Close
Close

The Shocking Truth about Consistent Blogging Success: How to Find Your Voice

This guest post is by Bill Zipp of billzipponbusiness.com/.

It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world!

You write something on your blog that goes viral. Likes explode, comments go crazy, tweets multiply, and open rates are off the charts.

That’s what’s great about blogging.

So when the dust settles and the warm feelings of success fade, you ask yourself, “How did this happen?” and, perhaps more importantly, “How can it happen again?”

Here are the usual answers to those questions:

  • The article had an amazing headline.
  • After the headline, there was a killer introduction.
  • Your content was both original and compelling.
  • Subheadings powerfully drew people into the post.
  • You told great stories that kept readers engaged.
  • Your call to action was irresistible.

And all of these things are important. They’re essential to our craft.

But I believe they are secondary to consistent blogging success. Consistent blogging success has at its very core this one thing: voice.

Everything else, as important as it is, flows from there.

When you find your blogging voice…

When you find your blogging voice, even posts with generic headlines get read without fail.

When you find your blogging voice, you build a community of readers who devour every word you write.

When you find your blogging voice, your community grows exponentially as more and more readers become raving fans.

And when you find your blogging voice, you unleash a source of passion that keeps you writing incredible content day after day, year after year.

What is a blogging voice?

Blogging voice is the intersection of two lines: your personal experience and people’s pressing needs.

If all you talk about in your blog is personal experience and never address the pressing needs of people, you’re really not blogging. You’re journaling.

Nothing wrong with journaling. I’ve kept a journal for years.

And I have friends who’ve gone on a trip or trained for a marathon and journaled about that experience on a blog. But the clear intent was to keep a circle of family and friends informed on their life developments, not to lay a platform upon which to build a business.

Conversely, if all you do is address people’s needs apart from your personal experience, you join the ranks of thousands on the internet selling stuff they never actually use themselves.

Sadly, I’ve bought a product or two from people like this. Halfway into a “revolutionary” training program, I’ve gotten the sinking feeling that I’ve been had. Not only is the material not original from the author, but it doesn’t work. Or it doesn’t work any more, and this person has moved on to other things (and I can move on too, for an additional $2,995).

So these two lines must intersect.

We learned all about this in high school geometry: a point on a plane is created when two line segments cross. And because they are your two line segments, and nobody else’s, that point is a unique place in the blogging universe.

So let’s add one more phrase to our definition: blogging voice is the intersection of your personal experience and people’s pressing needs that creates your unique contribution to online content.

How do you find your blogging voice?

There’s a two-step process for drawing these intersecting lines.

The first step involves one’s self—what I call looking in the mirror. The second step involves looking outside one’s self, through the window into the marketplace.

First, look in the mirror

This is, of course, the first law of great writing: write what you know. Unfortunately, like the pauper who dies in a freezing apartment with thousands of dollars stuffed in his mattress, we tend to ignore what we know. We don’t appreciate its true value.

Ask yourself these important questions:

  • What issues burn in your heart?
  • What challenges have you overcome?
  • What mistakes have you made?
  • What answers have you found that no one else is writing about?
  • What gets your attention in a way where you lose all sense of time?

If you’re like me, the two most difficult questions in that list have to do with the challenges you’ve faced and the mistakes you’ve made. Who wants to remember that stuff?

But that’s the stuff that voice is made of: real, authentic, genuine personal experience.

This kind of experience is not found on the mountaintop, but in the valley. It doesn’t take shape in the light, but in the darkness. It’s forged in adversity.

I love to cook. In my cooking I use various herbs and spices. Next to the oven sits a mortar and pestle. Before I put many of these enhancements into a dish, I first crush them in my mortar and pestle. That’s when their true flavor emerges and transforms an ordinary dish into something exceptional.

The same is true in finding your blogging voice. Where you’ve been crushed in life is where the greatest potential exists for you to help others.

Then look out the window

The second intersecting line in finding your blogging voice is uncovering the pressing needs of people. It involves looking out the window and seeing a match in the marketplace for the personal experience you possess.

