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Authentic Blogging

Ever had a ‘defining moment’ that changed the direction of your blog? A moment of realization that makes you stop in your tracks and reinvent your approach?

Maria Gajewski from Never The Same River Twice emailed me today to tell me about her recent defining moment which she calls her Authentic Blogging Manifesto in which she describes her quest to grow her blog by writing for social media (she describes herself getting to the point of being a “StumbleUpon Slave”) instead of her readers.

The story is honestly written and I’m sure will resonate with many of you (as it’s a tale that I’ve heard many bloggers share their versions of).

Maria also outlines her 4 point plan for moving forward:

  • Step 1: Stop Pretending That I Know Everything
  • Step 2: Talk to People Who Know More Than Me
  • Step 3: Share What I Learn With People Who Know Less Than Me
  • Step 4: Put My Energy Into Communication, Not Traffic

Maria’s story and lessons are not new. Many bloggers have come to similar realizations and decisions in their blogging – however I wanted to post it as a reminder of two things that I’ve found to be important in building a successful blog:

1. Balance is Important – Most bloggers go through times when they become obsessed with one aspect of blogging (be it SEO, writing for social media, experimenting with a new tool or medium, getting links from other bloggers, tweaking their design etc) and where their blogging becomes unbalanced. In Maria’s case it seems that she became out of balance with writing for social media. While there’s nothing wrong with list posts or getting traffic from these sources – a blogger needs to keep some perspective and not become side tracked by the lure of big traffic from these kinds of sites. Read more about blogging balance.

2. Write For People – Perhaps the most obvious blogging tip that anyone could give is to keep your reader firmly in mind as you write and to aim to write something meaningful (both to them and you) that really communicates to them and enhances their lives in some way. It’s a pretty simple tip and one that we all know – yet it is amazing how many of us become distracted from this truth and need to be reminded of what it’s all about.

Have you ever had a ‘defining moment’ in your blogging? What did you learn? What decisions did you make? How have you gone since changing your approach?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing my story, Darren. I hope that it’s helpful for others who are trying to avoid making similar mistakes. If anyo.ne has further questions, they can reach me at maria (at) neverthesamerivertwice (dot) com.

  2. Todd says:

    I’ve had a few situations that remind me that I don’t know everything and it’s ok to be honest with readers about that. Point them in the right direction and be a sounding board. That’ just as valuable as having the right answer!

  3. Humble Blogging :)

  4. Kris Colvin says:

    I think an incident that helped me with my highly opinionated blogging was when someone called me out (on their blog) as “getting it all wrong.” Though the writer of the post didn’t have that compelling an argument, after all, an opinion is never wrong… it led to a dialogue with a company in my post that I had potentially unfairly characterized, so I changed my post to reflect something I felt was more authentic, and it was better in the end. This is a great post, and reminder of that for me. Gratzi!!

  5. it gossips says:

    I always afraid to start a conversation. :(

  6. Sid Savara says:

    I think the biggest thing I realized when I started blogging was how different my thoughts were from other people. I think everyone believes when they first start blogging, that everyone else must be like them and will love their blog – but that’s totally not the case. That said, there are many people out there that I hope will eventually find my blog (about Personal Development and Life Hacking) and enjoy it, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve read problogger for a long long time – and I know I’m going to need to be in it for a long, long time before I get a serious audience who gets me.

  7. Rachel says:

    I had a moment where I realized that all the research I was doing for my blog could be the blog itself. So I stopped doing my own projects and starting organizing my searches and publishing those. Now I’m on my way to being very successful.

  8. writer dad says:

    When I write, I often have a specific reader in mind, most often my wife. I write my post exactly as though I was talking to this person. I do this without fail. It makes my posts sharp and, I think, unique. I think that I would lose that ability if I wrote in any other way. It’s why getting involved with Social Media is frightening to me.

  9. I’m fairly new to blogging but have absolutely fallen in love with it. I think for me, the hardest part of having a blog “newborn” is not having any comments to communicate with. It has only been a few weeks but I have yet to have any comments.
    So I completely agree that you need to focus on connecting to the reader but for a new blogger it’s hard to do when you don’t have any input. I know they will come in time so I always focus on putting out quality content and just being a genuine writer and not a “car salesman” promoter. But I do look forward to the time when I have an audience to write for.
    Thanks for the great content Darren. I’ll really chew on the suggestions over the next couple of days. Eric.

  10. blogversary says:

    I wrote about my latest blogging realization this afternoon. I enjoy reading less blog with full attention rather than a lot of blogs with little attention.

  11. shawal says:

    When i first start blogging, the blogging things seem easy….

    But when times goes by i realize that this is the hardest work that i ever do in my life….

    Focus is the thing that’s always bothering me, internet is the world without borders, you can surf anything on it….

    Now I’m learning how to focus on blogging and sharing all the things that i know about blogging and how to earn money online….

    Sharing is the best thing in this world….

    Thank You..

  12. Mike Nichols says:

    It’s all too easy to get out of balance and leave your hard-earned readers behind. Personal interests and intriguing blog subjects have to be weighed against what your readers have come to expect from your blog.

