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5 Prerequisites For Blogging Success

Posted By Tony Hung 8th of January 2007 Business Blogging, General 0 Comments

In the time that I have been blogging, I have noticed that there are a few things that “successful” blogs have in common. And I am defining “success” in every way — monetary terms, absolute traffic, but more importantly, in robust and continued growth. With 2007 here and many New Years Resolutions on the cusp, I thought we would start things off with what I believe are 5 things that are necessary to grow one’s blog.

1. Putting in the Time and Commitment.
One of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate is what a time commitment blogging is. I’m not including all the time it takes to literally set up a WordPress installation, or taking the time to tweak your theme just right, or even answering the buckets of email you may (or may not) have. What I am talking about is the time it takes to actually write.

If you’re a gifted writer, all the best to you. Skip the rest of this tip. For the rest of us who were not born with a pencil in their mouths, it literally takes time to write something really meaty, interesting, and worthy of your blog. The stuff that makes people fascinated and can’t wait to want more. It takes time to research stuff you don’t know about, to find a block of uninterrupted time to actually sit down and write the blasted piece, and then actually get it out in a form that you feel comfortable with.

And for people who have a semblance of a life — husband/wife, kids, a job, other Responsibilities — it can actually come as a bit of a shock, because in the blogging world no one really talks about how long it takes to actually create something you’re proud of.

For the literal minded (who have not yet started to blog), what this means is that at a post a day, it might require one extra hour of your life to produce that single post alone. Are you going to take that hour away from television time? Time with your family? Time to sleep? For most folks, their days are packed to the gills doing Stuff; taking the time to commit to blogging will often mean taking time away form something else.

What can make it doubly hard is in ADDITION to writing regularly (which is what we all should be aiming for), is that when one starts out, one must make the commitment to blog consistently for a stretch of time. Its insufficient to blog regularly for a few days, then stop for a few weeks. Put yourself in your readers shoes; how fast would you drop a blog if they stopped writing for weeks at a time? Needless to say, if you’ve been convinced blogging is Work, then one of the first hurdles one needs to overcome is the notion that blogging is for the short term. In fact, to grow your blog, you need to write for the intermediate-to-long term to see some kind of return on your time.

Beginning bloggers ought to plan to blog for at least a few months consistently before throwing the towel in. And there are some fairly concrete reasons for doing so as well. Having a body of work allows Google and other Search Engines time to find you (and get out of the Sandbox); it allows you to build a body of work that “proves” to your readers your in it for the long term; a body of work will also “prove” to your readers you know what you’re talking about; the time will also allow you to market your blog (see below) to create other streams of traffic back to your site.

At the end of the day, the reality of blogging, is that to be successful, you’ve got to write regularly and consistently, and you’ve got to find the time to do it.

For some it might mean being more efficient with their time, both with blogging, and the time around blogging; and for others it might mean reprioritizing their evening’s actvities. But no matter what you do, if you can’t do what it takes to give yourself the time to produce something on a regular basis, your blog will start to flag — and it certainly won’t grow.
The blogosphere is growing at a prodigious rate; every blog has a great deal of competition for your reader’s feed reader, and ultimately their attention. They deserve your best — and it takes time to create your best. Finding the time to do it, and do it consistently, is one of the greatest challenges most bloggers will face.

2. Willing to Market The Blog
Even if you’re willing to put in the time and energy to blog, and blog consistently, it will do you no good if you’re not willing to market your blog. There’s no question that blogging in the oblivion of anonymity can be hard; but you are deluding yourself if you’re stuck in the “if I build it, they will come” mentality. There’s no question that Google or other Search Engines might find you, but to grow your blog at any kind of velocity will require you to not only write for your blog, but spend some (more) time promoting it. There is no shortage of articles on this (and I will be contributing to Darren’s own body of work in the next few days), but to create a successful blog, you’ve got to willing to put the effort into making sure people know about your blog.

And I find the most basic strategies are actually the best. Sure, there’s all kinds of other methods, such as blog carnivals, getting your blog Dugg and so on, but if blogging is about conversations, you’ve got to be willing to participate in those conversations yourself. Get involved in the comments section of other bloggers. Respond on your own blog. Link like mad to other bloggers and their posts. Putting in the time to do these basic kinds of “marketing” methods for your blog can pay huge dividends, as all blogging communities are in a state of flux, with older bloggers leaving, and newer bloggers joining in the conversation. And that next one just might be you!

