Admit it … you’ve wondered.
You’re writing and writing and writing, and a few people say they like it, but you’re just not getting results. Traffic is coming in at a trickle, links are hard to come by, and your comments section is about as lively as a nightclub at breakfast.
And you can’t help wondering …
Do you just need to be patient, waiting for your traffic to snowball?
Or could it be possible that, really, your content sucks (thereby breaking the first rule of Copyblogger), and everyone is just being nice so as not to hurt your delicate artistic feelings?
The hard truth: there’s no way to know for sure
For one, we’re talking about quality, which is subjective by definition. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and all that jazz.
It’s also a matter of scale. This isn’t American Idol, where you have 30 million people voting, transforming a singer into a superstar through the power of public consensus.
If you’re a beginning blogger, you might have fewer than 100 regular readers, and 20 of them are your friends and family. And let’s face it; your mother is going to like everything you do, no matter how bad it is. That’s her job.
So who are you supposed to listen to?
Well … nobody, and everybody, all at the same time. The maddening thing about creating anything is no one can tell you how to do it, and yet everyone’s opinion can teach you something.
There aren’t any rules, no, but there are warnings. If your content sucks, you’ll see dozens, maybe hundreds of telltale signs, hinting that something is wrong.
I’ve collected 20 of the most common here. Take a look through them, and see if any describe you:
1. You think your content is “good enough”
If you had to rate your content on a scale of 1 to 10, what would you give it? A 6? A 7? That’s what most bloggers say.
But here’s the problem: you can’t really grade content on a scale. You’re either blowing people’s minds or putting them to sleep, and there’s nothing in between.
Put another way, content graded as a 6 or 7 gets the same reaction as a 1. It’s a waste of time to publish it.
2. Your posts read like journal entries
Not too long ago, most people used their blog as a sort of online journal, where people took a few minutes every day to write down their thoughts. But blogs have evolved beyond that. Now they’re more like online magazines, with highly polished content.
If your posts look more like “Dear Diary” than a magazine you would see at the newsstand, you’ve probably got a problem.
3. You’re not getting many (or any) comments
Comments are one of the best ways to measure reader engagement. If you have a few hundred subscribers, and yet none of them are commenting, then it might be because they find your content unworthy of their attention.
Translation: it sucks.
4. Your visitors stay less than two minutes, on average
Install Google Analytics, and look at the average amount of time visitors are staying on your website.
For most traffic sources, anything less than two minutes is bad. If you are at less than one minute, then your content is repelling people. You can do better.
5. You spend less than an hour on each post
Yes, it’s possible to write a great blog post in 15 minutes, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that it doesn’t happen very often. Most of the popular bloggers I know spend anywhere from 2 to 10 hours on each blog post they write. If you’re not, you should be.
6. You’ve never received fan mail
If your content is good, people will go out of their way to tell you how good it is. We’re not just talking about nice little tweets; we’re talking about five page e-mails where they tell you their life story and thank God for your existence.
No, you won’t get much of it when you’re a beginner, but you will get some. If you haven’t, then your content isn’t as good as it should be.
7. You’ve never received hate mail
The opposite is also true. If your content is good, you’ll always have a small but vocal group of people who think you’re wrong, rude, or inconsiderate. They are the righteous majority for moral authority, and nothing you can say will appease them.
So don’t try. Their mockery and screams of outrage are merely signs that you’re headed in the right direction.
8. You focus on SEO before you get your first link
Whenever a newbie starts asking me about SEO before they’ve even written a post, I always know they’re doomed. There is no better way to write horrible, crappy content than to deliberately stuff it with keywords in an attempt to boost your search engine rankings, when what you really need is for people to link to you in the first place.
If this is you, immediately throw salt over your shoulder, turn around three times, and spit. Then forget everything you think you know about SEO. Study smart SEO instead. (But pay attention to the next item.)
9. You believe SEO is the secret to building a popular blog
First, let me set the record straight. I am a big fan of SEO. I’m just not a fan of the pedestal many beginners put it on.
SEO can’t, by itself, make a popular blog. First, you need remarkable content, and then you optimize it for search engines. Skip the remarkable part, and all the optimization in the world won’t help you.
10. You’re saving your best ideas for later
Are you planning to do an e-book or course, and you’re holding back all of your best ideas, waiting for your blog to get popular before you publish them and make gobs of money?
If so, stop. To riff on Warren Buffett, waiting until your blog is popular to publish your best ideas is like waiting until you’re old to have sex. Get your good stuff published today.
11. Your blog is about … well … everything
One of the quickest ways to frustrate your readers is to write about everything that’s on your mind.
Here’s why: people don’t come to your blog to find out what you think. They come to your blog for solutions to their problems. The moment you stop talking about them is the moment they stop reading.
12. You don’t know the benefit
Pop quiz: one year from now, how will your readers’ lives be better? What specific, measurable results will you have helped them obtain?
We are not talking about “Having a greater sense of fulfillment and prosperity.” We’re talking about “They’ve lost 20 pounds” or “They’ve brought in five high-quality new clients.”
If you can’t put your content in these terms, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
13. You think you deserve more traffic than you’re getting
Do you feel annoyed that no one appreciates the value of the knowledge that you’re giving away for free?
I know I used to, and it took several years of struggling to realize no one is entitled to attention.
You have to earn it, day in and day out. No exceptions.
14. You have a science, engineering, or technology background
I know, it sounds horribly prejudiced. But here’s the deal: scientists, engineers, and other types of technologists are trained to be objective, passive, and detached — all three of which will destroy you as a blogger.
No, you’re not doomed if you have a background in one of these disciplines. But it is a handicap, and you need to be aware of it.
15. You’ve never read a book on copywriting
Writing a blog post without studying copywriting is like hunting for buried treasure without a map. You might be able to do it, but you’ll have to get astoundingly lucky.
If you haven’t studied copywriting, you should. Like right now.
16. You have no idea what keeps your readers up at night
Great writing is about intimacy, and nothing is more intimate than knowing what keeps your readers up at night.
Find out what makes them afraid, find out what makes them excited, find out what’s going through their minds at 2 a.m. Then use it in your blog posts. You’ll be communicating with them on such a deep, emotional level that it will be impossible for them to ignore you.
17. You write less than 1,000 words per day
Of all the warning signs, this is probably the biggest. If you’re not writing at least 1,000 words per day, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to write anything but mediocre content.
Try writing at least 1000 words every day for 30 days, and see what an impact it has on your writing. You’ll be astounded.
18. You read less than 10 hours per week
Besides writing a lot, you also need to read a lot. It exposes you to different writing styles to learn from; it gives you new stories and metaphors; it keeps you abreast of what’s going on in your field.
In my opinion, 10 hours a week is a bare minimum. If you really want to be good, think more in the range of 20-40 hours a week.
19. You’ve never talked to a reader on the phone or in person
A one-hour conversation with one of your most ardent readers will teach you more about how to communicate with your audience than anything else you can do. If you’re not doing it at least once every month or two, there’s a good chance you’re falling out of touch.
20. You’ve been blogging for less than six months
Okay, we’re at the end, so I’ll go ahead and admit it: not everything is your fault. If you’ve been blogging for less than six months, there’s almost nothing you can do; your content is going to suck to some degree.
Keep your chin up, expect to be ignored, and just keep going. You’ll get good soon.
The bottom line
I’d love to tell you that producing great content is easy. I’d love to tell you that there are shortcuts. I’d love to tell you you can do it with your brain on auto pilot.
But I won’t, because we’re being honest here, right?
Producing great content is work. No, it’s not building a pyramid or putting a man on the moon or curing cancer, but it does take time, energy, and dedication.
If you’re sitting here, right now, worrying about whether your content sucks or not, that’s actually a good sign. If you’re worrying about it at 2 in the morning, that’s even better.
Achieving greatness in blogging is the same as anything else. You have to work your butt off.
If you’re willing to do that, then there will always be a place for you on the web. You’ll always be in demand. You’ll always be able to stand out.
