How to Stop Being Invisible

Invisible Blogger

Have you ever felt like your blog is invisible?

You slave away on your posts, pouring every ounce of emotion, creativity, and insight you have into them. You submit your best work to Digg, Del.icio.us, and StumbleUpon, certain that people will vote for your posts and send you a torrent of traffic. You link out to other popular bloggers, desperately hoping that you’ll grab their attention and earn a link in return.

But it’s like no one even sees you.

Other bloggers ignore your links, acting like you couldn’t care less about what they wrote. Your posts get buried on Digg. None of the few people who do stop by leave you a comment, telling you to keep going, that you’re doing a wonderful job.

It’s like you’re invisible… and you wonder if there’s anything you can do about it.

Well, I have some good news. Not only can I tell you how to stop being invisible, but I can give you some proven tips and tactics that will have the blogosphere buzzing about you in no time.

Let’s go back to where we last left off…

The Power of Class Clowns

We’ve established that valedictorians make lousy bloggers because they’re boring, and class clowns rule the blogosphere because they’ve become adept at getting noticed. But how do class clowns do it? And why are we so apt to pay attention to them in school?

In one word: value.

Very few teenagers actually want to go to school. They’d rather be playing video games, running around outside, tormenting their siblings, or any number of things. Not because they’re lazy, but because school is both overwhelming and boring. You spend the entire day learning stuff you don’t want to know.

After several hours of it, most students are desperate for a diversion. They’d rather put their attention anywhere than on the teacher or their books. Class clowns are simply the only ones brazen enough to oblige them.

Put another way, class clowns are doing nothing more than responding to a need of the people around them. They’re filling demand. And they are rewarded, not with money, but with the attention of their peers.

Is it really so different than blogging?

Why People Read Blogs

People read blogs for lots of reasons. They might want to stay connected to a particular person, learn a valuable skill (like copywriting), or keep up with the news. But I’d argue there’s another reason that we as a community are hesitant to admit:

Blogs are a diversion.

Much like how we pay attention to the class clown to avoid boredom, blogs allow us to procrastinate, avoiding all of the other stuff we’re supposed to be doing. If you don’t believe me, look at the number of people who read blogs at work. Aren’t they supposed to be working?

But they’re not. They’re tired of working and feel like they deserve a break, even if it’s only for a few seconds while they catch up on a few blog posts. Besides, they might even learn something. That still counts as being productive, doesn’t it?

Or so the thinking goes.

If you look at it carefully, it’s really not so different than school. People need a diversion, and we’re the ones that supply it to them.

Why Some Bloggers Are Invisible

Bloggers that are invisible online misunderstand their role. They think they’re supposed to become a teacher, when really, that’s only a secondary role. Your first responsibility is a blogger is to get the attention of your prospects, and to do that, you need to emulate the class clown.

Here’s an example. When I started my last blog, On Moneymaking, I poured all of my best ideas into Moneymaking 101, an introduction to the theory of making more money. With so many brilliant ideas, I thought it would be a hit, but it wasn’t. In fact, those posts were some of the least popular on my blog.

Want to know what’s the most popular? The Forrest Gump Guide to Becoming a Gazillionaire, a post I wrote tying Forrest Gump quotes to principles of personal finance. Tens of thousands of people have read it in only a few months.

At first, I found it a little depressing. How could all of my best ideas be trumped by a piece of “cotton candy” content? That’s when I gradually realized that my role as a blogger isn’t to educate the world. People will buy a textbook if they want to learn. They come to me if they want an interesting little diversion with a few valuable lessons.

As soon as I accepted that, growing the blog got a lot easier. I built it to over 1,000 readers in about two months and sold it for a tidy profit.

How to Stop Being Invisible

Write what your readers want to read.

It’s a hard truth to accept. Most of us live in a culture that tells you to “be who you are” and don’t worry about whether anyone likes you or not. Telling people exactly what they want to hear feels… dishonest.

Get over it. If you’re going to be successful online, you need to find the overlap between what you want to write and what other people want to hear. It’s a process every writer goes through, and you’re no different.

Accept that you have to be valuable to your readers. There’s no other way to get (or keep) their attention, and the day you stop is the day they stop reading.

So figure out what they value, and give it to them in an interesting way. Stay turned for my next post, where I’ll show you how to do exactly that.

About the Author: Jon Morrow is an Associate Editor of Copyblogger and co-author of Keyword Research for Bloggers.

