On June 17th, 2009, on a Wednesday, at 23.32, I have published my first official article on this blog. Tomorrow, there are 12 years from that moment.
(keep reading ↓)
Considering this a double anniversary, I took this special occasion to share some of my story from the backend, which also provides for a good opportunity for me to reframe these initiatives and draw some conclusions, starting from these questions:
- What were my blogging beginnings?
- How did Analytic Vision get started?
- What did I accomplish or did well, at least in the beginning?
- What did I do wrong in the beginning?
- What is Debug Your Mind all about?
- What changed since 2016?
So what now?
What were my blogging beginnings?
Did you ever feel like having so much to express and you’re missing a platform for people to hear you?
Did you occasionally write something that got published and appreciated, but wasn’t sure about starting on your own?
Did you ever feel you were on the brink of doing something special but weren’t really getting the confidence to take the first step?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you surely would be interested in reading my experience about blogging, which started a little BEFORE Analytic Vision and Debug Your Mind.It is important to know that to understand why I started the way I did.
I was a student in Bachelor’s Degree between 2004-2008 and for 2 Master’s Degrees between 2008-2011. As a student, I was seeing that some of my materials were starting to get published in a dozen of niche websites and a dozen of national publications. I was hoping for a little bit more. I wanted to constantly be able to publish somewhere on various professional topics that seemed interesting to me, such as education, NLP, psychology of personality, persuasion, negotiation, self-esteem, communication. But after the failure of my first printed book in 2005, the failure in some other publishing attempts (such as another book on education that never got published in the end), reasoned rejections from various publishers, I wasn’t feeling very confident I would be competent enough to take a task such as launch my own blog. So I was conflicted. On one hand, I got myself familiarized with various online publishing platforms between 2005-2007. On the other, just fiddling around with some posts on a WordPress blog mounted on a company site subdomain didn’t really mean real blogging and I knew it.
The spark that ignited my first real step towards blogging came in 2007, with an interesting discussion that I had with a friend of mine who came to my place to study together. As I read an article that claimed to be on self-esteem, I scoffed at it in discontent. She then thoroughly remarked: “If you don’t like the article, then why don’t you write a better one?”. So I did. I sent it to get published on a personal development blog (DaMaiDeparte/Pay It Forward) which was back then nr. 1 in Romania (which previously rejected some other articles I’ve proposed). The article had huge success (thousands of views in a few days and several comments) and I was invited to write a full series on the topic. Encouraged by the warm welcome, I also rewrote another article on negotiation and also sent it. It too had success, in views and comments. So there I was: the author of 2 almost weekly series: one on self-esteem and one on persuasion & negotiation. Besides these 2 series, in 2007 I also published 2 others: one on transactional analysis drivers and one on the neurological levels pyramid.
Now, does that mean that everything I sent got published? No. Corina Marin, the psychologist who founded and was chief editor of the website actually taught me how to be a better blogger by giving me consistent feedback. She occasionally required rewriting or better structuring of the content and sometimes even refused to publish an article after I improved it, with good reason. These were important lessons, which supported me to develop an internal frame of reference about what to publish and what not to publish as a blogger. I think this is one of the main advantages I had when later I started blogging on my own.
In December 2007, I won a contest for the best article on personal development published in the Romanian blogosphere, which for a blogger who didn’t have a blog was quite an accomplishment.
So about 30+ articles of mine got published between June-December 2007 on DaMaiDeparte and when I felt that I had finished writing about the topics I wanted to cover at that moment, I stopped. The articles remained on the website until 2011 when because the site got sold and management changed, I wanted to develop those topics on my own.
The success at DaMaiDeparte/Pay It Forward opened other “doors” for me, such as writing on other websites, doing web PR for other websites/blogs, getting interviews in national publications (mostly magazines and newspapers) while I was a student.
But it was only in the summer of 2009 that I finally started my first blog, Analytic Vision. Why did it take me one year and a half to gain self-confidence? I was asking myself:
“What happens when I seem to exhaust a topic like I did with guest posting on others’ blogs?”;
“Do I really have any interesting or valuable viewpoints to share?;
“Am I willing to put in the marketing effort and the discipline I noticed it required for others to become known?”;
“Who is going to read what I write and how do I get to them?”;
“What happens when I run out of inspiration?”;
“What happens if I start publishing nonsense because there’s no chief editor to check what I write and I make a fool out of myself?”;
“What if I start this a little bit later when I will have a strategy?”.
How did Analytic Vision get started?
