Note: you can listen to this episode above or load it up in iTunes.

How Getting Clear About Why You’re Blogging Can Grow Your Blog

Today’s episode is about how getting clear about why you’re blogging can help you and your readers.

In This Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). Today we talk about:

  • How defining your ‘why’ can help you get clearer about your ‘how’ and ‘what’
  • How having a clear understanding of your ‘why’ can motivate you through challenging times and improve your productivity
  • How having a clear understanding of your ‘why’ can help you make tough decisions
  • How to get clear about your ‘why’

Further Reading and Resources to Help You Work Out Your ‘Why’

  • ‘Start With Why’, the Ted Talk by Simon Sinek (it’s about business but it’s very relevant to blogging too)
  • Fully Charged‘, the book by Tom Roth that I mentioned I’m currently reading (I’m finding it so useful that I’ve become an affiliate. This is an affiliate link.)

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Hello and welcome to the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and this is episode 39. You can find today’s show notes at In our last episode, episode 38, I asked you a simple question which I think has a lot to do with the health of your blog. The question was how are you? I put forward the idea that if you want to make your blog shine, you need to work on making yourself shine and the well-being of your blog is tied to the well-being of you.

Today, I want to extend this idea a little bit further. In that last podcast, we are talking about your well-being and we touched on things like health, exercise, movement, diet, rest, relationships, and brain health as well as part of helping yourself to shine, which has a flowing effect for your blog. 

Today, I want to ask you another question that is tied to your well-being and is going to directly impact your blogging. The question is one that also will impact other areas of your life so it’s a good one to ponder every now and then. The question is what is your why?

Most of us know that our well-being, our health is tied to things like health, movement, diet, rest, relationships, and brain health, but increasingly over the last few years, studies have also found that purpose has a massive impact upon our health and well-being. Purpose directly impacts our physical health but also impacts our longevity.

Studies show that it increases our productivity and has an impact on our happiness as well. Purpose significantly impacts our health and also (in my experience) impacts our blog. I know that when my blogs have been firing, have been hitting the mark with readers the most, and have been growing, it’s often during a time when I’m really tapping into my why, my purpose. 

When I started ProBlogger back in 2004, I did it really strongly out of purpose, out of my why. Back in 2004, I could see that blogs were changing the world and bloggers were changing the world. It was happening in all kinds of different ways. In small ways, bloggers were teaching, they were sharing inspirations, they were sharing knowledge, but we are also seeing it in politics and global issues as well. Bloggers were using blogs to make the world a better place and I wanted to be a part of that. I want to resource that. That was one of the reasons I started ProBlogger.

The other reason I started ProBlogger was that I saw that not only could bloggers make the world a better place with their blogs, but they can also build businesses and this is something I discovered through my own blogging that I could not only teach people and help people, but I could sustain that by building a business and looking at different business models for my blogging.

When I started ProBlogger, I was really tapping into this purpose. I really believed that blogs could change the world and that bloggers could sustain what they were doing by building businesses. I got great feedback—even from the very early days of ProBlogger—from people who were being impacted by my blog and that fed the why, fed the purpose even more, and it really inspired me to keep that blog running and keep it as good as it could possibly be.

I remember getting an email from a young man in India. I dug up the email recently actually and he told me, he must have been seven or eight in age, he didn’t tell me his age but he was quite young and he had a younger sister. He was an orphan. His parents and her parents had passed away, so he was supporting his sister and he was working as a cleaner. One of the places that he cleaned was an Internet café. Instead of paying him, they gave him internet time in return for cleaning the Internet café.

One day, he was using his Internet time and he came across ProBlogger and he discovered this new way of making an income, so he decided to start a blog. He sent me this email about ten months after he started blogging and he told me his story about how he started a blog and he put some AdSense ads on it. In fairly broken English in his email, he told me about how his blog didn’t have much traffic as my blog and didn’t make as much money as my blog, but that he was able to make enough to pay for his sister to go to school and to pay for them to eat; something that they struggled to do in the past.

I remember getting this email and just being so inspired by it. I hadn’t really expected that impact upon people. That my blog, something I had written could change a life to that extent. I really tapped into that and that type of story is something I’ve heard numerous times over the years in different ways. Every time I go to a conference, people come up and say, “You wrote this thing that changed my life in some way.” When you are tapping into those types of stories and tapping into that meaning with your blogging, it has a massive impact on your blog.

What I also discovered over the years is that sometimes your why, sometimes your purpose gets a little bit fuzzy. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve talked to bloggers who start their blogs with real purpose, who start their blogs out of a really impassioned kind of why, and then gradually over time, things slip a little and they get distracted from their why. It’s so easy to do and I’ve experienced this myself. 

