not a business for me but just a hobby. But yet, I too check my ranking almost every day. The bottom line is I always loved to write but never had an outlet (until now), but somehow my competitiveness creeps in. That infuses a lot of other things that I do as well. Fortunately, I’ve yet to sit down in front of my laptop and think – “what can I write today to increase my ranking”. If that happens, I am going to stop. In the meantime I’m going to take your deep breath advice and keep on plugging away at this. Thanks.

    ____

    Hi Starbucker!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I like to think that competitiveness is something that will make all of our writing better and stronger, instead of weaker. It is not often that we get a chance to put our pure voices out there in a democratic forum to see how people react. I don’t usually think of it as stacking myself against another blogger to see who is better, since there are so many tremendously powerful voices out there. Rather I want to make sure I am in the ‘same room’ with those people who I think are smart, creative, motivated and inspirational.

    When I see you write a kick-ass post, I think “Look at him go! What do I have to say that is equally as passionate or important?”

    Please keep enjoying your writing – I look forward to reading it!

    All the best,

    -Pam

  4. robert says:

    Pam,
    Two things I like about your reponse:

    1. I like the “..I am highly paid consultant you fish for brains…” comment. There are too many out there who really do think like this. I do not know why I am astonished everytime I meet one of them……again.

    2.And I especially agree with ,”..they NEVER leave a lasting impact on the organization when they leave.”.

    This is so right. I can only recall one consultant. He was Cap Gemini. It was ten years ago. He was 6’7″ and that is all I remember him for.

    You are doing the right thing. Do not let detractors cause you to rethink your vocation or to change anything or stop this vital and magnificent work you do.

    Where else is there someone actively encouraging, advising, supporting and willing us to flee corporatedom, escape the cubicle to go decalre our independance and create our own special way of working to become masters of our own destiny and earn our own living based on the skills, creativity and innovation you have helped to instill in all of us.

    Rock on Pam!

  5. Murali says:

    Like Seth Godin said, “The reason I write is to have an impact… Even if 100 people a day read my blog, Iā€™d write the same stuff”, I believe, one should not decide on what to blog based on neither rankings nor comments by users.

    If a blogger focuses on rankings, he/she only writes about popular and sensational topics. Likewise, if a blogger write what readers are interested in, then the blogger will say what the readers want to hear.

    In both cases, we are missing the point that we started blogging with a purpose. A blogger should pursue the purpose, undeterred by ranks and responses.

    _______

    Hi Murali!

    Thanks for your comment. I have to respectfully disagree with your position, only in the case of reader comments.

    I have a specific purpose for this blog, and that is to provide information, resources, how-to’s, support and encouragement to help people who feel trapped in their cube escape and start their own business. In order to know what specific issues are keeping them from making the leap, I have to engage in dialogue with them. Comments are extremely useful to see when my posts are on target and resonate, and when they are off-base.

    I write this blog with a bias towards action. I could just pointificate about subjects that I think my readers should care about, but then I come dangerously close to one of those “I-am-right-because-I-am-a-highly-paid-consultant-you-fish-for-brains-reader” kind of people, and that just doesn’t feel right. I have seen too many of those types in corporate environments, and they NEVER leave a lasting impact on the organization when they leave. I think that people have most of the information they need inside them, often they just want validation or encouragement.

    If I were writing a personal blog about a topic that I felt extremely passionate about like the importance of mentoring teenagers , I agree with you that I shouldn’t willy-nilly around and change my opinion based on what people like or don’t like. But this blog by its nature must be interactive to make an impact. In my humble opinion.

    Thanks for always making me think! You push me to do better, all by your comments. šŸ™‚

    -Pam

  6. Another great post, Pam. I think the question generalizes: Why am I doing __?, from the smallest task to the biggest life goal. It’s akin to Lakein’s Question: “What is the best use of my time right now?”

    Also, people might be coming to blogging for different reasons. Are you writing for your readers? For yourself? For me, I started out writing as a way to figure out what I know or think, i.e., as a tool for exploring a new field (and career). I was fortunate to start gaining a readership, which wasn’t necessarily my goal. However, I now try to keep them in mind when posting – so I guess I have multiple goals with blogging.

    It *is* tempting to check my “numbers,” though… šŸ™‚

  7. robert says:

    Fantastic post Pamela.

    I am a ranking slut. A ranking whore who will do anything to get me up above the 100,000 Technorati ranking mark. Today I notice I am 119,983 at Technorati. A jump up of 10,000 spots. Not bad.

    But even I have to say that I am tiring of the drama each day to come up with something that will attract the punters. I know I can sink low but if you see me doing naked portraits of myself, please call the vet and have me put down!

    The time has come to revert to quality content and not the rubbish I have been spewing out. If I can produce at least one decent post a month, I will be happy. Or at minimum produce some good general banter, then I can sustain the daily post for longer than I am thinking I can.

    Meanwhile I need to go see my rankings again ….. bye

  8. argos says:

    Though I have not married my blogging activity with the fact that I am also an entepreneur who could write and write and write about it ( and do in a moleskin),on the side I am an outsider painter with an aimless blog who enjoys meeting other artists from around the world. Plus, its a great way to archive no? Blogging to me is the adult version of “show and tell.”

  9. John Dodds says:

    Guy Kawasaki is an interesting case. Not working in the tech industry myself , I had never heard of him until being pointed to his blog maybe 5 months ago. I immediately liked what I read and subscribed on that basis not on his (unknown to me ) reputation.

    Once aware of that reputation, I had two reactions, one was mild annoyance that he had all these books to cull his posts from and thus blogging would be easy for him – though that subsided when I realised that, of course, since he wrote them in the first place, he’d put in the work. The second was complete bewilderment at his ranking obsession – why did he need such validation when he had already achieved status and best selling books? It was and is beyond me.

    When you recently asked me for whom I wrote, you made me focus on the fact that I ultimately write for myself with the hope that an interesting group of people would find my thoughts interesting, provocative and rewarding. I agree with you entirely that this is the only way to go. Even if I do want everybody to link to me and make me feel good about myself.

  10. John Dodds says:

    well – linking articles didn’t work for me anyway!!

  11. Thanks for the kind words and this great post. I agree completely with the sentiment. Worrying about rankings is quite distracting and can lead one off the trail. Technorati gives no help at all when it comes to figuring out WHAT to write. It measures reach but not satisfaction. I am interested in reaching more readers but I would rather have one Pamela Slim reading my blog than a 1,000 place hike in my Technorati ranking

    _____________

    Thanks Matthew, flattery will get you everywhere! And as my good buddy John Dodds pointed out in an email, I obviously need to visit your site more often. It should be “WHOM are you writing for?” But you knew that. If you can fix my grammar problems, dangling participles, incorrect spelling and misuse of punctuation, I will have your blog name tatooed on my forearm. šŸ™‚

    -Pam

  12. Great Post Pamela.

    The reason I write is to learn. I have found that by beginning my blog I was forced to be more disciplined about researching the topics and events in my field of choice.

    Also I have found that I learn from the people that comment on some of my posts and offer different perspectives. This has opened up my thinking and helped me to explore further. Finally, as you become an active blogger you need to read more blogs of your respected colleagues to keep up with their viewpoints and observations.

    I figure if I do a good job and blog for me then the people will come. Kind of like the line from the movie “Field of Dreams”, “if you build it they will come”…

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