Thought of the Day: Bloggers Can Be A Sketchy Lot

WpressFirst of all, thanks to all the genuine folks out there in the blogosphere, especially for those kind enough to follow Nipple Monkey or like one of our posts. I know we are an acquired taste, and all over the board with our content, so we genuinely appreciate the love.

The catch is that it’s not easy to tell who those genuine folks really are. And I fear there’s something about hosting your blog on WordPress.com that generates some pretty sketchy “likes” and “follows.”

This isn’t our first walk through the blogosphere. We’ve run blogs on and off WordPress.com long enough to know that, for example, the traffic data they provide is far more “generous” than the industry-standard data you will get from Google Analytics.

But we’ve noticed something slightly insidious in these early days of Nipple Monkey, our least-focused blog to date. Several of the “likes” and “follows” we’ve received are from blogs and bloggers who appear to have absolutely no common interest in the topic of the post – or our entire blog, for that matter.

In fact, we’ve noticed that we get a lot these from people who either blog about religion or blog about how to make money blogging. In other words, people trying to sell you feel-good fantasies. Why on earth would any of these people like one of our posts, or opt to follow a blog such as ours?

OK, even those blogs presumably have real people behind them. And maybe, just maybe, one of them thought something we wrote was interesting and/or funny. Maybe.

But it seems far more likely that this is part of a marketing scheme in which bloggers like and follow other blogs in hopes of driving traffic back to their own blogs, either through our curiosity (to click and see who gave us the false love) or by landing pingbacks that could drive our readers to visit their blogs.

It may seem a little far-fetched, but blogging is a numbers game, and people seem willing to try anything to trawl for traffic. And keep in mind that a lot of bloggers are looking for nothing but numbers. They want to inflate their traffic to inflate the perceived value of their blog. Big numbers can lead to better ad sales.

MuffenAnd speaking of numbers, we long ago gave up on WordPress.com traffic data. Anyone who has worked with Goggle Analytics will understand why. But I do find it interesting that there have been times when we’d get likes and follows with no discernible traffic for the post in question. Yes, there might be some sort of lag time for traffic data, but there appears to be no related lag time for the other data – the likes and follows.

Which makes me wonder if people are searching WordPress.com tags and liking and following blogs and posts based simply on those, rather than actually reading a post and exploring a blog. That would certainly explain all these abnormalities.

But why like or follow a blog simply because of a tag, without actually reading the post or looking at the blog? That strikes me as a little shallow and insincere.

Of course I’m not going to lose any sleep over this. We’re working to migrate our blog over to WordPress.org, so this should be a forgotten annoyance soon enough. And we really do appreciate the genuine love we have received from our legitimate followers (and they will surely appreciate the humor in all this speculation).

But in the interest of honest blogging, I thought we’d try a little experiment. We’re going to tag this post with words like camera and photography. We’re also going to toss things like muffin, baking, and recipe into the mix. And let’s see if we get any likes and follows from photography and/or baking bloggers.

We haven’t written about either of these subjects so far, and this post clearly isn’t about either topic. So such traffic should indicate that they have “blindly” liked or followed us, confirming our suspicion that bloggers are trawling through WordPress.com tags in hopes of driving traffic back to their sites.

[Update: It took less than five minutes before a photography blog “liked” this post, which 30 minutes later still hadn’t received any traffic according to WordPress. Clearly they liked it without even reading it. And four hours after that I got my first like from a baking blog. It’s so disheartening.]