Why Bad Writers are Eating Your Lunch and What To Do About It

image of yin and yang

Why do some bloggers succeed while others fail?

Why do mediocre writers sometimes beat out the really gifted ones?

Why does talent ultimately not win?

You see it all the time, certain authors get published while others wait years without any luck.

Superior businesses struggle, while sub-par ventures take off.

These days, it’s not enough to be a good writer. In fact, it never was. You need more.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is marketing.

You need more than good content

A lot of talented writers fall into the trap of thinking that all it takes to succeed online is great content. That if the writing is good enough, they’ll magically get found by a huge audience.

They’re wrong.

There’s more to good copywriting than just writing.

“Bad” writers know something you don’t — namely, how to sell. And while they’re out there making bank, you’re still trying to figure out this whole “writing is a business” thing.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: even an average writer can build a dedicated following and sell a lot, if she understands the basics of online marketing.

This, of course, is scary and extremely dangerous (especially in the wrong hands). But it’s true. And the dirtbags already know this. They’re using it to their advantage.

It’s time you did the same.

What about “product first”?

We’ve all heard the following business equation:


But the reality is that this is also true:


And so is this:


Yes, your product is important. But it’s not the only element that’s essential. Not when we’re talking about getting the word out.

Forget “product first.” It’s now “promotion first”

If your product isn’t tweetable, it’s irrelevant.

If it’s not worthy of a Facebook “like” or an email forward, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Why start at the bottom of the hill? You don’t have to.

If you’re smart, marketing becomes part of your product design. You’ll start to only build what you can profitably sell.

Doing this will give you a better product — something remarkable that people can’t help but share.

And if you don’t, you’ll be three steps behind the competition, unable to ever catch up.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

It’s time for you to stop making excuses. Time to step up and become a better marketer.

Time to start making what you’re worth.

Sure, write compelling content, but also make the time to improve your marketing chops.

Sign up for the free Internet Marketing for Smart People course and get the basics under your belt.

Learn how to attract an audience, convert visitors to followers, and grow your blog into a reliable source of income.

Of course this isn’t about becoming a bad writer yourself, or selling anything that isn’t valuable.

It’s about learning the skills necessary to get your product (even if it’s simply the writing itself) the attention it deserves.

It’s time for bad writers to stop passing you by. The opportunity has arrived.

Do with it what you will.

About the Author: Jeff Goins is a writer, idea guy, and marketing consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @jeffgoins and download a copy of his eBook The Writer’s Manifesto for free.

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Reader Comments (75)

  1. says

    Excellent! If you create they will come was wrong and is wrong.

    Unfortunately I have learned it the hard way. I have created many blogs and all of them bombed.

    Now I am working with Jon in his class to actually market yourself. Good content is essential but not enough.Its a necessary not sufficient condition.

    What’s funny is when I tell people to sell themselves, they shudder at the thought. Selling is sleazy. But tell me who among us is not a salesman? Tried to get a date? then you are a salesman.

    I write for leaders and middle managers and the whole profession is about marketing. The product is oneself.

    Marketing is the key today, on or off the internet. Thanks for pointing out.

  2. says

    Great article and so true! I remember about 6 months into my blogging (in the book review community) someone made a comment that they didn’t get how someone who was so “new” could have more followers and a “bigger blog” than they did after a year and a half. I just thought to myself….I work hard to promote this. I have a background in marketing so I might approach my blog differently. Just because you’ve been around longer means nothing or are a better writer doesn’t really mean your blog should be bigger or smaller. It really does depend on the efforts you make for people to see it. I was unemployed when I first started that blog (it was a way to help me NOT be bored during the job hunt) and so I networked like crazy and had time to explore different avenues of promotion. THAT’s how I “got more followers”…

    It does make me feel better to know, as an average writer, that I can still have a thriving blog…especially in a community where book reviewers typically are aspiring authors…which I am not.

  3. says

    Super points Jeff! The message can be powerful but if no one hears it, it will do few good. Work on your marketing skills, create a buzz and you too can become a successful, well known writer.

    Thanks for sharing!


  4. says

    Great stuff Jeff. Maybe I’m spending too much time here at Copyblogger because I see good writing and good marketing as one and the same – crafting words to engage and influence an audience.

    Loved your Writer’s Manifesto.

  5. says

    Totally agree – the web is just too competitive not to promote as well as educate with your content. Not that that’s always easy, as I know plenty of writers who believe the quality of their content will stand on its own and lead to success.

    But when you’re competing against millions of other blogs or other writers doing the same exact thing you’re doing, you’ve got to find some way to stand out!

  6. says

    Even great content needs help getting people to sit up and take notice, and that’s where marketing comes in. You have to know what to do with your brilliant content if you want to get real, long term value out of it! Learning the basics of online marketing will show you how content promotion can really make all the difference.

