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From Good to Great: 5 Ways to Turn Passion into Better Blogging


If there’s one thing that sets the big blogs apart, it’s passion. With that in mind, here are five ways to turn your passion into better blogging!

1. Be Willing to Learn New Things

Take that enthusiasm you have for your industry and use it to grow your ability to communicate about it. Blogging is a unique medium, different from magazine advertising, direct mail marketing, or email newsletters—so invest the time to learn how it works and to continually improve your skills. Here are a few areas to explore:

  • HTML/CSS: In today’s world of user-friendly blog software and templates, you don’t need to know HTML or CSS coding to start a site—but learning a few basics won’t hurt. In fact, with a little extra coding knowledge under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to tweak your design as you like. For a good start, see this helpful article at Google.
  • Design: Content may be king, but design definitely matters. Keep track of blog designs you like and continually look for ways to raise the bar on how your site looks to visitors.
  • SEO: Search engine optimization is crucial for increasing traffic because it helps bring users to your site when they’re already searching for related information. For more information on this topic, take a look at “Why SEO Matters No Matter How Brilliant Your Content Is.”
  • Photography: The Internet is a visual place, so improving your pictures goes a long way towards improving your site. At the Straight North Blog, we’ve used royalty-free images from Fotolia; at my personal blog Food Loves Writing, I’m always looking for ways to take better pictures and even to hand-illustrate when appropriate.

2. Let Your Excitement Show—on Social Media

When someone is passionate about what he or she is saying, it’s not hard to tell—and that’s just as true online as it is at cocktail parties. Whether on Twitter or Facebook or another site, let your genuine enthusiasm show by sharing and posting online the things that catch your attention.

  • Relevant Links: Find a blog or website that inspires and motivates you? Share it with your followers and tell them why you like it. Not only does this make your feed more valuable, but it also builds community with the authors and creators whose works you’re promoting. Food bloggers do this all the time when they share recipes and links from other sites, like Sarah Kieffer from the Vanilla Bean Blog does here on Facebook:

vanilla bean blog

  • Interesting Articles: When you come across a study or article that relates to your industry, tell your fans about it—they might feel the same way, like Helene from French Foodie Baby does here:

french foodie baby

  • Your Own Work: Promoting your own content on social networks is acceptable, as long as that’s not all you promote. With discretion, let your followers know about your recent work—blog posts, press releases, news updates—and where they can find it.

the house that lars built

3. Find Other People as Passionate as You Are

One of the greatest benefits of sharing your passion online is finding a network of people who also love what you love. Whether you’re a food blogger obsessed with baking, a business blogger fascinated by corporate case studies, or a graphic designer ever on the hunt for slick logos, you can bet there are other bloggers who feel the same way. By forming relationships with like-minded people, you create a strong community that greatly enhances your online experience. Reach out on social media or via email.

Some of the benefits of blog community include:

  • Genuine friendships
  • Loyal audience
  • Promotion of each other’s work
  • Creative inspiration
  • Opportunities to learn
  • Greater visibility
  • Enjoyment

4. Reach High for Specific Goals

Passion is great, but passion with a purpose is even greater. Rather than just striving to blog better, set specific goals—this helps guide your efforts and ensures you’re moving towards a better blog.

Three tips for setting blog goals:

  1. Be Specific: Don’t say, “I want to blog better.” Say, “I want 2,000 new RSS subscribers by the end of three months.”
  2. Make Goals Measurable: If your goal is more subscribers, find a way to calculate that number. If your goal is a lower bounce rate, set up Google Analytics. Make your goals measurable so you know if you’re hitting them.
  3. Set Time Limits: Be sure to set time limits on your goals. Rather than aiming to blog twice a week, aim to blog twice a week for a year—this helps to keep you motivated.

