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Why Bad Bloggers are Sometimes Successful

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It can be hard to see “bad” bloggers become successful.

We follow the rules. We monitor our stats and strategically plan our content calendar and engage our community via social media. We write long, from-the-heart posts that are education, inspirational, and grammatically perfect. We spend thousands of dollars on domain names and themes and plugins and all of the other things the experts recommend.

And then some jerk with a brand new blog comes on the scene and just kills it. Within months, they’re surpassing you in traffic and making a livable income while you’re still struggling to get started.

You know it’s true: there are some really bad bloggers, by your standards, who are extremely successful. It can be infuriating.

It’s Time to Stop Caring

First and foremost, because I talk about the “why” behind bad bloggers, I want to make a very important note: it’s easy to get consumed by jealousy of others’ success, especially when we perceive that success to be unfounded.

The reality? In the vast majority of cases, a “bad” blogger that gains success has absolutely no effect on your blog. There are enough readers to go around for everyone. If you’re producing good content, promoting your work well, and really staying true to what you believe, than someone else’s success or failure shouldn’t matter to you.

Jealousy is a difficult emotion. For me, the best thing to do is acknowledge it and do my best to just let it go, remembering that every moment I spend worrying about someone else is a moment I could be putting energy into my own work.

“Bad” is in the Eye of the Beholder

When I’m feeling frustrated by a “bad” blogger’s success, I try to keep in mind, first and foremost, that beauty is in the eye for the beholder. I call it the Justin Bieber effect.

I have never once met anyone who admitted to liking Justin Bieber. Yet, he wouldn’t be famous if some people out there liked him for some reason.

Similarly, there’s a reason why people like the bloggers you don’t like. Maybe these bloggers are doing something completely different and readers find it an attractive break in the monotony of other blogs in the niche. Maybe these bloggers are extremely charismatic and good at building a community. Maybe people are entertained by their “bad” content. I could go on and on. The point is, when you come across a “bad” blogger who is popular, try to understand the reasons why they’ve achieved this success.

We’re All Just Sheep

Sometimes, “bad” bloggers are popular because no one is brave enough to point out that they stink.

When a blogger’s value is validated in a major way, it’s easy for popularity to snowball – even if that popularity isn’t truly earned. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd and say you don’t like someone or their work when it seems like everyone else in your niche is gushing about how awesome they are.

It’s actually kind of funny how easily people will change their tune if you’re honest about your thoughts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to friends “I don’t think so-and-so gives very good advice,” and they’ve replied, “Oh, thank god! I thought I was the only one!” even though they’ve just retweeted that so-called expert not moments before.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in someone’s popularity too. When everyone consider someone to be a true thought leader, we start to lie to ourselves, trying to see what everyone else sees. I’m unashamed to say that I’ve been caught up in the hype of someone’s popularity on several occasions. What’s important is that you reexamine your heroes and role models often, constantly learn new things, and try your very best to live above the influence of others in your niche.

10 Reasons Your Blog is Failing

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Over the years, I’ve written for a number of blogs, including blogs where I was the owner (like my new Blog Zombies blog), blogs owned by other people (like this one, the BlogWorld blog), and blogs that were part of a larger blog network (like b5media). Some have been wildly successful. Others, not so much. My style as a writer certain has changed over the years, but I think the core of who I am is still there…so it isn’t the blogger along that causes a blog to fail or succeed. Rather, the other decisions that go into blogging have a huge effect on whether you’re eating potatoes or lobster for dinner.

In preparing to launch Blog Zombies, I took a look back at my own failures and successes, along with some well-known other blogs that have (or have not) been successful to see if I could crack the code. Why do so many blogs fail while others, often with less talented writers, succeed? Here are 25 different things that many failing blogs (including some that I’ve been a part of) have in common – if your blog is failing, these might be the reasons why:

1) You have unrealistic expectations.

