The great thing about blogging is that you can create a big, popular, famous site, become well known, gain influence and quit your day job (if you play your cards right and have the patience and drive)–from scratch. It’s truly a shot at the American dream. Blogging also presents an interesting dichotomy as well: it’s at the same time easy to get started blogging and hard to make a blog successful. We all know a few of the “big bloggers” that have come before us: Mike Arrington, Darren Rowse, Arriana Huff-n-Puff-and-blow-your-house-down, for instance. But I’ve been wondering lately who represents the next generation of successful bloggers. Could it be you? I’ve decided to try to share what I think contributed to the rapid growth of this blog in it’s short 6-month lifespan in hopes that someone else might find it interesting and, even better, useful.
I’ve seen a lot of chatter lately about blogging being a “thing of the past” or on its way out. I actually don’t believe that is true at all and here’s why: aside from the variety of excellent blogging platforms and tools that continue to emerge every few months, without blogs there would be a huge gaping content hole. The internet is about content. That’s what people consume. Not everything can be said in a picture–some things need to come in long-form. So that’s my rant. Here’s what I think you can do to create a wildly successful blog within 6 short months.
Of course it’s all about creating interesting content that people will want to read and absorb, but there are a few other little lessons that I have encountered here and there that I thought I’d share with you as well. Do you have a few tips to add of your own? Leave a comment!
Pick a Topic That is Fueled By Passion
This may seem glaringly, even stupefyingly obvious, but your passion is the one asset you have within you that you can turn into real money. It is literally a fuel for your blog (or any other project for that matter) and if it runs out, your blog is over. So, long story short, if you’re not super-passionate, don’t even start because you’ll just end up wasting your time and feeling miserable.
When I started DailyTekk, I chose technology because it was always an interest/hobby for me ever since I was very young. It’s easy for me to write about startups and gadgets because I’m thinking about them anyways. For me, this blog is just about sharing the things I am already finding and enjoying. Before DailyTekk, I ran a moderately successful design blog because, being a graphic designer, I was passionate about that subject as well (and you’ll see a few design-related posts on DailyTekk from time to time).
Use Traction to Gain More Traction
When something good happens, in blogging and in life, you can harness that and turn it into something even better. Share your milestones with people. When you reach 100,000 page views per month, let the world know. Sure, it’s not 1 million views, but did you get to 100,000 in a shorter amount of time than a blog that is currently getting 1 million did? That’s marketable because people can infer that you must be on the track to success and stardom. You should also toot your horn when a famous person interacts with your brand/content. For instance, Craig Newmark (of Craigslist) shared a DailyTekk link on Twitter during our early days (as did Guy Kawasaki and New Orleans Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins) and I promoted that as an endorsement. “Look who likes our content,” in other words.
If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s taking a small victory and marketing the heck out of it. I promoted every significant milestone I could think of to beef up our image and guess what–it worked. When you add a bunch of small victories together it starts looking like something a bit bigger and so on and so forth.
Commit, Re-Commit and Commit Again
Staying motivated is the hardest part of blogging, especially in the early months and years. What keeps me going is the fact that our audience is growing and supports what we are doing. 6 months ago I had no audience; now, hundreds of thousands of visitors check out our content every month. 500 people have subscribed to the RSS feed. We’ve got over 1,600 Twitter followers (which means we’ll have over 3k by year’s end). Aside from that, I think about other successful bloggers who stuck with it for years (or are still sticking with it) and the value they have created. Some sell their blogs for big bucks, others are able to blog full time. I know the longer and harder I work at it, the more success I will find. I also know that the more content you have, the pressures of getting new traffic ease a bit because legacy content is always being found and shared. The point is that you can’t allow yourself to give up–and if you’re blogging with passion, you won’t let yourself.
Don’t Oversell and Don’t Antagonize
A cardinal rule of blogging, especially for beginners, is to never oversell yourself and never antagonize other bloggers. I can’t tell you how many emails I get from people wanting me to promote their articles “because my audience would absolutely love them.” That just comes off as pathetic. I don’t go around asking people to tweet and share my articles. Instead, I try to write awesome and *useful* content that other people will *want* to share on their own. That’s really the key. Create awesome content and it will find an audience.
For some reason, there are many beginning bloggers out there who think more established bloggers owe them something (like a mention or an interview or advice). The truth is, they don’t. They worked hard to get where they are just like you are going to have to. There’s nothing more annoying than someone looking for handouts. Have some self-respect and don’t be one of those people.
Use Your Voice / Display Your Personality
I used to work at a magazine and the editor used to always tell me that people like people. Nobody sees or experiences the world exactly like you do. You’re unique outlook matters. It’s interesting. It’s worth money. Alternatively, people who do see eye to eye with you will want some affirmation. No, everyone won’t like what you have to say (in fact, some people will ridicule every little thing you say), but that’s just fine. Sometimes controversy is one of the best ways to drive traffic (as long as it is rooted in logic or fact). The key here is unique. What can you put on your blog that people won’t find everywhere else?
Take DailyTekk for instance… we’re in the very crowded “tech” space (TechCrunch, Venture Beat, GigaOM, Pando, et…) yet we found a unique angle. We’re curators, not reporters. The easiest place to start when looking for unique content is simply to create a blog that reflects your own interests and personality.
Shoot for the Stars (You Might Surprise Yourself)
This one is huge. Aim high. Then aim higher! Even though your blog is brand new, act like it is old and well established. Just as I explained a bit earlier, use traction to gain more traction. Want to get accepted to the ad network of your dreams? Go for it! Want to interview your favorite celebrity (I can’t tell you how many famous people I have had a chance to interview over the last few years)? Chances are good that you will be able to, if not now, then eventually. Set some lofty goals for yourself and then start small and work your way up. You’ll see (and feel) the progress you are making, always being fueled by your goals. If you reach your ultimate goals, set some new ones. Maybe you want to build a blog that you can sell for millions of dollars some day (go for it, although you should know that money as a motivator is usually the wrong reason to create content).
Surround Yourself With A-Players
Even if you are only a one-person team, do your best Steve Jobs and surround yourself with A-Players. Whether it is guest bloggers (don’t accept anything less than the best), your ad network (that is a big one), advisors, investors (if applicable)… you name it. If there is a person involved with your blog, make sure they rock at what they do, otherwise your quality will suffer big time, then your audience will write you off and then you are pretty much starting over at square 1 or giving up.
The Only Person You Can Rely On Is You!
Ultimately there are no easy blogging short cuts. You just have to work hard and make great content with a unique spin and then stay at it. Basically, understand your vision and it’s eventual worth and work your butt off to make it happen. It’s not going to be an overnight success, but there will be a series of small wins that add up over time. Take a look at your best performing content and see why it got so many more views that your other content. Can you replicate that process? Be smart. Be patience. Never give up!