In my time working with churches, mainly in the area of marketing/design, one phrase has always stood out to me as particularly inspiring. If your church disappeared from the neighborhood, and in essence didn’t exist in your community, who would notice? This thought, really this meditation, has proven very useful for helping to guide many churches in what is (hopefully) the right direction. But I believe this concept can apply to other areas as well; say, for instance, blogs.
Who Would Miss Your Blog?
It’s a simple question, but one that provokes some interesting thoughts. If you are truly serving a niche with your blog, they should miss you if you’re not there. Imagine that you stopped blogging—would you get any emails asking you what’s up?
Your blog is a part of a neighborhood, whether you realize it or not. Every reader you gain puts a house on your block, and each link you receive is akin to building a bridge or a four-lane highway. You get the idea.
And much like any neighborhood the selling price of a home is not determined by the number of houses in the area or the number of cars that pass by. In fact, those things can be enough to turn away some buyers completely.
How about a break from the metaphors for a second?
Don’t be Easily Replaceable
The quality of your blog is determined, in the end, by the degree to which your blogging neighborhood relies on you. If your blog is a part of a crowd that fulfills similar needs, your blog may not be relied upon as much as you think.
Being easily replaced is not a good thing. Luckily, there are some ways you can avoid this.
- Target your audience. You want to pick something that you love, of course, but also something not being done by many others. A blog about pets is better than one about animals, but one about cat care is even better. And this part of the game is more about what’s not being done than it is about over-specializing your writing.
- Be unique. You’re reading CopyBlogger because (hopefully) you recognize that your writing has a lot to do with your blogging. In fact, it’s really the most important part. Dumb Little Man, for example, has a pretty lame design and a silly navigational system. But the writing is quality, and the style is unique. The more unique you are, the greater the chance you’ll be missed if you disappear.
- Interact with your readers on a personal level. The easiest way to begin doing this is to grab the contact information of those readers and/or commenters whom you consider your colleagues. Take an hour and chat with them. Find out what they do, what their likes and dislikes are, and maybe even why they came to your blog. But remember—they already read your blog. Don’t suffocate them. Talk about them. Feed their ego. Then, later, they will remember your blog and how good they felt talking to you. Congratulations, you have a reader that would miss you if you were gone.
- Create content that can’t be duplicated. The very definition of a replaceable blog is one that only regurgitates what others are writing about. Make your blog about more than commentary. Sites like Smashing Magazine have created a name for itself, very quickly, by publishing content that can’t easily be duplicated. They create massive lists of sites and resources that take a lot of time to put together. Those stand out. Consider these ideas when creating unique content. I would also consider things like exclusive interviews to draw in an audience no one else is getting.
If you follow these principles (notice, not steps—there is no proven formula; relationships don’t have those) you will be sure to see some results.
Reader Response Time
I’m interested in your stories.
- Has there ever been a time when readers have noticed your absence, and contacted you about it?
- Have you ever been surprised at the gratitude of readers or the response to a particular article?
- How about this one—are you truly writing quality content, or just commentating on what’s already being said?
I look forward to your feedback.
Reader Comments (62)
Jose Negron says
Thanks for posting this Ryan, this is some of the most pratically useful advice I’ve read recently. It’s no coincidence that the best blogs do all of the above.
Ryan Imel says
Thank you Jose! That’s quite a compliment.
I recieved a similar comment from a reader the other day, he said he missed my old style of writing and that lately I had become too much of a clone.
First of all, I think that’s a fantastic mindset for a church to have.
To answer your third question, I am often surprised by what my readers like because I rarely have a good feel for which posts they enjoy.
Part of it is that the lines of communication are unreliable. I put a post out there, I may get a few comments, but I don’t have a great way to know who liked it and why.
Sometimes posts that I think weren’t received well turn up on del.icio.us or on another blog with great comments attached.
So, I’m a little in the dark as to how well my posts are received on a case by case basis. I look for comments, see if the post gets linked to, and see if it shows up on a social site.
Generally, I just look for new RSS subscribers, and that helps me know that I’m doing well overall. Occasional emails are greatly appreciated, but that’s not a very reliable method of judging reader response.
Excellent advice. I’ve been thinking more and more how I can make one of my blogs and business more unique and looking at the posts in my categories really helped that. I’m getting ready to post something about that not long after I post this. Interestingly enough it has less to do with writing and more with photography.
Better Blogging with Michael Martine says
A while ago I put gvod on the shelf, and got tons of comments and emails from people saying they were going to really miss it. I was really surprised by this and it made me reconsider, but at the time I was really sick of it and I had to mothball it. The response from my readers (well, really more lke watchers, since it’s a video blog) touched me deeply.
