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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  • Kathleen says:

    This article is a good example of a value-added blog. Many of us would like to win a free book, so we read it. Then we find it has useful information.

  • Kerrie says:

    It’s weird, but when I try to write helpful articles they don’t do as well as experiential posts. Maybe this is just because of who my readers are? My most successful post combined both. I wrote a compelling headline (I Wanted to Lose Weight By Running, but What I Found Out 4 Years Later Surprised Me) and it also got the support of a fitness/weight loss book’s Facebook page. It received about 20,000 views in two days before slowing down. It’s at about 28,500 now; it was posted in Feb. I have not been able to even come close to any kind of significant post since then (although, I’m taking a blogging hiatus right now). Like I mentioned, the articles I spend the most time on, researching, compiling info, etc., are the least successful. But then I post some random rant about why do gray running tights exist that took 5 minutes to write, and everyone reads it. I don’t get it! Here’s my most successful post:

    • Chuck Sambuchino says:

      My guess is that your experiential post DID provide value and advice to people, just in an anecdotal way. Regardless, if your blog or social media is having success with a certain type of content, than feel free to provide more of the same if the readers keep coming! Nothing succeeds like success.

  • Joan Leotta says:

    Thanks so much, Chuck. I’ve never seen a post of your that was not great. I’ve been trying to offer things of value to out hers on my blog, but I think I have been both too scattered and too “slight” in what I offer. Great advice!

  • Marina says:

    I love the post. Now a days there are so many blogs out there you have to find a way to make yourself stand out; don’t be afraid to try something diffrent. Figure out what you like to read about as a person, and what other blogs in your nitch arint doing for ex I really love the look and feel of a book it’s important to me. I didn’t see any other blogs doing that so I include it in my posts. I also love talking about the awe moments and saw not a lot of book review blogs go into chapter discussions so I made that as well, now instead of another book review site in the crowd I’ve made a more interactive reading experiance for everyone to follow along with. It’s scary not knowing how it will turn out but as long as your passionate about what you do and are happy doing it you can’t fail because when you are truly passionate about what you do you will wake up every morning and find ways to better your business do that enough push hard enough and you will succeed

  • Joe-la says:

    Thanks for a great article! I am currently planning to start a blog and have been looking at different angles. This has been most helpful and made it very simple.

  • Rebecca Vance says:

    Thank you for the great post, Chuck! My problem is that I have a review blog and I review indie authors that have no more than 3 books published. I am working on my debut book as well. Since I am not able to read as much as I used to, the posts are sporadic. Being a “newbie” I am not sure what other content I could provide that would be of value. I have a decent amount of followers, but not very many hits. The most I’ve ever had is 76 and the average is about 10, sometimes less. What can I do to post more regularly and what content could I talk about? Thanks again.

    • Samantha W. says:

      Hey Rebecca. Your website sounds like a really nice concept. It sounds like you put a lot of pressure on yourself if each post requires you to read a book. Have you considered expanding a bit to include reviewing resources for indie authors? I’m sure you do plenty of web browsing on such subjects but if you alternate between reviewing a resource one week and reviewing a book of an author another week you’d get two weeks to read the book. There are so many websites, books, apps, forums, courses, workbooks, workshops, webinars for writers out there that I’m sure you could find things to discuss. Focus on the free resources mainly to attract the largest amount of visitors. Not everyone wants to spend $50, $100, but everyone is willing to try free. But it is nice to know if the time is worthwhile and that’s where you come in. Just doing one post a week would be a great way to consistently build your site as a valuable resource while still leaving time for your other endeavors. Just some thoughts. Good luck, Sam

      • Rebecca Vance says:

        Thank you for the great ideas! That is something I had never thought of! I do run into some great blogs, forums and manuals on craft that are very helpful. I appreciate the tips and will definitely try them! 🙂

      • Heather van der Hoop says:

        Great point, Sam, and best of luck building your site, Rebecca — it sounds like a lot of work, but a labor of love!

        TWL Assistant Editor

  • Lorine McGinnis Schulze says:

    Very good advice! I write a daily blog and often spend a entire day working on a blog post. Some days I need a break or have writer’s block and on those days I write what I call “fluff” pieces. Those are exactly as you described – a post that is of value to me and probably not many of my readers (unless they are voyeurs)


  • Samantha W. says:

    It is so nice to see that the trend toward providing valuable information to create a quality website is gaining full steam. I remember the boom in content mills years ago, before Google enlightened their algorithms and began punishing sites focused solely on traffic driving. The more genuinely informative, and consistent in quality, a website is, the more people will view it as reliable and authoritative in the given niche. If you want to be sought out, you have to give a reason. Static pages and weak content are not enough. Heck, even those sites whose information is superficial (i.e. viral video sites, tv show fan sites) depend on constantly providing something new for their readers to enjoy to keep bringing them back. Oh, and give stuff away. Whether an ebook, a printable, or a picture of frosted flakes that happened to form the likeness of Jerry Garcia, people eat it up. 😉

    • Heather van der Hoop says:

      Agreed — quality is what counts! Though I’d be curious to see those frosted flakes that look like Jerry Garcia… 🙂

      TWL Assistant Editor

  • susan says:

    Thanks for a post worth reading. I’d love to win a copy of your book.

  • Liza Rose says:

    Hi Chuck, Thank you for your work in researching this.

    My take on this is that while you want to find a niche market, you can spend a long time trying to determine what that niche should be. Writing about what you know is a good way forward, without it just being about “you”, your “experience in kayaking” for example might lead you to blog about that topic. Make sure that you include enough keywords that you might use yourself when searching for kayaking (paddle, current, kayak, canoe, waves, sea-kayak, whale watching for example) and your audience can locate you. It doesn’t matter what your topic is (one mans rubbish is another treasure works on the web as much as in real life) so long as you write well.

