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Usefulness – Principles of Successful Blogging #3

usefulness.pngToday we continue my series in principles of successful blogging by looking at something that is at the heart of my own philosophy of blogging (and business) – usefulness.

I’ve said it many times on ProBlogger but if your blog is not solving a problem or fulfilling a need or desire among your readers then you’re unlikely to see them return.

The needs, desires and problems you can be meeting need not be large ones – but if you’re connecting with people on these levels you’re being useful and this goes a long way towards making the type of impression on someone that draws them into a loyal relationship.

Better still – if you’re useful to someone they’re often going to tell others about it which is a big part of the growth of many successful blogs.

Examples of Useful Blogs

Being useful can take on many different forms. Lets looks at some examples of fairly well known blogs:

  • Mashable – gives people the latest news on Social Media but also teaches them how to use it.
  • Boing Boing – a blog that gives a laugh and looks at curious trends in technology
  • Lifehacker – helps people become more productive and be better at different technological pursuits
  • TMZ – feeds people’s desire to know the latest gossip and celeb news
  • Seth Godin – teaches on the topic of Marketing
  • I Can Has Cheezburger – gives people something to giggle about
  • Treehugger – resources people to live green
  • Seeking Alpha – gives financial news and advice
  • Zen Habits – helps people be more productive
  • CopyBlogger – helps bloggers write better

Now you might not read all of these blogs (and there are many thousands more that we could use as examples) and are unlikely to find them all personally useful (I certainly don’t read them all) – but they all have many thousands of devoted fans and daily readers, because they’re producing content that meets some kind of need, fulfils some kind of desire or solves some kind of problem.

The ways a blog can be useful are many – but here are some of the basics (taken partly from ProBlogger the Book):

  • Entertaining – increasingly blogs are being used as entertainment. People are going to them for laughs, for gossip and for fun conversation.
  • Educational – many successful blogs teach people to do or be something
  • Informational/News – these blogs might teach you any practical skills but they keep you up with the latest on a particular topic, location or trend
  • Thoughtful – some readers want a place where they can have their minds open to viewpoints.
  • Debate – some blogs serve as places for people to come together to have dialogue and debate around a topic.
  • Community – many blogs are build more on people having a sense of belonging and feeling that they’re a part of a community than the actual content.

Of course this list could go on and on and will vary from blog to blog with some meeting multiple needs and others just targeting one.

How is Your Blog Useful?

This is a question that I think bloggers would do well ponder before they start blogging as well as during the blogging process (in fact it’s probably a question to ask every day before you publish anything). Strive to meet a need and enhance people’s lives in some way and you’ll be taking a step closer to connecting with people in a way that will hopefully be part of a lasting relationship.

Further Reading

Read the full series on how to build a successful blog.

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. Learning all the time on how to be useful to others… not an easy task though.

  2. Hemant says:

    Nice Post Darren!

    I can continue the list with tips for newbies to build instant trust-
    1. Start a blog with at least a few foundational posts on the topics which you are considering in your niche to give new readers something to interact with.
    2. Have some post as buffer to be published in the upcoming days so as not to get distracted in the early days

    I am doing the same as I am starting a new blog today.
    Wish me luck!

  3. Sudeep says:

    If I take your question in mind .. I know for myself that e-swastya my blog promotes health awareness with the lessons of ayurveda and yoga . Health is what is most important for this blog .
    If I said it right this blog eats ,drinks, sleep ,write , podcast only and only on health topics .

  4. Ben Goulding says:

    Really nice post Darren. In the past I’ve stopped and thought, ‘does this post relate to the topics I focus on?’, and in some cases it didn’t. I sometimes need to look at the bigger picture and re-assess what content I want to be publishing to meet the wants and needs of my readers.

  5. Knowing your niche, knowing your readers, and then writing material that readers want to read are the keys to a successful business blog. Look around at your industry, identify common pitfalls, points of confusion, etc… and then tailor your “foundation” posts around these topics. People in this niche will take notice.

    Rob – LexiConn

  6. I believe the easiest way to keep our focus on improving the usefulness of our blog is by setting up first our blog tagline.

    Through this process, we will able to keep our focus on a single dot – the purpose of our blog existence.

    With this, we will be always on the right track and will make it easier for our readers as they will know what to expect when we have new post created for them.

    What do you think Darren?

  7. BLOGERCISE says:

    “I Can Has Cheezburger” = “Useful”?

    Hmmmmm!

    Funny, yes, useful – no!

  8. Steve says:

    I’m pleased to see ‘usefulness’ given such a broad definition. Posts need not be of the ‘ten ways to make money’ variety, or obviously practical, to be useful to a reader.

    Being entertaining, thoughful, or fostering community can be just as useful – it just depends what the visitor is looking for in the first place.

    I guess this just goes back to having your audience in mind before posting, or at least stretching your writing beyond it being one long internal dialogue.

  9. My blog is for inspiration. Since it’s about Debt and how I got out, others read about me and my life and also want to pursue being debt free. Plus i’ve screamed on the Dave Ramsey show and that was inspirational to my readers.

