There are well over 100 million blogs out there. Why’s anyone going to read yours?
Every keyword phrase, every niche, every topic, every angle has been covered. The competition for attention and traffic is fierce. But there’s still room for your blog . . . if it’s amazing.
A blog is trivially simple to start, but not so easy to keep rolling. There are so many factors — traffic, social media strategy, design, monetization. If you try to absorb everything at once, you’ll be too overwhelmed to keep going.
It’s important to learn and grow, but you also want to keep your focus. You need a plan — the kind you can scribble on the back of a bar napkin. If you make sure you don’t stray too far from these three points, your best path will get a lot easier to find.
Step 1. Get Obsessed with Your Audience
Your blog isn’t an SEO blog or a mommy blog or a political humor blog.
Your blog is not about your topic at all.
Your blog is about your readers.
Whether you’ve been blogging for 1 day or 1000 days, you need to know who’s showing up to read, watch or listen to you.
What do they care about? What are they interested in? What’s worrying them? What makes them smile? Who/what do they lust after? What do they fear? What do they loathe? What do they cherish?
What do they devoutly wish someone (maybe you?) would write about? What kind of content would feed their minds, their pocketbooks, or their souls?
You never have to pander to your readers. You’re not their slave. But you do have to know them.
Step 2. Keep Yourself in the Picture
In keeping with step #1, I’ve probably said It’s not about you a million times on this blog.
But that’s not really true. It has to be about you. Because blogs are about expression, and if you don’t show up in all your glory, there’s not much point to the whole exercise.
Shoot your mouth off, ideally when you know what you’re talking about. Rant, rave, shout from the rooftops.
And when you’re totally clueless, ask a million questions. Engage, pursue, reach out, investigate.
While you’re at it, go ahead and look like an ass once in awhile. Confess all the oddity and foolishness you’ve been trying to hide since junior high school. (No one’s ever fallen for your cool kid cover anyway.) Get as naked as you dare.
You’re the prism that your readers want to look through. Don’t try to create some kind of quasi-journalistic cloak of invisibility. You’re the point.
Step 3. Stay Fast on Your Feet
Comments slowing down? It may be because your readers are tweeting you instead (which is a fine thing, since those tweets are seen by hundreds or thousands who don’t know you yet). What tools could you add that would make that even easier to do?
Hosting your blog on someone else’s domain, like Blogger or WordPress.com? Make the jump to self-hosted WordPress before you’re completely comfortable with the idea. It might be messy, although a good blog developer can usually make things reasonably painless. But it’s never going to get less messy than it is today.
Sexy new tools are being created every day. You’ll never master them all, so don’t try to. But don’t let your blog sink into the same stagnant habits, either. Try new plugins, new themes, new tools, new approaches.
Great blogs, and great bloggers, evolve.
Blogging is about challenge and mystery. It’s about never knowing who’s going to show up, or link to you, or what exactly your server will do when you hit the front page of Digg.
Blogging, like many of life’s more interesting endeavors, is all about how you take the curves.
Just make sure you have a rough plan and a few grounding principles. Then get out there and have fun. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.
Reader Comments (50)
great writeup.. aside from all of this I think bloggers also have to understand that they have to patience because blogs don’t become popular as quick as what they probably want to.
At the end of the day, I think it’s also about showing up at your blog.
Just show up! You may not know what to blog about, you may not even want to blog.
Simply show up and shout off the rooftop of your blog that you’re clueless.
A simple, “I’m out of things to talk about. So let’s talk about what you want.” will do. Twitter it. If someone wants to talk about Britney Spears (God forbid) then do that. Let your readers know you’re listening
Besides, everyone has an opinion on Britney.
Great post as always. Just starting out my blog and really trying to distill who my audience is. Time to revise my About page.
The Bad Blogger says
After reading it, I have a new perspective thinking in my head, and that is it doesn’t matter whether is about your reader or is about you, I think blog is like a bridge that connects you with the reader, and of cos you are the one to build the bridge while the readers are the one crossing to your land for tour.
Maria Schneider says
“You’re the prism that your readers want to look through.” What a beautiful line, Sonia. Wonderful, inspiring post.
Sunil Pathak says
I agree wholeheartedly with you on your first point Sonia.
i have seen blogger so desperate to gain PR and links, that they completely overlook the most important part of the game , interacting with their readers/audience .
Tony Teegarden says
I have to say a BIG thanks for this post!
I have made a transition in my blog from completely personal development to integrating it with social media, relationships, internet marketing and marketing in general. My focus was to always keep it about self development and developing human relationships.
Sometimes the comments come in and sometimes they don’t. The one thing I’ve noticed is my personality has not shined through like it once did!
