You too, can avoid blogging limbo!
Blogging today is almost too easy. Cheap hosting, open source software and fantastic themes are very easy to find and use. In fact, since it’s so simple & easy, you’re not even limited to just one blog. Why not have two? Why not have ten? The time between silly idea and voila! blog existing is so short, that it can actually become a problem for people with the inclination to do so. What am I trying to say? That since starting a blog is so damn easy, it’s also easy to wind up with too many blogs, slowly gathering moss in some dark corner of the internet.
You might laugh and call this a first world problem (“I can’t keep up with all of these websites I keep creating..!”), but it’s a real pain in my side when it comes to keeping things going. If you want your blog family to grow and thrive, and not simply wind up in 404 limbo, you need to give them the love and attention that they need.
Let me put it another way — it’s super easy to find and buy lots of beautiful plants to put in your home. You simply walk down to the nearest florist or garden store, pick something and walk home with it. But what happens two weeks down the track, when you’ve forgotten how often your orchids need watering? Or when you last watered them? Or how much water you’ve forgotten to give them?
Your beautiful flowers can very easily wither and die.
Life on the internet is unbelievably fast. News sites, social media sites & microblogging are all ‘in the moment’ (think: Twitter). Literally: blink and you’ll miss it. Yet at the same time it can be incredibly slow, especially when you’re trying to build something of value (value is a topic for another day). It can take a long time for your words to find an audience, possibly even an indefinitely long time, you just never know.
Those sites you started with infinite enthusiasm, passion and energy? Where are they now, 6 months later?
It gets worse when you consider sites created for business or startup ideas. Having your own domain name sure makes things seem legit, like you’re not just two guys in a building hacking together pieces of code. Like you might just be the next big thing. Startup life though, as we know, can be very demanding & business ideas are very likely to fail. Or you might need to pivot and change your focus – possibly many times before the whole house of cards collapse. The website you build in the first 6 months of operations had better be able to adapt and follow your new path, or instead be the most evergreen content ever seen. Otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll stop nurturing it, stop giving it the love it deserves. There’s a good chance it will simply slide into the internet graveyard.
Remember how I said that life on the internet is slow? Yes, we’ve finally reached our point. Dave Wiskus recently remarked that the App store is like a graveyard for good ideas. If that’s the case, then the internet is like the mother of all graveyards, filled with good ideas and intentions – though staffed by a skeleton crew. Held together with hopes and dreams of internet stardom. Only a few sites manage to save themselves from this limbo fate.
So how do you do it, you ask. How do you stave off oblivion? There are three simple steps you can follow to avoid blogging limbo.
The first step is to simply not exist.
What? Not exist? How can I not exist? It’s simple. The the most surefire step to avoid blogging limbo is to stop yourself creating the blog in the first place.
Does your blog need to exist? What will you post about? How often will you be writing there? Who do you hope will be your audience? If your answers to these questions were: “shut up!”, “stuff I like”, “whenever I feel like it” & “cool people”, I’d strongly recommend you stick to Facebook. This isn’t snark or an insult to your writing, I’m simply trying to help you avoid falling into blogging limbo. Blogs don’t give you the same kind of addictive social rush like Facebook. People aren’t already coming to your site to read your clever quips. You could think of Facebook as like blogging with training wheels. Make sure you really want to take those training wheels off, before you jump into blogging in earnest.
The second step to avoid blogging limbo is to set yourself realistic expectations and timeframes.
This sounds so boring, I know, but it really is the key to long lasting happiness and fulfilment online. Get really Zen about your web properties and you can stare into the void without flinching. By this I mean: don’t start thecoolzone.net.au expecting to be an internet sensation in your first year, or ever! Sure, it can happen and sometimes does, but setting high expectations is also setting yourself up to fail. By all means, keep hold of your hopes & dreams, but you can’t eat hope for dinner. Let your hopes inspire your actions, but don’t let them set your expectations. Realistic expectations often revolve around things that can be measured — e.g. web hits, shares and likes. Set realistic goals and work towards them, but don’t define success simply by what you can measure.
One of the goals for this blog is to get on the radar of people I admire professionally. Writers, mainly & most likely people you don’t know, but that doesn’t need to matter to you. It matters to me & that’s what helps me avoid blogging limbo.
The third step to avoid blogging limbo is equally simple: just keep blogging.
The clearest sign that a blog is neglected or slipping into the darkness is a simple equation, I call the neglect coefficient™:
neglectCoefficient = date(today) - date(mostRecentPost)
Blogs with a high neglect coefficient™ are a turn off for everybody. For you, for the readers, for advertisers, even for Google. And if you think it’s not true, let me assure you from my experience, that blog neglect is insidious. I know the neglect coefficients™ for each of my blogs & it’s a real slippery slope down to blogging limbo. It’s a mental game you have to play. Simply adding new content, on a decent frequency, will help pull you out of a neglect death spiral & get you back on an even keel (how many more metaphors can I cram in here?). Step 3 won’t save you if you’ve ignored Step 1 & 2, but it can help.
Despite perceptions to the contrary, being a blogger is hard work. Being a multi-blog author is even harder. You need every trick in the book to keep your plates spinning & to maintain sanity — but it can be done. The next time you find yourself considering either: starting a blog or giving up on a blog, I’d like you to think of this:
Not every blog needs to exist, not every blog will meet your success goals & no blog will succeed without sustained effort from you.
This doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, nor is this a call to stop blogging — on the contrary. I love blogs, I love blogging & I hope to some day enjoy discovering your writing on a well nurtured site. The fact is that quality writing takes effort: maintaining that standard over time takes even more. I want to see you set yourself up to succeed.
These three steps will get you partway there, the rest is up to you.
[One last thing: I’m seriously astonished that Limbo for iOS literally dominates the google image search for the term “limbo”. Check it out for yourself! The cover image for this article was created by Diego Does on deviantArt.]
Update November 2015: Still dominating! Unbelievable.
Update March 2019: Still going strong!