This guest post is by Joe Pawlikowski
You try not to worry about it. You’re creating quality material and you’re working on becoming better. You’ve read Onibalusi’s writing tips and you’re on the right track. But there’s one thing that continues to nag you. And so you take a break from your writing and check your Google Analytics. It stares you in the face, mocking you until you finally close the window. Eventually you accept the sad reality.
Your traffic numbers are abysmal.
It’s OK, you tell yourself. Building a high-traffic blog takes months, even years. You’re still working on things, putting them together. Eventually everything will come together. Right?
If you’ve been plugging away at your blog for months and still haven’t seen results, there’s a chance that you’re merely treading water. You’re writing things that people might read from time to time, but it will never lead to high-traffic success. In other words, you’re ignoring the secret to building a high-traffic blog.
What’s the secret, you ask? It’s something simple and fundamental. When I spell it out in big block letters, you might bop yourself on the head. The secret to creating a high-traffic blog is…
Teach your readers something they didn’t know
Whenever someone visits your blog, she should close the window with more knowledge than she had when she loaded it. The principle is so simple, yet so overlooked by bloggers today. Unfortunately, in many cases people are almost intentionally overlooking this principle. They know it’s what people want, but they refuse to provide it. There is a good reason for that.
Teaching people something new takes considerable effort. You can’t just buy some hosting, set up WordPress, toss up some posts and expect people to read you. You have to look deep within yourself and determine what you’re most capable of teaching. You have to take the time to craft each post in a way that will resonate with people. So many people are not willing to make this effort.
Let’s go through the two main points addressed above. These should give you a strong understanding of what it takes to teach people through your blogging.
Teach what you know
Every human being is blessed with a unique intellect. We not only possess different levels of knowledge. We also think about things in different ways. You can leverage this fundamental truth into your blogging. Before you write one more post, decide what it is that you know and can teach people. And then decide how to do it.
Of course, it’s not enough to pick a subject about which you know a lot. You have to pick a topic that will challenge you to dig deep. For example, a client of mine is passionate about home improvement projects. Take him down to the Home Depot and he’ll stay there for hours, even when you try to drag him home. He can teach readers a lot about how to maintain their homes cheaply, saving money on plumber visits and broken appliances. But he needs to go further than that.
Using the above example, I advised my client that if he wanted to start a DIY home improvement blog, he’d have to learn everything there was to know about every home appliance, about every method of maintenance and repair, and about when a specialist becomes necessary. As you can imagine, this is not easy. Just look at all the types of hot water heaters he’d have to learn about. And that’s just one appliance among dozens.
In other words, it takes a lot of hard work. If you’re not willing to put in that kind of effort, then you’re not ready to host a high-traffic blog.
Use the right medium
Once you’ve picked a topic about which you not only possess knowledge, but are willing to put in the time to learn more, it’s time to determine the teaching medium you’ll use. Oftentimes this is straightforward. My client with the DIY home improvement blog would probably need to use images and videos to teach his readers. He probably can’t use words to describe how to install that hot water heater.
Each topic will have its own set of limitations. In some cases you’ll need a combination of media. A client with a fitness blog, for instance, will need text (to explain scientific studies), video (to demonstrate workouts), and images (to display equipment and perhaps exercises). A client teaching readers about books will probably only need text, with minimal images. A blog like WritersinCharge, which teaches about writing, need only use the very words it teaches.
If you’re not good with words, it’s not a good idea to pick a topic that requires text-based teaching. If you’re not good with a digital camera, you might want to stick with a text-heavy topic. If the best video camera you own is on your cell phone you probably don’t want to film teaching videos. And on and on.
The overall point: your topic of choice will depend on a number of factors, but the two most important ones will center on what you know and how you teach. Once you figure those things out, a topic should come to you relatively easily.
If you’re not teaching people new things with your blog, chances are you have one of two types of blogs.
1. News-based blog. I see this most commonly with technology blogs. They simply reblog the news and add their own perspective. And most of them stink. Why? Because they’re giving you nothing new. News is a commodity. You can find it anywhere, and everyone these days adds perspective to the story. If you do little beyond reblogging industry news, chances are your blog will gain no traction.
2. Essays and opinions. Sure, essay and editorial style blogs can teach people. Some people are simply gifted with words, and they can provide insight that other minds and writers cannot. But these people are the rarest type. Maybe you believe you’re among the elect. If so, by all means share your visions with the world. But don’t be surprised when your blog fails.
If you don’t have great aspirations for your blog or your profitability as a writer on the web, then maybe these blogs are for you. But most of us will have to take our blogs to a different level if we want to find success.
Are you ready to take the big step into the blogging elite? It’s a rough journey ahead, for sure. It will take many hours, plenty of sweat, and probably a fair amount of stress and anxiety. But once you pull it off, it will all be worth it. If you’re not teaching people something with your blog, what are you really giving them? If you’re not really giving them anything, then why would they reward you with their patronage? The picture is clear. Teach them, and they will come.
Joe Pawlikowski writes, edits, and consults for several blogs across the web. He doesn’t teach with his personal blog, JoePawl.com, but he does with his many other properties.