This May Be the Key to Your Blogging Success

    blogging success - meerkat

    Has blogging success eluded you?

    I am under no illusions regarding my writing ability; I’m aware that I still have a long way to go in terms of honing my skills in this area. And, despite the fact that I took my English A-Levels one year early, writing is something that definitely doesn’t come naturally for me.

    Yet, while I’m aware of my flaws (which are slowly decreasing) it has never put me off attempting to be a writer and wanting to motivate, inspire and awaken people with my words. I have managed to build quite a decent following on my site, but I recently decided I wanted to take things to the next level. Basically, I want to join the ranks of the “big boys.”

    In order to try to work out what the extra ingredient successful blogs seem to have was, I decided to look for what they all have in common. It wasn’t the subjects they write about, it wasn’t their post length and it certainly wasn’t their post count. Instead, what I have come to realise about the majority of popular blogs is this: the author makes it easy for you to feel like you know them on a personal level.

    It is as if they are writing for one (you), even if their message is written for many.

    To solidify this idea, let’s look at a few examples…

    Practical Examples

    I have been blogging for almost four years now on various websites, and in that time I’ve came across a number of successful bloggers both in terms of subscribers and financial income in numerous industries. It has became very clear to me that the blogs I enjoy reading the most, are authored by people who seem very “real.” Some examples of this include:

    • Alvin Phang – Alvin, in all fairness, really struggles with the English language. If you look at his post titles or the intro to his blog posts, they’re full of spelling and grammatical errors. In spite of this, Alvin’s blog has over 5,000 subscribers and he recently recorded earning $20,000 from it in one month. The thing about Alvin is that he’s very personal; he shares his income stats, photos of his family and his stories of financial struggle. The language barrier has not hindered his success.
    • Leo Babauta – Leo is also a great example. He’s not only one to watch in terms of great content, but he’s one to watch because of the great community he has managed to build. Just off the top of my head I can name lots of things about Leo like how he lives in Guam, has 6 six kids, quit smoking and became a marathon runner. It is no coincidence that he has both a thriving audience and a very genuine demeanour.
    • Steve Pavlina – Most bloggers are able to keep a high level of traffic from regular Digg homepages, search engine traffic and surges from StumbleUpon. Not Steve; his site hasn’t been featured on Digg for over 2 years, yet he currently boasts and impressive 7 million pageviews per month. Sure, he writes great content, but in the early days he grew purely from word of mouth, mostly because of the stories he shares and the honesty he portrays.
    • Elizabeth Gilbert – Elizabeth is not a blogger, she’s actually an author. A very successful one at that. Her book, Eat Pray Love, is one of the most personal, funny and naked accounts of travelling you will ever read. It has earned her praise from the likes of Julia Roberts and Demi Moore for how easily people can relate to her. That must be a lot of people, seeing as her book has sold over 5 million copies to date.
    • JD Roth – JD writes in the highly crowded space of personal finance, yet has managed to build his audience to a very impressive 65,000 readers and counting. How? He’s personal, he’s honest, and after just 5 minutes on his blog, you’ll already feel like you know him. He often does this by relating his life stories to his topic like how he spent $530 in one day at Disney World (which, of course, includes pictures).

    With all blogging advice, there will be exceptions to the rule. Looking at the Technorati Top 100 blogs, a vast majority have a very clear head figure behind them. Most exceptions to this ‘personal rule’ include news sites but it is no surprise that one of the biggest news blogs, TechCrunch, has an owner who is well known and very open.

    Getting Personal

    There are numerous ways to add more personality and a bit of you into your blog, the following items being some of the most effective.

    • Tell Stories – Even at the start of this blog post I told you all how I took my English A-levels a year early. It is only one sentence, but it fit snugly with what I was talking about and you got to know me just a little better. See how you can incorporate personal stories into your blog posts from time to time, something every type of blog topic caters for.
    • Use Your Real Name – I can’t tell you how amazed I am at the number of people who leave comments on my blog with their site name. First of all, I have to use it in my response because I have no other way of referring to them, and secondly it feels as if they are putting a barrier up to get to know them. Even if you only want to use your first name, at least choose something that people can call and remember you by.
    • Have a Picture – To my knowledge, there are only 2-3 blogs in the Technorati Top 100 where no picture is shown for the author. Adding a picture is a little too much for some people who prefer to hide their identity, but again having a face to put to a name really helps people connect with you. In all of the examples I featured above, every writer has a picture of them on their website and regularly include them in blog posts.
    • Be Genuine – It is far easier to connect with someone who is being ‘real’ rather than someone who is putting on a front. I used to have a friend in high school who had lots of money, but you just couldn’t have a conversation with him without it being brought up. The only friends he had were those looking for financial benefits. If you’re personal finance blogger and in debt, be open about it. If you write about personal development yet have relationship or addiction troubles, don’t be afraid to say it. You’ll find that a lot of your audience can really relate to what you say.