  7. says

    It might not be enough to be a good writer, but if you have good and original ideas too then you will probably succeed – even if your marketing is below par.

    I’m sure really top-flight content usually gets found and gets the audience it deserves. Marketing just means it gets found quicker.

      • says

        well said, Gregory. I’m not sure that having good ideas is enough. you need to be able to make your ideas spread. and that’s called marketing.

    • says

      Unfortunately, I’ve seen some brilliant blogs that don’t have the audience they deserve because the blogger does nothing to get the word out.

      In my experience you want to keep everything fairly well balanced. High-quality content, properly packaged (in other words, strong headlines, formatted for readability, and good site design), with energy spent promoting it (guest posts are a great way these days, and networking with others who have good-sized audiences is always helpful), and keeping a careful eye on your audience and what they want to see. If you neglect one of those elements, you tend not to see the results you want to see.

      Yes, there are exceptions, but as Jeff says, why start at the bottom of the hill if you don’t have to? Why not give your content (and product or service if you have one) the best chance to reach a nice-sized audience? Particularly as none of these is about dumbing down what you have to offer or making it less valuable.

    • says

      I don’t disagree that you need marketing. I think what I was saying was good stuff usually gets found – and that’s partly because it’s almost impossible to *not* do some marketing. Set up a brilliant blog and tell a few other people about it, put a few links in the blogroll – if it really is good, word will get out sooner or later. But much more slowly than if you market it properly.

      On the other hand, if you have a mediocre blog it can succeed with active marketing. It almost certainly won’t if you don’t.

      (I think my blog is okay, but I certainly market it a lot – I’m not taking the chance, and life’s too short to wait for readers!)

  8. Michael Smith says

    Good stuff! But I stumbled over one thing: “Forget “product first.” It’s now “promotion first”

    If your product isn’t tweetable, it’s irrelevant.” Like any other marketing tool, Twitter isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Non-tweetable products may be irrelevant to a certain audience—but not necessarily across the board. And instead of “product first” or “promotion first” what about “customer/audience first?” That’s where good marketing begins. I’m a huge fan of consistent, quality, content in online marketing. But it’s not enough to say something. We need to have something worth saying. And it’s only worth saying if our audience says so!


    • says

      It’s a great point — take a look at the comment I made above about keeping the elements in balance.

      I completely agree with you that the audience is where good marketing begins.

    • says

      I agree, Michael. Very well said. Twitter was one example of a tool that customers use to talk about you. Feel free to insert whatever medium is appropriate for your niche/market.

      I spent five years as the marketing director of a nonprofit, and I often said to myself, “My next job will be in product/service development.” Our team functioned as an internal agency to the rest of the organization. We would sometimes encounter “clients” who would say, “Here’s my new program/product/service. Help me market it!”

      I realized trying to sell a mediocre product was much, much harder than promoting something remarkable. “If only the marketers (who knew what the customers wanted) could influence the creation of the product,” I thought.

      Marketing is exponentially more difficult the further down the development process you are; the best products have their marketing baked in.

      In other words, as you said, put your customers first, and promotion will come easy. But, and this is a BIG but, you still have to empower your customers to talk about you. And that’s what I call marketing.

      • says

        I like how Seth Godin once said it. To paraphrase: Asking is the easy part; it’s like turning the ignition on a car. The hard part is getting into the vehicle. That requires permission. How do you get permission? Marketing.

  9. says

    I didn’t realize this was Goins’ work until reaching the bottom of the post. Awesome post!

    I operated under the assumption for awhile that great content or products draws a crowd. Now I’ve realized that promotion is the key ingredient for marketing success. A great post that never gets found will be a great post that never gets read. Promoting posts and content is just as important (if not more) than writing it.


  10. says

    I agree that promotion/marketing is top priority, but that statement needs qualification. I’ve found that having a significant body of content on your blog to which you refer in your articles and comments on other blogs is the first step, and promotion is the second. The danger is in getting stuck on step one and never moving to step two. Clearly content alone won’t carry the day, but if you rely exclusively on marketing, you’ll fail to attract the repeat traffic that is so important to the development of a first-rate blog. Thanks for the insights!

  11. says

    Great stuff Jeff. I love how you write such concise articles that get right to the point. It’s like you have an internal chip that tells you just how much to write!

    This post really speaks to me. I’ve had to try to think about my sites and like a reader. What are they looking for? What makes sense to them? How can I reach them? Why would I click on a link to someone else’s blog?

    One thing I would say is that a solid title can certainly go a long way. As I review my past posts, I’ve noticed that the higher traffic is always connected with the most provocative or counter-intuitive titles even if the posts themselves aren’t my best work. Of course I’d like to deliver a great post with that title, but it has driven home the importance of nailing the title.

  12. says

    Thanks for the great article, Jeff.

