This is the 5th anniversary of my blog! With over a half million views last year and near the top of almost every list of best leadership blogs, it has been successful beyond anything I had imagined.
I am passing along the biggest the lessons I’ve learned. In this post, I focus on the biggest driver of a successful blog – great content. My post Three Blogging Essentials focuses on the other essentials for a successful blog.
Why do you want to write a blog?
This is the most important question you need to answer. I thought about it a lot before I began, and my first blog post listed my reasons for blogging. It also included a fabulous 2-minute video of Seth Godin and Tom Peters discussing the benefit of blogging. (I’ve included a copy of that video at the bottom of this post for those who have never seen it).
Review your reasons for why you want to write a blog regularly. Over the years, some of my original reasons have become more refined and others have become less important.
If you are writing your blog solely to promote your business services, products or books, it will be difficult to stay focused and committed.
My top 10 tips to write a blog with great content
The appeal of your blog depends on the appeal of your content. It’s that simple. Bill Gates stated this in 1996 and it’s still true – “content is king.” Which means, you need to very clear about who your readers are and what are the ideas and tools they need to learn, grow and achieve their goals.
1. Provide new ideas: Don’t just rehash other people’s stuff. If you’re saying the same thing everyone else is saying, why would anyone besides your mother want to read it?
If you have original thinking, this is the place to share it. Over a two year period, I unpacked every concept in my book Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision, and then linked them up in a summarizing post: How to Create a Shared Vision That Works. This post has had over 75,000 views to date!
2. Provide new ways to apply old ideas: New ideas might not come easily, but you can draw on wisdom of the past and find new ways to apply it to today’s world. The 4 Decision Styles: When to Involve Others in Decisions simplifies and extends the work of Victor Vroom to focus on today’s challenges around collaboration.
3. Provide new solutions to a familiar problem. Lots of people give suggestions for how to help a team that is stuck. But I haven’t seen anyone suggesting it might be a good idea to end the team. So I offered a new solution in: Caught in Team Drift? Consider Honorable Closure.
Want to write about listening? Don’t just list the old “active listening” stuff. In considering a new way to address listening, I looked at underlying attitudes in: Great Leaders Assume a Listening Attitude.
4. Test your newest thinking. If you are interesting in growing and learning, your blog is a great platform to test out your latest thinking. Put out your ideas that are not yet fully formed. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain because you get immediate feedback. If you are onto something, people will read, share and comment on your post. If not, they will ignore it.
I like to test new models – ways of making sense of the world around us. My post How to Influence Without Authority was an experiment that has been extremely successful. With over 60,000 views, it shows up on the first page of an Internet search for “influencing without authority.”
5. Help your readers see things differently. Give them a new way of understanding a situation they commonly face. If you want to write about a common topic like “how to create a life you want to be remembered for,” provide something different like a counter-intuitive story. See Alfred’s Wake Up Call.
6. Provide practical suggestions for actions they can take.
Don’t make blanket statements like “leaders should create a culture where…” unless you are able to provide suggestions on how to do it.
Instead, give practical tips for things you do know how to do. A simple, but popular post was Why You Fall Off Track and 4 Tips to Get Back. You have more credibility when you provide realistic, actionable tips.
7. Stay “close to your knitting.” Provide a consistent view of who you are, what you stand for, and who you are speaking to so your tribe can find you. I write about leadership and personal mastery that enables people to take responsibility for creating positive workplaces. But occasionally, it’s ok to go off-topic, like I am doing with this post. It keeps you from becoming boringly predictable.
8. Be who you are. Don’t describe yourself as a “thought leader,” unless you have been among the first to develop a new concept. You can be more powerful and credible as a great “subject matter expert.” When you know your stuff and can help other people understand it, you are offering a valuable service.
9. Speak from your own experience. You lose credibility when you spout unsubstantiated opinions. And armchair quarterbacks are not appreciated. Don’t tell people they should do something you haven’t done yourself.
If you want to write about the qualities of a great leader, write about your own experience as a leader or your experience of leaders you have worked with.
If you want to make a list the qualities of a great leader, don’t just makeup a list off the top of your head. A lot of good research exists on this topic. Include links to the research that substantiates your list.
If you want to write about mindfulness, if you are a serious long-time student or teacher, your thoughts would be helpful. If you are new to this field, provide links to the articles or books that influenced your thinking.
If you are writing about how to change an organization’s culture, describe an effort you were involved in. If you haven’t done it, provide a reference to the case study by the experts who have.
10. Don’t self-promote in your post. Focus on adding value to your readers, and they will see the value you have to offer. A blog post that is primarily a sales job is a big turn-off.
If you want to promote your services, do it after you post is done. Here’s an example of how Dan Rockwell aka @Leadershipfreak does this quite professionally: 4 Surprising Times to Leap for Joy
Take a moment to watch this fabulous 2-minute video of Seth Godin and Tom Peters talking about the benefits of blogging.