How to Make Readers Forget About You


Yesterday I blogged about how to get readers to pay attention, but not everybody wants that.  Some people yearn to be forgotten, to be ignored, and disappear into the ether.

Don’t offer an RSS feed or email subscriptions. If someone happens to stumble upon your content, don’t give them an easy way to find out about new things you post.  If your site software offers RSS subscriptions automatically, you can still work around it by repeatedly editing the same page or post, and gradually adding on content to it without triggering a new article.  Hardly anybody will think to revisit the same page manually to check for updates.

Invisible Content Too

Invisible Content Too

Bury the good content below unrelated text. Don’t follow the lead of sites like Engadget that put their newest featured content right up at the top of the page with a sexy, shiny picture – that will lead to frantic excitement about your new content.  To be forgettable, bury the new stuff in the smallest print possible at the bottom of a page that never changes.  You want people to take a glance at a page and immediately think nothing has changed since the dawn of HTML.

Don’t allow comments, or don’t respond to them. When content is really thought-provoking, people want a place to leave their newfound thoughts.  They want to start a discussion with you, the author, and get your opinions.  Engaging with your readers only serves to bring them back for more – avoid this at all costs.  Bonus points for making your post seem like a dead page that no one is maintaining anymore.

Don’t make your content searchable. You can use robots.txt rules to make sure search engines don’t find your stuff, but if you’re really sharp, you can make some worthless content public while making the really valuable stuff – like your writings – invisible.  Here’s the trick: put the content in PDFs that can only be seen after users log in.  Presto!  Unsearchable by Google.

Require login to read, then redirect users elsewhere. Tell users that they have to log in to read your best content.  They’ll click on the link, and odds are, they’ll either forget their password or have to create a new account.  After they log in, redirect them to your site’s home page, thereby ensuring they’ll have a tough time returning to whatever content they were originally trying to read.

Think nobody would be so crazy as to follow every single one of these steps?  You’re wrong – I know one particular page that follows every one of these guidelines perfectly, and I bet some of you know who it is.  I’ll give a $40 Amazon gift certificate to the first person who guesses it correctly in the comments.  And of course I buried this juicy little contest way down in the small print…

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24 Comments. Leave new

  • Are you talking about SSWUG?

  • The PASS site?

    • Oooo, Aaron, you’re very close! To be a little more specific – what part of the PASS site? Is there something that matches all of these issues?

  • let me take a wild guess 🙂

    expert-sexchange…I mean experts-exchange

  • Hmm, well it’s not anyone in my RSS feeds (per first point), so it’s not anything I’m reading regularly

  • Joe Stefanelli
    April 28, 2010 9:05 am

    Piggybacking off your hint to Aaron, I’d say SQL Server Standard Magazine.

    • BINGO! We have a winner, and because I’m feeling generous this morning, you both get Amazon gift certificates! They’ll be coming via email momentarily. Congratulations, gentlemen!

      • Thanks Brent! I’ve learned that you save your best constructive criticism for the PASS organization. Experts-Exchange would have been my 2nd choice, given your work with the Stack Overflow guys…

        • HAHAHA, best constructive criticism…well, I’ve got plenty of criticism to go around, but I get most excited about moving the community forward. This whole thing started when we had a Twitter conversation yesterday about a new Standard out, and way too many people (with good connections) were asking, “When did the Standard come back out?” Ouch.

      • Joe Stefanelli
        April 28, 2010 12:07 pm

        My thanks as well Brent.

  • A great post overall… It’s not all inclusive, but then that’s a reason for another blog post, right? 😉 I talk about this kind of thing all of the time. Thanks, Brent.

  • Sounds like SQL Server Magazine… I’m a paid subscriber and the site is frustrating to use. I even had to 1980s-style call them on the telephone to get my subscriber account linked to my web account. On the plus side, they were helpful, nice and spent time showing me how to use features on the website, but should that be necessary these days?

  • The last one is definitely my favorite. Why do sites with this kind of crap still exist?

  • Alin Winters
    April 30, 2010 9:18 am

    I would’ve guessed SQL Server Magazine as well… and you still have to deal with ads left and right even as a paid subscriber. :-/

  • I’m crying right now…

    But apart from the tears, this is some good stuff. Heck, I wish you’d just hit me up side the head with it. I would have noticed quicker that way and I could blame the crying on the physical assault. I’m taking this stuff in right now and see what we can do about it.

    Thanks Brent… got any kleenex?

  • Brent, no doubt some of this is my fault, we focused on trying to get the content stream going and have relied on marketing to do the rest, and I saw the same Twitter comments you did – ouch indeed.

    There’s a lot of stuff here, we’ll look at all of it and see what we can do. I’m a supporter of having it gated, we pay good money for it after all, but there are ways to let search engines index gated content.

    Keep the ideas coming!