It’s tough, yes, but it’s worth it.
So, what are you waiting for?
Hurry up and get started.
Reader Comments (250)
Phillip Gibb says
ok, you got me to click: Copywriting 101
My concern for my blog is the number of comments, but I think that is ok because my blog is technical and quite narrow in it’s focus – the focus being on people who typically find themselves too busy to comment.
Well – I can still improve by spending more time on my posts, but like my readers I struggle to find the time.
no, 5am won’t work until my child starts sleeping thru the night, lol
Wow…I think my content sucks. This post was amazingly eye-opening for me, Jon. Although I feel like I have great ideas, I don’t know if it comes across in the writing. I have a lot to think about now, because almost all of the things on this list describe me/my blog. It makes me a little sad to think I’ve worked this hard for 2-plus years and my content sucks. But it also makes me realize I need to challenge myself to write better, stronger content.
2 years 🙂 good luck and hope you give your best. don’t worry even my content sucks more and i am a kid in front of you.
Josh Garcia says
This is an awesome list you put together! I must print this baby out and keep it in front of me at all times. It will ensure to continue to put out good content for my readers.
I’m going to add to Phillip’s mention of comments. My site has Disqus built in and I often have problems from my home PC & browsers, so I thought it was that. But it looks like on other PCs I have better luck (not all but some, so it’s settings? connection speed?), and the rest of your list points out other things I should be focusing on or doing. So I’m still working at it. Thanks for the list and the motivation/challenge to not suck.
I’m about a 50/50 on this one. There is certainly room for tons of improvement on my part. Some areas I am doing really well in. This post has given me a lot to think about.
Nabeel | Making Your Own Website says
Wow. An eye-opener for everybody!
Really, this post amazes me. How do you write such good posts?
You post really highlights the issues that bloggers have. If one implements the points you mention, they are sure to see success!
I think I disagree with Nabeel: “You post really highlights the issues that bloggers have. If one implements the points you mention, they are sure to see success!” – you might implement everything here and still find that your stuff sucks. In the end, it’s got to be more than the list, right?
Great ideas in here, Jon. Kudos. Life is brutal – make it count.
Steve Roberts says
I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! See it’s working. Just kidding of course. I’ve been reading your posts for some time now and have to say that I’ve learned a lot. Just wanted to give you props.
Interesting post, but I have to admit that I don’t agree with a number of these measures.
I hope that I don’t have to conform to all these measures in order to be a ‘good’ blogger or content writer, as alongside my full-time job (as a copywriter) and doing my English degree, I don’t have time to write 1000 words a day and read for 10 hours a week religiously. Does this mean my content sucks?
The internet is completely saturated with blogs and content about a huge range of subjects. It’s unlikely that anything you say will be completely original, completely brilliant and inspire people to fan mail and hate mail you alike. I read maybe 2 blogs that I feel do something completely ‘original’ and that’s probably because I haven’t time to scour the entire internet.
My point is, I don’t think you can measure whether your content ‘sucks’ or not based on this list. There are some good ideas in there, but overall I believe it’s too prescriptive.
Bonnie Harris says
You forgot one.
“You’re just doing a blog to make money”
Steve Roberts says
Oh, and one other thing. You know that fantastically beautiful restaurant that you’ll never go back to because the food sucks? Same deal. People inherently understand how much love and creativity go into your “product”. If it’s not there, it sucks and everybody knows it. If you don’t give it to them, they won’t give it back. Simple eh?
Nice post. Can’t tell which woke me up better– my coffee or that list. -nd
I realize you may say ‘well of course’ but may of these can realistically apply only if you are a blogger full time (or very close to that). For example many prolific authors don’t write 1000 words a day let alone bloggers.
Writing regularly and also being aware of your audience is a great way to improve your writing.
Last year my content was sporadic, and on a range of subjects. Cue a bounce rate of 80% easy and an average time spent on site of about 1:30 mins.
I have finally managed to write more regularly this year and am sincere in finding out and addressing the pain points of my readers and potential customers are.
Bounce rate is down to less than 2% and people are hanging round for around 3 and a half minutes on average.
Leasson I learned?
Raul Sim says
I want to add on point 10.
Holding your best ideas keep your head stuck on that ideas. Without publishing them you can’t generate new greater ideas, because you are full. You have to let your brain flow for even better ideas. Don’t hesitate to publish your best ideas!
Atul Karmarkar says
Well thought out and presented, though I’m not sure I agree totally with pts 14, 15 and 17. Haven’t been too regular myself lately, so this is a good wake up call.. Thanks.
Deana Birks says
I’ve spent the past few weeks going over my content to see where and when and why it sucks — if an old post bores *me* that’s a problem. Far from being discouraging, it actually opened my eyes to what I do well, what I do poorly, and helped me clarify how to do more of what I’m best at. I’m going to focus on spending more time on each post (2 to 10 hours?!) and writing more than 1000 words/day.
Bamboo Forest - Tick Tock Timer says
I think there are so many good blogs out there, that those that will ultimately succeed are not necessarily the best (though they will be good) but are those that market themselves successfully. I have very little doubt of this.
Thank you for writing this in easy-to-read list format. You obviously know your own readers don’t have time to read paragraphs – we like to skim 🙂
What surprised me most was your time suggestion for writing blogs. I thought I was the only one who feels the need to spend time and thought on each blog entry. I’m glad I’m in some good company.
I read this all the way to the end. Good stuff, especially the part about not saving your best stuff until you’re well- known and established (I think everybody thinks that what they should do). In a spiritual sense, if you’re not putting your best stuff out there, you’re not going to get “better” stuff back.
Sandy Halliday says
Great, great, great post.
And I thought I was slow spending a day on a post then sleeping on it to tinker with it the next day before I post it.
Ideas seem to pop into my head overnight.
Did I say great post?
Melissa Gorzelanczyk says
I loved the challenge to write at least 1000 words for 30 days. I’m taking it! Peace to you.
@Jennifer: The reason I called these “warning signs” is none of them are definitive indicators that your content is bad. They’re just things to be careful of. The only truly objective ways you can measure your success as a blogger are traffic, subscriptions, and income.
@Bonnie: Yeah, that’s another good one. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but helping your readers should always be the primary focus.
@Raul: That’s so true! Excellent point.
Bamboo Forest - Tick Tock Timer says
@ Raul: I agree with Jon, that’s an excellent point. While I’ve written a blog post on this very subject, I like your emphasis on why one shouldn’t save their best ideas.
So I guess we should be trigger happy when it comes to our most excellent ideas.
Jean Sarauer says
I agree that many successful blogs are more like online magazines these days. Like it or not, it pays to look at the readability/usability of each piece of content as part of the broader picture of the blog when deciding what to publish.
Lucky for me, I read and write a lot. I work my butt off, putting together interviews – talking to people I didn’t know previously (face to face, even). I get decent traffic, but hardly any comments. Still, I was *just* about to start thinking that yes, my content really does suck – when I realized that my blog is still young. There is still hope.
While any post like this that sets down a set of rules on which to make judgments always appeals to the rebel in me, there is definite wisdom in these 20 points. It should be required reading for any blogger.
One of the hardest yet most important marketing strategies is to keep content short and engaging.
A good reminder…every day. Thanks again
khush-Adsense Information says
Really a great post! You are right, remarkable content comes before SEO. Every blogger should read this post.
I agree with Jennifer. Something has to give and if you’re willing to dedicate this much time and energy into blogging, you must be doing it full time.
What about the rest of us who don’t have the time to be reading 20-40 hours a week and write 2-10 hours a day for 6 months without any sort of income? I’m losing sleep, forsaking my personal life, and putting my full-time job at risk, and still I’m not doing enough to make my blog better. What about Sonia’s white paper on why some successful people are unhappy?
I’m not harping on you, Jon. I’m mostly frustrated. I understand it takes risk and sacrifice to pursue your dream. That’s the reality. But how do you find the ever elusive balance between pursuing your “dream” and sacrificing some very important things in your life like family, friends, and down time?