3. Be Interesting
“Interesting” doesn’t mean being something your not. Nor does it mean trying to be “funny” or “clever”. Interesting, is relative, and is relative in particular, to your readers. If you’re writing about a given topic, hopefully you’ll know something about the people who are similarly interested; these are the people who you should be writing for. The content you write should be fresh, unique, passionate and relevant. And it can take many forms (variety, as they say is the spice of blogs). Interviews, lists, news, it goes on. If you’re writing about the same old stuff every day, in the same way every day, or, echoing what everyone else is saying, then stop. Because you need to give people a reason to read your blog once they’ve actually heard about your blog.

4. Realize Its Not About You (its About Them)
Blogging has a reputation amongst the mainstream media and many of the uneducated masses that it is STILL the providence of self indulgent teenagers who are create vanity puff pieces for themselves and their three friends. They’re confusing it with MySpace. Although blogging may have its roots in that kind of mentality, its come a long way. And certainly the kind of blogging you want to do is not about you at all. Its about Them. I’ve alluded to it plenty of times in this very article, but blogs that are successful, popular, and growing are not ones centered around their authors. They are centered around news and information that is interesting to their readership.

But what does this also mean? It means ask yourself and Them, how you can make yourself better to serve their interests. It means, changing your content to make it wildly interesting to Them. It means ask yourself if the next Big Change your going to do on your blog will cheese them off or encourage more feed signups.

It also definitely means being accessible, and getting into the conversations that you generate. Once your blog is up and going, turn your comments on, and try and reply to as many as you possibly can. Sometimes the ensuing discussion is even more important than the actual post that spawned it. And if you’re growing your blog, you may leave an indelible mark on other bloggers who are commenting on your site, creating more fans for yourself.

5. Focus
Blogs that are fascinating, regular reads, that are also are reader-centered do best when they are also focused like a laser. And I mean “focused” and consistent in every single way. Focused in their identity and writing style, focused in their content, and focused in their intent to serve their reader. Blogs that are wishy-washy, who don’t know who they are, who change their kind of writing “voice” repeatedly, who vascillate on their opinions, who introduce nonsensical and unrelated topics are blogs that will find it difficult to succeed.

It is possible to be so fascinating about everything that it requires no focus. But blogs like those that have succeeded tend to be blogs that have been around for a long time. The blogging environment that baby blogs are born into today is a chokingly competitive one. Whether its celebrity, business, law, or crocheting, to earn continual growth requires that every day, in every way, people know what to expect from your blog.

The other benefit of focus, is that irrespective of your actual authority, people will inherently trust, and believe you to be a thought leader in a given area, if you consistently blog on a particular area of interest for a long enough period of time in an intelligent enough way. Thought leadership is important, because when people will look for opinion makers, they’ll turn to you. When they’ll want partners they’ll turn to you. When the mainstream media is interested in a quote, they’ll turn to you. And when other bloggers need guest bloggers, they might turn to you too.

Heck, look at me. A doctor blogging about blogging on one of the biggest blogs in the blogosphere. Who would have thunk it? :)

* Tony Hung is the guest blogger for the week. He blogs at Deep Jive Interests

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  1. AFR : Blogger takes free laptop in his stride…

    Josh’s (or should I say Joshua’s) article is in the AFR today. Moira went out to buy the paper, to put…

  2. […] Today over at ProBlogger, guest writer Tony Hung shares 5 prerequisites for blogging success, and I’d like to quote his first: 1. Putting in the Time and Commitment. […]

  3. […] O Darren Rowse δίνει τα 5 στοιχεία που όλα τα επιτυχημένα διεθνώς blogs διαθέτουν και μας συμβουλεύει εδώ […]

  4. Hi Tony,

    Great piece. I subscribed to your blog as well.

  5. Thank you for these 5 things… It is definitely a sacrifice, but in life, you look for what makes you happy and what you’re passionate about… then, find a way to make money doing it… So, if you like to write, even if you’re not a truly gifted writer, that in itself is motivation and inspiration enough… blogging is just a way to make money from something you like to do.. and that is to help people, provide useful information, etc..

    And these 5 things are just another reason why I thank you for burning the midnight oil and writing these useful blog posts.. It’s always inspiring..

  6. Really nice. Thanks.

    I’m just getting started blogging and I can already see that your post will help me.

  7. Familiar face here!

    Great first post Tony. Finding the time to write is a big one. As a guy who used to write 6 a day, right now I’m having a tough time writing 2.

