What makes a successful blog? Blogging Tips with thanks to Chris Guillebeau, Part Three.

successful blog

They say that no one cares what you had for lunch – is this true do you think?

Top blogs are built on passion and usefulness.

A lot of people ask me about how to start a blog, and then they say they have a great title or an idea but they’re not sure what they are going to write about on a sustainable basis.

It’s a bit like all the wannabe writers of eBooks or novels who definitely have a book in them, but they just “don’t have the time to write it.”

Hmmm. Count me in there too.

Ideas are only the start of a successful blog

As far as I can see, it’s all in the shipping, so to speak.

There are lots of ideas floating around in the universe for us to grab hold of, but there are not enough sea worthy ships to get those ideas to where they want to go.

And the sad fact is that as beautiful as they are, ideas don’t have legs. Bloggers have to give their ideas legs, and walk them onto the bloody ship if they can find one!

It’s a tough world.

You need passion to write a successful blog.

I’m no expert, but I confess that I do love blogging, and I’m not short of ideas to write about because I nurse a little secret.

All successful bloggers know about this secret, and you should too.

It’s called Passion, with a capital P.

I write about my passions. Specifically travel, lifestyle and Western Australia, which really I’m still discovering because I’ve only lived  in this great part of the world  for the last four years.

“My first blog was about printers, but I wasn’t passionate about the subject, and I very quickly grew bored with writing blog posts about printers,” said Darren Rowse at a blogging conference in Melbourne. “But I was passionate about photography,” he continued.

And now he’s a legend and his main blog, Digital Photography School is one of the most successful blogs in the blogosphere.

Passion invites Engagement

If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, you’ll keep wanting to get up in the morning and invite others to share your knowledge because Passion invites engagement.

Obviously though, there are some topics than no amount of passion is ever going to make interesting to others. It’s no good writing about the sexual habits of a garden slug, for instance, because nobody will be interested. Well, I suppose you could prove me wrong!

And that leads on to the second thing you need to know.

Does the topic you are passionate about interest other people too?

As Chris Guillebeau says in his book The $100 Startup, the overlap between your passion and what others care about is crucial.

“Where passion or skill meets usefulness, a microbusiness built on freedom and value can thrive.”

It’s the same equation for a blog: Passion + Usefulness = Successful blog

So what are your Passions? Why not list them right now?

And what skills do you have that are related to your passion?

Write them down.

If you understand your skills  and what you have to offer the world, then the world will come to you looking for help. Your value as a blogger equates to being able to help people, not being able to understand the inner workings of your mind.

Yes, I’m talking about myself there too, because I’m often (cough) guilty of using my blog as a way to understand the world (or myself), instead of providing information in a way that others will be able to understand their world better.

And yes, there is a fine line between being personal, which is a requirement of blogging, and telling too much from your own point of view.

Have a little think.

Over time, can you find out more about the topic you are passionate about, so that you have a never ending treasure trove of useful information to dig up, that’s not all about you and your passion per se, but more about your passion and how knowing more about it might help others.

Some of the best blogs ironically are not written by the best bloggers in the world. I expect you’ve read some blogs and thought, “Why are they so successful?” while other really well written, insightful and interesting blogs don’t seem to hit the blog award mark at all.

You might find that the writer of a successful blog writes a lot of posts that are based on questions. They find out what sort of queries their readers have, what they are actually asking and searching for, and then craft blog posts around  answering those very questions.

But I’ll never be good at everything!

Here’s another little diamond snippet to get your head around.

You don’t have to be the best blogger in the world or the best photographer or the best writer or have the best business mind, and it’s no good studying each subject until you think you are the best … because there will always be somebody better than you.

So! Stop! Allow yourself to be imperfect because all you need to be is a little bit good at all four things. A Jack of all trades. Someone who can think quickly, adapt to new trends and keep on being  useful or entertaining.

It’s the bloggers who are useful, inspiring or entertaining that garner the most readers, not the most perfect ones.

As Jon Morrow says. You need to put yourself in a position where you would be happy to shout out your blog posts from a street corner, and know that people will stop and listen. Not because you are a crazy, but because they are compelled to listen to what you have to say.

Understand the skills you have – why not ask a friend.

“What would you say I’m good at – what are my skills from your point of view?”

Then you can begin to fathom how and  understand how those skills might help others.

Value equates to helping people

“Merge your passion and skill with something that is useful to other people,” says Chris Guillebeau in his book The $100 start up.

successful blog

Will you be a blogging Queen or King?

So if you can combine your passion + your skill + being useful, then you can create value for your reader and that in turn will be your success.

