9 Little Known Traits of Successful Bloggers


We all know the “rules” of blogging. Produce consistently high-quality content, position yourself as an authority, cultivate relationships with your readers and other bloggers.

But some of the best and most popular blogs have traits that might surprise you. Here’s how being negative, angry and stupid (in the right ways) can create breakthrough success on your blog.

1. Don’t over-explain

When you’re using a blog to establish yourself as an authority, it’s easy to think you should answer every possible question. You’re the big shot after all, right?

Writing a kitchen sink post that nails down every possible answer is authoritative. It’s also pretty boring. Building some pillars of exhaustive cornerstone content is a smart strategy. But in your day-to-day content, leave room for other answers and other points of view in your community comments.

As you’re writing, when you think of potential unanswered questions, don’t necessarily answer them in the post. If they don’t get brought up in the comment section, you can always write a follow-up.

2. Don’t know everything

Authority is attractive, but so is vulnerability. 21st century readers aren’t looking for a silver-haired guy in a white lab coat to solve all their problems.

Authority still matters, but it has a friendlier face now. Today’s trusted authorities are dorkier and more openly flawed than they ever have been.

Self deprecation will always create a stronger relationship than chest beating. Write what you know with confidence, but also make some time to share your screw-ups, your insecurities, and your downright failures.

Your readers will learn as much (or more) from what you got wrong as they will from what you did right. And you’ll come across more like a smart, trusted friend, and less like a doctor in an aspirin ad.

3. Get mad once in awhile

Even Gandhi got cheesed off sometimes. Taking the high road is all good and well, and being able to keep your head is a very useful quality in social media. But sometimes you also want to take a stand.

Go ahead and get angry sometimes.

A constant diet of angry rants gets old. Your anger loses its meaning if that’s all you ever talk about. (Does anyone care any more what gets on Andy Rooney’s nerves?) But if you let yourself get publicly angry occasionally, you’ll show your humanity and your backbone.

4. Don’t be overly consistent

Standing for something is one thing, being a damned pigheaded fool is another. If you change your mind, let people know. If you have a forceful point of view and you then read an interesting alternate position, go ahead and point that out.

Respect for other ways of doing things, even when they’re not in line with yours, shows your essential confidence.

It’s also good for conversation. If everyone is perfectly consistent and in agreement, there’s not much to talk about. And the conversation that does take place is unbearably smug and tedious.

5. Break unbreakable rules

Seth Godin’s blog doesn’t allow comments. Dosh Dosh’s posts are long and chewy, requiring thoughtful reading and re-reading. Merlin Mann has decided he won’t write any more about the topic that made 43 Folders so tremendously popular in the first place. P.S., he’s turned off comments, too.

Blogging rules are guidelines. A smart blogger knows when what she’s trying to communicate doesn’t fit within the rules, and when she should leave those rules behind.

Breaking unbreakable rules is risky. But when it’s done intelligently and strategically, it can also be remarkable. Know the rules, then think carefully about whether or not they support what you have to say.

6. Repeat yourself

A blog isn’t a book. Readers don’t start at the beginning and read their way through in 2 or 3 sittings. New readers have no idea what you wrote last year, or even last month.

Sometimes it’s useful to repeat yourself. Also, you might sometimes say the same thing twice.

Knowing how to come up with fresh takes on a well-worn subject is a cornerstone of a great blog. If you have some strong central themes, they’re worth repeating.

7. Be negative

Positive, “do this” posts are great for spurring readers to take action. But what not to do posts are terrific for attracting attention and interest.

Frank Kern talks about the rubberneck effect. We’re wired to be fascinated by problems, mistakes and embarrassing disasters. The occasional “train wreck” post will help your blog break through attention clutter.

8. Get a little stupid

This is the age of the class clown. No, don’t be an idiot. But don’t take yourself so damned seriously, either.

A little pure entertainment goes a long way to building your community. Making the occasional stupid joke (and then tying it to a point or two worth making) gives your blog some fresh air and makes it an enjoyable read instead of homework.

None of us can compete with Wikipedia for pure just-the-facts content, so don’t make that the cornerstone of your blog. Think less MacNeil-Lehrer, more Sesame Street.

9. Don’t pay too much attention to “how to blog” articles

Now we love to give advice here at Copyblogger, and I personally benefited hugely from Brian’s advice before I ever started writing here.

It’s great to absorb how-to articles that speak to you, and to try new techniques. But at the end of the day, the thing that makes your blog great is you. Don’t get so caught up in technique that you forget what makes your content worth reading (and talking about).

The most “perfect” blog in the world would be deathly dull. Great blogs are quirky, weird, and hard to predict–just like interesting people are.

Learn the rules, get advice, then write from your heart and see what happens. If you get a wild hair, go ahead and share it with your readers. They might love it, they might hate it. The great thing about a blog is, there’s always another post to make tomorrow.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is an Associate Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (61)

  1. says

    Writing a post right now about the last week of economic news, will be using a heavy dose of #3 and #7.

    Thanks for reminding me to stay true to the message, and not simply paint a rosy image.


  2. says

    As a beginner blogger, the “Don’t Over-explain” is a great reminder. It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to say you’re a man of few words. Thanks for this post! Awesome stuff.

  3. says

    This is great advice! I never thought about your second tip: Don’t know everything. I always thought that if I’m to be the authority on a topic, I have to know absolutely everything about it, and I have to make my readers aware of this fact! Thanks for posting!

  4. says

    @Vera, I am forever destined to be the goofy lady myself.

