The Great Content Hoax: Why Just Blogging Your Passion Won’t Build You an Empire

the #1 reason your blog is growing slowly

photo credit: lanuiop cc

Does this sound like you or someone you know?

“I’ve been writing on my blog for a year now and only have 32 followers. …and 14 of them are my family.”

“I write on my blog 3x a week but people who find my blog don’t stay!”

“Why does nobody leave a comment on my blog? It’s like a ghost town around here!”

::

It’s true that blogging can help you make money, build an online community, and grow a base of fans who can’t wait to hear the brilliant things you have to say.

It’s also true that most of us fail dismally at growing our blogs.

If you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, I have good news for you: over the next three posts, I’m going to share with you three strategies I used to grow my own mailing list, and to go from square one to a vibrant community full of engaged readers in just three months.

So let’s jump right in and learn about…

the #1 reason your blog is growing slowly

What Other Bloggers Will Tell You

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the advice,

“Just blog about what you love!”

-or-

“If you have enough passion, people will see that and want to be part of your community!”

I agree that you don’t want to be blogging about topics that don’t excite you, but…

“Blog Your Passion” is only a Half-Truth

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, you know there’s more to that story.

When most people start their blogs, they have a million ideas. They pick a topic that they could talk about forever; making a list of posts to write is as simple as sitting down and asking, “What do I know that I want to share?”

They think that if they just write good posts about what they know, they’ll be successful.

While this isn’t the world’s worst way of starting a blog, it’s a great way to end up with 400 posts and only 60 regular readers.

Why?

You’re going about it backwards.

The problem with dwelling on what you know is that you may put a lot of information out there through your blog, but may never reach the person who will be most passionate about sharing your posts, retweeting your ideas, and spreading your message.

Need an example?

Let’s say you’re a fitness guru who loves to lift weights, eat raw veggies, and deny yourself sweets and other fun stuff. Know what? That could describe thousands of fitness bloggers. But you assume that because you have great photos of different workout techniques and describe new workout plans that “really get results,” you’re going to stand out from the crowd?

Now let’s think about Liz, your potential reader, a 37-year-old single mom who works nights as a nurse at the local hospital. She already knows she needs to eat more veggies, lift some weights occasionally, and cut out the junk food (who doesn’t?). Her problem isn’t not knowing what to do – it’s finding the motivation (and the time!) to live a healthier lifestyle.

If you stick to your guns and blog only about the mechanics of working out, you’ve already lost Liz. She might follow a link to your blog one time, but she’s certainly not going to stick around.

But the day she finds someone who is talking about her problem and helps her overcome the challenges she’s facing, she’s going to be that blogger’s number one fan.

And then she’s going to tell all her friends.

If your blog is going to be successful, you need to be helping someone. Inspiring someone to think differently and act differently. Making someone’s life better. (tweet this!)

Get Focused

Ask yourself this question: If you could have 100 new subscribers today, but they all had to be a clone of one of your existing readers, who would that reader be?

The best way to find that existing reader is to identify who is the most generous about sharing your content, gives you praise and thanks, refers their personal friends to your site, buys your e-books, and whom you love to see in the comments.

Once you have identified this reader, ask yourself what they come to your blog looking for, what specific problems they need to solve, what they’re passionate about, what their own goals are and what value YOU offer the relationship.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

::

Now visit your blog and read all of the pages, your last 10 posts, view all of the images and work your way through the site with your number one reader in mind. I want you to imagine that this blog has been built specifically for just that one person.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the stories on the blog resonate with her?
  • Are the images engaging to look at?
  • Is she able to connect with a real person that’s behind the blog?
  • Is the information relevant and interesting?

Your blog should be built for your number one reader and nobody else. This is usually difficult to execute because we are afraid of potentially losing other readers that might come through, but listen:

When you strike a chord with that one person – when you solve her problem, when you make her life better – she will share your content, tell her friends, promote your products, and keep telling your story long after your other site visitors have moved on to the next Pinterest pin.