Again, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Who needs what you have to say the most?
  • Where do these people live, work, worship, and play?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What gives them their deepest joy?
  • What are their biggest challenges?

I once accepted the position of General Manager at a radio station that was dead last in ratings for its market.

There was a clear reason why, as well. In the morning the station aired talk, mid-morning they played music, then live call-in shows, then some music, then more talk in the evening, with the occasional infomercial thrown in for good measure. No one knew what was going to air next, so they tuned out completely.

One of the first things we did as a management team is define our target listener. We gave that listener a name, Kelly, and put pictures of her and her family all around the studio. As a staff we became obsessed with answering this question, “What does Kelly care about?”

Not infomercials! We dropped them immediately.

But we also asked that question about one of the most basic radio programming elements: the weather. We came to believe that Kelly really didn’t care about raw data related to the weather, but rather how that data affected her life.

So when our jocks gave the weather, they didn’t thoughtlessly repeat the temperature and the forecast. They talked about how Kelly’s kids should dress in the morning for their wait at the bus stop, or the fact that she may need to put her car in the garage that night because the first freeze was on the way.

That’s what Kelly cared about.

Within a year we had moved into third place in the ratings, and in two years we were competing for first place in our demographic with a country music station that had dominated the market for decades.

Why you need Kelly

Most bloggers suffer from the same malady as that radio station.

They write about one thing one day. Another thing the next day. And a totally different topic the third. And people stop reading, because they don’t know what the blog is about.

Finding your blogging voice involves knowing exactly who you’re writing to and what they really care about. Creating a persona, like we did for Kelly, is a powerful way to focus your writing. Put a picture up of that person next to your computer monitor and talk to that person as if he or she were in the room sitting right next to you.

A blog persona will also help answer questions related to writing style. As in what stories to tell, whether you use swear words or not, or how much personal information to reveal in your blog. Simply ask yourself, “Is that what I would say if this person were sitting in the room right next to me?”

This isn’t easy work, and it shouldn’t be.

Take time to answer the ten questions above and talk with others about your answers. Write a first, second, and third draft. Then a fourth. When you do, you’ve begun to find your blogging voice.

But really, what difference does all this stuff this make?

Your voice can change the world

Finding your blogging voice is no mere exercise in artistic integrity or a way to finally quit your day job.

Your voice can change the world.

There are single mothers who need the inspiration you provide to get them through another impossible day.

There are struggling entrepreneurs, ready to give up on their life’s dream, who need the ideas you possess so the doors of their business stay open.

There are people with a dreaded diagnosis—cancer—who need the alternative treatments you know all about so they live long enough to attend their daughter’s wedding.

There are bored business men and women who need to be challenged to forgo their big bonus and another Caribbean cruise and do something that makes a difference in people’s lives.

You are the one with the words in your heart that can make these amazing things happen. And more.

In the words of Seth Godin in Tribes, “We need you to lead us.”

Go start a fire!

I have very few memories of growing up as a kid, but one is vividly etched in my mind. It was Christmas Eve and I was four years old. We were gathered in the basement of our church singing Christmas carols by candlelight.

For some inexplicable reason, I was given a candle and a carol book.

From the moment the wick was lit on that candle, I could think of nothing else than this: what would happen if the candle in my left hand touched the carol book in my right hand?

I pondered this dilemma throughout the service.

As festivities came to a close, I realized I would lose my opportunity to answer that question. It was somewhere during the singing of Silent Night that I found out. When the candle in my left hand touched the carol book in my right hand, the dry paper burst into flames.

I screamed at the top of my lungs and threw the flaming mess on the floor. My mom screamed as well, probably more in embarrassment than fear, and my dad jumped from his seat and stomped on the blaze in the middle of the room until it went out.

When we got home, I received the spanking of my life.

This is how you start a fire, and this is what delivers consistent blogging success. Take the flame that flickers in your soul and put it in contact with the real needs of real people. The blaze that burns will be your blog, alight with likes and tweets, comments and subscribers.

So go start a fire! There are people out there who desperately need what you have to say. These people will read everything you write and pass it on to others who’ll do the same. If, and only if, you find your blogging voice and stay true to that voice post after post after post.

