Blogging Chat: The WordPress Reader and Like-for-Like

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The WordPress Reader can be a fascinating place to poke around and look at other people’s blog-ish habits. One of the things that interests (and puzzles) me is the like-for-like phenomenon. I think there are a fair number of people who do this, and there are some bloggers that I notice liking so many posts that I have strong doubts as to whether they’re actually reading (or even opening) all of those posts that they’re liking.

The like-for-like phenomenon becomes particularly obvious when you come across blogs with high engagement numbers but content that does not in any way warrant such numbers.

One example is a site that posts printer drivers. A post with drivers for the HP Envy Pro 6455 got 86 likes, because really, who wouldn’t want to read that, and who doesn’t have an HP Envy Pro 6455?

That pales in comparison, though, to the 252 likes for a font site’s post with download info for a font called Not Bad. Because again, who doesn’t want to include that in their day?

Or you’ve got the real estate company that does blog posts in Spanish and gets >200 likes per post from a lot of non-Spanish-sounding bloggers.

In turn, if you want to get a bunch of likes on your posts, you could probably look at the people who are liking posts on the printer driver and font sites and go and like their posts to climb aboard the like-for-like express.

Does anyone remember Sebastian? He was around last year and for a little while this year liking a whole bunch of posts, often within seconds of people publishing them. There were multiple reports about him on the support forum (including here, here, here, here, and here), and WP did take away his ability to like posts in the Reader, although it sounds like he kept creating new accounts and they had to do some chasing to keep up with him. And if you’re as fascinated by Sebastian as I am, Google “relatocorto” (the oh-so-creative name of his website, which translates to “short story”), and you’ll see that he’s managed to convince Google that he’s a legit place of business.

People do this kind of thing because it “works”, and people will keep doing it as long as there are people who will participate in like-for like. I remember Sebastian used to get a shit ton of likes on his posts (which probably resulted in him making money off the ads he had on his site). He has a Buy Me A Coffee page, and he’s had a lot of coffees bought for him, although I suspect that a chunk of that is him using other accounts to buy coffees for himself to make it look like he’s popular.

Like-for-like may be a pretty effective way to get a lot of (pretty meaningless) likes, but the artificiality of it really doesn’t do it for me. Is this something you’ve noticed or participated in?

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73 thoughts on “Blogging Chat: The WordPress Reader and Like-for-Like”

  1. A big peeve is the spam like. I just know you haven’t spent the last two hours reading through old posts. Though I do have HP Envy Pro envy.

    I struggle with like-for-like and follow-for-follow. It’s an aspect of my people pleasing bent, though it’s not as bad here on WP, mostly because I feel an obligation to read before liking here.

    1. I would feel really uncomfortable liking a post without reading it – it just feels so fake. Although I will hit like if I’ve attempted to read it but my concentration was too shot to make much sense of it. I dislike people too much to try to people-please.

    2. Re: follow-for-follow – this is why I don’t use Medium, really. All the posts seem to be about how to get more followers, or posts saying “follow me and I’ll follow you back!”. All to get to an arbitrary goal of 100 followers (which is apparently what you need to start earning money).

      I guess that’s the issue that comes up when you have an algorithm that heavily favours engagement.

      1. Agreed, it’s annoying but I’m getting more selective about who I follow. I don’t pay a monthly subscription and don’t plan to despite posting on Medium. Why? Because I don’t want to feel obligated to read every post that’s behind a paywall. I just don’t have time. I’m very “tit for tat” on Medium knowing how flaky followers are. If they play the follow/unfollow game, I will unfollow them right back.

        1. I suspect that not being a member does make it harder to earn money though. People make nothing when a non-member reads their post, so if people are looking for reciprocal engagement, they’re more likely to engage with members than non-members.

          1. Yep, I figured this would happen. I figured out a trick to work around the paywall but it’s super time consuming and I need a desktop to do this. I’ve only done it a couple of times to interact with certain ppl I otherwise couldn’t. I figure I will take my losses and instead, work on building a larger following instead. I noticed that ppl are more likely to follow bigger followings without question.

            I put the majority of my articles behind a paywall because I figure, hey why not? I’ve made the most this month out of any other month since I started. That being said, I only made enough for 2 cups of coffee and I have to take a -30% loss on earnings. It’s still more than what I make from my blog ($0) so that’s why I use Medium.

            1. People can still see that you’re not a member, though, so they’re not making money even if you’re reading articles behind the paywall. I remember when I was using Medium, I was less likely to follow or read articles by non-members as I figured engaging with members was the best use of my time.

            2. How can people see that I’m not a member? I thought they couldn’t tell if we paid the monthly fee? 🤔

              I mostly engage with non-members who plan on joining the MPP because their content is free for me to read. Who knows, maybe I will pay the $6/month fee eventually but I would like to break even on blogging expenses first.