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Google+ or Twitter to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. Unfortunately some “clowns” have taken too series their desire to entertain. Too often they take it beyond the accepted norms …

  2. I was almost valedictorian, but that darn Cindy beat me out because she took one more weighted course than I did! But now I’m thinking that second place was a better spot to be in, as it allowed me to combine my boring, smart kid tendencies with my rebellious, clownish side. I’ve been trying to combine those on my blog, too, but have a long way to go in terms of building the readership I want.

  3. Now this is something worth reading. I get your perspective on being the class clown and how to tie it into blogging. Instead of playing follow the leader, be the leader and do it in an interesting way. Great job on this post.

  4. One “throw away-review” post has generated over 250 comments and still going. Still the top search term.
    My typical comment rate is about six.
    Bummed.
    Traffic is on nice even upward trend.
    I’m releasing my inner smart ass… just like high school… thanks for bringing that up.

    Would you advise running a “review” every now and again?

  5. Alex – You’re right, they do. And when that happens, the community usually punishes them for it in some way… just as it punishes bloggers when they take it too far.

    Jennifer – Sometimes, I wish I didn’t try so hard in school. Check out this post I wrote for Brazen Careerist (it was a huge hit).

    Gaje Master – Thanks for the compliments. I never tire of them :-)

    GoingLikeSixty – If your readers seem to value review posts, then yes, do more of them. But there are more metrics than just comments. Links, traffic, and RSS subscriptions are also important. I’d recommend tracking each of them after each post. Learn what’s working and then do more of it.

  6. Nicely done, Jon!

    Strangely enough, my most popular post had to with me turning 40 this year…

  7. Great post, or should I say teaser? Can’t wait for the follow-up.

    One thing got me puzzled though, I thought it was ‘not done’ to submit your own posts on Digg, Stumbleupon, etc. In this post it seems like it’s a given…

    I’ve been waiting until someone puts it there, so others can read and digg it. Seems now I have to put it there myself first, and then cross fingers!

  8. In the spirit of the class clown, as to not become an invisible blogger I would suggest not using white text on a white background.

    Seriously, your advice is spot on. Every second is precious; entertain with each one.

    Buck

  9. Can’t wait for the expansion. Very interesting!

  10. Funny, I just wrote today about how NOT being invisible was causing me problems. Guys I date know I buy my underwear at Victoria’s Secret. My mom knows I don’t spend every night at home. And all my friends have already heard how my day was, making me a very poor conversationalist these days. :)

  11. It actually makes sense…though, sometimes I find myself reading blogs that teach as well. Now, I have found that a lot of it has to do with writing style, if you have a great style, I can read a page long post….if you’re all technical and no fun or personality, I can’t take it.

    I like a good mix, and sometimes, just plain old fun!

  12. Adding value is the absolute key, and something too many bloggers fail to do. Good stuff, thanks.

  13. JK, teaching is still critical in my opinion… it’s just whether or not people value your teaching style. *Edutainment* seems to be what people want from blogs.

  14. Excellent, helpful post.

    Your post reminds me, in a way, of the dynamics in the too-short-lived series, “Freaks and Geeks.” The main character, Lindsay, journeys from the “mathletes” to the “freaks” and back again, briefly, then tries to find the sweet spot that includes the best of both worlds. She finds – and brings – value in ways she would not have expected in the process.

  15. Wow! It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling. I write what I think (via polls and surveys) people want to know but unless there’s some type of controversial spin or something out of the ordinary, it’s just facts and not entertaining. Your reasons for why people read blogs is very true. A few tips but mostly short, entertaining things to take us away from the norms. Great post. I will take this to heart and try to put it into practice.

  16. Max – Actually, you were right to begin with. Submitting your own posts to social media sites is usually a bad idea. At the same time, you shouldn’t wait for them to be discovered, either. The most effective strategy is to get to know lots of other social media users and get them to submit/vote for your posts.

    Buck – Good advice! :-)

    Beth – Penelope Trunk complains of the same thing. Her divorce attorney actually told her to stop blogging about her husband. Personally, I think you’re both nuts. :-)

    JK – I think the best teachers have a little “class clown” in them. I mean, look at Brian. Who’d ever think he knew anything? :-)

  17. Add a mention of brangelina’s babies, britney’s rehab or madonna’s affair with a baseball team to be named at a later date and you will get lots of attention…

    If Forest Gump drew thousansds, imagine how many visitors you can pull by adding a few pop bimbos to your blogging headlines!

  18. Remarkable observations! The most popular post on my blog is on Change Management – search at Google for “Iceberg is Melting”, and you will find me somewhere on the first results page.
    This is a result that I never has expected…. post contains an interesting video with John Kotter and a pinguin, explaining his ideas on Change Management; see: http://tinyurl.com/5sou4n

  19. Good post. Great analogy.

    I just wish being a class clown would have been as beneficial to my career as being a blog clown has been.

