Ever wondered what are the traits of the top, successful and excellent bloggers?
I have. Since I started my blog, The Personal Excellence Blog, in 2008, I have studied top bloggers extensively. I read many articles on how to build a great blog. I listened to different bloggers say their piece. Through personal experimentation, I learned what works and what doesn’t work, and integrated them as blogging habits. It has given me great results. After a lot of hard work in the past 1.5 years, The Personal Excellence Blog has grown into an well trusted and established resource on how to achieve excellence in life. It has 3,500 subscribers, 5,000 readers a day, 110,000 page views a month, over 160 articles, a bundle of free ebooks and has been featured on CNN and AsiaOne.
While there’s still quite a way before my blog reaches the ranks of A-List blogs like ProBlogger, Zen Habits and Seth Godin’s blog, somehow I’m not daunted by what’s ahead. If the past 1.5 years have taught me anything, it’s that the top bloggers of excellence have 8 consistent habits – 8 habits, which, when we practice duly, are guaranteed to bring you results. It’s not a miracle, it’s not luck, nor is it an abnormality. By living in line with these 8 habits, you become a highly excellent blogger as well.
1) Deliver their best value in every article
As a highly excellent blogger, you don’t write articles with a little value or some value. No, you aim to deliver your utmost value every time you write. Never do you write for the sake of writing or post for the sake of updating. You make sure every word counts for something.
When I write my articles, whether it’s for my blog or it’s a guest post like this one, I put my best foot forward. My previous guest posts on Problogger took me a few days to write (with breaks in between). One of the commenters said I was “taking this guest post thing too seriously”, probably referring to the effort that was put in. That guest post in question was 3,000 words long (longer than most guest posts at Problogger), filled with step-by-step tips, links out to relevant resources and deep personal sharing. (Actually, this guest post is 3,000+ words long as well.)
I beg to differ. Have you ever thought about why you blog? Like really.
Beyond reasons like to earn money or to have an alternate career. Why do you blog over the 1,001 possible things you can be doing? What do you strive to achieve? I blog because I see it as the fastest and most effective way to reach out to millions out there and help them achieve their highest potential. It’s more than just blogging to me – it is my life purpose and personal mission. For every article written, there is someone who is genuinely looking for it to solve a problem he/she is facing. Every article I write is an opportunity to touch others’ lives. If it takes X number of words to deliver a message, I’ll write X number of words. If it takes X number of hours, I’ll spend X number of hours. There is no compromising on the quality.
Of course, not every blogger sees blogging as their “calling”, and you certainly don’t have to see blogging as a calling to succeed. There is no right or wrong reason. You just need to be absolutely clear of why you blog. Then live true to it. Make every article you write delivers top value to your readers.
There is no fixed format that dictates valuable content. It can be long or short; it can be in list, essay or story form; it can have text, images, video or a combination of them; it can be entertainment value, educational value or both. I’ve read articles of different permutations that deliver value all the same. If your article improves someone’s life after he/she reads it, then it has value.
Some questions to ask yourself as you write are:What is the specific reader group I’m writing to?Why would they need help in this?What’s keeping them in this situation?What and how can I write to help them?How can I write in a manner that’s relevant no matter when and where they are reading?
If I don’t have anything substantial to say or add to the topic (sometimes it happens), then I don’t write about it. The internet has enough junk; it doesn’t need us to contribute to it. What the internet really needs is real content with real value. And doing so pays off. Readers recognize you as the “real deal” and they go to you for advice on your niche. Because I set such a strict quality filter, my readers can expect a certain standard in what I write at my blog and my guest posts. They quickly become loyal readers, even though there are hundreds of personal development blogs out there.
How about you? Do you write value-laden content? Who is the reader you are writing the next article for? What is the problem you are solving for him/her? If someone with this problem is reading your article, will it help them out of their situation? How is it going to benefit them?
More resources to help you write top value:
2) Work harder than anyone else
Do you drive? Great if you do; if you don’t, just imagine for the next 5 minutes that you do drive. Let’s say you are driving on a normal, flat road. You press the accelerator for a few seconds, then as you reach a good speed, you stop accelerating. There’s no need to since the car is already moving at a steady pace. All you need to do is steer.
