September 19, 2012

How to become a blogging superstar


People search more than 3 billion times a day on Google — and a lot of the results are blog posts.

Do you have what it takes to become a top-rate blogger?

Guest post by Neil Patel
KISSmetrics

While anybody can set up a blog, not everyone can take that blog and turn it into a world-renowned blog that ends up on Time Magazine’s best blog list or Ad Age’s Power 150.

The bad news is that you need some remarkable qualities to make it to the top. The good news is that just about everybody can learn those qualities. Let’s take a look at them.

Superstar bloggers are insane

Most superstar bloggers have one thing in common: They take risks. They take risks with their blogs and they take risks with their content. Your goal as a writer for your blog is to stop someone dead in their tracks nearly to the point that they can’t believe you just wrote what you just wrote.

And they have to keep reading.

This means you have to write headlines like How to Rank on the First Page of Google through Videos and 8 Simple SEO Tricks That Will Help You Rank Above the Fold and Increase Your CTR.

But on a higher level, you keep on pushing the boundaries of what your blog can do. You wonder about the design of your blog and can you make it work harder?

You wonder about conversion and how you can triple it. You think about crazy ideas.

Sure, not every idea will work.

But that’s what separates a superstar blogger from your average blogger: They never give up. They keep trying and pushing and making everything they touch better.

Superstar bloggers write and write and write

You’ll never get away from this one because you have to write a lot to get better at what you do. What I mean by this is you need to write at least 1,000 words a day.

Seven days a week.

Some of that content won’t be that great. Some of it will be awesome and drive you a ton of traffic. Your quantity can suffer some time as long as your quality doesn’t.

And another lesson about writing so much is that you will cast a wider net when you have more and more blog posts online for the search engines to index.

There are currently about 3 billion searches a day on Google. This will ultimately lead to more visitors and subscribers.

Superstar bloggers stick to their master plan

Do you have a master plan?

In Daniel Pink’s book Drive, he talks about the single sentence that defines you. He uses as an example where Carol Boothe Luce once said to John F. Kennedy, “A great man is one sentence. Abraham Lincoln’s was ‘He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.’ What’s yours?”

What about you? What one sentence defines you? Here are some examples to get you motivated:

  • A world traveler who speaks about entrepreneurship to foreign governments.
  • North America’s greatest digital media strategist.
  • A well-rounded political writer with a blog read by 25,000 people.

Those may sound like pretty grand ideas, but remember: Superstar bloggers are insane.

They go big.

Once that master plan is in place, you need to stick to it. You need to create the plan and then start working the plan. You won’t go anywhere if you don’t work the plan

You have to ship.

And don’t worry about perfection. Sure, you’ll want to make adjustments when you get feedback, but make those changes and keep pushing forward.

Becoming a blogging superstar is a journey, not a goal to complete.

Superstar bloggers are creative

If you want to become a superstar blogger, then you need to come up with a way that you generate idea after crazy idea.

That’s going to be hard because you will have to churn out a lot of content.

What do superstar bloggers do to keep those ideas and creativity constantly coming? Here are six tips for breaking writer’s block from Darren Rowse:

  • Change your environment – If you are struggling to be creative in your office, jump up and work from the kitchen. Or move outside. Spend a couple days a week working from a café or restaurant that doesn’t mind you being there for a while. Or work with a friend.
  • Keep an idea journal – Whether you use a notebook and pencil or a free tool like Evernote, jot down ideas for content when ever inspiration hits you.
  • Just write – Sometimes to jolt your creative system you need to simply write without an agenda. This is a great way to empty your mind of thoughts and ideas that have been percolating for quite some time.
  • Read other bloggers – Become a master at reading a ton of other blogs. If you can manage dozens or hundreds a day, you will never be short of ideas. And remember to copy ideas down as you get them.
  • Figure out needs – Use your readers’ needs as the starting point for your blog posts. What problems are they facing? What questions are they asking?
  • Combine two unrelated ideas – A great exercise for generating ideas is to take two completely unrelated ideas and then combine them. For example, what kind of ideas can you create when you match blogging with Mt. Everest? Or what about digital marketing and The Simpsons? See how that works?