  20. I think a good way to say it is to be yourself, but don’t write for yourself. Know what your audience wants and give it to them, but you have to know what you hope to accomplish by doing so. There’s an intersection between what you want and what they want. If you write at that intersection, everybody’s happy.

    People want you to be real, to be yourself, which is why they prefer information from you that they could easily get from someone else: they like you.

  21. At least we don’t have to be clown-like to be interesting.
    Interesting can take other forms like a challenge, a unique exercise or a captivating story.

    I must admit that I find this post to be somewhat depressing as well. But if that’s what we have to do – it’s what we have to do.

  22. 10-Q

  23. Tom, the class clown is just a metaphor for someone who captures attention by providing value to others. It’s not literal, even though there are plenty of actual clowns in the blogosphere. :-)

  24. John – Yeah, I intended to write “The George Bush Guide to Going Bankrupt,” but never got around to it. It probably would’ve scored big on Digg and Reddit.

    Michael – I like that.

    Tom – Yeah, it’s always depressing to realize you have to think about other people. It’s too bad the world doesn’t revolve around us. Life would be so much easier. :-)

  25. I read a recent New York Times Magazine cover story on Rush Limbaugh, the talk radio king with the most listeners of any other show. He just signed a contract for $38 million a year.

    A couple things jumped out at me that relate to how bloggers can become more popular:

    Limbaugh says, “Do you know what bought me all this?”…waving his hand in the general direction of his prosperity. “Not my political ideas. Conservatism didn’t buy this house. First and foremost I’m a businessman. My first goal is to attract the largest possible audience so I can charge confiscatory ad rates. I happen to have great entertainment skills, but that enables me to sell airtime.”

    Here’s the key to his success, I think. In addition to expressing strong views that resonate with many people who attach themselves to him, he’s also able to do the following:

    Ira Glass said, “Years ago, I used to listen in the car on my way to reporting gigs, and I’d notice that I disagreed with everything he [Limbaugh] was saying, yet I not only wanted to keep listening, I actually liked him. That is some chops. You can count on two hands the number of public figures in America who can pull that trick off.”

    If we can pull that trick off–expressing strong, even controversial, and interesting views that resonate with those who agree with us, but also attract those who strongly disagree with us, then we’re doing something.

    Strong value plus genuine likability may be the vital combination we need.

  26. Jesse, excellent point. The people who listen to Rush love him or hate him… he gets no play with the people in the middle who don’t care.

    Most bloggers aim at the middle of the road so as not to offend anyone. That’s why no one cares.

  27. Jesse, that’s a great idea for a post here on Copyblogger. “The Rush Limbaugh Guide to Blogging.” When can you have it finished? (hint, hint) :-)

  28. Brian,

    You’re right:

    “Most bloggers aim at the middle of the road so as not to offend anyone. That’s why no one cares.”

    Jon,

    As i was posting this, I thought that very thing–great stuff for a post.

    Nice hint–let me think about it. Could be fun.

  29. @Jon .. you are right, I have seen this personally several times on my blog. Posts that are provide good value readers while providing ample deviation have always been more successful that the preachy one…

    thanks for sharing this in such crisp way

  30. This is really swell, Jon, thank you. I feel the same way, that sinking feeling when a breezy post about a toddler easter egg hunt just *trounces* the stuff I spend hours and hours on. But I have learned to get over it. :)

    Nice, Michael–”be yourself, but don’t write for yourself.”

  31. This is a truly insightful post, as a new blogger I am starting to realise that you are absolutely right.

  32. Hm, interesting. That is basically Education vs. Entertainment, or I would say Quality Content vs. Fast Food Content. Ok I know, Fast Food has not to be low quality, but the point – as you stated above – the real quality content was not crowded, instead the Forrest Gump easy going content.

    What about sites like StevePavlina.com, a blog in the similar realm of mine CANEIblog.com. I see quality content there and it is read most often, too. Is it a matter of the audience you are targeting? Or maybe even a matter of persistence, before you give in and write Fast Food? ;)

  33. Great post Johnathan, I covered value very recently, I think you might enjoy this one.

  34. Sonia – Yeah, I agree. Glad you enjoyed it :-)

    Myrko – As a writer, I think it’s dangerous to start defining “quality.” You can end up resenting your audience if they don’t like it. In my opinion, you’re better off defining “quality” as anything that attracts your target audience and convinces them to subscribe and stay subscribed to your blog.

