blogging

Tag Your WordPress Posts, People!

I stress to clients that they have to tag and categorize their posts on WordPress. It’s one of the easiest ways to increase your organic traffic and discoverability in Google, but it also helps the web find you.

So tag your posts, people!

Also, good checklist here for setting up a WordPress website on a hosting platform…

If you’re not already on board, keep reading; a client of mine gets 100,000 unique visitors per month. More than 3% of those are referred to by tags listed in the SERPs.

Tag recommendations:

  • Limit your tagging to relevant topics you covered in the post.
  • Not every post needs to be tagged.
  • Keep tags short and sweet; no more than two words.
  • Delete overused and underused tags monthly.

SEO benefits:

  • Improved user experience.
  • Increased engagement.

Via Search Engine Journal: Don’t Launch a WordPress Site Before You Go Through This 17-Step Checklist

Why not just write on your own blog and monetize there?

I get the allure of Substack and applaud the move to decentralized platforms, but why not write on your own blog if your goal is independence and direct interaction with your own audience?

It’s not that difficult.

So many more benefits to creating in your own space, on your own domain, with your own platform…

And despite a handful of departures over politics, that wave is growing for Substack. The writers moving there full time in recent days include not just Mr. Lavery, but also the former Yahoo News White House correspondent Hunter Walker, the legal writer David Lat and the columnist Heather Havrilesky, who told me she will be taking Ask Polly from New York Magazine to “regain some of the indie spirit and sense of freedom that drew me to want to write online in the first place.”

Source: Why We’re Freaking Out About Substack – The New York Times

WordPress 2020 Stats

Interesting… didn’t realize the bit about the WordPress 5.6 release team. That’s admirable and something that we need more of in the open-source world (and the tech world in general):

One thing I’ll call out WordPress 5.6 had an all women and non-binary release squad of over 50 people, a first for WordPress and probably any large open source project. Also the market share of WordPress grew more in 2020 than it has in any year since it started being tracked!

Source: State of the Word 2020 – Matt Mullenweg

Top Posts of the Teens

I started writing email newsletters in 2002 and blogging in 2003 for a couple of marketing outlets. I was mowing the lawn on October 13, 2006, and had the bright idea to start a marketing blog called CostPerNews. It took off rather quickly and before I knew it, I was getting citations on Techmeme and flown around to speak at various marketing and tech conferences. Part of that adventure was luck and hitting the blogging scene at just the right moment and part of it was the time and energy it took to write 3-5 posts a day about the various aspects of marketing I was covering.

Around that same time, I decided to use this samharrelson.com domain for my personal blog to journal and capture ideas and observations. Of course, it never had the same impact as CostPerNews, but it does continue to draw a not-insignificant amount of traffic each month.

Things really changed in the early 2010s as we moved from blogs to “social” media. I championed Twitter heavily back in 2006-2008 as an addition to what blogs had become and thought the platform would continue to amplify self-hosted personal sites and become a real discovery engine. What I hoped for is that personal and business blogs would bloom and platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr (RIP), and Facebook would be traffic drivers to those destinations. Boy, was I wrong. Worse, I gave in and started using those sites instead of this space for my personal thoughts and observations. You can see that in the chart above that shows the number of posts I’ve made here since 2006.

I’ve always had grand thoughts of doing away with my Twitter and Facebook accounts as primary places of content production and focusing here.

I’m taking that seriously in 2020. I’m not abandoning FB or Twitter (as I did Instagram last year), but I am using this as my primary hub.

On that note, let’s take a look back at the Top 10 posts from 2010-2020 here on the blog based on site traffic:

It looks like 2016 was definitely a bright spot for the blog here. I had made a concerted effort to stop giving so much content to the advertising-driven social networks and remind myself that I had space here that needed me. As I look back on the last 10 years and thousands of posts, I’m equally reminded of that realization. And excited.

It’s good to be back. Let’s see if we can do 1,000 here in 2020.