One of the founders (Andrei Roșca) of a blog (Empower) where I guest posted gave me a quote from Herb Kelleher: “We have a strategy. It’s called doing things”. So, there I was, 8 years after getting my first article published, 4 years after winning an award for originality in psychology, and 1 ½ year after winning an award for best article in personal development. I started Analytic Vision with some event reviews:
Impressions from the GalerIAA Opening (17.06.2009)
Yesterday at Business Edu (19.06.2009)
When You Don’t Need to Promote Your Business (20.06.2009)
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but my initial reaction was a little silly: I got discouraged that the posts had few views and I folded, coming back during the fall, in September.
So I started to write mostly on what got my attention in the professional or cultural landscape and slowly moved to more evergreen topics, such as human resources, management, and Romanian tendencies, but with no clear direction. It seemed as if I flushed down the toilet the discipline and strategy I had proved in my previous work with others, but now I see that during my first years (2009-2011), I was mostly trying to prove myself that:
I have the necessary discipline of persevering even though I wasn’t happy with the results;
Other people do care about my vision over the world by commenting and linking back;
I have the ability to express myself in English as well as in Romanian;
I can gather and keep an audience.
Of course, in time, I deleted many of the original posts, but a lot of those published in 2009-2010 I still consider such good evergreen articles, that trying to select just a few to recommend from the Archive is a chore in itself. Then, in September 2010, after one full year of monthly blogging (3-9 posts originally published every month), I took a break for half a year (while I lived in Belgium I had no time for blogging, then I had exams session at the masters’), which was pretty sad, because I had started to gather momentum, followers, and offer inspiration.
After a few years, there I was, little me with my tiny blog, trying to inspire the world to which I seemed almost invisible! Of course, the blog was intended – and served, after all, its intention – as a critical analysis tool on business, marketing, public relations, human resources, and personal development. A very appreciated, clean, concise, and useful blog (for a limited audience). To quote from what I was writing back then, “Its mission is to provide the necessary and useful information for development: for individuals (may they be independent consultants, entrepreneurs, psychologists or managers) and for organizations (the marketing, PR, and HR functions) for them to make the best decisions from the palette of options which lie ahead of the future.”. But for how many and for how long? (This was a question I should have asked myself earlier).
It was only after that I understood that once I started to blog, I had to keep going, writing became understood a responsibility towards my readers. It wasn’t acceptable to just write on something whenever I liked and then not write anything for several weeks. One of the unpleasant effects of not publishing regularly is that I “lose” the readers who started following the blog. “Writer’s block” is not an excuse that you can use again and again time after time (annoying effect, right?). So there had to be a balance between my need for expression and the legitimate expectation of the readers to discover something new and worthwhile no matter if I was ready to publish something or not.
Another issue was that when, for example, I wanted to share a personal vision with a lot of emotion attached to it (either positive or negative), it was likely that at one point in the future I would no longer hold that point or that emotion. Reading again a few months after publishing made me think to myself:”What was I thinking?” and come with the answer: “I wasn’t”. This was one of the article types that a chief editor holds in check. Now, it wasn’t a tragedy that I was writing today something and then I was changing my mind, that happens to everyone over a long enough period of time. It really took me some time to learn on my own to focus more on writing evergreen articles.
At the same time, I definitely got the impression that Romanians don’t really like to read other Romanians in English. In those years, I insisted on living in Romania, writing mostly for Romanians about Romanian realities… in English. It was a little bit odd. I had to choose between:
focusing on writing for a truly international audience and properly market for the USA and UK (the smart long-term bid)
focusing on writing in Romanian for Romanians (the short-sighted perspective)
The latter was easier. In retrospect, I regret not choosing the first one. So in the spring of 2011, I opened my first official Romanian blog (Discerne), where, in opposition to what I did on Analytic Vision, I developed a vision, a strategy, and some clearer structured topics to write series on. So I started to use that approach simultaneously for Discerne and Analytic Vision, although in time it became obvious that I was focusing more on Discerne and less on Analytic Vision. So that trend started to show as between November 2011-February 2012 I only published 3 posts on Analytic Vision, and between July-December 2013 zero posts (!). The whole abandonment of this blog culminated with only 3 posts published between April 2014-September 2016. Why was I was offering less and less content and value in English? Because it was easier for me to obtain results and offer value in Romanian.
Now, does that mean that I used Analytic Vision between 2009-2016 just as a stepping stone for my learning? Of course not.
Here are thoughts from 30+ out of the tens of thousands of readers: Analytic Vision Readers Comment. Most of these were collected in the first 2 years of the blog.
In 2012 (the second-best year according to statistics), there were 20 posts/pageviews per viewer. That means that on average, one visitor was going through at least 20 posts before leaving the blog. That is huge!
I took care that more than 50 articles published on this blog got translated and published in Romanian because I considered them very valuable (and they usually got more views when published in Romanian).
What did I accomplish or did well, at least in the beginning? If you are blogging, how many apply for you?