    I also believe that there’s a larger number of people that prefer “fast food” articles. The people that want intricate, deep content are in the minority. You can cater to them and still be successful, but I think your audience will be smaller.

    I’m a big fan of Steve Pavlina. While his blog is highly successful, I’d guess it’s far less successful than if he adopted a style more similar to Zen Habits and sold his longer, deeper pieces of content as e-books or courses. He’d have a far bigger audience and a lot more revenue. But I don’t think either of those things are top priorities for him.

  35. Oh, I’m not so sure about the priorities, who says he is doing it 100% right. I sense is is staying 100% true to what he wants to express.

    He writes about this here, as I quickly googled: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/01/how-to-build-a-high-traffic-web-site-or-blog/

    An excerpt: “My traffic-building strategy isn’t based on tricks or techniques that will go out of style. It’s mainly about providing genuine value and letting word of mouth do the rest. Sadly, this makes me something of a contrarian today, since I happen to disagree with much of what I’ve seen written about traffic-building elsewhere. I do virtually no marketing for this site at all. My visitors do it for me, not because I trick them into doing it but simply because they want to.

    1. Create valuable content.

    Is your content worthy of being read by millions of people? Remember that the purpose of content is to provide value to others. Do you provide genuine value, and is it the best you’re capable of providing?”

    I run an internet business for 8 years now, the grand rule – although it’s very general ;) – is for me: provide value to the user. Now what is value for the user, there are different approaches as you stated.

  36. Enjoyed the post, Jon. Thanks. I think the premise is generally right – be interesting and add value – but I’m not a fan of the Class Clown rule. We can’t all be class clowns and it encourages people to be reductive and distracting. Perhaps it’s just that the rule itself is a victim of Clowning… decent advise dressed up in grabby language. Meanwhile, as a writer, I won’t deny that it sometimes seems to me that reductive thinking and distracting blither sure seems to pull readers!

    Case in point (looking to the comments) Rush Limbaugh is the classic class clown. He’s admitted as much – he employs a separate on-air personality to stir things up, and others have been calling him out on it for years. Seems to work for him. Reductive. Distracting. Rich.

  37. You have just let the secret to blogging out to the entire world, in one entry. How could you??!!!!!!

    Excellent work.

  38. I think it’s a bit funny that this discussion is happening as if in a vacuum. Myrko, what strategy do you think this very blog has used for 2.5 years to grow in popularity? :-)

  39. Late to the party, but Jon, well said and written.

    The posts on Men with Pens that we write are stories. We tell our experiences, thoughts, and advice in a story or with a very personal tone. We have a great deal of readers and a *huge* amount of comments on our posts.

    But toss in something informative, something tutorial… meh. It’s great work, the advice is solid, but people don’t read it much or comment often. They like it, sure, but… it doesn’t resonate.

    Too many people go the informative route, and that’s not what people want, like you say. They want the personal connection and the stories.

  40. I know the “invisible feeling” all to well? In fact, I don’t think anybody is even going to read this comment.

    Thanks for the informative post, nonetheless.

  41. @ Michael – Ha, ha, I read it! ;)

  42. I also read it, Michael (: — And… I clicked on your link, how about that?

  43. I noticed that when I began to “up the value” of my posts, I received more comments. It also helps to remember that you can’t please everyone all the time. :)

  44. i’m confused – you’ve written an entire column that offers only some summary ideas and no actual suggestions…feels like horrible linkbait to me…

  45. Dave – Go back through and read the last few paragraphs again, starting with the last subhead, “How to Stop Being Invisible.”

  46. Brain, in some way this blog added value, I think that is for sure. Both (this post and the excerpt from Steve) state adding value as the core. There may be different styles doing it. Letterman is something else as Larry King regarding the style!?

  47. So what you are basically saying is, “if you provide good contents, you will be visible”. It was really interesting to hear about your popular/unpopular posts to learn about what people would like. But how about the marketing strategy? Maybe you should tell people what you do besides creating good content to make people come to your website at first.

  48. In social media, good content *is* marketing. So many bloggers waste time on what they think is marketing, while most successful blogs pour everything into the content.

    With sites like Digg, Reddit, Stumble, Delicious, etc. that drive traffic specifically to stellar content, what other marketing does a content-focused publication really need?

    What else is there to market?

  49. I would agree with you. However I recently checked digg’s most digged headlines. You sill have to put content to be eye-catching, also you have to power it by your social network. On the long run, pure quality und uniqueness will prevail, because the image is building up over time on quality, while “only” eye-catcher will vanish quickly. To get that initial attention, eye-catching seemed to be neccessary, if you don’t have a name. Or you go the long way and are ok with not accelerating it by “artificial” marketing procedures like Fast Food Content.

