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Blogging Heroes -- Scoble Interview Excerpt

Blogging_heroesI've talked about Blogging Heroes by Mike Banks a few times before now, but since today is the book's official Amazon on-sale date, I thought this might be the perfect day to feature an excerpt from it.

If you're not familiar with the book, Blogging Heroes is a series of interviews with 30 of the world's most well-known bloggers.  Robert Scoble is one of the bloggers interviewed and he's the reason I started this blog almost 3 years ago.  Here's an excerpt from Mike's interview with Robert in Blogging Heroes:

You've been blogging most of a decade. Has your blog changed much over the years?

It's changed in that I have an audience. When I started it I was publishing to two people. And it was a little easier back then just to write to two people, than with 20,000 people a day reading it.

What got you interested in blogging?

I was a conference planner, doing conferences for web developers back in 1999 and 2000. One of the conferences was the 2000 CNet Builder.com Live conference. Every year I asked the conference speakers what they thought we should cover in the next year's conference. Two of our speakers that year, Dave Winer, editor of the Scripting News blog and Dori Smith suggested that the next conference address blogging.

I wasn't sure if blogs were important enough; I could only find a couple hundred on the Web. But they did talk me into setting up my own blog.

I started blogging on December 15, 2000.

What sort of audience did you find?

At first I was just writing to Dave Winer, and telling him what my life was like and who I was seeing and what I was thinking about.

After about 10 days he linked to me, and sent me 3,000 people—not bad for one link. And that's when I realized that, wow, there are lot more people reading these things than writing them.

Did you work at increasing readership?

No. I didn't really go after it that way, because to me blogging was like writing stories, or telling two or three people what you thought. Looking at it that way helped me write.

If I was trying to throw a business off of it, I don't think I would have done a blog. That points to one of the reasons why blogging became popular—because it wasn't CNet and it wasn't the Wall Street Journal and it wasn't the New York Times. Those people worry a lot about audience growth and audience acquisition and advertising revenue. I really didn't care.

I still don't care. Not having to be concerned with getting a large audience is one reason I avoided advertising, even though I probably could make a pretty good amount of money with advertising. But this way, I don't have that influence forcing me to care about the blog as a business.

So you're not distracted by tracking traffic and SEO?

I do look at my stats and my referral logs. But mostly that's because I'm looking for who's talking up to me or about me, or making fun of me, like the Fake Steve Jobs.

But it is important to remember that, the long term, most of your readers will come from Google. The more you help Google find you, the more traffic you'll get. It’s not just Google; Microsoft and Yahoo! work the same way.

But in a way, SEO doesn't matter; what matters is that you get links. Because if people link to you, then you get the SEO anyway. You don't have to work at SEO.

In other words, great content beats SEO.

You just have to be there with good content, like a meritocracy?

Well, it's mostly a meritocracy. There certainly is gaming [influencing search engine results] going on. If you're a better networker, you're going to get more links. It's all about links.

If you convince people to link to you even if you might not have quite as a good news offering, or you're 15 minutes late, you're still going to get the traffic.

Somebody else might be better than you in terms of getting things out sooner, or a little bit better-written, but if they don't get the links it doesn't matter.

Then networking is, in effect, part of the merit system?

Yes.

What's it like to have so many readers?

It's a lot of fun. I can ask a question and get 20 responses in a few minutes. It's really great when you're having problems with technology, like when I had a problem with Firefox and I thought it was just my computer. But I went online and asked whether anybody else was having problems. In two minutes 30 people came back and said yeah, I thought it was just me too. So we knew the problem was in Firefox.

How much has blogging affected the sales of your book, Naked Conversations?

A lot—going back to before it was published. We wrote the entire book on a blog set up for that purpose. We posted chapters as we were writing them, before they went to the editor.

There were two important effects. First, the readers—the audience on the blog—fixed our words. They fact-checked for us, and they copy-edited. One guy went through every word and improved the grammar. The book would not be the same book if we had not done it in the public eye. It was dramatically improved.

The result is that we’ve outsold all the other blogging books combined. None of the other authors of blogging books did a book blog in this way.

The second thing is, because we were in the public eye, the book became a public thing that people liked to, right from their blogs. Bloggers would talk about the book. They would say, "Hey, Scoble and Shel Israel just released a new chapter of their book, and I think it sucked," or, "I thought it was great," or whatever. And they linked over to it.

That increased our Google juice, and that meant that we got better in Google page rank over time. It kept us at number seven or eight on the link list for "naked" for a long time.

And the blog benefited, too, I'm sure.

Yes. We got a lot of continuing traffic from the Google word.

A lot of people in business don't really understand that Google will bring a trickle of traffic to you forever, as long as you own a word. So if you're a plumber in San Jose and people are searching "plumbing San Jose" because they need a plumber, as long as you're on that page you're in business.

Remember that blogging is the best way to get on Google. And that's one reason it (blogging) continues having a lot of power in the world.

The power that blogging has is also the reason it hasn't been reduced to the status of a fad. I've heard over and over that blogging is a fad. When I first started blogging, my best friend said, "We won’t be doing this for very long, because it's just a fad," et cetera, et cetera. But it's not a fad.

So Google continues to give blogging its power, even though Google has turned down [reduced] its influence on blogging. The page rank algorithm has been getting better and better, and that means blogs are not able to game the system the way they used to be able to do. But blogging is still a pretty powerful way to get high on Google.

With Google driving Internet users to blogs, it would seem that Google ought to be trying to find a way to harness some of that power itself.

Google fired a blogger a few years ago, and that caused their corporate culture to avoid blogging for quite a while. It seems people there are skittish about blogging, or not understanding. There is nobody there who is really a great blogger. Matt Cutts is probably the closest thing to a great blogger they have.

What kind of time do you spend on your own blog?

You could say I spend every waking minute of every day thinking about my blog and thinking what to put up. But I choose to write only when I have something to say. I usually write up a post in ten minutes, twenty minutes. I never spend two hours straight on my blog.

So thinking about the blog is part of the blogging process.

Yeah.

Do you spend much time looking at other blogs? Do you comment on other blogs?

I look at 700 blogs on an average day. I'm the number one Google Reader user in the world. It shoots me 1800 items an evening. And I share about 80 of those on my blog.

I participate as a commenter on hundreds of blogs.

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