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The Rules Behind Creating a Great Blog

So in your quest to dominate your corner of the blogosphere, you might be wonder about higher order questions. How does one blog? What are the “rules” behind creating a great blog? Is there anything universal that connects the very stuff behind the truly great blogs irrespective of their content? What does a great science blog have in common with a great celebrity blog? And can corporate blogs, be great?

Well, if yesterday’s post was about the habits of being a successful blogger (I seemed to dwell on time management, didn’t I?), today’s post is on what what truly great blogs have in common, and a few exercises that you can do to try and bring your own blog up to par (if it isn’t already at par!).

1. Transparency: Great blogs are blogs that leave no question of their motives, who their parters and affiliates are, and who their authorship is. Transparency means that no matter what the blog is about, the readers know what they’re getting into. Because transparency is really about trust. Great blogs have earned the trust of their readers through their posts, their opinions, and their engagement. But they are also not misrepresenting themselves, or the reason why they’re blogging in the first place. At the end of the day, trust is the only real currency in the blogosphere, and people who read blogs have the expectation that they’re getting at the truth — in whatever form the truth is to them. And because there is the presumption of truth, readers will often react in an intense fashion to being manipulated, hoodwinked, and otherwise bamboozled.

ACTION: Do reveal as much as you can about yourself in the about page; Do reveal potential influences on your blog, particularly the monetary ones; Do communicate how advertising and content are separated; Do communicate when your content isn’t because its sponsored.

2. Authenticity: Great blogs are ones which are startlingly “real”. They give the details and the raw juicy information in a way that only the author is able to deliver. In that way, authenticity is really about delivering a uniquely fascinating experience — with the emphasis on “unique”. And being the unique experience means that its the sum of all of the elements on your blog which are part of the authentic blog; and beyond the literal parts, such as the logo, the color scheme and the wordpress theme (if you’re using wordpress), it also reaches deep down into the special content that bloggers are privvy to, the voice that they communicate in, and the personality that the blog exudes. Authentic blogs are blogs with a great deal of unmistakable personality that you just can’t find anywhere else.

QUESTION: What is the blogging landscape that your blog lives in? Where does your blog fit in? Do you know what your voice is? What can you bring to your blog that no one else can? What kind of personality does your writing project? How can you make your entire blog congruent to that personality and voice? Where can you find content that is uniquely reflective of your own experiences?

3. Integrity: Great blogs know what they stand for, and what values are meaningful to them. Integrity means standing up for those values when the winds of change might call for any blog to be challenged by them. Often times, it means saying “No”, when everyone else is saying “Yes, Yes, YES!”, and the courage to do so even if you risk the chance of being unpopular. Having integrity can be particularly challenging when you’re starting out, as when you have the feeling no one reads your blog, you tend to devalue it yourself. Devaluing your own work is a step away from making all kinds of concessions because you start thinking that no one is looking — or no one will know. But if you’re in it for the long haul, caving in can have disastrous consequences as the record will exist for perpituitiy, and the blogosphere will remember. Blogs are funny that way. They’re derided as mentally delayed cousin of other more mainstream media, but even amongst their own, are often held to a higher standard. Whether its paid advertising from a company that you’ve called out on, entering a partnership with a blogger you’ve publicly denounced, or suddenly changing your value judgement on a critical news piece, integrity has a funny way of calling attention to you in a most unappealing light. Great blogs are able to stand tall for what they value, and have justly earned their respect for doing so.

THOUGHTS: What does your blog stand for? What does it NOT stand for? What are you willing to compromise for the sake of more publicity? Traffic? Money? Would you ever cave in “real” life if someone made the same offer to you? Why would your blog be any different?

4. Passion: Great blogs are written with an incredible passion for the topics at hand, and much like great sex, it can’t be faked. Passion and intensity for your topic is something that’s palpable and energizing, and what I call the “X-factor” behind a great blog. And its the litmus test behind your blogging efforts. If you find you can’t work up the energy and enthusiasm to get excited about your own blog, maybe its time to start asking yourself some hard questions about whether you need to change your goals (or blog). Because if you’re not excited, your readers will know — and they sure as heck won’t be. Passion is the energy of emotion. Its what motivates righteous anger and incandescent outrage. But it also adds verve to thoughtful insight, compassion to solicitous pleas for help, and a quivering sense of excitement behind a long awaited piece of news. Passion is what elevates blogs that have otherwise stale nonsensical content into something immenently readable, and it shoots into the stratosphere blogs that have something fresh, innovative, or insightful to say.