              Your profile is still on Medium. I follow you on there. You came up under “people you might know.” Medium is watching us 👀

            3. Yeah, I left my profile up even though I haven’t been active there for a couple of years.

              I was just taking a look, and it’s not quite as obvious as it used to be who’s a member, but if you look in your notifications, you’ll see some people have a yellow star-type thing next to the avatar – those are people who are members.

            4. Oh I see, thank you for looking into this. That makes a lot of sense. I can see the star on the profiles using a laptop but on the mobile app I can’t it.

    3. Only time I spam like is when I’ve read a bunch of posts on my web browser, then decide to follow the blog on my smartphone using the WordPress app, then go “I should hit like on all those posts I’ve read.” 🤣

      I really dislike like-for-like, follow-for-follow though.

  2. I don’t look at likes per post, just at the average over time, which has remained steady at about 35. In the reader menu, I select comments and reply to most of those. But I am still watching followers and periodically dump the spam type blogs or the ones with no blog (if I don’t know them). I’ve been more lenient about blogs in foreign languages if they seem like “real” blogs after I run them through the translator. Yes, I am picky about this stuff! 😂

  3. I don’t understand this either. I’ll often get likes on short stories I post seconds after I post it. I know there is no way they actually took the time to read it because it took me longer to post it than it did for them to like it. I never got the “like-for-likes” or “follow-for-follower” train.

  4. The tit-for-tat thing has been around since the beginning of blogging and I have always hated it. Works for comments too – comment on my blog, I comment on your blog and why this is important to anyone is beyond my knowing or interest. Even with blogs I like and follow sometimes I won’t like a post that I, in reality, haven’t read or have no interest in. In that case I’m now thinking (as I type this) that is taking my honesty a bit too far. So I guess, for that particular blogger, who I like very much, I will ‘like’ posts I don’t really like because I like THEM.

    1. I do that too sometimes, and at least there is still genuine liking involved in some way. But I’m not going to go off and read a blog about postage stamps from Timbuktu in the 1940s just because that blogger has commented on my blog…

  5. Wow, that’s so weird! I closed the comments on my blog in Spanish because people were posting the strangest things, and I have never turned them on in English. But I appreciate the fact that other bloggers like you give us a chance to comment and interact in your blogs! I only like the posts I read 🙂

  6. Yes, I remember Sebastian. He never left comments but would always be the first to like a post whenever a new one was published. Although he didn’t stalk my blog, I noticed this on the blogs I was following. It was annoying.

    Personally, I will like blog posts of the blogs in following in the reader. It’s impossible for me to comment on every new blog post I see. If I’m in a hurry, I will like the blog post to acknowledge that I read/skimmed it which also lets the author know I’m still active on WP. If I try to comment on every blog post I see in the reader, I would be spending several hours a day. 😕

    As for follow-for-follow, I stopped doing that. That being said, I will follow a blog regardless of how many followers they have. They might only have 10 followers but if their content is good I will follow them. I don’t expect them to follow me back but secretly hope that they will.

    1. I agree, commenting on every post would be impossible, and the like button is a great option to have.

      I’m the same way regarding following people; I follow if I want to read a blogger’s content.

      1. Sadly I still get likes from blogs I don’t recognize and from blogs who don’t interact with me. Same with new followers. These unrecognizable blogs just appear out of nowhere which is annoying too. I guess bloggers could really use a lesson on “blogging etiquette 101.” I try to ignore it and not interact with them. If I don’t give them my time of day, my theory is that they will probably back off eventually.

  7. 😀 It appears that Sebastian guy has made things worse for bloggers with the same name. Now, how do you think that people will react when a different blogger by the name of Sebastian (one who is genuinely sincere) visits their blog, comments and likes a few of their posts? Some people might become suspicious.

    For the record, it is common to practice for someone to visit a specific tag within the WordPress reader and like a few posts. For example, when I visit the “Blogging Advice” tag, I would read and like blog posts from Pooja G and Hugh Roberts.

    Now, it is hard to tell if a blogger is a voracious reader or not. Like you, I have my doubts about a lot of people reading the posts on the WordPress Reader before liking them.

    While lots of likes may look nice on a blog, there is nothing quite as nice as seeing meaningful conversations in the form of comments.

    People have lost the art of proper commenting.

    In regards to the “Like” button, there will always be a bunch of people who will gladly abuse it.


    Because they want your attention.

    Thank you for posting another thought-provoking blog post, Ashley.

    1. It starts to get a little suspicious when someone likes every single post in a relatively busy tag over a span of a day or more. On one occasion, a particular blogger who’s on WordPress once a month or so had liked every single blog under the “mental-illness” tag over a 5-day period.

