Solidifying my belief that the internet is a very strange place, the other night I was laying in bed playing Words with Friends when I got an interesting email. Almost deleting it as spam, I read curiously before deciding if I should click the attached link. Although everyone should probably use a VPN while using your PC or devices, the dangers magnify tenfold in Thailand where there’s a high incidence of internet fraud, identity theft and a world of malicious intruders waiting to jump into your hard drive’s memory every time you click. Anyway, the seemingly questionable text read as follows:
Relatively new to blogging, I knew nothing about Wordpress or anything involving technology for that matter back when I started the blog. After being unceremoniously laid off in 2013, I spent over three months self tutoring before I made my first post. During my first year I did the typical younger generation things like replying to every comment, searching similar blogs and utilizing other social networking tools while attempting to build a following. Feeling somewhat satisfied for creating an expat blog people seemed to like before ever having stepped foot out of my homeland, I received a Liebster Award which is given to new bloggers with small followings by other bloggers.
Playing along with the award’s acceptance requirements, I spent a week finding other blogs, nominated the blogger and created a chain letter that gets passed to other award recipients. Eventually tiring of duplicating my old job by spending all day in front of a computer, I soon began concentrating more on content and less on socializing. Frankly, I hate Twitter and refuse to tweet, have no Instagram account, would never use Snapchat and I’m sadly oblivious to whatever new apps the twenty something digital nomads of Chiang Mai are using. And the only reason I even have a Facebook page for the blog is so my even less technically inclined friends back home can follow us because many of them hate blogs or think the “click here to follow” link is too much work.
Always having been told that content matters more than looks, I’ve never considered another theme, don’t click the WordPress reader any more and usually have no clue what to do when they update the mobile app so I usually stick to the PC when I post. Way back when, I spent a month or so creating my header logo and then another month learning the basics of CSS so I’d at least be able to make the page look respectable. Sadly, I’ve forgotten it all which is why I’ve not yet changed the directional arrow of my header picture from Malaysia to Thailand. Oh, I’ve also got a visual impairment in one eye that makes long periods of reading uncomfortable. Basically a blogging rebel that’s refused to monetize, commercialize or generate any income, you can see why I’d never think of myself as a candidate for any Top 100 list of anything on the internet. Writing comes easy to me and I enjoy sharing stories. Realistically informative with a hint of sarcasm best describes my style and I’d rather help someone succeed at their early retirement dream than create an e-book titled How to Successfully Negotiate Your Way Through the MM2H Visa.
Given the technical limitations I’ve just outlined, think how surprised I was when I clicked the link and discovered that Feedspot is a “modern RSS Reader” that allows you to read all your favorite blogs and websites in one place. Although technologically challenged, even I know what an RSS feed is and PC Magazine describes Feedspot as “a freemium online RSS feed reader with straightforward implementation and design. Although it only merits a three stars rating of “good” , I figured it must be worth something since it’s been around awhile so I decided to play around and see what it all meant.
Intrigued to find my ranking since he didn’t say what it was, I began slowly scrolling down the list. (It’s Number 73). Oddly enough, the first few are those sites you strive to get on your sidebar to highlight your topic like BlogExpat.com, Expat Network and Expatcilc – The Platform for Expatwomen (obviously I’m not a member of that one). Continuing down the top ten was a for-profit site targeting expat insurance options, (expatfinancial.com/blog), a site targeting potential expats that convince people they need to pay for e-books or send money for information readily available in the public domain (http://futureexpats.com/) and even a blog written by the firm we use to file our U.S. tax return. Personally endorsing and recommending that firm (https://www.greenbacktaxservices.com/blog/), the list obviously has some of the biggest and best expat blogs written by people dedicated to making money as well as providing information (some good, some not so good).
Rounding out the top ten were some blogs that look like my little creation, albeit all filled with commercial ads, e-book offers and “opportunities to work with us” that usually contain taglines about the author sharing their expertise on “mutually beneficial opportunities”. Often very well written and highly developed, I’d probably never place my blog on the same list as a anyone that works harder than I did in my old job and has real skills with marketing and technology. The seventh ranked blog’s authors travel the world extensively and recently visited 54 countries. Both have professional degrees; one in journalism and one in research from MIT. And the author of number eight is only 25 years old but amazingly ambitious and calls herself “a world traveler and serial China expat”. With a sidebar indicating she’s been featured on Huffington Post and Matador Network, I used to be jealous of young people experiencing life to the fullest while I slaved away in a cubicle for 31 years saving just enough to try life as an Experimental Expat earning no income after age 50.