5. Branch Out

Who says you have to stop at blogging? Why not branch out beyond traditional posts into the world of videos or podcasts? Sometimes a new vehicle is all you need to improve your work. Here are a few ideas for spreading your passion even farther:

  • Videos: Visual, engaging, and filled with potential for adding your personality to your site, videos are typically crowd pleasers. Try answering reader questions, sharing behind-the-scenes information, running interviews over video, or giving helpful how-tos, like Meghan from Eat Live Make does here:

photography 101

  • Podcasts: Built off the idea of radio broadcasts, podcasts let you communicate with your audience orally, opening up all kinds of possibilities, from interviews to roundtable discussions to music and more. One new way to do this is through a Google+ Hangout, which is what Alex and Sonja from A Couple Cooks did on March 9.
  • Guest Posting: Spread your voice online by guest-posting on other websites, like authors do on this site regularly. This builds community with other blog authors and gets your brand out to a larger audience.
  • E-books: By making an e-book, you have a packaged product to sell or give away. This option is great for how-to guides, topical booklets, compilations, etc.  You may create the book in a Word processor, save it as a PDF, and market that PDF directly through your site; or you could go through a service like Amazon Kindle Direct, like we did with our ebook.

written together

Your Thoughts

Whether you’ve been blogging a day or a decade, what have you seen to be keys to blogging passion? How does it show? How can you nurture it? Is passion driving what you do?

Why Good Writers Aren’t Always Good Bloggers


If you’re a good writer, you can dominate the blogging world, right? Wrong. Good writers are often surprised to find they stink at blogging. With so much hype over the “Content is King” idea, it’s not surprising to find that many writers simply can’t understand why they are not rocking the blogosphere with their posts.

Do you need to be a good writer to be a good blogger? That’s debatable. But one thing is for sure: good writing skills are not all you need to be a good blogger.

Working in the Kitchen

The best comparison I can think of is a restaurant. If you’re a wiz in the kitchen with delicious recipes and impeccable skills, you can be an awesome chef. The chef of a restaurant is like a writer. You’re the core, the heart of the business.

But running a successful restaurant takes so much more. You have to do administrative work like hiring and balancing the books. You have to design the restaurant, choosing everything from seating to paint color. You have to market your restaurant and make business decisions, like menu prices. You have to be amazing at “front of the house” tasks, like greeting customers and dealing with complaints.

The chef is important, but the restaurant owner is the boss, and for good reason – he or she is the person responsible for the restaurant’s success or failure, and that person needs to know more than how to cook a chicken.

The same is true for a blog. You need more than just writing skills because your responsibilities stretch much farther.

Yes, a chef can be a good restaurant owner – just like a writer can be a good blogger. You just have to realize that the food is only part of the equation.

“You’re Gonna Have to Deal with Stress”

There’s this Dennis Leary song called “Life’s Gonna Suck.” It’s always cracked me up – it’s about how when you’re an adult, life gets stressful and hard. One of the lines is, “You’re gonna have to deal with stress, deal with stress, deal with stress. You’re gonna be a giant mess.”

Luckily, I don’t think life’s quite as bleak as an adult as the song makes it out to be! But the “you’re gonna have to deal with stress” part is definitely true. Many people become bloggers or otherwise work online because they think it’s an easy way to make money. Not true. Starting your own blog is the same as starting a business; you simply have less overhead. It’s stressful, though, and if you’re not prepared to deal with this stress, no amount of good writing will make your blog successful.

For me, managing the stress is about remembering what I love about blogging and focusing my attention on these tasks. I love the writing. Does that mean I can simply ignore all of the technical, marketing, and other tasks that go along with blogging? Absolutely not. But what it does mean is that I can start every day on the right foot by doing some writing, and make sure that all the tasks I do are supporting my writing, so I can afford to write more.

You can also work toward a goal of hiring a virtual assistant (VA) to work on tasks you don’t like so you can concentrate more on being a writer. Ultimately, if you’re a good writer you can be a successful blogger. Just be honest with yourself about the work you’ll need to do beyond writing to be a good blogger.

How Being a Nerd has Made Me a Better Blogger


Are Nerds Better Bloggers I’ll admit it; I’m a total nerd. My idea of a romantic date night is playing video games or Magic: The Gathering with my boyfriend. I’d rather hang out online than hang out at a bar (most of the time). I can quote Doctor Who on command and would rather watch Star Trek than Sex in the City.