Achinta Mitra says
These are very good points for becoming a productive blogger. I agree with most of what you’ve written except point #14.
That’s a stereotypical statement to make. You are assuming that the world around engineers, scientists and technologists is similar to yours and therefore must conform to your criteria.
True confession, “My name is Achinta and I am a blogger who is also an engineer.”
You say we are…
Objective – yes, we are trained to think logically and need to reach a conclusion based on proven facts. We usually don’t react very well to clever wordsmithing and/or marketing fluff.
Passive – may be. We are not prone to spending countless hours each day on social media networks or frequently leave comments on blogs in the hope of receiving a valuable link back to our own blog and/or site.
Detached – absolutely not! We are just as passionate about what we know. Heck, copywriters are always coming to us as subject matter experts in order for them to write copy that makes sense.
As industrial marketers, we are not handicapped when it comes to blogging. Yes, we may not be as articulate as some content marketers are but we most certainly can and do communicate effectively and engage with our target audience of other engineers and buyers of technical products and services.
Kev Kaye says
I feel where you’re coming from. You want to be great, but your life doesn’t offer enough time to make it happen…according to Jon’s post.
I think Jon has some great insights above, but for someone in your situation I think getting good within the time you have is best.
If you have an hour a day to write a blog post, become the best 1 hour blog post writer you can. Keep at it and keep trying to get better.
Sandra Lee says
I will post this one on my wall and slowly memorize it. A lot to think about here. I am very curious about the first point – a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1-10 is the same as a 1. Is that really so? Whew, thank goodness for number 20. There may still be hope!
Darren Scott Monroe says
“you’ve never received hate mail”
If that’s the case then I must be Shakespeare LOL
@Anne: Therein lies the biggest problem with blogging: it takes a horrendous amount of time to do it well. In my opinion, it takes at least 20 hours a week to build a popular blog, and lots of people can’t/don’t want to spend that much time on it.
But there are solutions. Probably the best one is to publish less. Instead of publishing a mediocre post every day, publish 1-2 really great posts per week. I’ve been experimenting with this with some of my consulting clients, and all of them have increased the traffic, in most cases dramatically.
Building a popular blog isn’t about quantity. It’s about quality. One well written post can get you 1000 times more than dozens of hurried ones.
Wow. You are one heckuva good writer.
I want to write you hate email or talk to you on the phone — anything to make it even clearer your content doesn’t suck.
Joshua Black | Underdog Millionaire says
Wow…all I have to say is wow. The Google analytics tip is a great one. If you can’t get people to stick round for awhile then you sure aren’t going to keep their attention as long-term readers.
I am definitely guilty of the short post. I think that is due to the mentors that I used to begin this whole process. I am going to try an be a lot more discriptive this week and we will see what happens in the process.
A tip of the cap to you, sir.
The Underdog Millionaire
@Achinta: It’s a stereotype because it’s often true. There are, of course, exceptions, and it sounds like you’re one of them.
@Sandra: Yep, it’s really so. If a post isn’t a 9 or a 10, then in my opinion, it isn’t ready to publish. Keep working on it until it’s great.
Lisa Stockwell says
I’m happy to hear you prescribe 2 to 10 hours time on each blog. I’ve read others who do say you shouldn’t labor over the writing but simply get it out there and wonder if there is something wrong with me that I take much longer to craft a good piece of writing. After all, getting ideas on a page is easy, good writing is really about revision.
One point I’d add to knowing what keeps your readers up at night is knowing whether those potential readers read blogs. Your message and copy may be brilliant, but you may find that your audience is more receptive if you reach them through another medium (such as email or video). If you’re blogging to market a service or product, the first Warning Sign that your content sucks would be that you haven’t asked yourself why you are blogging.
Jamey Bridges says
15 and 17 were good numbers for me.
Sometimes people need a quick start to copy writing. I read a great guide by Tom Hoobyar just on word choice and it really helped my writing.
On 17, I can’t agree more. Getting better, connecting more with the audience, just takes more writing. A 1,000 words a day is a great goal and when you stick with it will definitely keep your writing skills sharp and your competition scared.
nancy m says
The difficulty that I struggle with is being aware of what other people need and and what I need to express. I think that the common ground of being human is the connecting point. Great artists don’t paint to someone to meet someone else’s expectations. I also don’t necessarily agree with the 1000 word rule, as I think brevity is a skill.
Steve Benedict says
I’ve got to respectfully disagree with you. I think you have about 10 valid SIGNS and 10 suppositions. Maybe 20 sounded better than 10. I’ll admit it got my attention.
In the scope of your post, you use a pretty broad brush to paint your point. If most people can’t write, edit and re-write a great post in less than 2 hours, then maybe they should think about another line of work. Writing 1,000 words a day probably isn’t going to help them.
You usually write a terrific post, but I think you over sold this one.
Brian Clark says
Now you tell me. Thank god I only wasted 12 years on this. Thanks for steering me clear, Steve. 😉
Christian Russell says
Fantastic Jon. You really nailed this. Since quality writing is completely subjective, most new bloggers have no idea how to know if they’re on the right track. You really give readers a solid perspective and a way of gauging things realistically. This post should be required reading for anyone with a blog, yo 🙂
Elaine Fogel says
Great case for hiring a professional copywriter! 🙂
Dave Doolin says
Steve, perhaps you could write an article for Copyblogger about your less-than-2-hour method for writing outstanding articles.
Jon: thank you so much for dispelling some of the most pernicious myths infecting this blogging subculture. Good writing takes time. It just does. I’ve been after it over 15 years. When I see people boldly claim, without absolute self-confidence what I know from experience to flat wrong, it just sets my teeth on edge. And when it’s the current meme, it’s no use for someone like me to state any differently.
More: coming from science can be a handicap. It can also be a tremendous asset. It all depends on how you choose to use your training. Fact is, a fair bit of science and engineering *must* be hedged. We really *don’t* know some of the fundamental truths, and anyone saying so is likely to clobbered with contradictory _data_. That being said, learning to write for science and engineering is, in the end, learning to write. Writing for blogs is simple another type of writing to learn. There’s no reason scientists and engineers can’t master blog-style writing as well.
(You want some really hairy writing, try writing patent applications.)
Thanks again for putting it out there. Saying something sounds horribly prejudiced doesn’t mean it is horribly prejudiced… especially when it’s true.
This article is like a breath of fresh air. It’s just what I needed to read this morning.
Dave Doolin says
That should be “…with absolute self-assurance…”
Julie from Provence Post says
This is such good advice–a great post. I’m a career journalist and I try to put the same level of care into each blog post that I would any article I’m being paid to write. All the fears you mention above are the same fears I’ve had…so at least I know I’m not alone! Thanks for sharing…this was a really good pep talk.
Christina Rodriguez - The Diva's Home says
Thank you! i have only been blogging for six months! I am beginning to find my voice and readers! I write about decorating and Feng Shui. I also answer decorating questions people may have. I will definitely keep everything you wrote in mind on my next post!
Kev & Jon, thank you for your advice to focus on quality instead of quantity.
The sense of urgency under time constraints, coupled with the need to get the idea published while its fresh (in the industry I’m blogging in, you have to stay on top of the trends of the moment or you’re old news), drive me to want to make many short and quick posts, rather than a few quality ones, but what you say also makes sense. Sigh. I will test your theory and see what happens…
Really good post.
That is quite a list you generated Jonathon. Thanks for the eye opener.
Sorry to break the mold of all-positive comments! Disagree with the ‘your posts read like journal entries’. I prefer read’g ‘journal’ type blogs -they are interesting when the author describes his or her own personal world experiences flavored with juicy adjectives & peppered with attitude. Or may be I cant count myself as one among the majority or ‘critical mass’ of readers which you seem to have in mind.
doctor S says
i violate a ton of these 20, which means its time to re-evaluate my strategy. The biggest being that I am always saving my best for my next! When I have the idea, time to run with it right away… like right now. Great kick in the butt… type of post.
