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5 Prerequisites For Blogging Success

In the time that I have been blogging, I have noticed that there are a few things that “successful” blogs have in common. And I am defining “success” in every way — monetary terms, absolute traffic, but more importantly, in robust and continued growth. With 2007 here and many New Years Resolutions on the cusp, I thought we would start things off with what I believe are 5 things that are necessary to grow one’s blog.

1. Putting in the Time and Commitment.
One of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate is what a time commitment blogging is. I’m not including all the time it takes to literally set up a WordPress installation, or taking the time to tweak your theme just right, or even answering the buckets of email you may (or may not) have. What I am talking about is the time it takes to actually write.

If you’re a gifted writer, all the best to you. Skip the rest of this tip. For the rest of us who were not born with a pencil in their mouths, it literally takes time to write something really meaty, interesting, and worthy of your blog. The stuff that makes people fascinated and can’t wait to want more. It takes time to research stuff you don’t know about, to find a block of uninterrupted time to actually sit down and write the blasted piece, and then actually get it out in a form that you feel comfortable with.

And for people who have a semblance of a life — husband/wife, kids, a job, other Responsibilities — it can actually come as a bit of a shock, because in the blogging world no one really talks about how long it takes to actually create something you’re proud of.

For the literal minded (who have not yet started to blog), what this means is that at a post a day, it might require one extra hour of your life to produce that single post alone. Are you going to take that hour away from television time? Time with your family? Time to sleep? For most folks, their days are packed to the gills doing Stuff; taking the time to commit to blogging will often mean taking time away form something else.

What can make it doubly hard is in ADDITION to writing regularly (which is what we all should be aiming for), is that when one starts out, one must make the commitment to blog consistently for a stretch of time. Its insufficient to blog regularly for a few days, then stop for a few weeks. Put yourself in your readers shoes; how fast would you drop a blog if they stopped writing for weeks at a time? Needless to say, if you’ve been convinced blogging is Work, then one of the first hurdles one needs to overcome is the notion that blogging is for the short term. In fact, to grow your blog, you need to write for the intermediate-to-long term to see some kind of return on your time.

Beginning bloggers ought to plan to blog for at least a few months consistently before throwing the towel in. And there are some fairly concrete reasons for doing so as well. Having a body of work allows Google and other Search Engines time to find you (and get out of the Sandbox); it allows you to build a body of work that “proves” to your readers your in it for the long term; a body of work will also “prove” to your readers you know what you’re talking about; the time will also allow you to market your blog (see below) to create other streams of traffic back to your site.

At the end of the day, the reality of blogging, is that to be successful, you’ve got to write regularly and consistently, and you’ve got to find the time to do it.

For some it might mean being more efficient with their time, both with blogging, and the time around blogging; and for others it might mean reprioritizing their evening’s actvities. But no matter what you do, if you can’t do what it takes to give yourself the time to produce something on a regular basis, your blog will start to flag — and it certainly won’t grow.
The blogosphere is growing at a prodigious rate; every blog has a great deal of competition for your reader’s feed reader, and ultimately their attention. They deserve your best — and it takes time to create your best. Finding the time to do it, and do it consistently, is one of the greatest challenges most bloggers will face.

2. Willing to Market The Blog
Even if you’re willing to put in the time and energy to blog, and blog consistently, it will do you no good if you’re not willing to market your blog. There’s no question that blogging in the oblivion of anonymity can be hard; but you are deluding yourself if you’re stuck in the “if I build it, they will come” mentality. There’s no question that Google or other Search Engines might find you, but to grow your blog at any kind of velocity will require you to not only write for your blog, but spend some (more) time promoting it. There is no shortage of articles on this (and I will be contributing to Darren’s own body of work in the next few days), but to create a successful blog, you’ve got to willing to put the effort into making sure people know about your blog.

And I find the most basic strategies are actually the best. Sure, there’s all kinds of other methods, such as blog carnivals, getting your blog Dugg and so on, but if blogging is about conversations, you’ve got to be willing to participate in those conversations yourself. Get involved in the comments section of other bloggers. Respond on your own blog. Link like mad to other bloggers and their posts. Putting in the time to do these basic kinds of “marketing” methods for your blog can pay huge dividends, as all blogging communities are in a state of flux, with older bloggers leaving, and newer bloggers joining in the conversation. And that next one just might be you!

3. Be Interesting
“Interesting” doesn’t mean being something your not. Nor does it mean trying to be “funny” or “clever”. Interesting, is relative, and is relative in particular, to your readers. If you’re writing about a given topic, hopefully you’ll know something about the people who are similarly interested; these are the people who you should be writing for. The content you write should be fresh, unique, passionate and relevant. And it can take many forms (variety, as they say is the spice of blogs). Interviews, lists, news, it goes on. If you’re writing about the same old stuff every day, in the same way every day, or, echoing what everyone else is saying, then stop. Because you need to give people a reason to read your blog once they’ve actually heard about your blog.

