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.
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.