Why ‘growth hacking’ doesn’t really work for old-school bloggers
I went to a growth hacking meetup this evening. Though I have no real dislike towards the things that growth hackers do, the term confuses people and doesn’t give a very positive vibe. (It seems like growth hackers also hack their job descriptions…) Falling somewhere between the realms of marketing and development of business, growth hacking attempts to find ways of selling products and gaining exposure.
Recently I thought about ways I could gain new subscribers or visitors to my blog, just get more people to visit, read, share, and spread the word. I went to the meetups (today was the third one) because Nick was interested, but I began to find it a little interesting too.
I haven’t really done much in the world of growth hacking, but I have read and been exposed to a great deal of ‘copy hacking’ and worked on an online product that focussed on selling rather ‘copy-hacked’ pieces of work. Usually these were in the form of e-books sold for $1, with titles along the lines of Lose weight fast! and How I made one $1 MILLION DOLLARS in 2 WEEKS: You can too. It was all very pyramid-schemy, and most people with at least some notion of these things described it as ‘scammy’.
If you know the internet, you might have seen growth hacking
A couple of the talks at the meetup today were focussed on optimising content and using a blog to assist in growth hacking. One of the speakers mentioned only spending a few hundred dollars to get a freelancer from the Philippines to work full-time for a month, writing fresh content for a blog. It sounded dodgy to me, using cheap labour – I feel sorry enough for those people as it is.
Another thing is the notion of recycled and rehashed content. It may not be the case for all growth hackers, but a piece of advice from tonight was to watch what your competitors are doing, look at their content, and try and write it better, or in your own way. You may as well have a PhD in Copying and Pasting, which means you’re doing something smarter than just copying and pasting.
I like what Liz said about a lot of articles that are out there on people’s blogs: it’s essentially the same thing, but packaged differently. I can say this about ‘tips’ and ‘tricks’ and ‘ideas’ type of posts. They appear on many blogs but usually have the same thing written in a different way. When flipping through a book that one of the speakers mentioned about how to grow your blog audience, it wasn’t anything new.
You’ve seen those clickbait links that say things like You will never believe what this woman did to her child!, Make your stomach flatter with this one quick tip, Cute nail polish designs you want right now, Top 10 Apple devices… the list goes on. And give or take a few words and you could change the topic of interest from being fashion related, to technology related, to food related.
Quite a few bloggers have growth-hacked without knowing
I’ve done it. You probably have done it.
You know when you start to write a title like 10 Reasons I chose iOS over Android, Why I stopped using Twitter, you’re being a bit controversial, you’re deliberately writing something that will grab attention. Take for example my posts One handbag is all you need and Why I decided to own less than 20 physical books. Of course I wrote those capturing titles on purpose.
The ‘old-school’ blogger
I’m al old-school blogger. I was blogging before it was cool. Me and a lot of my friends were blogging before ‘blogging’ just meant to have a publishing space on the internet. A lot of people who read my blog are old-school bloggers just like me, and when we started blogging, we treated it like a diary, and let ourselves make friends.
The definition of blogging has changed. It’s no longer associated with keeping a log of what’s happening, it’s no longer about making lifelong friends the way I have – it’s become more about networking, business, and money.
Growth hacking cannot work for what we now call the ‘personal blog’
‘Old-school bloggers’ now have to call themselves personal bloggers or lifestyle bloggers – but even the latter wears thin, because many people assume that ‘lifestyle’ means we write about healthy living. They also assume that ‘personal blog’ means we complain or share our darkest secrets on our blog. That’s incorrect.
When an audience member asked one of the speakers tonight whether growth hacking content was more successful in some industries/fields compared to others, I feel like she accurately described my feelings. She had lots of shared content about a rather niche topic, had a lot of visits and shares to her website, and said ‘yet I can count on my hand the number of people who have actually signed up’.
Growth hacking may not work for every industry or niche. But I know for a fact that it simply does not work for a personal blog, unless the owner of that blog is willing to change their entire outlook.
I told one of my blog friends about a blog I used to love visiting when the owner blogged about her adventures in a foreign country. Now, the owner changed. She employed a handful of people to write articles for her, all centred around business and gaining more likes, shares and follows on social media. There is not a hint of her travel diaries in sight. I don’t enjoy reading her blog anymore because all of the posts are clearly written to get more traffic.
It takes me back to my own values about blogging. I always said that if only two people read my blog I would still do it (the general thing is that someone asks me if I would blog if nobody read it, which is slightly unrealistic). I always said that I love blogging because I love writing. I also rarely forget people who stop blogging and come back and contact me again, asking, ‘I used to blog at ___. Do you remember me?’
I doubt blogging could turn into a business for me. I recall reading a post by Holly about product reviews and being original. She mentioned reading the same damn thing about the same product being reviewed by different bloggers. In fact, her entire ‘My thoughts on blogging…’ series expresses a lot of what I am trying to say, and I’m sure many old-school bloggers agree. Someone once asked me how much I would accept to sell my entire blog.
Are you kidding me? My blog is priceless. And even though it would be beautiful to earn money blogging, I’m already earning money doing what I love as a web developer, so I consider myself lucky already.
Even though I tried out a few deliberately compelling titles for some of my blog posts, I feel dirty if I keep writing clickbait-like titles.
Even though having 10,000 subscribers sounds amazing, I wouldn’t be able to establish a relationship with any of them the way I have with friends such as Nancy and Kya and Tara.