Some of the blogs that do this well

Digital Photography School(Passionate about photography and offers tons of advice about all things photographic)

ProBlogger (Passion stemmed from starting his own blog, now ProBlogger is one of the best blogging resources on the internet)

Successful Blogging/Blogging Mentor(Passionate about website building and teaching small business owners how to blog)

YTravelblog (Passionate about family travel, and passes on useful information about where to go and what to see)

Jeff Goins (Passionate about writing, and inspires other writers to get writing and keep on writing)

Styling You (Passionate about fashion, and helps ordinary women to be stylish)

Hairromance (Passionate about hair and shows other women how to style their hair)

Now things get even more interesting.

These bloggers don’t just put it out there. They also make people feel good about themselves. They open up the ‘what if’ and invite their readers to share their dreams and then show them how those dreams might be achieved.

Your blog needs to be built on benefits. The ‘What’s in it for me’ factor.

“A feature is descriptive; a benefit is emotional,” says Chris Guillebeau.

So before you start writing, decide what are the benefits that people will get from your blog. What will they take away with them when they’ve read it – will they even read to the end of it or will they merely skim the sub heads?

Hands up who does that on a regular basis?

Let’s look at some of the blogs above

YTravel – The Feature (descriptive) is Travel Advice plus with children. The Benefit (Emotional) is that you can do it (travel) too, and it’s all about the memories.

Styling You – The Feature is: Fashion and Style tips. The Benefit is: A guide to help real girls (as opposed to models) become more stylish.

Digital Photography School – The Feature: Photography Tips. The Benefit: Here’s how you too can become a better photographer.

Now I’m going to try!!

ZigaZag -  The Feature: Travel and lifestyle in Western Australia. The Benefit: An inside guide to life in WA, and tips on where to live, work or play.

What is the feature of your blog, and what is the benefit?

Why not have a think and share your thoughts with us in the comments section?

Oh, I’m linking with Styling You’s blogging tips - every Saturday – why not pop over now and glean some easy to understand and really useful blogging tips from Nikki? And thanks to Chris Guillebeau and the ProBlogger training event for some great thinking and ideas that spawned this post.

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Comments

  1. Great post Jo with very valuable tips. I agree passion is so key and it will come across in your writing and interactions.

    Thank you so much for mentioning us in this post!!
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Travel Pinspiration – 5 Beautiful RiversMy Profile

  2. Thanks, Caz – yes you are so right about passion being such an integral part of a person’s blog and persona. Was a pleasure including you :)

  3. Great advice Jo, it really is about combining your passion to provide a benefit for others. Defining your offer is key to creating to your content and growing your audience. Thanks so much for mentioning me too xx
    Christina @ Hair Romance recently posted..Big Hair Friday – Paris Couture 2013My Profile

  4. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Christina, it’s much appreciated. Yes, it’s easy to go off track and write for oneself instead of our readers. You stay on track so beautifully at Hair Romance.

  5. Thanks so much for the mention Jo. If you’re writing about a topic you’re passionate about you really will never run out of ideas.
    Nikki @ Styling You recently posted..When is a blog post a sponsored post?My Profile

  6. Hi Jo,

    Thanks for including Successful Blogging. It’s all about sticking with it and if you haven’t got the passion you’ll never manage that :) Excited about your new direction and about watching our blogs continue to grow and evolve in 2013. x A
    Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging recently posted..Hey! There’s Something I Want to Tell YouMy Profile

  7. Thanks so much for your comments and affirmation Annabel, and yes, here’s to a great 2013.

  8. Always a pleasure, Nikki. And thank you for adding to the conversation here too :)

  9. fantastic post Jo and great thoughts to be mulled over by want-to-be-successful bloggers.
    I guess it all depends on what people want from their blog – whether they are doing it be make money through advertising etc, or whether it is something more personal.
    Though I must say we all love getting comments don’t we. And to get comments you have to write something good! And being part of a community of bloggers who comment on each other’s posts! (time time time…..)
    Now how to weed out the spam? that could be your next blog post!
    Life Images by Jill recently posted..Contre-jour – playing with the light fantasticMy Profile

  10. I totally agree that writing about something you’re passionate about is what helps create a succesfull blog and to keep on blogging.
    Momfever recently posted..Whooga Uggs 2013My Profile

  11. Thanks for your thoughts Jill. Yes, comments are such a in integral part of blogging aren’t they? Like a thermometer as to what people find interesting. Hmm, a post about weeding out spam could be interesting ;)