Now, let’s say you are at the bottom of a very, very steep and long mountain slope. What do you do? Do you accelerate for a few seconds then stop accelerating? No! You’re just going to stay stuck at the bottom of the mountain. Maybe you’ll move up a few centimeters, then you’ll immediately go back down when you stop accelerating. What do you do then to get up the slope? You keep pressing the accelerator, adding more power each second. Even though you may be stuck at first, it’s a matter of time before you overcome friction and gravity and drive up the slope. And as you add more power, you will move further up.
Turning your blog into a top blog is just like driving up a steep slope. You don’t just create the blog and expect others to come flocking in. You have to work hard to write powerful content, to earn readers’ trust and to get readership. I’m a big believer of hard work – Results don’t come if you don’t work hard. If you read The Dip (by Seth Godin) before, you would know there’s always a dip that comes with achieving big goals. To get past the dip and get what you want, you have to persevere and work harder (and of course, smarter) than anyone else to earn it. All top bloggers today worked extremely hard when they first started, and even when they achieve success, they continue to work hard to achieve greater heights.
3) Practice what they preach
“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach” – Albert Einstein
When you are a highly excellent blogger, you lead by example. As a blogger, you are (indirectly or directly) a role model to your readers, and what you say or do influences people, more so than you imagine. Your readers look up to you for advice and guidance. It’s important you don’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the talk as well.There is nothing more powerful than being living proof of your results.
Running a blog called The Personal Excellence Blog is more than just writing articles about how to achieve excellence. It’s about living in excellence every moment. I’m extremely passionate about achieving excellence. From striving to be the best in what I do, to understanding what it takes to be the best and live our best life, to helping others achieve excellence for themselves. Our readers look toward us as a testament of what’s possible for themselves – possibilities of what can be achieved, boundaries that can be removed, limits that can be broken. Hence, while I normally push hard toward my goals, I push even harder for my readers. I don’t try to teach my readers how to solve a particular problem until I have resolved it in my life, first and foremost, just like I don’t try to advice them how to achieve a certain result if I have not first achieved it. If we want others to listen to us, we need to practice what we preach first and be living proof that what we preach works.
4) Don’t write to please
“So you have some enemies… good, that means you stood up for something!” – Winston Churchill
You blog to drive a message. You don’t write to please the world. You know that no matter what you write, there will always be people who will disagree with what you say. As Timothy Ferris puts it, “10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it.” If you stand for something, you will have haters.
Average bloggers try to please people with their writings. They over-analyze what readers will want to hear and they write to be accepted. But as a highly excellent blogger, you don’t do that. You don’t shy away from writing controversial topics, but you don’t write about controversial stuff for the sake of stirring controversy either. You write about what you believe in. You stand by what you say even when others disagree. At the same time, you are also not afraid to admit when you are wrong.
I have written stuff before which others disagree. Things like life philosophies, relationships, specific advice, etc. I listen and I take the feedback accordingly when there is merit, but I don’t change for the sake of conformance. Every reader is different – if you change yourself to fit every reader who disagrees, you become just an average and you lose your voice amongst the masses. There’s enough sheep in the world – we don’t need more sheep, we need more leaders.
Find your voice by discovering your inner self. Deal to deal with critics (Read: 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People). Don’t change your views or what/how you write to please others. Try to please everyone, and you end up standing for nothing.
5) Keep things real
I see 2 types of bloggers out there – there are the bloggers who are genuine. They keep their writings real and are down-to-earth. These are the bloggers like Darren Rowse and Leo Babauta. I have deep respect and admiration for them. Then there are the hyped-up bloggers who have a penchant for portraying themselves as bigger than they are, overhype what they write and make over-exaggerated claims about what they are selling. I don’t know how you feel about them, but I avoid them like the plague.
Readers are smart. Perhaps you might entice them with big claims and bold words at the beginning. However, just like motivational seminars that fail to deliver results beyond the short-term, readers will realize in the long-term you have nothing real to offer. They see past the marketing fluff and turn to the bloggers who keep things real and deliver what they promise on.
As a highly excellent blogger, you don’t exaggerate, you don’t lie, you don’t overclaim nor overpromise. I see this as respecting your readers. You say things the way they appear; you portray facts as they are and let the facts speak for themselves. You are truthful and honest. You keep things real. Your readers appreciate this honesty, and they stick with you as a result.
6) Not afraid to be vulnerable
As a highly excellent blogger, you are not afraid to share things about yourself – things you may not be proud of. You are not interested in creating a veneered image of yourself. It’s about what benefits the readers. If sharing an unglamorous side of you will help improve readers’ lives, you will gladly do so. You open parts of your life as case studies, so others can learn where you may have erred.
