This guest post is by Adam Best of FanSided.
I spent the previous decade figuring out how to “make it” online as a writer. Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone” comes to mind. Eventually, with the help of my brother, I made a bit of a splash on a Kansas City Chiefs blog called Arrowhead Addict. That effort went so well we decided to make a business out of sports blogging and started the FanSided Network. What started as one lonely Chiefs blog is now a family of 175 sites, with over 300 bloggers and millions of readers.
I’ve gone from figuring out how to blog to figuring out how to make bloggers better. As FanSided’s Editor, that’s my job. In a day and age where Charlie Sheen has dubbed himself a “genius warlock with tiger blood,” I’m gonna take the high road and just say that I know a thing or two about blogging. Ah, screw it. I’m a Blogfather and I’m here to make you a blogger they can’t refuse.
My blogging philosophy, the Four Os, has guided FanSiders for years. Hopefully, this blogging code will now help guide some of you. The Four Os are:
Drumroll please (I picture a grand total of six of you tapping your pens on your desks…).
Elvis. Bowie. M.J. Madonna. Kanye West. Lady Gaga. All talented musicians? Yes, but it was their originality, even eccentricity, that allowed their talents to come to the forefront. Am I saying that you have to wear one glove, paint your face, announce that George W. Bush hates black people, and then die eating a sub on the toilet? No. What I’m suggesting is for your blog not to be a carbon copy of the existing powerhouse blogs in your category of choice.
Because almost anybody can jump online and start a site, it’s a copycat world out there. Everybody is involved in the same rat race to be first to get to the same story, the same video, the same meme, and then be first to market that post. What happened to establishing your own voice? What happened to being a trend-setter?
You don’t want to be viewed as a walking, talking spambot. Nobody really breaks news at this point. C’mon, everybody already heard about it on Twitter. My little sister broke the story on her Facebook page before most blogs did. Your focus should be on crafting original content that’s well written and different from anything else you can find on the Net. Research your niche; figure out its staples and what’s missing. Look outside your niche for inspiration. Put together a game plan to make your site one of a kind. Don’t be afraid of trial and error either. Your audiences will eventually only remember your hits, not your misses, and if you compile enough hits you’ll be well on your way.
Say what you will about Lady Gaga and her idiosyncrasies, but there’s only one of her and her schtick feels more natural than gimmicky. She’s made herself an indispensable part of the music scene. You’d be wise to do the same in your category.
Let’s say you own a restaurant. Let’s even say your place has spectacular food, a convenient location and great atmosphere. The problem? You only serve one meal, lunch, and only serve it Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If that was the case, you’d expect patrons to visit somewhat frequently during those times, but not during other times. Most bloggers serve up content about as infrequently, yet expect different results—great daily traffic. That’s unreasonable.
If you are only doing three, four, even five posts per week, you are contributing on strictly a hobby level. Those who write that infrequently yet experience a great deal of success are often either already famous or write like Hemingway. Most blogs need to average a post per day. Sometimes a daily post isn’t enough. FanSided is like Office Space. We can only ask our writers to wear so many pieces of flair, but our writers who wear the most pieces (post the most) get the most out of their blogs. I’ve been staring at analytics for years now, and there is definitely a strong correlation between post quantity and traffic.
Blogging isn’t just writing—nobody alive can write four or five opuses every day. Blogging is part writing, of course. But curating, or mining the Internet for gold (news, videos, links, images, stats, quotes, tweets, etc.), is equally as important. Yes, your blog has to be your own voice, but it also has to be more. The best blogs serve as hubs that keep readers from having to surf the web. Besides, you can still Blog Original and voice your opinion when you are curating. Just make sure you interject original insight, even if you do so in rapid-fire fashion.
Another suggestion is to add a staff around you once your blog is established. There are plenty of talented writers out there who don’t have the time to spearhead their own site, yet want to receive great exposure. Adding staffers will also allow you to focus more on quality over quality. Most importantly, any knucklehead can start a site by themselves. If you have a dedicated and talented staff serving under you, then you and your site must be legitimate. That’s not always the case, but a blog staff presents a façade of success and perception is everything—or at least very damn important.
Make sure you have at least one quality post on your site every single day. If you’re not doing so already, try it out for a month. If you already do one, do two or three for the next 30 days. If your traffic and comment numbers don’t increase, tweet to me @adamcbest and let me know it didn‘t work. I’ll tweet to all my followers that I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s how confident I am in the Blog Often approach.