4. Realize Its Not About You (its About Them)
Blogging has a reputation amongst the mainstream media and many of the uneducated masses that it is STILL the providence of self indulgent teenagers who are create vanity puff pieces for themselves and their three friends. They’re confusing it with MySpace. Although blogging may have its roots in that kind of mentality, its come a long way. And certainly the kind of blogging you want to do is not about you at all. Its about Them. I’ve alluded to it plenty of times in this very article, but blogs that are successful, popular, and growing are not ones centered around their authors. They are centered around news and information that is interesting to their readership.

But what does this also mean? It means ask yourself and Them, how you can make yourself better to serve their interests. It means, changing your content to make it wildly interesting to Them. It means ask yourself if the next Big Change your going to do on your blog will cheese them off or encourage more feed signups.

It also definitely means being accessible, and getting into the conversations that you generate. Once your blog is up and going, turn your comments on, and try and reply to as many as you possibly can. Sometimes the ensuing discussion is even more important than the actual post that spawned it. And if you’re growing your blog, you may leave an indelible mark on other bloggers who are commenting on your site, creating more fans for yourself.

5. Focus
Blogs that are fascinating, regular reads, that are also are reader-centered do best when they are also focused like a laser. And I mean “focused” and consistent in every single way. Focused in their identity and writing style, focused in their content, and focused in their intent to serve their reader. Blogs that are wishy-washy, who don’t know who they are, who change their kind of writing “voice” repeatedly, who vascillate on their opinions, who introduce nonsensical and unrelated topics are blogs that will find it difficult to succeed.

It is possible to be so fascinating about everything that it requires no focus. But blogs like those that have succeeded tend to be blogs that have been around for a long time. The blogging environment that baby blogs are born into today is a chokingly competitive one. Whether its celebrity, business, law, or crocheting, to earn continual growth requires that every day, in every way, people know what to expect from your blog.

The other benefit of focus, is that irrespective of your actual authority, people will inherently trust, and believe you to be a thought leader in a given area, if you consistently blog on a particular area of interest for a long enough period of time in an intelligent enough way. Thought leadership is important, because when people will look for opinion makers, they’ll turn to you. When they’ll want partners they’ll turn to you. When the mainstream media is interested in a quote, they’ll turn to you. And when other bloggers need guest bloggers, they might turn to you too.

Heck, look at me. A doctor blogging about blogging on one of the biggest blogs in the blogosphere. Who would have thunk it? :)

* Tony Hung is the guest blogger for the week. He blogs at Deep Jive Interests

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Comments

  1. Wow, great fundamentals!

  2. Cookster says:

    Some sound advice indeed. With work and two kids it’s hard to find a spare moment to blog, so I usually get mine down in one frenetic burst – once the idea’s in my head I try and get it down, then go back and edit for typoes. I’m a writer (of sorts) by trade, so I guess I’m lucky that I have the technical know-how, but it also means that blogging is a bit like working. Anyhow, I’ve found that some of the most enjoyable sites really are written by people who have hardly prepared a shopping list in their lives, let alone constructed grammatically correct comment pieces. Excuse any typoes!!!

  3. Thanks Tony in Darren’s absence.
    The piece was a great reminder. It is so committment cracking to not receive comments on blogs that revisiting the success of time and consistency is exactly what I currently needed.
    Take care.

  4. Jonk says:

    Tony

    Seems like you have grabbed this bull by the horns

    Well done

    Jonk

  5. Excellent advice. Successful blogging is really about attitude. Many people say they can’t find the time to blog, yet they do find the time to chat at the water cooler, or make social phone calls. Blogging is exactly the same – it’s social contact. Once you see it that way rather than as a chore to be done to help get search engine traffic, for instance, it’s amazing how easily you find the time.

  6. albert juul says:

    Hello Tony,

    Thanks Tony, Excellent article. I have recently started blogging and I have already noticed that I have made a few mistakes. Articles like this one will help a lot as I struggle up the blogging ladder. Thanks again.

    albert

  7. christopher says:

    It’s good to hear these things regularly so they are in the front of your mind on a regular basis. For me, once I get over the “topic” portion of the process, writing comes pretty quickly for me. It’s just that initial hump of choosing an interesting, timely topic to touch upon. thanks for the words!

    -=- christopher

    my blog “While Las Vegas Sleeps…”

  8. Catherine says:

    Great article! I always learn so much when I come here.

  9. I just want to say after the 70 or so others this and the next piece is one of the best descriptions I have come across about blogging.

    In particularly thank you for mentioning that we are all not gifted as writers and certainly I am one of the least able and as a result it can take hours to put a post together.

