Blog writing guides are full of standard rules designed for maximum shareability and increased audience engagement. Just google “blog writing tips” and you’ll see what I mean. They tell you that the internet is optimized for convenience, efficiency, time and effort, and that selfish readers are meandering to your posts for selfish reasons. They will remind you that your readers are results-oriented, they’ve got a job that they need to get done.
But these guides have left the web saturated with Google-friendly sentence lengths and plain vocabulary. They’ve reduced all formally unique posts to Franken-content hybrids of standardized rules and laziness. Everything looks and reads the same. And what's worse, the visibility of any given post's compromised once again.
The most successful blogs are beacons that pierce through the content fog; they blend their personal voice and story with proven marketing techniques that suit their content and audience. Their authors are savvy, balancing tips and tricks from blogging guides with their unique voice.
Of course, it's counter-intuitive (and pretty silly) to create a guide to being unique. Instead, let’s examine a highly successful blog for the two key ways in which it breaks the rules intelligently.
THE GUIDES SAY:
The internet is reader-driven, not author-driven. Anecdotes and personal experience are filler that distract the reader from the main point. You're risking losing their business by distracting them.
THE SUCCESSFUL BLOG SAYS:
Penelope Trunk (born Adrienne Roston) is a serial entrepreneur who happened upon her wildly successful career by happy accident, as she explains on her About Me page. She used to blog at Brazen Careerist before branching out with her own career advice blog. She now commands $350/hour for career advice over the phone and is endorsed by CNN and Inc. Magazine as “the world’s most influential guidance counselor.”
It’s safe to say that Trunk took the concept of “amateur blog” and turned it on its head, optimizing and monetizing the medium in every way imaginable. Her career history and personality enliven her sage (and often unorthodox) advice. In one post, she encourages women to get plastic surgery in order to increase their relationship marketability, based in part on the ways in which her diverse dating portfolio jumpstarted her career.
Trunk highlights her subjectivity as a woman, mother, and three-time entrepreneur in virtually every post. She even draws attention to her personal character traits, both positive and negative: her stubbornness and ability to simply talk a great game are just two of the self-deprecating tidbits that she reorients as empowering.
As a sufferer of Aspergers Syndrome, Trunk routinely views her personal and professional world through this lens. (A subsection of her blog is dedicated to Aspergers-related posts, including “What it’s like to have sex with someone with Aspergers” and “Why I’m Difficult in Meetings”.) Her career and business advice, while not always agreeable, are infused with personality and incite hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of comments filled with reverence, disgust, and everything in between.
BOTTOM LINE: Highlight why you're the best person to be talking about whatever you're talking about. People will be more inclined to listen if they value your personal voice over anyone else on the internet. Balance personal opinions with concrete evidence.
THE GUIDES SAY:
A blog post isn't the forum for storytelling. You need to write concise, actionable content.
THE SUCCESSFUL BLOG SAYS:
One of Penelope's most intriguing posts involves her husband, a man she playfully refers to as the Farmer. Her somewhat bizarre move to Wisconsin, born out of a pursuit for positivity and adventure, has infused her career advice with a refreshing objectivity that Manhattan career advisors simply cannot achieve.
Trunk realizes that her uniqueness is her advantage. Her post about her husband’s pig farming revolution is especially indicative of her blogging prowess. In the post, her husband endeavors to eliminate the inhumanity of farrowing crates while somehow remaining industry competitive. Trunk constructs a heart-rending tale set against the backdrop of an unforgiving Midwest farm, exalting her husband as a struggling visionary. She then translates his story into a how-to for successful entrepreneurs, listing the ways in which the Farmer’s challenges can teach other revolutionists some very valuable lessons.
Trunk often uses storytelling as a way to captivate readers and illustrate the big picture. She draws on unlikely experiences in order to connect different viewpoints, careers, and lifestyles in a way that highlights their universality. She knows that compelling stories about pig farmers do not often show up in searches for “advice for entrepreneurs” or “learning from mistakes in business.” This grants her post increased uniqueness and relevance.
BOTTOM LINE: Quality blogging is quality writing. If you write well, don’t be afraid to showcase your skill with compellingly written posts and enthralling storytelling. Accent your prose with actionable content in order to maintain an effective balance.
What blogging rules have you successfully broken? Let’s get the conversation going in the comments below.