Blogging Tips: Knowing When to Close a Blog
Confession: I'm a blogger and I've just closed two blogs. What? Why would I do that, especially since the one has been going for a number of years and has decent traffic?
Here's another confession: It was a difficult decision. But weighing the costs and future potential of these two sites helped make this action a no-brainer.
It's easy to become so engrossed in creating and running a blog that signs indicating a poor outlook for its future are ignored. In the discussion below are questions to help gain an objective perspective on one's blogging activities.
How I Made My Blog Closing Decision
In my case, I had two blogs on different niche marketing topics. The second was actually a spinoff from the more established blog.
Actually, I closed the spinoff blog first. New regulations applying to this marketing niche would have required a complete overhaul of the blog's existing material. Ugh! Even doing a few cursory changes took a full day or two of time. As well, the new landscape for this niche was bound to continue to change as the new regulations became standard practice, meaning more and more updating. That, coupled with the fact that the blog had failed to attract a decent amount of opt-in email subscribers (translation: potential customers) in about two years, even with a variety of incentives, the decision was quick in coming.
But what to do about the larger blog that had been going for about four years? The topic was still relevant and had a decent amount of fans for this niche. But like the spinoff blog, it didn't create a reliable sales funnel of customers. A significant percentage of traffic to one of my shopsites was generated by the blog. Unfortunately, that was not the site where online sales were coming from! Visitors to the established blog were usually reading the articles and bouncing out... but not bouncing to buy. The majority of traffic to the shopsites was from organic search results.
There were several reasons which could have accounted for this blog visitor behavior. It appeared that visitors were seeking the educational material I offered, but then buying elsewhere (online or off). Many of my friendly competitors were also visiting fans. I don't have a problem with that since I feel we need to share our knowledge. But the bottom line is that they are not going to buy from me.
Because I realized that my blog was an educational site, I tried to monetize it with Google AdSense, sales of self-published books and other services. Book sales were okay, though not paying the mortgage. But AdSense was generating next to nothing, sometimes literally nothing. Got a few leads for services, but most wanted me to guest blog for free.
Looking at receiving almost no income or leads over an extended period of time, coupled with the costs to maintain the site, I decided to close this blogging chapter, too.
Weighing Blogging Costs and Benefits
Because a blog can be a very personal and emotional effort, bloggers can often become blind to the host of hard and soft costs that blogging can entail. What determines whether these costs are deal breakers is largely based on what are the objectives for pursuing this effort. Assessing the future market for the blog's topic and potential for generating sales is also critical. The following questions can help bring the issues into focus:
- How much is it costing, in hard dollars, to maintain the blog? A couple dollars a month for services such as email subscriber collection, spam protection, backup services, image licensing, domain registration, hosting and helpful software plugins may not seem like a lot. But adding it up over the course of a year can run into the hundreds of dollars. Do a profit and loss analysis! Granted, many bloggers use free platforms such as WordPress.com and Blogger which do not have some of these hard costs. But the next question will show how it can be costing a lot!
- How much is it costing in time to maintain the blog? This can be a difficult question to answer, especially for hobby bloggers who may not be blogging for bucks. But for those who are doing it as a business or to gain business, this can be a significant dollar outlay, especially if staff members are assigned to the task. Micro business and small business owners who blog could be forfeiting income that could be gained from simply upping their sales efforts instead of blogging. Figuring an hourly rate of income will be very revealing in determining the labor cost associated with a blog. And that cost could be very high!
- Are those writing the blog suffering from burnout? Whether those writing a blog are staff members or the business owners, blogging can be a job in itself! Trying to squeeze in writing a blog post or two while serving customers, operating the business and pursuing sales can be exhausting. This multitasking can make the blogger less effective in their primary tasks. An alternative would be to hire outside writing help. But that will be trading a time cost for a dollars cost.
- Is the blog generating income? For hobby bloggers who are simply publishing to connect with like-minded individuals, income may be an afterthought. But for those who blog for business reasons—either as a separate profit center or to generate sales leads—income or leads generated is a critical factor in a continue/close decision process. Even if it is generating income, is it enough to cover the myriad of expenses?
- Is the blog an effective sales funnel? Similar to the income question, is the blog funneling traffic and potential buyers to the business, either online or offline? If not, the blog can become a financial drain.
- Is the blog's topic lifespan limited? Blogs that center around a specific news topic, event or technology can have a limited lifespan. For example, writing a blog completely dedicated to a specific smartphone style or model will only be relevant as long as that model exists. It may have some historical value after the model is retired, but it will be unlikely to generate much news and blog post inspiration in the years ahead, giving it limited ROI (return on investment).
- Is the blog topic trending steady or going upward? Similar to a blog's topic lifespan just discussed, the topic's trending should be considered. Even if the topic has a long potential lifespan or is an "evergreen" topic, it may drop off in terms of interest over time as public interest or attitudes change. If topic interest is slipping, pumping significant investment into it may be counterproductive.
- Is the blog's topic scalable? Super niche topics might be able to be covered in a few blog posts. So is it worth launching and maintaining an entire blog to publish this information? Probably not. Might be better to publish as a subtopic of a larger, more general blog or even as guest posts on a related blog.
The Case For and Against Dead Blogs
"Why not just leave the blog sit there? The information is still relevant and I might show up in a search."
Valid point! Indeed, the information presented on an inactive blog may be relevant for years. So there is a case to keep a blog open for that very reason, especially if some posts have had a lot of traffic and have been effective in the past. But the following need to be considered:
- Cost. If not using one of the free blog platforms, there will be costs to maintain the domains, hosting, etc., even if no one continues to post. Is it worth a few hundred dollars a year to keep that blog active? Are the sales leads or advertising revenue from an inactive blog enough to cover the costs of continuing to host it?
- Image. An old, never updated website or blog can send a negative "we don't care" message to visitors... and potential customers.
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© 2014 Heidi Thorne