Learning to blog I: Privacy and Relevance

There is a fine line between writing in a personable way and over-exposing one’s private life, and it is one of the trickiest aspects of blogging.

My blog started as a pure ‘how to use the Internet to be self-employed’ kind of project. I had just gone through the process of registering a company and done heaps of research about starting a small business, so I wanted to create a blog where wanna-be entrepreneurs could find useful resources.

The research could help me to expand my own small-business acumen and teach me about online marketing, business admin and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and that kind of otherwise boring things, I thought.

 
An overcrowded niche is not a niche

However, I soon discovered that thousands, maybe millions of blogs and websites offer advice and resources for wanna-be entrepreneurs. And SEO wizards love to blog. The world doesn’t really need one more website about those things, an it also felt a bit fake. After all, my own business isn’t running successfully, so how can I advice others? And I am not really passionate about SEO. A blog needs a Unique Point of Differentiation, just like a business. And it has to be engaging for both writer and reader, otherwise it just wastes everybody’ time.

 
Re-calibrating blog to relevance

To make the blog more relevant and useful, I have decided to shape it around the key challenge of my life: to make the work side of life work out.

An income is essential for a good life, and so is the validating aspect of presenting oneself as a productive member of society. To be a puller in everybody’s eyes; not a burden. However, I’ve had a hard time understanding and fitting into other people’s schemes all my life, especially in workplaces and schools.

My last job was particularly hard on mental and physical health, and it was a dead end. It exemplified that even if a job does work out and pays the bills, keeping some jobs may not be preferable to going broke.

Ironically, I am sort of workaholic. I am always busy with my own ideas and projects, and days don’t have enough hours. When I worked in regular jobs I invented my own tasks (e.g. researching work stuff, creating manuals) if I did not have enough to do, and was always eager to help out.

But a workplace is not just a place to work, it is a social world with culture, social expectations and political games. Compatibility is the key… survival of the fittest. And not fitting in is my weak spot.

I applied for heaps of jobs since I left my last job, the majority of which I can not imagine myself do. I’ve been through quite a few job interviews and phone screenings and had positive feedback on my applications. So I suspect the potential employers sensed that I would not suit their corporate culture when they met me. Unfortunately they were probably right.

So entrepreneurship and self-employment is relevant. Learning to use the web for self-employment opportunities is relevant. Learning social scripts for work situations is relevant. Learning to cope with issues that interfere with work abilities is relevant. Work history is relevant. The past, present and future is relevant. Relevant and personal.

 
The privacy dilemma

With the personal perspective comes the risk of over-exposure. I want the right people to read it, the ones who can relate to what I write, and whom it might help. I don’t want to feel like I throw my personal stories into the face of random strangers who haven’t called for that kind of insights.

The big Internet challenge is that it is so hard to manage context. Here are some uncomfortable hypothetical scenarios:

 

  1. Ex-colleagues coincidentally land on my post about my problematic office job and recognise the situation based on the events: ERP integration, office politics, me being like a lone wolf.
     
    Or worse, the MD lands on it. Is the post against the NDA? Highly unlikely. Would they care about the post? Well, the company culture is pictured in an un-flattering way. I would care if it was my company, even though it is framed as an anonymous case story. Like if someone criticises your baby.
  2.  

  3. Or it shows up as irrelevant search result on keywords such as Australian beef, reefer containers or farm schools, and is thereby thrown into the face of people who are not looking for personal content.
  4.  

  5. Recruiters or zealous potential employers land on my work history when they google combinations of keywords from my resume.
     
    My work history is unusual for a woman and ties up with my resume, albeit of course framed differently. The education does, too. If they would guess it is me, then they would know that I have sensory issues, dread phone calls, and hated my last job. Not great selling points for an aspiring employee.

 
Privacy management with a pages vs posts strategy

Privacy control can be improved by keeping personal content low in SERP rankings. So what I need is anti-SEO.

Here on the WordPress.com* platform it is not possible to block search engines on individual posts or pages. However, I have been told that search engines don’t like to spider static blog pages, and that pages inevitably rank much lower than posts in search results. Pages are also less likely to be snatched up by aggregators and reposted on blogs where they don’t belong.

That sounds good to me. I will place the personal content I worry about as sub-pages under ‘About’ (e.t.c.) and convert my work history posts into sub-pages.* I am not trying to keep visitors out; just give irrelevant web surfers a chance to not stumble into my personal stories when they search for other things.

* This may make some links appear broken for a little while

 
 
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This post was inspired by ‘The privacy of one’s experiences’ by Emily and my own worries about privacy.

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*This blog started out on WordPress.com under a different name, and has been imported to this domain.

 
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2 thoughts on “Learning to blog I: Privacy and Relevance

  1. Emily (thoughtyautie)

    Hi Mados,

    I ran into a situation with my own blog where a specific search term was pointing to one of my entries. The search term was my school’s name and a very specific program at my school, and I was uncomfortable with people just stumbling upon it that way. I removed the identifying information from my post shortly after I published it, but the same search term was yielding the same results because of a caching issue. I found a way to remove that post and another from search results using Google Webmaster Tools. I was able to get them removed from the results because the specific search term no longer matched the content of the post (i.e. I took the school’s name out, so the program I was referring to could have been anything, anywhere). I’m not sure if you can do that for other reasons, like just not *wanting* something to show up (which was my real reason), but I’d be happy to see what I can find out. If you knew that certain items would not show up in search results (and that others would not be relevant to the search terms and so would also not show up by default), it might make it easier to be a bit more personal.

    That’s very interesting about pages vs. posts though. I never considered that they would be treated differently, but will keep that in mind.

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  2. Mados

    Hi Emily.

    Thank you for your comment. It is a good example: a specific programme on a specific school is a narrow search term, so your post would quite likely rank well on that term (=undesirable well).

    Specific vs general is a dilemma, because specific content tends to be more interesting and useful than general content. With the school programme, I imagine people who search for that programme may have similar needs, so your post may be relevant to them. When it is named then people can contact the programme if it is relevant to them, or they can research it themselves to see whether they perceive it the same way you do.

    However, having your post show up in search result does make you more exposed, and you risk people from your school e.t.c. sees it and figures it is you, which makes you more vulnerable to whatever they want to do or say (or think). Even if they are all nice people… the principle matters in an emotional way.

    You are right that better anti-SEO control would remove some of the privacy dilemmas related to personal content. Unfortunately, anti-SEO is not really a popular science! So for once it is hard to find web advice instructions on the Internet:-).

    Thank you for the tip about Google Webmaster Tools!

    Mados.

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