What is your definition of success? If you expect to get a million hits your first month as a blogger or plan to retire to your own private island within a year, you’re going to fail. Period. Unrealistic expectations can make your seem like a failure and give up, even though you actually were on the right track. No a-lister out there was wildly successful from the very first post. It takes time to build a blog that’s comparable to the blogs of your heroes. When I first started blogging, this was my fatal flaw – I quit my first blog too soon, not giving it time to grow. Push yourself, but get your expectations in check.

2) You don’t make blogging a priority

I understand that many beginning bloggers out there have regular jobs that they can’t afford quit to blog full time. Here’s a reality check, though: that’s the case for all of us! At least, it used to be. Very few bloggers have the luxury of being able to blog as a full time job from their very first post because blogging simply doesn’t pay the bills right away, no matter how good you are. The difference between those a-listers in your niche and a lot of bloggers who fail is that the a-listers made blogging a priority. It means less sleep and less time with your family. It means having free weekends is a thing of the past. It means you don’t have as much time for hobbies anymore. Until you get some steam, blogging has to be your priority unless one of the kids is on fire. Welcome to the 80-hour work week, my friend. Of course, you don’t have to give up other things in your life completely – just be aware that if you don’t spend time loving on your blog as you build your readership, it isn’t going to go anywhere.

3) You haven’t invested any money into your blog.

“But I don’t have any money.” Well, fine. Continue to tell yourself that your blog is just fine with its free WordPress or blogspot domain name, it’s poor design that you don’t know how to fix, its non-existent mailing list, and its plethora of other problems.

Listen. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get started. That’s one of the reasons I love blogging. But you do have to start setting aside money for upgrades – yes, even before your blog is making money of its own in most cases. If you say you can’t afford it, I don’t believe you. You could afford to order pizza last night. You could afford to add the movie package to your cable bill. You could afford to go to the beach last weekend. This goes back to point #2 – make your blog a priority.

4) You take the “if I build it, they will come” approach.

Earlier this week, I talked about what the phrase “Content is King” really means for bloggers, and part of my argument was that you need to support the content you create. No matter how well you write, people aren’t going to just magically show up on your site and make it successful. At least, not at any kind of decent rate. You have to be out there promoting your content and building your community. Otherwise, you might as well just write in a diary.

I once served as a freelance writer for a blog where I wasn’t paid to do any kind of promotion. It was actually a ghost-writing project, so I didn’t even get a byline – it would have been difficult for me to promote that. After three months of daily posts and little traffic, I was fired from my position because apparently I wasn’t a good enough writer. Right, that was the problem. He went through three or four other writers over the next year before emailing me an apology and asking if I’d come back. I politely declined. He obviously didn’t understand that problem – it wasn’t the writer, it was the lack of promotion.

5) You “aren’t really into” social media.

Dude. Dude. If you’re a blogger who doesn’t like social media, you’re missing out on perhaps the single easiest thing you can do to be successful. I don’t care if you don’t like Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or LinkedIn. You need to at least have a mild presence at these social networking sites. You need to at least give your readers buttons to they can share your content. You need to stop complaining about the kids on your lawn and admit that social media isn’t some new-fangled passing fad. It’s here to stay.

And believe it or not, if you stop being so stubborn and give social media a chance, you’ll probably actually like it!

6) Your guest posts are better than your own posts.

Guest posting is a great way to promote your content. Some bloggers I know guest post like fiends. As soon as they finish a guest post for one blogger they’re off looking for their next fix. The problem? They don’t update their own blogs! If I click through to your site after reading a great guest post and their are tumbleweeds blowing around and – worse – mediocre posts that you threw up so there would be new content, I’m not going to come back…and neither is anyone else. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Only guest post if you can be assured that readers are coming back to your site and seeing even better content.

Remember, your blog is your home. If you want people to hire you as an interior decorator, your own home has to shine too!

7) You haven’t defined your niche.