Brian Clark says
Carolyn, have you ever purchased something from journal-style writers? I agree many talented people write in that style, and it can be enjoyable to experience. I’m curious though, because we at Copyblogger write from a content marketing standpoint, and I don’t know of anyone who uses a pure journaling style as a business strategy.
Even people like Heather Armstrong of Dooce are mimicking a successful offline content strategy (think Erma Bombeck). And even then you need an advertising-based model, which requires so much traffic it can be extremely difficult to pull off with highly personal content if you’re not an existing celebrity.
So, in the context of our editorial focus, I think Jon’s advice stands. If you’ve got any counter-examples where pure journaling powers a successful business, I’m always open to checking them out.
Thanks for the response, Brian…
What i mean(t) to say is/was that i am yet to find a ‘journal’ type non-reticent blog that appeals to me personally… but i would like to read such blogs if they cover both the mundane and the holistic in a manner reflective of my tastes… again what appeals to me personally may not appeal to a ‘critical mass’ of people that would ensure the survival of such a blog (traffic/revenue wise). And since I havent come across such a journal type blog yet that appeals to my tastes and senses, no, i havent purchased something from such a writer so far. But I would definitely consider supporting such blogs if they appeal to my tastes, using a something like flattr, kachingle, etc.
Mike Korner says
Many people talk about writing, but few stop and study the craft. Thank you for being one of the thinkers. I always enjoy reading (or hearing) your thoughts on writing (and business) because they make me stop and think. This post is no exception. Thank you!
p.s. I think having Google ads on a site is a predictor of content that sucks, too. I find it hard to take a site seriously when it has randomly selected Google ads nestled amongst the content. Best case, the ads hurt the person’s authority. Worst case, the ads keep visitors from reading the content (because they click and go to another site).
Sonia Simone says
@Mike, that ought to get a little controversy going. 🙂 I think it’s a bit like the keyword density thing — it’s a sign that the cart may have been put before the horse. A few people make it work, but I’d rather see more focused ads that have been selected by the site owner.
Yeah, Steve Pavlina is a good example. Not only are his ads highly targeted, but they usually have an exclusive offer for his readers. That makes them valuable.
In my opinion, just slapping up some Google ads is pure laziness. There’s always a better way to monetize, in my opinion, it’s disrespectful to make your readers suffer through such low quality advertising.
Mike Korner says
@Jon – exactly!
Paul Hickernell says
At least now I know I suck. Before it was just a rumor. Thank you for pointing in a better direction. Great insights.
Patrick Bakker says
Ouch.. that hurts. And I haven’t even started. Guess I’ll just read and write my a** off for the next few months and then evaluate. Thanks for the heads up.
David Spinks says
Very solid points for the post part. I don’t think each of them translates into a big warning sign but most of them certainly do. Some of the points are more geared toward to professional blogger than the recreational one.
To your first point, if your’e not writing 9’s and 10’s then you’re not going to be found. No on clicks through to the third page of google or any other content ranking site. Either be on the top or as you said, a 6 or 7 might as well be a 1.
Definitely a few wake up calls for myself here. Thanks.
I’m glad you mentioned #20 because for a minute I thought you were directing each item directly at me. I’ll have to grab a beer, get rid of that guilt feeling and start over. Thanks for the tips.
Phillip Gibb says
well this post doesn’t suck, lol
if comments are anything to go by (that there are many and they are meaningful), did it take a hour to write, no don’t answer that.
I think my content will be getting better because of this article. I don’t think it sucks at all however I see a lot room for improvements when I read this article. Thanks a lot 🙂
Ward Jones says
Audience, shouldn’t we target an audience, and no, I’m not talking about the world, we can’t be everything to everybody. I’m old, not ancient but old, and my audience, I would hope, has an attention span, a measure of patience to read for a few lines, gain an understanding of what my story is about. Bold or even shocking language may draw attention, but to hold it requires a bond of sorts, between reader and writer.
Thank you for the list. I can see a lot of ways where I can use improvement (and thankfully, I’m doing some things right) 🙂
Kathleen K. O'Connor says
I might be able to work on writing a 1000 words a day just for my blog, but 20 to 40 hours of reading per week, no way! I think that the reading could be balanced with going out and experiencing life. Traveling, watching movies, and attending events also gives me ideas and inspiration.
@Kathleen: You would only need to read 20-40 hours per week, if you’re doing this professionally. I think I recommended a minimum of 10, which is enough to give your content a nice edge. Also, any type of reading counts. Books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. are all helpful. So really, it’s not all that bad.
14. You have a science, engineering, or technology background
I admit that most tech people do not write as well as the general populace, but the conclusion that you should write subjectively, with bias is just ridiculous. I come across posts all the time that are filled with affective connotations and strong opinions. They usually offer nothing of value.
Vincent Ng says
I’m not going to lie, I thought the engineer and scientist tip was pretty freaking hilarious, but I do understand it can be hard for those types to think of creative content.
As for the reading 10 hours a day, that’s a good rule in general because it keeps you in touch with what’s going on with the rest of the world. But on top of reading, ensuring knowing what’s going on with people in the world is important to ensure that we never lose sight that the world of blogging only exists because real people are reading them.
And here I was thinking I was doing fine! Oh well, reality truly sucks, but, it makes one want to do whatever works to get to the top…by any blogging mean necessary:)
@Brad: I don’t see much evidence to support that. Take a look at the most popular blogs in the world, and almost all of them are highly opinionated.
@Vincent: I don’t think it’s a matter of creativity. It’s more about style. Engineers and scientists are plenty creative; they are just trained to communicate in a way that the general public finds intensely boring. So, if you want the general public to read your blog, you have to adopt a style that makes your ideas more palatable.
Sometimes you may not get any comments because there’re not a lot of visitors to your page/blog. I added that because I think this also may true for some people and therefore, you should not be worried if your blog doesn’t have any comment on first month, just try hard and you will get some later.
Ana Reis says
Oh my God! It’s 2 in the morning for me! And I’m still reading this blog. Amazing post by the way.
I’ve started blogging for real only a month ago… so, probably my content sucks. But still, I thought this post was inspiring 🙂
Ana (I’m portuguese by the way, and in my country people still don’t value blogs)
Lisa Stockwell says
@Jon: Since some blogs are B2B and not meant for the general public, sometimes the quality of information—valuable content—can make up for a dry style of writing. Again it comes down to knowing your audience and what it wants.
Carmen Brodeur says
My blog is an ultra-niche site. It is written for a very small audience so I can’t realistically expect a lot of comments. Not every blog gets tons of traffic or comments, but they can still be quality.
This a good check and balance item for me. Yes, thank you for inspiring me to write 1000 per day per post. Hmmmm…. I know this will be another adjustment for me, but I believe this is good.
Mitch Tarr says
And point number 21. Cancel your cable subscription. Nothing kills desire to write like the temptation to watch a completely useless rerun of Friends. (which you’ve seen already) Next thing you know, another day has gone by and you haven’t added any new compelling content to your blog. And I agree fully. Study copy writing!
LIVING WITH BALLS says
Hmm..so if I write 1,000 words a day, read 10 hours a week and spend 2-10 hours per blog post, I might be able to mix in a few hours of sleep here and there.
Jeremy Powers says
It is reassuring to find even good bloggers take a significant amount of time to write a post. I thought I was just slow at writing because it had been a few years.
The comments part, for me, is tough to figure out. Is there a good way to generate first comments?
Rezdwan Hamid says
Okay, let me freely admit that my content sucks because I’ve hit almost every point in this list. The good thing is now I know why it sucked a lot.
Learning how to be good is one thing but getting someone to point out our mistakes is one of the best way to learn. Thank you, Jonathan.
Jill Chivers says
Provocative post, Jon. Thank you – it got my heart racing and my blood pumping.
The “10,000hours rule” supports your idea of writing 1000 words a day. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in Outliers – basic contention is that there is no proof that any true master practised their craft for less than 10,000 hours before they could call themself a master.