    Commenting and linking may be the best, cheapest marketing around. Because of a past commenting relationship, The Garage recently had a major link back from Autoblog which immediately tripled traffic. That spike lasted 2 days, but in the aftermath, traffic has stayed well above the pre link level. It’s nice when the big guys notice the little guys!

  8. Great stuff Tony !

    I also find the BASIC STRATEGIES are the best. Really enjoyed your first article here and have also visited your site today too.

    Tony, how long have you been blogging ?

  9. great article

  10. A great article, and well worth reading. For me, focus is the hardest – I have a topic, and stick to it, but as a new blogger I find it hard to know how much OT “personal, get-to-know-me” stuff to include. On the one hand, it’s always nicer to have a dialogue with someone that you know, rather than a complete stranger, but on the other hand you read a blog because you’re interested in that topic.

    Decisions, decisions …

  11. […] There’s a great article this morning on ProBlogger written by Tony Hung of DeepJiveInterests. Tony lists what he feels are the five prerequisites for having a successful blog. Tony defines a successful blog not only in monetary terms or traffic, but also in what he calls, ‘robust and continued growth.’ […]

  12. Excellent!

    You post increased my spirit. Relatively I face lot of problems in blogging.
    My native language is not English. So, it takes about 3 hours to make an
    article for my blog. Even with that it may not come to casual language. I am an undergraduate and time really ties me up. On top of all, my subject is really competitive which is not advisable to a newcomer.

    But I don’t give up and never will! Because I am sure one day my blog will be a valuable source to its community. I work continuously towards that day!

  13. good practical advice. stupid question maybe, but when you say respond to comments, do you mean within the comment forum or personally by email? i’m a novice, hence the novicie question.

  14. You’re right on the money, Tony. The points you outline here are fine examples of the “little things” – the things that people overlook when searching for answers as to why they’re not getting attracting traffic, getting subscribers and/or retaining visitors. Often times it’s the obvious things that give the most returns, if you take the time to stop and pay attention to them.

  15. Tony,

    Wonderful debut. I always enjoy reading substantial posts. It seems like everything is a blurb these days. This post does a great job summarizing the most important aspects of blogging.

  16. Great tips Tony! As a work at home mom, I’ve had to sacrifice friendships to stay committed and on track with my blogging. It seems as long as you’re working from home, you’re not really working.

    Blogging is nowhere close to being as ‘easy’ as I thought it was going to be, but the rewards are well worth it.

    I’ve been an ‘at home mom’ with my kids (13 y.o. twins) since they were 5 and I’ve loved every minute of it.

  17. Great post as always!
    Realize it’s not you, it’s them… totally make sense.

  18. Great post – and welcome to Problogger. I’ve been blogging for less than one year so I’m still learning the ropes. As I fairly gifted writer (I also write for a newspaper) who can crank out decent copy fast I was really surprised how much time can be involved in blogging. I came to blogging from a web design background and used to hand code sites. I figured the technical simplicity of a blog/CMS platform would make the whole thing simple, fast and easy. Thanks for your insights.

  19. 5 informative points, thank you.

    I have really appreciated all the blogging tips that come out of Problogger. I am following them fairly religiously. But what I get most is the sense of someone keen to help any out here who might be trying to get along. It is most encouraging.

  20. Great post, Tony.

  21. Great advice, all around.

    I have a couple of reactions, but I warn the reader: Don’t assume I know what I’m talking about!

    Yes, there is a sacrifice, but there are two ways to cheat! (maybe).

    One is to shift some of the things you need to be doing anyway into the blogging effort. For example, I need sometimes to provide students or colleagues with a few paragraphs of “statement” about some issue in my research. Well, with virtually no adjustment at all, that’s a blog (assuming there is no private data!).

    The other is to use the blog to improve or organize some other part of your life, so the time spent working on the blog contents and web site get double duty.

    The biggest single thing I hope people take from Dr. Hung’s writing is the demand for consistency. You can spend a half hour a day or three hours a day … that will determine the rate at which you achieve some kind of equilibrium that may look or feel like success. But if you skip a few weeks, forgetaboutit!

  22. Yoav,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts. ;)

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  23. Greg,

    Great thoughts … great thoughts.
    I would second the notion that if you can double up on whatever you’re writing without sacrificing the actual purpose of the content, its an awesome idea.

    The way I prefer to see things is not that “blogging is a chore”, but how blogging regularly demands that you organize your life, and organize your time … and hopefully that spills over to other areas in your life.

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  24. Rory,

    Always glad to help. We all started out somewhere, and it takes a great deal of courage (for some, like me) to start broadcasting your thoughts publicly. Its important to find a common area where people don’t shoot you down, or poo-poo your idea.

