The One Big Reason Some Blogs Succeed, While Others Crash and Burn

The One Big Reason Some Blogs Succeed, While Others Crash and Burn

This article is excerpted from Chuck’s book, Create Your Writer Platform.

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.

Quick note from Chuck: I am now taking on clients as a freelance editor. If your query or synopsis or manuscript needs a look from a professional, please consider my editing services. Thanks!

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? [bctt tweet=”The more value something provides, typically the more difficult it is to create.”]

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?

Quick note from Chuck: if you’re looking for a writing conference, perhaps one of these below is in your neck of the woods. I’ll be presenting at the following events in 2017:

The giveaway for Chuck’s book Create Your Writer Platform is now over. Thanks for all your comments. Congrats to Nikki!

Other TWL Guest Posts by Chuck Sambuchino:

  1. How Successful Authors Use Social Media to Sell More Books

  2. Tips for Pitching a Literary Agent at a Writers’ Conference

  3. When Can You Call Yourself A Writer?
Filed Under: Blogging
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270 comments

  • Kevin Campbell says:

    A great post. It’s simple advice that applies to all marketing and communications. Focus less on ourselves and more on the customer. I recently put a company’s sales presentation on the back burner and replaced it with a 3-minute video, because the PPT forced the salesperson to spend too much time focusing on the company instead of the client. No value. We should apply the value test to all we do.

  • lisa evola says:

    On our blog we encourage people to live out each day in faith. We give them ideas on how to reach out to others as well as how to grow stronger as a Christian. We cover topics that I believe we all struggle with as parents, friends, spouses, and generally as human beings. I think encouragement to start off each morning is valuable in that it sets us on the right track by giving us a right perspective of what lies ahead.

  • Hi Chuck!

    Excellent post! You are absolutely right about the necessity of delivering value to readers. No one cares what value was given to you (or to me); what people care about is the value that is given to them.

    The more and more I study copywriting and the art of persuasion the more and more this truth rings off bells in my head.

    If we want our blogs to reader, client, and customer magnets we need them to be extremely valuable to readers. Zig Ziglar always said, “If you help other get what they want you will unconsciously be getting what you want.” In other words, the more we help others succeed the more we succeed.

    Again, great post! I really enjoyed reading it!

    • Thanks for sharing the quote, William. I agree — by helping others succeed, we also help ourselves. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

      • Hi Heather!

        Thanks for your response. And no worries on sharing the quote.

        I noticed after reading my comment that I jumbled up some words and phrases. It was pretty late when I wrote that (Yikes).

        Any hoo, still great post and I really enjoyed it!

  • Robin Botie says:

    Hi Chuck. On my blog site at http://www.robinbotie.com I’ve been writing everything about my own experiences crawling my way up through grief and finding joy again … in the hopes that people suffering from losses will be able to get something like inspiration or ideas to aid in their own struggles. I am not a counselor or expert. So I phrase whatever I write in terms of my own experience. Are you saying I need to spell it all out as in : 5 tips to overcome the loss of your child; or 7 cool ways to avoid your mascara running when someone tells you, “I have a message from your dead daughter;” or what to do when you think you’re losing your mind in grief? What do you think? Please remember to consider me for your free book draw.

    • Thanks for your comment, Robin, and for sharing your experience so openly. I don’t think you need to write a “5 tips” type of post headline to provide value to your readers, though.

      Your posts detailing elements of your experience could help others who find themselves caring for a sick child or recovering from a loss. Lisa McKay is a great example of a blogger whose personal stories are valuable to readers; she blogs at http://www.lisamckaywriting.com/ and we wrote about one of her posts at http://thewritelife.com/personal-stories-blogging/.

      If you wanted to offer advice in your posts, what about addressing friends or family members of grieving parents based on your experience? Explaining how to comfort a parent who has lost a child or what small gestures were most meaningful for you and your daughter would certainly be helpful for people who care, but aren’t sure how to best offer support.

      What do you think?

      (And yes, you’re in the draw! We’ll choose a random comment on Monday.)

