Do you have one of those giant pop-ups on your site that blasts your readers in the face before they even get to see how your blog looks like? Do you leave comments with links pointing back to your blog? Are more than half your posts basically just links to products you want to sell?
If you’ve said yes to any of the above, then we need to talk. Because this blogging thing ain’t gonna work for you if all you’re concerned about is taking and not giving.
Let’s do a little mind experiment. What goes through your mind when you’re browsing the WordPress Reader?
Are you looking for interesting posts to consume and participate in, or are you looking to buy a stranger’s five-page PDF teaching you all about SEO for an affordable price of $5.99?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a new blogger or if you’re an established presence, the goal is always the same—to give more than you receive.
The sweet science
GaryVee’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook highlights the exact mechanics of giving before you ask. He likens giving to the jab and asking to the right hook which, by the way, is a misnomer on Gary’s part because as a combat sports fan, I’m pretty sure that the knockout strikes are the cross and the left hook (take that as a jab from me to you, I guess).
But back to the main point: you have to give before you ask, and in the world of blogging where the medium is asking so much of the audience, it’s doubly important that you figure out how you want to provide value so you can hook your readers from the get-go.
Imma come clean
Look, I’m not preaching from the comfort of my high horse. In fact, he’s actually pretty sober.
What I want to tell you is that I can relate. I’ve done it all before: the ‘follow and subscribe’ CTAs at the end of each article, the social media profiles that exist only as link forwarders, the status updates about how I’m available for hire…
Basically, I’d made the mistake of thinking people would give a damn about some random stranger asking for recognition in the virtual world.
But after spending some six years hovering at 200 followers before making the leap to 800 in the span of few months, I’m beginning to realise that it wasn’t the crowd who wasn’t getting me. It was me who wasn’t getting WordPress—and the world in general.
No magic formula
People want to know you care before they care about you.
That’s as simply as I can put it. What that means is putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and writing stuff you think they’d want to read.
Yes, I’ve done my rounds on the Reader, and I’m aware that some of you write strictly for yourselves. But I’m not buying that one bit, because if that was really the case, you’d have set your blog to private, so let’s not kid ourselves here—you want an audience.
So if you’re going to post for the public but can’t be bothered about the user experience, then you’ve already showed that you don’t care about your audience.
Of course, if you don’t care whether or not your audience cares that you care, then don’t let me rain on your parade (though again, I’m not buying that).
But if you’re hoping to grow your readership into something beyond double digits, then you best believe you’re going to have to care.
Value, the blogger’s way
All right, so you want to care and you’re ready to provide value without expecting anything in return. How exactly do you do that through blogging?
Fortunately for you, I’ve scoured the internet for some blog cred, and have come across a couple of people who know a thing or two about blogging, so I’ll let them do the talking.
Here’s a key point The Minimalists brought up in their article titled How To Start A Successful Blog:
“Your blog must add value to its readers’ lives. You want to help people solve problems. This is the only way you will get great quality readers to your site (and keep them coming back).”
If you were unsure about where to begin, that sentence in bold would make for a pretty good start.
But I know you’re not here for one-sentence solutions. That wouldn’t be of much value to you, especially if you’ve read this far. So here’s a set of questions from digital-marketing guru Neil Patel in his recent article on starting a blog.
I’ll paraphrase the questions he recommends you asking every time you sit down and think what to write:
- What excites my readers?
- What are the challenges they go through?
- What traits does your audience possess?
- What do they love about your niche?
- What do they hate about your niche?
You’ll find these questions to be a good springboard to guide you through most of your blogging career. In fact, I still ask myself these questions till this day (this topic, after all, originated through my dislike of spammy blogs).
In for the kill
Of course, it’s not going to be all about giving. There’ll come a time when you’ll have to throw your right hook, because no boxing match was ever won with just jabs.
The good news is, if you put out enough valuable content, you’ll have a thriving community ready and willing to support you, be it through donations or subscriptions.
There’s one caveat though, and GaryVee puts this more succinctly than I ever can:
“Creating great content, sending baskets of fruit, whatever your jab is, it doesn’t entitle you to land the right hook. It just allows you to have the audacity to ask.”
So yes. Like everything else in life, there’s no real guarantee that the thing you’ve strived so hard for will ever materialise, and you’re going to have to be okay with that.
That’s why it’s more important not to judge yourself by your results, but by the intent of your content. Will you teach your readers something new? Help them relate with tough issues? Brighten their day for a few minutes?
If your answer is no, and you’re still thinking about how to sell to the next person that lands on your blog, then maybe you need to go back to the drawing board and rethink your content strategy.
But before you do that, perhaps I could trouble you to hit that like and subscribe button?