    Even if you can only implement a few of these, you’ll quickly see the benefits.

    It Works

    Being personal really does work. I urge you to go and check the blogs you subscribe to and see how well you know the authors. I guarantee for the majority of sites, you’ll know the authors name, what they look like and more about them than an average joe from the street.

    I may ‘only’ have 3,000 subscribers, but just being personal means I always get lots of thank you emails from my readers and lots of comments. In fact, a blog post I wrote a couple of days ago has over 110 comments which is more than blogs 10 times the size of mine usually receive.

    At the end of the day, being personal with your readers (where necessary) is far easier than putting on a front, and you’ll find that they can open up and relate to you so much more. I’ve even been personal in blog posts on other sites (much larger than mine) and received some very obvious comments about it.

    A comment on my first guest post at WritetoDone showing appreciation of being genuine

    A comment on my guest post for DumbLittleMan showing how people relate to your stories in their own way

    P.S. I came up with most of the ideas for this post while I was having a nice soak in the bath. OK, maybe that’s a little too personal 😉


    About the author

      Glen Allsopp

      Glen Allsopp really hopes you enjoyed the article that you've just read. He also hopes that if you really did enjoy it, you'll check out his blog which covers topics like Personality Development and perhaps subscribe to the feed.

    • Hey Deanna,

      Really glad you liked the post. I checked out your site, and I’m sorry to hear about your issues with FMS.

      This is not my website, so I wont post a live link, but I have wrote a huge article on getting more traffic over here pluginid.com/blog-traffic/

      Just make sure you include the www in your address bar 🙂


    • Excellent article and i also have expressed my view on this subject at http://www.abhijitkar.com/life/dilemma-of-a-blogger-what-to-write.html and hope you guys like it.

      It’s based on 8 months of hard working to establish a blog with a PR 3/10 now, and Alexa rating of around 2,00,000 as on date.

    • Omar says:

      I just started a blog and I’m looking for ways to improve it. I like these tips. Thanks for sharing.

    • Great article! I tweaked a few things on one of my blogs based on this–and yes, I added a picture.

      Oh, and I have to say it: I’m a fan of Zen Habits. Leo Babauta rocks!

    • This is a tough one for me. I suspect you’re right but my life is truly hell on earth so I keep almost my entire present personal life off my blog. If it’s personal, it’s usually about the past.

      This is because I have an undiagnosable progressive disease that’s extremely unpleasant. I’ve literally been unable to leave the house at all in nearly five years – too fragile. I’m now mostly bedridden. My life day to day is a draining struggle with my body and a health care system that doesn’t care.

      It’s actually amazing I’m not dead yet, and looked at rightly, my situation would be inspiring – almost awe inspiring. I don’t really know exactly how I keep going myself anymore.

      But to go into detail is to put people off. People understandably generally like happy news and not a guy who’s constantly getting sicker. “Cry and you cry alone” applies even when you’re not crying and it’s just a bad situation that won’t go away.

    • Brian says:

      That post made me feel like I know you. Thanks for writing that. I do highly appreciate when bloggers don’t put up a front or a show or whatever and actually open up about themselves and their lives’.

      Thanks for the great post, Glen.

    • Oops, don’t mind me. Just re-read your comment on Elizabeth Gilbert; you said she’s not a blogger; that probably means she doesn’t have a blog. That’s too bad ‘cuz it’d be awesome!

      Deborah at Webajeb

    • GREAT post, thx! I wish you’d included links to the blogs you wrote about. I’ve just spent 10 minutes (a lifetime in internet time, eh?) searching for Elizabeth Gilbert’s blog (I recently read her book and loved it) and have yet to find it. Not giving up, though. I like your blog and will follow it.

