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December 11, 2006

How much noise are you willing to tolerate?

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I know this is shocking, but I spend a fair amount of time checking out the SEOmoz blog (not too much, Bruce, I swear!) and reading through the long list of comments. The content is often stellar, the writers are typically concise and personable, and as with most blogs, the comments are just as informative as the initial post. However, if you’ve spent much time over at Rand Land lately, you may have noticed things are getting a bit…heated these days.

There’s been some talk that the quality of the content has been sacrificed as the team tries to post more frequently and create more "Digg-worthy" posts. People are starting to get very vocal about their dissent. I don’t know if the SEO voted Most Likable by his colleagues is just now finding his small group of gnat-like critics or if people are legitimately concerned with the level of content over there (I’m not concerned, I think they rock).

I’m not going to debate the status of the SEOmoz blog. To me, its good stuff, but I do think it touches on an important question: How much noise are you, as a reader, willing to tolerate before you change the channel?

I think the most important goal of your blog is to be informative. Your blog should fill a hole in the industry. If you’re doing your job, your posts should be educating readers in a way other blogs aren’t. You should be adding some kind of unique value.

Readers sometimes have problems when blogs become more about being popular and linkworthy (aka noisy), and less about being informative. You know exactly what I’m talking about. We’ve all read the Top Ten posts that are designed solely to get onto Digg or the post with the sensational headline meant only to get attention or stir up controversy. And though I realize Digg and sites like Digg are an important part of some of our colleagues marketing strategies (and for good reason. We’re not discounting that), they’re not our favorite posts by these authors. But I keep reading because I know the next post will be a gem that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Personally, I like a little noise. A blog that’s all work and no play is boring. There’s a reason SES is just as synonymous with crazy parties as it is with great panels. We search nerds have a work hard, play hard mentality and giving us a bit of noise helps us digest the important stuff.

Though it may be hard to tell sometimes, the Bruce Clay blog covers all things internet marketing. We’re likely to touch on the habits of the engines, Web analytics, search engine optimization, branding, and basically anything that would fit into one the six sections of our Web site.

But, if you’ve ever read a Friday Recap, you know the second goal of this little blog is to be personable and have a little fun. We want you to be able to form a connection with us, and by joining in the conversation, we hope to be able to form a connection with you. That’s when we tend to get a little noisy.

I’m sure there are times when Bruce wishes I’d stop gushing over my various SEO crushes and stick to the search news. But sometimes I digress and he forgives because (a) my little indiscretions give the blog some personality and a voice, (b) I’m undeniably adorable and (c) he is the most understanding, most intelligent, most amazing search engine optimizer I have ever come in contact with.

And as long as it’s done within reason, I don’t think noise is bad. I actually think it’s important. Your signal tells your reader what you do, but the noise tells them who you are. In the blogosphere, that’s important.

The noise allows us to take a step back and realize that sometimes as an industry we take every Google sneeze a little too seriously. You do need to know how much noise your readers will tolerate though.

I know that I can shell out about one off-topic post a week without Susan peering over her computer monitor and looking at me funny. Jeremy Zawodny knows his readers don’t mind hearing about his flying experiences, Matt Cutts can talk about Emmy every now and then, and we all wait for updates from the very noisy Men of SEO blog.

At the core, our blog is here to inform. If we Friday Recap’d the entire week, you’d probably email me to knock it off. So we don’t do that. We make sure the rest of the week we’re providing you with posts that are valuable. We make an effort to keep the noise down around here so you’re not so distracted that you miss the good stuff.

I think that’s where the line needs to be. Can readers still find the good stuff? Or is there so much noise that they’re getting lost?

I hope that you feel like you can still find your way when you visit us.

As a blogger, it’s also important to realize that you’re not going to please everyone all of the time. I don’t pretend that you’re sitting on the edge of your seat reading everything I write, but I do hope you’re engaged by at least some of it. And that the some of it you do find interesting will make the rest of it worth your time.

If there’s anything we can do to make your blog experience more enjoyable (besides enabling comments) or less noisy, drop me an email. I’d love to hear it.

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