  10. Ms. Freeman says:

    I hope I am of use to someone, anyone…

    I think my style is to answer my own question in hopes of answering another newbie’s concerns. I don’t profess to know it all because I certainly don’t, but I think my candor is of help.

    When I am in need of answers I definitely head over here for some insight. :)

  11. jan geronimo says:

    Mine is a cross between being a thoughtful place for discussion of ideas and promoting a sense of community among my readers. The second part is increasingly becoming difficult as the blog grows, but I’m with them – replying, recommending, checking out what’s up with them. There are encouraging signs though. Some readers are replying to each other and even welcoming new readers so I have more breathing space to do other important blog routines.

  12. recognition says:

    Maybe it’s just my personality … the examples you give are very popular on Technorati, but personally I don’t think that this blogs worth the time invested (exceptions are Seth Godin & CopyBlogger). Your blog is ordered and has good content this is what I like :)

    • Darren Rowse says:

      thanks recognition – I guess that’s partly my point, what’s useful to you might not be useful to others – it’s about finding out what your kind of people’s needs are and meeting those :-)

  13. Dan says:

    One thing I did on my blog in the summer was host a Summer Knowledge Project, where I wrote about different diseases that are in the same spectrum as my daughter’s cystic fibrosis. It was a fair hit during the summer and I still get hits from it now. Why? Information. The biggest driver toward those blog posts is Google sending people to me because I can tell them not just about my daughter’s disease, but the one they struggle with too.

    Now I just need to find out how else to give people what they need.

  14. Basant says:

    Good insight. I think until a blog is providing ‘solutions’ to some real problems, it won’t be successful. You can add ProBlogger in example of useful blogs ;)

  15. Very true. A blog today is more like a business and an important thing to remember is that your audience is impatient. There are thousands of sites that he is bombarded with each day. So incase if our blogs adds value to the end user the chances of returning are quite high. The same way we return to problogger :)

    I blog about business. Though a very wide area to blog about my target audience is quite niche. Though anyone is welcome to read I precisely visualize a 9 to 9 corporate reading my blog to add value to his profession. I cover news, views and basics about business in the most unique and edutaining way. Thats how I add my bit of value to the end readers.

  16. Thought-provoking post.

    My blog helps people to better understand a little known and much-maligned work at home practice: cash gifting. I focus on sharing the facts sans hype.

    As I’ve sought to share the facts in an entertaining manner my readership has grown significantly. Provide something of value – become valuable.

  17. I agree with this post. My blog goal is to educate and inform solo and very small business owners on the marketing communications process and show them how to market easily, efficiently and economically.

    Jenn

  18. It’s not only usefullness that attracts visitors. Humour and entertainment are big ones too.

  19. I haven’t found a blog more usefull then ProBlogger. Thanks, Darren!

  20. Jim says:

    Great post Darren! You definately want to bring traffic to your blog through some helpful information for people and you need to grab them quickly as they could only be at your blog for a few seconds. So your blog needs to be appealing and make them want to stay and read. Then you want to get them to come back for more! Having new people come is important as well as readers that continually come to your blog.

  21. I like the other ideas you come up with apart from being educational and providing useful information.

    Sometimes I fear coming over as being a bossy know it all by telling other people how to do things when I actually don’t know it all. I am a bit bossy though and it’s great to be able to give people sound advice on a topic you do know inside out:)

  22. Yeah, it is true if your blog content is useful, the reader surely will come back to have more. The informational content is one of the ways to make our content is useful.

  23. Health Club says:

    Yeah , agreed to Darren .. Site should be thoughtful or entertaining or at least something different . And for sure need the mercy from Google :) to be successful.

  24. Eric C says:

    Compare this to television. Television, or radio, or magazines, entertain or inform. Is this useful? In a way, but not how the word is traditionally defined.

  25. Money-Era says:

    I guess I would need to really focus on one or two categories mentioned above and then reshape my http://www.money-era.com blog accordingly?
    Anybody who wants to help me with that is welcome! Share your thoughts and comments, please :-)

  26. I like this post. Kind of backs up my thought every morning. I want to only write posts that are useful to others. SOmetimes that ends up to be a long post.
    Now the next thing I have to work on is how to put all that information in as short a post as possible

  27. There are many blogs which collect awesome photos from all around the world in different niches and share with people. So this is also another kind of except which you have mentioned above.

    Lets wrap these points in one thing and that is your blog should and must have points which attracts them to come again.

  28. That’s very true, i totally agree. I only read something as long as it is useful entertaining or somehow relevant to my life.

    Thanks.

  29. Food for thought.

  30. Jon Paget says:

    A good post. I strongly agree with the power of WOM marketing which can help blogs grow (and what many Social Media platforms rely on). In my opinion it’s important to open other links (like you provided in your post) in additional tabs or windows rather than directing the user from the page they’re reading. Finally, some element of the blog should be focused on enticing the visitor back!

  31. I agree with you. We have to think about this.

  32. Darren you right that every blog has some special things, I like to read your because you tell to people about how to become successful blogger in internet and how to make money with it.

