Author’s TL;DR: This book summarizes my experience of blogging for two and a half years, growing from zero to 60,000 unique visitors a month at www.yegor256.com; all dirty secrets revealed.
My TL;DR: LOVED it! Easily 5⁄5. Read my detailed review below to find out why.
Let me preface my review with this: 256 Bloghacks is not for everyone. Yegor doesn’t pull any punches - he hits it off with a swift sambo kick in the balls right on page one:
“If you have nothing to say to the world, this book is not for you.” (this is literally the first sentence of Preface)
“… there is a huge chance that your blog won’t be successful, because of you. Yes, because of who you are - a person without interesting ideas or a talent for writing” (Chapter 1.2 “Be yourself”)
I’m sure more than a few readers of this review are thinking ‘thanks for pointing that out man, no way I’m going to pay $40.96 to be lambasted by a… - oh wait, why did you give it 5 Stars then?! Are you one of those guys who like to be kicked in the balls (no, I’m not, btw, but thanks for asking!)? Isn’t there a controversy here?’
No, there is no controversy. It’s true that Yegor has a larger-than-life personality combined with an in-your-face writing style (that work together like vodka and cucumber). However, after reading the book (twice already!) it’s crystal clear that he is passionate about what he does and he gives it his all to share his hard-earned wisdom with the reader in an honest, raw way.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s concentrate on the book!
Yegor is the quintessential geek (“256 Bloghacks” for $40.96, right? I’m glad he didn’t make it $81.92) and the writing style is geeky throughout. Loved it!
There is absolutely no filler here, which is refreshing in the sea of non-fiction books. The ones that expand a blog idea into a 400-page tome, prompting you to squirm with exasperation, screaming ‘Just get to the point!!! Please’.
Not Yegor - his writing style is Spartan, in the best sense of the word. (Case in point: there is a chapter titled “No puppies, no kitties”. Content: “Just no!”. You get the idea).
The book consists of 9 Sections - here are my cliff-notes for each:
Attitude - possibly my favorite chapter, because the correct mindset outweighs tools, processes, marketing and all other necessary components of creating a blog. This idea resonated with me deeply: “… a combination of average programming skills and an ability to write is my winning point. … If you are good at something (not excellent, just good) and you can write, you can have success.” I concur - I’m the same way, and good writing unlocks way more doors than being good at the actual field you are in.
Content - the meat of the book. This chapter is worth the price of the book alone! No stone is left unturned here: what, how, why, why not, when, to whom, etc. It would be difficult to find an aspect that hasn’t been discussed. Section 2.33, “Learn how to write” is my favorite - 21 ideas that are not included in your typical ’21 ways to turn your blog into a money-making machine’ clickbait article. Those are like fast food - you eat it, somewhat enjoy it, but won’t remember it the next day. Yegor serves gourmet food here, which you won’t forget anytime soon.
Community - Instead of telling you to create a blog for the wrong reasons (money, fame, vanity metrics, boredom), Yegor argues that “The community you build around your blog is valuable, and it’s the most important thing you get from it.” It’s a short, yet essential chapter on dealing with building, engaging with and nurturing your community. Although not stated explicitly, there are some great ideas to reach “1,000 True Fans”, a concept popularized by Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired Magazine.
Routine - “Just writing is not enough. It’s absolutely not enough. It’s not even close enough. You must promote your blog, regularly, systematically, and methodically. You must have a strategy and tactics. Without this, it’s all for nothing.” Enough said! 100% agree.
Video and Audio - “If content is king, then video content is queen. They should go together. Just blogging is not enough-they want to watch”. The shortest chapter in the book (a mere 5 pages), yet Yegor still manages to offer a few gems here.
Social - “You have to be present on all possible social networks, if you are serious about your blog. Whether you like it or not, you have to do it. ‘I hate Facebook’ is not an excuse.” This advice came at the right time for me, as I just wanted to delete my Facebook account, but Yegor made me re-think the decision. I’m quite active on social media, and have been running a successful blog in the past for years myself. Yet, I still found some valuable and unconventional advice here. The fact that Yegor is not afraid to knock down taboos (“Should you buy followers?”, for example) goes a long way.
Technical - a Ruby programmer myself, currently building/running a static site (https://trinitytakei.io) just like described in this chapter, I was not expecting to get much out of this part. Boy, was I wrong! My head was spinning after finishing the chapter, chock full of technical details, tips and tricks.
Google - For better or worse, Google grew into an uncontrollable beast, sneaking into every minutia of our daily life (remember the times when their motto used to be “Don’t be evil?” I digress.) This goes double for a blogger - pleasing Google, typically bringing in half (if not more) of all traffic is of utmost importance. Find out how in this chapter.
Money - The final chapter is about monetizing (or not) your blog, and other, perhaps less unexpected ways of bringing in the goods. It’s a refreshing take. Don’t be fooled by sensationalist peddlers of ‘became a blogging millionaire overnight’-style courses - it’s not all about the benjamins.
To conclude, I gained a lot from this book, and still taking notes, setting up workflows and getting new ideas every day. If you are serious about blogging, you could do (way) worse than giving it a shot. If you are on the fence, I would recommend to check out Yegor’s other material (blog, youtube channel, etc.)
If you decide to go for it - enjoy the ride! I hope you’ll like it, it’s possible you’ll hate it and burn the book. I can guarentee one thing, though: you won’t forget it in a while!