(Guest Post by Kelly Gurnett of Cordelia Calls It Quits)
Bullet-pointed Top 10 lists…
SEO-maximized keyword usage…
Cultivating your e-mail list…
Mmmm… Hubbah, hubbah, right?
If you’ve been studying the big blogging gurus for a while, you know all the stock tricks to build a “better” blog. And this is stuff worth knowing. It’s the foundation that make your blog professional, effective, and ready to potentially grab some attention in this crowded space known as the blogosphere.
But none of these expert tricks will mean squat if your content puts people to sleep when they actually start reading it.
Why None of the Expert Advice Matters
It’s just like a book. (Remember those? The physical ones, not the digital, you-can-read-Fifty-Shades-of-Gray-on-the-sly ones.)
You can have the best A-team publishing squad on your side… the sleekest, most attention-grabbing book jacket… glowing reviews from bestselling authors… a marketing strategy that makes people who don’t even read want to line up in front of Barnes & Noble to get your Great American Novel the day it’s released. But if the book itself is a snooze, it’ll be in the bargain bin sooner than you can say “What the mother-loving $*#&?”
The gurus like to say “content is king.” And they’re half-right. Great content is Blogging 101, but if you want your blog to succeed, you’ve gotta go beyond the basics. And it’s your voice that makes your content either shine or plummet to the earth with a sad “wah-wah!” noise.
It’s you, the personality behind the blog, that readers will connect with. It’s you who brings the content alive and makes it the kind of thing people want to subscribe to, retweet, and tell their friends about.
Which means that you’ve gotta be pretty freakin’ awesome.
The Cold, Hard Truth (And How You Can Totally Kick Its A**)
I’ll let you in on a little secret (brace yourself, it’s a depressing one): Everything you want to say on your blog has already been said. Everything.
I’ll pause to let the sound of shattering dreams settle.
That’s right. Every thought you have, every topic you want to cover, every epic opinion you’re ready to unleash on the world — someone, somewhere, has already said it or is already saying it. So how do you even stand a chance?
By saying it in a way no one else ever could.
What sets the great blogs apart from the “meh” ones is the way the bloggers present their material. You keep coming back to them not because they’re necessarily writing something never before written, but because they’re writing it in a way that resonates with you. Because they’re fun, they’re snarky, they’re fresh, they’re weird — they’re whatever it is that makes you remember them and want to see more of them. They’ve got pizzazz.
And you need to get you some of that pizzazz if you want your blog to avoid making that sad “wah-wah!” noise!
Help! I HAVE No Personality!
First of all, that is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, and I want to give you a hug.
Secondly, we all have a unique personality, and if you feel the driving, overwhelming urge to share your message with the world, then you can be pretty confident your one-of-a-kind voice is in there somewhere too. Because bland Joe Schmoes don’t have a passion for blogging. They prefer to express their personality by sharing Family Guy clips on Facebook and wearing t-shirts they think are hilarious.
So, how do you find this elusive voice of yours?
I’d recommend these exercises:
- Journal. Every night, write down whatever’s on your mind and your heart that day, and write it knowing that you and only you will be reading it. Write it with the abandon of a 16-year-old girl writing about her world-ending crush. Really let loose. The more you learn to let go of how you’ll “sound” and just allow yourself to capture what’s gushing out of you, the more you’ll start to hear your voice — and the more comfortable you’ll get writing in it.
- Write how you talk. Imagine you’re writing your post as an e-mail to your best friend, the same way you’d talk to him or her in person. Do you tend to make up words? Do you scatter high-falutin’ terms from your days as an English major in between your “like”s and “OMG”s? Do you use ironic pop culture references? Write your post in that voice, not the voice you used to write term papers in. If one of your good friends can’t read your blog and think, “Yep, this sounds like her!”, then you’re doing it all wrong.
- Speak what you write. Read your post out loud when you’re done writing it. If something is stilted, long-winded, or unnatural, you’ll hear it a lot faster than you would re-reading it. If you don’t feel like “you” reading the words you wrote, edit them so you do.
- Follow the greats. Take a look at the way bloggers like Ash Ambirge, Erika Napoletano, and up-and-comer Courtney Johnston write their posts. You feel like you know then (and that they are awesome) from the get-go. That’s what your going for. Don’t mimic them, but look at the ways they make their posts sounds like genuine (uncensored) conversations. Then go forth and try your hand at doing the same.
Kelly Gurnett runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger here.
[Photo by Sam Howzit]