REFLECTIONS: How excited were you about your last post? Were you bored? Did you sound bored? Do you think your readers noticed? How many of them wrote comments to tell you what they thought about your post?

5. Engagement: Great blogs live in an ecosystem of thoughts, opinions, ideas and personalities, and are active participants in those relationships. They are engaged. Engagement means actively participating on other blogs. It also means replying back to emails and comments. It means growing and cultivating your own readership. It means contacting and creating relationships with like minded (and sometimes not) bloggers. And sometimes (often times), using your blog as a platform to rebut, support, or even start opinions on a given issue. Blogs that can afford to exist in vacuums are blogs that are powered by individuals who have fame or fortune outside of the blogosphere, and are bringing that to their blog. However, for the rest of us who are not celebrities, our blogs need to grow organically, using the rich loam of networks and relationships to grow, and the collegial debate of ideas to encourage it to be strong and resilient.

CONSIDER … the scenario when your blog gets big and popular enough that you get bored by comments and questions. Could this happen to you? How could you prevent it from happening? And if it is already happening what is it doing to your readers, colleagues and fellow bloggers?

Transparency, authenticity, integrity, passion and engagement are what I find great blogs have in common. You might have your own opinions, so let’s hear’em … and get the “engagement” going! :)

* Tony Hung is the guest blogger for the week, and blogs at Deep Jive Interests

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Comments

  1. Bes Z says:

    Good points Tony. Transparency, or a clear message, is something that is missing from many blogs today. Without being clear to the readers, bloggers themselves will have a hard time realizing what they want to convey through their blogs.

    You point out a very good things about devaluing; majority of the blogs these days talk about the depression, suicide and family issues that they themselves are going through without offering much to their readers, or without considering how such posts will make a blog look like after, say, 2 years or so, when a person has passed through the issues they devalued themselves in.

    Being patient is also an important rule to follow, in addition to the above. Waiting for a blog to be more popular, going through times when most comments are not in favor of what the blogger is saying, not earning enough or any money, and waiting for popularity to grow; all these require patience without which a blog cannot be successful in the long run.

  2. asiainsp says:

    Nice points!

  3. Great post Tony, my list isn’t identical but I think we are mostly on the same page
    http://performancing.com/node/113

  4. Meg says:

    Tony

    Many thanks for the last 2 posts. I was trying to explain my thoughts on blogetiquitte (code of conduct) to someone the other day. And here you’ve put in so concisely. I’m a beginning blogger (new year’s resolution) & have recently discovered this site. Your posts have been really informative & have been “starred” to refer back to (it’s a lot to take in when you’re a newbie). Wish I could get a post knocked over in less than an hour, but I’m sure it will get easier in time…

    Great work – thanks!

    Meg

  5. jhay says:

    Agreed. A must-read for bloggers especially beginners like myself.

  6. Jonk says:

    Transparency is a very good point. Hiding affiliate links is just a way to putt people offside.

  7. Some interesting points raised Tony. Thank you. The transparancy issue is of importance to me but I am also causiously shy of it. I would love to indulge in some private thoughts about what I would like to see happen to adult sexual predators but my career and professionalism would be over.
    In an earlier blog of Darren’s I read about always holding something back, leaving room for the readers to have their views. I take from this that a blog can be a facilitation of views, but, just like in a real time meeting, a facilitator is required.
    I have the passion, yet I still lack readers who leave comments. I ask myself everyday, “What is wrong with my voice?”. I would love to engage in meaningful discussion through comments. This leads me to ask, “Am I a discussion stopper? Is my voice too opinionated?”
    There appears to be a real art to successful blogging and I am enjoying the learning.
    I appreciate all the posts on this blog. They are most helpful.

  8. Dave says:

    Very good.

    I think you’ve missed closing a strong/bold tag somewhere though….

  9. Julie O'Hara says:

    Really good post. I write a food blog, and I’m often hesitant to offer any commentary on news or the media, so I stick to safe, non-topical posts (it’s easy to do this with recipes). Thanks for reminding me to become more engaged!

  10. Tony Hung says:

    Dave,

    Thanks for pointing that out … whew! :)

    t

  11. Tony Hung says:

    Megan,

    While being open and honest about your views is one thing, transparency really means disclosing what your motives, associations, and influences are on your blog.

    Let me be specific: If you were blogging about food, and your hosting was paid for by Nestle, it might would be worthwhile letting your audience know — because perhaps they might get suspicious after all of your positive reviews on a particular brand of baby formula! (an off topic post on a particular brand).

