12 Killer Tips To Write Like A Blogging Superstar

    blogging superstar-blog

    One of the most common questions I get asked over at my other blog, Zen Habits, is this: “How have you become a blogging superstar so quickly?”

    Newer bloggers are looking for my secret formula or the key to my success, but I’m always sorry to tell them I don’t have any secrets. I do the same things that other successful blogs have done, and that excellent blogs such as ProBlogger and Copyblogger teach you to do.

    However, without sounding like I’m bragging, I have learned a few things over the last year of blogging — a year in which my blog went from nothing (literally nothing — it didn’t exist at the beginning of 2007) to a Top 50 blog with nearly 40K subscribers. While I don’t claim to have any secrets, it’s hard to come this far without learning a thing or two.

    In hopes of sharing some of this knowledge with my fellow bloggers, I’m going to list some of the key things I’ve learned about blogwriting. I hope to develop some of these things in future posts, but I thought a good overview would help.

    1. Write from the heart. Sure, you could write very popular posts without putting yourself into it. You could make calculated decisions on post topics, and write just to have popular posts that spread your blog’s name and build links by the dozens. It can be done, but I don’t recommend it. The best blogs, in my experience, are those that are written with authenticity and soul, that are personal. In my writing, I try to write about topics I’m passionate about, that I’ve experienced myself, and I hope that shows in my writing. A couple of my favorite examples include Get Rich Slowly and ProBlogger – both J.D. and Darren write about intellectual topics, but you can tell they’re being authentic as they do so.

    2. Be insanely useful. It’s possible to create a successful blog without trying to be very useful, but it’s not done very often. Of all the most popular and successful blogs, the only one I can think of that doesn’t try to be very very useful is I Can Has a Cheezburger. That’s a phenomenon to itself, and it would be hard for you to tap into that kind of sentiment. Instead, go for the usefulness route: whatever topic you write about, try to be as useful as humanly possible. Seriously. Create a resource like no other. Even if it’s being done elsewhere, you can explore new angles, create new resources, give tips from your own experience. One post after another, pound your readers with useful information. They will love it.

    3. Keep the reader’s problems in mind. This goes with the tip above, but it’s important to stress that you’re thinking about the reader’s problem, and no one else’s. Who are your readers? What is your target audience? And how well do you know them? If you don’t know them well, you should start asking them: What do they want to know? What problems do they need addressed? Read other blogs with the same target audience if you don’t have an audience yet, and see what problems those readers express. On this blog, for example, many of you seem to be bloggers who want to build a successful blog — and therefore, I would be remiss not to address that problem here. On Zen Habits, many of my readers face problems having to do with simplicity, with productivity and organization, with health and fitness, and so on. I address problems related to those topics, and generally they’re happy. If they’re not happy, I try to address the problems I’ve missed. Once you’ve identified the problems, again, try to be as useful as possible in solving them.

    4. Don’t just write about yourself. You should always put a piece of yourself into your posts, if you want readers to identify with you. But your blog shouldn’t just be all about you, not if you want people to keep coming back. While many blogs start as a personal journal, I have to be honest — most people aren’t interested in reading personal journals unless those journals are about people who are doing something they want to do. That kind of journal, then, becomes extremely useful in solving a problem they have. In other words, even if the journal seems to be all about the blogger, to the reader, it becomes about the reader. And that’s why it works. You should take that lesson and remember that you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for an audience. Make it about them, and you, in a shared conversation. Incorporate their questions, their stories. Share what you’ve learned, but also share what they’ve learned.

    5. Interact with readers. A blog is really a conversation. It starts with your post, of course, but it continues with comments from readers, and with comment and criticism from other bloggers. Get that conversation stirred up a bit by posting questions and polls and contests for your readers — this gets them deeply involved in the conversation that is your blog, and there’s no better way. On Zen Habits, I often pose an Ask the Readers question, and I get tons of responses. I then take those responses and pick the best answers and do a Top 10-style resource list, and you know what? The tips from the readers often turn out to be the best tips on the blog.

    6. Give them a reason to come back. Why would a reader keep coming back to your blog? Why would they subscribe, when there are so many other blogs out there to subscribe to? You’ve got to give them a reason. And the reason is that they can see what amazing content you put out on a regular basis, and they can reasonably expect you to continue to produce that content. They won’t want to miss out, so they’ll come back or subscribe. Darren at ProBlogger did a great job of talking about this: How to Build a Sense of Anticipation (and also see Part 2).

