“Is blogging finished?”
If you ask a lot of people these days, that’s a unanimous “yes!” After all, in this information-overloaded age, does the world really need yet another snarky opinion?
There was a time when it was relatively simple to stand out with a blog because most were just written to hack search engines with a steady stream of bite-sized filler content. Now, though, more marketers have caught on with creating longer, higher-quality pieces and overall taking content marketing seriously.
But rest assured, the party isn’t over yet…
Even new blogs with fresh voices are managing to catch on and gain ground.
Still Want to Throw Your Hat In The Ring Too?
(Here are some tips for making your blog project count.)
1. Create Lousy Work.
If you’re a true rookie, the number one piece of advice I can give you is permission to do a lousy job. Yep, feel free to put up bad articles on a horrible-looking site.
Is this a good long-term approach? Of course not.
But one of the biggest obstacles to getting going in any biz venture is perfectionism. If you’re afraid to be a beginner, you’ll never get anywhere.
Nothing is perfect, but you know what gets you a lot closer than just worrying about it?
2. Think of Your Blog as A “Work in Progress.”
Here’s the great thing.
There’s nothing to stop you from improving, deleting, and editing existing articles later on as you gain skills and traction. And you can always improve your design or tack on more bells and whistles.
Knowing this may help push through the psychological barrier of starting. Think of your site as a living entity to constantly be improved.
Absorb yourself in “beginner’s mind” every time you sit down to write. You can even think of your blog as “study notes” while learning a new topic. Instead of trying to present yourself as the world’s foremost expert, use the platform to digest and add thoughts to what is in the field.
After all, that’s how Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income got started with his hugely successful site.
3. Learn How to Learn.
Resist the urge to outsource early on. Sure, it can be a great way to find leverage as your blog grows, but you’ll do a lot better in this business with a basic understanding of how the nuts and bolts turn on the back-end.
And it’ll save early costs too.
Above all, teach yourself the habit of digging into and teaching yourself things you don’t know – this is the number one skill for any type of online business.
YouTube is a great choice for guiding yourself through pretty much any blog-related tech issue.
4. Don’t Become a Stats Addict.
Many new bloggers spend more time looking at analytics than actually creating content, bouncing in and out of the stat dashboard as often as teen girls check their Facebook likes.
Don’t get me wrong – stats are important.
And there IS a positive correlation between stat obsession and success with your blog (https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/blogging-statistics/).
But don’t get emotionally hung up on the difference between a small handful of views a day when you barely have any content or traffic yet (it can even bog you down in procrastination).
At this stage you need to PRODUCE– not nerd out on graphs.
5. Function Over Form.
Just because it’s 2020 (dang, already?!) doesn’t mean you need the fanciest, most modern design possible. Fancy doesn’t equal results, and in fact, all those bells and whistles can become distractions that pull readers out of your message.
Keep it clean, yes, but your blog needn’t be a work of digital art. This is true for corporate sites and sales pages – and it’s true for blogs as well.
Here’s a good bit by Neil Patel about ugly websites that do well:
Often what makes an ugly blog succeed in spite of the look is the quality of the info – that’s a key lesson to keep in mind when writing becomes your art and trade.
What Makes Epic Content?
6. Create Durable Assets
Too few bloggers focus on longevity.
We all love that rush of tapping a cutting-edge trend and watching traffic surge – and certain niches absolutely require a constant stream of what’s current. But from a business perspective, you get much more bang for your buck creating posts that stand the test of time.
Ask yourself, “How will this read in 5, 10, 15 years’ time.?”
Think of it this way. It might be intimidating to create timeless information, but the most important books have existed for thousands of years and are as relevant today as they were to the Ancient Greeks or Chinese.
Millenniums of relevance might be a bit much to ask, but imagine creating a well-placed article that puts money in your pocket a decade after you write it…
7. Long-Form Is Still An effective and Rare Commodity.
I’ve always been a proponent of long, in-depth content. More marketers have finally caught on, it’s still a rarity online and obvious opportunity for competitive advantage.
Long-form content is shown to produces 10 times the leads of short content (http://www.curata.com/resources/ebooks/content-marketing-tactics-technology-planner) and 60% of bloggers say articles over 2000 words get the results. (https://torquemag.io/2018/04/optimal-content-length/)
Meanwhile the top-ranked posts in Google average between 1,140 words-1285 words. https://www.searchmetrics.com/knowledge-base/ranking-factors/
And yet, bloggers are still dropping the ball in this department. (http://www.curata.com/resources/ebooks/content-marketing-tactics-technology-planner)
It’s hard work.
Hard work = higher barrier to entry = an opportunity for you to stand out.
8. Long Doesn’t Mean Quantity Over Quality.
Even bloggers that do go long often make the mistake of writing long-winded hollow articles that simply have a longer word count.
Not going to cut it.
You’ll need quality AND quantity to really see the numbers jump.
9. Traditional Online Writing Rules Never Change.
People are still people.
Who woulda thunk, eh?
And the same old rules still apply when writing for communication (as opposed to writing for academic posturing). In fact, they’re often truer online (especially for small-screened digital devices like smartphones and tablets) than anywhere.