    Welcome aboard. ;)

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  25. Rob,

    No question it can be a rude awakening — particularly to those who have other responsibilities. Its one thing to live at home, have many things prepared for you and done for you, and quite another to have others (in every sense of the word) demand your time and attention.

    And that’s not a knock towards anyone living at home — I did it until I got married. ;)

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  26. Anne,

    As the traditional direct marketers will always tell you, people are always tuned into the station “WII-FM” … “whats in it for me”.

    Blogs that are profitable are blogs that demand reading; blogs that demand reading are ones that deliver stuff that is useful to their audience — not the author.

    Keeping this in mind can take the vanity out of our writing (me included), and keep us focused where it really matters.

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  27. Gayla,

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying it so much; I think you couldn’t do it if you didn’t love it. At the same time, your time is precious no matter where you’re spending it on — if you have any tips for stay-at-home moms to maximize their time, I’d love to hear it.

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  28. John,

    Blurbed posts do no one any good — least of all the blog; worst still it contributes to the thought that blogs do nothing to add to the conversation, which might be true of some blogs, but not all blogs.

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  29. Tom,

    I can see where some might regard them as the “little things”, but I humbly prefer to regard them as the “big things” — above blogging tactics, and the gritty ground work. If you get some things right, others seem to fall into place. If you don’t, sometimes it seems like nothing you do will ever work! :D

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  30. Naked pastor,

    No stupid questions here!
    I mean what I’m doing right now as a minimum — answering comments when you can through your own comments. Contacting people personally is a great way to follow up on thigns, or on items that are not appropriate for your comment space.

    A forum might be ok too — but often its unnecessary unless your blog is large, I find. Even then, its a topic for some discussion.

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  31. Nicholas,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts.
    And glad to hear that somenoe else knows abuot the midnight oil! :D

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  32. Gaya,

    Glad to hear you’ve planned to stick through it.
    Find like minded people to commiserate through your challenges, and to help celebrate your triumphs … blogging in a vacuum can be tremendously difficult! :)

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  33. Freesitebuilder (if that’s your real name! :),

    No question there’s a fine line — and something that your own fans will let you know if you cross it! Its tough, but you’ve got to make the decision somewhere along the line whether what you’re doing is something more personal or more professional.

    And heck — no one says you can’t have two separate blogs! :D

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  34. Michael,

    I have been blogging for about six months. Pretty funny, huh? :)

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  35. Gary,

    No question the link love is great from the big blogs … (what’s your blog’s URL again … ? ) And I totally agree: commenting and linkbacks are absolutely the cheapest and value based marketing you can do — provided your blog has something to say!

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

    PS — We should really get together for Dinner again before Yaro leaves town — I need to get you back for last time! :D

  36. Dawud, Rohit — glad to hear that you like it. ;)

    t @ dji / tbh / bts / *pb*

  37. Darren, great post!

    I blogged about you on my blog, http://www.justindriscoll.net


  38. Hi Tony,

    Came here to get my regular DJI fix. Insightful post. This should be required reading for any new bloggers out there… myself included.

  39. Great advice Darren!

    My problem is that I know a lot about my chosen subject, but getting it written down is really difficult. I write like I speak, with a strong Irish accent filled with local slang.

    It takes a lot of time to rewrite my entries to make them sound like they were written by someone with a basic understanding of the written word.

  40. Tony, you speak Truth. I started blogging and made about half the mistakes you describe while my husband wrung his hands in frustration at my lack of sense. One I started putting some real time into it (now blogging is the equivalent of a part time job for me in terms of hours, though a full-time job in terms of time spent thinking about it) and listened to his advice, which mirrors yours, that’s when I started to find some success. I’ve been blogging almost two years but only successful at it for four months and I’m excited for what the next two years will bring.

  41. Hello Tony:

    Your 5 points remind me of reasons to do anything besides blogging and certainly the basis for doing great work. Let’s take a look at them:

    1. Putting in the time and commitment — learning about your industry and competitive environment. This can also mean discovering what works and what doesn’t — taking small risks early to adjust one’s aim or goal. And most importantly, being clear of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

    It’s really fine to do it for self-interest, after all when we do great work we also like to get compensated in some ways for it. It is fair to yourself and to others that you know what that compensation is. It is also going to be useful in keeping up with the commitment and motivating yourself to sit up that extra hour to write and research.

