I started blogging in 2006. It has taken me over 7 years to build an audience of 60K. When I started, I believed that the best content always won. Now I know that the best content with the best distribution wins.
In 2006-7 the prevalent method to distribute my posts was RSS feeds. I focused a lot of effort to get RSS subscribers. Then FeedBurner got acquired by Google and I noticed that my subscriber base was dropping slowly from 2000+ to under 1000.
I realized that SEO was another mechanism to get new readers to read my posts, but I was not going to do anything unnatural to optimize my content to be “search” friendly.
I focused my efforts on Facebook to distribute my content between 2007-2009. I grew my readership from over about friends and readers to over 4000 in 2 years.
I realized late in 2009 that the Facebook feed algorithm was being changed constantly. This meant fewer friend had a chance to see my posts on their news feed. From an average of 25% of my friends who would read my posts via FB, it started dropping to < 10%.
From 2009 to 2011 I got focused on getting more users on twitter to follow and read my blog posts. I have over 10K followers and about 10-20% of the users come to read when I post.
Some of my friends were in the US, others in India. To optimize time and delivery I created 2 accounts. On one, I’d post at the local US time and at local India time for the other. This was to ensure a better chance of delivery on their twitter feed.
In 2012 I noticed many of my friends and readers from twitter coming to my blog also started to drop. Turned out that most folks were following multiple people and unless you timed it right for that person, it was near impossible for them to see it on twitter.
From 2012 to 2013 I put a lot of efforts into building my email subscriber list. Which has helped me go to about 60K+ readers. Then Google tabs happened and my email open rates dropped from 25% to ~18%. Many of my friends asked me when I stopped blogging. Turns out my blog posts were going into their social or promotions tab in their Gmail. There were not seeing my blog posts at all thanks to the new Gmail tabs.
It was frustrating to see the effort I put into building a channel go waste in 2 years. The more frustrating part was that in all these cases I was not in control.
During the last 7 years I have been constantly posting my thoughts and have not significantly increased or decreased the # of posts per year. I still average 120+ posts a year or about 2-3 a week.
The other part I wanted to clarify was if the quality of my posts dropped, which may have been the reason my readership rose (expectation) and fell (reality).
I think there might be some truth to that, but engagement with my posts has constantly risen throughout this period. I measure engagement by time spent on my blog, average number of posts per visit, the number of comments and the # of Retweets / Likes on Facebook.
By all measures except Retweets my engagement has steadily risen over the last 5 years.
Over the last 6 months I noticed that more users were reading my posts on their mobile phone than PC or tablet. I also wanted to create a deeper sense of engagement with my friends and readers, and since I like to build a deeper connection I thought the best way to do this was to build a mobile application.
It is available on Apple app store and the Google play store. The Windows phone version will be out soon.
The apps are going to be my primary means of engaging with my friends and folks in the startup community. I am giving up on email and slowly paring down from facebook. It’s lack of immediacy in a real time world bothers me a lot.
There are 3 primary features I wanted in the app:
1. Ability to post items and get feedback / learn from my friends.
2. Find ways to meet friends and readers when I am “close” to their location.
3. Create a close network of friends who can help each other.
The beta version is out now and I’d love for you to give it a spin and connect with me there.