Ironically, as I reached the next ten rankings, I stumbled on a blog I turned to way back when for advice. Chris and Angela sold everything they had, left the 9 to 5 work life in the USA and became expats right here in Chiang Mai. Mostly liking their format and thinking we might try Thailand some day, I contacted them and recall they provided lots of great ideas and encouragement. Of course I see they have 82,000 Instagram followers, 40,000 on Twitter, 37,800 on Facebook and 2,500 on Periscope (No clue what that site is). Obviously quite personable and talented, they make their living from the blog and the website has various links where they share their expertise and knowledge of Chiang Mai with tourists and other potential expats for a nominal fee. Still highly impressed with their website, Tieland to Thailand gets my endorsement any day but leads me back to the original theme of this post. How the hell did I make the same list as them when I’ve got under 400 followers, zero social media presence and continuously shun my new friends constantly bugging me to get commercialized?
Turning to my stats page for the answer, it seems there’s so little information on Malaysia’s MM2H Program that I’ve somehow created a statistical anomaly. Knowing there are dozens of services devoted to increasing a webpage’s Google rankings, I’ve heard some sites spend years trying to get higher, depending on the topic. Without trying, I’ve apparently accomplished the Holy Grail of Googling. Despite having over 80,000 participants from 40 different nations and easily being Southeast Asia’s best and most generous retirement visa program, Malaysia sorely lacks brand recognition in the eyes of the western world. Unsurprisingly, as a Muslim majority nation, western mainstream media coverage of anything positive is about as common as a Trump accomplishment. As the second most visited nation in Southeast Asia, I’d expect at least a handful of blogs devoted to expat life. But Googling the phrase “MM2H expat” returns the strangely amazing results seen below.
Right below the sponsored ads, there it is. Even placing above one of the most popular forums devoted to Malaysian expats with thousands of members, I’ve somehow convinced Google that I’m the number one authority when it comes to being an expat living in Malaysia under the MM2H Visa Program. According to Feedspot, the criteria for making the Top 100 List is as follows:
- Google reputation and Google search ranking
- Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
- Quality and consistency of posts.
- Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
Even more intrigued after seeing what supposedly got me there, I examined the criteria in-depth. Excluding the sites that list “n/a” as the number of Facebook followers, I found 6 with less than my paltry 103 Facebook fans and many had tens of thousands. Slightly surprising, there were 10 others with no Twitter following and the funniest criteria stat is my Alexa ranking of 8,696,352. Owned by Amazon.com, I’d never heard of Alexa and according to folks at avangate.com, a tech company specializing in global e-commerce that I’d never understand even if I tried, they summarize how important one’s Alexa ranking is as follows:
As we have seen, there are pros and cons to Alexa ranking. The bottom line is that most people consider it valuable only for direct advertising. Given the fact that Alexa ranking for a site is calculated on the basis of how many visitors with the Alexa toolbar installed have visited that particular site, the results can be inaccurate most of the time.
Nevertheless, it may prove useful for sites with very good traffic that attract highly targeted leads, since Alexa focuses more on the traffic that Web sites receive rather than on links to it. As a Web site monetization strategy, we can safely say that Alexa ranking might be the right solution.
Considering the sixth highest ranking expat blog was in the 6 million range (very low) and the bottom 14 sights didn’t even have one and came up as “n/a”, I was both honored and surprised. Unsure if I find making the list an accomplishment or a laughable example of how technology’s taken over our lives, one thing’s for sure. Despite millions of Trump followers who somehow think globalization is a trend soon to be replaced with isolationism, perhaps you should use this post as an illustration why his bully tweets are both powerful and destructive. If a 52-year-old retired financial administrator with no social media presence, zero commercialization and no technical skills can make the top of the Google rankings without even trying, imagine what’s possible for those with malicious intent.
Meanwhile, back here in Chinag Mai I promised I’d give my techie friend a chance to come over and offer some suggestions for getting with the program and generating some cash from the blog. But honestly, all I really want to do is share our experiences as middle class retired North Americans living overseas. Since I’ve already plugged all my fellow Top 100 Expat Blog award recipients by posting the link to the list, I’ll proudly add the badge to my sidebar and hope all of you continue to enjoy the my writing more than any potential e-books.
And I would like to thank the people from Feedspot for ranking my blog with such high esteem. Unsure if anyone from the company actually spends any time reading blogs, I guess it doesn’t really matter. But I do average about six hours and 25 edits before posting the finished product so it’s nice to be recognized even if it’s only by an algorithm. As for the upcoming months, I’m hopeful that rainy season in Thailand will finally end in November so we spend less time indoors. More than likely I’ll continue being technically incompetent and probably also spark some controversy which usually happens when I call out cultural insensitivity on Facebook. (I see way to much of that from expats in Thailand and I wish they’d grow up or go home). Maybe my newfound recognition will increase my Alexa ranking. (Probably not.) Either way, thanks for supporting my blog. Positive reactions and compliments genuinely affect me and remind me that you write for yourself but when others like it, the rewards are in the comments and not the Paypal account. Cheers.