Progressive Circular Marketing!

The Blogosphere *is* full of wank.

Every once and a while I like to think about advertisements and how their distribution leads to profit. People who know me in person will know that I like to pay attention to ads and ridicule them relentlessly. Ads serve a very specific purpose and in a lot of cases tend to successfully prey on the stupid and lazy. Once in a while I come across a bit of marketing that is brilliant and captures my attention, but for the most part ads feel obtrusive and ineffective. I like to think that most advertisers are wasting their time and that product awareness comes from Word of Mouth and Product Quality, but that’s silly and idealistic. Truth is, there are people out there who buy The Slap-Chop. Are excited about the Snuggie, not because it’s “awesome” but because they’re so bombarded with imagery that eventually the concept seems like a good idea. People actually believe the shit written into the “I’m a Mac” commercials. And people actually click those ads promising to increase the size of a specific body part in less time than the competitors. Someone has to purchase these products, how else could companies afford the ad-space? The whole system supports itself.

I don’t want to turn this into a “ppl r stoopid” post so I’ll spin it like this, humans are inquisitive by nature and sometimes very haphazardly so.

Either way, it got me to thinking about this fun little hobby of blogging and how silly the lengths are some people will go to for a few extra hits.

The Re-hashing of News Stories is probably the instance I come across the most. A lot of the major blogs I follow practice this. Sometimes 90% of the posts on a blog are complete Re-hashes with a bit of opinion mixed in. Most blogs are good about crediting sources. It’s a good traffic driver and way for blogs to credit lesser known sources; recently two blogs I follow posted the same story from The Sun (UK). Both blogs retold exactly the same information in a slightly different way and credited the source material. Not exactly investigative journalism, but content is king and when you can’t come up with something clever to say why not grab something from somewhere else?

Re-hashing current news articles is a lot better than Spam comments. Recently I posted a journal entry about the state of Mainstream Radio in Vancouver. In it I mentioned a certain band from Alberta that had managed to achieve widespread North American success. Within five minutes of posting the entry I gathered 7-spam comments that Akismet didn’t catch. The comments themselves were nothing more than a canned “awesome blog I love !” reply with a link tucked in at the bottom. They were disposed of quickly.

Another school of “generating traffic” thought is to surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Not a bad idea. As long as you know where to go. Have you ever seen a community filled with people only looking for easy page hits? Sure there could be decent people around, but the very nature of the site makes human interaction a lot more like a Mexican Stand-off.

“I’ll visit your Blog if you visit mine.” Started the cocky blogger.

“No, you visit mine first” The stranger replied.

And since the two Bloggers have sat, staring at one another till the other blinked. No such blink would come, for the battle was online.

Remember that link tucked in at the bottom of the spam post? Curiosity got the best of me and I did actually end up clicking the link. It took me to a page to a page full of blog posts that were nothing more than keywords. Sentence after sentence of “, and ” hugged by a thick lining of ads. Is it effective? Sure. Does it make me want to come back? Hell no. Does it make me want to maybe some day consider finding a way to destroy the site in every way imaginable? Yes.

This has become the oft rued “how do I generate traffic to my blog” post. You used to need a soapbox and megaphone or a journalism degree to get attention, but thems times they are a changin’. Also turns out that with a large, mostly-anonymous audience, people don’t mind others reading their personal journals – take THAT old high school ex-girlfriend who slapped me for reading her journal.

After a bunch of research, Search Engines and Word of Mouth (Word over Web) feel like the only ways to promote the blog without spending a lot of money or compromising morals and integrity. In theory someone could invest a little money into an ad campaign through a few sites and generate a stable readership. Everything else is so backlogged with spam trying to mill money and find the easy way to popularity, it’s not worth the effort to dive into the dirt-chamber and attempt to stick out from the crowd. Like I said to a close friend the other day, content is king and the most effective way of building a readership appears to be mingling with a large base of friends and like minded people. Plug away at informative and well written posts. Slowly build site content on either a very specific subject or wide range of ’em and wait until your posts start to show up in the search results. With quality you’ll be able to attract the readers and probably retain them. In theory the quality of writing on the site will increase with more practice as well.

I’d be curious to know how now-popular blogs like Ars Technia, Gizmodo, Fidgit and Boing Boing got their starts. Which route to popularity was most frequented and were low-moral spam tactics used to generate traffic or ad revenue. Did they start as little “free” blogs that blew up or was a very clear and distinct business strategy employed?

~J

Advice Content: There are numerous ways to generate blog traffic. Take the route that involves quality and people will be more likely to bookmark your page and visit often. They might eventually become involved and share the site with others.

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