And if we’re using “originality” as our guide post to whether we’re writing great posts, I reckon we’ve missed the boat. I’d give up today if I thought I had to write something original – but I can give a topic my particular take, filtered through the lens of my experience and beliefs. Which is what you’ve done here Jon. Bravo.
Bob Snitchler says
Boy am I in trouble. Blog two weeks old today. Write less than 1,000 words a day. Two engineering degrees. I write about my life. Plus side: I’m not an engineer at heart. I have @AllisonNazarian ‘s Copywriting 101 (haven’t finished it yet, though). Everyone I know either thinks my life is a joke or a nightmare depending on their starting point.
I still have work to do… Thanks for the help.
Carolyn Elefant says
This was an excellent post, even though I’m not sure that I agree with all of the points. In particular,mI’m not a terribly fast writer, but 2-10 hours on a blog post strikes me as insane. Blogging would have to be a full time job at that point.
My content actually is very good – probably too good. My posts (either at MyShingle.com or legalmarketingblawg.com) are always original and generally packed with so much substance that my core audience – solo and small firm lawyers – barely have time to absorb it all.
I think that the time spent on the blog site is not always indicative of the quality. Though my blog is “sticky,” I’ve always thought it’s because of the numerous static resources that I have, not so much the posts.
This post reminds me of one I recently read at Velveteen Mind. Funny, so to speak, that her blog and yours are ones I read infrequently and comment on even less infrequently. However, your blogs are definitely ones that incite me, inspire me, excite me, make me hang my head and feel unworthy all at the same time.
Although I can’t resist saying (in the hating, jealous sort of way) that of course one would say that others’ content sucks if they aren’t getting loads of comments when one’s blog is getting loads of content. I often don’t comment ’cause I read quickly outside of the actual blog and assume others are doing the same. Yes, I feel better. Now I’m off to improve my content. Not necessarily in all the ways you’ve suggested, but with consideration of each point. Thanks.
Shane Arthur says
@Jon, your post reminded me of a quote:
When you convince yourself your writing won’t suck, it won’t.
Neo: “What are you trying to tell me. I can dodge warning signs?”
Morpheus: “No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.”
@Lisa: You may be right about that, but it hasn’t been my experience. I’ve written professionally for several B2B markets, and they appreciated snappy, opinionated content as much as anyone. I agree with you about knowing your audience though. I’ve just never run across one that prefers dry content to the more exciting variety. They may say they do, but the stats don’t lie.
@Jeremy: Comments are a sign of reader engagement. If you’re not getting any, it might be because you’re not holding their attention. Either that, or you just don’t have many readers. If you have less then 100, some posts won’t get any comments. (PS: I don’t see a subscribe button on your blog. Hurry up and get one!)
@Carolyn: It’s only a full-time job if you write a post every day, which is by no means a requirement. I’ve actually found that most beginning bloggers get more traffic if they only write once or twice per week, and when they do, the content is awesome. It’s much more manageable too.
@Shane: You’ve been watching way, way too much Matrix, my friend. 🙂
Sonia Simone says
@Lisa, there are some really cool examples of B2B content marketers doing much more exciting content than we’ve been told we can “get away with.” You’re absolutely right, you really need to know that customer.
So I’m curious, how long are folks here spending on posts? On average, I’d say it takes me an hour to write, an hour to rewrite, an hour to edit the rewrite, a half hour to find the image, and a half hour to code and check that everything looks good. So that’s four hours. Jon’s 100% right — one killer post a week is so much more effective than 5 that just feel like you’re “showing up.” If you spend 45 minutes per post now, five times a week, it’s really worthwhile to see what happens when you spend close to four hours on just one, and let that one gather some attention.
Bamboo Forest - PunIntended says
I don’t know for sure how long it takes me to write a post… it’s very variable since I write all kinds of posts. But it can take a couple hours with some, no doubt. Three or four hours isn’t unusual. Some stuff, even more.
I think the bottom line is one should work on a post as long as necessary, to get it as good as possible (within reason).
Let’s just say I take the stance of quality over quantity *extremely* serious.
And, I think many blogs actually post too much. Quantity does nothing for me. Being pleased every time I read something is what creates pleasure.
I’d subscribe to a blog that posted once a month something I really enjoyed over a blog that posted twice a week something that’s not so great.
Maybe I’m in the minority.
Brian S Hall says
Ok, all here. What do you think?
Good? Link worthy? (sponge worthy?) Ready to spend more than two minutes.
Maybe we should rate everyone’s efforts here.
I really appreciate your thoughts and perspective. And that you don’t mince any words in telling your readers that most of their content probably sucks!
Really motivational. Motivation to keep working my tail end off, that is…
This is a really useful list Jon, thanks! Juggling work commitments with currently unpaid ventures (like blogging for newbies) is a challenge but this has definitely given me something to think about.
David Siteman Garland says
I’d also add:
1. Not being passionate enough about the subject.
2. Not utilizing the medium you are best at/most comfortable at (meaning perhaps you are more comfy on video as opposed to text).
Mckinley Media Group says
I can say I fall victim to 11…Thought I was doing the right thing and being well rounded. Guess not
Excuse me while I pry my toes from underneath your foot. So, that was a sobering read. My three-year old blog needs a content overhaul. Point taken. It has good bones but I need to let #12 be my mantra.
Thanks for such an awesome (and slightly painful) post! Next time, watch the shoes. 🙂
Martyn Chamberlin says
That’s true for most blogs, including this one. There are exceptions. Chris Brogan comes to mind? There are some personal brands that do quite well at talking about whatever they please.
Instead of writing a hugely long comment here, I’ve blogged my response here. I would appreciate feedback from Morrow, either here or there.
Steve Benedict says
@ Brian: Tongue in cheek doesn’t fit my image of you. I think some writers toil for many hours on a single post, while others get on a roll and knock out dynamite stuff in an hour or less. Different strokes for different folks. Jon seemed to be saying that if you’re not agonizing over your post for 2-10 hours…your content sucks. Maybe I read more into that than I should have, but the header is pretty absolute.
@ Mike Korner: Your comment about Google ads is interesting. I appreciate your quest for pure prose, but many bloggers have bills to pay. I have been searching for a way to monetize my sites with ads that I have more control of. So far, I haven’t had much luck. The closest I’ve come is to use very targeted key words that seem to bring up ads that are more compatible with my content. Maybe others have ideas on how to generate income without spoiling the look of the page. The wolf is always lurking at the door with bills clutched in his razor sharp teeth.
Sherice Jacob says
So… what do you do if you spend a good deal of time on your content, and still don’t get many comments?
Sonia Simone says
@Sherice, assuming your traffic is ok, have you tried a call to action for comments? I often include one — a question for readers to answer, for example.
@Martyn, that’s interesting, because Chris Brogan strikes me as an example of a blogger who’s particularly focused on his audience. And while he ranges quite a bit within his topic, he’s not posting cookie recipes or grievances about in-laws or whatever. 🙂 There’s definitely an art to finding the right balance — if you think of a blog like Seth Godin’s, he writes across a wide spectrum of topics but there’s a “Godin vision” that tightly unites the content.
So my question for you darling is this, with all this writing, who has time to do video content? Are you too strongly slanted toward writing, because that’s your career focus, or is there some other reason you have research to support?
Livia Blackburne says
Science and engineering background? Seriously? Have you checked out scienceblogs.com or MIT’s undergraduate admissions bloggers? From my experience, scientists and engineers tend to be highly intelligent, well read, and quirky enough to write somehighly entertaining and interesting stuff. Don’t diss the population that gave rise to PhD comics and xkcd.
Brian Clark says
Dana, do you not write scripts for your video content? That’s a big component of how high quality video is produced, so writing is highly relevant, just as with television and film.
Other than that, the focus on written content still has to do with the search engine bias for text (changing, but not very fast) and the fact that the Copyblogger audience is predominately made up of writers who also prefer to read. This is a copywriting publication after all, and our content is naturally targeted at our audience.
Jessie Mac says
Thanks for the tips Jon and directing me to Google Analytics.