    Thanks for sharing this useful site with use and hope that we will learned something from it.

  33. Arie Rich says:

    Excellent post!! I agree with everything listed on here. My blog is about providing useful information to my readers, and keeping them posted about stuff as they happen.
    It is often hard to find something useful that will engage everyone’s need, I do my best and I guess that’s why I’m still going…

    I do try to keep up with other ProBlogs like yours and many others you list on here, for advice on becoming a successful blogger like yourselves. I see your blogs as motivation, and I thank you for providing all this great information…

    Arie Rich
    KMPBlog.com

  34. will says:

    I think the way your using Usefulness is really a way to say be sure to “Add Value” for people. If you are adding value to something for someone they will come back for more.

    Your post is the exact reason I’ve selected a more narrow niche in retirement investing. The deeper you get into the subject the more usefulness or value you will provide for readers.

    will
    -still getting foundation posts up…

  35. work at home says:

    Once again I can read one nice post on problogger. Most of blogs that you mentioned here are my favorite. Specially the blog Mashable is my most favorite blog.

  36. Wonderful post Darren.

    You hit the nail right on the head with this post. If you are not providing something useful to your readers, you need to make a change.

    I have a few blogs on different subjects: freelance, business, writing and parenting with special needs. Different niches but always looking to provide value in some form. I provide something to my customers in my consulting as well through my blogs. I know I have had a few parents email me on my special needs information.

    I would also add to first look at what your target reader would be then write to that person. Write as if you were having a conversation with them. Adding that personal touch is another way to add value and information to your reader.

  37. good blog list especially Zen habits

  38. Paul Hassing says:

    Another ripper, Darren. Your blog certainly ticks all my usefulness boxes. Many thanks for the learning! P. :)

  39. Ronblogger says:

    Nice list of succesful blogs there,i guess your blog should be on top- of the list.You’ve helped and inspired so many bloggers including me ;-)

  40. I’m really glad you included “entertainment” as a way a blog can be considered useful. People come to my humor blog to laugh, scratch their heads, be challenged by a contest or to just go about their lives being glad they’re not me. I meet a need to laugh. The world needs to laugh!

  41. well.
    my blog was for beginners. It was a hit for that reason. after some time I could not post on regular basis and good post. but now I am doing it again and it is a hit.

  42. the examples you give are very popular on Technorati, but personally I don’t think that this blogs worth the time invested (exceptions are Seth Godin & CopyBlogger). Your blog is ordered and has good content this is what I like :)
    I agree!

  43. Darren,

    I struggled with whether or not I could create a “useful” blog based on my fence contracting business I owned. I started by doing a lot of research and finding that NO ONE was blogging about my industry at the time (there are a few now), which was both encouraging, and discouraging at the same time. Encouraging as I was breaking into something new and discouraging because I couldn’t follow anyone else to see the positives/negatives of their blog.

    My blog became successful enough to get recognition by people I never expected to do so, and it catapulted my website into the top 3 results for localized searches for just about any term you could think of. My competitors were livid, but none of them ever started a blog (guess fence contractors aren’t too bright! LOL). I found that the articles I wrote, whether it be about permitting, types of fences, installation methods, or local ordinances would get conversations started both on my blog and on social networking sites I was on.

    Since selling my company along with websites, I have changed gears and am going a different route (still with fences) and will blog myself back to the top of the searches for my new venture, thanks Darren for helping me over the last couple of years!

  44. Good post. You hit the nail right on the head with this post. If you are not providing something useful to your readers, you need to make a change.

  45. Pascal says:

    My blog useful because it helps people to know about best online earning methods and how to avoid scams. People can easily read and understand my posts and then they can easily earn money online. All informations are free.

  46. Casey says:

    Nice post. You really have to provide something beneficial so friends will tell friends and so on.

  47. Jennifer says:

    This post sure sets straight what people look for when they are reading blogs. This post gets right down to the bare basics of what to remeber when posting to ensure the best feedback. Usefulness is the key to having sucess. Every part of your blog should appeal to some type of person. It should be entertaining for the person who just got home from a long day of work and needs to relax. It should be inviting to the picky person who does’t like to sit there rummaging for a well written blog. It should contain information that someone can go back and tell there friends about. The usefullnes of the blog is what sets it apart from having two views to 2000 views. People want to read something and be able to take information from it. All it takes is someone to find useful information in your blog and pass it along to a friend and there begins the chain you hoped to get when writing your blog. People are talking because you gave them something important to talk about.

    Jennifer

  48. Some great advice and i agree Mashable is an excellent example of a good blog.

  49. techprism says:

    The only thing that actually is considered while you navigates to any website or blog is Usefulness & Information Richness

    Nice Post.

  50. Mal Keenan says:

    Agreed, Darren. I have operated many blogs over the years and those that have thrived are the ones that met a need.

    What I’ve seen recently is that successful blogs like your own need to become more like a discussion forum than a one way publishing tool.

    Tha’s my goal with my main blog. Your tips are helping me a lot.

    Mal Keenan