Packed into a hotel conference room along with hundreds of mom bloggers and marketers, I stare bleakly at my laptop screen, my fingers frozen on the keyboard. I’m listening, but the people around me might as well be speaking Farsi.
“I was so afraid of getting in trouble with Google,” a woman says breathlessly into a microphone a few feet away from me. “I got totally freaked out about my keywords and I have to admit, I was not adding ‘no follows’ in my text. I was giving away too much link juice.”
The other women in the conference room cluck sympathetically and nod.
“Good search engine optimization starts with analytics,” a man sitting in a chair on the stage at the front of the room intones. Around me, I hear the click of keys as women type his words into their computers.
“Does anyone have any idea what these people are talking about?” I whisper to the women seated at my table. I conclude from their pitying stares that yes, they do.
Mommy blogging isn’t what it used to be.
I started a blog back in 2005 because I liked to write. I tapped out stories about a life spent silently cursing the sour-faced crossing guard at my stepdaughters’ school, helping my toddler decide which alphabet letters her poop resembled and contemplating a frontal lobotomy. I was shocked to find that some people seemed to like it.
Over time, my readership grew. I began getting e-mails from other moms, asking how they could draw more readers to their blogs. “Ignore the gimmicks,” I always replied. “Focus on writing well. If you can do that, the readers will come.” I thought my advice was infallible. But according to this blogging conference, known as Mom 2.0, I was wrong.
I’m learning here that I’m not just a mom writing about her life. I’m a brand! And if I want to be on top, I need to aggressively promote my brand!
I attend discussions with titles like, “The Power of Product Placement & Brand Integration,” and “The Economics of Women-Centered Digital Media.” I’m instructed to find the true value of my marketing potential. I’m taught how to ask for sponsorships and create working relationships with public relations firms and corporations.
I’m not exactly surprised by the message. After all, if you haven’t heard, mommy blogging is the new black. Advertisers have discovered that mom blogs are the perfect way to market directly to a target demo of women, at a fraction of the cost.
Consequently, the most popular mom bloggers are showered with products like Nintendo Wiis, iPods, children’s clothing and even sex toys. They’re flown to corporate headquarters for lessons in turkey basting and canned soup production. They’re routinely featured in national magazines and on network news. It’s hard, really hard, not to get caught up in the fever.
It’s also hard not to feel like I’m dangerously close to exploiting my family for a taste of fame and fortune. I can’t call what I do “my brand” without wanting to vomit.
Still, at a conference cocktail party, I make one halfhearted attempt to use what I’ve learned and “connect” with one of the many marketers attending the conference.
“Okay, give me your spiel,” I say, smiling weakly after he introduces himself.
“I should probably do it tomorrow,” he says apologetically. “I’m sort of drunk.”
“Well, now you’ve really got my attention,” I say. “Go for it.”
He begins babbling something about how I can sell my personal data to advertisers. My lame-o-meter shoots to eleven. When some friends approach, I introduce them.
“He’s giving a drunk pitch,” I tell them. They clamor to hear it and giggle as he recites his litany again. When someone asks us to pose for a picture, I turn in time to see him literally running from the room to escape us.
So much for marketing my brand.
I think about all of these things as I stare at my laptop screen in the hotel conference room, while the breathless woman with the microphone cries over spilt link juice. I suck at marketing and technology, I think morosely. I am, therefore, obsolete.
“Search engine optimization really can make a difference,” a woman at my table tells me. “You need to go back and label all your photos and links. And you need to put your posts on StumbleUpon and Kirtsy and Digg.”
“I don’t have time to do that!” I tell her ruefully. “I barely have enough time to even type up a blog post.”
“I do it while I’m watching Lost,” she shrugs. She continues her conversation with the women on either side of her, and one of them types “mommy blogger product reviews” into Google to find out which mom blogger has the coveted first position in the search results.
My blog is number one in the search. I burst into embarrassed laughter. Could it be that even in a world of keyword popularity research, link strategy, networking and brand promotion, simply trying to write well really is enough? Can I truly attract readers with content rather than flashy corporate sponsorships and search engine trickery?
For everyone’s sake, I sure as hell hope so.
Read Lindsay Ferrier’s blog at suburbanturmoil.com