There are many resolutions I have for Twenty Set for 2009, but the first was to quit all the blog networks I was in. I belonged to two blog networks and was allowing one other site to syndicate my content, and the truth is I’m just not getting value from any of these websites anymore. In fact, I probably never was.
So the first point of this post is to tell you that for 2009, the only place to read my content will be right here on Twenty Set, with a select number of guest posts on other sites.
The second point of the post is to start a conversation about how blog networks actually add value to individual writers. My argument, having belonged to blog networks and then worked at a company whose main product was a blog network, is that they don’t add value to the writers. Many Twenty Set readers belong to the blog networks that I just quit (and maybe other networks), however – so I’m curious if I’m missing something. I’d really appreciate the feedback in the comments section on the following points.
With that said, here are 6 hidden truths/empty promises of blog networks, in my experience.
Myth #1: All Members are Given Equal Treatment
It is really easy to see what you want to see in blog networks. For example, you may think there must be some process to choosing the best content, when there is really preference given to certain members. (Think power-users on Digg.) Or you may think that every member is writing for free when, in fact, plenty of the so-called “members” of the website are getting paid for their content, especially if they are freelance writers or write articles specifically for social media submissions.
Don’t fool yourself. Blog networks are as hush hush about the treatment of their members as HR of Fortune 500 companies are about the salaries of their employees. They don’t want you to know that the person in the next cube over doing the same job as you makes $10,000 more. So trust this: Other people are getting special treatment because of their connections rather than their talent. Other people are getting paid while you write for free. And companies are getting away with it, because their members don’t know any better.
Don’t forget that a blog network is a business, and you’re the little guy with a blog.
Myth #2: You’ve Been Chosen Because You are a Good Writer
Joining a blog network is not an opportunity, it’s a favor to the people behind the blog network who are trying to make money off of you. Blog networks are starving for members, because in the social media world, high membership numbers are the only thing that makes a website relevant.
Sure, some blog networks may have an application process, but that is merely a formality. Two facts: 1) Blog networks accept pretty much anyone who can string two sentences together (for evidence, please see some of the content that makes it onto the blog network), and 2) Blog networks get most of their members by finding them on other social media sites and through the web.
The next time someone tells you about an “exciting opportunity” to join a blog network, just remember that they are seeking you for a reason.
Myth #3: You Will See an Increase of Traffic on Your Blog
I’ve syndicated my work on three different Gen Y/Women sites, and generally see less than .1% of each site’s traffic make its way to my own site on a day I post. That means only 1 out 1,000 people who read their site will click through to mine (and that’s only if they link in the first place, which some blog networks don’t). Furthermore, there is pretty much no long tail effect in the days after I’ve had a post up.
So let’s do the math: Even if the site were to get 20,000 visitors/day on a day I posted (which is, quite frankly, a generous estimate for most blog networks), only 20 of those people (or less) would find their way to my site. This number decreases the longer I’ve been on the blog network.
Meanwhile, the blog network benefits from member’s content in numerous ways. If they are using any social media strategies to drive traffic to their site, you can bet your content is being submitted to stumbleupon, digg, or other content voting sites. This means that not only can you not submit the content from your own site (SU and Digg don’t like duplicate content submissions), but also if your content is popular it drives traffic to the blog network instead of your website. The blog network also benefits from the comments people are writing on your articles and the pageviews your articles generate are added directly to their bottom-line traffic, which is one of the few other stats that makes a blog network relevant in the social media world.
Furthermore, every time you syndicate your blog to a network, it decreases the SEO (and inadvertently, traffic potential) for your own blog. First, your blog’s pagerank may be lower than their website’s pagerank, which puts them ahead of you in search engine results. Second, duplicate content on your blog looks spammy, and if you are giving permission to other sites to duplicate your content your entire blog will look like the copycat, even though it’s the original.
It’s exploitation at its finest, really, and if you are writing good content joining a blog network hurts your personal blog more than it helps.
Myth #4: You Will get “Great Exposure”
Freelancers will be familiar with this phrase, which is probably why they are getting paid to write on blog networks while you aren’t.
Anyway, getting “great exposure” is only true the first few times you syndicate or write posts, maybe. Because by joining a blog network you will become part of a community that has one voice, sort of like being a cog in a ticking watch. Furthermore, people who read community blogs are not looking for specific individuals, but rather specific topics – so the “great exposure” only happens for truly outstanding voices that can write differently enough from the community voice and get the community’s readers to take notice.
It’s hard to be truly outstanding though, which is maybe why you wanted to join a blog network in the first place. But just like there are no shortcuts to running a marathon, there is no easy way to become a prolific blogger, especially on a blog network.
Myth #5: The Blog Network is There to Promote You
I can guarantee that any blog network does not care much about promoting you, the blogger. The goals of the blog network can range from getting investment money from angels/VCs to promoting the founders to bulking up the website’s pageviews for better ad impression rates. Trust me, you are the last person on the company’s priority list.
Think of it this way – if Facebook told you their goal was to promote you, as a member, would you believe them? Hell no! So why would you believe a smaller network who is hosting your data on their site, just like Facebook does? Good question.
But an even better question is why do you use Facebook? Because Facebook has a ton of members, so it can be used as a tool to reach lots of people, and, if you are social media savvy, you can certainly promote yourself through it. Does the smaller blog network have enough members to warrant the same type of membership though? Probably not.
Myth #6: You Will Make Money
Even after all the evidence I have given, it would not surprise me if someone still thought they were ever going to make big money from a blog network. As I already explained, a member is the last priority of any blog network, and blog networks rely on the fact that the creators are somebodies and the actual writers are enough of nobodies to work for free or little money. It sounds harsh, but in most cases it’s true – for proof, look at the Problogger job boards where many bloggers get paid a whopping $2-$3 a post!
Bottom line: no one sets up a blog network that they aren’t profiting from more than you would. In fact, the term “blog network” is practically code for “I want a website with lots of content that I don’t have to generate myself.” And actually paying for good content, the way a newspaper would, is expensive. Expect in an economy like this to see the little money content generators made to drop even further.
So if the goal(s) of your blog are to make money, become an A-list blogger, or promote your physical blog address, don’t join a blog network.
If your goal is to establish yourself as an “expert” or get attention from a certain niche or community, offer to write a guest post for the blog network instead. If your work is superb, you will gain a credential and attract a portion of the regular readers from that blog network. If you are really good they will happily read and subscribe to your actual blog, and you will develop a community around your own blog rather than get lost in someone else’s community.
If your goal is to be exploited, fall in line with a million other mediocre people, have your content essentially stolen, or work for pennies per hour, maybe join a blog network. Or maybe I’m just seeing this negatively. But to me, with the availability of Twitter and Facebook and Linked In, most people would do great just marketing their blogs themselves, provided they write good content. And if I’m going to pour my heart into something that people end up enjoying, I don’t want to get aggregated into another company’s bottom line without any compensation.
What do you think? Am I missing some reason why people would continue to be on blog networks? If not, maybe consider dropping your memberships to blog networks as well. Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.