Putting the Days to Bed (My Paper Notebooks)

If you’ve met me IRL, you’ve probably noticed I have a notebook either in my shirt pocket or in my hand (or a stack of index cards tucked away somewhere). All of them make awkward appearances when I hear a good quote, someone has a question I need to look up, if I was trying to record a student’s robot time trials, or if the spirit moved me.

I’ve long been a doodler since my time in Mrs. Hinson’s 3rd Grade class where we learned that sketching helped with creativity (I might have made that up… but it stuck). When I got to Wofford College, my mentor Larry McGehee kept that alive by talking about his doodling process during staff meetings and other such nonsense. That was inspiring to me at the time, but his tips and tricks on the doodling life hack helped me survive countless staff meetings as a teacher myself as well as Board meetings and team meetings and all the meetings we have to go to when we decide to throw ourselves into grown-up world.

I’m at the point in my life now where I don’t have to attend so many mandatory meetings and for that gift I feel blessed (looking back, I do feel some regret for how immature/bored/inattentive/distracting I was during teacher staff meetings… I’m sorry Dear Administrators, but I do feel that I added spice to our gatherings by throwing out bombs to get everyone riled up and awake such as whether cursive was really necessary in Middle School). But with that gift comes a clear place of loss in my creative process. I have to make time to doodle now. It’s weird how you spend years thinking “Oh great, another meeting… it’s Doodling Time!” and then you find yourself secretly giddy because you know you’ll have 4 extra minutes to sneak in some surreptitious doodling while your toddler finishes their breakfast. But here I am.

So I’ve been thinking a good deal about my paper notebooks and my doodling and my journaling and all those Instagram posts that I heart on a daily basis displaying some young person’s admirable bullet journal or Panda Diary or a Mom’s Moleskine Menagerie (wow, that’s a great name… Moleskine can run with it… I’m just the idea guy). I’ve spent too many hours thinking over this issue and watching YouTube videos comparing GoodNotes and Notability on the iPad Pro while jogging off the extra weight I gained sitting in meetings and doodling and reading blog posts that compare paper journaling to “digital” journaling.

The issue is complicated by the fact that I’m typing this on an iPad and I do love this form factor and device. The iPad Pro really has become my main computer when I’m not chained to a laptop working on a piece of code or having to review artwork in Adobe Illustrator for a brand client (but the iPad is getting there!). I’ve always been the “digital” guy or “techy teacher” or the preacher that preaches with an iPad (I’ve also preached from a Blackberry, a Palm T5 (loved that thing), and a Palm m100 over the years), or the consultant who has all the fun tech toys. So when I show up with a paper notebook, it’s a little jarring to some people and frequently leads to a conversation about my note booking style or journaling preferences or the types of pens I prefer. I’ve bonded with many clients over the benefits of a Pilot G2 Extra Fine 0.5mm refill cartridge compared to the competition.

But year after year I go back to my paper notebooks when it’s time to put the days to bed on another year. This year is going to be no different it seems. I’m an old man stuck in his ways, what can I say? “I’ve got my drip pan, ready for my nap” as Lightning McQueen says at the ends of Cars 3 (again, I have a toddler). But there is magic in opening a new journal and getting ready for the year while looking back at all the collected thoughts, doodles, dreams, failures, completions, incompletions, interceptions, and incantations from the previous trip around our closest star. It’s really magical in a self-serving and privileged way to pull down a notebook from ten or fifteen years ago and do the same. There is probably some magic in doing the same with a backup file in Dropbox of a PDF exported from GoodNotes in 2013, but magic, like notebook and pen preferences, is subjective.

So my prayer for me and for you in 2019 is… Blow up your tv, throw away your Twitter, go to the country, find you a home, eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus on your own… and do some doodling.

Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essay “As We May Think” on information overload, curation, and open-access science.

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.

— Read on www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/10/11/vannevar_bush_s_1945_essay_as_we_may_think_on_information_overload_curation.html

Go Start Your Blog and Find a Newsreader

I’ve been using RSS as my primary way to read news, blogs, thoughts, and ideas since 2005 or so (I currently use a mix of Feedly and NewsBlur as my RSS readers, and both are excellent in their own ways).