After a few years of blogging, many bloggers feel like they’ve created a machine. I don’t know if you can relate to that, but I’ve talked to a number of bloggers in the last year or so who pretty much expressed that their frustration with blogging in those exact words that they’ve created this machine, that they feel like they’ve created these expectations upon themselves to always publish at certain times and to publish a certain amount of content. 

They get the reader’s expectations and they need to keep publishing certain types of posts because they drive more traffic. Maybe, some of those posts don’t tap into why they started their blog, but they got to keep getting that traffic because they need to get that traffic to be able to earn a living. Slowly over time, their focus moves away from their why, away from their original purpose and they end up doing something quite different from what they started out doing. 

While blogs should evolve and blogs shouldn’t stay the same, you should change what you are doing when you lose sight of your why. It has a negative impact on your blog. The other thing I’ve discovered and I’ve realized over the last few years of my own blogging, is that as you grow a blog and as you scale your blog, and you begin to involve other people in your blog, it’s also easy to lose your why because you begin to focus more upon your team and less upon your readers. A gap can open up between you and your readers.

So in my blogging, I’ve hired an editor and we now have other writers on our blog. This is a good thing in many ways because it increases the expertise in the team and it also increases the variety of what we are able to communicate and in different voices. But if you are not careful, you can also open up this gap between you and your reader, and lose touch with that reader. In doing so, you hear less of the stories about how you’re impacting them and again, your why can become a little fuzzy. 

This has been my story over the years. There have been times where my why, my purpose has been really in focus and then gradually things drift and then you come back to your why and things really focus, then things gradually drift again. This is a cycle that I see in my own blogging, but also in many other bloggers. Today, I want to ask you the question, what is your why? And I hope that it helps you just to get back to why you are blogging and get back to some of that purpose. 

Knowing your why, there are a number of different things (I think) that have a really massive impact upon your blogging, so knowing your why gives your blog direction in terms of the how and the what. Now, after you listen to this podcast, I really would encourage you to go and watch a video by Simon Sinek. It’s a TED Talk and many of you have probably seen it. It’s one of the most viewed TED Talk ever. In it, he talks about the gold circle and in this golden circle he has three layers, three circles. In the inner circle, right at the inner part like an onion, the core is the word why and then around it is what, and then around that is how. Or maybe it’s actually why, how, and what. 

You can go watch it, but in this video, Simon talks about how most companies know what they do and most companies know how they do it, but most companies don’t know why they do it. I actually think that’s probably true for many blogs as well. Most bloggers may not actually know what they do. I got a blog about photography, or I got a blog about fashion, or I got a blog about being a parent, and most bloggers know how they blog. I publish four posts a week, these are the types of posts I do, and I’ve got a social media account in these ways. But many bloggers don’t know why they actually do it and when you don’t start with your why, your how, and what, becomes just a bit random.

But if you go back to really defining what your why is, it impacts the how and the what. Go ahead and have a look at that video. I think it’s really worth looking at and trying to look through the eyes of a blogger. He’s not talking about blogging, he’s talking about business, but I think the principles he discusses are really true. 

The second reason I think knowing your why is really important is that it provides you with motivation in tough times. When you’re really having a hard time of it, when you are perhaps not thinking about giving up blogging, having a why, having a purpose behind it can keep you on track and can get you through those tough times. One of the things occasionally I get to do is to talk to bloggers who are thinking about giving up blogging and in the last few months, I’ve actually talked to a couple of bloggers who are at this point.

In both cases, I encourage the blogger to go back to why they started blogging. Why did you start blogging? And in both cases, both of those bloggers actually came back to me after pondering that question and said, “I actually want to keep blogging because I realized my why is still valid,” and getting back in touch with that why gave them the motivation to keep on going. 

Interestingly, though, both of those bloggers in going back to their why decided to change the way that they blog. They realized that their why was still important, but their how needed to change because that had gotten off track and that the frustration that they had, the reason that they wanted to give up wasn’t so much about their why, it was their how. Tapping back into that is a really powerful thing. 

The third reason I think knowing your why is really important and this is something I found to be true this year, is that it can really help you to make decisions. Having a why gives you something to filter the opportunities that come in your way and to look at the way that you are doing what you do. 

This year, I had to make a massive decision and that was to close down a part of my business. Some of you will have been a part of the community which was live earlier in the year but which we closed down a few months ago, was a membership area on ProBlogger. People paid us a monthly subscription to get access to webinars, some plugins, a forum area, and a few other bits and pieces that we offer in that community. It was a relatively successful part of my business because thousands of people every month were paying us to access

The problem was that I was increasingly realizing that it wasn’t tapping into my why. I could tell that while it was making a profit, that people who are paying us every month were not using our community and we’re probably not benefiting from it in the way that I really wanted to help them.

Remember my why is to make the world a better place. I want to resource bloggers to make the world a better place for their blogs and also to build sustainable businesses and I could see that people were simply not listening to the webinars. That people were not simply using the forum and that a limited number of people were using the plug-ins. People were paying us every month, but they weren’t actually getting benefits out of it.

