Optimizing blogging with S-curves

Blogging has no threshold to get started. There is no need for a degree to apply, nor is advancement determined by “unionized” seniority. This means that there is little initial investment needed to get started in terms of time and money. In fact, it is possible to start a new blog right here right now in about 10 minutes. It also means that growth is solely determined by your own efforts and skills rather than management decisions, pedigree, or a preset corporate career track.

Thomas recently asked me about how S-curves apply to pro-blogging. Making money with a blog usually involve selling advertising space a`la AdSense or becoming an affiliate (amazon.com is popular) and get a cut when somebody clicks through to a product. I have not done much deep research on optimal monetizing yet. Suffice to say readership is important to monetize a website, so in the following I will talk about how S-curves apply to attracting readers.

Content is ultimately what drives a site. Just like a company a blogger provides a product. This product can take many shapes. It can be novel, useful, regular, personal, concentrated, etc. but it must appear on a regular basis as it forms the backbone of a blog. Without steadily provided content, it would no longer be a dynamically evolving blog but rather a static archive of writings.

However, good content means little if nobody reads it. Presumably blogs are intended for someone to read them. Otherwise one might as well put one’s thoughts in a diary or a doc file on the computer.

I think of a blog or any business as aggregate of many S-curves (read my recent article on S-curves and goal setting). In the beginning you may only have one S-curve but always keep the aggregate in mind.

You growth in the beginning will be exponential as determined by the S-curve. However, it will depend on the growth rate just like a savings account grows at different rates depending on your interest rate. The main drive should be increase your growth rate or interest rate.

One way is to use SEO and write posts filled with keywords that search engines will latch on to. As more posts are indexed, search engine traffic will increase. The reason is that each post increases the chance of a visit. Ceteris paribus SEO writing will increase traffic as fast as the posting rate which is likely linear. If this traffic sticks, the growth will be exponential.

Social networking also works like an S-curve. Leaving a comment on another blog is like a seed that somebody might click on and thus find your blog. It goes without saying that spamming or “me too” comments do not work. Comments should be thoughtful and relevant. If people like your comment, they might click through. If not, they won’t. This kind of exposure grows exponentially for the same reasons. The more you interact and comment on other blogs, the greater the rate of incoming traffic. As long as you keep commenting, this kind of growth is exponential.

Once people arrive at your site it is obviously important that they like what they see. Therefore you should first and foremost focus on good content. I think this goes for everyday life as well. Good content also means that other bloggers might pick up on your posts and promote them. This will make the growth super exponential. The same effect arises if your post gets stumbled (*). For the geeks this means exp(a*exp(b*t)).

The linear part, that is, the middle of the S-curve, kicks in once a traffic source is saturated. This is the case when the rate no longer increases but stays constant. This is the case if you are no longer visiting new blogs and sticking with the same old. If you have a short attention span like I do, that should be no problem though.

(*) I think stumbling your own posts is unethical. It is not really for me to decide what other people like, and if everybody stumbled their own posts, there would be too much noise in the system (like spam), so I don’t do it.

There are only so many blog readers in the world. Furthermore many readers might not be interested in reading more than a few blogs daily. Therefore the rate will start decreasing when many potential readers have already subscribed. This could turn into a fight for “market share”. At this point it would probably be more exciting to start on a new project rather than trying to keep pushing the envelope on a stagnating project. Of course at this point one might feel a certain responsibility for all the readers. This is something that many pro-bloggers apparently struggle with.

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Originally posted 2008-01-29 06:40:49.