And that’s the shocking truth.

Speaker, coach, and consultant, Bill Zipp helps busy leaders do what matters most in business and in life. He also helps other consultants build a thriving, successful practice. To learn more about Bill’s work visit: http://billzipponbusiness.com/consultants.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. I’d like to say that your voice is what you have to say to a particular person in a way they find very interesting and helpful. It is the way you alone can address their challenges unlike any other person. While I don’t sit down to worry about my voice, I know I have it once I identify who my ideal reader is and I am true to myself when writing (or providing the solution.

    • Great Post.
      I don’t know how many people start off with that in mind, but then go off-course during their first few months. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and think about why you’re posting and think what you’re purpose is in the end for it.

  2. Excellent post about wanting to start a fire. I am huge believer that you need a message to spread, and the more you can get emotionally invested, the better you will do.

  3. Thanks for this article – it was exactly what I needed to hear. I’m 18 months into my blog and I’m very clear on what I’m trying to do but seeing that I need to be more personal with my readers instead of being the “wikipedia of homemaking”. I thought that’s what I wanted but that doesn’t seem to bring in readers as much as the personal element. So now I have to find out how to blend the two while still being practical and no-nonsense. My readers don’t have time to wade through a bunch of personal stuff to get to the meat.

    Anybody who thinks blogging is easy is crazy!

    • Bill Zipp says:

      You’re absolutely right, Patty. Here’s what I’ve found: use emotion in service of my mission. That is, I don’t share personal stories for the sake of the story itself, but in service of the purpose of my blog. In that way, as you put it, I “blend the two.”

      There’s lots of data available today. Data by itself can be dull and lifelessness. Data on fire, however, can change the world!

  4. Amanda Prior says:

    Thanks for the post Bill. Really enjoyable.

    I’m still finding my voice, but as time goes by I think the real key is that you have to be true to yourself.
    Sure you have to write about what people are interested in and you have to provide value to them, but you have to do it as yourself and not to some kind of prescribed format. It’s a bit like writing a post. Stop writing for keywords and start writing naturally. Over time you’ll improve and your voice will get louder. I hope!

  5. Hi Bill,

    Your post resonates with me, spot on!

    Practice persistently. You will find your voice with greater ease. Simply practicing helps more of you come out, and when this happens you are golden.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ryan

    • Bill Zipp says:

      Yeah, Ryan, you are exactly right. I’m almost embarrassed by the things I wrote when I first started my blog three year ago. The more I write, however, the more I find my voice and the deeper I connect with my readers.

  6. Subper says:

    Sure you have to write about what people are interested in and you have to provide value to them, but you have to do it as yourself and not to some kind of prescribed format.Excellent post about wanting to start a fire. I am huge believer that you need a message to spread, and the more you can get emotionally invested, the better you will do.

  7. Myla Upshaw says:

    I was really inspired by this, Bill. Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been blogging for only less than two years. I have a wide scope of interests so it has been unavoidable for me not to jump from one subject to the next on my blog. Much of what I’ve been noticing though was that some readers would rather express how they were touched by a blog post via private message rather than posting it as a comment. So that’s where I’m at. I can’t seem to get more of my readers to comment and engage in conversations with me on my blog. So I’ve been thinking the whole time I was reading your post if this is the reason why. I hope to be able to apply what I’ve learned from you here and discover my own voice and put it to good and effective use soon. Thanks again.

    • Bill Zipp says:

      Just like your desire to comment on this post because you were really inspired, Myla, when you impact the emotions of your readers, they will comment on your posts. Comments are one measurement of emotional impact.

      When a blog is an in deep and a mile wide, the impact is shallow and comments almost non-existent. When the opposite is occurs, being an inch wide and a mile deep, a deep chord is struck with readers that moves them to respond in profound ways.