1. I used as the title of my blog something which represents me. Of course, many would argue that it’s best to have a blog with my own name. So, according to several 360 degrees evaluations done between 2006-2018, one of the constant traits (either positive or negative) is my analytic vision, which is definitely a skill I cultivated. I used Analytic Vision as a pseudonym elsewhere as it represented me: Twitter, Scribd, CouchSurfing, WordPress. This was also the name of the main category on the Analytic Vision blog before restructuring in 2021. All the articles within the previous category got tagged and are available here.
2. Cleanup on the go. I constantly deleted tens of posts with few views, irrelevant or obsolete, before the blog started to have more views. So even though I didn’t have someone to correct me before publishing, I was able to learn. I used this experience as a do-it-yourself-free, self-taught school. To get an idea, in the first 4 years, I published 232 posts on Analytic Vision, out of which only 96 remained until 2021. This habit is one of the reasons my other blog in Romanian had so much success so fast.
3. I developed many different styles of writing. I may choose my style a priori considering the audience, but usually, I prefer to let the topic and my attitude to it direct it. A good exercise is to write the articles in my mind, asking myself a few questions, borrowed from George Orwell:
- what is the message?
- what words express it?
- what expression would nail it the best?
to which I added:
is it sufficiently documented/reasoned?
4. I made a habit out of using internal linking, besides adding a handmade archive. This proved to be a very good and measured practice on all my blogs and for all my clients and collaborators because it really increased visits to related articles. One of my motivations for starting to blog during my master’s degrees studies was to share ideas faster with several people at once so that I shouldn’t have to repeat myself again and again. In speaking, I had the habit of saying: “by the way, if you’re interested in this, then you might also consider…”, so adding manual internal linking came naturally, it wasn’t because I didn’t know it was also being done automatically. Au contraire.
5. I enjoyed all the benefits having this blog offered me: invitations to events, free participation at some other events, being chosen to speak in front of certain people, a lot of useful feedback (otherwise paid), getting to know some very special people, free training, free consulting, books and visibility for my personal brand. Actually, it became such an integrated part of my life, that I can’t actually capitalize on its benefits, because I can’t imagine how my life would have looked without it.
What did I do wrong in the beginning?
1. I didn’t have an editorial plan or a clear list of topics and I didn’t plan to publish on a constant calendar, that would ensure something got published no matter how I felt. Although the visitors were reading several posts when they arrived, they didn’t know what or when to expect next, so quality without consistency doesn’t read well with followers.
2. I pointlessly drowned myself in statistics without putting a real marketing effort in place. WordPress always gave you this tool, But in the first years I used it as a hammer to my head, hallucinating the idea that “blogging is a game of numbers”. I wasn’t even looking at the keywords research terms to choose the titles for the new articles, silly me!
3. I got satisfied with little, such as Analytic Vision performing better in the Zelist than 86.57 % of the Romanian blogs. In retrospect, what seemed like little wins should have actually been much better much faster.
4. Once a reader, always a reader? Just because a user subscribed as a follower to the newsletter? I hallucinated that a reader reads my blog because it was interesting or they liked some of the styles of my writing, neglecting the importance of proper marketing. So as I was spending more and more time on writing rather than marketing, I was growing more and more frustrated by the results.
5. In retrospect, another error was launching and then abandoning the 3rd blog, Debug Your Mind. Every blog you launch requires constant work. Niching is good if you can keep up with all the niches at the same time. Which is why next I’m delving into…
What is Debug Your Mind all about?
I launched Debug Your Mind as a spinoff from an original category Analytic Vision in the summer of 2011. In its first years, Debug Your Mind checked a lot of good practices and results:
A niche blog specialized in documentaries, docudrama, and geopolitical thrillers which were revealing important realities about our world and present history;
When I published the first dedicated post, on the blog there were already 5 posts moved from Analytic Vision;
Short reviews, easy to read, with videos that sometimes comprised of the full-length film;
Constant publishing in the first 4 months of the website;
Every visitor viewed on average 24 posts in 2012, although between November 2011-February 2012 I only published 1 post.
The blog still holds 30+ posts with more than 100 film recommendations on various topics, even though some of the links or the videos don’t work anymore.
So what went wrong?
Indiscipline, for once. Watching movies and writing about them are two completely different beasts. That’s why after the first 4 months, my enthusiasm started to drown. It’s actually a wonder that I kept on publishing on it until 2013.
Maintenance: most of the external links about movies are short-lived. Videos get deleted, external reviews change address, sensitive documentation vanishes from the internet, so keeping up with everything that was already published was a chore I didn’t know I signed up for.