  8. I feel badly posting these days because I’m not regularly on WP any more, but when I do it’s because my heart is in it. It takes a lot of time even just ‘liking’ posts (whatever site) – when something worthwhile can be done instead! so I don’t get this whole liking thing (perhaps I’m too old!). I have varied interests so I do follow many blogs (sporadically reading/catching up) and will only like a post if I really like it. Love to you Ashley and the piggies! xox

  9. Oh I hate the like for like thing. I just ignore it until the person seems to show up regularly and then I might check them out. I’ve seen blogs with upwards of 300 likes and the content sorry to say doesn’t merit that engagement or hundreds of comments. There was this one girl like that who’d always write “great post” and I was brand new at blogging and thought she was sincere, but quickly realized what she was up to. Blocked her and eventually she stopped clicking the like button.

  10. I had a few likes off Sebby a few months back and thought ‘Oooooooooooooh no the prickster is back!” He was under a different avatar at that point and l remember him from Guy blog days – within miliseconds he was there LIKING. You know how l feel about the Likemonli Monsters anyway Ashley – l can’t stand them – and l still have them here even with the very few follower numbers l have.

    I am no longer bothered, l used to be, l am no longer fazed by them, like away monsters, like away, l still aint reading your blog.

  11. For some reason I have an arbitrary number in my head that a post should get 8 likes by itself, and then it was satisfactorily “successful” – I know objectively this is neither true or rational. Maybe I just like number 8. Likes-for-like don’t bother me so much, I focus on the commenters.

    I will also only Like a post if I really do enjoy some or all do it. For a while, attempting to read someone else’s blog and liking back seemed important but now less so, for exact reasons you outlined.

    Sebastian sounds very unusual. His activity is like a strange hobby vanity project all by itself…

  12. I loved this post Ashley. I did wonder what happened to Sebastian.

    I see some odd “liking” activity, but I just don’t feel I can complain. When I do have time to sit down I love reading, liking, commenting on posts – but I do not get through everything in my Reader. I try to look out for posts which have no likes yet, or just one or two. I do want to support those bloggers so that they don’t feel discouraged. I remember the early days of blogging when nobody seems to read your work. So occasionally that means neglecting the posts of some of my favourite bloggers because they are so well-established. Other times, I sit and try to catch up with my favourite bloggers and see what I have missed.

    I do think that everyone who sticks with blogging has to find the right balance. It is important to make time to support other bloggers and read their posts…but to enjoy what you can do and give, and not feel miserable because you ran out of time.

    I try not to think about statistics myself….I am just out there for the pure enjoyment of it.

    1. I agree, balance is key, and it’s impossible to read everything. That’s nice of you to try to support blogs that don’t get a lot of activity. In those early days of blogging it can be so discouraging to get no interaction.

      1. lol Ashley – I have just seen one of my friends who knows about my blog do the serial liking thing. Oh…she is still doing it…cringe!!! I will tell her I was online and what she is doing is weirdaroo!

  13. There are times when I can tell that someone likes my post without reading it, because my likes go up, but my views don’t, lol.

    Personally, I only like a post if I’m able to take the time to read the whole thing.

    I remember Sebastian. He was one of the first people to like any of my posts on here! Haha.

  14. It feels weird to like something without reading at least half of it… what if you liked a post of someone admitting to something awful like murder or something that goes against your values as a person? I don’t do the like for like.

    I do take 2-3 days out of a month to catch up on posts and bloggers who I enjoy reading or whatever pops up on the reader. Still finding confidence to comment on those that I really enjoy. It’s getting easier.

    Though I will admit, when I first started out on WordPress I did randomly follow people in hopes of them noticing my blog. I was too scared to comment or promote myself at first, so I did the random following without knowing what the heck I was doing. I didn’t realize the reader promotes the blog posts automatically. Still, it feels weird to admit lol. Mistakes are part of any journey, even the cringy ones.

    Now I am more selective and don’t do that unless I honestly want to read the writer’s blog. My confidence with blogging increased as well as my understanding of blogging (if that makes any sense). Still learning though.

    Sometimes people will like 15 of my posts in a matter of seconds. It gets annoying at times. I know there are fast readers, but not that fast. I would much rather have someone follow my blog because they find value in the content and vice versa. It feels disrespectful and manipulative doing the like for like and follow for follow.

    1. I think anyone who says they didn’t make mistakes early in the their blogging days is probably lying. Early on, I ended up following a bunch of inactive blogs without realizing it because I was having a hard time figuring out how to search and didn’t realize you could search by tag.

      Good point about not reading and inadvertently liking a post where someone says something horrible.

      I don’t know why people do the like-15-posts-in-2-seconds thing. Sure, they get attention, but it’s probably always going to be bad attention.

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