Balancing Your Blog: Your Reader And You

Does your blog serve your readers? Does it serve you? Is your blog able to find the sweet spot in the balance between serving both?

Those are the questions Darren Rowse asked today in his video post Who Does Your Blog Serve? The Secret to Sustainable Blogging. If you’re a blogger I highly recommend watching and then thinking about how well you achieve the balance in your blog.

The question might seem obvious. Of course your blog needs to benefit your readers. If it doesn’t you’ll soon have no readers. Your blog also needs to benefit you or you’ll soon lose interest. What’s not so obvious is how well you do both. How well do you balance the benefits to readers with the benefits yourself? Blogging is a conversation and it takes more than one to have a conversation.

Darren’s questions seemed like a good opportunity to ask myself if I was doing a good job maintaining that balance. And while I can answer how well this blog benefits me I need your help in knowing how well it benefits you?

Am I Serving You?

This is a question I ask myself a lot. From time to time I’ve directly asked you things like how you’d like to see comments handled here, but mostly I look to see which posts get read most often and which generate the most comments. Neither is a foolproof way of determining if the blog is benefiting you.

So instead of trying to guess I’d like to ask you directly what can I do to serve you better?

A few ideas I’ve been contemplating are:

  • Book Review – I read a lot of books and thought why not review some that are on topic here.
  • Q&A – Would you be interested in a weekly question and answer post? You could email me (or I could create a form) wit you questions about seo, marketing, design, development, etc. and each week I could pick one or two to answer.
  • Site Review – This was suggested to me a long time ago. The idea would be to submit your site for analysis and I would write either a single post or a series of posts on how to improve your site.

Are any or all of the above appealing? Are there any specific ideas you’d like to see me implement?

When I choose topics for posts I’ve naturally tried to choose things that interested me and also hopefully interested you. I try to stay within any of the categories I use in my This Week In SEO posts, though I’ve certainly gone off topic here and there. Do you think there’s a good mix of posts? Are there topics you feel are over represented? Under represented? Are there topics that haven’t been covered before, but you’d like to see?

Am I Serving Me?

For the most part yes. I enjoy writing here most of the time, though there are times I wouldn’t mind a few days off. I enjoy the people I’ve met through writing posts and comments and the relationships I’ve built and grown with many of you. I enjoy sharing what I can to help you with your sites and I’ve learned a lot about improving things here at the same time.

One thing I’m not always satisfied with is the amount of time I have to spend to keep the blog going. It’s not so much the time it takes blog as it is the time it takes away from the things I need to do to create revenue I do have to eat and pay the rent each month. I used to have AdSense running on posts, but decided to drop them several months back. The revenue they were bringing wasn’t worth what I felt they took away by being there.

I’m not thinking of bringing AdSense back, but I’ve been mulling the idea of adding affiliate links where appropriate. For example if I do add a book review section each review would likely link to the book on Amazon. How would you feel if I added some affiliate links? Would it make a difference if I explicitly pointed out they were affiliate links, maybe by placing (aff) next to the links?

How would you feel if I did advertise again? Would advertising through text links be ok? Would banner ads be too distracting?

At some point I’ll most likely have to monetize this blog more in order to justify the time I spend working on it, but I’d prefer to find a way to do that and still serve you well.

If you don’t mind spending a few minutes to help me understand how I can better serve you and in the process still serve myself I’d appreciate it. If not have no fear. I’ll still be working on the question and thinking of ways to improve things for you and me. I consider this our blog and want to know what can be done to make it better for all of us. Thanks.

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  1. I wrote a book review for another blog in the search world. It covered three books, actually: The Tipping Point, The Ape That Spoke – recommended by John on WMT – and Into Thin Air, a documentary in print about a hiking disaster on Mt Everest. The first two deal with the psychology of communication, while the third is captivating, a page turner, a superb example of how to write effectively. The first two are must-reads, while the last is just a good example of compelling use of language. In other words, yeah, I think book reviews would be a great addition.

    And suggestions on how to improve a site would probably go a long way toward building loyalty … nudge nudge wink wink.

  2. You’re reminding me about the Tipping Point is what got me thinking about book reviews again. I’ve thought about them on and off. I’ve read a lot of technical and marketing books and I thought it might be interesting to review them and have people add their own reviews in the comments.

    Something told me you’d like a site review and I was thinking of you while typing the idea in the post.

    Are there any topics you feel like I don’t cover enough or that maybe I cover too much? Do you like that I switch gears or would you prefer more focus on fewer topics?

  3. If you put affiliate links in, it wouldn’t bother me as long as they were clearly indicated as affiliate links.

    I want to thank you for writing this, by the way…it’s triggered some thoughts in my own head.

    As far as topics you need to cover or not cover, there really isn’t anything that you don’t cover enough. The only issue I’ve ever really seen is that you tend to cover other people’s posts a bit too much. Outside of This Week in SEO, there really isn’t all THAT much that you need to rehash from other people’s sites (unless of course, you’re memed in which case you’re ethically bound to. 😉 )

  4. Thanks Adam. But it is important to you to see the indication that affiliate links are affiliate links? Glad I could trigger some thoughts.

    When you mention covering other people’s posts do you mean when I add another link post mid week or are you referring to me writing follow ups to someone else’s post? And I will be giving a reply to the meme. I wanted to gather my thoughts a little and maybe some links for the post too.

  5. It seems like labeling affiliate links as such is a good idea. I think most people will assume that’s what they are, but just to be 100% clear… Have a look at; they know people use their site to look up stats and decide which camera to buy, so they have some links saying “… if you’re going to buy one anyway, why not buy it from our affiliate and help us pay our hosting?” A lot of people do, out of a sense of loyalty.

    I wonder if Amazon has a program like that that’d be worth your energy? It would seem if you start reviewing books – which is a good niche to spread into anyway, says uneducated me – you’ll have a captive audience. If you write about Malcolm in such glowing terms, explain how what a person learns about “word of mouth epidemics” can tip their site … that will drive some people to the book store.

    Don’t put too much thought into my site … I’ve been doing a lot of work and am getting ready to republish it with an attractive web template and some cool Google Maps stuff. My blog has been a testbed for that, but the way wordpress rewrites your code really limits what you can do. But using static html will remove those constraints. Anyway, I need to hurry that up, but just for the record … my site will be getting a huge face-lift in the near future.

  6. Thanks Forrest. I’m still debating how I would add affiliate links assuming I do add them. I’m also thinking of a general policy page that explains things. Marking individual links is one things, but I think it tends to make things a little messy on the page. There seems to be two votes though for having them that way so I’ll have to think about it.

    Amazon does have an affiliate program. They might even have been the first. They don’t pay much per purchase, but some people are able to make money with them.

    Let me know if you want me to do a review of your site. It probably won’t be anytime soon, but i think I might add reviews as a category here at some point.

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