Perhaps my nerd-dom is summed up in the fact that I couldn’t think of a more recent popular non-geeky television show than Sex in the City.

Being a nerd isn’t really a badge of honor for me as much as it is a fact of life. Luckily, being a nerd has made me better at my job as a blogger. Here’s why:

  • Nerds are used to dealing with haters.

These days, being a geek is “cool.” Or so it seems. I would argue that living zombies and playing Madden with your “bros” doesn’t really make you nerdy. But regardless, nerds out there know how hard it was growing up loving books instead of cheerleading or chess instead of football. I count my lucky stars that I’m a girl, so I was never on the receiving end of a wedgie (do boys still give wedgies to one another on the playground?), but I was certainly teased and even bullied. It’s great experience for dealing with haters online. I’ve grown a thick skin over the years, which makes it easier for me to voice my opinions online without being fearful of people thinking I’m uncool.

  • Nerds love education.

Growing up, I was always the kid who actually liked going to school. The first day was exciting for me, and I would often start browsing through my textbooks as soon as I got them, even before we had homework assignments or had jumped into lessons. This love of education has really helped me as a blogger, because I’m constantly trying to learn new things in my niche. More importantly, I like the research aspect of blogging, which is where I feel like a lot of bloggers are lacking. The amount of misinformation online is astounding, and even most opinion pieces online could benefit from better research. Don’t just tell me why I should do something a certain way. Tell me what proof you have to back up your opinion.

  • Nerds are passionate about weird stuff.

To be successful as a blogger, you have to be passionate about your niche. Weirdly passionate. Nerds already get that. We’re fangirls and boys of weird stuff, whether it’s bringing Firefly back on the air and who shot first–Han or Greedo. We follow every snippet of news about books from our favorite authors  becoming movies, we spend hours creating fantasy characters for a new tabletop game, and we stand in line behind thousands of other people at ComicCon to see our favorite comic book artists. That weird obsessive behavior is what will make you successful in your niche, and trust me; nerds have weird down pat.

  • Nerds are driven.

I wasn’t given a basketball scholarship. Making friends didn’t come easily to me. Getting a date? Let’s not even talk about that. Growing up, if I wanted something, I had to try really, really hard. Even with academics, the competition to be best among nerds is fierce, and if you aren’t working hard, you’re falling behind. Nerds have to work extra hard at everything they do growing up, so it leads to a very driven personality in many cases. Now, that’s not to say that if you aren’t nerdy, you aren’t a hard worker. But as a nerd, I personally learned to be a very driven person, working hard for everything I have with nothing just handed to me. This is a quality that has helped me be a successful blogger today. You aren’t going to be successful if you aren’t willing or able to put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into your blog.

  • Nerds love a challenge.

Whether it’s figuring out that math problem or writing a novel or beating a video game villain, nerds love a challenge. And really, that’s what blogging is–a challenge. If you’re someone who easily quits when things get tough, this probably isn’t the right path for you, at least not as a career. Challenge is scary, but it can also be extremely rewarding. When you embrace the challenge of blogging and combine that with your nerdy nature to be driven, passionate, educated, and willing to express your opinions even in the face of haters, that’s when you can truly start to build a better blog.

So let your nerd flag fly! Embrace the inner geek, learn to love your dorky self, and start building a better blog instead of repressing those memories of getting picked last in gym class.

For other nerds out there: do you think being nerdy has helped you become a better blogger? And if you weren’t a nerd growing up, do you think that your personality as a child (and beyond) has helped you be successful as a blogger?

Got 99 Problems But a Blog Ain’t One


It never fails to amaze me how many bloggers hate blogging. I’m not talking about getting burned out. Frankly, we all need a little vacation from blogging now and again. I’m talking about actually disliking blogging to the point where you get that feeling of dread when turning on your computer. It’s almost as bad as getting up every morning to go to an office job you hate.

Yes, some bloggers really feel that way. Of course, you aren’t one of them. Or are you?