As I’m using wordpress, I found it easier to install Google Analytics as a wordpress plugin and not directly via Google as Google expect you to put their code on every single post you write and as I’m ignorant when it comes to code, I’m hoping the plugin will do that for me. Fingers crossed.
Your post and the comments on this post made me realize that I may have to think twice about the subject matter before I write especially if I don’t want it to be too ‘journal’.
Great post. Will definitely watch out for future posts because I need to know more about copywriting.
Mike Korner says
1) Jon’s response to my comment is the answer to your question:
“Steve Pavlina is a good example. Not only are his ads highly targeted, but they usually have an exclusive offer for his readers. That makes them valuable.
In my opinion, just slapping up some Google ads is pure laziness. There’s always a better way to monetize, in my opinion, it’s disrespectful to make your readers suffer through such low quality advertising.”
2) Google ads look cheap. I’m sorry, but it’s true. The other problem is that when I see any ad on your site, you are endorsing them in my mind.
3) You don’t seem to like generalizations so let me be specific. The header on your website promises, “Compare and Save With Low Cost Car Insurance … Dozens of Companies!” I think you are doing yourself a disservice with Google ads. The ads make it seem like you are endorsing the companies that Google displays. Do the ads hurt your objectivity? I’m not saying they do but I’m saying that if you are positioning yourself as an impartial authority, those ads hurt your case.
You would be much better off selling something that relates to saving money on auto insurance than to keep hoping the Google gods keep shining on you. If you can’t find a product, then with your expertise it seems like you could create and sell an inexpensive educational product that shares some expert secrets to help people learn to save money on auto insurance. Just a thought.
Mike Korner says
Do comments count toward my 1,000 words? 🙂
Brian S Hall says
I use Drupal for my site. Love it — but it’s quite robust. Just figured out — having this article as inspiration — how to make it so commenters can comment without having to first read over their comment before submitting. Makes it easier.
Martyn Chamberlin says
@Sonia You’re very correct. Chris focuses on his audience. But he also talks about himself, and what’s on his mind. I think he’s a master at tying those two together. For example, he wrote recently about how Google Wave is helping him connect; that was on his mind. But then he continued to apply this to his audience, and talk about how they can use it to help their business connections.
There desperately needs to be a way to really “reply” to people. This comment module works great when you’ve got two or three people commenting, but I humbly submit to you it’s time for an upgrade. Or get Chris Pearson to modify this existing one.
@Sherice: If you’re working hard but you’re not getting many comments, the most likely culprit is #16.
@Mike: No, comments don’t count. 🙂
@Brian Clark: Really appreciate that input Brian, sure you are absolutely right about that, and, let me also say, that was just a great spanking, I feel so much better 😉 Brian you answered the question, answered it clearly, answered it with simple terms I could get, it just doesn’t get any better than that, where were you when I was writing my book man! 😉
Martyn Chamberlin says
@Jon Are you saying that we’re supposed to publish this 1000 words a day?
Sonia Simone says
@Martyn, I get what you are saying, but I personally dislike threaded comments, so my guess is we won’t do them. 🙂 Just a personal quirk of mine, I don’t like the endless tangents that result.
Michael Martine says
Laughing at #14!
Brian Clark says
Steve, I know you read Truant’s stuff, so I figured you liked bad humor. No offense intended, just a joke.
That said, I don’t know anyone who creates home run content in less than two hours. And you really do need to swing for the fences with every post.
Sell things people want. Works for us and many others.
@Martyn: No, not unless you’re a writing God who writes perfect first drafts. You’ll probably need to rewrite something several times before you get down to exactly what you want to say. So, expect to publish only a half or a third of what you write.
Regarding engineers, scientists, and techies being bland in their writing – I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Yes, they have their objective training, but have you seen their debates? Just look at the PC vs Mac debate for an example. Those people can be p-a-s-s-i-o-n-a-t-e! Don’t mess with an opinionated geek, I tell you what.
Maybe you’re just not interested in what those writers have to say. I could tell you that the majority of sports writers suck and really need to consider a new career, but that’s just because I’m not interested in sports.
Lisa Stockwell says
I’ve been following all of these comments with interest, curious at how much reaction a post on bad writing generates—as if it’s a surprise that so much thought goes into a piece of good writing. The bottom line is that professional writing deserves more respect. It’s not something anyone with a good idea or the right data can do well. Even for professional writers, it’s not something that flows out with ease every time we put our fingers to the keyboard. (I’ve admittedly known one or two brilliant writers who do seem to get it right in the first draft, but most who say they write quickly use a set format and simply rewrite the same stuff over and over with a few modifications for each client they serve.)
This post should be read by those clients who think they’re being generous offering $25 for a piece of content when even $500 doesn’t represent the time it takes to produce something a good writer wants to attache his or her name to.
Jeremy Powers says
@Jon – Thanks for the additional input; it is nice to know you took the time to look at my site before responding. I am working on an overhaul of my site, including adding subscribe buttons. I have tried to start out by focusing on content, and working on the design and function of the site as I can. Updates to come . . .
Hey, engineers can be interesting and social. Maybe we just need more blogs about quantum mechanics.
Toronto Dentist :) says
I had to laugh about the scientists and engineers part. That’s my world and it’s so true. I’ve tried to try to tame my Dr. Smarty-Pants reflex but it’s so ingrained.
This is an amazing list even though it feels like my face just got splashed with cold water. My saving grace is my entire field is trapped in a snooze-inducing scientific copy style.
I’m becoming that proverbial one-eyed man…
@Jon I didn’t say opinionated bloggers are unpopular. I said they usually offer little value. After all, there really isn’t a shortage of opinions. We are drowning in them.
Sonia Simone says
@Toronto Dentist, that one-eyed man thing can come in handy. 🙂
@Anna, laughing, I think you make a very good point. And I do know some pretty damned opinionated scientists.
@Lisa, I was just noticing earlier today, it’s interesting to look at the “Popular Posts” section to the right and see how many of the headlines are negative. Negativity does command our attention. (As, if you look at the same titles, do numbers. People who think numbered posts are dead, they’re not dead.)
Casey Hibbard says
Thanks for the kick in the pants! I write a lot but don’t read as much as I should. Totally agree, writing is always better when you read.
Off to read…
I like the point you made about taking enough time to write a quality blog post. Although it seems like there is pressure to churn out new articles sometimes, your point is a reminder that its worth the extra time to do it properly, or best not to bother!
Love this post.
If you’re less than 6 months – you WILL suck for some time. I agree – I know I did. Haha!
Unfortunately I haven’t had time to read 10 hours a day and write 1000 words a day lately because of corporate work. But I’m quitting soon. My SEO and internet marketing business is picking up.
Thanks Jon! keep writing!
I’ve been blogging for almost 1 year and after reading this article, I truly believe that my contact sucks! Time to let go and start a new one.
Chris Brogan... says
It just took me 16 minutes to write A Simple Blogging Formula.
I don’t know about the 2 hours thing. Maybe if you’re doing research and maybe if there’s a lot of copy to edit. I think that’s kind of a “your mileage may vary” kind of number. 🙂
I only know that it took 16 minutes, because Marty Chambers asked me how long it takes to write a blog post, so I started one to see what the answer would be. My average might be closer to 40 minutes.
Brian Clark says
Brogan, we can’t use you as an example, because you’re not human. One only has to inspect your Twitter activity or your travel schedule to come to the conclusion that you’re some super-productive alien life form. Please leave us humans be and begone with you. 😉
129 comments I’m be the first one to suggest that perhaps #17 and #18 should correctly be written as “fewer”, instead of “less”?! On a copywrighting site?! Seriously, I love Copyblogger and this is a great post. There are just some editing things that leap off a page to me!
Wow. And look how mangled my first sentence ended up. I’ll slink shamelessly off into the corener now…
Lisa Stockwell says
@Chris: There are a few writers like you who are the exception to the rule. You’ve earned your following through great writing, ideas and advice, so you don’t have to worry about whether your copy sucks. But for those who are wondering why no one is reading or commenting on their blog, it’s good advice to take more than 16 minutes to write it.
