How to create content online that resonates with your ideal audience.
Recently I was asked to “look over” someone’s blog.
Instead of looking at one person’s blog and providing feedback, I’d much rather think about what has worked for me and share those insights with a wider audience. I hope this approach will have a bigger impact.
Why should you listen to me?
I’ve been blogging and podcasting consistently since 2015. Thousands follow my work. The podcast is certainly the bigger hit with millions of downloads, but I consistently rank on the first page of Google search results for keywords I choose to write about.
Here are 10 tips for what has made my blog a success.
Write for yourself.
At first no one, and I mean no one, will be reading your blog.
So you have to always write for yourself first. Scratch your own itch. Investigate and research what you are curious about. Do that work in public and put that “signal” into the world in the form of a blog post.
Eventually, that signal will get stronger and it will attract your audience.
Then write for one other person.
Once that audience is established write for just one person. Maybe it’s the first person who commented on your blog post, wrote you an email, or shared your work on social media. Whether your audience is one hundred, one thousand, or one million — write for just one person. This is a practice of empathy.
If you write for just one person it will feel more intimate and will resonate with far more people.
Be real. If it feels scary to share, the better.
When you first start writing, podcasting, speaking, leading … anything where you “put yourself out there” it will feel scary, dangerous even, to reveal the real you. The temptation is to show the fake, “I’ve got it all under control” version of yourself. Ick.
My mentor says people crave authenticity.
So the scarier the topic feels the more it will resonate.
Focus on service, not selling.
Be generous. Focus on service and helping other people solve problems. If you keep the focus on your audience and not yourself, you will set yourself up for a better chance of success. No one wants to be sold to. If you are genuinely helpful, people will beg you to sell something to them.
Focus on service first.
Consistency builds trust and a following.
Decide on how often you want to write and be consistent. I’ve shipped a podcast every Wednesday since September of 2015, never missing a week. Consistency plus value equals millions of podcast downloads. My audience can count on that episode showing up. This builds trust.
Shipping inconsistently would have been like training for a marathon, and instead of running regularly each week, deciding to run a handful of random times leading up to the big day. I might finish the race in both cases, but I’m going to perform a lot better with consistent preparation.
Dive into the data, but don’t obsess over the numbers.
Let the data inform your topics and writing.
I’m in love with the conversations I have with my guests on the podcast. We could talk easily for an hour or more. But the data showed that people stopped listening 55% of the way in. So I started recording shorter conversations. And my listen rates went up. It was hard for my ego, but I am creating a podcast for my audience.
This idea works the same with blogging. You can see what blogs get the most visits. A site like Medium will tell you how many views happen and how much of your article is read.
Views tell you which titles were enticing.
Your read rate tells you how much of the article is read (on your website you can install a plugin to help you understand read ratio via a “heat map”).
Do more of what is working.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork.
Delegate quickly. I now have a team that works on my website and handles some social media and email. That means I focus on creating content and other folks can help spread the word.
Do what only you can do.
Niche, niche, niche.
Writing about leadership is one thing.
School leadership is even better.
School leadership in an urban setting, better still.
School leadership in an urban setting for principals with 1–3 years of experience … now we’re cooking.
School leadership in an urban setting for principals with 1–3 years of experience and come from a culture that doesn’t represent their students — jackpot.
It’s counterintuitive because as you become more specialized, automatically your potential audience size shrinks.
But I’d rather have 50 fans who say, “This guy gets me. It’s like he knows exactly what I’m thinking and how I feel” versus “What is this topic about? Is this for me? Should I spend some time reading this article?”
Imitate, then create.
A great way to create an impactful blog is to be unique. One idea to be unique is to first imitate “the masters.” Copy a blog post from Seth Godin or Maria Popovo. Experience what amazing writing feels like pulsing through your fingertips. Then consider, “How would I say this?” and write that blog post.
Austin Kleon said it best — Steal Like an Artist.
Remember Rule #6.
It’s really the only rule you need — Don’t take yourself too seriously.
If you’re writing online, stamina matters. It’s a lot easier to keep showing up and doing great work if you don’t take yourself too seriously.