Superstar bloggers are passionate

If you look at bloggers like Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin or Ramit Sethi, you’ll see that they love what they do. You can also see that they are also totally immersed in what they do.

Are you totally immersed in what you do?

It’s OK to start a blog and then learn 30 days down the road that you really don’t love the subject you are trying to write on. Maybe it was just a passing phase.

What you need to do, however, is drop it fast and pick up something that you do love, because readers will be able to tell if you are not enthusiastic about your blog. They’ll sniff you out and you will struggle to grow it.

The godfather of passion, however, has to be Gary Vaynerchuk. His passion is obvious whatever he touches or speaks — it could be on his Wine Library TV or on stage or on one of the many videos that he shares through his marketing blog.

He’s on fire and you can’t help watch him and get on fire, too. And this is why he is a superstar blogger.

Superstar bloggers interact with their readers

You can not shy away from those who comment on your site. You need to jump in and thank every single person who comments. You need to engage them with questions and pick their brains for ideas on new topics.

Run surveys on your site using KISSinsights or simply publish a post asking for new content suggestions.

You should also run contests that reward your readers with gifts, letting them know how much you appreciate their support.

When you create content that your readers really love and can relate to then you are on your way to creating a vibrant community who will support you for a very long time, both as readers and buyers.

Besides, you want this community engaged so they share your content on the social web.

Superstar bloggers are insanely focused

You’ll kick butt in the blogging world if you can stay focused and organized. The very best of bloggers have a razor-sharp focus.

They see the big picture and then use their self-discipline to stick to it.

But they also don’t do it alone. They use productivity tools to help them stay focused and efficient. Here are eight I recommend every blogger use:

  1. Zaarly – You can hire just about anybody in your area to do just about anything you need done. Want somebody to research for you? What about put a desk together?
  2. Batchbook – As your contact list grows, you’ll want a great system to manage it. Batchbook is a cloud-based contact management tool that can even handle your social media contacts.
  3. MailChimp – I’ll mention this in a later section, but you’ll want to create an email newsletter that looks professional and doesn’t cost a fortune. MailChimp can help you.
  4. DropBox – With this app you can access any document or file anywhere you want. Store a document on your laptop and it’s on your iPhone, too.
  5. Jing – This free tool allows you to capture images from the web, create arrows and boxes on those images and then post to your blog. You can also create videos and narrate on the fly.
  6. Rescue Time – This thing will easily save you 4 to 5 hours every week because it tracks what you do and helps you avoid distractions.
  7. Evernote – Clip a URL, selection of a page or the entire page into Evernote and then save for later. Great for recording ideas for future blog posts.
  8. FreshBooks – Once you start earning a living off of your blogging, you will definitely keep track of your income and expenses. This tool will help you do that without wasting your time.

Superstar bloggers understand their strengths and weaknesses

Great bloggers know what they are really good at, and they know what they are really bad at. This helps them to see what they need to work on or delegate to someone else to help conquer their goals.

This can include things like design, code or proofing.

But you also need to learn how to give away those tasks that you don’t enjoy at all. Those are the tasks that rob you of productivity because you tend to procrastinate. And like I mentioned above, use a tool like Zaarly to delegate.

Superstar bloggers use a variety of media

In today’s world, copy is not enough. Google is learning how to index video and audio and giving you a wider net to cast for possible search terms.

What you have to do is learn when to use each of these tools. For example, you need to ask yourself:

  • When should you use text? As long as search is dominated by keywords, then this will make up the chunk of content you produce. But as you will see, you will also be combining medias.
  • When should you use video? I’m a fan of creating short videos for tutorial type content. SEOmoz does this with their Whiteboard Fridays and Khan Academy has become famous though his use of video.  This also works well with video, especially with Google+’s hangout feature. Keep in mind that you should create a transcript to put on YouTube and your website for the skim readers and search engine spiders.
  • When should you use audio? Audio works great for tutorials, but I’ve found that the best podcasts are those that feature two people talking make it way more interesting. Check out the Manager Tools podcast to see what I mean.

Superstar bloggers diversify their income

Superstar bloggers don’t rely on their blog to bring in all their income. In other words, you don’t rely on just one income stream.