What do you blog about? If the answer is pirates, cooking, Project Runway, and motorcycles, you’re probably going to have a hard time finding your audience. You don’t necessarily need to pick one specific topic, but when readers come to your site, they need to know what they’re getting. Are you a mom who tells stories about the funny things her kids say and gives tips on how to find the best toys? Are you a banker by day who writes humorous stories about your life to entertain readers? Are you a home cook who talks about her favorite TV shows and the snacks she’s going to make to eat while watching? You don’t have to fit into a tight little box, but if you post about everything under the sun with nothing that ties the topics together, you’re going to have a hard time building a community.

8 ) You’ve too narrowly defined your niche.

Define your niche, but don’t be so narrow that it is hard to find people who are interested. Your blog might be failing because there just aren’t many people interested in the topic. It’s hard to find an audience when you blog about something really random that doesn’t have a ton of fans. I mean, you can do it, but it’s much harder to build traffic and make a profit that way.

If your don’t have a broad enough niche, you’re also likely going to run out of things to say!

9) You blog as “admin.”

If I want to know how to do something specific, I google it. I read the post. I complete the task. The end. The next day, I probably can’t tell you who wrote that post. Does it matter? Well, yes…if you’re actively trying to build a community.

This point is a bit subjective, because if you’re planning a blog that is purely informational and gets most of its traffic from search engines, I suppose that blogging without personality could work. Most of the time, however, it works better to inject a little of yourself into each post. Let readers get to know you, not as admin, but as John or Susie. Make sure you have a well-written About Me page so readers can learn more about you because they will be curious if you write good posts.

10) You scrape content.

This should go without saying, but the last point I want to make is this – don’t plagiarize. If your blog is scraping content from others, it is only a matter of time before it fails, and I hope that when it does, the police are involved and you go to jail. I once worked (briefly) for a very small blog network that I found out was stealing content from others – I high-tailed it out of there as quickly as possible!

But also don’t scrape ideas. A lot of people in your niche are probably talking about the same topics, so be original and you’ll stand out. If you read an idea you like, give credit where credit is due. When you are inspired by another blogger’s work, link to them to give them credit for the idea. You can’t copyright ideas, so you might be well within your right to blog about that topic, but it’s just polite to link to the other blogger.

Remember, success and failure are both a matter of perspective.  And, even if you do feel as though your blog is failing, keep in mind that it doesn’t make you a failure. You can move onto your next project and be a raving success!

5 Golden Rules: Failure and Doubt

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This post is part of 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 5 Golden Rules. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more awesome advice from bloggers around the world!

We all fail.

I’ll say it again, because it’s important. We all fail.

The best bloggers among us cry. And scream. And want to quit. The best bloggers among us also don’t. Quit, that is. They take time to reflect on their failures and analyze what they can do better. The best bloggers among us learn to stop listening to the self-doubt and to grow.

You are not alone, and more importantly, you are not defeated. Unless you want to be.

1. The Failure Manifesto by Erica Douglass

When i read Erica’s post for the first time earlier this year I think it was the first time I’ve felt not-so-alone in terms of failing as a blogger. People can tell me I’m not a failure until they’re blue in the face, but the face of the matter is that I often am a failure. And this post made that okay. If Erica, who is someone that created a million-dollar business before she was thirty, feels like a failure sometimes, than others probably do as well. Just because we all put on a happy face doesn’t mean that we don’t all feel like complete crap some days.

From Erica’s post:

I have a super strong personality. But I am not able to handle it 100% of the time. Today was one of those days where I could not handle it. Could not push Send on the email blast, because I didn’t want the blowback.

Instead, I write this. I break down the walls a little bit between you and me. Underneath the steel armor exterior, I am a person. And the words hurt. The refunds hurt. The refunds are the worst part. I take them very personally. If you’ve ever refunded a product you’ve bought from me for more than $100, I’ve cried about it. About you. I’ve wondered what the heck I ever did to hurt you.

Check out Erica’s blog for the full post and follow her on Twitter @ericabiz.

