Blogging

Is Truthiness Holding Back Your Blog?

When it comes to blogging, there are endless decisions to be made. How you approach these decisions can be the difference between the success and failure of your blog (of course these words “success” and “failure” will have different definitions to different people).

One thing I have come to realize is that many bloggers simply rely on truthiness when making decisions. For those readers unfamiliar with Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report, “truthiness” is a satirical term defined as “the quality by which one purports to know something emotionally or instinctively, without regard to evidence or intellectual examination.”

Of course some people have a natural instinct for blogging and it therefore makes perfect sense to follow their gut – Leo Babauta and Seth Godin instantly come to mind as examples. But if your blog is drifting in the doldrums, or even if it has achieved a moderate level of success, what would happen if you relied less on truthiness, and more on the truth?

To help you better understand what I mean, the following are some ways that you can stop relying on start relying on solid evidence and facts with your blogging:

Adsense. If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, you will be well aware that small things can make a big difference. This is especially true when it comes to having Google Adsense on your blog. Small, seemingly insignificant changes – eg placing an ad block on the left rather than the right, choosing a particular color, choosing a particular size, etc – can mean the difference between you making a few cents a day and making some serious dollars. So don’t just rely on your gut when making these decisions. Test, tweak and finely tune your Adsense settings and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Content. In this recent article on ProBlogger, Wendy Piersall from Sparkplugging wrote that one of her tipping points was: “the day I changed my editorial decisions from what I wanted to say and based them instead on what readers wanted to read as determined by analytics and reader feedback.” Such an approach will not be for everyone, but if you have dreams of your blog becoming wildly popular it may be in your interest to pay better attention to what your readers want via the methods Wendy suggests: analytics and feedback.

Keywords. Are you picking keywords for your articles simply because they just feel right? You may be surprised at the search popularity of some words vs. others. Here are a few tools that may help you better incorporate keywords into your articles:

Feedback. Good constructive feedback can be hard to come by. One suggestion I have relates to subscribers. With Feedburner it is possible to receive an email whenever people unsubscribe. It is then, of course, possible to email them and ask them that all important question: why? Who knows? You may pick up some insight into your blog that you would have otherwise remained clueless to….

Do you have any success stories where you tossed aside truthiness, and instead focused on testing, evidence and feedback to improve your blog? Please share them in the comments below.

Book Giveaway Winners

Thank you to everyone who replied our question last Friday: “how you do motivate yourself?” As a few of you pointed out, the prospect of winning a good book is obviously a very good motivator.

We received some fantastic answers, so if you are looking for some motivation related tips and advice be sure to read the responses to the post, How Do You Motivate Yourself?

The following readers will receive a copy of Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience: Dave from Entreprenurses Community Interest Company, Traveler from Traveler’s Tales, Frank Sconzo, Josh, Benjamin M. Strozykowski from Stroz.net, MLP, Kent from The Financial Philosopher, Salar Madadi from A Man Reborn, Ann from One Bag Nation and Julian.

If your name appears here, I will be in contact over the weekend to get your mailing address. If it doesn’t, stay tuned as we have another book giveaway coming up in the near future.

Peter writes about how to change your life at The Change Blog. He is also the author of Starting a Blog and Audio Book Downloads.

  • Steve

    Truthiness has certainly hurt this blog. See the post about Mental Super powers :

    http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/mental-superpowers-how-to-unleash-the-full-potential-of-your-mind/

    • http://www.pickthebrain.com Peter

      Steve,

      As I indicated in my article, I think it is important to pay attention to reader feedback when blogging. The article you linked to received a very mixed response, and believe me I paid attention to the negative comments.

      That said, I think it is important to recognize with blogging (as with many things in life) that there will always be detractors and people with different opinions. In my opinion, your comment is nothing more than a cheap shot. Have a nice weekend :)

  • http://www.mysuperchargedlife.com Jeff@My Super-Charged Life

    Peter – Interesting post. I’ll admit that this is an area where I could improve. I’m going to use some of the techniques you suggest here to see what happens. Thanks for the information!

  • trish

    I work for a research institute that is part of a major university. We are working on a major site redesign and I must say, truthiness is our biggest enemy. You can dredge up all the analytics know to man and people will still say, “but we’ve always done it this way.” The fact that our users are frustrated with the old way (as documented in a survey), means frighteningly little.

  • http://www.varsityblah.com/about Eugene (Editor, Varsity Blah)

    “I am a very fortunate man. Whenever I make a mistake, other people are sure to notice it.” – Confucius

  • http://www.faceyourfork.com Matt @ Face Your Fork

    My motto has always been “if you measure it, you can improve it”, so… I try to rely on as little truthiness as possible. :P I tend to shy away from what everybody else is doing and instead beat out my own path, especially when it comes to actual blog content.