There’s a growing rumbling going on in the tech-thinkers space I follow (mostly through my RSS readers). Twitter is great for quick fleeting thoughts that you write on the back of a leaf and watch float away down the river. Facebook is great for sharing pictures and updates with those who you are close with in real life. RSS and feed readers serve a much different purpose and I have no doubt they’ll be back in the mainstream soon enough given the current tensions around walled gardens, security, and advertising…

Now fight against the machine and go start your blog. You’ll be glad you did.

The tension between walled gardens (or lock-in, or whatever you want to call it) and a decentralized web will likely never end. But, it feels like we are in for another significant turn of the crank on how all of this works, and that means lots of innovation is coming.

— Read on www.feld.com/archives/2018/08/rss-the-persistent-protocol.html

Bring Back RSS

I’m admittedly from a generation that grew up with a web that didn’t include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even Google. I look back fondly on the early 2000’s when we all had our own blogs and shared thoughts and pictures and quotes there.

I was just reminiscing about blogrolls this week with a client as we reminded ourselves about the joy of finding new and interesting people to subscribe to because of a link on a blog that we liked. Of course, there was Blogger and Live Journal and then Flickr and the rise of Google and MySpace and eventually Twitter and Facebook arrived in 2006. But for a while, it was a magical time not ruled over by corporate content silos… in my mind at least.

That’s a major reason why I still blog and share thoughts and links here. I’m not going to convert anyone but maybe I’ll share some of that old time religion. There’s incredible freedom and a sense of adventure to having your “own” site. Try it, rather than just relying on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Fun read here:

“For those of you born into the siloed world of the centralised web, RSS is an ancient technology from Web 1.0 (“the naïve Web?”). Like most things back then, it does what it says on the tin: it enables you to easily syndicate the content of your site. People interested in following your posts subscribe to your feed and receive updates using their RSS readers. There is no Twitter or Facebook in the middle to algorithmically censor … ahem … “curate” your posts.”

Via on Aral Balkan’s blog

Cautionary Tale of Patheos and Having Your Own Blog

Wow, this is quite something and a good example of why you should always run your own blog instead of relying on a blog network. Same with podcasting.

What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.

— Read on www.wthrockmorton.com/2018/05/22/the-blog-at-patheos-is-410-gone/

Ultimate guide to SEO for small businesses (and nonprofits)

There’s some really helpful advice here for small businesses, nonprofits, and / or churches looking to get a start on SEO basics. You can take a course on Lynda.com or watch some YouTube videos to learn more about what SEO can mean for your group, but the fundamentals here are pretty spot on:

SEO isn’t just for big business. As a small company or a local business, there is actually a lot you can do yourself to get good results from search. This ultimate guide for local and small business SEO will help you get the most out of search by finding your niche, optimizing your pages and using social media.

— Read on yoast.com/ultimate-guide-to-small-business-seo/

Owning your own platform is important, and valuable

I often get the question from clients of why I mostly recommend having your own website on WordPress or a self-hosted platform in the age of Facebook. As companies who built their businesses and traffic flow on the back of Facebook over the years have found out, that can be a very precarious decision. Audience and perceived impact are good, but long-term value is much better. Don’t cheap out and build your house on someone else’s property.

For instance, Medium is an interesting platform for bloggers and writers. We see everyone from politicians to celebrities to tech pundits using it as the place of record for their writings. While there is an audience there, or on Facebook, we’re already seeing Medium making changes to the way it handles its publishers in an attempt to figure out monetization (something which its founder Ev Williams knows about since he also founded Blogger and then went on to co-start Twitter… both of which faced their own monetization issues). This is going to be a constant and something you or your business or your non-profit should take notice of before you let your roots get too deep in a particular platform can change its EULA at any time.

