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March 7, 2007

The Art Of Blogging

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Now that the "SEO is Dead" debate seems to be winding down, the new topic du jour is blogging. Should you do it, why do it, how do you do it, and how can you do it better.

I’ll blame Rand (you’re welcome!) for starting the whole thing off and crushing the dreams of many stating that Blogging in an Oversaturated Market is Usually a Poor Decision. Rand’s stance is that unless you’re knowledgeable, compelling and an awesome writer who doesn’t care if people know who you are, it’s probably wise to stay away from the already-saturated blog markets of entertainment, tech, gadgets, gossip and the like.

I think his remarks may have come off a little stronger than he intended but the point was if you don’t fit into the categories listed (I think I hit 1.5 of those categories. Thanks for making me feel inadequate, Rand…) you can try to break into these areas, but realize it’s you and about 10,000 other people trying to fit through the same narrow door. Can it be done? Sure. Is it going to be difficult and come with a slight chance of scarring? Yes. Is it incredibly fun to watch 10,000 people try to fit through a small door (literally, not figuratively)? Oh my goodness, yes!

When it comes to blogging, intent is key to measuring "success". In other words, what are you hoping to get out of your blog? If you’re blogging because you want a group of Cuttlets (photo via Danny) to follow you around at conferences, then you should either (a) find a less competitive niche or (b) find a new a reason. (Sorry, folks, the chances of you inspiring a Cuttlet-type fan club are very, very slim). You should be blogging because you have a unique and/or compelling perspective to bring to the conversation. If you write to educate, your blog has value and is successful even if it’s just you and your mom reading it for the first year. Provide a real value to users and you’ll find a following. It won’t happen overnight, but if you write it and your content is valuable to your niche, they will come.

Advertising Age and Vizu Answers recently released the findings of a new study that found blog readers are loyal, trusting and yearning to be entertained. Yeah, you probably already knew that. But it’s more proof that if you can attract readers with your wit and keep them captivated with your industry knowledge, you’re bound to be successful, and perhaps even an industry favorite. And I don’t care how cool you think you are, admit it, if you’re blogging, at least a small part of you is doing it because you want that loyal audience. Even if you’re primary motive is to education, you want people to like you. It’s practically every geek’s dream.

It’s trying to balance personality with information that I think makes blogging an art. It’s not an easy task and it’s not for everyone. I read quite a few blogs daily, but there are a handful that I run to once Bloglines wakes up long enough to inform me of a new post. These are the people who have best perfected the art, while the rest of us are merely trying not to suck.

The blog survey confirmed another already known truth which is that readers respond to good writing. Almost 44 percent of respondents said writing quality plays a large part in which blogs they read regularly, and more than half said a well-written blog implies credibility.

As a frequent blog reader, it’s like nails on a chalkboard when bloggers blatantly and unapologetically murder the English language. If you’re not a born grammar buff, run your posts passed someone who is. Please? It’s just that important. Get your grammar straight, learn to engage your readers, write great headlines (I know, mine are pathetic. I’m working on it) and decide what your blog strategy is. Are you the guy who’s great at patents? Are you the guy who writes 12 blogs a day and people have no idea how you sleep? Are you the Queen of usability? It all goes back to being "the google" of your niche. Decide what makes you different and focus on that. Know your niche.

There’s some debate over whether search engine optimization is an art or science, but there’s no debate here. Blogging is an art. If you want your blog to be successful, write about something your passionate about and be passionate it. If people connect with you, they’ll form a much stronger bond with your blog.

If you’re looking for some more blogging resources, Jordan McCollum (who has been doing a stellar job filling Andy Beal’s shoes lately) posted some invaluable Resources for Corporate Bloggers, which are worth checking out. May the blog be with you.

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9 responses to “The Art Of Blogging”

  1. xensen writes:

    I would certainly second the bit about bloggers murdering the English language. I subscribe to some SEO-related feeds, and every day misspellings and grammatical mistakes in many of those blogs make me cringe. (How hard is it to least learn the distinction between “its” and “it’s,” for example?) Writers like Rand who can construct a sentence really stand out as a result.

  2. graywolf writes:

    You could also start blogging so you can meet new people to stalk ;-)

  3. ashok writes:

    Rand’s argument is really, really good – he talks about becoming the leader in a niche, but more importantly, uses the phrase “build an audience.”

    That phrase is so, so significant. There are ready-made audiences, but as a blogger, I feel I don’t really want them. The reason why is that they’re gonna use your articles and your thoughts, but never quite try to engage what you’re aiming at as a whole. Given the fact that new blogs emerge every second, every field, niche or not, is crowded, and one really needs to have a concept of just how large a task is involved: “build an audience” gets right to the heart of it. If it feels like it is taking months to get serious readers, it probably is: they’re learning to like the blog.

    What I would like to hear is a more sustained critique of when it is absolutely a waste of time to blog. My blog has never gotten a sustained readership, except for a few friends (some of whom I made online), and I wonder: Are there objective criteria I should pay attention to, that would tell me “give up?”

  4. Simon Heseltine writes:

    “Sorry, folks, the chances of you inspiring a Cuttlet-type fan club are very, very slim”
    What about the chances of inspiring a clothing line? :p

  5. Lisa writes:

    Xensen – The thing that bugs me about blogs who don’t pay attention to basic grammar is that you spend so much time correcting the wording in your head that it distracts you from the message they’re trying to convey. Which, a lot of times, is pretty worthwhile!

    Graywolf — No, that’s only you. ;)

    Ashok — Great question, probably worth of its own entry. The quick answer is it depends what your goal for that blog is. If it’s to “build an audience”, you have to give it at least 6-9 months (maybe more) of solid blogging and forming relationships with other bloggers. Readers will find you through links on the other blogs they’re reading. Being part of the community helps build those links, which then builds the community. If you’re past the one year mark and haven’t been able to form those connections or that readership…it may not be time to “quit”, but it may be time to rethink your strategy.

    Simon – Hush, you. :) and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  6. Jordan McCollum writes:

    Gasp! The Lisa said my name!! *faints*
    I knew I’d be rewarded by saving this choice-looking post for reading in the morning.
    Thank you for your kind words and for this excellent post!

  7. John Wesley writes:

    This article makes some good points. Entering any of the big time markets (politics, tech, celebrity, etc.) is probably a mistake unless you have big time credibility. I’ll refer my Mom to this post next time she tells me I need to blog about the news.

    I think the biggest key to building an audience is patience and dedication. Most blogs lose hope and die within a year. If you can keep pushing on and providing quality content over a number of years, your chance of build a large readership skyrockets.

  8. collis writes:

    I loved this line the most: “you can try to break into these areas, but realize it’s you and about 10,000 other people trying to fit through the same narrow door.”
    It is a wonderful analogy and visualises for me perfectly. I’ve been paying attention to why some blogs don’t seem to make it and I think a large contributor to weeding out about half of all blogs is simply them not realising quite how difficult a task they are facing.
    Great post, and great post from Rand too.

  9. Erica writes:

    What about blogging as a way to just create content for your website? It’s a very painless way to do it, increases the chance of a niche query finding you, and the search engines REALLY seem to like it (at least that’s been my experience). I don’t really care how big an audience I have, I’m a specialist so I know it won’t be huge. But it has sure helped our rankings and makes our site that much more informative.



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