So no, I’m not ‘growth hacking’ my blog.
It’s amazing that you have kept the old school blogging style going, there are definitely less and less of those and more and more of those business blogs. It’s not doubt that people want to make money from blogging.
At the end of the day, it’s your blog and you should do whatever you want. It’s good that you’re not being effected by the business blog style and opportunity to make money from it.
Keep it up :D
Is that what it’s called? LOL I didn’t even know, so this blog post certain educated me!
I can definitely see your point about growth hacking not working for old-school/personal bloggers. Sure I write my own takes and reviews on products and other things blogger blog about, but it’s just really my way to share things to other bloggers with similar interests. I’ve never once made money off my blog posts, and I don’t intend to start now.
Like you, I’ve been blogging long before blogging was deemed “cool”. I’ve blogged about my life like an online diary, but now I don’t really do it that much. The way I blog has changed since I was 17. I feel like I’m somewhere in between an old-school and new-school blogger, but not really? I admit to liking and writing blog entries that focus on one or two things, which is a new-school blogger thing? I really cannot keep up with posts that bounce around all over the place . . .
I may not blog much about my actual life but that’s because if I did, it’d be the same thing every day LOL. I mean, sure, I can write and be extremely repetitive, but . . . that’s not what I’d want to read, and with that in mind, it’s not something I’d subject my friends to either LOL
I agree that it is tempting to get a lot of hits and subscribers, but then I’d not form close friendship with bloggers like you! So in a way, I’m thankful for the way we blog without growth hacking. I may consider growth hacking with my food blog, but never for my personal blog XD
The word “blogging” and it’s definition have definitely changed in recent years. I was telling someone recently that I wrote a blog and they joked “Is that why you’ve moved into a house?” and asked when my book signing was. It made me realise that this is what people think blogging is. They think it’s a “get rich quick” scheme, and for some it may be, but it certainly isn’t for me.
Thanks for the shout out to my “My thoughts on blogging…” series. I started that because I felt overwhelmed by all the blogging advice out there, and people telling me that my blog wasn’t “successful” unless it was making me $100,000 a year. It drives me insane. Honestly at first I was intrigued by growth hacking content (Like Tara, I didn’t realise this type of content had a name!) that promises to make you a millionaire over night, but now I just laugh at it. It’s full of unrealistic promises, waffle and bullshit.
I’m sticking with old school blogging. I’ve fallen back in love with it over the last year or so after going off on a tangent and writing different type of content. I realised that the reason I write a blog is because I enjoy it, and like you say, I’d still do it even if I only had a couple of readers. Everyone has different reasons for blogging, but I do it for me. :)
I love this post. Growth hacking wouldn’t suit me either – I’m in this to write, not to employ people to. The only way I try and get more visitors is by commenting. Clearly I’m doing it wrong haha.
I love your blog as it is!
I have been a long fan of your blogs since heartdrops.org. I used to have a personal website as well. Thats-bomb.com. not anymore. It’s great to see you still blogging.
Hi Jamie, thank you for your comment! :) It’s always nice to hear from someone who has been following my blog for a long time.
I’ve tried some of the growth hacking methods before, just…because I like to play around with stuff? I think one of the methods is to post something controversial, but I don’t consider that a growth hack, because I’ve been posting controversial stuff here and there since the beginning of 6birds.
One of the things often talked about in blogging groups is how it’s OK to rewrite a particular article topic (e.g. how to start a blog) even though everyone else is doing the same thing, because you may be able to word something differently. The biggest problem with this, however, is the fact that everyone is sharing the same thing, as you quoted me above, just in a different package. So…bad advice continues to be shared. I fear blogs one day turning into the equivalent of a CD on repeat until the end of time; there are still a few gems in the blogosphere, but…otherwise, it’s just all so similar and, eventually, boring.
Product reviews can easily get repetitive, especially if there isn’t an even pro/con balance going on. It’s kind of hard to master, so I think that that is why not many bloggers do it/are totally unique with their reviews. On the other hand, many bloggers will say something is great just so they can get free stuff. But…eh? US bloggers have to pay taxes on free stuff once it reaches a certain monetary value, because “free stuff” counts as income here. And a lot of people won’t take a review that is all negative or all positive seriously, because it’s not super helpful. :/
I would like to earn money blogging, but I’m looking for the less sleazy way to go about it—I don’t want to lose myself in the process and want to continue being who I am on the inside than put up some front that is more likable. I’ve considered, however, having loads of people read my blog, and it freaks me out. One of the reasons I haven’t started a newsletter is because I’m scared how many subscribers I will have—that it will be bigger than the number I have estimated in my head.
Yes Yes YES. I couldn’t agree more with everything that you’ve written. As much as I love Pinterest, it’s so irritating to see blog advice which solely centers around monetizing your blog and gaining a kajillion followers. It’s definitely changing the perception and definition of blogging. All of those things that you do to gain more followers and clicks and money just makes the blog so much less personal.
I debated with the idea of the privacy of my blog and getting my blog more “out there,” (which I think you actually commented on that post), but finally decided that’s just not what I want and it’s not aligned with my blogging goals. A million strangers visiting my blog wouldn’t bring the satisfaction of the handful of awesome friendships that I’ve developed.
I really like the idea of blogging values – something I know I’ve thought about but never given that title. It would be so beneficial to actually write those out and have those guide you. :)