    It takes months and years to build up a faithful audience, but only a relatively few posts to lose them. My burning interests of this week will be replaced with something else next week. If my posts follow these whims, my blog will be unfocused and will lose my audience promptly.

    I’m always having to remind myself of my core passion, the one that caused me to start my blog in the first place. Building and maintaining your readership through quality posts is the way to go in the long run.

  13. lulumom says:

    Truly great points, all. In J School, we were advised to imagine a person we were talking to, in order to write, or tell a story. This might apply here as well. But blogs seem to come in many shapes and sizes, from advice and tips, to more personal reflections. Is there a right way to do this?

  14. Wakish says:

    “Write For People” – a simple tip.

    Yeah, that’s a simple tip. But you are being to easy to say “yet it is amazing how many of us become distracted from this truth”.

    I will argue that while it is undeniably a simple tip, it not as a simple thing to do. “Write For People” is an art too which is surely to be cultivated by all. But surely not everyone can be an artist..

    - Wakish -

  15. Sire says:

    Damn, is that what I am lacking, a ‘defining moment’ which I suppose is something akin to Oprah’s ‘light bulb moment’ (not my fault I have to keep the wife company sometimes, Oprah happens to be on). I wish someone would flip the switch because I am still waiting for the moment to occur.

  16. Defining moment or evolutionary step? I would bet there are more to come as we all continue to discover ourselves, our passions and talents. I know that I am always learning, largely thanks to a supportive blogging community.

  17. Lindsay says:

    Good points. I’ve ignored social media for the most part and have still made it into the six-figure blogger realm.

    I don’t deny it can be a valuable tool, but I’d definitely recommend folks apply the 80/20 principle to whatever they’re doing. Figure out what small percentage of your social media work is bringing in the majority of your traffic, and focus on that in the future. Don’t waste a lot of time trying out everything and just hoping something will stick.

    My defining moment was when I realized I wanted to do more than write about consumer products and collect advertising money. I enjoy that, and I love that advertising money, but I realized that to feel complete, I really wanted to share what I’ve learned with others, hence the creation of my latest blog (sig. link). Already, this is more spiritually fulfilling for me (even if I’m not making any money with it, hah).

    Thanks again for the thoughtful post!

  18. L-Jay says:

    A small defining moment came when I heard an interview from the caradvice guy – Alborz Fallah. He said he started out with three blogs. After a while one stood out so he ditched the others to concentrate on the one.

    I was waiting to start my other blog after my first one picked up but after the ‘advice’ I realised “What the hec ‘em I waiting for!” So now I have two blogs – dancetank.com & mylittlenorway.com (shameless advertisement, I know ;-)

    The lesson: don’t get stuck in one mindset, be open to all possibilities of where your blogging might take you.

  19. simplyRik says:

    Its funny, but these 4 steps seem remarkably like those I followed as a Broadcast Journalist. It should also be a Journalist’s manifesto.

  20. JaneDeere says:

    Perfect timing. I am in the middle of changing direction with my new blog. http://www.type-talktherapy.com

    I started out with kind of a “pet peeve” session but am working on moving more towards a motivating – feel good blog. I already like to write more with the new theme. I will still have my pet peeve category though! I do have a few!

  21. Angel Cuala says:

    Interesting points you got here, Darren. But I believe that balancing is the hardest part in blogging. All of us want to get high traffic and most of the time, this aspect hinders us to focus on communicating.

    Promotion takes a lot of effort and it is frustrating to know that the returns are low after trying so hard to make your best post.

    I realized that social bookmarking sties are not for me so I switched to forum posting, and it is now starting to pay off.

    I think the perfect keyword bloggers should realize is patience while finding the right place for you.

  22. Hi Darren,

    I’ve noticed that having a balance of different things to write about in your particular niche is most important. I write about Administrative Assistant tips and mixing it up seems to keep my readers on the edge of their chairs.

    At times, I try to write “series”, but mixing it up seems to work the best for me.

    Thanks,

    Richard Rinyai
    http://www.theprofessionalassistant.net

  23. John says:

    I tried to write something more personal than normal today.

    I don’t know if I will get anymore traffic as a result, but at least to me, it means something. Even if nobody reads it. At least I put myself on the line like this.

    http://crazyweirdvideos.com/2008/08/14/prisoner-16670-died-today/

  24. Kinsey says:

    I’ve been following your site for a little while now, and I want to thank you for your help! I really appreciate you posting this up and covering Maria’s article, I feel as though I just avoided a huge time-suck. I’m pretty new to blogging, but love it and have started a few blogs already, and I’m striving to keep the correct goal in mind. This really helped!

  25. mspennylane says:

    Maria’s post was great, I had read it just before noticing this article. And what you add about remembering who is reading too is very useful. It will be useful for being an authentic blogger but also just writing better in general.

  26. Alex says:

    I had a defining moment when I realized how much I checked my traffic reader a day (it can become addictive).

    My mood would go up or down based on the numbers. At that moment I realized what I was doing. I was no longer writing because I loved to do it, I was writing for numbers. My readers were no longer readers but a number to me.

  27. @Alex: Excellent point and excellently phrased! I think this is something many bloggers struggle with. It’s good to hear you are aware of it and doing you’re part to keep the readers needs at the forefront of your writing.