The One Big Reason Some Blogs Succeed, While Others Crash and Burn

The One Big Reason Some Blogs Succeed, While Others Crash and Burn

This article is excerpted from Chuck’s book, Create Your Writer Platform.

Most writers’ blogs forever linger in obscurity. These sites never receive a number of page views that would be considered noteworthy (1,000 a day, for instance) or help them sell thousands of books over time.

If you’re just blogging for fun and don’t care about how many hits you get, that’s one thing. But if you’re using a blog as a means to build your writing network and platform, you’re probably curious about what you can do to attract a bigger readership — and I can tell you how to do just that.

So what separates the small percentage of larger, successful blogs from the rest of the herd? This is a question I’ve studied for many years, both while building my own Guide to Literary Agents Blog, as well as when I’ve reviewed other writers’ sites.

The answer is surprisingly simple: the one core element that virtually every successful blog provides. (Note that this key trait is not just relative to blogs; popular social media accounts provide this one thing, too.)

What trait sets successful blogs apart from the rest?

Stop for a moment and identify the first websites you visit upon waking in the morning. I’m willing to bet “My email account” and “Facebook” are the top overall responses.

But why do you visit these websites day in and day out? Why do you spend so much time on them? The answer is so obvious that you might have never put your finger on it. These sites provide immense value to you.

Email allows you to connect with anyone around the world instantaneously and for free. Stop for a moment and remember how mind-blowing that is. Facebook lets you share news, articles and images with all your friends and relatives around the world — again, for free. You’ve likely been using these sites for so long that you’ve forgotten just how amazing they are — and how tremendous the value is for either.

And it’s this element — value — that separates the few big sites from the many others.

Remember that at any given time, dozens (if not hundreds) of things and to-do’s and websites are competing for our attention. That means your blog must provide a darn good incentive to read it. This could mean pulling together hard-to-gather information, or making readers laugh, or informing us, or sharing advice that makes our lives better or easier. Any of these elements translates to value in a blog.

Quick note from Chuck: I am now taking on clients as a freelance editor. If your query or synopsis or manuscript needs a look from a professional, please consider my editing services. Thanks!

Am I providing value?

Let’s say I spend a Saturday with my daughter at a local Cincinnati park. I take great pictures of her on a beautiful sunny day as she swings and slides. Then I think this would make for a great blog column, and post the best pictures online with some silly jokes and comments about how cute she is. Now here comes the money question:

Do you really give a damn?

Do you really care about what I did last Saturday?

In all likelihood, no, you don’t give a damn. You don’t care enough to pull your attention away from countless other (much better) things and glance at my new post. And that is perfectly understandable — because the column provided no true worth for you. In fact, the value was for me; I had a great opportunity to document a fun day with my girl.

People have a hard time wrapping their head around the very simple fact that much of the blog content they create isn’t really helpful for others, but rather for themselves in some way or another.

How to create value

If I truly want to vie for others’ attention, I need to turn the spotlight off myself. The best way to do that is to create something that is of importance not to me, but to people I’ve never met. Note that once I decide to do this, my task immediately becomes more complicated (but that’s a good sign I’m on the right track).

So while you wouldn’t read that picture-filled post I just created, would you read a different post I wrote called “5 Great Family-Friendly Parks in Cincinnati You Probably Didn’t Know Existed”? I’m guessing you would, because this post has instant and undeniable worth for you. It will make your life easier and better.

A simple litmus test you can do when considering if a post has enough value to draw people in is to ask this question: Was the post easy to compose or not easy to compose? [bctt tweet=”The more value something provides, typically the more difficult it is to create.”]

And that’s why most blogs linger in obscurity: because writers don’t spend the amount of time necessary to compose worthwhile content that will demand attention.

Think about it. How long would it take me to create that original blog post with pictures of my daughter? Probably 20 minutes. But how much time would it take me to compose the second post? A lot longer.

I’d have to visit the parks or talk to people who had. I’d need to collect images of the parks, and show you screenshots of where they are via Google Maps. And I’d have to write up the perks and boons of each. My guess is it would take me four to eight hours in total. It’s a lot more work, but the end result is much more worthwhile to readers.

So the next time you go on a vacation to the Maine coast, don’t return and assume strangers will want to hear about how your trip went. Remember what Freakonomics taught us: Incentives make the world go round, so give readers a reason to take notice. If you write about the trip and call it “Our Crazy Vacation on the Coast,” I’m going to ignore it. But if you compose a post called “7 Fun Places to Visit in Portland, Maine,” then you just might catch my attention.

We’d love to hear from you: How do you create true value in your blog posts?