Aim for easy on the eyes and easily-consumable:
Break walls of text up into short 2-3 sentence paragraphs.
Use subheads to break up the content.
Minimize word fluff (big or unnecessary words).
Style should be simple and conversational.
Use bullets and numbered lists.
10. Keep Publishing!
This is a tough one, especially if you’re a one-man show.
I used to say writing longer articles meant you could publish less, and I wish I still could…but the stats indicate being more prolific matters too.
According to HubSpot, companies with 16 posts a month got 3.5 times more traffic than those with 4 or less posts a month. (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/blogging-frequency-benchmarks)
That being said, stats in favor of longer blog posts are more compelling than the frequency stats, so err towards the former if you need to make a choice between the two. Especially in a smaller niche where content is scarce.
Above all, though, you have to keep posting and stay consistent. The most common mistake bloggers make is they stop posting.
Maintaining Laser Focus In a World Of Noise
11. Train Your Brain to Go Deep.
A blogger is a creator. And the best creative work requires deep focus.
In his book, “Deep Work,” Cal Newport presents The Deep Work Hypothesis: “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00X47ZVXM)
Coming up with next level content requires holding distraction at bay, and that’s tough for someone whose work exists in an online space.
Set a rigid writing routine that forces you into creative periods.
Separate your marketing and even research time (when possible) and your writing time.
Turn off social media, turn off your phone, lock out your family, and restrict the internet if you have to.
Bottom line is you MUST lock yourself in a room and write!
12. Identify Your 2-3 Most Impactful Activities.
Most bloggers try to do it all these days: Facebook, Instagram, email marketing, membership forums, podcasts, classes, and I could go on and on.
Here’s the question you must answer:
Aside from the writing, what is most likely to pay the bills?
Identify the 20% that will get your 80% results. Double down on these activities until you maximize their efficiency and effectiveness.
Only then (if even) should you take on more.
13. Required Reading for Creators:
“Deep work” and “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport.
And “Mastery by Robert Greene.
You’ll thank me later.
14. Write to One Person.
It’s intimidating to reflect on all the people that will potentially read your work. Doing so can create so much performance anxiety and procrastination your entire process comes to a halt.
Or you become so self-conscious about pleasing them all you put out generic content written for “everybody.”
Once again, focus is your saving grace.
Visualize your perfect reader. Form a character in your mind – maybe even a real person. Every time you’re create a new post, pretend you’re “writing an email” to that one person – forget everyone else.
Note: you can always edit out over-personalization later if you want your content to be more universal, but this trick can do wonders for your motivation, your writing voice, and your engagement with your audience.
15. Shut Out The Haters.
No talk about focus is complete without mentioning the haters.
I know many will disagree with me, but while you’re still learning, you might consider turning off commenting or paying someone to field them for you.
A lot of top marketers turn all their comments off on YouTube videos, and blog posts (examples that come to mind are Seth Godin and Ben Settle) these days.
Well, it surely limits some opportunities for audience engagement, but if you’re susceptible to trolls riling you up and knocking you off track, you may not get anything done otherwise.
Build an Audience
16. Nurture Genuine Fanatics.
1000 true fans is just as relevant as when Kevin Kelley first wrote it (https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/).
Soak it in.
Honor the spirit of the message in everything you produce.
17. “Sell” the Opt-in.
Don’t just ask people to subscribe for updates and future articles – give them a legitimate reason!
So many bloggers just put up a basic form that says “sign up for my newsletter,” without any what and why. As a copywriter, this is one of my biggest pet peeves!
We’d all be ecstatic to have readers love our work so much they want to read everything we put out, just to read it…
But most of the time it’s still a good idea to tell them what’s in it for them first…
Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll learn to love you later. 😉
18. Charge for Advanced Content.
Not sure what to sell once you’ve built your audience?
You might consider monetizing with a paid newsletter. This is a great way to draw people closer to you and force them to invest in the relationship (it can also be good for your wallet).
You might even consider going to print as a value-add – Ben Settle does this with his Email Players newsletters (https://bensettle.com/).
Print has some very nice advantages over digital products. Receiving an info product you can hold in your hands feels more real to the info consumer. It also gives you a direct access to your reader’s physical mailbox, something you may find not one of your competitors has.
And think about this: Even if they cancel the subscription, they’ve still have your old newsletters laying around the house to constantly remind them you exist.
19. Follow the Masters of Authenticity.
Substance over hollow style is more important than ever online.
This deep engagement conversation is on the rise in marketing circles lately but still relatively rare; I believe it’s truly what it takes to succeed as a blogger in 2019 and beyond.
Never Run Out of Content Ideas
20. Watch What Works.
Before you write a post, check to see what’s going viral in your niche, or surrounding a certain topic, by running a quick check at https://buzzsumo.com/.
21. Set Up An Automatic Topic Generator.
This won’t likely be necessary if you’re following my advice below for getting those brain juices flowing, but it’s an asset to have in a pinch, and especially if you’re in a niche that’s constantly changing.
There are countless mediums you can subscribe to now that will deliver a steady stream of content of your chooing. I like Google Alerts and Medium.