  8. Dave Erin says:

    Thank you for the inspiring post. Its awesome to finally come across a post that talks about blogging in this way. Too many people talking about stats and ‘fakebook’ likes and forgetting about them actual readers, the humans that make all this technology and digital activity worthwhile! A fire will burn tonight.. :)

  9. Dave Erin says:

    Thank you so much for the inspiring post. Its awesome to finally come across a post that talks about blogging in this way. Too many people talking about stats and ‘fakebook’ likes and forgetting about them actual readers, the humans that make all this technology and digital activity worthwhile! A fire will burn tonight.. :)

    • Bill Zipp says:

      Let it burn, baby!

      Stats are important, but secondary. They are a by-product of powerfully connecting with your audience. Emotion drives action.

  10. Linda says:

    Thanks Bill! I have found my voice but realized I need a Kelly, too. Today I will put up a moodboard to gather everything about her. I’ve read so many articles about finding your target audience but they just didn’t spark my imagination (and trust me, I have a vivid one). So not only am I inspired because of that question ‘Who’s Kelly?’, but you also thaught me a great lesson on teaching.

  11. This has been a genuinely helpful article. Thank you. It’s not always that you can immediately use tips you read about blogging, but there is some really concrete stuff here. Thanks.

  12. Wow!! Is this post right on time for me, Bill. It’s like you heard the question that’s been pinging around in my head for the past couple of months – and I guess that’s the point. I’m your Kelly.

    I’ve blogged in the past, sadly and exactly in the ways you say not to. Now I’ve started a new blog to chronicle a life adventure of mine and I’ve been thinking about what voice to use as I share this journey. I actually have about half a dozen unfinished posts that I just wasn’t “feeling” because of the voice. But by jove, I get it now!!

    I do know my avatar – she’s “Donna” but I haven’t been writing to her. That stops today. She’ll be on the wall by noon and in Evernote too so I can puill up her face whenever and wherever I blog.

    After reading so much content about the technicalities of blogging, I’m almost giddy over your post about the essence. Thanks so much:)

    • Bill Zipp says:

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Karen. Send me your description of Donna, I’d love to read it!

      Here’s a technique I use to start every post. I read my readers’ mind. For instance …

      I know, I know. You don’t need another thing to do right now. Thanksgiving, Christmas, cooking shopping, family, friends, and office parties.

      It’s all so overwhelming!

      What if there was one thing, just one thing, that you could do this holiday season that would make it absolute joy instead of the burden it’s become?

      You would do it, right? Well, here’s that one thing:

  13. I like to write as if I’m talking to a fellow dog lover while we’re walking our dogs. I have buckets of funny stories about our dogs and most of them are only funny to other dog lovers – I use that to shape the tone of my blog and work hard to make sure that it’s consistent. The posts that stick to my voice are the ones that are shared and receive comments. The ones that are just sharing information fall flat.

    So more chatter about my love of dogs coming up.

  14. This is one of the best articles I have read in a long time. Very informative and motivational, I think all bloggers and online entrepreneurs need to get this message. If you don’t have a unique voice, your blog will fail. it’s too many blogs on the net for you NOT to stand out. But like you mentioned, the bigger picture is to ultimately help others who need what we have. So our job then becomes to figure out what is that special something that we have that the world would benefit from!

    great post Bill!

  15. Thank you so much for this article! I am a total newb at this blogging thing with my very first post just this week. Your advice is very much appreciated and something I will refer too many times I am sure. I especially love your line “Where you’ve been crushed in life is where the greatest potential exists for you to help others.”

  16. Jeremy says:

    Great post Bill. I would have to say it’s important to find your blogging voice by just “doing” it. I had a hard time getting all my thoughts out at first, but after getting positive feed back I could tell what people liked and responded to and write more of that. Great post.

  17. This great post has inspired me to find my voice. I will start searching immediately and when I find my mission will be to change my community by inspiring other to follow me on a journey of change and improvement.

  18. Jeremy says:

    I have recently found my voice. I’m on a path to blog over 1000 inspirational haiku. It intersects all of my passions like photography, poetry, design, education, and inspirational. If anyone is interested in striking up an alliance I’m wide open for ideas.

    Voice is hard to find until you hear it – then it just won’t shut up.

  19. Jeremy says:

    Hey Jeremy you have a cool blog with inspiration. Lets connect. Didn’t see a way to leave you a message there. You can reach out to me on my blog.