This means that you need to use your blog as a stepping stone to other ventures. This could be to books you sell and create like Darren Rowse does.

Or information products to sell like Timothy Sykes does.

Maybe it’s to promote yourself as a speaker or the platform you use to promote your own conference.

In addition, your blog will also become a magnet for joint ventures with other bloggers — something you must engage in if you want to expand your audience.

Superstar bloggers are thorough and original

While in the early days of blogging, before there was so much competition, being brief was very important.

Not so anymore.

These days people want more than just a quick answer. They want a detailed, highly researched post that will answer their questions completely.

The worst thing you can do as a blogger is to provide a pat answer to a real problem.

When it comes to creating content for your blog, the superstar method is to study your analytics to see who is coming to your site, when, from what source, where are they going, why they are there and how to get them converted into subscribers.

There is a huge audience online. This Edison report shows that more than half of Americans who are age 12 or older are using social media.

How do you tap into those people?

You analyze the search terms, you study your Twitter analytics to see what gets shared the most, you look into why some posts get more comments than others, and then you create content that produces those kinds of results.

Superstar bloggers are curious

You’re probably thinking that superstar bloggers reach a certain point and then they stop learning.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The bloggers that I’ve met who I consider superstars — people like Ben Huh and John Chow — are constantly reading, studying and looking for ways to implement and test their ideas.

These are people who will try anything once.

These are your 0.1%. And that’s going to be you.

The thing about these guys and girls is that they are curious, restless and eager to know more.

They are also some of the most humble people I’ve met, too, which is important. They never come off as arrogant or prideful. They want to learn from you no matter who you are, and they want to help you learn, too.

Superstar bloggers are relentless

From reading to writing and testing to tweaking, superstar bloggers never stop. Sure, they may take a short break just to get their bearings again, but they won’t be away from it too long.

And when it comes to writing great content, each and every day they are creating posts that stick to the subject matter they are experts on.

They don’t stray, and when it seems like they do they are always really good about tying the post back into their cornerstone content.

And when it comes to their schedule, superstars are also very consistent here, too. You need to decide when you are going to post, and then stick to it!

One more thing: If you want to become a superstar blogger you have to understand that success takes a long time.

Trust me. I’ve been at this for over 10 years, and one of the things that has kept me at it even when things get really difficult, is that I’m relentless and I stick to the master plan.

Superstar bloggers are humble

You can’t really be a life-long learner if you think you know it all. That’s why you need to remain humble and understand that you have so much to learn.

It will take time and you will master certain aspects of blogging. You may become one of the best headline writers like Matt Drudge is, but you know you can always get better.

That’s humility.

Superstar bloggers are self-starters

If you ever plan on working for yourself, then you better know that you will need to be able to manage yourself.

What do I mean exactly?                 

You’ll need to be able to kick yourself out of bed and get to writing when you would much rather sleep in on the rainy day.

The thing about working for yourself is that you only make as much money as you work. If you’re not writing, then you are losing money.

Being a self-starter is all about having ideas and then putting them to work. If you can’t do that, then you will not become a superstar blogger.

Superstar bloggers watch for trends

If you really want to catch some traction with your blog, watch what is trending on Twitter and Google and then jump on that traffic.

This is why blog posts that tie into current trends always get a lot of traction. For example, when Steve Jobs pasted away I wrote a post on the 11 Business Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Me. And I didn’t just do it for the traffic, but instead it allowed me to look back at all of the great things he helped me accomplish in life.

That post got a lot of traction.

Here’s another example. This is what is hot on searches as of this writing:

img src=”http://www.seomoz.org/img/upload/image%206%20%281%29.jpg” alt=”” />

You could write an article titled “How Amanda Bynes Getting Arrested Can Make You Filthy Rich.” You could do that with all of those searches.

Keep in mind that trendy posts must relate to your readers self interest. In other words, you just can’t write a trendy post for the sake of writing a trendy post.

You have to write about something your readers care about.

Superstar bloggers find a common enemy

This a great copywriter tactic that says you will engage readers if you choose an enemy that both of you hate. For example, very successful financial newsletters will play on fears that the government is out to get the money of the rich, and make the government the enemy.