Owen Williams writes the excellent Charged newsletter (you should subscribe) and makes this point about Medium, Facebook, and web presence in general that I highly agree with:

All of this is to say: Medium is great, but be wary! Owning your own platform is important, and valuable, even at this point in the internet’s maturity cycle. It’s a bit more work, but you are no longer at the mercy of the platform, a lesson we can learn from Facebook all too easily.

Source: #167: Medium.com feels like it’s forever. What if it isn’t?

Why you should quit blogging

Fun post that highlights many of the concerns I hear from clients and friends when I encourage them to blog.

Blogging and newsletters are still incredibly impactful for businesses, churches, nonprofits… or just sharing what’s on your mind.

Get out there. Be yourself. It’ll be ok.

You think that you are a terrible writer. No one wants to read your blogs, and if you look at the blog posts you wrote a few months ago, you cringe. You have convinced yourself you absolutely cannot write. So put yourself (and all your readers, they’ll thank you) out of their misery. Just quit.

Source: Caroline’s Corner: Why you should quit your blog now • Yoast

You should blog

Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.

We could say goodbye to the creepy targeted ads and the algorithms, to the Nazis and bots and propagandists, to the harassers and the people selling hate. We could stop being spied-on for profit…

Or we can make the moral choice of renewal, of planting new bulbs and helping this old tree, a little bigger now, flower again.

Our hearts may end up broken. Again.

So?

Source: inessential: weblog

RSS in 2018

There’s so much wrong with this post, but I’ll point out my biggest gripe here… RSS (like podcasting) doesn’t need the metrics of behavior tracking for it to be a success. It’s distributed. It’s not commercialized. It’s not tracked with clicks based on eCPM’s or eCPC’s or brand quality engagement views.

And that’s ok.

It serves a heck of an important purpose.

Let’s all start using RSS readers again, btw. The internet will be a much better space.

RSS’ true failings though are on the publisher side, with the most obvious issue being analytics. RSS doesn’t allow publishers to track user behavior. It’s nearly impossible to get a sense of how many RSS subscribers there are, due to the way that RSS readers cache feeds. No one knows how much time someone reads an article, or whether they opened an article at all. In this way, RSS shares a similar product design problem with podcasting, in that user behavior is essentially a black box.

Source: RSS is undead | TechCrunch

Blogging

“I keep remembering that, between Google Reader and its limits (items must have titles), and Twitter with its limits (only 140 chars, no titles, one link, no styling), same with Facebook (no links or styling) that my online writing has diminished dramatically, conforming to the contradictory limits of each of these systems.

I keep working on this, still am. Every day.”

Source: Blogging like it’s 1999 | Dave Winer

short blog posts

Important as the web continues to develop… don’t put all of your content into a silo. If you arrived here via Facebook, you might see why.

2. You’re probably posting your short items to Twitter and Facebook. That’s wrong. Please, before you give your ideas to a silo, give them to the open web. Of course there’s nothing wrong if you post to your blog and then re-post on Twitter and Facebook so more people see it.

Source: Re short blog posts

Why WordPress Still Matters

Good thoughts from Om here about the place of having your own website (whether it’s at WordPress.com or a self hosted WordPress installation for more flexibility) and feeding the beast:

Some Thoughts on the New WordPress.com and Mac App – Om Malik: “Most of those platforms are built to be silos, Facebook and Instagram being the worst offenders. Their approach is a threat to the open web as much as the rise of the app-centric internet. As someone who feeds the monster, I should have the ability to keep a copy of what I create. To stay relevant, WordPress.com has to become not only a publishing tool but also a means for me to route my sharing. Its role is that of an information router. I am looking forward to what talented developers do with the new capabilities of WordPress.com.”

Short-form blogging thoughts

Great thoughts on blogging in 2014 from Gina Trapani…

This is still a work-in-progress, notes-to-self kind of thing, but it’s been sitting in Draft for months now, so it’s time to get it out. With the obvious caveat that rules are made to be broken (with reason), my new rules for blogging are…

via Scribbling.net | Short-form blogging.