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Robin Botie says:

    Forgot to ask for notification of new posts on previous reply. I really like what you wrote and I’m trying to figure out how to make this information work for me. Cheers!

  • Karen Rice says:

    This makes complete sense. Just as we must give of ourselves in our writing, by extension we should have something of value to offer in our blog. Great post – thanks.

  • Jennifer D. Bushroe says:

    Thanks for the tips! While I don’t have a blog or website up yet, I’m actively researching how to go about this and how to do it well. Right now I just have a document full of notes, but some day I’ll carry it through! 🙂

  • Tillery Johnson says:

    Interesting article. I’d love to hear more thoughts on blogs geared specifically to entertain as they are particularly hit or miss, and there seems to be a bigger X factor somewhere in there. I’ve read some hilarious blogs that weren’t necessarily popular or successful.

    • Great point, Tillery. Entertainment has quite the X factor when it comes to finding a devoted audience, since 10 readers might have 10 different ideas of what’s funny or enjoyable.

      Does anyone else have ideas as to how blogs aiming to entertain could provide value to their readers?

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Hey Chuck, thanks for your advice. This post is clearly informed by a great deal of experience. In my blog posts I try to illuminate the potholes in the big freelancing markets and show readers that there are alternatives in the industry. Most freelance writers and marketers are severely undervalued and underpaid, and I want to help them navigate to bigger paydays, steadier clients, and greater work security.

  • Great article! Since I’m a writer and I blog about writing and books, I try to find value by answering questions I’ve had myself and sharing my own struggles as a writer, along with what I do to combat them. We all want to know we’re not alone and that we struggle with the same things 🙂

    • Great point, Denise — whatever questions or struggles you’ve faced, sharing your experience will help others who experience similar situations. Thank you for sharing your hard-earned knowledge!

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Allyn Lesley says:

    This was brilliant because it was so simple. Value. You’ve hit it on the nail, and it’s something that we have become accustomed so much so that we’ve lost insight on it. A blogger that can capture content that is valuable will have endeared followers and readers … and so too will an author. Thanks for the share.

  • Toni says:

    I guess this is my sign from the Universe. I’ve been taking the easy route with my blog posts and writing about my life exactly for the reason you stated in the article – it’s easier and takes less time. Many of my readers seem to appreciate this view into my world. However, this article has inspired me to work a little harder to provide more valuable content for my readers.

  • Kip Flynn says:

    Thanks for the great advice Chuck…as a new writer I think I’ll go on to read your other posts!

    Kip

  • Terry says:

    Excellent post! What is ‘of value’ to your audience depends upon who they are and why they are coming to your site in the first place. Knowing your target audience is essential to providing them with valuable content. Consistency, then, is critical. I had a travel blog that documented my four-month voyage around the world. I recently took it down, not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I am seeking representation for a young adult novel right now and I don’t want mixed messages about who I am and what I’m about ‘out there’.
    I’m waiting to launch a new blog/website until after I have something of real interest regarding my journey toward publication. It seems the market is flooded right now with writing advice and news from pre-published folks. That’s not the public image I’m interested in conveying right now. What do you think? Worse to be absent from social media or present but sending a mixed or tentative message?

    • lisa evola says:

      I absolutely agree with you Terry, Different people value different things. It has a lot to do with where they are in life; struggles etc… what resonates with them today may mean something completely different next year. I believe the struggle is to find new material consistently that will peak their interest as they grow or change or learn from previous experiences. Knowing your audience well is definitely key! and then , yes, keeping up with where your audience “resides” socially can be equally important whether it is on a social media site or in real life…..you need to “be” where they be 🙂 and yes, you want your social footprint to be relatively consistent. Although I believe that you can have various types of writing out there as long as you are consistent with your voice, and also what you value. For instance if you are a Christian writer of non-fiction, you can also write novels as long as you aren’t a completely different person when you write it. If you try to reach out and help on one site and then put out a smut novel, it may be a problem because your audience won’t know how to take you. I have to say, I have done a lot of things….but this author thing is by far the hardest thing I have ever done!! Good luck with your book!

