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The Four Os: a Four-Step Guide to Successful Blogging

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:
Blog Original.
Blog Often.
Blog Outstanding.
Blog Obsession.

Drumroll please (I picture a grand total of six of you tapping your pens on your desks…).

Blog Original

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.

Blog Often

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.

Blog Outstanding

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.

Blog Obsession

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.

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Comments

  1. Paulo says:

    I have to keep reminding myself that this post is about more successful blogging. “1 good post a day” is recommended and yet hard to reconcile with other articles that say to “pace yourself”. The answer you suggest is staff (I assume guest articles for those who can’t support a payroll).

    It is great advice (which I will aim for), but this is definitely targeting bloggers who are making the change from hobby to career.

    Thanks for the informative post.

  2. Joseph says:

    On behalf of my readers I find your first point condescending and objectionable. To say that anyone who posts less than five days a week is just participating in a “hobby” is downright insulting. I know of many bloggers who post less than seven days per week – Darren Rowse, the creator of this very blog doesn’t post daily. Sure, problogger.net features daily content but that is supplemented by guest posts. Blogging frequency depends on style and readers’ needs. Cranking out posts just for the sake of posting removes the human element of posting. Nowhere in your suggestions do I see anything about writing content for the readers – your focus is on getting traffic for the sake of traffic and money.

    The first thing that any serious internet marketer learns is that audience is key to survival of the business. The audience determines post frequency. By this I mean that some audiences want up to the minute news but others want it delivered at a slower pace. “TMI” “too much information” or low quality content is what got a lot of sites tagged as “content farms”, considering that you employ hundreds of bloggers across almost 200 blogs I’m hard pressed not to see similarities between you and Demand Media and other such sites.

    The bottom line is that blogging for passion means to blog about what you love and to deliver it to the audience in a way that they will enjoy and will remember. If you blog seven days a week just to keep the numbers up, it won’t take long for people to figure out that you don’t have their best interests at heart.

    And I know for a fact that I care about what my readers get from the articles on my site. I publish seven days a week, yes. That includes my content as well as weekend content from guest posts and article directories, but it is never just to get traffic. One post per day that provides meets readers’ needs is what I aim for. Producing a well-written article can take several hours, that includes researching the topic, putting myself in the point of view of the reader, then writing and revising the post several times before hitting the publish button. I do that five days each week. That’s no hobby.

    Adam, as sure as you might be about how blogging may have worked for you, the fact that you said that “doing three, four, even five posts per week, you are contributing on strictly a hobby level.” is enough to turn me off to any of your advice. It suggests laziness, lack of focus and no concern for business when exactly the opposite is true in many instances. And that is offensive to everyone who puts time, energy and love into their work.

    • Tom says:

      I agree Joseph,
      I want quality content if that means I get it less frequently then so be it. If a blog is delivering quality posts I am not going to lose interest, I am going to hang out for the next one even if it takes a couple of days or a week.

  3. Tom says:

    DAE feel sick reading the all the shallow comments that are nothing but shameless self promotions? Haven’t you guys been paying attention here? Find blogs in your niche and make comments there that add something to the discussion.
    I doubt this is the sort of place you will find subscribers, sure if I can’t figure out what your blog is about by you name and URL I might click out of curiosity but I’ll only be there for 3 seconds and I am not coming back.

  4. I’ve been successful posting every other day, but you’ve really got me thinking that I need to step my game up and start posting every day.

    Thank you for the post.

  5. william says:

    A very important thing when blogging is that you post atleast one article a day.

    If you do this your blog will successful.

    Blogging is great.

    All the best

    William

  6. There is a lot of discussion on what the right number of posts should be and what the definition oh ‘hobby’ is.

    I think that the bottom line is that the more you put out quality posts, the more successful your blog will be.

    Now for the semantics… What is your definition of ‘Success’? Do you want more readers? More traffic? More conversions from your readers for your ads/products/etc. on your site? Do you want the top spot of Google? A low Alexa ranking? Determine your goal and then work on what is important to get there. Maybe 2 posts per week will get you there. Maybe not. You won’t know until you map it out.

    Next – if the goal of your blog is to provide you with income to live, it is not a hobby. The definition of hobby is:
    A small horse or pony – wait… wrong definition!

    An activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.

    Leisure time suggests that money is not required. So technically, a 10-post a week blog that is not looking to earn any money is still a hobby.

    It all depends on what you want.

    Be Well.
    Paul..

  7. Tom says:

    Thanks for the great, informative article, Adam. I do have to disagree with the “Often” point though. I post three times per week, but I try to make them informative, quality articles. If I tried to post more, I would be sacrificing the writing quality.

    Also, the Blog Tyrant seems to average around one post per week and I would say that his blog is right behind Problogger and Copyblogger when it comes to the best blogs about blogging. Many of the other “blogging tips” blogs have sacrificed their quality or just gone stale.

    Just my two cents! When some blogs post many times per day, I never have time to read everything they post and many cause me to unsubscribe due to the content overload.

  8. Andri says:

    Post a fresh, good quality contents and can benefit others are keys in blogging.

  9. Hi,
    Points to be concerned blogging is vast and among it your specification about the most basical tips is well understand able and useful especially for beginners..