Brandy Radey says
So, to write two blog posts per week that don’t suck, you need to spend 20 hours per week writing them, 15 hours per week writing 1,000 words per day (assuming 3 hours to write 1,000 words), plus a minimum of 20 hours reading. That’s 55 hours per week for a non-sucky blog. If blogging is your sole job/responsibility, that’ll work. But for those who are blogging to promote their small or even mid-sized business, it’s unrealistic. So, I get where you’re coming from, Jonathan, and it definitely got me thinking, but I disagree that it it means your content sucks if you’re not doing all these things.
Sonia Simone says
@Brandy, I see where you’re coming from, and at the same time, note some of your assumptions.
The most important one is that you don’t need to spend three hours writing 1000 words. Maybe an hour. It’s not 1000 perfect words — just writing every day, even if you don’t think it’s good, will do amazing things for your writing. 1000 words is too much? Make it 250. If you turn off the inner censor, you can probably knock out 250 words a day in about 20 minutes.
Out of the 7 bits of writing you create each week, let’s say 2 are good enough to work on. Those are your two posts. So for each of those, you spend another couple of hours expanding them, rewriting, and polishing. It’s a rare blogger who spends 10 hours on every post, and those who do are publishing once a week. But 3-5 hours a post is fairly common. So let’s just say you spend 10 hours a week developing good posts — if that’s one post a week for you, then that’s totally fine.
As for reading time, for most people, this can be accomplished by taking the time you spend on television + any form of computer game and spending it reading instead. If that’s only 5 hours a week, we just won’t tell Jon. It still puts you about 1000 miles ahead of most people.
Jon threw out some numbers to ruffle feathers and to spark some conversation. But the larger issue is that many people are spending maybe 7 or 8 hours a week on a blog and producing content that’s entirely mediocre. They’re writing 5 weekly posts that aren’t much good, when they could be writing one very good post a week. (One very good post a month is better than two mediocre posts a week.)
Mediocre content is, sadly, usually a waste of time. And time is too precious to waste.
Also, of course, I hope people saw that it doesn’t “mean your content sucks” if you do or don’t do something from this post. These are signs to look at, signals to provoke some thought.
GenuineChris Johnson says
Holy Frollicking Shift!
Yes. I am glad someone said and admitted that it takes more than 30 seconds to put together some quality writing. I’ve thought for years that there was something wrong with me. I can write good stuff on command that gets comments (http://genuinechris.com/intense) but it takes a while to produce something like that, to put the ideas together, etc.
the velocity of a blog comment is much different.
Bless you, man.
This is a great post! I’ve been in the industry for a couple of years now but I’ve recently just started my own blog and I’ve been working my butt off trying to create good content. I’ve been writing content for other people and now it’s time to write my own. I pretty much know the basics of blogging but it’s always good to learn something new.
I also believe that in the long run, quality wins out over quantity. I think 2 long GREAT posts a week would beat 5 short mediocre posts a day. What do you think? 🙂
Steve Benedict says
You make some very valid points. I’m working on a new site for dogs. You threw down the gauntlet and I’ll try to take on the challenge.
I haven’t monetized it yet, and it’s still a blank canvas. I’ll take some of your thoughts and work on it from those angles. Gotta make a living, too. Interestingly enough, there is an article on the new site about dog pack hierarchy that goes back to wolves.
I’ve got to run now…one of those wolves with a bill clutched in it’s wicked, slavering teeth is at the door!
Thanks for the thoughtful insights.
Mike Korner says
Glad to help Steve. Good luck with those wolves!
I especially love 16., “You have no idea what keeps your readers up at night”
“Great writing is about intimacy, and nothing is more intimate than knowing what keeps your readers up at night.”
This is why! today I got a twitter comment from a nonprofit colleague saying that my post today was like I was READING HER MIND!!!!
I AM SO FLOORED! I think I’m on the right track here!
Anne Galivan says
You say, “If you’ve been blogging for less than six months, there’s almost nothing you can do; your content is going to suck to some degree.”
I think it’s wrong to assume that because someone has been blogging for less than six months that their content automatically “sucks.”
I believe I am producing great content. But I’ve only been blogging for seven weeks so if I don’t have a bunch of subscribers commenting all the time…cut me some slack! It’s not just about content, it’s also about exposure. And for most of us that is as much a function of length of time blogging as much as anything else (as long as we have our other ducks in a row).
This post did give some good touch points…I feel pretty good after reading them that I’m on the right path – especially since I still don’t get the whole SEO thing! 🙂
“You’re either blowing people’s minds or putting them to sleep, and there’s nothing in between.”
What an interesting notion!
Thanks for the well thought out (if not humbling) post!
Valentine Belonwu says
This is very useful list and i believe everyone will learn from this tips to make so changes on their content in-order to improve their skills in blogging.
Jewelry Assembly Chicks says
I’ve just started reading blogs and writing a blog and I can’t believe how many similar ideas are out there. There is a ton of the same stuff said a billion times. You feel like you’ve written something original and then someone tweets about the very same subject matter you just wrote about 3 weeks earlier, authored by them. You go and read it and think, “Didn’t I just write this??” That I find painful……
SO I try not to read so many blogs any more. I have to keep my blog original and my own and hope someone else doesn’t read it and say,”WTF? I just wrote about this a year ago!”
coffee beans says
to all beginners blogger, you should read this article first.
thanks for sharing this info.
Very interesting articule…..like the comment about writing 1000 words per day for 30 days. My poor readers!!!
Thanks for the advice……….Cheers Mike
Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound says
If I were a beginning blogger and read this paragraph, I’d swear off blogging forever:
“Most of the popular bloggers I know spend anywhere from 2 to 10 hours on each blog post they write. If you’re not, you should be.”
First it’s a known marketing fact on blogs that family or friends are the last people who read your content since they already discuss what you’ve written, never rely on family or friends. Second many people don’t comment, I read blogs and news media continually and most times I don’t comment or even ‘like’ not because I don’t think it’s good but because I’d be putting like to everything. Third for those ‘bloggers’ sites who use the word ‘suck’ to describe if a blog is successful or not shows ignorance, intimidation and really don’t understand their media social networking capabilities.
Your article ‘dislike’
P.S. Many bloggers use the use of other social media tools where many of their readers comment, share or get personal messages they love your content. A real blogger is creative and doesn’t just write what ‘trends’ to get the hits on their blog but has something to say.
Can you actually say a blog ‘sucks’ based solely on what? Your opinion? Maybe your blog needs to be taught how to use the english language dictionary to convey and help others to improve not to discredit. But only a true blogger or paid copywriter would know that
ah man. My content sucks.
Joy-Mari Cloete says
I’d need to write a blog post on all the points I disagree with.
John White says
#21: You look at your post from the day before yesterday and mumble, “I don’t even remember writing this…”
Ali Fadlallah says
Just wanted to thank you for a great post. Hopefully one day when I’m successful, I will cite you as a contributer!
Mark Dykeman says
I’m more and more convinced that point 5 is a valid indicator of problems. You can write a decent draft fairly quickly, but all the little things that you should do add up over time. Two hours seems much more likely to me as a bare minimum. Unless you don’t mind looking illiterate.
Mike C says
Right on, Jonathan. Loved it ;D
I love this blog… You never failed to point out all the good things blogging can do to everyone. Keep on writing guys, I love it!
Holly Earp says
I like your article because it talks about the importance of creating good content, whilst doing so itself. A great eye-opener to writing style, and your own perceptions of your writing. It’s so important to keep practicing. The more you write, the better you’ll get. You can never write to much, and consequently you’ll begin to produce a high standard of interesting content as a result.
Wow, you are so right and I think I belongs to 19 of them. Blogging is very hard. Well, i guess I’m not good at communication.
man, why must my content suck so bad!
patty d says
Pretty great stuff, per usual.
