Oh what a tangled web we weave, even though we had no intention to deceive, with apologies to Robbie Burns, and all because, of a recent Guardian Masterclass course about increasing the readership of your blog. In line with my learning new skills as a retirement goal, I attend one course a year of the Masterclass series. This last one, a couple of weekends ago, was the latest. It was a comparatively short course, just three hours and three different speakers all of whom had, by various means, massively increased the readership of their blogs.

blog notes from Guardian course

blog notes from Guardian course

There was a lot of information / advice on offer as you might expect. Some reinforced what I was already doing, some seemed not relevant to my particular blog, particularly the advice about making money out of your blog, increasing your customers and so on. Some of the advice seemed like it would be really useful and do what it says on the tin – increase my readership. I dutifully wrote down in my notebook / diary all the bits that might be relevant when I got home, as you can see, or not, in the image above. I don’t trust my memory any more and I’ve always been a bit of a compulsive writer downer if I think I might come back to what I’ve written.

Out of all the notes and scribble I made, I thought there were 4 possible actions I could take:

  1. Use Mailchimp to send my blog via email to all the subscribers who have apparently signed up to my blog. More of this later!
  2. Sign up to something called Ted. I really have no idea what this means but my IT guy seems to and he’s working to set this up, whatever it may be. I’ll keep you informed about this.
  3. Join a Facebook retirement group, or, as it turned out when I couldn’t find an appropriate one, which may simply mean I’m looking in the wrong place, start one. I find it hard to believe that such groups don’t already exist but maybe they don’t in the form I’m looking for.
  4. Focus on my SEO terms in the title, intro and in the first and second columns of the admin section.

So looking at these options objectively, the second one I don’t understand but maybe something good can come from this option. As I say, my IT guy is working on it. The third one, I don’t really want to get into Facebook although I take the point made by one of the speakers that to be a successful blogger you have to spend as much time promoting it on social media as you do writing the blog itself, which is something I have no intention of doing anyway. I don’t think Twitter is any good for a retirement blog and I have never really been enthusiastic about Facebook, so not a great option for me. The fourth one, the SEO business I try and do without peppering any blog I write with the words retirement, retirement, retirement. To put it simply, but maybe naievely, the writing is more important to me than the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), ie. trying to get on the first page of Google, not really a realistic goal for me.

So back to option one, seemed like a no brainer, this was the one to go for. How very wrong, in fact it’s been a complete pain in the arse. Let me explain my wholly negative comment. When I asked my IT guy to use Mailchimp to send out automatic blogs to my subscribers – 550+ and counting – this is what I got back from Mailchimp.

This note is from the MailChimp Compliance team. Your campaign “Posts from The Summer House Years for 08/29/2015 from your account generated a high abuse rate of 1.67% which is above industry thresholds. Abuse complaints occur when a recipient clicks “report spam” in their email program. Exceeding abuse complaint thresholds can negatively impact your deliverability and sending reputation. Internet service providers, anti-spam agencies and mailbox operators monitor incoming campaigns and set thresholds for the number of abuse complaints, bounces, and unsubscribes they will allow. When those thresholds are exceeded both the responsible delivery service (MailChimp) and the domains associated with the content are at risk of being blacklisted. 

So I’m accused of abuse, strong word when you bear in mind that all these subscribers appeared on my blog without any actions from me, they just showed up. I didn’t ask for them and now I’m accused of abusing them. And there was more in this vein from Mailchimp.

it looks like the previous campaign sent exceeded industry thresholds for bounce rates. As a bulk delivery service, we are required to enforce the industry thresholds that ISPs, ant-spam groups, and corporate email protection services set regarding spam complaints, bounces, and unsubscribe requests. When rates exceed industry thresholds, as your recent campaign did, Internet Service Providers can blacklist and/or block service to your domain.
Noting the account generated an above threshold rate, our automated abuse prevention system, Omnivore, has disabled list imports. We are unable to reverse this process and if you would wish to add new subscribers to the list they would need to go through a MailChimp sign up form.

Bloody hell, I don’t need this. So my number one choice of actions to improve my blog readership appears to be having the opposite effect. My IT guy seemed unfazed by all this, he said he thought it just part of the process. Data Protection he said. I wish the same rules applied to all the spam mail I get about improving my SEO rankings. To me it seemed a whole lot of unnecessary aggravation. He persuaded me not to email Mailgorilla right back and tell them I no longer wanted to use their service, so maybe it will turn out for the best in the end but right now, with more people unsubscribing than signing up to subscribe, it looks like I’m reducing my readership rather than increasing it. Maybe all that is happening is that the process is confirming what I already suspected that many of my subscribers were, in some way, bogus in the first place. I mean you look at this and Google Analytics and Jetpack as measure of your ‘success’ and you really have no idea at all whether any data is genuine.

This is what happens when you allow your efforts to be evaluated by mechanisms out of your control (that word again) and of which you have no real understanding. It’s all very well setting up retirement projects but a chap needs to be careful that he or she doesn’t measure the success or failure of said projects by the erroneous judgements of others. Retirement, it’s an SEO world. That’s what retirement is.

By the way my subscriber list at last count has gone from 550+ to 11, now that’s what I call a result.



Comments are closed.

  1. Penny 3 years ago

    Hi, I’m really interested in your views as I’ve been to a couple of Guardian Masterclasses that have been excellent (one on Twitter with David Schneider that was great as was the one with several Guardian journos on writing a column) but I’ve also been to a couple that have been really indifferent. And the last indifferent one was on, I think, Moneterising (?sp) Your Blog. I see there’s one in October on ‘How to Turn Your Blog into a Brand’ which has loads about social media and SEOs. And I certainly don’t want to go up to London for a load of stuff that either goes over my head or is irrelevant. Were you referring to that Masterclass, as I’m pretty sure it was on in the summer?

  2. Author
    summerhouse 3 years ago

    Hi Penny, as I say I’ve been to four now and they’ve all been good altho as with any product it’s never quite as good as the pre-publicity makes it sound but good anyway. This was not the ‘how to turn your blog into a brand’ although there were aspects of how to make money from your blog, as this is almost always about social media an activity I personally have very little interest in, these parts were less convincing for me. I wasn’t attracted to the blog into brand one coming up because it sounded like more of the same about social media. Hope this helps let me know

    • Penny 3 years ago

      Hi again. Hmm, methinks I won’t go to the ‘Brand’ Masterclass as I’ve attended one with loads on SEOs and stuff which mainly I couldn’t activate as I was on wordpress.com. Early this morning we went over to a self-hosted platform – oof. I’ll see where that get’s me, but, yes, like you, I just want to write well and if I get followers that’s great.

  3. Penny 3 years ago

    Thanks, yes, hmm, don’t think I’ll go the blog into brand Masterclass as really it looks very similar to the Moneterising Masterclass. What got me about that one was the majority of suggested actions could not be done as I was on wordpress.com which they didn’t explain at all. Today just activated my new self-hosted blog and we’ll see where that gets me! Like you, really, all I want to do is write well and if I get followers that’s great.

    • Author
      summerhouse 3 years ago

      Well good luck, for a simple ambition I have found it surprisingly difficult hence the masterclass but good luck.

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