    Perhaps what you’re referring to is a desire to be step outside the boundaries of what is discrete, appropriate and focused for your particular blog. If your blog is about marketing, then yes, ranting about sexual predators is probably out of context even though these are your real feelings about them.

    On the other hand, there’s no reason why you can’t blog about them on a personal blog; or, contribute to another blog about your opinions that are more focused on that topic.

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Tony.

  12. Tony Hung says:

    Meg,

    Glad I can provide any juice to get your blogging efforts going!

    Cheers
    Tony.

  13. Tony Hung says:

    Julie,

    Funny you mention safe non-topical posts, because The News is exactly where we’re headed next! :D

    Cheers
    Tony.

  14. Tony Hung says:

    Chris,

    Thanks for stopping by (how’s performancing these days?) — your post is a great one for people to read up on, certainly.

    Keep up the great work!
    Tony.

  15. Tony Hung says:

    Bes Z,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Patience is a virtue, and its certainly true in blogging as well.

    Cheers
    Tony

  16. Rick Mahn says:

    Tony,
    Well thought out post that delivers concise, helpful information. These are topics that I’m actually struggling with right now on my blog. Your tips and advice is much appreciated, I’ll be attempting to practice this advice as I go forward.

    Thank you,
    Rick

  17. Rugjeff says:

    Great post. It really made me ask the question “why do I blog?”. Sometimes blogging can become so ritualistic we forget why we started in the first place. Thanks for bringing me back to reality.

  18. Rory says:

    As before, some excellent things to think about. Thank you for this.

  19. Alex Becker says:

    thanks for the good advice

  20. Good points. No matter what your blogging level is there is something to be gained here.

  21. Daniel says:

    Great article and lots to learn from it. Thanks for a great resource.

  22. eric hebert says:

    Yo Tony, your posts have been really good. I’d have you guest blog on my site any day of the week! Keep up the good work. P.S. Do you have your own blog?

  23. Bazza says:

    Tony would you consider staying on at ProBlogger?

    If your first two tips are anything to go by (and the quantities of comments you’ve generated) I’m sure Darren would want you to stay on and blog with him. I think the two of you together could well product the ultimate blogging blog.

    We should start petition to get Darren to agree to it!

  24. Bazza says:

    by the way – did anyone else noticed that Problogger is now #7 on Technorati’s Most Favorited list. 68 ,more and it is beating Engadget. There’s another campaign for us!

  25. Tony Hung says:

    Bazaa — that’s something for Darren to decide, although I’m always happy to guest post for a friend. ;)

    Cheers
    Tony.

  26. rohit says:

    once again a great article, the best point i likes is about “integrity”, for beginners to blogging, someone trying to attract more traffic more faster loosing track of your “do’s” and don’t is very easy and that should be avoid to gain the long term benefits of a great blog

  27. Leon says:

    I would like to think that my blog falls into that category!

  28. Armen says:

    Although simple, this post provides a good basis for some of the requirements that so many lack.

    I’ve just started blogging less than a month ago due to my move to Australia. I figured it would be a good way to keep everyone back home (in Northern Ireland) up-to-date with how my wife and I are settling in to the aussie lifestyle.

    Keep up the good work Tony! I am trying to work really hard at producing a successful blog, but it’s hard and I need all the help I can get.

  29. Really enjoyed your post. Very informative and thought provoking. The transparency of a blog is sooo important. Thanks!

    BoomTips.com

  30. Hi Tony,

    This post truly defines the *character* of successful blogs.

    You’ve touched upon the topic of new bloggers devaluating their work and being tempted into stealing/repeating content/beliefs as they feel this won’t make a difference. I would agree that this will be disasterous for anyone who is in blogging for the long-term.

    Since your blog defines your character, one should *never* compromise on their views just to ‘fit in’. Similarly, one should not always oppose what is being said by everyone just to sound contrarian and thereby stand out. People will soon know if your disagreement comes from your beliefs or not. Also, if you disagree just to sound contrarian, chances are that you’ll change your opinion under pressure during a debate; and that would be disasterous.

    Thanks for brining this up Tony.

    Cheers!

  31. Hi all, I wrote a post today for my site that I think IS my voice. It’s quite odd and though the topic is serious I turn it into nearly something that is nearly akin to a cult like undertone. Hmm, would anyone care to read this one post (at the link for my name) and let me know what you really think…? Give it to me from the heart. Make me hurt for it if you think I deserve it. ;)

  32. Bronwyn says:

    Very inspiring read to a new blogger like myself, I’m sure all the advice will come in handy! Now that I know the rules, hopefully I will soon master the game!