2. On Faces and Eyes, Specifically Mine by Miss Britt

Meeting Miss Britt was one of the serendipitous happenings so common at BlogWorld. I know that she was not with our group at lunch on my last day in Vegas. I know we picked her up somewhere along the way by the time we were all heading to the Problogger party that evening. Hell if I know when it happened, but suddenly she was there and we were friends. I think that’s kind of how it is with Miss Britt. She just shows up in your life like an unexpected gift and you’re friends, like it’s a fact of the universe.

I looked her up when I got home, of course, and promptly cried when I read this post. Then I cried again when I was compiling this list and read it a second time. Why? Because I’ve felt this way too, not about my eyes but about other things. And it’s funny…I’m always so caught up in my own flaws that I don’t really notice the flaws other people see in themselves. I mean, I notice them, but they don’t really register to me as flaws. I somehow only see differences as flaws when they’re in myself.

But I’m rambling. From Miss Britt’s post:

I picked through my brain to recall someone I knew who was not beautiful, someone whose differences were so hideous that they couldn’t be denied as flaws.  None.  Not a one.Was it possible that I was a supernatural magnet for attractive people?  Why is it that most of the most beautiful people I know have shared with me some perceived flaw they see when they look in the mirror?

Could it be that differences – even differences like crossed eyes – really were just things that were?  Could it be that these differences weren’t automatically judged as good or bad by all, but that they were taken in and weighed as part of the greater whole?  Could it be that while some would toss me into The Bad pile, that others would not have to struggle to see me as beautiful?  Could it be that the whichever route they chose was a reflection on them, and not me?

Go read the full post. Go read all of Miss Brit’s blog. Go follow her on Twitter @missbritt. Because, my friends, you won’t find a more beautiful person out there.

3. Bippity Boppity Bullshit: Lessons from Cinderella, Midnight & Moxie by Marissa Bracke

This post is everything I want to say about failure, but written in a much better way than I could ever say it. As Marissa points out, the stars will never align. It isn’t about sitting around and waiting for things to be perfect; it’s about picking yourself up and making things happen. The Cinderella story is just a fairy tale. In real life, we need to take matters into our own hands instead of wondering when some kind of magical godmother will show up. From the post:

I’m realizing that there will never be a point in time where all of the bippities will be boppitied at the same time… there will always be something that’s not quite fully transformed, and there will always be something that’s in the twilight of its transformation and about to need some new attention and tweaking.

I’m also realizing that there will never be a point in time when I will need a post-Fairy-Godmother perfect scenario to get to the damn ball. Sure, it’d be nice… but not necessary.

You can read the full post at Marissa’s blog and follow her on Twitter @marissabracke.

4. Criticism: It Doesn’t Have To Be a Little Shop of Horrors by Kelly Diels at Cleavage

I suppose I’m lucky in that my first dance with professional blogging away from a client or network blog (i.e., blogs not owned by moi) was in an industry where you have to learn to have thick skin – video games. If you report the news, you run the risk of getting eaten alive, so you can image what happens when you post an opinion piece. I got all the crying and anger out of my system with that blog, and although unexpected criticism hurts – a lot sometimes – I’m less sensitive to it than many bloggers.

Kelly Diels covers this topic really well at Cleavage, so I wanted to highlight her post. As bloggers, we have to be prepared to face criticism, and often times, we can learn and grow, even from venomous comments. From her post:

And blogs are conversation, right? Not all conversations will fly on the whispering wings of butterflies and hummingbirds.  Sometimes it won’t be pretty.

Not only that, but I live, breathe and write social commentary. Public critique is a boomerang: if I’m going to throw it, it will come back to me.

I realized I’ve got to be prepared for the slings and arrows of outrageous (lack of) manners. The need to move from rice-paper-thin skin to at least a manila-thick epidermis is urgent. (Having a cardboard – or kevlar – hide would be even better.)

Check out Cleavage for more from Kelly and follow her on Twitter @kellydiels.