    7. Write catchy headlines. I have to admit, headlines are more important than they should be. Headlines are like advertisements for your posts — if they’re not very good, no one will read the posts. And so you could have amazing content, but if the headlines suck, you’ve got nothing, as far as readers are concerned. Most readers will find your posts in one of three places, and all three rely on the few words of your headlines to draw them to the actual post: in their feed reader, in a link from another blog, or on a social media site such as Digg or delicious. Consider two headlines for the same exact post: A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home or The Stuff in Your House. The second headline won’t get many readers, but the first is one of my most popular posts ever on Zen Habits. In a few words, it tells people that 1) it will solve the problem of clutter in their homes and 2) it will do so in a very useful guide format. With those two points succinctly conveyed, they click on the headline and read the post. Pay special attention to the popular headlines on other blogs, and try to figure out what works and why.

    8. On social media. Zen Habits would never have found as many readers if it weren’t for the social media sites — mostly Digg, delicious and Stumbleupon. So I can’t downplay the importance of these sites. I should tell you, however, that while they can send you tons and tons of traffic, it is also hard to get popular on these sites if you don’t already have a lot of readers who will bookmark your posts. For a new or smaller blog, the best way to get a popular post is to get a link from a bigger blog. Lifehacker, Lifehack.org and Dumb Little Man all helped some of my posts get popular early on, and I was extremely grateful for that. How do you get links from bigger blogs? Well, follow the points above to create an insanely useful post that comes from the heart, addresses a common problem, and has a great headline. Then email your link to the editors of bigger blogs — be aware, however, that these editors get hundreds of similar emails and don’t appreciate spam, so you should only do this rarely and only when you’ve got an amazing post that their readers will like. Even then, you probably won’t get a link. But you might get lucky. Once you do have a readership, doing the same things I just mentioned will help you get popular posts, but without the need for a link from a bigger blog. It’s hit and miss, but it definitely helps to get popular.

    9. Guest posting. Besides social media and the ocassional link from a bigger blog, the best way to draw new readers to your blog is to write great guest posts for other blogs, especially bigger ones. This shows a new audience what a great writer you are, and how useful your posts are. I wrote dozens of guest posts for dozens of blogs in my early blogging days, and nothing helped get exposure for Zen Habits more than this. When writing a guest post, write your absolute best stuff, following all of the tips above.

    10. Reveal yourself. This is similar to writing from the heart, but it’s going beyond that — readers want to be able to relate to you. That’s why they’ll look for your about page if they enjoy one of your posts. They need to know who you are, and why they should be reading you. Read My Story at Zen Habits … it’s gotten dozens of comments, and that’s because people can relate to the things I’ve done, and are trying to do similar things themselves. In your About page, and in your posts, you have to share some of your personal life and personal info. This is difficult at first, to give up some of your privacy, but if you really want to connect with readers, you’ll do it to some extent. Of course, only share what’s appropriate to your blog. Readers don’t need to know about what goes on in your bedroom if you’re writing about Indian cooking.

    11. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Blogs can get stale if they do the same things over and over. When you sense this is happening to you, break out from your mold. Look at what other blogs are doing different, and try those things out. Find other mediums, such as movies and magazines and books, and see if you can get ideas from them. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and to fail. It’s from this failure that you’ll find success.

    12. Focus on the essential. A blogger could spend every waking hour on his blog, not only writing posts but formatting them, finding photos and links, reading and responding to comments, checking stats, seeing how much money he’s made on different ad systems, tweaking the blog’s layout and design, keeping updated with the social media, reading feeds, checking and responding to email, keeping up with Twitter … and so on, ad nauseum. It’s not worth it. It doesn’t help your blog to grow. Figure out what’s essential, what you really need to do, what actions pay off … and spend your time doing these things. Let the other stuff fade to the background, and do them infrequently. For me, writing and interacting with readers are the two essential activities. Sure, I still do most of the other stuff, but I try to minimize the time I spend on them, and place most of my emphasis on the essentials.

    If you liked this article, please share it on del.icio.us or on Digg. I’d appreciate it. 🙂

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Writing a blog means to express one’s view’s in a socially appropriate way. The job of the blogger is to express himself or herself to show how ones views are expressed . Nevertheless a good article.

    • keerthi says:

      A great read that gives a very good insight into doing the right things to have a successful and popular blog… A great article especially for initial starters to help them establish their blog and make it a popular one…

    • Thanks indeed for the cool tips, i’m using some of the above tips in my blogs which is about buyer keywords and how to find buyer keywords at buyerkeywords.com, now you gave me new tips that i’ll apply them in my next posts, again thanks a lot.