Quick note from Chuck: if you’re looking for a writing conference, perhaps one of these below is in your neck of the woods. I’ll be presenting at the following events in 2019:

  • Feb. 23, 2019: New Orleans Writing Workshop (New Orleans, LA)
  • March 2, 2019: Minnesota Writing Workshop (St. Paul, MN)
  • March 8, 2019: Alabama Writing Workshop (Birmingham, AL)
  • March 9, 2019: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
  • March 9, 2019: Pittsburgh Writing Workshop (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • March 29, 2019: St. Louis Writers Conference (St. Louis, MO)
  • March 30, 2019: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, MO)
  • April 13, 2019: North Carolina Writing Workshop (Charlotte, NC)
  • April 27, 2019: Seattle Writing Workshop (Seattle, WA)
  • May 4, 2019: Michigan Writing Workshop (near Detroit, MI)
  • May 4, 2019: Writing Conference of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
  • May 11, 2019: San Diego Writing Workshop (San Diego, CA)
  • May 18, 2019: Cincinnati Writing Workshop (Cincinnati, OH)
  • June 8, 2019: Florida Writing Workshop (Tampa, FL)

The giveaway for Chuck’s book Create Your Writer Platform is now over. Thanks for all your comments. Congrats to Nikki!

Other TWL Guest Posts by Chuck Sambuchino:

  1. How Successful Authors Use Social Media to Sell More Books

  2. Tips for Pitching a Literary Agent at a Writers’ Conference

  3. When Can You Call Yourself A Writer?
Filed Under: Blogging
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271 comments

  • Robin Deeter says:

    As a newbie to all of this, I find this information very useful. I need all the advice I can get about creating a successful author website and blog. I appreciate you sharing with all of us.

  • Julie Richardson says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this information that does, indeed, have value. I learned the importance of providing value the hard way after a few years of posting on my FB fan page and getting little response. It’s important to know what you don’t know, so I hired a social strategist who told me I needed to connect with my tribe by providing information they needed and wanted to hear. She created a new website for me – http://www.divewise.org – and coached me as I blogged. I went from getting 5 or 6 views per blog a year ago to 2314 views on my post this week. I am experiencing a growth explosion on my site, blog, and FB page. You hit the nail on the head with your advice to provide value. Doing just that was how I was finally able to connect with my tribe.

  • Jami says:

    I completely agree with this. I find many blogs of writers to be more like Facebook posts than actual content. But I wonder what is a good publishing schedule for blog posts if you are a working author? I also spend around 4 hours per post which is much of my daily writing time. How often should you give up your novel writing for blogs to be effective?

  • Bruce says:

    Great article. This is the very thing I’ve been struggling with. For a long time I’ve written mainly for me and put it on a blog just in case it might help someone else. But over the last year I’ve tried to transition to less about me and more for others. Unfortunately it’s been a rough go. Any tips for how to make the move from me-focused to others-focused? Thanks.

  • Andrea says:

    Since I’m a writer I try to answer questions I have had about writing. I try to make sure that I’m answering questions people might struggle with, and explore what a writer does and how to get words on page.

  • Vy says:

    When I find a great website, I explore every single corner to see what else it has to offer. Some websites hold my interest (subject matter) but offer little content which makes me leave. I blog professionally and on my own time. I’d love to be able to create a writing website where I can share information, but I’m curious if writers feel there are just too many these days.

  • Nikki says:

    This is something I’m definitely going to keep in mind, as I’ve just begun blogging as a young writer/cosplayer wanting to build a name. Though I think everybody understands that people read blogs for what they get out of it, streamlining the vague understanding of that into one question–does this content have value to a reader?–will help me make my posts more worthwhile and successful, I’m sure. Thanks! 🙂

  • Kelli B says:

    I love Chuck and his work! I recently had the privilege of listening to a presentation he gave on this subject at the SWA Writers Conference in St. Simons, he has made a profound impact on the way I view my blog, which is a bit of an eclectic mix of advice for those planning life’s greatest events, every day inspirations and my passion for writing and animal rescue. When I first started my blog it was full of my poetry and my writing and a few snippets about my day job ( event planner) and my volunteer work ( animal rescue) but then after hearing Chuck speak, I re-invented the wheel. Now I primarily write and tweet about event planning advice, inspirations and animal rescue happenings and leave my poetry and creative personal writings as an occassional add in. I have added over 100 followers the week after the conference just by making these small adjustments!

  • Terrance Leon Austin says:

    Thanks for the information Chuck. As a new writer, I can use all the advice and wisdom I can get.

  • Christina says:

    Great post. I especially like you how you demonstrated the comparison of putting together a piece that is valuable for others versus writing something for personal interest. It also helps up to be mindful of how we can frame our own experiences into valuable information that will be useful to others.

