[First of 2 parts]
When you start a new author blog, you’re hopeful and expectant. Who knows how many people you’ll reach, how much fun it will be, whether you’ll start a trend or a revolution, become rich and famous, or be offered a 6-figure book deal? Hey, all those things are possible, they make the news all the time.
The sad truth is that many blogs suffer an ignominious end. They:
- dwindle toward some infinity of eternally diminishing readership and interest, or
- get dropped abruptly off the cliff, with regular posts ending in nothing, or they
- intermittently go on for years, with irregular and disjointed posts—many of them personal reflections—occasionally punctuating the silence.
However, blogs remain a robust and growing part of online life because every year, ever month, even today, somewhere a blogger is succeeding. Building community, entertaining or educating readers, staging events, publishing books and guides, networking with other bloggers in their field–all the things that successful bloggers do.
Although there’s a lot of training available to learn blogging online—some of it is quite good—-there’s not much information that addresses the traps and obstacles that can spring up after you’ve “made it,” on whatever level you define “making it.”
Nearing the end of my fifth year as a blogger, I can honestly say I’ve run into every one of these problems, and if any of them sound familiar to you, I’ve got some tips that may help you out of one of these traps.
1. Wrestling With SPAM
Back in the beginning, spam comments (commercial, unsolicited comments) was no big deal, and sometimes quite amusing. But as the traffic on your site grows, spam can become your own kudzu vines, choking your time, eroding visitor trust, and adding an odious chore to your day.
Of course, most of this is being handled by the terrific Akismet plugin for WordPress but it can’t do everything. (As of today, Akisment tells me it has stopped 1,068,370 spam comments so far.)
There are a lot of solutions in use by many bloggers, and commenting systems that require you to login to a social media site are very popular these days, for exactly the reason that they cut down on comment spam.
Tip: Despite moving my blog to a cloud firewall (see #2 below) and keeping Akismet up to date we still had a prodigious spam comment problem on the blog. It was only after implementing a simple and minimally frustrating [Captcha] to the comment submission field that spam comments ceased to be much of a problem. Policing this only takes a couple of minutes a day now. But it wasn’t one thing that solved it, it was a combination of tools and services that finally made it manageable.
The other problem with increasing the traffic to your site is that it becomes more popular with hackers, too. They know how to see the weaknesses in your setup, whether from old software, forgotten plug-ins you never bothered to delete, or inadequate security in the theme you picked years ago.
How is someone who is basically not that technical supposed to deal with getting hacked? It’s a frighteningly bad feeling, a violation similar to a robbery at your home. And if you make your living from your website, you’ll take a financial hit that may in the end be too big to survive.
We’ve been hit with hacks here that redirected traffic, reformatted the blog to display ads to odd websites, all kinds of mischief. There’s no worse feeling for a blogger than getting up in the morning and booting up your browser to find your blog looking like a Frankenstein impression of its normal self. Ugh.
I’ve always had a blog technician I could turn to, but this kind of clean up is a big project for most generalists, and eventually I ended up with a subscription to the security service run by Sucuri.net. They moved the blog to a cloud proxy firewall, monitor my sites continuously, and remove malware (bad and malicious code) quickly and efficiently.
Tip: Sucuri security monitoring is becoming something of a standard with web hosts too, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you value the security of your site, the trust of your readers, and the ability to sleep at night, at least consider it or something similar. (And make backups of your content automatic. You’re probably doing that already, right?)
It’s a law of human behvavior: The more people who like, trust, and respect you, the more people there will be who can’t stand you, think you’re a pompous ass, and who think you’re out to take advantage of everyone you meet. One group doesn’t increase without the other group getting larger as well.
Encountering a troll (“A person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a … blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.”– Wikipedia) for the first time can be disturbing.
Like most people, you probably never had a direct personal interaction with someone who was willing to go beyond the usual social norms and scream epithets, curses, take-downs, and other invective right in your face.
But that’s what happens in the blogosphere.
Now I’m a pretty curious person, and when this first happened to me, I did some deep diving into the background of a couple of the individuals who behaved this way. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty, and it reminded me that online, a friendly face (whose?) and name doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re not talking to a convicted felon or violent criminal.
Of course the everyday trolls are simply a pain in the neck, bad for the community around your blog, and desperately seeking attention at any price.
Be on the lookout for trolls who:
- Disrespect or attack other commenters
- Attack the credentials or opinions of guest authors
- Attempt to “hijack” the entire comment thread to turn it to their own agenda
- Constantly make off-topic comments just to promote their own opinions
- Resort to name-calling, swearing, or other attention-seeking behaviors
- Try to use your blog as advertising space for their own products or services
Tip: When I ran my own publishing company, I quickly learned that you couldn’t spend much time on rejected manuscripts, because it takes time away from the books we would be publishing. A sad truth.
Same with trolls. Almost every time, I’ve found it better to either ignore them completely, or simply delete their comments. Remember, your blog is yours—it belongs to you. Would you let people strew trash on your front lawn? Of course not. So don’t feel bad, just hit the “delete” button and move on with your day.
Whatever you do, don’t try to argue or reason with people who are just trying to make trouble, it’s not worth it and it won’t end well. Keep your cool, make use of the delete key. The trolls will soon move on to find more responsive victims elsewhere.
[Watch for Part 2 next Monday, I’ll be talking about technology, endless pitches from entrepreneurs, burn-out, and even life itself. Don’t miss it.]