    In the not too distant past, I remember reading about how if you have great content, people will find it. I am certainly finding that without good marketing and promotion, no one reads my blogs to see if my content is good or bad. I was always trying to setup the newest blog framework or making things as perfect as possible but this things didn’t bring one reader to my blogs until I started promoting them.

  13. says

    Very well explained. I agree that besides having a good writing skill, a blogger must be deft at spreading his words. The most noticeable point in the whole post I found is that we should design our product keeping marketing in mind. It’s really a bottom-to-top approach. There is no doubt that this article can compel any blogger to re-think and re-construct his ideology about internet marketing. Thanks for sharing such a mesmerizing post.

  14. says

    One thing I’ve learnt since I started blogging is exactly this. You can write well and write a lot. But this alone isn’t enough.

  15. says

    I agree completely … i have a pretty good youtube channel getting about 50 new subs a week and it is all due to marketing … i spend hours and hours a day answering peoples questions and commenting on blog posts and all of that and all i have is half way decent content … it is all due to my marketing that gets me those 50 subs every 5 days.

  16. says

    I believe content and marketing are blending in…or I should say that education and marketing are blending in. Your marketing has to have some education…and your education has to have some marketing. You need to have a balance but always think of both sides. Your content has to be informative and appealing at the same time…just like a woman who’s smart and sexy at the same time! 😉

  17. says

    Even for people who don’t actively market, you can see some people with terrible writing skills gain a lot of popularity because they have personality and charisma or their posts are entertaining enough to draw in a crowd. Blogging is very much a personality based business and this is especially true with affiliate marketers, there is a reason why some car salesmen can sell high end luxury cars and others just aren’t cut out for car sales, presentation is just as effective and necessary. The key difference is you can have a very weak in person presence, but still have a very strong blogging and written presence and vice versa. Some have both as well, and those are the ones who really stand out and become notable.

    • says

      great observation, Justin. I’ve noticed the same thing. honestly, i am fascinated with influence and how the Internet helps create “superstars.” it’s somewhat of a mystery to me, but there does seem to be some science behind it.

  18. says

    I’m glad to know this. My writing isn’t exactly stellar but my marketing is getting there! LOL I have to ask though, if our marketing needs to be in our writing. For example, you have a well-written post but you are also marketing within it. So, good writing AND good marketing go hand in hand. Thanks!

  19. says

    Great post! I was signed up for Internet Marketing for Smart People Course at one time. I wonder if I can sign up again? I seriously don’t think I was ready to hear what the course had to offer at the time.

  20. says

    This is spot on advice, Jeff. Seth Godin, the master marketer, expressed it perfectly: “just about every successful product or service is the result of smart marketing thinking first, followed by a great product that makes the marketing story come true.”

    The equation should be: SMART MARKETING + GREAT PRODUCT = SUCCESS

    Marketing is the piece of the equation that relates or directly interfaces with your audience. It’s the piece that asks all the questions, does the testing, or sampling if you will. But the marketing becomes null and void without a great product that can deliver on what the smart marketing intelligence found. The two are inextricably tied together. Without the great product (content), the marketing story you are trying to paint will fail.

    It’s sort of like the relationship of the Headline to the Content. Your headline can succeed at drawing a reader in, but if the content fails to deliver, no one is going to tweet or “like” it.

    • says

      Thanks, Don. You underhand better than most of us. I appreciate how focused you’ve been with your content. You’re building a great resource; keep up the good work.

  21. says

    Great post Jeff, I do have one question on this point. Forget “product first.” It’s now “promotion first” actually i dont really get it. If I dont have a product what am I going to promote.

  22. says

    Promoting content is definitely on my list of blog to-dos. I usually spend the time writing a great post and tweak it with SEO but then I submit to Fwisp, Digg and other social bookmarking sites. After that it’s carnivals and commenting. I am still less than a year old but I am covering the cost of the site plus some.

  23. says

    Extremely Good Jeff! The content might be effective but if no person learns that, it will carry out number of excellent. Work with your marketing skills, produce a hype and you can also turned into a successful, recognized article writer. :)

  24. says

    Good points! I always assumed that bad writers were popular because there are so many bad readers out there! But, either way, marketing is the make or break factor. Thanks for writing!

  25. says

    Great stuff.

    I’ve always been the guy who thought ” A good product ” will sell itself.
    While I still believe that – promotion is arguably more important nowadays.

  26. says

    After reading this, I feel as though I’ve only been given information I already knew. As an educated journalist, I know my writing and depth of reporting is on a level above other competitors, but I’m still struggling to get the same exposure and engagement.

    Outside of registering for copyblogger’s free marketing seminar, are there any other strategies I can implement immediately to try to increase my marketing efficiency?

    It was helpful to think about the “x+x= …” I definitely see the merit in that.

  27. says

    Great post… and all very true. While I’m proud of my new copywriting site, if there’s no one visiting it, I might as well have saved myself a lot of bother and late nights. Time to get marketing 😉

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