    • good stuff lots of useful tips =D to high to remember most but i liked it.

    • Creating blog is a really important subject,thanks for the post…

    • The tip for a successful blog is to regularly update your blog content with fresh new blog posts. If you continuously provide your readers with new and relevant content, they will keep returning to your blog and will learn a great deal about your business. As they become accustomed to your blog posts and gain knowledge about what you do, they will begin to trust and respect your company. This is important in brand development.

    • Thanks,

      This is a great article and a great website. I liked it very much. It will help me to optimise my websites in europe. I have website in travel and that meens a lot of seo work !!

      Thanks a lot and greetings,

      Dave and Carol
      Seo and Travel Website in Europe, France

    • Thank you for the infos so i can create also a blog …

    • Williams says:

      I think new bloggers think it will come overnight, and it doesn’t. It talkes a lot of hard work and providing quality and unique content.
      (SEO Writing Service)


    • That was great stuff!! I forgot it all already…Thank you.

    • Patrick says:

      Thanks for the great advice. I am new to blogging, and don’t expect to become a famous blogger. However I have knowledge and experience in my field of work, along with some funny stories that I would like to share. Seems like a great way to share. I am having difficulty establishing an identity for my site….funny, serious, informative? If you have a chance to check it out, I would be interested in your opinion. Have a great day.

    • Brandon says:

      I couldn’t agree with this more! I deal with a lot of people that just want to start a website/blog and have read somewhere about how easy it is to make money and get traffic, but this “job” requires a lot of work and attention. Sometimes I feel I have a pretty good grasp on things and then I’ll turn around and here’s something new. It never ends, but that adds to the excitement.

      Besides, if it was really so easy, everyone would be doing it and then the market would be over-saturated.

    • Thank you for the information i was looking exact this was very usefull.

    • pramod says:

      thanks….for giving useful info….it really helped me……

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    • love says:

      bless this post with love,peace,respect and success.

      just let love be

    • irtiza104 says:

      great list. i really hope that it will help me to grow. my blog is approaching its first anniversary, but still i am not satisfied wih the amount of traffic it receives.

      best wishes.

    • Especially tip 5 is very important. If you interact with your users they will comeback to your blog. Try to reply all th comments. Just make your readers feel special to your blog.

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    • Shazia says:

      Nice article. This article is provide is very reasonable entry.

    • qarla says:

      I agree with the catchy headlines, especially for entertainment blogs.

    • Your blog posts have been extremely useful and I intend to use your incredible advice as my blog continues to grow. Thank you, Leo!

    • Sam says:

      I think that these tips r really useful. Should try implementing it.

      Link Building

    • very helpful, thanks for sharing.

    • I have found that it is important to focus a lot on your audience. Its important to know people. To know their needs, concerns, and questions. I recently started a blog to reference people that need help with computers or need help understanding something about computer security. I hope to reach out to those people that need computer help.

    • Patricia says:

      This was one of the best lists I have ever read and I feel as though I am onto the correct track for me. I love to learn something new everyday and this was truly an important find and learning opportunity. Thank you for sharing this information. I am finding my 50 + friends are so afraid of blogging and resourcing from the Internet and I feel they are too young to be left out of “what’s happening” all around them that would make their time more valuable. Even this Election Process is more fun and interesting with my discovery of blogs and fresh voices. I may not be the fastest blogger on the page and I am not making any money yet, but I am getting so much out of this experience and sharing in this way and getting the fear levels down for a growing number of good folks. Thank you.

    • Ron says:

      all good stuff … especially if you are an out-of-touch chuckle-head such as myself

    • Craig says:

      My blog is hosted on blogspot. I own the domain. I’m using it to house the stories I write for our local writers group.

      I have heard many wonderful things about WordPress.com. Everything related to blogging seems to be about WordPress now. I am wondering if I should attempt to migrate my material over to WordPress.com.

      I am a newbie at blogging. I simply want to write my stories and post them. Someday I would also like to be able to see who is visiting my blog and get some comments going.

      Can I put my articles in WordPress.com and still leave it in Blogspot?

    • Jadelv says:

      omg.. good work, guy

    • Stella B. says:

      I think your tip to ‘write from the heart’ is soooo true. Stella will spend so much time reading and taking notes, and it takes away from her writing. She needs to sit and just write what she knows! And everything she knows is on http://www.stellabneeds.com. Seriously, she’s got everything you need!

      check it. love it. live it.