Of course, I continued to see movies but the more I learned, the more I figured out the less I previously knew. So, for example, if I was seeing what I thought would be an insightful documentary and sometime later I found out that was a piece of propaganda (as it happened with Gasland), I had to delete all references to that recommendation throughout the blog
As I learned to be more skeptical about the content I was considered valuable, I came to the conclusion I don’t have the time to check if everything that I wanted to recommend was worth spending my time on it
I wasn’t making any money out of it, in opposition to what started to happen indirectly with Discerne
As an obvious result of not publishing anymore since 2013, the blog has lost visitors, and then it took me some time the sheer maintenance of it. After a few years, I just gave up keeping up with the changes. In 2021, I just rehashed most of the content and scheduled it to be re-published on Analytic Vision, which in the spring of 2021 constantly had about 10 times more views than Debug Your Mind. Most of the views are garnered through search engine queries.
Formally, on the 15th of June 2021, there was the 10th anniversary, but in this case, it’s just a soft reminder that the blog does exist.
There’s also another thing that put the nail in the coffin of Debug Your Mind. Between August-November 2012, I published weekly reviews for films and books on a specialized Romanian website called Filme-Carti/Films and Books. Basically, I wanted my articles on film to get more views than they were getting on Debug Your Mind, and the audience and the marketing were already available for Films and Books. So, basically, I spent less time on writing on Debug Your Mind, my own blog, and I started spending more and more time writing on someone else’s blog. An acceptable trade-off between control and reach. The main issue that still remained was the time and money issue: I was spending too much time writing stuff for which I wasn’t getting paid. Writing about film usually takes more time than writing on other topics. So the initial motivation kept me running for about 4 months before parting ways. The Films and Books collaboration experience was useful professionally because there was an editorial committee and a competent chief editor that was checking the quality of what I was sending.
Some people asked me why didn’t I properly kept up a blog only on films, since:
I started one (Debug Your Mind)
30+ articles on film on Analytic Vision
20+ articles on film published on Films and Books
20+ out of ~100 articles on film on Jurnalul Bucureștiului în 2014
100+ out of 700+ articles on film on Discerne
The lessons I got with the experience from Debug Your Mind and Films and Books was that maintaining a hobby for sheer contribution’s sake was not worth the time I had to put into it. Developing a monetization model required even more time and effort. This did serve me on the Romanian side, as I started writing about films in Romanian, but I haven’t opened a separate blog on it (despite criticism that I should have niched it). As a result, the articles on film on Discerne still manage to get more views than they would have if I would have opened a separate blog between 2014-2016 just for films and then abandoned it, as I did with Debug Your Mind.
What lessons did I learn from this?
There seems to be the impression that there is the ease of expressing yourself and publishing at the end of your fingertips, but the possibility of getting published nowadays is not an issue anymore. “Putting yourself out there” and “if you build it, they will come” are sometimes time-wasting encouragements for writers to publish their ideas without acknowledging the increasing need for strategic marketing, which is not a complaint. I knew the rules of the game and I played well according to them, which is how I managed to earn more than 1 million views, thousands of euros, and many prizes and nominations with the Romanian blog.
What changed since 2016?
Between Oct 2016-May 2017, I decided to remember at least once a month that I also had an English blog and publish at least one post on Analytic Vision. Then from June 2017, I set the pace to 2 posts a month, as an average. Every month since then, except for May 2018, I steadily published an average of 2 articles every month. Then, since March 2021, I increased that to 3 posts every month. As a direct result, 2017 was the best year ever according to the statistics counting the number of views and visitors. Even though ever since there was a slight decrease, each year between 2016-2020 was higher in these terms rather than any of the previous years.
Of course, before 2016, I had established some topics to write on this blog about. Some of them, I continued. Of most that I continued, about half the articles appeared before 2016, and the other half since then. There are about as many new topics that I have covered since 2016 as there were covered mostly before 2016. So this means that the mere change in topics was not at all responsible for the increase if we were to consider both the traffic directly from human beings and the one directed by the search engine bots.
This shows that even without changing anything else, constant, predictable practice makes a difference. Now, to say I had a publishing calendar for Analytic Vision in 2016 would be an overstatement, but I developed one in 2017 and then another one in 2021. Right now, I have 70+ posts planned for publishing until the end of 2023, at least 2 every month, with the possibility to add another one every month.
So what now?
If you’ve read this whole article, you might have caught some of my vision into being a professional blogger for more than a decade. Actually, also counting the publishing work I’ve done during high school and faculty, this month I’m also celebrating 20 years of publishing (more on that next week). Therefore, even though I’m not a world-famous author, you can easily notice how what I wrote here is merely the tip of the iceberg. You may explore the thematic content of this blog here. How else could I be of service to you, regarding your writing, publishing, or blogging? Contact me for a free breakthrough session in which we could talk about how what you plan to do in blogging/publishing fits your goals!
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