Practice, Passion, and Patience: The Secrets to Successful Blogs
In his new book, Blog Blazers, Stephane Grenier interviews 40 prominent bloggers about their secrets to creating successful — and profitable — blogs. Some of those who participated include:
- Asha Dornfest from Parent Hacks
- Jessamyn from librarian.net
- Penelope Trunk from Brazen Careerist
- Ramit from I Will Teach You to Be Rich
- Trent from The Simple Dollar
- Steve from Micro Persuasion
- The ever-popular Seth Godin
I also took time to respond to Stephane's questions. Here, with his permission, are a few of my tips on how to build a successful blog.
What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?
I run several blogs. Each blog has a different measure of success. My personal blog is successful if it keeps my friends and family informed and entertained. I don't need a lot of traffic there, but to maintain a connection to the people I know. Similarly, at my animal intelligence site, I measure success by how many stories I can find and share, not by traffic.
At Get Rich Slowly, however, things are different. My number one measure for success is feedback from readers: are people finding the content useful and relevant? But I'm much more interested in traffic numbers there. In particular, I try to build my subscription numbers. RSS readers are important to me. I'm less interested in pageviews and unique visitors.
Revenue is a secondary concern for me. Don't get me wrong: the money is nice, but it's not my top priority. I am grateful that I'm earning enough from blogging to allow me to quit my day job, but I'd still blog even if I didn't.
When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?
I don't know. I've been writing various blogs for nearly seven years (and “on-line journals” for even longer). For most of that time, I've dwelled in relative anonymity. I guess it's only recently that I've begun to think of myself as a successful blogger, and that's only because doing this now can support me full-time.
Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?
Steve Pavlina's article on how to make money from your blog is excellent. I think it's the best single piece of information on this subject. There are only two actual web sites, however, that I think most bloggers need to read: Problogger and Copyblogger. These sites consistently provide excellent information.
Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?
I strongly believe that the skill most bloggers — including myself — need to improve is writing. I don't think bloggers need to read marketing books or blogging books. They need to read books about writing. I recommend the following:
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- On Writing by Stephen King
- The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
Two non-writing books that I also believe are useful:
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which deals with procrastination and fear, etc.
- The Incredible Secret Money Machine by Don Lancaster, which is a late-seventies manual for starting a small business. When I re-read this recently, I was amazed at how much of the advice applied to my situation as a “pro” blogger.
What's your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?
Content and writing are two different things. I address writing elsewhere in this interview. As for content: be interesting. Try to avoid the “echo chamber”. Every blog niche has one. Among personal finance blogs, one person will write on a subject (“how to save money on cheese!”), and then there'll be a ripple effect as other people respond (“my top 5 ways to save money on cheese!”, “why processed cheese is better than the real stuff”, “top 5 blog posts about cheese”). Some of this is natural — there will always be articles you want to respond to — but too much of it is lame.
To use one example: John Chow has carved out a very successful niche for himself. He has a good blog and some devoted readers. But many of his readers create blogs that seem to be solely responses to John Chow. Don't do that. Let John Chow write about John Chow. You write about yourself and what is important to you. If you don't know a damn thing about making money on the internet, then don't write about it. Write about your paper airplane collection instead. I'd rather read a good blog about paper airplanes (or saving money on cheese) than to read yet another person responding to John Chow.
What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?
- Take a writing class at your local community college.
- Don't start a blog because you want to make money. Start a blog because you're passionate about the subject.
- Write daily, even if you don't post daily. Get in the habit of writing.
- Learn to edit yourself! I spend more time editing my material than I do actually writing it.
- Don't worry about SEO. Search engine optimization does not make a successful blog. Writing content that people want to read makes a successful blog.
What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?
Wanting overnight success. Readers and traffic come with time. You can't start a blog for fame and fortune. You have to start it for love. If the passion isn't there, the other things will probably never come.
Any other comments or thoughts you'd like to share?
Blogging is a dream come true for me. Not the blogging itself, but the opportunity it gives me to write everyday. I've always wanted to be a writer. I just never pictured myself writing about personal finance for the web. (I thought I'd write fantasy or science fiction novels.) Now that I'm doing it, however, I understand that this is what I'm meant to do. My whole life has been leading to this. It's awesome.
You can read the entire interview — and 39 others like it — in Blog Blazers, the new book from Stephane Grenier. The author was kind enough to provide several copies of his book for me to give to GRS readers. I will send a free copy to four randomly-selected commenters on this post.