What makes a successful blog?
What makes a successful blogger?
I have been reflecting on these questions as I start planning out the next stage of my Authority Blogger course. It’s important to me that people get real results, and honestly the only way I can do that is by basing my advice on what has worked for me and other clients, and my getting people to take action.
It Takes a Long Time to Be an Overnight Success
Most of the bloggers you know who write about blogging didn’t start off with that. I recall Chris Brogan saying it took him 11 years to be an overnight success. Darren blogged for a while about spirituality. Brian was a lawyer until he took a blow to his noggin. My experience has not been all high-fives either. In fact, most of it was pretty unglamorous. It did, however, teach me a lot.
My first “blog” was around the mid-90’s. It was a science fiction website, where I would write fanboy postings about Star Trek and Doctor Who. I know, sexy, right?
After that I moved on to writing about another ultra-sexy topic. Programming. Oh yeah! This was where I started getting financial rewards in terms of selling services, paid writing gigs, books, the whole deal. As well as the benefits increasing, that was also where I went through my toughening up process. Developers might look like meek nerds but believe me they can craft a cutting remark 😉
Lesson: Nobody is delivered into the world fully equipped, and it is not always a smooth path. It is hard work and like most things, most people will fail.
Success is Great, Failing is Good
Of course fast-forward a bit and I did a whole bunch of marketing consulting, copywriting and freelance blogging. Some highs and lows, like anybody. Everything from writing about drug-rehab and having friends and family concerned about my health (they were a client! never touched the stuff!) through to a couple of imploded SaS startups. There were many prideful moments, and also many that were followed by a fall.
Not every blogger is going to make a full time income. Of course not. Most people do not intend to, and of those that do, only a minority will put in the effort. Even with best intentions and lots of energy exhausted we can still fail. This is no different to starting a business, launching a career, or higher education. Failure rates are high everywhere.
Lesson: Put in the effort and don’t expect plain sailing. We learn a great deal from our mistakes, especially if we work out how to prevent them in future. Our successes can be educational, providing we learn how we achieved them and why what we did worked.
The Difference Between Successful Blogs and Obscurity
This might be a tough message to hear. We want to create. Craft compelling writing. And it is about that, but we also need people to do stuff or think differently because of our content.
We have to encourage people to subscribe, share, and maybe buy.
Lesson: Successful blogs are about persuasion. You might not have a financial outcome, but you do want to create a result. Leave the reader with an idea, an action, a next-step, and so on.
Content Follows Purpose
Therefore it might sound strange to read me say this but I don’t consider myself a blogger. Not in the way most people would describe it.
Do I blog? Yes, but as a means to an end. I am a marketer and a teacher. Do I call myself a “whiteboard artist” or “telephone user”?
When I am writing for a client blog, I am a freelance writer. If I am building awareness of my product, I am marketing. To get people to be interested in buying, I am a salesman.
This is my website where I encourage people to opt-in to have my content delivered via email and RSS. Of course I like helping people with my free advice, but I also have to put food on the table by people paying me. Therefore this is not just a blog, but a relationship and reputation builder.
My goals with all of this stuff have always been greater freedom and security for my family and myself. This is at the back of my mind as I work. My means to that end is helping and advising the maximum number of people to get closer to their own goals. It is fulfilling and rewarding to see people make progress without the financial benefits, but being paid to achieve that is wonderful.
You have to put your audience first. This stops outside criticism hurting so much, and means you will always be on the right track. Intentions count for a lot. Think long term, rather than aiming for a quick win. The reason I think what I do continues to be valuable and worthwhile over this period of time is because I want people to succeed with my stuff. I’ll only recommend stuff I have full faith in because of a personal experience or relationship, and the stuff I create myself I try my best to make it as good as it can be.
Lesson: What is the purpose behind your blogging?
You must answer this, then build your approach around that outcome.
Turn Your Blog Around With These 10 Quick Tips
- Start with your end-goal in mind, what change/action/outcome do you want to bring about?
- Craft your content to work towards a satisfying conclusion.
- You must answer WIIFM (“What’s In It For Me?”) on behalf of the audience. Avoid “So What?”.
- What is the big point you want to deliver?
- Headlines matter – 80% will read headline, but only 20% will read the rest.
- Compelling headlines are Specific. Beneficial. Intriguing. Unusual.
- Add emotion and urgency to get more clicks.
- Openings should Tease, Question, Shock, or otherwise pull the reader in.
- Anecdotes and stories deliver information subconsciously, but must stay on point.
- Your reader is King. Focus on them, what can you do for your audience?
I guess bottom line is this. We get obsessed with the activity of blogging, and we look at the surface of others who blog. Success comes from digging under the hood and working towards an intention and a purpose.
What have I missed? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments ….