It’s probably an understatement to say that most blogging advice out there is generic, regurgitated, and very rarely anything new. Everything you need to know about becoming a successful blogger is available already if you know where to look; the next step is taking action on what you learn.
Most of the advice that is being shared, and incessantly repeated, is dated. It’s aimed at a blogosphere where there weren’t millions of blogs in each niche, all working hard to grow an audience. I call this advice aimed at the Oldsphere, whereas you need to be focusing on the Newsphere. Things changed, and you need to know how to deal with them.
For a long time, TechCrunch was the go-to place for news about startup companies. They’re still one of my favourite blogs, but, in my opinion they failed to capitalise on their brand and position. They remained stagnant in the types of topic they cover and it seems they’re unable to see the conflicting ideas in most of their posts.
With over 4 million RSS subscribers according to Feedburner, it’s clear they’re not struggling. Yet, they are being surpassed. Mashable was the much smaller fish in this market a few years ago, until they adapted what they covered, carved a strong niche for themselves, and focused on a specific audience to help them grow.
Their adaptions, which are helping them to thrive in this Newsphere has taken them past TechCrunch in terms of traffic figures and really put their brand on the global map.
The numbers don’t lie:
We can even look at their social media followers to see a huge difference:
The things that helped Mashable experience this growth and dominate their market can also be applied to your endeavours. The rest of this post is totally based on my opinion, but hopefully there are enough examples to help you see that you do need to adapt, if you want your blog to thrive.
In the Oldsphere, it was very common that the first advice bloggers would pass around is to make sure you choose a niche you are passionate and knowledgeable about. The theory being that if you make your niche very clear in your slogan and the types of places you interact, you’ll attract the right kind of audience for you.
If you agree with this, then let me ask you a question. What niche is ViperChill in? If you believe the tagline I’ve had since the launch of this site, you would say I write about viral marketing. Yet, there’s only one post in over 50 that actually covers viral marketing directly.
Some of you may say blogging; others may say internet marketing or even affiliate marketing. The fact is, it isn’t that clear. Yet, I don’t think it’s hindered me in any way. I haven’t picked a niche, but I have picked an aim: to help people build remarkable websites which other people want to talk about. This is the focus of 95% of the blog posts that I write.
It doesn’t matter what niche I define myself in, it matters what I’m writing content about. This is what will attract a certain audience.
In the Newsphere, people define their own niches. Zen Habits, with over 190,000 feed subscribers, is a blog with emphasis on productivity and minimalism. They were very small niches until the owner, Leo, built a large audience by focusing on them.
You don’t need me to tell you what the blog, The Art of Manliness, is about. With over 70,000 subscribers, author Brett managed to focus on a very small (previously invisible?) niche and dominate it. Even Mashable went away from the typical “blog about startups” angle and defined themselves as the Social Media Guide to the web. Something that clearly worked out well for them.
Trying to put your site in a very common niche is not only a waste of time, but shows that your focus is on the wrong things. Decide what the main thing you want to help people with actually is, and then just focus on writing content about that.
I think I’ve been the biggest advocate of this message and proved that writing more content is not a necessity. My blog grew by almost 700 subscribers last month, and I wrote one single post. I would have wrote more if I had the time – so this wasn’t some sort of tactic – but the results do emphasise my point.
It’s not just happening in the internet marketing niche. Steve Pavlina, the biggest personal development blogger in the world, spent the first 3 and a half years of his blogging life posting 5 times per week, Monday-Friday. Now he writes one or two articles weekly, and it definitely doesn’t seem like his audience has lessened.
Unless you run a news site or you’re in an industry where posting very frequently is crucial (e.g. politics), then you don’t have to post daily. I would be very impressed if people can post 5 killer articles per week in their niche for an ongoing period of time. It’s not only very difficult, but also unnecessary.
To put that into perspective, if I had written five posts per week for ViperChill since I started this site, I would have been able to write the posts I have for a period of eleven weeks, at the most. That’s not even three months, yet this blog has been going for almost eleven.
The reason that posting less has become commonplace is because the web is suffering from a serious case of information overload. Five years ago when the likes of Steve Pavlina and Darren of Problogger were taking off, there were no Facebook, Youtube or Twitter to take up people’s online attention. There were much fewer things to focus on online, so audiences appreciated daily updates.
There is no doubt that there are sites out there which post frequently, that don’t necessarily need to, and do very well. J.D at Get Rich Slowly is a good example of this. Posting just for the sake of posting however, is a total waste of time. If you aren’t writing amazing content for your audience, there will just be someone else who comes along and does.
To test this theory: Next week cut out two of your normal posts and double the amount of time you would spend on one. See if you can make it as detailed, fascinating and helpful as you can. Then, let me know the results. I think I already know what you’re going to say though.
Though the idea of “build it and they will come” does not apply to the internet, great content generally does get attention if you promote it via the right channels. The great thing about building an audience is that the bigger it is, the less you have to do your own effort in terms of marketing, because your readers share the posts for you. Making your content great is the hardest, yet most crucial thing you can do.
I can’t define what great content is, because you must know what your own readers want. If you stick to the focus of what you want to help people with, then it should be very easy for you to figure out. If you want to make people laugh, then great content may be a picture that spreads virally around the internet. If you want to teach people how to play the guitar, then great content may be a detailed video tutorial for beginners.
The point is that you must figure out what you want to give people, and how to make it great.
If you aren’t giving priority to the content you produce more than anything else, then you need to change that right now. In this age of information overload, there has never been a more important time to write compelling content that people will give their valuable time to read.
And offering something different is probably one of the hardest things to do in a sea of 100 million “competitors”. With ViperChill, I believe I was the first blog that teaches you how to make money which has no affiliate links or ads. Mashable focused a large amount of their content around Twitter, which isn’t something I like personally, but appeals to a lot of people and helped them grow.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits was the first blogger to come out and say that you can use all of his articles in any way that you wish. Many others then followed his Uncopyright movement.
I could list many more examples, but there’s a reason why it won’t help. Giving you too much information on what other bloggers are doing differently narrows your own focus as to what you can do differently. Your difference does not have to be something totally “out there”. It can be as simple as offering the best content in your niche, from your own angle.
The Superficial, a popular gossip blog, does this well by throwing in a lot of humour in their posts. Geekologie, a technology blog which is owned by the same company, does exactly the same. They picked two topics which aren’t always humorous themselves, and made both funny and informative websites which have huge audiences.
Recognise that most blogging advice out there, is dated. Learn to adapt to the Newsphere and your chances of creating a big blog are far greater. “Good luck!”