Increasingly, marketers are attempting to engage bloggers as part of their campaigns for internet dominance. Anyone who’s dabbled in SEO knows the value of a decent web of retweets and linkbacks, so getting people talking about your product or services is an important engagement.
However, there’s still a tendency to google your subject and contact the first twenty bloggers who appear.
If they rank highly in search, they must be good right?
Possibly. But because of a disparity in the way most of us operate our feeds there’s a fairly high possibility that you’re contacting the wrong people.
There’s a common adage about good content selling itself. It makes sense to writers at all levels that they should be aiming for quality. Engaging posts that intrigue the reader and draw them further into your site. With luck they’ll even become repeat visitors. Quality is a watchword for the major league blogger.
But what about the little guys?
Let’s assume you have a smallish blog. We’ll leave aside notions of corporate and personal for now, but assuming you’re getting maybe a thousand visits a week or less, one of your major motivators is going to be getting more traffic.
In order to do this the blogger starts experimenting, more articles on a theme –interviews or news reports say – and different tones of voice.
Maybe they get more comments when they add in a couple of jokes or have a rant. As a result of these experiments, they produce more content, and suddenly they’re getting more traffic. But is this anything to do with quality? After all, it’s rare that a writer would be a master of all forms of writing, so isn’t it more likely that the increased traffic is down to quantity?
When it comes to blogs and news sources, more and more people use feed readers to organize their content, they get what they want and only occasionally dip a toe into new waters.
When they do, they check aggregators like Digg or Reddit for content. Aggregators and feeds however order content by time, so the more often you post and distribute, the higher the likelihood that you’ll be seen in the constantly flowing streams. The more often people will ‘like’ or ‘Digg’ or generally rate your content.
Obviously if everything you post is complete rot then you’ll fail, but if you’re a semi-talented, average writer then you can get away with an awful lot, and even become popular, by choosing quantity over quality.
There’s also the law of diminished expectations. If somebody has 20 feeds and four of them regularly supply content that’s "not bad", then it will be a long time before they reorganize or unsubscribe.
If you can manage a decent post every fortnight, then it’s still possible to build an audience. Not a massive one, but a decent enough group of followers that will provide you with retweets and 'upmods'.
The only breakdown in this is that it isn’t always consistent. People do get bored of reading warbling rubbish eventually, so they’ll try out new feedreaders or new tools and get better content.
Of course, then they’ll assume it’s down to the reader they’re using, and start following mediocre channels again, an endless circle of diminishing returns.
One of the major areas businesses are attempting to market themselves online is through blogger outreach.
Finding popular blogs ad getting them to comment on and link to your site is a great way to gain traffic and influence. Lots of smaller blogs do link exchanges, and the bloggers themselves respond to social interaction.
If posting half-decent articles 10 times a day gets more responses, then 10 half decent articles it is, maybe with the odd gem tucked in to guarantee some return Stumbleupon traffic.
All this is great for the blogger, who’s getting increased comments and on the face of it, increased popularity. Unfortunately it’s not so good for the marketer handling the outreach program, who’s just spent several weeks motivating decidedly average writers to mention them and their brand.
So how can we improve things so that "good enough" isn’t on the blogosphere agenda?
Simple, reorganize those readers.
When news is sorted entirely by time we miss out on the interconnectedness.
Regular twitterers will often find themselves leaping from link to link without delving deeper, eventually resulting in an arena where everybody scans and nobody reads, with less sources and more rubbish being touted.
Most readers now offer listing features, so if you’re researching blogs you want to engage, make sure you drop the time element from your feeds.
Google offers folders that will organize by volume, so take time to search those blogs offering fewer posts.If the blog is written by a single person then it’s highly likely they are taking time to write, mulling over their subjects and exploring them in detail, rather than pumping out masses of glossy claptrap every 10 minutes.
It’s easy to say "be selective", but the real time element of many feeds can create a false picture.
Doing your research will help, but given the constrictions on time it isn’t always possible to fully examine a blog over a few weeks to see if you want to work with it or not, so try breaking the time cycle in your feed settings and you’ll have ready access to a wealth of quality writers who’ll really get your message out there, rather than spreading it thinly across sites where few people will read it, and fewer still will engage.