    “…but if you have dreams of your blog becoming wildly popular it may be in your interest to pay better attention to what your readers want…”

    ^ I agree, but I think it’s also important to stay true to yourself. A lot of times blogs write airy, ‘feel good’ pieces because that’s what people want to hear; I would rather write what’s in my heart than what everybody ‘wants’ to hear, if what they want to hear is mindless fluff they can find anywhere else.

    • http://www.pickthebrain.com Peter

      Matt,

      I’m the same actually – the more I blog, the more stubborn I’m becoming in writing what I want to write.

      Perhaps I should note here that the editorial approach Wendy Piersall takes is not the one I take. But I can certainly understand it, and I thought it would be interesting to throw the idea “out there” for people to consider.

  • http://onebagnation.wordpress.com Ann at One Bag Nation

    I have been struggling with this very issue.

    My blog is about my quest for “order, serenity, and peace of mind”, and my concept is almost “anti-expert” because the organizing experts have not been very helpful to me.

    While I have learned a few things along the way that work for me, I hardly have all the answers, and so my content is anecdotal – is that truthiness?

    I’m on the journey myself, and if anyone finds hope or inspiration in my blog, I’ll be thrilled.

  • http://persistentillusion.wordpress.com Hayden at PersistentIllusion

    I also think it depends on WHY you are writing.

    Are you writing so you can sell other products you make? Are you authentically trying to get the word out on something you are passionate about? Are you trying to help others make their lives better? Are you recreationally writing?

    I was blown away when I read an article (man I wish I remembered who wrote it) where the blogger stated that the way to make money off adsense was to NOT write articles that were too interesting. You wanted them to be interesting enough to get people to your site, but not so interesting that they stayed instead of clicking an ad.

    I think if you go the ‘truthiness’ route, who you are as a person really shines through. (Like with Gretchen’s Happiness Blog)

    • http://www.pickthebrain.com Peter

      Hayden,

      You raise some great points. As a bit of background to this article, I have (and still do) take a “truthiness” approach to most of my blogging. I have a very left-brain job, so for me blogging is largely a creative outlet that taps the right hemisphere of my brain.

      In recent months, however, I have come to realize that there are ways in which evidence, facts and feedback can be easily incorporated into my blogging and add to the success of the blogs I am involved in.

  • http://blog.successdynamic.com SK

    I believe in any business,offline or online, blog included, value creation is the key. Testing help in increasing the return but if there is no value in what you offer, it will slowly die off. Just spoken to a friend, his teenage son wrote a blog out of sharing his passion and now is getting attention, http://www.novelr.com

  • http://www.abczen.com Glen Allsopp

    I was un-aware of the “truthiness” concept but it does make perfect sense.

    Sometimes you have to accept that you might be wrong on something and then appreciate a better solution :)

  • http://www.audiobookss.com Free audiobook

    Very interesting post big thanks

  • http://shanelyang.com/ Shanel Yang

    Wow! I feel like I’ve been living under a rock since 2005! How did I miss all the firestorm about truthiness? I just read the very long article about it on Wikipedia. (Hilarious original routine by Colbert, by the way!) To answer your question about tossing away truthiness for testing, evidence, and feedback to improve my blog, I do have a success story in progress — sort of.

    When I began blogging last year, my posts were as dedicated to the facts as possible, faithfully reporting them, citing references and authorities whenever possible, and so on. I also featured fact-intense articles about American law and English language and American culture lessons. But, the readers seemed to prefer — by a large margin — my more truthy articles to my more truthful ones! So, I changed my focus. I stopped writing new posts about law or English, cut way back on citing sources, and got right to the meat of my opinions or conclusions, instead. This has made a big difference for my blog, traffic-wise. Now it doesn’t fluctuate as much as seems to be steadily growing.

    Ironic, isn’t it? My blog has become more successful as a result of using the truth of traffic indicators to move my focus away from truth in my articles to truthiness. The readers prefer it. Now I strive for the intersection between the topics (and style of writing) I love and the desire of the majority of blog readers out there. If self-help is easier to digest without all the facts, then so be it. I’d rather help with less facts than be of no help with an entire reference library. But, that leaves a big chunk of why I started blogging in the first place out of the equation — at least for now. Guess I’ll just have to wait till more teens, minorities, and immigrants turn to the web for lessons in English and law.

    Thanks for introducing me to “truthiness!”

  • http://travelerstales.wordpress.com Traveler

    So much to take in, so many different ideas about blogging. I guess it should be making me feel over whelmed but in fact it’s doing the exact opposite, I just want to stay home all the time and research, research, research.

    Thank you for all the information!

  • http://limorefe.com/ Trevor at Limorefe

    One easy trap to fall into is relying too much on past facts. Things change and things that were quite correct once often become less so today. This leads to the problem trish notes: “but we’ve always done it this way”. If we’re not careful we can end up saying that to ourselves – what was once truth has become truthiness.

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