I’m getting a lot more questions about blogging since winning the Top 10 Blogs for Writers last month. Everybody wants to know how they can take their personal blog and turn it into a full-time living. It’s a dream, right — write short, quick posts about stuff you love, and the money just rolls in on autopilot.
Or that’s what new bloggers think. The reality, I’ve learned, is usually different.
What are the top bloggers doing that you’re not? Having built my blog to where it is earning its keep, and having spent some time now hanging out with — and guest-posting for — some very successful bloggers, here are three things I find top bloggers have in common, that most wannabe bloggers aren’t doing:
1. Invest time. Every big-earning blogger I’ve spoken to speaks wearily of the huge amount of time they invested in their blog in the first couple years. Watch some of Leo Babauta’s training videos in A-List Blogger Club, and you’ll see him sigh deeply just to recall how he guest-posted often five times a week as he struggled to get exposure for his blog, Zen Habits. Many top bloggers continue to work long hours, even when they’re outsourcing coding and moderating and everything under the sun. Maybe you’ll eventually work that short week we all hear about, but for most it won’t happen right away.
Copyblogger associate editor Jon Morrow, for instance, told me he often spends 8-10 hours on a single post. Then sometimes, he links it to a paid product on one of his websites and makes like $30,000. I find most bloggers aren’t willing to put in the time it takes to craft something that compelling.
By contrast, I find plenty of bloggers bragging about how they only spend 10 minutes on each post. Yeah, and readers only spend one second clicking away from your site forever, because what you’re delivering isn’t highly useful and well-written.
2. Build relationships. Big bloggers made a lot of effort to meet influential people who could help them, whether that meant going to SOBCon or BlogWorld to meet folks in person, or reaching out on Twitter.
Remember, the next wave of hot bloggers isn’t made, they’re appointed — by the current crop of top bloggers. Start circulating and getting connected to people with the power to point tens of thousands of readers to your blog.
3. Focus on their readers’ needs. Most bloggers I meet or read on writer-chat forums seem to have similar stories. They tend to go like this: “Oh, I like to blog about gluten-free recipes…and yoga…and being an expatriate living in Italy…and anything else I find interesting.” This is blog-cum-diary.
Blogs like this are very difficult to make money from, either by monetizing your audience or by using the blog as an audition piece to get paying gigs. Read any successful blog, and it’s entirely about one thing. You’ll also see the author frequently soliciting feedback from readers about what they want to know, so that they can keep making their content ever more useful to their audience.
If your blog is all about you, and it bounces all over the place, readers are confused. Yoga devotees are bored by your expat posts, and vice versa. You can’t pull an audience together that likes the same stuff, so you can’t sell them stuff. Businesses looking for a blogger are also turned off by your blog, because they will want you to blog about their specific niche, and you’re not showing you know how to do that. In general, many bloggers seem to be blogging without a clear objective in mind of what they hope to accomplish with their blog.
What are your goals for your blog? Tell us about what you’re trying, and how it’s going, in the comments.
Notice: Free teleclass on blogging! Want to know more about how to succeed with blogging? I’m giving a free, one-hour teleclass for NAIWE members only at 3:30 pm EST/12:30 pm PST on Wednesday, June 26. Our topic: 20 Secrets of Blogging Success. If you’ve been thinking about joining NAIWE — maybe for the free, instant blog you get? — join now, and you’ll get to participate in this call. If you can’t tune in at that time, you’ll be able to listen to the recording later.
Update! I just learned nonmembers CAN attend this call for $27 (click on “member teleclasses) — and then if you like, apply that fee toward membership later.
Photo via stock.xchng user svilen001