  50. Well, I’m someone who thinks quality matters and that there is more to life and blogging than making money.

    That popularity = quality is just silly, unless you think “Happy Birthday to you” is the world’s best song.

    My worry is that ‘getting attention’ comes to mean just shouting louder and louder. And this means that eventually people turn off.

    If bloggers aren’t to be the used car salesmen of the 21st century we need to care about quality and not just shout at people.

  51. Evan, media is media. The mainstream media does its best to cater to what people want on a mass scale, which means it’s often shallow. The great thing about social media is that we can focus on smaller niches that mass media ignores while providing less superficial value. But it’s still giving people what they want, and it has nothing to do with shouting.

    Wow Jon, glad you wrote this post… it seems some still don’t get this concept at all. Maybe a new metaphor? :-)

  52. “Quality” is a highly subjective term that, in this case, means “whatever gets attention and gets spread.” Whatever we think of “quality” the old saw that “content is king” still is true. But outside of purpose and audience (context) it’s just a hollow phrase.

  53. Rodney Dunn :

    Excellent comment Jon as it really highlights that we all need to give our readers what they want to hear rather than what we think is good for them. Some of my more highly researched posts have received minimal attention whereas some of my more off beat and humorous ones have rated well.

    If it “ain’t different it ain’t gonna get read”.

    I always try to include useful content because as with any new toy the novelty will wear off. Be the clown sometimes yes, but fools are soon ignored. Thanks for all your excellent content Brain, I’ve been visiting now for about the last year and come to your site when I need ideas and inspiration. As a result I feel that my copy writing skills are on the improve. Jon’s comment reminds me not to be too serious.

  54. Loved the image. Blogging really requires you to treat it as mass media (atleast at the start of posts), because well it is for mass media.

  55. Jon,
    You said :”As soon as I accepted that, growing the blog got a lot easier. I built it to over 1,000 readers in about two months and sold it for a tidy profit.”

    I’m just a beginner and maybe I’m kinda thick yet, but what I don’t get is how someone buys a site like that and hopes to have it continue to be popular and profitable when it’s YOU that makes it so?

    I’d be interested in what part of the puzzle I’m missing.

    Thanks,
    Quinn

  56. Jon,
    Thanks for this post. Had me nodding and recognizing myself from the start ;) The only thing I would add to your “in one word: value” is maybe another word “feedback”. Aren’t comments from subscribers a powerful way to measure and adjust the value you’re delivering? My comment is #55 in a long list of thoughtful feedback including your own responses. That’s what makes the value for me. Will riff a little on this on my own blog.
    Thanks!
    ahg3

  57. Great post but I run a blog for engineering software and I think what can make me stand out is content rather then fluff. How do I still maintain the information without selling out and going the infotainment route?

  58. This is a great post, I am convinced, which is talking about me and my struggles with my blog. Quite whether humor will turn the tide, is yet to be seen and I shall certainly give it a shot.
    I wish to state here however one fact that stands out. That is the incestuous nature of the blogworld. Monetizing blogs has overtaken the original purpose of providing a platform for people to write and be read.

  59. I haven’t read all the previous comments (will try to get back when I have more time), so I apologize in advance if another commenter has already said this.

    Copyblogger, I follow you on Twitter and enjoy your blog, but this post perfectly describes trying too hard. I wouldn’t recommend starting a blog looking for readers, but rather recommend writing for yourself, from your heart, whether the content is personal, political, professional, local, regional, national or global. If you follow your passions, it will be interesting and people will find it.

    Then explore the blogosphere. Find blogs that you enjoy, that you don’t forget to visit. Leave comments. Reference other bloggers who write about similar subjects. Link to them. If you’re lucky, and the fit is good, you’ll become friends.

    Tag well.

    If it doesn’t happen organically, if it has to be forced, then perhaps it’s the wrong direction. Nothing slows the growth of blog traffic like too much focus on blog traffic. JMHO.

  60. Which class clown are we talking about here? The one who become a successful indie film-maker or the one who’s now a homeless meth addict?

    But you’ve already answered that: Know what your audience wants. The meth addict lost his audience a long time ago. The film-maker found a bigger one.

    This sort of advice can be taken too far of course, as has been pointed out by a number of readers here, but it’s always good to be reminded not to take what we do too seriously.

    Inform without teaching and entertain while informing. Those sound like good goals to me.