It also appears (Unconsciously) to take on the journalistic view like you mentioned. I’m not happy with that and I’m glad you’ve indirectly given me permission to be myself again!
I once prided myself on writing for my readers and although I’ve been focused on giving them content people also want personality.
Thank you again for ringing my bell!
I’ve recently been working with a start up business who would like to have a blog. However, their fear of not being able to start up a great blog is keeping them from actually starting. I loved how you put it, “Great blogs, and great bloggers, evolve.” You’re not going to be great and amazing right off the bat; however, if you just start with time if you evolve, you can become that great blogger.
This blogging thing is very tough, there is soo much advice out there you could read every minute of every day and still have no cluse what to do.
“Blogging, like many of life’s more interesting endeavors, is all about how you take the curves. ”
That is so true, Sonia.
Andrea Nguyen says
Thanks for keeping us all focused. I’ve had a food blog for a few years (and now manage 2!) but had not really focused on developing the marketing side of things until now. Your insights are fueling my desires to keep on tweaking things.
One question is this — can you clarify the advantages of moving away from having a blog hosted on Blogger, Typepad, etc. to WordPress? Thanks!
I love your writing voice as well as your content. I first met you on Naomi’s call as you chomped your way through an enchilada so I’ve always enjoyed your humanity, too!
These are all great points, but my favourite was the second one. The great thing about being a filter and a prism is we never lose ourselves in the process – we define ourselves by what we’re inspired to share and pass on.
Write a Writing says
Blogging was the ultimate adobe for me…only got yo it too late… i am using a self hosted wordpress service but with it comes a one -mane show and looking up at everything, from design to detail and from marketing to promotion.
I believe bloggers are perfectionists by spirits and some times it happens to be the catch 21 for us. We get too absorbed with trivial details and leave out the actual part “creativity and writing”
Good points – I make it a practice to blog about my ‘rivals’ too as I think it’s more important to serve the needs of my readers than it is hide from any fear of being outdone by others – this causes me to want to stretch my own material.
esteban from socialnerdia says
Awesome post. How do you know what your readers/viewers want if they rarely comment? What if you can see through analytics that people are coming in and coming back but they are not commenting much? I understand it’s a fact that the people who usually comment are those who blog as well (maybe the reason why you get lots of comments).
How do you do it? Polls? Emails? Trying to get to know personally? Intense twittering?
Esteban from socialnerdia(dot)com
ps. Why I / You / We Tweet –> http://bit.ly/iyouwe
Sonia Simone says
@Andrea, essentially the advantage to self-hosted WP is being master of your own fate. You choose the theme, you choose the plugins, you get to make all the decisions. WP.com doesn’t allow you to run ads and they don’t allow blogs with commercial intent. It makes it trickier to evolve and grow if you can’t make your own decisions.
@Esteban, if you don’t get many comments, a poll is always great. I find Survey Monkey’s free service to be quite good, and very easy to use. You can also have “check in” posts where you explicitly ask people to weigh in on particular questions. You’ll get lots more folks who answer if you have a specific question directed to them. And remember to look yourself up and see what folks are saying about you on Twitter–do a search on your blog’s name & your name, not just your Twitter @ id.
I love it when you get naked Sonia—I mean the way you do in your posts, that is. I wanna bottle this stuff and sprinkle it liberally on myself before attempting to write anything.
Getting simple yet very good advice for bloggers is rare.
Thanks to Copyblogger and Sonia.
Big Idea Blogger says
You remind me of the saying, “People love stories, and there is only one YOU in this world, so don’t deprive them of YOUR stories!”
Harrison Schmidt says
Good post Sonia.
“The competition for attention and traffic is fierce. But there’s still room for your blog . . . if it’s amazing.”
That will always be the key to making money online, no matter how much competition there is. Remarkable products always dominate their niche.
And if you really want to make good money with your blog, monetize it with your own product that solves a problem or teaches a useful skill related to your blog, instead of affiliate products or adsense.
Glen Allsopp says
I’m so glad you mentioned number 2, lots of people forget this. This site isn’t just Copyblogger, no. It’s a lot about Brian, Sonia, James and so on. Of course, it includes the great content as well, but you guys and how people can relate to you are a huge part of the site.
Y4upeople Tabloid says
Very well Put ! A great blog that you have The 1-2-3 Plan
Every Blogger Should Know ! You made simple to understand ! Many folk out their don’t understand the 1st thing about how to blog
@sonica Thanks for the response!
Somebody mentioned not using AdSense. I get the idea of monetizing without it once you are a known blogger. I mean, AdSense doesn’t really produce much anyway. So here’s a question, bloggers who use Thesis tend to rave about it and have gigantic logos on their site. I know people are paying to get Thesis, are some of them getting paid to use it and/or advertise it? Or are you really so excited about it that you not only pay for the theme, but also advertise it.