      Thx again,

      Deborah at Webajeb

    • Ross says:

      I really love the layout of this post – simple, direct… easy to understand. Cheers on a simple, great post.

    • I really resonated with this article because I too struggle with grammar. While I have always loved to write, my grammar has been a major weakness of mine. I have found however, the more I write the better my writing becomes. It’s so sad to know that so many people give up their gift of writing just because their grammar needs a bit of work. Sure grammar is important, but what really matters is your ability to convey your idea in words.

      You continue to be an inspiration in my life Glen.


    • Thanks for this article, was inspirational, I also write a reference in my blog and should be out this week.

    • Hi Glen,

      First of all, congratulations on the guest post!

      This post is another confirmation to me that I am on the right track when it comes to my blog and my writing. I have always been an advocate of being open, honest and real. Not many people have supported that notion because many people are afraid of being so open.

      I think that if someone truly wants to be of help to others, then you have to be real. It is easy, at least for me, to tell when someone is writing from the head or from the heart. I am never impressed with someone who writes from the head because it is all theory and no experience.

      People learn from each other by sharing experiences. That is why Elizabeth Gilbert’s book rocked. She was genuine and the world needs more people who are able to be who they are without fear.

      Hope all is well! 🙂

    • Hey Deanna,

      Really glad you liked the post. I checked out your site, and I’m sorry to hear about your issues with FMS.

      This is not my website, so I wont post a live link, but I have wrote a huge article on getting more traffic over here pluginid.com/blog-traffic/

      Just make sure you include the www in your address bar 🙂


    • Hey Deanna,

      Really glad you liked the post. I checked out your site, and I’m sorry to hear about your issues with FMS.

      This is not my website, so I wont post a live link, but I have wrote a huge article on getting more traffic over here http://www.pluginid.com/blog-traffic/

      Just make sure you include the http:// in your address bar 🙂


    • Glenn, I found this site via a recommendation on Editor Unleashed forums, and I am ever so grateful I did! I appreciate how straightforward you are with this post. I just started my own blog barely more than a week ago, (after years of goading from family and even my son’s teacher). For the longest time I shirked the idea because I couldn’t decide what to write about. I write nonfiction, articles, essays, true stories, and such, and I had seen so many blogs that steered as far away from personal as you could get I figured no one would be interested in my own personal style of writing. I am glad to say that has turned out to be completely false. I’ve only posted 3 blogs so far, but all of them are very personal and I’m surprised at the positive comments I’ve gotten.
      I’m hoping to get more subscribers of course, but right now all I have is word-of-mouth. Do you have any advice on how to notify “the world” that you actually have a blog? I know I probably sound clueless; that’s because, in this case, I am. 🙂
      Thanks again for the verification that personal is better.

    • @Lisis – Would love you to stop by and leave your thoughts again

      @Mary – Haha, no squawking 😉 I remember reading your very early posts and definitely think you’ve come a long way on your path. It may be why you have experienced such great growth

      @John – I hadn’t really thought of this in a ‘comment’ perspective but you make a great point!

      @Yuro – There are a lot of people who use ‘optimised’ names for search engines, but I was mostly referring to people who do that or just use their site names. I don’t see any harm in using a nickname. On one of my sites I go by the name ‘DJ’ because that is what all my (in person) friends call me. It’s far better than having people refer to me as my site name.

      Thanks for the comments guys!

    • Yuro says:

      Haha.. Just when you mention there are people who want to hide their identity by giving their site name in the comment box. They just probably want to increase their SEO.

      Quick question though.. Using a nickname or real name when your nickname is more widely known?

    • John says:

      Wow, it’s funny how I already did this before this post even existed. Following these steps just seems like the right thing to do. Why bother just saying “Great post!” or “Thanks” if you’re not going to contribute everything.

      I know there are people who don’t have time to write anything useful, but you should mostly comment if you have something to add or you have something you really like about the post.

    • Sean says:

      Thanks for the great pointers Glen!

      This has helped me in the process of deciding on my topics and how much of “me” to put into them. It is a fine line that we walk in the digital world. Here it is alright, and expected in many cases, to be in your posts. But the line gets even finer than that when it comes to the point of having too much of yourself in your posts to the point that it excludes the audience.

      Oh what a narrow rope we walk!

