Having interviewed dozens of thought leaders in recent years, I feel well-qualified to praise Stephane Grenier on the quality of the interviews he conducted of 40 top bloggers who, to varying extent and in diverse ways, share their "secrets to creating a high-profile, high-traffic, and high-profit blog." After providing a mini-bio for each, Grenier poses excellent questions while not interfering with the flow of thought or homogenizing the responses to the same set of questions. (If you think that's easy, try interviewing only two or three rather than 40 different people.) The interviews are listed in a first-name alpha order (i.e. Aaron Wall of SEOBook is first and Yaro Starak of Entrepreneur's Journey is last) rather than in thematic order (formulating a business model and a game plan, aesthetics, infrastructure, getting started, attracting and increasing traffic, developing what Seth Godin calls a "tribe, " etc.). I subscribe to a few blogs (including those of Malcolm Gladwell, Guy Kawasaki, and Seth Godin), am actively involved in a few others, and have been thinking about launching one of my own. Therefore, I was especially interested in the information and advice provided in the interviews.
Predictably, the responses to the set of questions reflected the different interests, values, objectives, and concerns of the respondents. (Grenier is to be commended on respecting and preserving those differences.) However, there were several areas in which there was a substantial consensus of agreement. For example, the Web sites most frequently recommended to new bloggers include
Daily Blog Tips
How to Change the World (Guy Kawasaki)
Joel on SoftwareProBlogger
Seth Godin's Typepad
Think Simple. Be Decisive
Which books to read? Several of those interviewed indicated that they read more books about writing and marketing than books about blogging. Others recommended that new bloggers read books most relevant to their specific interests. I thoroughly agree with J.D. Roth's recommendations of William Zinnser's On Writing Well, Stephen King's On Writing, and William Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style. With regard to marketing a blog, I agree with others interviewed who strongly recommend Godin's books (especially Purple Cow, The Big Moo, The Dip, and especially Tribes) as well as Marty Neumeier's The Brand Gap and Zag.
Most of those interviewed have invested more hours than dollars in their blogs and few have earned a living from it. Opinions vary as to how to measure a blog's success; several suggest that it should be calculated relative to a blogger's goals for it. Most agreed that new bloggers should allow at least six months, and in most instances 12-18 months, for a blog to achieve its goals, whatever they may be. With regard to what makes a blog successful, responses also vary. Some think it is traffic, others influence, still others a loyal and appreciative readership, and only a few revenue. Here are a few selections of advice that caught my eye:
"If you are new to blogging and want an idea to spread make sure you get community feedback early on such that market leaders in your industry have a vested interest in talking about your blog." Aaron Wall
"Everything I know about blogging is in this slideshow ([...]) David Darmano
"A new blogger should start by reading at least one hundred other blogs for a month. After that, if you still think you have something new to say, then start writing." Eric Sink
"You should write selfishly, to satisfy only yourself, or you'll burn out instantly. But all writing is meant to be read. The true metric for success for any kind of writing is how many people are reading [it]. All other success factors derive from that." Jeff Atwood
"The best blog posts are usually the ones that are short and sweet. So when writing content make sure to remove the fluff and just get down to the meat of the content." Neil Patel
"A blog post is a product. It fills a need in the market, it has competitors, and the prospective customers for the product have virtually infinite choices among other products. Make sure that your blog post provides something of value which they can't get anywhere else, and they will have no choice but to fill that need from you." Patrick McKenzie
"I don't think people should look at blogging as a money making venture. Very few people make money off a blog. But blogging opens tons of doors - via networking, especially, because bloggers have access to people they would not otherwise get access to. Blogging is a great way to build a career if you know what you want from your career." Penelope Trunk
"Use lists. Be topical...write posts that need to be read right now. Learn enough to become the expert in your field. Break news. Be timeless...write posts that will be readable in a year. Be among the first with a great blog on your topic, then encourage others to blog on the same topic. Share your expertise generously so people recognize it and depend on you. Announce news. Write short, pithy posts. Write stuff that people want to read and share." Seth Godin
"Try to write something you'd like to read from a stranger. The key is `from a stranger.' This means no writing about your dog or cat. Write about what other people care about. Give them something of value. Share your knowledge in a way that benefits others." Stephane Grenier
In addition to the books previously cited, here are some others sources worth checking out: Debbie Weil's The Corporate Blogging Book: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know to Get It Right, Robert W. Bly's Blog Schmog: The Truth About What Blogs Can (and Can't) Do for Your Business, Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett's ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, and Michael A. Banks's Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers.