But some of the best and most popular blogs have traits that might surprise you. Here’s how being negative, angry and stupid (in the right ways) can create breakthrough success on your blog.
1. Don’t over-explain
When you’re using a blog to establish yourself as an authority, it’s easy to think you should answer every possible question. You’re the big shot after all, right?
Writing a kitchen sink post that nails down every possible answer is authoritative. It’s also pretty boring. Building some pillars of exhaustive cornerstone content is a smart strategy. But in your day-to-day content, leave room for other answers and other points of view in your community comments.
As you’re writing, when you think of potential unanswered questions, don’t necessarily answer them in the post. If they don’t get brought up in the comment section, you can always write a follow-up.
2. Don’t know everything
Authority is attractive, but so is vulnerability. 21st century readers aren’t looking for a silver-haired guy in a white lab coat to solve all their problems.
Authority still matters, but it has a friendlier face now. Today’s trusted authorities are dorkier and more openly flawed than they ever have been.
Self deprecation will always create a stronger relationship than chest beating. Write what you know with confidence, but also make some time to share your screw-ups, your insecurities, and your downright failures.
Your readers will learn as much (or more) from what you got wrong as they will from what you did right. And you’ll come across more like a smart, trusted friend, and less like a doctor in an aspirin ad.
3. Get mad once in awhile
Even Gandhi got cheesed off sometimes. Taking the high road is all good and well, and being able to keep your head is a very useful quality in social media. But sometimes you also want to take a stand.
Go ahead and get angry sometimes.
A constant diet of angry rants gets old. Your anger loses its meaning if that’s all you ever talk about. (Does anyone care any more what gets on Andy Rooney’s nerves?) But if you let yourself get publicly angry occasionally, you’ll show your humanity and your backbone.
4. Don’t be overly consistent
Standing for something is one thing, being a damned pigheaded fool is another. If you change your mind, let people know. If you have a forceful point of view and you then read an interesting alternate position, go ahead and point that out.
Respect for other ways of doing things, even when they’re not in line with yours, shows your essential confidence.
It’s also good for conversation. If everyone is perfectly consistent and in agreement, there’s not much to talk about. And the conversation that does take place is unbearably smug and tedious.
5. Break unbreakable rules
Seth Godin’s blog doesn’t allow comments. Dosh Dosh’s posts are long and chewy, requiring thoughtful reading and re-reading. Merlin Mann has decided he won’t write any more about the topic that made 43 Folders so tremendously popular in the first place. P.S., he’s turned off comments, too.
Blogging rules are guidelines. A smart blogger knows when what she’s trying to communicate doesn’t fit within the rules, and when she should leave those rules behind.
Breaking unbreakable rules is risky. But when it’s done intelligently and strategically, it can also be remarkable. Know the rules, then think carefully about whether or not they support what you have to say.
6. Repeat yourself
A blog isn’t a book. Readers don’t start at the beginning and read their way through in 2 or 3 sittings. New readers have no idea what you wrote last year, or even last month.
Sometimes it’s useful to repeat yourself. Also, you might sometimes say the same thing twice.
Knowing how to come up with fresh takes on a well-worn subject is a cornerstone of a great blog. If you have some strong central themes, they’re worth repeating.
7. Be negative
Positive, “do this” posts are great for spurring readers to take action. But what not to do posts are terrific for attracting attention and interest.
Frank Kern talks about the rubberneck effect. We’re wired to be fascinated by problems, mistakes and embarrassing disasters. The occasional “train wreck” post will help your blog break through attention clutter.
8. Get a little stupid
This is the age of the class clown. No, don’t be an idiot. But don’t take yourself so damned seriously, either.
A little pure entertainment goes a long way to building your community. Making the occasional stupid joke (and then tying it to a point or two worth making) gives your blog some fresh air and makes it an enjoyable read instead of homework.
None of us can compete with Wikipedia for pure just-the-facts content, so don’t make that the cornerstone of your blog. Think less MacNeil-Lehrer, more Sesame Street.
9. Don’t pay too much attention to “how to blog” articles
Now we love to give advice here at Copyblogger, and I personally benefited hugely from Brian’s advice before I ever started writing here.
It’s great to absorb how-to articles that speak to you, and to try new techniques. But at the end of the day, the thing that makes your blog great is you. Don’t get so caught up in technique that you forget what makes your content worth reading (and talking about).
The most “perfect” blog in the world would be deathly dull. Great blogs are quirky, weird, and hard to predict–just like interesting people are.
Learn the rules, get advice, then write from your heart and see what happens. If you get a wild hair, go ahead and share it with your readers. They might love it, they might hate it. The great thing about a blog is, there’s always another post to make tomorrow.