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…
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.
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.
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 😉