    Of course Im just starting out, so I hope to follow my own advice, which is based entirely on guesswork! But I will keep you posted if it is a sound hypothesis!

    • Heather van der Hoop says:

      Sounds like you’re on the right track, Liza, though I’d say think more about great content than you do about keywords. After all, even if keywords initially bring someone to your site, they’re not going to stick around if the value isn’t there.

      Best of luck!
      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Jacquelynne says:

    This was just what I need today-ahem, it had VALUE. I was stuck between two ways of doing a similar concept, and this absolutely helped me decide.

  • Deb says:

    Some great reminders of what really matters. Unless the blog is a vanity project, providing value should a guiding principle. Thanks for the post!

  • Delaney says:

    Sooo. . . the basic issue is what does a reader get in return for priceless moments of her life that she can never get back? Time isn’t money, but most of us don’t have any extra time lying around that we need to invest. If anything, we don’t have enough. (Same with money, but I digress.) I’m a former teacher who COULDN’T . . . QUITE. . . pry my fingers from the pointer when I left the classroom, so I started a blog to answer writers’ questions. The blog evolved from Q&A into an Advice-Confessional that lays out what I’m learning on my own writing journey. One post talks about self-publishing. One addresses a recent column in SLATE that dissed adult readers of YA lit. More than one post discusses Getting Rejected and how to handle it. Readers get a laugh, get advice, get whupped upside the head, get resources. It ain’t Chuck Sambuchino, but it ain’t chopped liver either. The hardest thing for people is feeling all alone. My blog shows them they aren’t.

    • Heather van der Hoop says:

      Sounds great, Delaney — and by showing them they’re not alone, you’re providing value to those readers. Fantastic!

      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Kimi says:

    Great post, I totally agree! Would love to win a copy of the book too. 🙂

  • N. L. Brumbaugh says:

    I have to admit this blog hit me right between the eyes. Bullseye! I’ve been struggling with my blog writing, making changes, adding and deleting, narrowing my focus, changing blogs, accounts, migrating from an eclectic focus to a streamlined narrower path . . . and paying my dues to get there. (Can we really teach an old dog (teacher) new tricks? Yikes!) Thank you for articulating a doable solution, how to create value, through your word picture example. The value question is a good one as it helps center a blog article’s purpose. However, I do have a concern. When it comes to sharing knowledge, I do worry about sounding cocky or know-it-all. Does that come with the territory? I write spiritual material and believe it is a risk. I enjoyed your article. Thanks! Norma

    • Chuck Sambuchino says:

      I think you can present with confidence without sounding overly cocky. Also, feel free to loop in the opinions and advice of others, so it isn’t just yourself talking.

  • Perry Lee Harden says:

    This is an EXCELLENT article on the subject.

    It is true, as a blogger you must write what the public will value.

    It’s inspired me to write an article about managing stress. That’s a subject that I believe I’m qualified to write about and something the public will truly value. What do you think?

  • Lisa Montes says:

    This is a great article. Thank you for this valuable information. I have a blog of my own and have found it a difficult task trying to find material that others would find interesting and important enough to read. Yes, the material I have posted took me a while to write . It wasn’t simple. It was complicated. A definite sign I was on the right track. Again, thank you for this article.

  • natalie ullmann says:


    Great thoughtful post. I’ve been thinking about value across dimensions. It’s interesting the trip to the park could also have been about parenting. What do they value, and what do I know, and how do I communicate about it in a way that makes it relevant to them…

  • Kathy Haskins says:

    Thank you for this post. I struggled with a blog because I felt like it was a me-fest, but I see how I can adjust to make it valuable for others.

  • The Noob Wife says:

    What an incredibly insightful post. There’s a big difference between giving value and just indulging in our own experiences for the sake of writing. I’m just starting out, and I try to give tips and how-tos for new wives on my blog as best as I can. I should keep this in mind. Thanks!

  • Julie Schroeder says:

    Don’t have my blog up and running yet. Thinking of doing one for my Real Estate Business, but I want it to be useful and not dry. Really, how many people want to read a page full of housing stats? Also, considering a creative blog to encourage people to get their creative juices flowing.

    Thanks for your post!

  • Marie Miller says:

    Hi Chuck,

    I was meant to stumble on this post tonight. I have been working on my website as well as trying to get into building my blog. For a newbie, I am at a loss; what should I write about or what things that are interesting to get anyone to access my blog. After reading everyone’s post and suggestions I now know what I must focus on. Jerry M. also suggested that we have to be creative in what we write about that is interesting to readers and relates to the book that we write. Thanks Chuck and Everyone.

  • Anna says:

    This entry was informative and worth reading. I normally spend at least 8 hours blogging on my website, It’s Not All Gumdrops & Unicorns, every weekend. It mostly consists of my Song Saturday and Cartoon Sunday blogs. Once people join my website, they can read other entries, that outside viewers can’t. The same applies to reading 1 of my Short Horror Stories.

    Eventually, I will add a sample of the latest short story, that I’ve been writing. I spend most of my time managing and blogging on my website. Therefore, writing is typically back burned.

  • Kelly says:

    Wonderful advice! I’ll implement this in my blogging; I’ve wanted a bigger audience and am sure this will help. Thank you.

  • Bisileesh says:

    This is the most useful blog i read about blogging.Truly inspriring to write something worth for the site visitors.Thanks for sharing this.I wrote few blogs and they havent got any attention from site visitors.Now,i know why they failed to garb the attention of peoples.I am looking forward to write something better!!

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