5. Why I Sucked at SXSW So You Don’t Have to by Chris Garrett

One of the reasons I admire Chris Garrett so much is that he is totally honest with readers, especially about his failures (and perceived failures). Chris is a self-proclaimed introvert, which is something that I relate to, and reading him talk about his experiences makes me feel not so alone. In this post, he not only talks about what he wishes he would have done different at SXSW 2010, but also about what any attendee (to any conference really) can do to avoid common missteps. Writes Chris:

One of the harsh lessons we learn at high school is that there are social cliques and most of those cliques appear cooler than the one you are in. It can be tempting to do anything it takes to break into or gain acceptance from these social circles, without realizing that in the process your desperation is self defeating. There are various symptoms of this, from one guy asking a social media guru to help you get to the front of the Mashable party line, through to a lady attempting to bump and grind against another guru so she could get … um, more friendly. Meeting new people is a good thing, and by all means introduce yourself to people who you want to meet, they will be glad to get to know you. But if people walk away, are deep in conversation, were trying to use the rest room, or start asking how to get a quickie restraining order … well, it might be time to find another target.

You can read more from Chris at his blog or follow him on Twitter @chrisgarrett.

Over to you all – leave a comment linking to your post about failure/self-doubt or tell us about a time when you’ve felt like a failure (and what you did to overcome it).

This post is part of the 12 Days of Blogging Series. The 5 Golden Rules are:

You can also check out all of the posts in this series here: 12 Days of Blogging 2010

What Motivates You?

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Earlier this week, I posed the question, “Where are the Remarkable Bloggers?” and it’s been nice to see some readers replying. For those who haven’t yet, I hope that post helped to inspire you to examine what you’re doing as a blogger and how you can move from “just” a blog to something much more. Blog posts (and comments) can definitely be inspirational!

Motivation makes your ideas grow.

But inspiration and motivation aren’t the same thing. I’m inspired all the time, but it takes something more than inspiration to actually motivate me to do something.

Inspiration makes you say, “I want to…” or even “I’m going to…” but motivation makes you actually do those things. We all need the spark of inspiration, but that spark will die without motivation. I would definitely argue that you can’t have motivation without inspiration, but few people understand that inspiration also depends on motivation if you actually want to move forward.

I’d like to talk to you a little about what motivates me most, and then turn over the floor to you. So get your fingers ready to leave a comment about your personal motivation.

My Motivation

Today, someone called me a failure.

I’ve felt like a failure many times. I think we all have, and that’s not limited to bloggers. I tweeted about it, for two reasons: 1) It hurt to hear that, regardless of whether or not I believe it and 2) I fires me up to want to prove the person wrong.

As is usually the case with emotional tweeting, I got some responses, including one from Andy Hayes (@andrewghayes), who I’m quickly learning is one of the most supportive people on Twitter and possibly in the whole world.

@allison_boyer: When people call me a failure, it just makes me realize I’m not.

@andrewghayes: eww! who said that? 🙁

@allison_boyer: Someone who I will prove wrong, one step forward at a time!

@andrewghayes: you dont have anything to prove to them.

You know what? He’s right. I was being motivated by an extremely negative comment, from someone I consider a friend, and turning it into more negativity. Ha! I’m going to prove you wrong!

But I don’t have to prove him wrong. I could work and work and work and at the end of the day, what I do may never be good enough for this person to consider me anything but a failure. Or if not him, someone else might call me a failure. I can’t control others’ reaction to me.

So what motivates me is not the negativity of wanting to prove someone wrong. What I’m allowing to motivate me is the drive to be better for myself. Someone thinks I’m a failure, and I may never be able to convince him that I’m not, but I can use that as motivation to be better than I am right now, to take steps forward, to always reach for success, whether I can prove it to him or not. And more than that, I can surround myself with people who cheer me on, rather than break me down.

So what motivates me is the need to be better, and the reminder that it isn’t ok to stand still. What motivates me is not the need to do more and more and more and more so much that I can’t slow down, but to be better at the things I do choose to do. What motivates me is people like Andy Hayes and all the other wonderful supporters I have on Twitter and otherwise, telling me that they believe in what I’m doing.

Your turn – what motivates you?

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