Part of the problem with trying to Blog Often is that we are all pressed for time. As a result, visual appearance, formatting, grammar, title and promotion often are overlooked aspects of blogging. Compare posting a blog post to selling a house. When you sell a house, you do everything possible to get potential buyers inside, where they can envision being there on a day-to-day basis. You don’t get sloppy or take shortcuts. You make sure the house is painted, the yard is mowed, and that there is no trash anywhere on the premises. You put up yard signs and get the house listed.
Most bloggers, however, don’t think of blog posts as houses for sale. They assume that as long as the message is there, that’s what matters. Those bloggers couldn’t be more wrong. Blog readers often scan new sites before digging into articles. If your formatting sucks, they’ll probably just close the tab. If you have huge blocks of text without breaks or images, they’ll probably bounce. If your post is chock-full of errors, they’ll assume you are either unintelligent or lazy and won’t come back. If you don’t promote your posts and site in general, nobody will even show up in the first place.
That brings us to promotion. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Likewise, if a blogger posts brilliant content that no one ends up reading, was it really brilliant content? “Post and ghost” is a systemic plague that has killed blogs off for years. The Internet is vast. Bloggers can’t just post, step away from the keyboard and expect for readers to miracle their way to their site.
How do you promote your blog? Start with Facebook and Twitter accounts, and make sure they are personalized. Do not just use these accounts to aggregate new posts. Network with other bloggers in your niche, introduce yourself, link their site. You might think of them as competition, but most fans of any category read multiple sites. From experience, kindness in the blog community is typically repaid. After that, look at social media content communities like Digg and Reddit, and see if you can get any traction. I no longer digg, but as a former “power digger” I can assure you that these sites can point a traffic firehouse at your site.
This section is simple: if you don’t take pride in your blog, how can you expect anybody else to? If you’re proud of the way posts look and read, you won’t feel uncomfortable promoting your site. Also, the more you promote, the more you’ll stop worrying about the shameless self promotion you’re doing and do what needs to be done. In reality, almost all promotion is at least partially self promotion anyway. Take pride in your blog. Eventually, you’re audience will, too.
Ultimately, your success will depend on your topic, your niche. If you think too small, your earning chances will be extremely limited, and you’ll have a hard time getting noticed. On the other end, if you think big, bigger opportunities could present themselves, but so will bigger challenges. For those of you who have seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, let’s call it Ramona Flowers Syndrome. Your new beau might seem fine at first, but a bunch of dudes were there before you and all of them are formidable. You will have to work your way to the top—if there’s even room for you up there. It’s kind of like making a decision between entering the main World Series of Poker event or a smaller WSOP satellite tourney.
Not only do you have to be passionate about your topic of choice, other people have to be passionate about it as well. If you’re not passionate, fans of your topic will see right through you. If nobody else is passionate about your topic, you might as well print your blog posts and stick them on your mom’s fridge. The number of folks who are enthusiastic about your topic will determine the ceiling of your blog venture. Some topics will leave you stranded on a deserted island with a few friends. Trust me, you don’t want to be a Blog Gilligan. I’ve been there and there’s no Mary Ann or Ginger.
When I think about the choices I make, a scene from Blow pops into my head. The one where Diego says to George, “You failed because you had the wrong dream.” Your blog could fail the second you choose your topic, as many relationships often fail because the pair was just wrong from the start. Make sure you and your topic are a good match for both you and your audience, and that there is an actual audience. It’s like an NFL franchise choosing between quarterbacks with a No. 1 overall draft pick. Choose wrong and it will cost you down the road, possibly for a long time. You want to pick Peyton Manning—not Ryan Leaf.
Take your time mulling your topic over before you launch your blog. If you’ve already launched, reevaluate your blog and ask yourself if you’re covering the right topic. If you figure out you’re wasting time, that’s okay. You’ll be saving time in the future.
So what do you think? Are you following these Four Os of successful blogging?
Adam Best is an entrepreneur, blogger/writer and artist from Austin, TX. He founded FanSided and currently has a couple other start-ups in the developmental phase. He has covered sports, film, pop culture and blogging all over the Net. Follow him on Twitter at @adamcbest.