I can see that quite clearly through the way people are using the site and while it was profitable, it was successful in some ways, it actually wasn’t successful in bringing about my why, so I decided to close it down and that was a scary decision. That was something I didn’t do lightly because it didn’t mean losing income, but on making that decision, I felt like the weight lifted off my shoulders and I was able to tap back into my why and I was able to think about how I’m going to use my time and reallocate the time that I had been putting into that community and to use it in a different way that may tap into my why.

One of the things I decided to do as a result of having some extra free time was to start podcasting and in the first two episodes of this podcast, we had more people download the first two episodes in that first week than we had had people to listen to all of the webinars in over several years. This podcast has really tapped back into my why and I am getting feedback from people again who are being impacted by it and we see that in the reviews on iTunes but also the emails that we get in the comments as well. 

Having a why gives you a filter to make decisions and to keep you on track in many ways. Having a why also attracts other people and I think it shows through your writing. I know that when I write out of my why, I write out of my purpose, I write about something I’m passionate about so that people can see that. That comes through in your writing and it attracts other people who share your why or who need your why.

The other thing I guess about having a why is that it significantly changes your productivity. In that community, I used to really struggle to create those webinars because I just knew that it wasn’t tapping into my why. It was tough to create those two webinars every month for whereas this podcast has been the complete opposite because it’s so much tapping into my why. It’s something I’m really enjoying and I can see the impact and that I can see it’s been meaningful for people. 

I was able to produce 31 podcasts in a week when I did the 31 days to build a better blog series of this podcast. It increases your productivity and it shines through in what you create. For me, retapping into my why is something I’ve gone back to a number of times over the years and it’s something that you do need to keep coming back to and keep coming refocusing upon. 

For me this year, there’s been a number of things that have helped me to rediscover my why again. One of the things that I really enjoyed this year was getting out and doing some local events around Australia. 

We did a series of events in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth. These are smaller groups of people, so 80-100 people at a time and just by getting in the same room as readers actually reignited my why because I began to hear their questions, see their challenges, and see their problems and also had faces and names to put into the statistics. You, people, are reading my blog, but to actually meet them really is quite inspirational. 

Not everyone can run an event, although if you can, I would encourage you to do that even if it’s just a simple meetup. You can get on a tool like Periscope which is pretty much like doing a mini live event anyway. Even if you just do a Periscope and three people show up, you can have an interaction with them that is more meaningful. Personally, I find jumping on Periscope every time I do, I get new ideas and I get inspiration because I’m in conversation in almost a real-time way with my readers.

The other thing that I’ve actually found this year is really helpful in re-tapping into my why and refocusing my why’s simply by exploring a new medium like podcasting and by going back to some of the core things that I’ve written about previously but speaking about them in a new medium has again fed into that why and has been really helpful for me. 

I want to finish with a quote from Tom Rath and he’s written a book called Are You Fully Charged? which I’ve been listening to as an audiobook this year. He talks a lot about meaning and he talks a lot about purpose in that particular book. It’s really worth reading, but this quote stood out to me as I listened to it. He says, “You create meaning when your strengths and interests meet the needs of the world.”

If you are wondering what your ways are, if you are trying to refocus your why at the moment, can I encourage you to just simply ponder that statement? You create meaning when your strengths and interests meet the needs of the world. 

So what are your strengths? What are your interests? I’d add to that your passions, your experiences, the things that keep you awake at night because you are so excited about them. If you can find an intersection of those things and the needs of the world, you are going to be doing something that is meaningful not only to you, something that excites you, but it’s going to have an impact upon others and that’s a meaningful thing, and that’s a purposeful thing, and that taps into your why. 

I’d love to hear what your why is. If you want to go to, there’s the opportunity on the show notes to leave a comment and I’d love to hear what your why is. Have you got it clearly on focus or do you need to rework that a little bit? If you need some help in doing that, we’ve love to hear about that in those comments and perhaps other listeners in the podcast and help you to refocus that as well. I look forward to chatting with you in episode 40—I can’t believe we are up to 40 already—of this podcast in the next few days.

How did you go with today’s challenge?

Have you got your ‘why’ clearly in focus? Maybe you’re struggling to work out your ‘why’? What’s something you will do differently to get clear about your ‘why’?

Either way, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. Don’t forget to share a link to your blog.

Pick Up the 31DBBB eBook at 50% Off

Don’t forget, you can also grab the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook with a 50% discount using the coupon code PODCAST50 during the checkout process here.

Finally, if you have a moment we’d love to get your feedback on the ProBlogger Podcast with this short survey which will help us plan future episodes.


Enjoy this podcast? Subscribe to ProBloggerPLUS for free to get free blogging tutorials and podcasts in your inbox each week.