One of the first thing that most of us who write about blogging advise those starting out is to work on writing useful and unique content.
Certainly at the core of most great blogs is useful and unique content that draws readers in and generates links from other blogs, builds the profile and reputation of the blog – however sometimes great content is simply not enough.
The reality is that many bloggers write excellent content – however not all of them break through the clutter and rise to the top of their niche.
This is frustrating – there’s no two ways about it.
I’ve felt the frustration myself and hear the frustration of others on a daily basis via emails and IMs from bloggers wanting to know how to take their blogging to the next level.
- How do I find readers?
- How do I get my first “break”?
- How did you get your first incoming links to my great content if nobody is reading it?
These are the type of questions I see more and more.
Do you want the “right” answer or the “real” answer?
As I sit down to answer some of these questions on how to build a successful blog I’m increasingly feeling that there are certain answers which are “right” and some more that are “real”.
The “Right” Answers
“Write unique and useful content for your readers.” – this has been one of the catch cries at ProBlogger over the last couple of years as I’ve attempted to show bloggers how to build quality blogs. It’s a principle that I strongly believe in – it’s something that does work and I don’t know too many successful bloggers who wouldn’t agree with it and/or apply it. It is ‘right’.
Other “right” answers include things like:
- Interact with your readers – the more you interact with readers in a genuine way the more likely they are to stay around and spread the word about you.
- Use Quality Titles – a lot is written about the effectiveness of quality post titles at getting attention and drawing in readers to your blog. In my mind there is little doubt about how important it is to invest time into smart title generation.
- Promote yourself – while some of us feel a little awkward about self promotion – there’s little doubt in my mind that it is a necessary part of launching a new blog. While it’s also important to let your readers spread the news about you – without some self promotion you may never find those first readers to help you spread the virus.
- Know and Use basic SEO principles – it is well worth learning the basic principles on how search engines index and rank online content. While some bloggers become a little obsessed by SEO – setting up your blog smartly and keeping some of the basics in mind as you write is a common sense way of building a blog that will bring in significant SE traffic over the long term.
- Inviting Design – I don’t believe that to be successful a blog needs to have professional designs that cost mega-bucks. However inviting design that communicates what a blog is about, that enables good navigation and that draws readers into the content can really take a blog to the next level.
In my mind – these sorts of tips (and there are many more of them) are “right“. They make sense – they work (to varying degrees) and many bloggers talk about them as keys to successful blogs – because they are.
Much has been written about these “right” answers. ProBlogger’s archives are full of them.
However there’s a problem – as “right” as these tips are – they are quite often not enough for many bloggers.
In fact I’ve talked to many bloggers who have done all the right stuff (they’ve executed everything mentioned above perfectly) yet they still fail to find readers, build community and reach their goals.
The “Real” Answers
In addition to the “right” answers above – I’ve been pondering some other keys to successful blogs that I don’t see many of us writing about. The reason they don’t get spoken about much is that they are hard to define, they are subjective and some might even say that they’re things that might apply to some but not others.
However I think some of it is worth saying – as difficult as it might be to put them into words (just don’t expect a list of tips that you can go away and apply to get these things):
Austin Powers has it and so do many successful bloggers. What is it? Well I could define it using a dictionary (magic or some powerful force) – but mojo is one of those indefinable characteristics that some bloggers just seem to have which others don’t. It’s a quality that some bloggers have that intrigues, invites and inspires readers – not because they write grammatically perfect posts, not because they are the smartest people going around – but just because they do.
Perhaps finding your mojo is similar to “finding your voice” or “injecting your personality” into your writing or just “being yourself” – to be honest I’m not sure where it comes from – but for many successful bloggers, they’ve got mojo!
I’ve written about being lucky on a couple of occasions previously and both times the response from readership was positive. I even tried to talk about “how to be lucky” once (I do like to try to define the undefinable) – however sometimes no matter what you do Lady Luck just comes calling in the most unexpected times and places.
Meeting the right person at the right time to collaborate with – picking up a scoop ahead of the competition – overhearing something in a conversation that triggers a thought process that people respond to – starting your blog on the day before something happens that draws attention to your niche – getting that link from an A-lister out of the blue… the list of ways you can get lucky as a blogger could go on.
Trust is one of those things that you can do things to build with your readers (and with other bloggers) but in some ways it is something that is not manufacturable or definable (you can’t come up with a list of 10 ways to absolutely guarantee it – as much as I’d like that).
Building Trust with readership takes time, it means putting actions behind your words and it means being a person of authenticity and character – in such a way that others both see and connect with it.
Expertise and Authority
I almost put expertise in the “right” answers list because on some levels it is something you can work on and to some degree define. However expertise can also be slippery thing to nail down also because it’s one of those things where there is a sliding scale and which readers can respond differently to. For example here at ProBlogger I don’t see myself as “the” expert or authority on the topic making money from blogs.
I do have expertise in some areas of blogging (or at least 5-6 years of experience) – but in other areas (like blog design or coding) I’m definitely no expert. However – I attempt to write this blog in a way that is transparent about what I do and don’t know about or have experiences in and for some reason the gaps in my expertise don’t seem to matter to readers.
I do think it’s important that you know something about your topic that you can share and help others with – however, what’s probably more important is the way you convey that expertise.
What seems to happen with some bloggers is that they become perceived as experts and authorities on their topics (whether they feel that they deserve it or not).
I find that many successful bloggers seem to have an ability to draw people to them – to connect with their readers and to connect their readers with one another.
Community is one of those trigger points that people are gathering around online at the moment – and they often gather around a key person (or people) that have the gift of connecting with others.
While it’s possible to work on your relational skills the reason I put this in the “real answers” list is because it’s something that many bloggers seem to have without really trying. Everywhere they go they just seem to draw others around them. As I see it these bloggers seem to be able to do the following things:
- draw people around them (perhaps this is the “mojo” I’m talking about above)
- connect those people with one another to form community
- empower that community and it’s members to be self sustaining and not reliant upon that person
- continue to inspire and champion that community – but not need to continually drive it in a hands on way
These people are often humble and don’t let their egos get caught up in the community they develop. They know when to stand back and let others continue what they start.
What Would You Add?
Mojo, Luck, Trust, Expertise, Charisma – these are just some of the more slippery and hard to define characteristics that I find many successful bloggers have. On some levels they can be ‘worked on’ – but in many cases bloggers just seem to have them.
What other characteristics would you add – either to my ‘right’ or ‘real’ answers?
PS: Can I finish this post by saying that I feel a little weird about publishing it? I actually wrote this 12 months ago and have been coming back to it again and again over that time.
My hesitation comes mainly from this….
I don’t want people to get frustrated by not having some of these more indefinable characteristics.
I don’t think that lacking them disqualifies you from blogging well at all – but wanted to put ‘out there’ that sometimes it’s not just about doing all the ‘right’ things that we blogging advice givers might teach.
All I really want to add is that in my experience a lot of these qualities come with time. Out of experience comes relationships, experience, expertise, finding your voice etc. If you’re still finding your way – hang in there friends.