  33. ven says:

    These tips are great for newbies like me. A lot of good stuff here at problogger. i cant wait to read the other posts!

  34. daniel says:

    Excellent article. Being “real” and passionate are very important. Readers can tell when the writer cares about the subject at hand. Thank you.

  35. Alicia says:

    Great tips. I agree, some of the best blogs are those that offer a truly authentic viewpoint. And passion is another must-have!

  36. vtsoftfd says:

    Lafarge to buy Orascom Cement for $12.8 bln link

  37. Larry says:

    Good stuff for any new blogger.

  38. achtenfarben says:

    Wow! I really liked the ideas and values you put into this article. I really liked the part on passion. It is very difficult to write a blog if you have no passion or interest in the field. Good article.

  39. Timothy Leary says:

    I quite enjoyed this article. It help me increase my knowledege in the world of blogging.

  40. Ryan says:

    I like this article it helps me better understand what blogs are and what you can do with them.

  41. Flange says:

    I agree with what you said about integrity.

  42. Jill says:

    I believe this site is really useful to teens, now a days everyone has a myspace and they want it to reflect who they are, and this site pretty much tells you everything you need to know and what you should do for it to be a good blog. It just helps each individual show their own personality and voice over a blog. It’s simple and informational.

  43. carl says:

    good article with a lot of interesting, helpful points.
    thanks for the information.

  44. Tasha says:

    Transparency and passion are great keys to writing and reading a blog. Its all about getting into what is being said and saying it with feeling.

  45. Mine says:

    Oh my dear god. Isn’t blogging the hope that someone will find us interesting and pay us to publish it?

  46. ألعاب says:

    I agree with all the points you stated above . Blogging is about providing genuine valuable content first of all .

  47. Nivedita says:

    Just one article and everything about blogging. That’s absolutely incredible but 100% true in this case

  48. This is very important one for the people who are going to create a new blog. These rules have some tips and tricks. Thanks for that!!! Also please update more and more!!

  49. Nice rules!! Very important for the basic bloggers learning newly. Thanks for the blog and all the best..Many rules are of original and true one!!!

  50. makemecards says:

    Thank You for this, I’m looking at starting a blog and this article certainly helped give me more direction as well as insight.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Rules Behind A Great Blog [...]

  2. [...] Tony Hung hat auf Problogger einen prima Gastbeitrag verfasst: The Rules Behind Creating a Great Blog [...]

  3. [...] The Rules Behind Creating a Great Blog 1. Transparency / 2. Authenticity / 3. Integrity / 4. Passion / 5. Engagement (tags: Blogging blog tips) [...]

  4. [...] The Rules Behind Creating a Great BlogProBlogger Blog Tips Essential rules to remember [...]

  5. [...] I’ve been a fan of Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger.net since I got into blogging close to two years ago. I’ve never aimed at being a “pro-blogger” but I’ve always hoped that my small portion of the net here could raise a penny or two. [...]

  6. [...] The Rules Behind Creating a Great Blog [...]

  7. [...] Being transparent on the web is the same as being transparent regarding certain things with people in real life. Tony Hung on Problogger says that transparency “means that no matter what the blog is about, the readers know what they’re getting into.” Mentioning your personal details on the web is still considered a taboo by most people. While personal information should be kept private in many cases, giving users extra information that lets them know who they are indirectly interacting with is an excellent step towards establishing your credibility and making your blog better. Here I present to you some explanation of transparency by showing you how a company and an individual deal with transparency through a site and a blog respectively, and how I try to deal with transparency through different ways. [...]

  8. [...] Being transparent on the web is the same as being transparent regarding certain things with people in real life. Tony Hung on Problogger says that transparency “means that no matter what the blog is about, the readers know what they’re getting into.” Mentioning your personal details on the web is still considered a taboo by most people. While personal information should be kept private in many cases, giving users extra information that lets them know who they are indirectly interacting with is an excellent step towards establishing your credibility and making your blog better. Here I present to you some explanation of transparency by showing you how a company and an individual deal with transparency through a site and a blog respectively, and how I try to deal with transparency through different ways. [...]

  9. [...] A couple of blogs I read have brought up the topic of having a personal voice and thinking for yourself [...]

  10. [...] he was guest-blogging for Darrin Rowse at Problogger.net, Tony Hung posted about The Rules Behind Creating a Great Blog. One thing in particular caught my eye Tony was talking about integrity when he said: Devaluing [...]

  11. [...] narcissist) so I’ll play along. I am also in full agreement with Darren Rowse – namely that transparency lends to a better site visitor experience. So with no further ado, Toto – please pull back the [...]