The Top 10 Reasons Bloggers Don’t Succeed

Last week, the Blogging While Female article that I did touched on, in passing, some recommendations for bloggers who want to become more successful. I heard from a few people that they wanted to hear more on that topic and although I’m no Michelle Malkin or Power Line, I have done well enough to blog for a living, so I must be doing something right. Moreover, I have been writing on the net since 1998 and doing political blogging since 2001, so I have seen a lot — and I mean a LOT — of bloggers come and go.

With that in mind, here are, in my humble opinion, the top ten reasons that bloggers don’t succeed…

1) They’re just not very good. Everybody has different talents and skills and some people just aren’t very good writers. In the blogging world, people who can’t write either tend to pump out dreck or do huge excerpts of other articles with a line or two of their own content attached. That sort of post has its place, of course, but if it’s all you’re doing, it’s not a good sign.

On the upside, if you write every day, you will get better at it over time — but, it’s still a good idea to have a certain minimal level of ability before you start. If you don’t have it, it’s hard to see how you are ever going to build an audience.

2) They don’t cover interesting material. After 7 years of writing about politics, it generally takes me longer to find interesting material to write about than it does to actually write the material.

The best bloggers have something to say about the big issues of the day, but they also tend to have a knack for finding unusual stories or angles on those stories that everyone else is missing.

Are you willing to spend the time it takes looking for stories or are you just going to write about whatever is on the Drudge Report today? The answer to that may determine whether you will ever build an audience or not.

3) They’re not unique enough. There are hundreds and hundreds of right-of-center political blogs out there, many which have been around longer than you. Many of them are also run by very talented bloggers.

So, why should anyone read you? Why are you different? How do you stand out from the crowd? What do you deliver that no one else is putting out there? If you don’t know the answer to that, you better think about it, because there really isn’t much of a market any more for different people saying the same things that are being said on 50 other blogs.

That’s why I suggest to people that they find a niche or a hook they can use to draw people to their work. Be funny, be a specialist, cover something interesting that isn’t being adequately covered elsewhere, or talk about things in a way that other people don’t.

Stand out and you will move up. Blend in and you will never lift off.

4) They don’t network. Some people think there’s a “good ol’ boys club” in the blogging world that determines whether people are successes or failures. I can tell you for a fact that’s not true, because if there was one, I would be in it.

But, what is true is that meeting people in this business can be very helpful. For example, I don’t generally link people JUST BECAUSE they’re my friends. However, do I regularly check out my friends’ blogs? Yes. If I am iffy on whether I am going to link a post, am I more likely to link it because he/she’s my friend? Yes. If I run across the same story in 5 different places, am I more likely to give the “hat tip” on RWN to a friend of mine than the other 4 people? Yes. Are all these same things likely true for lots of other bloggers besides me? Yes. Plus, you can bounce ideas off of friends, ask them to help you get your foot in the door in certain places, use them as references, etc., etc.

Additionally, even if they can’t help with your blog, there are a lot of really incredible people out there on the Right and it’s a lot of fun talking to them. So, make an effort to connect to other bloggers. Worst case scenario, they’ll ignore you. Best case scenario, you’ll meet some fascinating people to have mutually beneficial personal and professional relationships with.

5) They don’t promote their work. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Better question: If a blogger does an incredible post and no one knows it exists, does it do them any good? The answer is, “no.”

If you do something really exceptional — note very carefully that I said, really exceptional, not just run-of-the-mill pap — don’t be afraid to send a promo email suggesting that other bloggers take a look at it.

Now, don’t get me wrong; You DO NOT want to send these emails out constantly for every little thing or it will annoy people. But, if you’ve done something stunning, don’t be afraid to let the blogging world know about it. We get a bazillion emails a day from Congress, interest groups, other bloggers, and everybody else you can imagine promoting their work, so why shouldn’t you do it, too?

If you don’t want to do that, I understand, but just remember: if no one knows you wrote something great, how can anyone link it?

6) They’re not consistent enough. They take days off. Usually, the first sign that a blog is about to die is that the blogger takes time off without notice or for a longer period that expected. Then, it often turns into a vicious cycle. When you’re off, you bleed readers and then when you come back, you’re even less motivated than before because your readership is smaller, so you take more time off, you bleed more readers, rinse and repeat.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ever take time off, but what it does mean is that you should try to keep it to a minimum, get guest bloggers if you can, and be very clear about when you are coming back. If your readers start to think you may not show up tomorrow, they may not show up tomorrow either.

7) Doing their initial promos too early. This is a pet peeve of mine.

Good idea: After you’ve gotten your blog designed, all the links work, and you have a few days worth of posts ready to go, you should send out an email introducing your new blog to the rest of the blogosphere and inviting them to link you.

Bad idea: Sending out the above mentioned email when you have two posts up and/or a website that isn’t finished yet. This is a bad idea because most bloggers who look at your page won’t be impressed and won’t bother to link.

In other words, get your ducks in a row before you start asking people to link you or they’ll write you off before you’ve even gotten started.

8) They don’t link out enough. I cannot tell you how many small blogs I have read and/or linked for the first time because they wrote about something I said on RWN and it either showed up in my statistics tracker or on Technorati.

It’s flattering to be linked and when you do it and people notice, they will often consider linking to you. If you don’t link out, you may find it difficult to get links coming back in your direction.

9) They don’t post enough each day. On a typical day, there are 6 posts that amount to roughly 2500 words or so of copy on RWN. Most successful blogs churn out at least 1500 words a day and most of them do considerably more.

In other words, you have got to put out enough material each day so that people can find something entertaining on your page that will keep them coming back. Ideally, I’d like it if people enjoy everything I write on RWN, but if they enjoy a post or two, they’ll probably come back tomorrow.

On the other hand, if you only do a post or two each day and someone doesn’t like either of them, they may never be back. That means each day, — not, if you feel like it, not depending on what you are doing, not just if you get enough sleep — each day, you have to commit to churning out these posts.

Personally, I get my posts out no matter what. If it means I get 3 hours sleep today, so be it. If it means I miss a movie I want to go see, I can always go watch it tomorrow.

If you’re not that dedicated, you may not have what it takes.

10) They don’t hang around long enough. The other day, a friend of mine was asking me how long it took me to build up to where I could do RWN full-time. Just to give you an idea, here’s a rough idea of my progression,

November 2000: I decide to start a political blog.
January 1, 2001 (I think): RWN starts up
August 2001: 300 daily uniques per day (*** I switched formats at this point ***)
November 2001: 1000 daily uniques per day
November 2002: 3000 daily uniques per day
November 2003: 5000 daily uniques per day
July 2004: 6500 daily uniques per day
November 2004: 10,000 daily uniques per day
December 2004: 8,000 daily uniques per day
Feb 2005: Went full-time.
March 2008: 9,500 daily uniques per day

Now, I started with no experience in politics, no name recognition, no contacts, and no special edge (beyond about 300 readers I held onto from the comedy website I ran before RWN). If you do have some of these things, it may be an easier climb up the ranks for you.

On the other hand, traffic for the blogosphere in general, on both the Left and the Right, has been relatively flat since early 2005. If, God help us all, Hillary or Barack wins the presidency, I do expect the Right side of the blogosphere to have another big burst in 2009 and 2010 — but, we’ll see if that plays out.

Long story short: for most people, it takes a long time to build an audience. So, if you don’t love blogging enough to do it for free and for a few hundred people, you’re probably not ever going to stick to it long enough to build up a decent sized audience.

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