July 7, 2009
Posted by Ryan Graves
Updated Image: I snapped this gem in a public square in Sodermalm, Stockholm. I honestly thought it was Bruno for a minute, then realized it was just a cheap, but hilarious, imitation. It’s all about ‘exposure’.
The Hidden Secret of Successful Blogging
As you probably know, building a real following or reader base on your blog is all about authority and authenticity. These words are thrown around left and right by people writing how-to-blog posts. The kicker is that nobody seems to be addressing the real reason people’s blog grow.
Tim Ferriss recently posted a video of a talk he gave to the Wordcamp Conference that is based around the WordPress blogging platform. His talk was about how to write a killer blog without killing yourself. His talk was packed with extremely valuable tips to writing a better blog. An underlying theme Tim spoke to is that you don’t have to follow all of the “conventional rules” of blogging. Optimal post length, post topic, and post frequency has been debated since the beginning of blogging, but I would argue (and so would Tim) that these things don’t really matter in the process of growing your blogs following.
Put all the tips that you’ve ever read from Problogger, John Chow, or Tim Ferriss aside and let me break down the one thing that everyone avoids telling you that will absolutely lead to a successful blog. I’m not sure why this fact and (or secret) is so rarely discussed but it is proven over and over across the web.
How To Take Advantage of the Secret
STEP 1: DO SOMETHING
The secret is in action. In order to build a good blog you have to do (and accomplish) things in real life. You have to get out of your desk chair (theoretically speaking) and take intentional action towards a goal. You can write about kitchen knives, entrepreneurship, world travel, or sushi restaurants but you’re not going to be able to draw anyone’s interest without actually engaging in your topic.
Experience is the word that sums up the notion of this secret best. You must have experiences in order to successfully build a blog otherwise readers will quickly see through the fact that you’re not actually doing anything. Whatever your interests are, or whatever your blog is focusing on, you need to take action on that topic.
STEP 2: LEARN FROM IT
The next critical step is to learn from your experiences. This usually means you’ll have to make mistakes, which is fine, mistakes are awesome! But you have to realize where and why the mistake was made so that you may gain insight into your activity for your next run. Then apply your lesson, see if what you thought you learned was correct. Analytically test your assumptions. Make sure that when you complete action X you can answer these 3 questions.
- I was successful/unsuccessful because of…?
- I would be more successful/unsuccessful if I did…?
- The cost of being successful/unsuccessful was/was not worth the reward because…?
Remember if you’re not truly learning anything from your experiences it’s foolish to attempt to teach someone else. Not only will you be little help to them you’ll expose the fact that you haven’t taken the time to learn from your own experiences. This will obviously harm your own credibility.
STEP 3: COMMUNICATE IT
If you read the first 2 steps and realized that you’re not actually doing anything interesting in your life then stop here and reread the first two steps of this post. I’m not here to tell you that you can’t just blog your thoughts on other peoples posts, but I am here to tell you that this strategy likely won’t get you a large following. Doing things offline and sharing the results of those action is the only way to grow a large blog following. Once you are actually doing things offline you may return to your computer and start to share your experiences. Now, it’s all about your ability to clearly and actionably communicate what you’ve accomplished in the real world.
You can communicate your actions in many different ways. Lists are popular because they are simple and they are easy to follow. A solid list explaining the right way to find a job in this economy, for example, can be used as a guide and is not open to much interpretation. Make sure that someone can clearly apply what they’ve learned from your post into their own practices so that they’re life improves. A great example of simply breaking down lessons into actionable steps is the blog ‘I Will Teach You To Be Rich‘ by Ramit Sethi. His ability to use easy, guide like, posts and easy to comprehend graphs not only helped him build his blog from nothing to over 200k readers, but also helped him sell a NY Times best selling personal finance book (by the same name). He uses experiments and test that he’s executed himself to teach you (and I) about the not so complicated complexities of personal finance.
Follow Ramit’s lead in communicating the basics…start with Step 1. From Ramit’s blog:
STEP 4: HELP OTHERS DO IT
This step may sound similar to Step 3 but it isn’t, this goes further. You can’t only write about what you learned, then live in the blog comments. Truly successful bloggers, with huge followings, don’t stop at the end of a post. They again take the help offline. If you write a blog about how newly engaged couple can register for wedding gifts better (then email me) then you should help newly engaged couples register in real life.
Not only will this real life interaction add significant credibility to your ability to be a value to the people you’re writing to/for, it will give you great new content. Do give-aways for free consulting that will drive readership. Your skills are now sought after and highly valued. You have an ability to use your experiences and really help other people. If there is one thing I’ve learned in giving a few talks about gaining credibility using the web, it’s the fact that people need help. There are so many different levels of peoples comprehension of any topic that there is no shortage of assistance and coaching to be given. Take it offline and help people out.
STEP 5: UNDERSTAND AND REPEAT THE PROCESS
Now that you know how to execute on your action, learn from what you’ve experienced, and clearly communicate your lessons learned in a way that truly adds value to other peoples lives, my recommendation is to go out and capitalize on this process. If your blogging is truly adding value to the reader, you will likely be able to take the contents of your blog post and turn them into a means of income generation (if you’re up for that). Ramit (in the example above) was able to capitalize by writing a book that has sold phenomenally well. Eric Ries of ‘Startup Lessons Learned‘ has gone on a speaking tour sharing methods and strategies of the “LEAN” startup. Take your skills offline not only to hone them but to capitalize on them!
Your blog following will now sky rocket, at least that’s the goal. Your posts will likely be less frequent (mine have been), but they will be significantly more valuable to your reader. The interaction you get in comments and emails and retweets, etc. will blow you away because people want to share valuable content to their Twitter followers and fellow bloggers. Your new, thought through, actionable posts will spread virally in ways you’ve never imaged before.
Best of luck and I look for to really learning from your next post. Please share a link in the comments below!