    2. Being willing to market your work — no marketing, no sales. A couple of faulty assumptions to consider: (a) many sales-driven organizations think that marketing is something everyone can do thus they do not invest enough time planning, do not dedicate a person or activities to marketing, do not expend funds to do so; (b) other organizations think that they are already marketing but what they’re doing is selling. They do not put enough thought into figuring out who they are, their own brand, and communicating that consistently.

    Marketing is what it feels like to deal with you. Every single interaction, impression, and action needs to be aligned with who you are (your brand) and what you bring to the conversation.

    3. Be interesting — better yet, be interested. Join every conversation, even yours, with an open spirit of true inquiry. That will allow you to be a better participant and broaden your horizons at the same time.

    4. It’s about you *and* them — actually. Why? You are putting forth your best work at the time, with passion, engagement, and interest in learning. Your audience will see that when it’s genuine, especially in a blog, but also in any type of communications, and respond to you in like kind. You’re setting the tone and providing the example.

    Accessibility is an attitude and spirit we should carry over every aspect of life. The more we open ourselves to others, the more time we have to do so. Try it, it works. For example, when we invest time in talking with a customer who is providing feedback, we can them reinvest that time back into our work more efficiently than ever before. We just saved ourselves time.

    5. On focus — the most important part of focus is to be centered in your values and vision. What I call the chi of life. You do your best work from that and you’re in the flow. Your niche can be a certain way of looking at things as well. Not the topic, but the way of looking at every topic and subject matter.

    If the way you think is lateral vs. vertical, there is a tremendous advantage in that if you can find an angle that is yours alone. So your expertise can be in brining the right people into a conversation, for example, or hosting amazing experiences through your work.

    It’s up to you to define what that is and communicate that to your readers/customers clearly with enough frequency, intensity and duration so that it becomes obvious. Tell them what you’re going to do, tell them what you’re doing, and then tell them what you’ve just done. Without boring them, of course.

    Good food for thought. Thank you, Tony. Thank you, Darren for hosting this conversation.

  42. […] 5 Prerequisites For Blogging Success I thought we would start things off with what I believe are 5 things that are necessary to grow one’s blog. […]

  43. To answer your question “how fast would you drop a blog if they stopped writing for weeks at a time?”…never. And I really hope someone can explain why they would, because it doesn’t make sense to me at all.

  44. […] Just came across Tony Hung’s post about filling in for Darren “Problogger” Rowse for a week while Darren takes a holiday, and I wanted to send him a shout-out (as my homies in the ‘hood like to say) and wish him all the best. He’s already off to a good start with a well thought-out piece on the kinds of things it takes to maintain and grow a good blog. […]

  45. @Marial If your using feeds that makes since, but for some reason, most people visit blogs via bookmarks than read feeds. So if you visit 5 times in a row and there’s no new entry, many people will stop clicking the bookmark.

    Now a question for everyone, can anyone suggest a good article or 4 on point #2- marketing yourself?

  46. Hi Tony,

    No kidding about the time commitment; I still can’t crank out a quality family travel post in less than an hour, if the post topic is at all meaty, and I consider myself a pretty decent writer.

    It takes time to make sure that the writing is clear and error-free, all of the links work and the photos, if any, are well-positioned and add to the text. I’d love to have as many comments as ProBlogger gets on the average post, but then, as you point out, the blogger should respond to those comments and that takes time.

    Still, it’s all worth it when you find that there really are people out there reading your stuff.


  47. Great post Mr. Hung. One thing I’d like to add is if you can’t blog every day, at least post a schedule telling readers when to expect a new post — and, stick to this schedule, no matter what!

    This is especially important in the beginning as you are building up your readership.

    Once again, great post.

  48. I too, like Greg Laden, like to do double duty with my blogs, incorporating things that I want to work on for me into my blogs, creating some of them specifically for that purpose.

    Example: I do not like winter! When the birds go South in the fall, I want to to too, I REALLY want to! So, I decided on a winter project for myself this year, and will probably pursue it to some extent year round because part of what can make winter better is what one can do when it’s not winter. That winter project is organized around my new blog, http://www.sunnyandtoasty.com. The project also includes an email discussion list for interactions with readers beyond the comments they might wish to leave on the blog.

    I’ve done this sort of thing before with a blog testing out a particular weight loss theory book, and inviting readers to test it along with me. Several of my blogs are service sites for my interests and projects. I figure that sharing what I’m doing, exploring, and researching, may help others too, and what they share will also help me. And, of course, it provides a reason to create another blog, which I love to do.

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