  • Elke Feuer says:

    Great advice! I found sharing tips about my writing experiences has been the sweet spot. I love helping people but I have the tendency to put write my posts in I instead of you. Working on changing that.

  • Really good post. I always try to make my posts as useful as possible. Partly because I want to have a successful blog, partly because any time I have thought ‘Oh this is gold’ – it has been because I have found really interesting information and I want to do that for others. I’ve seen some other blogs and they just read like a diary.

  • In addition to the great content to bring readers to the blog, it seems these days that the ability to monetize the blog is the ultimate payoff. It’s something that would be a good future column topic, because the blogger vs. WordPress and levels of themes that can be applied directly impact a reader’s impression of the blog–is it easy on the eyes to read? Can you search it easily for past content? Is it consistently reliable but does the author still shake up the layout now and then so you maintain interest? What this author, Mr. Sambuchino, has going for him is the trustworthiness and reliability of what he has to say as an authority. IT doesn’t matter where he writes. You know you can count on it for to-the-point usefulness. What newere bloggers need to understand is concept of time in how long it takes to build up interest, and taking first-time visitors to return visitors to subscribers. Would love to win the book. If I don’t win, I’ll buy it anyway.

  • Thanks for the great content. Please enter my name for the drawing!

  • Building engagement and a larger audience is something I have been working on for a while. I would agree with this advice, creating content that others will value is the most important part of growing a platform.

    One item I know I need to be aware of for my platform is that as a novelist, if I concentrate just on items relating to my current series, I will keep my current followers engaged, but this may not interest new followers. To build a larger following, I need to generate even broader content.

    In trying and expand interest, I have recently started writing a free web series with weekly installments. It is still early, but I hope that will give people a reason to conitinuing coming back regularly.

  • Roving Jay says:

    I blog my passion .. and by osmosis .. I create value. I started my travel blog as a way to share all the things I’d learnt about this local area of Turkey. I did hours of research … which is actually really simple and fun for me to do, but over time I realized that not everyone has the same passion or even the time to do the same research as me.

    Time is of the essence, and if I can save my readers time, by providing them with a one-stop shop of information – they won’t need to go somewhere else.

    I started off by writing for me. My blog was a way to have an online resource for me to reference, but over the past three years my rapid growth in blog traffic made me realize the value I’m offering.

    As well as blog posts, I started to consolidate key location information into Free Quick Reference Travel Guides, available for downloading to print or save to a mobile device. This “something for nothing approach” is priceless – and one of the best ways to add value. Not only for visitors to my site – but for me as well. My free guides also feature on accommodation sites and forums. They’re providing value to visitors of other sites – and also providing me with free advertising.

    I think the over-arching philosophy of a blogger should be about giving. Even if you have a product to sell (I have e-books available to sell!), you still need to give something for nothing.

  • Monica Sackman says:

    I have yet to set up my website or blog yet. I have reading and researching how best to go about it. There are many mixed opinions. I really appreciate this article because it doesn’t just address how to set up blog, but how to use it, what the content should be like. It’s not as simple or as easy as some people want you to think.

  • Sherry says:

    Thanks for this post. This is something we are always thinking about – especially how to be more creative and do something different. The blog is entertainment based and while our opinions are unique their are so many similar type blogs we are always trying to come up with something that will make our contest stand out in the crowd.

  • I think you are absolutely right and half my blog was reporting on travel sites http://www.4jeanniemaries@blogspot.com . Those posts did get the most hits. Now I’m writing at Bubblews.com and I think this same kind of value post will go over well there.

  • Chuck, thanks for the great insight on the value of blogs. It made much sense. I present a blog on Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury in which I offer the latest developments on TBI. I also interview Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors and Caregivers, which is a category that appears to be very interesting to other survivors and caregivers. Your article convinced me that I am on the right track. The other thing that I do is post something pertaining to brain injury almost every day, so that folks can count on learning something new each time they visit. This makes them more interested in returning often.

    Thanks again for all of your interesting work.

  • Angela says:

    Great article! I hate wasting time on nonsense, so I know that I’ve skipped over worthless web jargon. Good advice for aspiring author/bloggers like me. Thanks!

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