    • Ani says:

      Many things are obvious – smoking is unhealthy, eat healthy food, be a good listener and don’t brag at your first date – but do we always take the right choices and do the right things?
      I think the same with blogging. If the habits are already part of who you are they seem obvious, but for others they are helpful.

    • wonderful tips! thanks so much for putting this list together. 🙂

    • Very helpful tips, thanks for sharing!!!

    • thanks for this list. It is great. I am working on incorporating many of these elements in my own blog.

    • Thanks for the tips!

    • Mrs. Micah says:

      As a person who suffers from depression, I’d say that I Can Has Cheezburger is really useful.

      First, it makes me laugh. That’s always good.

      Second, I use it to interrupt negative thought patterns as a part of cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s much easier when you have something good to replace the thoughts with instead of trying NOT to think it.

      But it’s not “useful” in some conventional senses, I’ll give you that.

    • Fantastic! Thanks for your action steps and tips you’re much appreciated

    • Palehorse says:

      Excellent stuff here. I’m relatively new to all this, and will definitely be taking ideas from this post as I go. Three thumbs up! 🙂

    • J says:

      Hi Leo, I’ve been following Zen Habits for a long time now so I’m ecstatic that you decided to start a how to write blog. Great post and keep up the good work!

    • PR Advice says:

      I don’t think you can emphasize tip # 6 enough. You can get anyone to do anything one time. Getting them to do it over and over again, to make them want to return to your blog, is the challenge. You have to be fresh, entertaining, useful, timely and relevant, all at the same time. I think that’s one of the reasons newspapers are dying today — they just don’t provide people with enough reasons to come back day after day.

    • Job well done on this piece of work. It gives a lot of new bloggers good information. Many of my new readers will love this as a resource for themselves. I will for sure send them your way.

    • Joe Dirt raises a point! If this is a major sticking point, then maybe Leo Babauta just needs to write a blog on the top 10 ways to gain Digg followers! It’s certainly a topic I’m always interested in. How do legit players on Digg do it? I hear a lot of badmouthing of Digg about how often it’s “gamed” or abused, so how do legit bloggers compete?

    • Joe Dirt says:

      Good tips, but someone can do all these and fail. The reason for your success is making digg dozens and dozens of times.

      Build a cult of digg followers, only tip that matters.

    • Thanks for the insight. Remembering that blog writing is conversational is so important. I try to do as you mentioned and write with my readers problem in mind and write from personal experience.

      I also cannot say enough about the use of social media. I don’t think I would have single reader, as a new blogger with no previous presence on the web, if it were not for social media like StumbleUpon.

    • Bart says:

      Thank you for the inside scoop. I am just beginning to blog, so these tips will definitely come in handy.


    • Tom says:

      Good ideas; good reminders. Just curious though, what about the use of pictures in your posts? And layout… Is it enough to have a well written article on something useful?

      Not that I’m a genius though – my blog is still not far along in traffic; but I’m merely curious about how important layout and graphics really are.

      I’m glad I found your blog good info for use wanna-be bloggers – hmmm… Perhaps that’s the answer to my question.


    • Great advice, Leo! Writing from the heart is definitely the most important. I started my blog because writing is something I’ve always been passionate about.

      If that’s lacking or if you’re simply out to become rich/famous, you’d best think again. And if you’d still write expecting no recognition or pay, you’re on the right track.

    • I think it is amazing that we get an instruction and then an example of it all in one post. You tell us about a certain aspect of blogging, and you are already doing it right in front of us. Thank you for the tips. I trust your advice on all of this stuff after reading through all of your blog.

    • ms says:

      Boring. Are people this stupid that they don’t know everyone of these intuitively.

      Why not include #13, be a nice person. Because we don’t know that one either.

    • Paul says:

      Great post Miss Karen. I especially appreciate the last tip. I can easily let this blog manage me when I should be managing it. Thanks again.


      Paul’s World of Funky Stuff

    • Things that make my blog popular which I learned by studying other popular blogs on Stumble always seem to be: top lists, pictures, and easily recognizable subjects (celebrities, icons, etc.)

      I admit I don’t always go for the easy topics even though they get more hits and comments. Nothing could stop me from my obscure topics that probably just confuse most readers. Still, even these type of posts build up your niche readers if you know how to reach them. Posting on message boards and forums of niche subjects is a good way to get extra readers.