  • Ainslee says:

    Great advice! I never thought about it that way before. Which is funny because you’re absolutely right that I would not read a post about your vacation, but would definitely check out a blog highlighting great sites from your vacation spot.

  • Andra says:

    Thanks for this important post. It comes at a time when I’m thinking about developing a platform for my novel (not yet represented). Others have advised me to develop a webpage, but also a blog and other accounts. I’m not sure what I could possibly write in a blog other than the book’s availability and content at the time before and just after publication. Are you saying that I might offer “5 Best . . .” advice about the books I like and recommend as a fiction author? Or that I should offer relationship tips since I’m a retired psychotherapist and my novel is about family relationships? My overall question is – what does a fiction writer blog about?????????? Thanks so much for any ideas.

    • Roving Jay says:

      In my Author Blog I write about the writing tool “Scrivener”, I offer tips on how to use the software to organize my content. If you don’t use specific software you could blog about writing tips; your unique approach to writing and organization that could benefit others. Or you could focus some content on family relationships — tips on how to handle specific scenarios; best practices; lessons learnt….

      These two different approach would attract a different readership, so you should define who you want to attract and then offer solutions to their questions. As you book is about family relationships, that seems like a good tie-in.

  • Maria Lopez Davis says:

    Great post! As a former DIY blogger it was easy to create content that people would find valuable. But now I’m starting a blog as a writer and I find myself slipping into writing posts that are just sharing things about my life. This post was great info on how to avoid that boring pitfall and find a way to make my stories relevant and valuable to others.

    thank you!

  • Veronica Bergschneider says:

    I use my author page http://WWW.Facebook.com/Author.Veronica.Bergschneider to discuss writing related topics most of the time. I also comment there on news I have seen and books I have read. I use myself as the example of how to apply the tips and ideas in my articles.

  • Melissa Cohen says:

    So helpful – and what I’m coming to realize is that if I want to grow my blog, I have to start writing it for an audience, instead of writing it for myself. Sounds simple, but it really was an epiphany when I realized that. If I write because I have this need to communicate, to share, to be a part of the conversation, I have to present it as something of value to the reader. Because there’s two parts to the relationship – I’ve been forgetting about the reader.

  • Renee says:

    Great article! One major reason you left off….if a blogger just doesn’t blog. Oh my, that’s me! I created my blog, posted a few articles, and know exactly what I’m called to blog/write about but I just haven’t made the commitment. I often post quick thoughts on and most of my family and friends keep encouraging me to get started again. I’m also not sure my family is ready for my “absence”. Blogging/writing requires some quality time and with 4 kids, homeschooling, and running a house, it just is a little overwhelming hence why I haven’t been faithful in posting. So, I guess I need to get some guts to take the plunge and have a talk with the ole hubster about getting some help around the house. 🙂

  • TR Johnson says:

    Great advice whether blogging or in everyday life. Make your conversation/writing interesting and relevant to other people. Thanks!

  • Catherine Grainger says:

    This article hits the point exactly 🙂

  • Vanessa says:

    That’s it! That’s what I’ve been trying to put my finger on. Value! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  • Michelle Anderson says:

    Hi Chuck, thanks for the excellent content here. A lot of folks think it’s all about having hundreds of pages out there, and that’s definitely a huge piece of getting the search engines to notice your site. But if the content of all those pages isn’t of interest or value to your followers, well, they likely won’t be your followers for long. And it certainly won’t attract any new folks. I had the good fortune to sit in on the WD online workshop yesterday hosted by Nick Usborne (Building Your Author Online Platform), and between the workshop and your blog here, I’ve picked up some great nuggets of information that’ll help me continue to grow my site. Thanks!

  • Cassy says:

    Thank you! I’ve been blogging for my own pleasure but am preparing to publish a book and am realizing how important it is to build my platform. Scary, but necessary, I’m learning. Thanks for the guidance! 🙂

    • Roving Jay says:

      If you’re preparing to publish a book, a mailing list is a valuable asset. I built mine by offering something for free, in return for being added to my mailing list, and now when I publish a book, I have a built in audience to promote it too.

  • Tione Ndhlovu says:

    In blogs, even when one may be tempted to talk about self… it’s important to channel views to benefit and generalize an opinion or topic being presented. l always tend to think of the people who will read and how the write up may impact them to such an extent that when I read it again I feel the energy.

  • Pat W Coffey says:

    Targeted audience, subject matter that counts, regular blog (one reader’s can count on), and opportunity for feedback. My blog surprises me on a regular basis.

  • Catherine says:

    Glad I took the time to read this entry. It’s perfectly timed for me.

  • Hope Nwosu says:

    Interesting post.
    It’s not said in vain that nothing good comes easy.
    Great post + opportunity makes a popular and fulfilled website/business, the kind I also like to have.

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