    Later I will link to these two article but I just wanted to let you know what I thought

  10. Gary says:

    Tony,

    another dinner would be great. As we discussed, maybe we can get some other local bloggers out as well.

  11. Susan Sabo says:

    Coming from a sales background with extensive training from HP (when Hewlett and Packard were still involved) and MCI (before it’s debacle) and Computerland (a first retailer for the new IBM PC!) writing for the reader is as natural as talking to them. If you get snagged on self-interest rather than reader interest posts consider taking a sales course or reading some sales books. They help you to focus on benefits and results rather than (or more than) features, statistics, etc.

    great post Tony!

  12. ggwfung says:

    “Willing to Market the Blog”

    This is so true. Writers are used to just doing their stuff, submitting it to the editor and doing nothing more.

    Blogging is such a different game. You have to be willing to pound the doors, and really getting people’s attention.

    This is the ONE PIECE of advice every starting blogger should receive. It would save a lot of heartache.

    Thanks

  13. KWiz says:

    This post is so on point for me. I would have never guessed the time required to actually maintain a blog. It is quite a bit. But what you’ve done is you’ve placed it out there for me (I am making this personal) so that I will always know that there are no shortcuts to be had here. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    My last post references this article, in fact. It is at http://www.wisdomwalking.net/archives/58.

  14. KWiz says:

    Hi,

    A couple of hours ago, I posted a comment that may have been deleted. I messed around with my blog, and it left me. It’s back. In any event…

    This was such a great post. I am a newbie, and it provided some very sensible advice that seems like would bring long-term benefits and good traffic. I linked to it in my last post at http://wisdomwalking.net/archives/58.

    (Please forgive me if you went to the post and it wasn’t there. It is back up now.)

  15. Jenn says:

    Also a newbie. I got overwhelmed by all the comments, so forgive me if I missed this, but is it ever inappropriate to blog about the mundanities of one’s day? Some of us like to read confessional writing if it’s done well–and are good at it ourselves.

    I actually never got into this to make money, because I didn’t know you could (though that’d be nice), but I appreciate the tips for more traffic . . .

  16. Darlene says:

    First of all, this blog site was recommended to me by other bloggers who have been blogging for awhile. I am just beginning. I actually stumbled on this site a few weeks ago and read a little here and there, but I have to say this post was excellent.

    I am did not realize the commitment it would take to get a blog site up and running, but I have begun and I am investing time at my computer like never before.

    Thank you for the insights! I look forward to reading more and learning more and hopefully one day I will be able to see the fruit of my labor and say I have a successful blog site. I am passionate about what I am writing about. Finding people who want to read regularly sounds like an interesting adventure. My site is still in the design phase and I am not launched, but it is accessible. I would love any feedback you can give me on the site.

  17. Jacob says:

    I’ve only been blogging a little over a month, so articles like this really help me out. It is definitely a major time investment, but if you enjoy writing like I do, it’s not work at all. Now…….how long before Adsense starts generating a little compensation!?

  18. Alex says:

    Please, for our sakes, spell-check and proof read your posts! This is crazy, I forced myself to read though this despite the countless errors you’ve made.

    I normally don’t pick on stuff like this because it’s become so commonplace on the net (I probably made a blunder somewhere in this comment that others will point out), but not when every other sentence has an error.

    I really like the ideas, but why put up these barriers? I guess it goes with “struggling to make time.”

  19. Greg Laden says:

    Tony: Your’re right about the best way to blog is to integrate it into your life and visa versa.

    I find myself sometimes about to answer a question of a colleague, friend, or a student and thinking … “I should just blog this and kill two birds with one stone” …

    This could get annoying to others. “Well, no, I didn’t shovel the snow off the driveway. I blogged the snow on the driveway…”

  20. Lowell says:

    Tony has hit the nail on the head with these five insights. I know that, due to life circumstances, I had little time over several months to write. I lost a lot of momentum that I’d built up over the previous months. I’m back blogging now regularly. Like Tony says, keep at it. If life takes you out for a while, get back at it ASAP.

  21. Shawn Blanc says:

    Excellent Article!

    I lliked the indirect bash on MySpace in #4, along with the point that successful sites have content that revolves around and is interesting to their readers.

    I also liked what you had to say about focus. Excellent points.

  22. Tim says:

    Wow such an abundance of information here, just started my new sit http://money-makingtruth.blogspot.com/ Hopefully with these sstratergies it will all come off, I have around 1000 txt backlinks at the moment but still not ranking high for my main key words. Awell i ll just keep reading this and I’ll get there

  23. uwak says:

    very great learning…….good job, thanks…!

  24. uwak says:

    about point 3, we must be creative……and rich with fresh idea

  25. Trace Cohen says:

    As you said, all this information is out there so why would anyone bother to hear what I have to say. This is the holy grail of blogging, you need to find something and be able to explain it in such a way that people will keep coming back.

Trackbacks

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