I’ve gotta stop reading so many blogs and just post already!
Ryan Imel says
@Chuck: I would suggest asking your readers, in blog-audit style, what they like most about your blog. Some readers won’t talk about that unless you ask them to.
I would also check out some click tracking services like CrazyEgg. It can be a big help when trying to see what readers click on. Pay special attention to your recent posts listing and category listing. It can show what topics people like most, at the very least.
PS: I’ve heard of and seen your blog before. Looks solid, I’ll be (finally) subscribing.
@Patrick: Thanks, I’m glad you took something away. I look forward to reading your thoughts.
Chuck: I just wrote an article on this: Have Happy Subscribers? Give them what they want!
Jean Browman says
I have two blogs and I would miss them! I’m just getting started, so it’s too soon to tell if they’ll resonate with anyone else. I clearly have a different reason for blogging than most people. And that’s fine too. It’s a great world…big enough for all of us.
For some blogs that are still young, It can be the personality that is missed as well. When you take the time to respond on your commentors blogs or put links to them, you are doing another part of building a community.
I feel confident that I could name 5 people who miss my blogs. But if those 5 people tell a few people, that number grows. Quality content is a huge part of being in the community, but I think mixing it up with the locals might have even more of an impact.
Gyanish Gungaram says
Hmmm… I would rather say that I’m writing in-depth and quality articles.
Personally I know a few people who would miss my blog.
On a side note, I do not find Dumb Little Man’s design lame. You must say it is very sleek compared to other blogger blogs.
And yes, DLM is hosted on blogger and not on wordpress which is disappointing for you! 😉
I am surprised that so many people have responded to my blog. I guess it’s pretty unique..
Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker says
Ryan, I have been pleasantly surprised and really touched by many of the comments that my readers have left on my blog. I am a newby and sometimes still feel a little insecure about what I have written. Recently I started writing what one reader has called my Flagship Series. I am not sure that is the right term, but I think that is what she called it. This series is on the difficult topic of incest and how to recover from the effects of living with it. Some of the responses have bought tears to my eyes and have let me know that I was right in following my intuition in writing these articles. My niche is in Spiritual Blogging. I learn so much about blogging from reading copyblogger. I need to add you to my Blogroll still. I benefit greatly from reading your articles. Thanks.
Martin Muehl says
I just happened recently that I didn’t blog for a week or so. The first comment on my next post was something like “Nice that you are writing again!”.
That really made my day 🙂
Does this count?
When my pop died in March I had to take some time off from blogging so I contacted some of my blogging friends (read readers) to cover for me.
Each and every one volunteered to cover as long as necessary.
Don’t know if they would miss me, but they helped make sure the blog kept going. 😉
Szymon Blaszczyk says
“Who Would Miss It?” sounds better than mambling about user centered design, goal based design, personas… I believe in copy. Amen.
G. A. Harrison says
You’d be surprised how many people would miss you if you shut down. I publish a regional political blog and shut down because I became burnt out.
I couldn’t believe the number of calls and emails I received asking if I was OK, if my family was OK. What was even more bizarre was that a couple of hundred people kept checking into the sight every day to see if there was anything new.
After about a five month break I began to publish again. One of the radio stations even had me on to kick off the re-launch. While I haven’t gotten anywhere near the traffic that I had prior to the shutdown, it’s built itself up steadily since the re-launch.
Trust me. There’s an audience out there. Once people find you, they become very loyal. I was shocked, but pleasantly so.
I, for one, would miss Patricia’s Blog. 🙂
Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker says
Geoff, thanks for the vote of confidence.
I’ve stopped blogging for about a week or so, and not one person contacted me to see if I was okay. But I attribute that to my blog still being so young and I don’t have a large readership yet.
My worry is always that my content is not unique enough for people to keep coming back. I try to mix it up with current events and tips – but no one has said “you need more of this” or “you need less of this.”
Blogging is still very experimental for me and it’ll take some time to figure out what works well and what doesn’t.
the domestic minx says
Brilliant and thoughtful.
I love my readers and I believe they love me too.
I certainly hope I fill my niche and that there would be a hue and cry if I didn’t turn up for work…
Not sure why you think Dumb Little Man’s design is awful. It’s pretty slick. If you look at my design, you have more chances of going off and calling it awful 😉
Though you can chat with a couple of your readers, this approach isn’t scalable that much. Unless you interview or guest blog with an A-lister, such as Brian Clark.
