This article is excerpted from Chuck’s book, Create Your Writer Platform.
GIVEAWAY: Chuck is giving away a copy of his book, Create Your Writer Platform, to a random commenter. Comment within two weeks to enter! (Must live in US or Canada to win.) (UPDATE: Nikki won!)
Most writers’ blogs forever linger in obscurity. These sites never receive a number of page views that would be considered noteworthy (1,000 a day, for instance) or help them sell thousands of books over time.
If you’re just blogging for fun and don’t care about how many hits you get, that’s one thing. But if you’re using a blog as a means to build your writing network and platform, you’re probably curious about what you can do to attract a bigger readership — and I can tell you how to do just that.
So what separates the small percentage of larger, successful blogs from the rest of the herd? This is a question I’ve studied for many years, both while building my own Guide to Literary Agents Blog, as well as when I’ve reviewed other writers’ sites.
The answer is surprisingly simple: the one core element that virtually every successful blog provides. (Note that this key trait is not just relative to blogs; popular social media accounts provide this one thing, too.)
What trait sets successful blogs apart from the rest?
Stop for a moment and identify the first websites you visit upon waking in the morning. I’m willing to bet “My email account” and “Facebook” are the top overall responses.
But why do you visit these websites day in and day out? Why do you spend so much time on them? The answer is so obvious that you might have never put your finger on it. These sites provide immense value to you.
Email allows you to connect with anyone around the world instantaneously and for free. Stop for a moment and remember how mind-blowing that is. Facebook lets you share news, articles and images with all your friends and relatives around the world — again, for free. You’ve likely been using these sites for so long that you’ve forgotten just how amazing they are — and how tremendous the value is for either.
And it’s this element — value — that separates the few big sites from the many others.
Remember that at any given time, dozens (if not hundreds) of things and to-do’s and websites are competing for our attention. That means your blog must provide a darn good incentive to read it. This could mean pulling together hard-to-gather information, or making readers laugh, or informing us, or sharing advice that makes our lives better or easier. Any of these elements translates to value in a blog.
Am I providing value?
Let’s say I spend a Saturday with my daughter at a local Cincinnati park. I take great pictures of her on a beautiful sunny day as she swings and slides. Then I think this would make for a great blog column, and post the best pictures online with some silly jokes and comments about how cute she is. Now here comes the money question:
Do you really give a damn?
Do you really care about what I did last Saturday?
In all likelihood, no, you don’t give a damn. You don’t care enough to pull your attention away from countless other (much better) things and glance at my new post. And that is perfectly understandable — because the column provided no true worth for you. In fact, the value was for me; I had a great opportunity to document a fun day with my girl.
People have a hard time wrapping their head around the very simple fact that much of the blog content they create isn’t really helpful for others, but rather for themselves in some way or another.
How to create value
If I truly want to vie for others’ attention, I need to turn the spotlight off myself. The best way to do that is to create something that is of importance not to me, but to people I’ve never met. Note that once I decide to do this, my task immediately becomes more complicated (but that’s a good sign I’m on the right track).
So while you wouldn’t read that picture-filled post I just created, would you read a different post I wrote called “5 Great Family-Friendly Parks in Cincinnati You Probably Didn’t Know Existed”? I’m guessing you would, because this post has instant and undeniable worth for you. It will make your life easier and better.
A simple litmus test you can do when considering if a post has enough value to draw people in is to ask this question: Was the post easy to compose or not easy to compose? The more value something provides, typically the more difficult it is to create. Click To Tweet
And that’s why most blogs linger in obscurity: because writers don’t spend the amount of time necessary to compose worthwhile content that will demand attention.
Think about it. How long would it take me to create that original blog post with pictures of my daughter? Probably 20 minutes. But how much time would it take me to compose the second post? A lot longer.
I’d have to visit the parks or talk to people who had. I’d need to collect images of the parks, and show you screenshots of where they are via Google Maps. And I’d have to write up the perks and boons of each. My guess is it would take me four to eight hours in total. It’s a lot more work, but the end result is much more worthwhile to readers.
So the next time you go on a vacation to the Maine coast, don’t return and assume strangers will want to hear about how your trip went. Remember what Freakonomics taught us: Incentives make the world go round, so give readers a reason to take notice. If you write about the trip and call it “Our Crazy Vacation on the Coast,” I’m going to ignore it. But if you compose a post called “7 Fun Places to Visit in Portland, Maine,” then you just might catch my attention.
We’d love to hear from you: How do you create true value in your blog posts?
Don’t forget to comment to be in the running for Chuck’s book giveaway! You could win a free copy of his latest book, Create Your Writer Platform. (UPDATE: Nikki won!)
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