  61. Sophmom, I agree with everything you said, except you got your conclusions backwards.

    The only content that grows “organically” in social media is content that gives the audience what they want. Then word of mouth kicks in and you grow like crazy.

    The only “forcing it” that occurs is when you insist on writing whatever and however you choose without regard for what the audience prefers, and expecting the audience to follow along. They won’t.

  62. @Alex Ruiz, engineers like to be entertained, too. “Enjoyable” does not have to equal “useless” or “content-free.” In my experience, engineers and other geeky types respond well to anything that snares their curiosity. They also find absurdly overengineered solutions to normal problems very entertaining. (Using a particle accelerator to pop corn or something.) And “revenge of the geeks” stories about geekery triumphing over dull normality are always satisfying.

    If you’re looking for a model, you probably can’t do better than Boing Boing.

    Engineers will tolerate boredom to get information, but they don’t require it. You can use appealing, geek-friendly stories (not fluff) as frames for your useful content and you’ll boost reader loyalty (and advocacy) hugely.

    @Sophmom, it depends so much on your goals. There has to be enough “you” in it to make it inimitable. But if readers aren’t very interested in what you write about, the traffic won’t stick around. It probably won’t even show up.

    Every blogger needs to know why she’s blogging. If it’s for self-expression, that opens up one path. If it’s to find a narrow but passionate community, that’s another. If it’s to reach a large audience, she either has to be lucky enough to “naturally” gravitate toward popular subject matter (and some people are), or she needs technique to bridge her own passions with the needs and desires of a larger readership.

  63. I like it. The most popular things on my blog are photos of the Soup Nazi and Davey & Goliath. The most popular post is how Elliot Spitzer can teach you how not to do PPC.

  64. This is very interesting. I’ve found several variations on this theme recently. The best class clowns use wit, sarcasm and the power of observation to drive interest. These are the most compelling and interesting (in my opinion). Those who employ shock, disdain or outrage may momentarily rise, but are likely unsustainable. Just one person’s opinion.

  65. This is a great post.

    Definitely agree. My SEO Blog has the most visibility where I used a cartoon, something sarcastic, and something people can relate to all at once.

  66. What happens when everyone in the class wants to be the class clown?

  67. @ Evan: I guess that would mean more competition. Thing is, the class clown makes up the minority.

  68. @ Evan:
    “What happens when everyone in the class wants to be the class clown?”

    You start a circus and learn to do tricks on the back of a purple cow.

  69. Great post, looks like its time to change the style up!

  70. I agree with Bill.

  71. Copyblogger, I think the blogosphere is vast and varied enough to support both of those models. I do want to thank you, though, because I’ve pondered this very interesting post and discussion as I’ve gone about my day today. Thanks for provoking the thought.

    Sonia, do you think the “why” can change? I think my “why” has evolved, and I guess it continues to do so. What I don’t blog about, generally, is blogging. After reading this discussion, I think that’s been a mistake because nothing gets bloggers’ panties in a bundle (and stimulates interesting discussion) quite like saying there’s a right way and a wrong way to blog. ;)

    I didn’t start out wanting an audience and was a little surprised to find one. I think I was in some ways just lucky. It’s been my experience that one reason people read blogs is to connect with other like-minded people, to alleviate isolation and, well, make friends. I also empathize with Beth’s perspective above (even if Jon does think she’s nuts). What I started out to talk about changed radically when my kids (and their professors) started reading my blog.

    Now, obviously, the purely professional blogs are a completely different story, and as time goes on, more and more professional concerns realize how much they’d benefit from having a corporate blog. It’s my opinion that this trend has just begun.

  72. Cannot say I entirely agree with you about writing only for the visitors and not writing what you feel like writing on, but nevertheless a great post and quite a few good ideas especially about how the class clown popular since he provides the much needed diversion. As always a good post and of value too.

  73. everysandwich :

    I agree with the diversion theory based on webstats that show a drop in traffic on the weekends. Blogs can be an escape from the cube.

  74. @Sophmom, speaking just from my own experience, yeah, the why can change a lot. I started my blog over at Remarkable Communication in part to figure out my “why,” I think. I just started writing and interesting people (eventually) showed up. One of whom was Brian. :)

    @Evan, actually, I have a friend whose kid just graduated from a performing arts school, in which virtually every kid is, in fact, a class clown. It’s a fantastic place. The sum of the parts is even more amazing than the individual pieces. That class clown personality can be turned to amazing things when they start to work collaboratively.

    I think your view of class clown = disruptive, unproductive and obsessed with trivia, while my view of class clown = creative, enthusiastic, and maybe a little too smart to confine to a rigid curriculum.