The average blogger on the other hand, is concerned about how others think about him/her, and refuses to write about anything that can be seen as an disadvantage to him/her. His/her obsession with safeguarding his/her personal image stops him/her from going all the way to become a highly excellent blogger.
In my blog, I openly share about myself and my life – the upsides and especially the downsides. For example, I have written about times when I was down and out, my past experiences of disappointment (and how I overcame it), heartbreak (and how I moved on) and woes of being single in the modern society. Most people are adverse against sharing their shames, thinking it’ll make them vulnerable and look “weak”. I’m not afraid to write about them because being vulnerable is part of what makes us human. I believe everyone has that side in them – it’s just a matter who is more honest and upfront about it. If you are confident about who you are and what you stand for, there’s nothing to be fearful of.
Subsequently, it is the times when I share my worst experiences that my readers gain the most insights for themselves. Readers take the time to write personal comments and emails sharing in detail how the articles have opened their eyes to similar situations they are going through. If showing my vulnerabilities can help improve even just one person’s life, I say it’s well worth it.
Of course, it’s not about being vulnerable for the sake of being vulnerable. There has to be a point behind writing it. Every time I write about such experiences, I share how I overcame that episode and steps readers can take to work on it too. This way, there are actionable outputs and it doesn’t become just a nice-to-read story. You are more than just a story teller. You weave a message in what you write too.
When you open up more about yourself, that’s when you bond with your readers. People will benefit from your sharing and your real readers appreciate what you do. Mutual respect and trust is built. Whenever I open up about a part of my life, my readers would similarly open up to me too, sharing their personal stories, parts of them which even they admit they don’t share with others.
7) Keep upgrading themselves
As a highly excellent blogger, you don’t rest on your laurels even if you are an authority figure in your niche. You keep upgrading yourself to maintain your expertise. This helps you to continuously innovate and provide expert opinions so you remain as the authority. Problogger is a great example. While Darren runs the biggest blog on blogging, he doesn’t take his success for granted. He’s always seeking readers feedback, improvising on those feedback and writing new content on how to create better blogs.
Upgrading yourself is not just a one-time act – it needs to be an ongoing aspect of your life. How can you do that? My personal tips:Subscribe to the feeds of top players in your niche. I subscribe to all A-List personal development blogs so I can learn from the best. Set aside time every morning/night to read their new articles. Learn from how they write and what they write about. Get top insights.Read the best books out there (in your niche). I borrow mine from the libraries.Network with top bloggers (in your niche).Openly ask for feedback from readers and fellow bloggers on how you can improve Work on those feedback to become better Transform lives with their writing
This is an extension of Habit #1 (Deliver their best value with every article) but it is important and distinct enough to be an individual habit by itself. As the top, excellent blogger, you write content that has the power to change readers’ lives.
How do you know if your content is changing lives? When your readers start telling you so. Majority of blog comments hover around “Great post! I especially like point XX about YY…” or “Thanks for writing this, it’s very useful”. These are great comments no doubt, but I see them more as courtesy comments. Yes your writings are helpful, yes they are informative, but are the readers going to apply any of the things that are written? Most of the time, probably not. Many forget what they just read and nodded to as soon as they click away.
Powerful content on the other hand, has the ability to change lives and trigger readers to take action immediately. When you get comments from readers on how your writings have transformed them and triggered them to make life changing decisions, that’s saying something. I’ve readers who told me how reading my articles has made them quit jobs they dislike, (re)discover their purpose in life and (re)ignited them to take action on their dreams. Some of the most powerful feedback I’ve ever received includes a reader who found hope from reading my articles (after his brother passed away), and readers who broke up with their partners and/or friends (who are bad matches) after reading my article on “How to know it’s time to move on from a relationship”.
When your content is triggering others to make life-changing decisions, that’s when you evolve to more than just a blogger.
You are now a leader and beacon of inspiration and hope to your readers.
So how do you transform lives with writing? There is no hard and fast rule, but here are some of my tips:Write from your heartStart with your readers in mind. Put your readers’ needs before all else.Do not afraid to share your vulnerabilities (Habit #6)Understand the real problems people are facing. Make sure your writing solves the problems.Tap into a relevant insight from your life. Share how you overcome a similar problem.What do you think?
What do you feel is the top habit of an excellent blogger? Do you have other habits to add to the list? Feel free to share