  12. Absolutely, Momfever … passion equals interest equals longevity equals success.

  13. Thanks Jo, this was a really useful post! I have been dabbling with my blog for years, but only now have decided to get serious about it. I have a question for you – in relation to the features/benefits theory, do you think it’s a disadvantage to have three features? My blog is about my three passions: eco living, healthy eating and mindfulness, and I blog about each in turn. They all have their benefits and I hope my blog overall has a higher benefit too. I feel like I’m on the edge of something huge and seemingly incomprehensible, but through the generosity of bloggers who blog about blogging, it’s slowly getting clearer. Thanks to all of you!
    Jo (down to earth mother) recently posted..Recipe: Quinoa & Vegetable SliceMy Profile

  14. Hi fellow Jo! First of all that’s fantastic … that you’re taking your blog to another level and getting serious. Congratulations. Your question about features is a good one, and one that’s debated quite heavily. I can relate too. For a long time my blog was more of a magazine than a blog focused on one single topic. A lot of the advice on sites like ProBlogger suggest that ‘niche blogging’ is the way to go because you can better garner a loyal following if you hone into a particular angle on your main subject, and then it’s also easier to optimise your site for SEO purposes too. Sometimes though, your natural blogging tendency takes you away from this, and I understand your dilemma. I think as far as possible, you should offer one major benefit … the one that you want everyone to associate you and your blog with, and then feed in the other benefits, but not too often. Perhaps really get to grips with either eco living, healthy eating or mindfulness and offer lots of useful advice on that topic. A magazine type style blog dealing with lots of different subjects I think is very difficult to keep going for the long term (and can be a bit dilluted) unless you are someone famous (or already well known in blogging circles or in print media) like Mama Mia (in Australia) who actually employs people to write for her these days, and I imagine also do the back end stuff which is such an important part of blogging. Hope this helps :)

  15. Hmmm, thanks Jo – more food for thought. I can feel a rebrand coming on!! I know what the overall benefit is – living a more connected life – and my three subjects are the parts of this I like to focus on. I see what you mean, by focusing your niche, you actually open it up wider.
    I have a magazine background, so I am definitely still thinking with this mindset. Time to put my blogging hat on… Thanks so much for your detailed response – hey, I’m a Johanna too!
    x
    Jo (down to earth mother) recently posted..10 signs you’re not paying attentionMy Profile

  16. That’s funny! Not so many Johanna’s with an H. Maybe before you rebrand have a think about your ‘elevator pitch’. What would you tell someone in a lift who asked what your blog was about – you only have about a minute to tell them. If you said my blog is about “Living a more connected life” would that explain really what it’s about? I think it could be a little vague. Try and hone in on what you would say and you may very well crack the answer to your blog’s main benefit. (Don’t take me as the oracle, these are only suggestions. I also come from a magazine/newspaper background and have had to re-learn so much – and I learn new things every day. And although I’m still learning, I still get things wrong along the way).

  17. Fred D says:

    Interesting points. To add a bit more….

    1) It wouldn’t hurt to do keyword research on topics you are passionate about. This will give you (blogger) a clear picture about what percentage of people will be interested in reading the topic you are about to write. I believe most of the bloggers fail, because they don’t spend proper time in keyword research, and keep writing to the point, when they get exhausted. What’s the point of writing, if you know that no one really care about what you are writing about?

    2) WordPress is designed to be seo friendly, but you as a blogger can make it even more awesome by adding some plugins, to enhance its search engine friendliness. I would vote for Yoast’s seo plugin for wordpress, that’s the one i am using for my personal blog, and it works good. BTW, its a free plugin.
    Fred D recently posted..Airtel 3G Speed versus BSNL EVDOMy Profile

  18. Thanks so much Fred for some really useful points there. I use the Yoast plug in, and it’s great, but certainly keyword research for each post is something that I should be doing more of rather than just guessing. Thanks again for taking the time to write such helpful hints here :)

  19. @Johanna,

    Its my pleasure. BTW, thank you for approving my comment. You know what? I think your blog is cool. I am a blogger, and know the importance of useful comments, that’s one of the reasons, i always take the required time when it comes to writing them. I haven’t said anything out of the ordinary, but if what I’ve written is helpful then I would be delighted to know.

    Thanks again, and i wish you success.
    Fred @ TechieSay recently posted..Airtel 3G Speed versus BSNL EVDOMy Profile

  20. Thanks Fred, good idea to look into the keywords. My area is niche, but growing, so I guess I should track it over a few months. Oh my, the more I learn the more I need to do! I will definitely use that plug-in. thanks and best wishes
    Jo (down to earth mother) recently posted..Creating a green room for littliesMy Profile

  21. It’s so true, Jo – the more you learn about blogging, the more there is to find out – and new things happen all the time. Thanks for popping by to ZigaZag today :)

  22. Thanks, Fred – and yes, your previous comment was especially helpful :)

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