HOWEVER, I get a little Dear Abby-ish in my blog. I don’t run a business online, don’t make $$ from it. But I know not everyone cares to read about my strange little life so I block “diary entires” from certain readers.
My point in all this is I don’t think we all have to be carbon copies of one another. I enjoy reading many blogs that drift from these rules. Adds a little color and flavor to the blogosphere.
Just my two pennies!
Great article. It made me think about my blogging style. I’m still a newbie and have only been blogging for 2 months, so my stuff still sucks. But I know I will be better with time.
peter childs says
What about video content?
I face many of the challenges you outline but for my cooking video site.
Possibly the space is to crowded – and SEO isn’t that good for video yet.
Emily Foshee says
All your points are excellent…there is one more I’d like to add: if you want to have a good blog, be ENTHUSIASTIC about your topic. Enjoy it. Have FUN with it. That passion will shine through without your even knowing it. The great bloggers/writers, like Chris Brogan, Bob Bly, Nick Usborne, all love what they’re writing about and it shows!
David Mathias says
There’s a reason that point number 14 sounds horribly prejudiced. Because it is. I regularly read several very engaging blogs written by technical people. Backpedaling in the last two sentences of that item notwithstanding, you should probably avoid such lame generalizations.
Daniel Johnston says
These tips are really great. My content definitely fails at doing a lot of what you say.
Google Analytics is definitely a really great way of tracking content; all you really need to know is the bounce rate how long the visitors stay to know how your content is doing by your readers.
I’ve already taken a lot of these tips to action. I normally only spend about thirty to forty-five minutes on each post, but after reading this, I made sure to spend a little over an hour on my last one, clearly thinking about the ideas and exactly what to say. I think I got a pretty powerful post.
Your content is the most powerful I’ve ever read, so I’m going to print this out and keep it by to make sure I don’t make any of these mistakes again.
I really like that most of these, you don’t give actual writing tips; that will mainly come just from experience and writing a lot, but more things to do that will help you learn by experience, and also how to judge the value of your content.
Thanks, I look forward to your posts the most!
Sherman Smith says
Action speaks louder than words and from the look of it, it looks like you backed up everyday you just mentioned. You can tell by all of the comments and how many times this blog post has been shared on facebook and twitter. So in other words, you wasn’t BSing.
It gives me a reality check on what I have to do and what to look for to improve my content. I’ve done half it right according to you, but the rest I need to work on.
Thanks for sharing this post. It has really open my eyes even further.
Tristram Lodge says
Wow that was a realilty check for me reading this post. I will have to refer back to this post from time to time. But you’re right, people will quickly turn off if your content is not upto scratch.
There is plenty of competition out there who’s content is great. Time to up my game I think. Thanks for sharing.
Jana Bishop says
I had to laugh…I’m worrying about it at 1:50am ….
Wow what a list! My husband and I have had our blog about 8 weeks now. We try to post something every day, and have had some comments. Our unique visitors at about 50 per day and time on site is over 5 minutes. Does that mean our content sucks?
Elmar Sandycl says
Wow, what an amazing blogpost Jon!
To be honest with you, the list is amazing but it didn’t give me a very good feeling the first time I read it… it’s pretty confrontational, but as you said at the end of the post…”we’re being honest here” and that’s the only right thing to do. Thanks for sharing this information.
Richard Petrillo says
Great post, I’m sure I will be up all night now!
I like your challenge of 1000 words a day for 30 days. Going to take you up on that!
Thanks for all the great content, looking forward to reading more of your work.
Ok, well this is my first time on this site and I can already tell you that you got me hooked just by this article! Excellent post!
Elmar Sandycl says
Same thing with me Parth, this site is just excellent!
Great tips. I am just waiting for the day #7 happens. I hope they take it easy on me:)
Brian Downs says
Oh boy… It’s 1:15am, I’m totally new to blogging, and I think I fall into at least 16 or 17 of these categories :s I’m doomed! At least for now! Thanks for the eye-opener, John…
This one really makes me think. I tend to ignore SEO and write for smomeone to read the page but I don’t tend to address too many of the other points.
Amy Hagerup says
These specifics are very helpful. I only post once a week but I try to make them pretty good. I know I need to get better though. Thanks for the tips.
Wow. That was VERY eye-opening. An excellent reality check! But still… my content sucks.
Thanks for that! I should always keep that page open when I think about/write a post.
Mark Dykeman says
Another post that I keep coming back to… a good resource. #4 keeps coming back to me all of the time.
I have 3 websites (no blog). In the course of running those 3 sites I read a ton of blogs and website pages. Yours got the honor of getting bookmarked and a comment.
Well done. I’ll be studying your posts to see how I can write more compelling content in the future.
Jameson | Online Marketing Agency says
I think you brought up some valid points, a few I disagree with but that is the beauty of opinions. Once you have picked a topic you should focus on surrounded related topics and stick to them. By doing that you establish yourself as a steady resource on that topic.
Wow! That’s all I can say. This article really hit me. I have never read a more real and brutally honest article than this. I’m going to keep coming back to this article every time I begin writing a new post.
Blogging takes time! what more can you say? No body can get into for the quick money 😉
Amanda Walton says
Did you know there is a service called Fiver out there that a blogger can pay a person for every $5 dollars they get 20 comments left on their blog under assumed names.
You can’t judge a blog by their comments left because you can pay anyone or have employees make comments on your posts. Look at some of the big networks, not all their articles have comments left and they are large media outlets.
If you want to judge a business blogger or a good blogger to do business with, do it with business sense and ask to view their stats, graphs, forecasts, and ask for recommendations.
Blogging and or social networking has many components, you can’t just buy a book and expect to be successful and anyone that tells a person or business otherwise is nothing but an empty salesperson
Again using the word ‘sucks’ proves your type blogging and social networking advice is degrading and not helpful despite what comments left state otherwise.
Ronald Redito says
This is an eye-opener. I keep asking my self why my conversion rate and CTR rates are low. There are a lot of things to learn still. I have to have a change of attitude fast.
Steve Congdon says
I love this post! It’s been terrific reminder for me as a social media noob. I read it again and again. One question: over last several months, I’ve noticed the “time spent on site” slowly lowering. Traffic is creeping up, which is good. But that time spent metric seems important.
Any ideas or posts available on how to fix something like that? Or am I worrying too much about it. Thanks!
This post is great. I’ve been reading this site for a week or so now. This one in particular sticks out. Because I connect with it. You’re spot on with writing about what keeps people up at night.
For someone who wants to write about many topics, what would you recommend?
Write/comment the other topics on other blogs? Have subcategories on your site? This site seems to interlace a few different topics, though it’s all related to blogging, so maybe that makes it ok. Should you have multiple blogs? But then how can you ever write enough content for each of them?
Or is it ok, like I’d like to believe, to post about various things just so long as it contains a central idea most of the time?
I’d love to get your feedback on this, because blogging seems like a great way to connect with people.
This is a must read for all new bloggers, me being one of them. I’ve already read it twice and will probably read it a few more times. Thanks for being so honest and direct.
Yup, Guilty… and Thank You!
I’ve had a blog for a long time and never put much energy into in until a few months ago. I’ve been really frustrated with trying to generate interest. I get hits on the day I post a new article but almost nothing on other days (and yes I get it). I’m going to print this out and hang it in my office. I HAVE been keeping many “I’ll post it soon” topics in my head and then putting up stuff that, while I think is useful, really doesn’t take that much time.
Being a new blogger I often ponder if I write good enough, so the 20th sign was kind of a relief for me.
Mir Imran Elahi says
Great.Thanks for your article.I got another excellent post from Copyblogger .
You read the article and say okay I know my content sucks but I am ready to work my ass off. Really helps and I knew this would come up. so let it be now. thanks for valuable post. really helps 🙂
For anyone that made it to the end of the comments:1) You must be really persistent – or obsessive; and 2) there’s a great post I just found called How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day
It’s excellent advice aimed at novelists, but it also applies to bloggers as well.
This article's comments are closed.