Nice post, though.
JoLynn @ The Fit Shack says
I definitely think that my blog is unique, simply because I’m not just repeating news stories and such, but write based on my own experience. Since each one of us is unique, as long as I’m writing from my own experience, then no one else could possibly have the same thing to say (not taking into account sploggers and scrapers, of course).
You gave us something to think about, thanks Ryan! I’d like to think that my blog (and hence, me!) would be missed. 🙂
Q's Wire says
When the story ends– you begin anew. I did not miss mine when I deleted over 1200 posts. Maybe because I kept the name and my red theme.
Sonia Simone says
Great way to frame the conversation.
I also love this: “there is no proven formula; relationships don’t have those.” I am going to chew on that.
David at free Christian resources says
Great post Ryan,
It really helps to remind us to not just crank out posts for the sake of it.
Parapsychology articles and blog says
I definitely find my blog unique and some of my article got hundreds of comments, some very favorable, like my article on “How to get rid of stuffed nose”.
It’s great to get thank you reports from people who suffered.
Euphrosene Labon says
Great info as always. Re my blog (Delusions of Divinity?), for some reason, people prefer to email me privately, which doesn’t help ratings… but at least I know some people are reading it!
Amy Palko says
It’s so funny that you posted this now. Just yesterday I started a new blog as I felt I had backed myself into a corner with my old one. I stopped blogging for about a month, and just decided this week that I was going to start a new blog, where I could blog about whatever I wanted, and keep the old one going for purely professional content. My reasons for doing so were purely selfish, as I was feeling so inhibited, but in only 24 hours I’m beginning to appreciate what my blogging means to others. People have begun to get in touch to say how much they missed my take on things, and how glad they are that I have started blogging again. It’s nice to be missed :o)
Tejvan Pettinger says
I have several websites, but on my Economics blog I offer to answer reader questions. As an Economics teacher, these are particularly helpful to the students who ask. (especially near exam time)
Great post! My first time here, but expect to be back for such insightful stuff from you. 🙂
Thank you for this -jolt of reality. I can think of only 10 persons who would miss my blog. I receive comments, but more emails from persons who do not wish to leave a comment even though they subscribe to the Blog.
The general comments are the same – that mine is a refreshing change. It’s not easy to ‘stay’ refreshing! It adds some pressure and I wonder how others deal with this. Can living up to readers expectations become too much of a distraction?
A Great and Useful post
Thank You Ryan.
My blog wouldn’t be missed right now, just because it hasn’t been there long enough. I think I’ve been slower to grow because I want to keep it unique and attractive, and not just post anything that comes to my head.
You know, I didn’t like this blog post at first. But then a strange thing happened.
The other day I got an email from a reader of one of my blogs. Due to a major web hosting denial of service, the blog went down a few weeks ago and hasn’t gone back up.
I didn’t think the blog was old enough or established enough for anyone to care.
But sure enough someone did. And she even told her blog readers (many of which clicked on the link to my blog in her blogroll) what was up with my site.
WOW! It was a good feeling. I was going to give up on the blog. Now I’m not. This post contributed to that. Thanks for writing it.
Lelia Katherine Thomas says
I have to agree with Chuck’s comment that often what users find fascinating is not necessarily what I intended. Sure, I always set out to write quality content of some form, and I pay close attention to my users and their reactions, but often I am surprised by what really gets the virtual blood flowing.
I wrote an article some time ago, and it has spawned an unbelievable amount of replies, both in the public comments and in private emails. It makes one feel really good when that happens and can be great encouragement for continued, quality writing.
Roberto Leal says
Nice post Ryan Imel. If only I read it before I deleted my blog. Where is Clark these days? Saving the world by any chance, as Superman?
Yeah, this is a very very cool blog. 😉
I just added you to my favorites.
Ryan Imel says
Ryan, I just wanted to contact you cuz we have the same name. I am actually a struggling blogger. I use mine for publishing my devotionals and it automatically is sent to my wife and close friend. I’d be stoked if I had more readers and responders so maybe you can email me back with some tips about that too. I noticed you are taking classes in biblical studies. That is awsome. I am assuming that means you are a born again christian. Anyways, contact me. I think It will be interesting. Blessing to you Ryan.
Fiona Fell - websitePROFITS says
I would miss my blog if I stopped writing.
I will ask my readers if they would miss me too.
websitePROFITS: Profit Boosting Tips in 37 words or less!
Thoughtful post and well worth reading.
I Tweeted this, btw
Thank you for this information.
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