Don’t be ashamed if you find yourself falling into this category. Few people get into blogging knowing that they’ll hate it. Most people just try it out and although they like blogging related perks, like working from home or being your own boss. Those perks might be enough to keep you from going back to a typical office job, but what about the hatred you have for the act of blogging itself? In actuality, there are things you can do to enjoy blogging more. It’s just about having a different approach!

  • Step One: Identify what it is that you hate.

Before you can fix the problem, you have to know what’s broken. If there wasn’t anything you liked about blogging, you’d be working that regular day job instead, so let’s separate the good from the bad. Maybe you hate writing posts. Maybe you hate social networking. Maybe you hate the technical side of blogging. Whatever it may be, figuring out exactly what you hate is the first step.

If you find yourself unable to pin-point what you hate, maybe you’re just burned out. Line up a few guest posts and go on vacation from your blog for a week – feel better? Good. Sometimes that’s all it takes to stop hating blogging so much.

  • Step Two: Identify what it is that you enjoy.

As you’re listing off what you hate about blogging, also list the things you enjoy. Ok, so you hate actually writing posts, but you love getting your message hear. Or maybe you hate using Twitter, but you love participating in community forums. What are the good things that keep you blogging instead of going back to the corporate world?

Can’t think of anything you enjoy? Ouch. If you’re in a particularly bad mood at the moment, you might just be frustrated. Sleep on it and come back to this question tomorrow. But if you honestly can’t think of a single blogging task that you enjoy, maybe it’s time to start doing some research on other jobs that would allow you the same freedoms you get with blogging, but with tasks you’d enjoy more. I know there’s a lot of crap to wade through, but legitimate work-at-home jobs do exist!

  • Step Three: Make your own blogging rules.

The great thing about blogs is that the bloggers get to make the rules. What works for one blogger doesn’t have to be the way you approach blogging. If you hate writing posts, for example, maybe the key is to only post once or twice per week instead of every day. Or, maybe the key is to switch to podcasting or video blogs instead of writing. Maybe you love writing, but you hate social media. Maybe the key is to hire a virtual worker to handle promotion for you. Or, maybe the key is to do less social media and instead focus on building community in other ways. Just because an expert does things one way doesn’t mean that you have to on your blog.

Is it time to rethink your blog’s purpose?

After you’ve gone through the above three steps, if your action plan isn’t clear, maybe it’s time to do a little soul searching. Why does your blog exist? If you say, “I need an outlet to rant about things,” that’s not really a monetizable blog. I mean, it can work for some people, but if that’s the only reason you’re blogging, exploring non-blog job options might be for the best. For most of us, our professional blogs have a purpose. For example, on After Graduation, my blog’s purpose is to give new graduates career advice. Or here are this blog, the purpose is to teach other how to be better bloggers and comment on new media news, while also promoting BlogWorld Expo. What is your blog’s purpose? And now, the most important question: Do you feel passionate about that purpose?

Every so often, I get into a debate with someone about whether or not you need to be passionate about your niche to be a good blogger. No. If you’re a good professional writer, you can write about nearly anything. But we’re not talking about can you do it here. We’re talking about should you do it. And if you want to stop hating blogging, no, you shouldn’t blog in a niche where you aren’t passionate.

Because if you are passionate, those things you hate will melt away. Sure, you’ll still find that you love some tasks more than others, but if you’re super passionate about what you have to share, it will seem less like a burden to perform all the tasks necessary to get your blog noticed. For example, I hate adding photos to posts, doing photo editing, etc. I even hate the process of finding a good picture to use. But I do it because I know it helps my posts become more appealing to readers, and that’s exciting to me. I’m passionate about reading as many new readers as possible, so if pictures make that happen, I’m just going to bite the bullet and do it.

Passion or not, blogging isn’t for everyone, and that’s something super important to take away from this post. If you’ve tried blogging and really do hate it, there’s no shame in walking away. It doesn’t make you a failure or a quitter. It just means that you weren’t suited for this job. If you tried accounting, hated it, and left to pursue a different field, no one would call you a failure. People would applaud you for giving it a try and knowing when to walk away. Know when to walk away from blogging. Which brings me to the title of this post – if blogging is a problem for you, don’t blog. Life throws us enough crap already. Don’t do something you hate on top of it.

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