Today, I’m guest posting at BlogSalad, writer/designer Ron S. Doyle’s online home. Doyle redesigned WordCount last fall, and that’s the subject of my guest post – What Not to Wear, Blog Edition. While I’m over there, Doyle’s filling in for me here.
When Michelle asked to swap posts with me today, I immediately panicked. With every post, WordCount hits its readers with something useful, pragmatic, informative, or controversial. Me? I like pictures of apes:
So, instead of me rambling at all of you about the essentials of interaction design or creating a literary arc with your social media marketing strategy, and instead of making a mess of Michelle’s blog and redesigning it while you watch, I decided WordCount readers deserved something more. Something that, when they read it, would make them really, really happy.
And when I think happy, I think Gretchen Rubin.
Okay, really, I think about my wife and daughters and monkeys throwing Frisbees and low-sugar cereals.
But when I think about writers who are experts on the topic of happiness, Rubin definitely tops the list. She’s the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, a book that chronicles her year-long journey through hundreds of happiness experiments based on centuries of philosophy and science on the subject.
Whoa. Back up. I’m being a little dishonest here and got sidetracked for the sake of good connecting sentences between paragraphs.
Here’s the real reason why I interviewed Gretchen Rubin: she’s a naughty, naughty blogger.
No, not that kind of naughty. Stop Googling “Gretchen Rubin naked.” Come back here and pay attention.
Rubin is “naughty” because she’s a world-class blogger on the very successful Happiness-Project.com and countless other major sites — and doesn’t worry [gasp!] about search engine optimization.
During an online forum discussion about SEO and duplicate content, a fellow writer once noted that Rubin posts identical content on her personal blog and her Psychology Today blog. According to SEO mavens (despite the fact that Google openly denies this) duplicating content on multiple sites is a big no-no because search engines penalize sites that do.
In my interview with her on Monday, Rubin told me she cross-posts content on Psychology Today, her top-rated Huffington Post blog, Yahoo! Shine, and Divine Caroline, among several others. Her penalty? According to Compete.com, Rubin’s personal blog receives an average of over 65,000 unique visitors per month. Say it with me: 65,000 uniques.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s on a blog that has a hyphen in the domain name — because even way back in 2006, http://happinessproject.com and http://thehappinessproject.com were already taken. In some circles of SEO “mavenry,” saying you have a hyphen in your domain name is like saying you have herpes on your, ahem, you know what.
Here’s a little from my interview with Gretchen:
Ron Doyle: So you were doing this big happiness project, mostly just for you, but then you started a blog. When and why did you start blogging?
Gretchen Rubin: In March 2006, I was working on the part of my happiness project dedicated to the theme of work and I wanted to test the theory that happiness comes from doing novel and challenging things, so I started a blog. But they wouldn’t sell me the domain name, so yeah, I have a hyphen. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I asked a friend for help. They told me to use Typepad, so I did. They said post every day. That was more than I had planned, but I did it anyway. I didn’t have images on the blog for months. But that’s what great about blogging — you can start simple, add bells and whistles later, and step up your game as you gain confidence. Some people, who knew more about SEO than me, asked, ‘Are you worried about this?’ I decided early on that I’m not going to worry about it. There were so many things that I could have worried about. Instead, I focused on one of my mantras, ‘Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.’ If I had an opportunity to put myself on a quality site, I did it.”
Doyle: So there was never a point in your evolution as a blogger where you were worried about SEO?
Rubin: Oh, sure, I was interested, I still am a little. I always wonder in the back of my mind if I’m doing the right thing. But I attended a presentation on the topic and the SEO expert there said that search engines like Google are constantly changing their algorithms to stop people from manipulating it, so it’s hard to know what hurts or helps. Instead, I do what makes sense from an audience perspective.
Doyle: That’s a really refreshing way of looking at the world of blogging. So many new bloggers want a magic formula to success — and that’s often SEO. But you’re saying that writing content people want to read is all that really matters. What tips then, if any, do you have for other aspiring bloggers?
Rubin: I don’t really worry about search. But I do worry about internal links, ways to get readers to dig deeper. I don’t really worry about keywords, but I stay focused on my key topics — friends and happiness, for example. If you get 100,000 new [readers] coming in from search and only 1 percent stay, that’s still great. But I think you should pay more attention to shout-outs from similar blogs, because people coming from those places will become loyal readers. And I think paying attention to your returning readers is most important if you want your blog to grow and be energetic.
Ron S. Doyle is a Denver-based freelance web designer and magazine writer. You can see more of his work at his new blog, Psychology Today’s You 2.0, an exploration of technology’s effect on identity and personality. He also writes a humor blog about design at BlogSaladBlog.com.