    The interesting thing to me about Jon’s class clown analogy is that two things drive class clowns: a need for variety and a need to be liked. Both of which can work very much in a blogger’s favor. Or, maybe not so incidentally, a marketer’s favor.

    I never thought of those two traits in that way before. In fact, I’ve always believed that needing to be liked is an unhelpful trait that must be controlled. But if you really care about being liked, that can be turned into really caring about creating quality content that people want to read.

    So thanks, Jon, this has been most enlightening . . .

  75. Copyblogger, Thanks for the interesting post and all the posters for their input. I’m a new blogger that just writes what I want to write. My blog is about chasing the impossible dream and helping people to possess it. I’m not trying to make money as yet, for fear I would most likely mess up. Keep up the good work.
    Sonni

  76. I’ve been feeling invisible lately – I have my core readers, but when I ask for interaction I get nothing. I find I get the most interaction and search hits when I open up and get really vulnerable, but if I do that too often I end up projecting a completely skewed version of my life that doesn’t reflect reality.

    One of the challenges of a personal journey blog is that the content gets stale after a couple of years. I notice the most popular blogs get out of their own head and share stories of many people within the blogs community, thus generating discussion (and link love).

    I’m working on this as well as a new design and hopefully that’ll kill the invisibility.

    Cheers,
    Alex

  77. Hmm, and how many of these numerous commenters were distracting themselves from “real” work?

    Thanks for a thought provoking insight. I’m hoping the follow up will hit my feed soon…

  78. The most hits I’ve had on one topic were on recent posts about greenhead flies. Yes, flies. But I do talk a lot about how I run around the house, chasing them until I nab the nasty little things with my trusty fly swatter … Great information; thanks!

  79. Nice Post!

    Lets have a summary and say: “We need to go with the flow and become popular in that flow”. But some people who were given attention were hated so try to do the best action and become popular in a good way.

  80. Jonathan

    It is a sad fact, but a true one and I am learning it the hard way. Write what people want to read, not what you want to write. Don’t be a teacher, be yourself. Thats what we have to offer to the world, so use it, do not try to copy the gurus. Develop your own tone and remember the humor! :)

    Nicholas

  81. Jonathan, I never once thought of reading blogs as being a diversion from working, but it makes perfect sense when I read it.

    Now, I need to learn how to be a bit more creative and a little less serious when I write.

    Thanks for a very interesting article.

    Act on your dream!

    JD

  82. Hmmm… Perhaps I’m too serious in my posts. I will try to be more humorous and see what happens. Good advice… I think. Best wishes, Shannon :)

  83. You have to pick either providing value or getting attention as your primary focus. This article suggests the getting attention.

    People who focus on getting attention usually provide value, because you have to (in one shape or form) to get attention. Neither choice is right or wrong, but providing value is better for me because it gives me a clear direction.

    Getting attention is a more muddled goal. In one blog post you’re providing value, but in the next you’re just trying to get someone to click an ad or buy something valueless. Obviously, you need both attention and value, but you can use one to derive the other. I know I need to crank up the value if I’m not getting attention.

    Writing posts purely for attention is different from advertising your value-centered posts. If your posts are value-centered, you should feel guilty for not advertising them, because you’re depriving unaware people of value.

  84. Jonathan – you would enjoy the Preston Sturges movie “Sullivan’s Travels” with Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. It has a similar theme to your post.

  85. Right on the money! Write for the readers if you want to be noticed. They are the ones who are going to read your blogs anyway. In addition, it pays to be a good writer as well. As a blog reader myself, I ‘d like to read a well written piece just like what you have in here.

  86. After you become visible, would it be okay to educate people. Now that your Gump article is well-known, does it affect the popularity of Moneymaking101?

  87. Great insight. So often posts on blogs are boring due to the lack of humor or opinions. however, there’s a balance point to maintain filled with substance for the reader.

  88. Nice Post but things are not that easy :(

  89. I think it’s a matter of keeping a balance between writing what you feel, for yourself and for your audience. When I started my first blog I wrote exactly what I felt – to me that’s the freedom of blogging. I was very upfront about it. That attracted people and today my community on that blog is bigger than I’d ever hoped. When people call it “popular” I still do a bit of a double take.

    But as my audience grew I found myself writing what they were interested in… it just happened to be what I was interested in too. Writing “for myself” is what strongly demonstrated my “voice” and that’s one of the things people said they enjoyed the most. I’ve just started a second blog (nickyjameson) where it will be a mixture. I will write what I’m interested in, based on my expertise, however because it’s more a business blog it will have a balance of “what my audience would be interested in too. It comes to about the same thing in the end.

