Looking at my (really) old blog - Webtalks

More than 12 years back, I published my first post on a blogger blog - Webtalks. I was learning more about the HTML but back then my classes would only go as far as to change the background colors of cells in a table & created ordered / unordered lists. A blogger blog seemed like a breath of fresh air. With minimal setup, I could focus solely on the content. Blogger was already a Google company in 2007 which meant the layout, tags and good indexing techniques made the blog “Search Engine Optimized”. Blogger also had a neat collection of templates that can be customized. With some tweaks in, I could brag about how I have my own “website” which didn’t look horrible as a teenager. My blog saw about 130 posts between 2007 - 2008, and no post since 2010 partially due to me being without computer / internet access for two years, and lack of interest later. While I’m slightly embarrassed with the writing quality, I decided to keep the blog up on and will always be there till Google decides to kill Blogger.

Traffic Stats

Publishing a blog is one thing, getting some eyeballs to it is completely different. It’s hard to get accurate statistics on how accurate number of pageviews the blog received - Google Analytics didn’t work well after I neglected some mandatory update for the injected javascript. I used to use StatCounter who used to send weekly summaries to the email I still have access to. Skimming through them now I can conclude that on an average there were ~300 daily visitors when the blog posts were being updated frequently.

Statcounter - Statistics for Webtalks

New Blogger itself allows a detailed statistic dashboard. According to it, as of November 2019, the blog got amount 8 Million pageviews over the years and approximately 3300 in October 2019, 9 years after any update.

Blogger - Statistics for Webtalks

While these numbers might be flattering, I have a strong inclination to believe that a majority of pageviews are bots especially in the latter years

Traffic Acquisition and SEO

My usual routine while working on my blog used to be going online and checking how the popular and well-known blogs would do it. One of my favorites - Digital Inspiration / labnol was already a big sensation and used to be one of the first websites I used to load once my dial up network would connect. Popular blogs would have a healthy returning user count and an even better targeting using Search Engine Optimization to attract new visitors. That opened up the world for SEO for me. Apart from posting about my blog in various blog directories, like Technorati, I would spend considerable amount of time reading up about how to improve ranking for my blog in each engine results.

Google used to use PageRank - a rough measure of quality links from websites to calculate score of the webpage. A single link from a PageRank 8 website will lead to a higher score to your website than hundreds from a PageRank 2. To game this, web developers would try to purchase links on popular blogs, or engage in link reciprocation. I tried something else - Default blogger templates would allow for only two columns. By doing minor code changes, I was able to generate a 3 column version of the template and published a blog post for users to download them. In the XML template, I added a link back to Webtalks and as a result, the blog got linked from about 2600 other blogger blogs over a period of one year.

Make Money Online

Make Money Online was one of the catchiest keywords according to Google search trends and another blog I used to follow was doing great - John Chow, who made rounds from claiming to make north of $40k in a month from blogging. He would also publish monthly earnings report on his blog (now removed). WebArchive for Earnings Report

The temptation of making money online was what make thousands of bloggers follow his blog but only few made it big. While John Chow made the bulk of his earnings from affiliate marketing & sponsored content it wasn’t feasible for emerging blogs with relatively low traffic like Webtalks, who usually relied on Google AdSense which had a low bar for entry.

I experimented too by adding Google Ads on the blog. Once the traffic started kicking up, the CPM (Cost per 1000 impressions) & CTR (Click through Rate) for ads on the blog started to increase enough to get a cheque from Google (the minimum to get used to be $100 Total earnings). While the total earnings from the blog is nothing to boast about, it served as a good encouragement for a meaningful side hobby. I value what I learnt from online blogging experience than the cheque anyways.

Google AdSense performance for Webtalks

Why it won’t work now

Even though I got steady internet and computer access in a couple of years from my blog publishing, I had lost interest and never intended to jump back in.

Most people looking to make a buck online with a side project will be better off developing an iOS game or having a youtube channel about working as a tech lead in Silicon Valley

Blogger itself doesn’t look like it is the hot choice for starting a blog. Despite having years of head start and being a part of Google, decisions like disastrous integration with Google Plus profiles really dented its chances. As a fun experiment, I would cross post this blog post on my Medium profile and see how it performs.