In SEO, Google or Microsoft is often played as the enemy, the big bad guys who wants to spy on everyone, play to their favorites and never give SEOs a break:


Now I don’t suggest that your cornerstone content is all about you attacking this common enemy. That will get old quick.

Superstar bloggers are not afraid to outdo another blogger

For the most part the blogging community is made up of people who get along pretty well. So I’m not talking about doing something rude to someone else.

I’m simply talking about taking their idea and making it better.

Here’s what I mean. If I write a blog post called 10 SEO Trends You Can’t Ignore, then you can come along and write one called “10 SEO Trends That Will Drive Massive Traffic to Your Site in 45 Minutes.”

When it comes to gaining attention, that strategy really works.

Don’t be afraid to use it.

Superstar bloggers twist social media to their advantage

Back in the day when blogging was the only game in town the way to get people talking about and sharing your content was through commenting on other blogs.

This is what Pete Cashmore did with Mashable. He literally commented on hundreds of blogs a day.

With the rise of social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook, commenting is still a successful strategy, but using these social media sites have become a major part of a successful bloggers arsenal.

It all starts with creating great content that people love to share. And it continues with you sharing other people’s content, building a list of influencers you follow and interacting on a daily basis with your followers.

Social media will help spread your brand across the web.

Superstar bloggers build a list

The real magic of the blog comes in with the list that you build from your growing audience. The more you blog the more traffic you will get.

But that traffic is worthless if you don’t do anything with it.

See, the email inbox is still a very private thing, and it’s a place that almost everyone still communicates.

Friendstar came and went. MySpace has come and gone. And maybe Twitter, Facebook and eventually Google+ will go away when something new and better comes along.

But through all of this email still remains.

So if you want a way to communicate with your audience, then start building an email newsletter list.

This gives those who sign up an exclusive relationship with you. And your conversion rates will be much higher when you market to the email list.

Superstar bloggers target their traffic

One big mistake that a lot of beginning bloggers make is they try for the biggest audience. They may end up getting 1,000 hits a day to their blog, but not get more single subscriber or one single person to buy from them.

How can that be? If the traffic is so high, they should be able to make at least one sale, right?

Sadly it’s wrong.

The problem with this approach is that quantity never outranks quality. If you have only 50 highly qualified hits to your site you will more than likely have higher conversion rates than if you had 1,000.

So know who your audience is and what they want and then give it to them.

Superstar bloggers are very personal

You likely have one or two bloggers who you think are the greatest. And I’ll bet that one of the reasons that you like these bloggers so much is how personal they are.

They blog every day about business and the world of content marketing, but it’s always in there — those life experiences that are very close to them — and how these experiences can turn into lessons to help you the reader.

Chris Brogan is a master of this skill. If you look at his “Best Of” page you’ll see that a lot of that content is written from a personal perspective:


It’s like he was writing just to you because he is writing like he is talking. He is very conversational. It is coming out so easy because he is passionate and informed about what he is talking about, but it’s in such a personal context that you can totally relate.

Superstar bloggers stick to their brand

While lots of superstar bloggers started off without really knowing their brand, they knew what they were really good at it, but they didn’t have a really good idea of their essence.

But blogging eventually helped flesh that out.

Johnny B. Truant has created a brand of blogger misfit. His name alone tells you a lot, but then his avatar that’s branded on Twitter, Facebook and his blog tells you even more. He’s biting into an apple, which reminds you of Adam and Eve and the first sin.


His brand is very distinct. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t create another blog and create another brand. Lots of superstar bloggers run two or more blogs, but each blog is branded very uniquely.

Conclusion

In a world where so many blogs are being published you need to know what qualities are necessary to rise above the crowd and stand out like a superstar. Fortunately you can look at current blogging superstars and follow what they did.

What other qualities do blogging superstars have?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. His personal blog, Quick Sprout, is where you will find him discussing his business mistakes while walking you through his entrepreneurial journey. This article originally appeared on SEOmoz and is republished with permission. SEO­moz is not affil­i­ated with Socialmedia.biz and has not reviewed this trans­la­tion. The author’s posts are entirely her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz. SEO­moz pro­vides the Web’s best SEO tools and resources.