    @Rebecca, I think you’ll enjoy letting go of that! Much more fun to be a human speaking to other humans.

  5. Jessica says

    You couldn’t be more right. People forget that blogs are personality-driven and in trying to be perfect, they those their own personality.

  6. says

    @Rebecca — That is a really important point. To get more engagement among readers, I’ve found that I’m better off asking questions rather than answering them.

    I often try to find an item that I find interesting, then pose a question about it.

    Another great way to get more involvement is to ask folks to brainstorm.

    For my local issues blog, I’ve asked folks to submit their ideas for alternative slogans for our city, for nominees for awards, etc.

    It gets people involved in the conversation — and encourages them to spread the word to others.

  7. says

    All excellent points. I would like to add to #8 “Get a Little Stupid” and state the obvious, which is that clever, “relevant” humor adds a lot of value and gets attention.

    And to #9, where you mention “the thing that makes your blog great is YOU”, this point seemed to be the unofficial overall theme of the BlogWorld Expo 08: be yourself, be authentic and genuine. Indeed, we all need more authenticity in our lives. Bring it on!

  8. says

    I never did care what annoyed Andy Rooney; I’m just mesmerized by those eyebrows and thinking about why they don’t just deep-six him. He reinforces all the stereotypes about old people.

  9. says

    I know you are talking about not using how to’s so much but I think it depends on what you’re trying to get out of your blog. At the time I think Brian was doing this because they work very well in social media. He was wanting to get more subscribers on his blog and get more traffic. It was working really good for him at the time.

    You also made a great point about don’t overexplain. People that overexplain and that just rambling on the same way I do a loud at times. People that are reading articles don’t have all the time in the world to read your article. They want to be able to read your article as fast as possible because they do not have all the time in the world to figure out all of your points. Otherwise, they will just move on to another web site or blog on the Internet.

  10. says

    I always liked the idea to be a little bit stupid because it gives you a spark to the content in you blog and you are not just a boring bloggerโ€ฆโ€ฆit makes you different and that what attracts readers, they will come to you blog more often

    Thanks Sonia, good advices, I will try to implement some of the traits you explain here.

  11. says

    Great ideas! I have to admit that I should be doing a few of these a lot better, especially being less serious. It’s funny cause I have one blog that is all about random stuff, but on some of my other blogs I really do need to lighten up a bit sometimes.

  12. says

    Good points; particularly enjoyed “dont know everything”. NO one likes a know it all and I like the get mad sometimes; it shows your human!

  13. says

    Great list. I’ve found that going against the grain and being a little bit funny and a little bit angry can go a long way. Readers don’t want bland or emotionless posts, they want something that will give them reason to interact.

  14. says

    A number of them imply that posts will be in a sense ‘incomplete’ and will need comments to cover all sides of the issue. I think that’s the key – play to the commenters and your blog will really take off.

  15. says

    This is my very first time at this site and I am in love. I will be returning because I like what you say and the way you say it.

  16. says

    When I was growing up my Mother constantly threatened to send me away to Clown School in Florida. My innate ability to juggle bowling pins while riding a unicycle on top of a VW Bug about 20 clowns deep has earned me the love of many adoring fans

  17. says

    This is another superb post, and I am really fascinated about the “repeat yourself” part as I am now starting to re-invent my older posts. It’s funny that I can still make them better but during the time I wrote the original, I though it was the best.

    However, I must admit that most of my posts are “How to” but recently I am trying to do some experiments especially discovering some catchy titles.

  18. says

    Angel, I figure you just keep getting better til you drop dead. So let’s drink to that. And “how to” posts are great, just mix it up a little. You want enough novelty so people stay interested, and enough consistency so they trust you and feel comfortable. It’s all in the mix.

  19. says

    Excellent stuff.

    I started a blog/site completely based on #1: DeGeeked, Simple answers to tech questions: http://www.degeeked.com

    I’d also say that to be successful you have to pick a topic that interests you enough that you find yourself staying up until 2am working on it. Sort of, make it your job, but don’t make it work. :)

  20. says

    You have to “discover” your own inner style – it’s the difference between your own Blog and a PLR site. Get a little stupid – I like that! LOL

  21. says

    Great post indeed! I am quite new on the blogging circle as far as writing is concerned. Hopw to learn so many things from you.

  22. says

    we have definitely noticed that “controversial” and critical statements in our blog posts about internet marketing get more responses (http://www.hiringtheinternet.com). Besides inviting comments from those with strong views, it shows some personality, that we’re real people writing this thing.

  23. says

    A very absorbing List Post. But why did you keep it a point short to make it a 10 point list! 10 points seem to be more stable and make a list look complete. …might be my stupid pshychology :)

  24. says

    Don’t know everything – that one is true – definitely ask your readers for input! You can learn a lot that way!

    Feature blogger at Engineer a Debt Free Life

  25. says

    Thank you for the suggestion on writing “what not to do”. I have done quite a few posts on things to do/tips/how to but your suggestion has now given me some new ideas.

  26. says

    I need to repeat myself more often.

    I often search my archives to see if I’ve already written about something before I post about something. But it doesn’t really matter, does it?

    If *I* can’t remember if I’ve already covered something, then nobody else is going to remember either. ๐Ÿ˜›

  27. says

    I discovered this post today from someone’s Tweet…I’m very glad I checked it out.

    Nice array of itemized topics, a couple I hadn’t seen elsewhere. Liked the tone of voice and the humorous points, well made. Thank you for writing, I’ll share.


Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.