You can also get on email lists that you know deliver a lot of relevant, up-to-date content in your niche or industry.
22. Manual Idea Generation.
I never leave my home without a little notebook shoved into my back pocket. As ideas hit me, I just jot them down.
You’ll be surprised how fast it becomes a habit to scoop ideas from the raw material of your day.
Your brain begins to see patterns in everything, and any small moment of your day can transform into the topic for a great post in your niche.
23. Thinking is as Crucial as Writing.
It’s super important for creators and idea people to give their brains downtime and let the subconscious do its work.
Take regular breaks from the actual writing to hit the gym, take naps, swim, go for long walks in complete silence, or meditate. Not only do these things help you unwind, but these are often conditions under which the greatest inspiration strikes.
Your brain is your biggest asset if you want to be a serious blogger.
24. Read Books Constantly.
And you should be reading up on topics that are both related and unrelated to your topic.
The first one’s easy – you need to be educated in your field to write intelligently about it.
Unrelated books are important too, though, because they bring in a constant flow of new ideas for material and create connections for you that you’d never come up with completely on your own.
Linking two topics in a unique way is fodder for the best articles, books, and business ideas.
25. Respond to Private Queries Publicly.
Pay close attention to what readers say or ask when they get in touch. When one person messages you or drops an insightful comment, it’s often indicative of something other readers want to know.
You’re already spending time answering those queries – why not turn it into an article? You can even post it in question/answer format, with the reader question posted as is. This has the added benefit of giving you social proof by showing others are messaging you while inviting other readers to do the same.
(Be sure to protect the person’s privacy if you don’t have permission to put them out there.)
You can even turn your trolls, haters, and complainers into material if you want to get a little silly.
26. Be a Lurker.
If you’re not getting comments and messages yet, no worries. You’re never an island if you tap into the mass of feedback that exists already on forums and in comments of bigger blogs.
A few hours on a related forum could give you enough article ideas to last for months.
If your niche is product-centric, hunt for ideas in Amazon reviews.
27. Ask People What They Want.
There’s nothing ever stopping you from making a post or sending out an email asking people what they want to read about.
Of course, this is a lot more effective as readership increases.
Build a Personality People Love
28. Be an Original
In an increasingly-crowded marketplace, that last thing you want to be is another me-too blogger.
Think about the bloggers you keep coming back to. Aren’t they people you “like?” People you could imagine meeting for a beer or coffee, or spending a day shopping with?
Since quality content is getting more common, the new way to stand out is to be an original voice with original ideas.
And people read people they like.
29. Build Content Around Personal “Themes.”
To be a thought leader in your space, you need to stand behind something – that doesn’t mean you need to be the only one with those ideas and it doesn’t mean that they can’t change. But you do need to have a loose set of ideas guiding your content creation.
What do you believe about your topic that some people think is crazy or stupid?
What is an aha moment for people who just discovered your topic?
What are common fallacies people share about your market?
These are great starting points for interesting conversations.
30. Don’t Be Afraid to Offend People.
Yes, I know we live in the age of over-political correctness. But trying to write in a way that ensures no one ever dislikes you is a good way to get ignored.
Toughen up. I don’t recommend stirring the pot just for the sake of petty argument, but if you plan to be in the spotlight, you can’t be so afraid to offend others that you mince your words and subdue your true beliefs.
Not everyone is going to like you; even Mother Theresa had haters.
So better get used to it now.
31. Master The Art of Story-telling.
Nothing brings your voice alive like captivating stories, and they hook right into your reader’s attention. You can teach valuable lessons with stories as examples, or turn case studies into blatant brag pieces that sell your products and services.
But don’t stop there.
The best story-bloggers can turn the most mundane details of their everyday life into a valuable lesson or hook:
“I stopped by the drycleaner to pick up my shirts today, and I had this awkward moment with the man at the front desk…It left me thinking about this little mistake business owners make regarding how the position themselves in the mindset of their market.”
You get the point.
You can also use a story from someone else’s experience or draw from history.
32. Get Personal.
As all the above personality tips imply, readers want a relationship with a real person.
They don’t want a relationship with the cold, calculating voice of a company.
Talk about the details of your life in your blog. Use real photos of you and your family (don’t forget the cute dogs).
Even if you’re a firm running a blog to sell products and services, allowing your blog manager to run it as a company figurehead will usually get better results.
Listen, It’s Not Too Late to Catch The Blogging Boat!
You could say the last 10 years represented the birth of blogging. But the wheat is still being separated from the chaff, and the form has not yet reached its peak by a long shot.
Where do blogs fit in society’s most important conversation? Which ones will fade into irrelevance, and which ones will rise to the top as trusted authorities in their industries? These questions still need answering, and people are still finding bigger and better ways to leverage the medium.
It’s always easy to look back to 10 years ago and say, “Man, I wish I would have started building an audience back then.” But what about 10 years from today? If you don’t start building a blog now, will you be kicking yourself once again for letting the boat leave without you?
Only you can answer that question.
P.S. Be sure to check back in for more Blogging Tips – plenty more to come!