    • Thanks for this post, Glen. It’s taken me a while to be more personal in my blogging. When I first started out writing for Goodlife ZEN, my writing was quite stand-offish. But now I’m more relaxed.

      By the way – talking of personal – I managed to balls up this post when I first put it up. Glen also wrote a fine guest post for Goodllfe ZEN (which you’ll be able to enjoy next week). Here on Write to Done, I managed to publish the GLZ post with the WTD Headline yesterday. That was rather a Frankenstein operation: putting a bear’s head onto swan. Didn’t look pretty…

      As a result, I received a couple agitated squawks from Glen – as you can imagine. My apologies to all.

    • Lisis says:

      (Don’t mind me… now I’m just testing things ’cause my previous comment disappeared into the ether. I changed on of my settings to see if this works. Feel free to delete this later.)

    • @Positively Present – You are actually a very good example. You stop by my blog a lot of the time but I know nothing about you. I only found out your first name through a mention on another site. Would be great to see the face behind the site 🙂

      @Natural – You’re right, a lot of blogging is trial and error; I’m glad you noticed the positive changes

    • Natural says:

      i think when i started to put more “me” into my blog, it got more interesting. something i didn’t do in the beginning, but we all go through our mistakes with blogging or not mistakes, just growing pains.

    • Oh man, the forgotten key is the hardest one for me! I have such a hard time opening up on my blog and sharing with others, but, actually, I’ve come a long, long way since I first started. I’ve been able to share my name and some personal stories, but that picture is still a tricky one… As hard as this is for me to do, I do believe that it’s one of the most important tools for any blogger. Be personable!

    • Tedel says:

      Well, yes, when blogging, being personal is the key factor for success; but don’t forget that blogging is just one of all the aspects or writing you can find out there. For others, being too personal is not necessarily a good idea.

      Just to make it clear for other writers. =)

    • Another very valuable post. I try to open up as much as possible on my blog but when writing about entrepreneurial things it’s hard to bare it all sometimes.

      I recently failed in a business & wrote about it candidly. It got tons of hits and I really feel that reader appreciated the honesty.

      What you’re saying here is absolutely true!
      Thanks Glen.

    • Oke says:


      Just read this post, your other post is a good one, too.

      Being personal is what I strive on to do most of the time. I get carried away sometimes about work, but I do notice that I am letting my audience know the emotion I feel. I’m going to do more, in being more personal. It is ironic that you speak of this because I just started a new series of post about what I see through the photos I take.

      Thanks for your insight of the characteristics of top bloggers.

    • Hi, Glen. I have been doing something very similar to what you mention in my own life for a few years now. One of the things I have discovered is that by leading myself through this process, the real “why” often helps me understand more what I really need to do, but in an entirely different way than I’d imagined. To use your example, what I mean is, rather than quit my job, I realize that my true desire is more time with my kids. So I focus instead on creating more opportunities to do just that in my own life. Now, if it means I have to quit my job to do that, so be it. But there may also be a gazillion other ways in which I can open up the room and space in my life to do this without having to take such a drastic measure.

      Thank you for sharing this.

    • @Puneet – Awesome comment, thank you. I definitely try to use aspects of the message in my post

      @Vikki – That is an excellent example of people being able to relate to what you say, thanks for sharing!

      @Oke – Sorry about that, there was a 2-minute-mix-up because I’m dealing with Mary on a project for another site. Thank you for leaving a comment though

      @Sunil – Thanks for the kind words! It’s nice to see my message comes across through my writing 🙂

    • Congratulations Glen for this wonderful post,

      I have read all this things on many blog but what makes your post special is the way you put them together, your personal touch and the language you used here really says a lot about your personality and your authority on topic in subject.

    • Good post. I’m pretty open on my blog, but I remember a while ago, writing something very personal about my internal struggle with procrastination. I was hesitant about posting it because of that. But I did. And I was surprised at the response, how much people resonated with what I had said.

    • Puneet says:

      Glen: I agree wholeheartedly with a lot of the stuff in your post. More importantly, you effectively practiced what you preached — no better way to drive home the point. Got me thinking about my blog, and the fact that I need to pay more attention to it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for asking me to write for the site Mary, I hope the post lived up to expectations!

      I’ll keep popping back here so if you have any questions guys, feel free to ask 🙂

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