    By the way, the way I found out what people liked? My stats tracking and in most cases comments.

  90. Hi,
    Yeah I feel invisible sometimes, but other times I try so hard not to be a sell out, perhaps we set impossible bounderies. Excited to read your next post.

  91. One of my most popular blog posts was a short one about wellington boots – I only wrote it because I’d just bought a pair and couldn’t think of anything else to write about at that time.

  92. Adding value is the absolute key, and something too many bloggers fail to do. Good stuff, thanks.

  93. I agree with you, If I want to be success online I need to provide what is people want to read… thanks

  94. Love the post, unfortuneatly I am an invisible blogger (for now). I find one that has worked for me is just emailing bloggers that add value to your life, asking for insight. Some will completely ignore you, others will seem like the nicest people on Earth by actually helping a complete newbie.

  95. I was so happy to read this post. Since I live in the south, I am looked upon many times as an outsider since I have different views. Blogging is a great way to express myself and it’s nice to stir things up once in a while.

  96. You either do two things in life: Do something essential and entertain. Blogs can be both, they can be informative and amusing.
    It’s so true to always keep the audience in mind.

  97. Great ideas about the need to “think outside of the box” I guess being just one of the crowd ain’t going get you visitors!

    It reminds me of a quirky poem by Jenny Joseph called “Warning”

    It’s about daring to be different and not caring what others think

    It begins:

    When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

  98. Ha!

    Thats why I have no friends and no comments on my blog – I am boring!

    I have often wondered why I was accused of having a sense of humour bypass!

    *goes off in search of an inner naughtiness*

    BW

    Ruth

  99. Great post! Blogging is a great way to express myself. People, like you say, want the personal connection and the stories but unless there’s some type of controversial spin or something out of the ordinary, it’s just facts and not entertaining.

  100. I love the class clown analogy! I get the most responses from funny stories about what I learned or provide something that people are really looking for.

  101. Jon,

    What bothers me the most is, I know you’re right. But that’s pathetic. We have to act like an idiot to get a message across. Make up goofy titles to get morons to read it. The most popular videos on Youtube are Fred’s. A 16 year old kid acting like an 8 year old, that’s your audience. It’s really, really sad that you have to dumb yourself down in today’s world to get any attention! Thanks Paris Hilton!

  102. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  103. Great post, or should I say teaser? Can’t wait for the follow-up.

    One thing got me puzzled though, I thought it was ‘not done’ to submit your own posts on Digg, Stumbleupon, etc. In this post it seems like it’s a given…

    I’ve been waiting until someone puts it there, so others can read and digg it. Seems now I have to put it there myself first, and then cross fingers!

  104. This is SO true! I’m a new writer with a new website, and I’m still figuring out how to blog to my advantage without spending a lot of time on it. While I wasn’t a valedictorian, I’m definitely more toward that end of the continuum. This makes me reconsider my approach a bit…thanks for that.

  105. “My role as a blogger isn’t to educate the world. People will buy a textbook if they want to learn. They come to me if they want an interesting little diversion with a few valuable lessons.”

    Jon, you just blew my mind.

    If I wanted only to learn something, I’d look for an academic journal. But the journals are inaccessible and dull. I want to get some entertainment, too.

    There are enough sources of “edutainment” that it’s not necessary to suffer through boring, dry writing.

    I’m definitely going to try to be more fun and entertaining, while still sharing valuable information.

  106. Being like a class clown telling my readers what they want to here is good information to remember and practice.

  107. Brian Blommer :

    The class clowns I’ve known have often communicated more with a well-timed one liner than the teacher does the entire class. That being said, the class clown doesn’t have to answer to nobody (except perhaps the principal after class), and has no long-range goal or scheme in mind. He/she is acting in the moment, and, though seeking popularity and attention, is not thinking in terms of long-range goals like blogging comment totals or revenue generation.

    Teachers have a “curriculum” to follow and people to answer to, which makes it virtually impossible for them to be like the class clown (though they may want to and may even have to quick wit to pull it off). With long-range goals in mind (not to mention the hard realities of putting a bird on the table), semi-anonymous bloggers are destined to be more like the boring teachers they laughed at in school, rather than the class clowns they secretly admired.

    So act like a class clown if you can, but don’t think it’s going to turn you into a Jon Morrow or Brian Clark…the moment you think that, surprise, surprise, surprise, you’re just another boring teacher watching a much better class clown stealing another show.

    Now was that edutainment or what?

  108. Great article I`ll definitely be back to observe your web site more frequently