Finally, what do you guys thing about commenting systems like Disq.us ?
First things first, “Every keyword phrase, every niche, every topic, every angle has been covered.” wow.. Are you god? I don’t see any other way you can possibly know that, keep your guesses to yourself or at least mention that it is one.
Hmm, covered my daily rant I guess 😀
Other than that terrific post. I have been failing to get my personality through and true enough, even with higher quality content my blogs have been all been flops.
Paul Hassing says
Agreed. Now where did I put those napkins? 🙂
James Holmes says
Sonia – Thank you for this excellent post and advice. I particularly appreciate your second and third points. Keeping yourself in the picture allows you to build the desired relationship with your readers. There are so many sources for information and I believe the returning reader does so because of the blogger as a person they trust. Also, the point about the new tools is spot on!
One of the beautiful advantages of a blog over the traditional website is that it is dynamic and can change daily, not only in content, but also with new and expanding features.
I loved what you said about blogging being a challenge and mystery, never knowing what might happen next: For me, one of the thrills of blogging is going into my dashboard, stats or whatnot and see that tiny/huge spike in visitors/comments/trackbacks. It never gets old, every comment, every link back to your blog, every new reader. And the love for writing great stuff. That is why I (we?) blog.
Post every day, several times a day if possible. Loyal readers need the reward of new content every time they vist.
I agree with Melvin that it takes time and patience to build up an audience.
Know your audience is top advice same thing applies to any form of writing whether online or for print publications.
I’m actually struggling to write and not able to cater to my readers who are mostly learned writers. Where as my current interest is to see how writing can improved.
I really struggle to connect to them.
Thanks for the perspectives Sonia, and I like you true and natural voice. I wish I had a similar one. 🙂
Can you pls. tell me how can I get a free blog from wordpress. I’m a tech-challenged bloke and struggle hard with my current blog, to post!
Exciting tips indeed. It is very important to develop blogs through sending some of its web pages to social networking sites so that they can generate traffic.
Jenny Pilley says
Wonderful post. I think the point that their are new tools always available that updating a blog is essential to keeping the readers interested. A change is a good as a rest they say and I think this is key to keeping a blog fresh and attracting new readers.
Very well expressed. But, i suppose when we are writing we are the very reflection of ones’ thoughts and the second point of “Keep Yourself in the Picture” is the most important thing.
Nancy Marshall says
I enjoyed this blog post. I must admit however that I would not want to get as naked as the woman in the photo you linked to! That said, many people have told me that my blog is very “human,” and that after reading it they felt more comfortable meeting me in person. I enjoy meeting people in person after they have read my blog because it seems like we can ‘cut to the chase’ more quickly.
I’ve learned a lot from listening to Oprah and her friends on XM Radio Station 156….how being “human” is good for your business because it’s real….nothing phony about it. That’s what people want today….authenticity. Anyway, thanks for the tips. Can’t wait for the next post: “You’re Boring.” I take offense at that! You can call me lots of things but you can never call me boring!
I am gathering readers on my blog site, but my readers are not “bloggers” and don’t leave comments in fear of others reading them. How can I break this fear and get my readers comfortable to leave comments?
Your 1-2-3 Plan was a real eyeopener for me. Although I’ve been blogging about 3 months, done over 40 blogs on Abstract art, I’ve still to get a comment. So, now I’ll have to be more focused on the reader, ask questions, try a poll, try to get feedback and read more carefully Copyblogger. Thanks for your insightful suggestions.
Miguel Wickert says
Impressive, as I always appreciate your input and outlook. Challenging yourself is a critical part of your blog success. This can’t be stressed enough. Do readers come to your site because they’re being nice or because they really enjoy reading what you have to say? 🙂
Well thank you very much for the article. My blog is still very young and I’m still finding my feet. Your article is sure to help me in many ways. Thanks again.
esteban from socialnerdia says
Ok, so I recently started a surveymonkey survey at http://bit.ly/twtrsrvy about Twitter. Trying it to see how a survey about an easy topic goes (I put a blog post linking to it) and then start using surveys more to get specific feedback about the site. What do you guys think of that approach?
Oh by the way, I also started a blogtalkradio show, which anyone can download as a podcast on itunes. Search for “social nerdia”. What do you guys think about BTR?
anne smith says
Thank you so much for the tips. Your plan is of great help. Now I know what to do for me to get a bunch of comments. I am still a newbie in the blogging world though.
Thank you for the post. Your Step #1 regarding the blog being about your readers is very on. Our readers love the updates and love seeing themselves and sharing their stories. The blog connects us, them and our business.
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