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.
So no, I’m not ‘growth hacking’ my blog.