I recently passed the two-year mark as a blogger. So I felt this would be a good moment to help you, by explaining what I know now about being a successful blogger, that I wish I had known then.
Honestly, I figured it would be fairly easy to make the transition from writing for a newspaper to blogging, following 10 years as a journalist. The writing came fairly easy, but it took me two years to figure out all the unwritten rules I needed to know to be successful.
I’m always learning, but after several fits and starts, frustrations and lessons from experts, I’ve moved from novice level to intermediate. I recently wrote a blog post that went viral, and my last post here at PureDriven.com attracted hundreds of readers. Compared with serious bloggers, it’s still nothing, but it’s a significant step for me as a blogger, and it’s proof that PureDriven’s blogging effort is beginning to pick up steam, thanks to all my great readers like you.
Here is the post I wish I had read before I started down this blogging journey, detailing many of those unwritten rules.
It’s something I hope you all will take to heart – and add to – so you don’t have to spend quite as much time as I did in the wilderness of online word-smithing.
1. It’s not about you
You hear this all the time in life, but it’s especially true when it comes to blogging. It can be about stuff you love, and very personal stories, but you must write about what your audience wants to read. Typically this revolves around your expertise in something. This doesn’t mean if you’re a business that happens to make ball bearings you have to write a Hollywood gossip blog – please don’t actually. What I mean is you must make sure you’re reaching out and connecting with that slice of the gear head community who wants to read about ball bearings.
2. Be remarkable
If you think anyone will read your blog if all you do is talk about yourself and how great your business is, you’re doomed. So forget about reposting company press releases, or other self-serving nonsense. Avoid even a lot of company news, although the occasional announcement about a recent hire or new product or service is worth sharing. Just think about passing along your post to a customer. If you know that person would think your post isn’t worth reading, then don’t publish it.
3. Be a street performer
My teacher Jon Morrow (yes, I took a class to learn how to blog better, and it was worth every penny) reminded me recently that too many bloggers think they’re educators. But you don’t have a captive audience that has to by law sit in front of you and learn. You’re a street performer. People are scooting by quick. They’re busy people, probably already late to something important. They’re looking at their iPhones, sipping coffee, avoiding eye contact.
The the last thing they have time for is you.
So make sure you’re providing something rich, something worth chewing on, something that will make them stop for a few seconds and take a look. Make it useful and interesting enough that they want to tell their friends what they saw that morning. In order to really build an audience, you need to teach – because that’s how to sell yourself – yet you’ve got to make that teaching awesome, something people can’t pass up. Sure, some posts will be singles and doubles, not home runs, but if you’re going to do this regularly, you’ve got to bring your best stuff. Be awesome. No excuses.
4. Don’t botch the headline
People toss on a headline like it’s an afterthought. Wrong answer. You should spend half your time on the headline. Without it, your headline is dead on arrival. Remember, people are busy, you’ve got to hook them with a headline that they just can’t pass up. You earn their attention with a headline that rocks. You earn a regular reader with content that backs up those headlines.
5. Find a medium that fits you
I’ve always said I have the perfect face and voice for print. Go ahead and watch me on camera, and you’ll agree. I’ve always preferred writing. It’s less technical. You can do it from anywhere with a pen and scrap of paper, and readers don’t care how you dress (a fairly important prerequisite since I have a reputation for working at home in my Spiderman PJs, and I occasionally write for PR In Your Pajamas.) The PJs are true. The Spiderman part isn’t. I’m a Peanuts guy, just so you don’t get the wrong impression about me.
But all of what I’m saying in this post can be done with any medium. Find the one that works best for you, because blogging is normally a long range strategy if you’re doing it for business growth, or even if you just want to build a decent audience. You’ve really got to love blogging to stick with it, so find the medium that works best for you.
When starting out, try and post once a week. Anything less and I struggle to see how you’ll get traction. We still only publish weekly here at PureDriven, because that’s all the time I have. I try and put out one high quality post out per week. No, the sky won’t fall if you miss a week, but if you aren’t committed, don’t start.
A blog is like a puppy. You’ve either got to take care of a living animal, or give it to someone who will. Most of those millions of blogs out there aren’t competing with you, because people abandoned them. Starting a blog is easy. Sticking to it is hard. There’s room for you, if you stick with it.
7. Ship often, and give up on perfection
I love reading blog posts and marketing books from Seth Godin, and a big thing he always pushes is the need to ship, often. No excuses. Adopt that policy for your blog. Write it. Let is simmer overnight. Then read it the next day. Make some changes. Check the grammar. Check the spelling. Then let it go. Give yourself a deadline, and then send it out. It’s never going to be perfect. Heck, there might even be a tpyo or two in this post. Yeah, not the greatest image to leave. But we’re all human. It’s more important to ship than have flawless prose.
8. It is and isn’t about numbers
Set goals for your blog that matter to you. Our goals are lead generation, thought leadership, optimizing our website for search, helping people, and building a tribe of supporters we can travel through the online world with. As long as I’m meeting those goals, the actual number of subscribers isn’t that critical. But it’s hard to generate leads without people. So an audience of people who connect with us through the blog is what I’m aiming for. If we have a giant audience, but no one called to actually buy what we sell, then in my mind the blog would not be successful, no matter the audience size.
You need people to sell to, and therefore numbers do matter, just make sure you aim for the right goals, not jut eyeballs for your ego.
9. Market your posts
Without a doubt, our blog would have zero readers if it weren’t for my guest post on Copyblogger, linked to above. These days you can write excellent posts, but if you don’t work to guest post on blogs of bigger audiences and spread news of your posts, it is far harder to get people to notice your brilliance.
Every day people are getting inundated with more and more great, free content. So you’ve got to get in front of them with yours. Think of it like being the opening act for a big name band. Each time you perform, a certain amount of the existing audience is going to become your fans as well. If by the way you’re interested in guest posting for this blog, the one I mentioned above, For Bloggers By Bloggers or Workshifting let me know, and I can hook you up. For the place to find blogs in and around your niche, visit Alltop.com.
The good news is, if you have something to say, there are plenty of places that will allow you to guest post. Once your post runs, be sure to spread the headline and link around on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, or wherever you find relevant audiences for your post topic. It also helps if you’re building a network of other bloggers who will post to their networks what you’ve written. If you’re interested in the subject of guest blogging and getting your content to spread, I highly recommend Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging Course.
10. What would you add?
What’s the one thing you wish you’d have known when you got started? Or if you haven’t yet, what’s stopping you? What lingering issue have you been wondering about, when it comes to blogging?
I’m sitting in Northern Minnesota waiting to learn from you.
Don’t let me down friends,
You can find me on Twitter @garmoe
Photo Credit: The honor goes to Annie Mole