    • dkaye says:

      Excellent advice and thanks for sharing. It’s a tough market out there with the millions of bloggers trying to get their little stake of the web. While I read a number of useful blogs – such as yours, I also seek out lighthearted reads to help me forget about the stresses of everyday life. I believe there’s also a great usefulness for those as, is well known, a smile/laugh is therapeutic and healing. That’s the vein that I write in, recognizing I’ll never have a large audience. But if I can get one person to forget about their worries for 5 minutes, I feel I’ve been successful. jmo.

    • These are all great points. You can also waste a lot of time on Social Media sites. So remember to not get too SM happy.

    • But I Can Has a Cheezburger is an insanely useful website! It makes me smile every day that I look at, and in this harsh world that’s quite useful…

    • Josh says:

      I have no problem with the paragraphs, but I’m probably the only one to EVER view the site with the Lynx browswer (text only Unix browser).

      Excellent post Leo. I’ve bookmarked it. I just started a blog last week after wanting to for a couple years. So far, not much traffic. I do not have spiffy little digg or stumbleupon links, but, at this point, I’m not sure it matters.

      I didn’t realize that people were so brazen as to email sites like lifehacker with a link to some post they think is important, I’ll have to keep that in mind.


    • Bitten says:

      Please, use shorter paragraphs. This design has a very narrow text area (less than 450px!) so those long paragraphs make your posts look really ugly. Just look at the #8, its a monster.

      And, I’m tired of seeing this design here, in Skelliewag and in Anywired. Why did you choose this design even though there’s plenty of other good designs out there. You know its popular, so there shouldn’t be any good reasons to use this layout. Why don’t you buy a custom design? I’ve bought two and I’m a poor student!

      Unique design is one of the most important parts of a blog. If you buy a custom design, you don’t have to do much tweaking yourself, so it shouln’t be a problem.

    • Great post Leo. Not only is this helpful, it’s motivating in a way. I’m going to go write right now!

    • Leo-

      Skellie suggests another action that can be done that will help expose your blog to a broader audience, be sure to comment on other blogs. I have begun this and it has really helped my little project gain some momentum. Now I must incorporate your suggestions in order to keep the curious readers coming back. Thanks for the tips.

      Congrats on another successful endeavor!

    • Above all, if you write what you are interested in and what has been of use to you then the enthusiasm with which you present your ideas will be enticing.

      Since I have begun blogging, much of what I blog about, including tone and anecdotes have their way into meetings and situations at work that has been really useful. Quotes I have found and blogged about have been openers for emails, etc.

      Finally, my industry – software development – suffers from a lot of “Here’s how you do X …”, so creating compelling content that stands out can be really challenging.

    • Timothy Diokno says:

      And you’re doing it again with this blog!

    • Leo Babauta says:

      Thanks for the comments, guys!

      @Israel: I think we’re all trying to find that balance. I often give off the impression that I’ve found the answers, but it’s not true — I’m searching for the right combination myself. 🙂

      @Nez: No, I think the perfect post would probably elicit a lot of thought from readers and have them pitching in their 2 cents. 🙂

      @Geek Riddles: You’re right … I didn’t mean to imply that icanhascheezburger has no value for its readers, but that it doesn’t offer tips or information that solve their daily problems. It solves the problem of needing to smile more, of course, but all comedy or entertainment tries to do that. I guess comedy is a form of usefulness, but it wasn’t what I was thinking about when I wrote the post. Great point!

    • I agree with almost everything you say in this post, however I would argue that icanhascheezburger is useful. It does bring value to its readers.

      The value it brings is a smile every now and then. Or maybe even a good laugh. Maybe it’s not useful in the classic way, but it is a good way to lift one’s spirit, even if it’s only for a short while. That’s why it is successful.

      So what I’m saying is that you are right all along, and a blog must be useful to be successful. BUT, icanhascheezburger is not an exception, it is a confirmation of the rule. It is useful, it does bring value.

      Great post by the way.

    • Nez says:

      As proof as to how well thought out your posts are here (and on Zen Habits), I always find it hard to find any fault (usually the easiest way to comment is to add in a “I would also add…”).

      Would the “perfect” post elicit no comments at all (or only comments that are of the “Way to go!” “Keep up the great work” variety?)

      Anyway, thanksforthegreatpostasusual. 🙂

    • Israel says:

      Very good list. I am still trying to find that fine balance that incorporates all of this.

    • >