…and the good news is, if there’s one “Liz” out there for you, there are thousands.

So tell me:

Whose life are you going to change? Tell me about your ideal reader and what you’re doing to serve their needs. Or what changes are you going to make on your blog to find that one person?

Share this post on Pinterest (thanks!), and then leave a comment below.

Because I’m in this for you.

Why isn't your blog growing? Here's one good reason.

Leave a Comment:

145 comments
Megan @ EducationPossible.com says

I love this Jeni, especially – “Once you have identified this reader, ask yourself what they come to your blog looking for, what specific problems they need to solve, what they’re passionate about, what their own goals are and what value YOU offer the relationship.”

I’m doing this now and I’m thankful to be doing it a few months in, rather than a few years.

Looking forward to the rest of the series!

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    jeni says

    Hi Megan,
    If you’ve only been blogging for a few months, it looks like you’re already making some great waves. 🙂 Good for you! I love to hear success stories and hope you’ll have plenty more to share.

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Tricia Gaitan says

Thank you Jeni for your wonderful posts!! It is so hard to not be self indulgent when it comes to blogging. I blog to chronicle my families little life story. I would in the near future like to take on some sponsors though so your advice does not fall on deaf ears. I will be looking forward to the next posts. Thanks for everything.

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    jeni says

    Hi Tricia, nice to see you again! I wouldn’t discount the fact that people may be coming to your blog for *inspiration.* That in itself is a benefit they’re getting from your blog. But maybe another way of looking at it is, if you wanted to give your readers one special gift to take with them, what would it be? It doesn’t have to be something tangible. When people start coming to your blog with open hands, expecting that they’ll get something good, then they’re the perfect audience for any sponsors you might want for your site.

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Dave Bell says

Brilliant article! The content myth… BRILLIANT! Thank you for the TRUTH!

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Marty Walden says

Great post! I was excited to see your email today. My blog started out as our adoption story and the heartaches and triumphs we experienced. I had few readers but they were engaged. Then I started writing about our DIY projects and my pageviews exploded and I found a whole new world that I absolutely loved. It took me months of examination but I started a 2nd blog where I share my heart and my original blog is for my business: sponsored content, DIY projects, recipes, thrifty and fast home decor ideas. There is not as much engagement, and I’m hoping to continue on to the next stage of becoming bigger. I will definitely think through what you said as it is great advice! I’ve pinned and tweeted!

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    jeni says

    Thanks for sharing, Marty. It’s funny how blogs can evolve into something different from when we started! I think it’s wise to continue giving your readers what they need on the original blog, and using a different platform for your personal story. Congrats on your success so far!

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Lauren says

I was so thrilled to see your newsletter hit my inbox this morning! What you wrote really resonated with me. So often you hear the advice to just write for yourself, but if growing readership is a big goal then of course you have to cater and appeal to readers!

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susan says

Spotted this via Pinterest. Thanks for challenging me to think about my target audience differently and focus more on what they are looking for.

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Simmone Daughdrill says

Hi Jeni,

This blog post is so helpful. I have been wanting to start a blog but I have been overwhelmed by narrowing down what I want to blog about, designing my blog, etc. This motivates me to just do it and gives me a strategy for growing my blog. Thank you.

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    jeni says

    That’s great news, Simmone. The more specific you can be with the topic of your blog, the better. 🙂

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Pam Allen says

WOW…what an awesome article! I shared of course because I think all bloggers should think like this and it’s so true! The blogs I follow daily have wrote about something “I” personally connected with- brilliant!

Thanks
Pam

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Kara says

In college I always heard “write what you know,” which was great advice but that was in a time before blogs where finding *your* audience is so important! 🙂 I am looking forward to your e-book! 🙂

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    jeni says

    I agree, Kara – there’s so much more information (“noise?”) out there now. You have to really work hard to stand out from the crowd.

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Ms. Nix says

Thank you for the great insight. I am going to view my site over the weekend with my number one reader in mind. I want to go my blog and gain a loyal following but you are exactly right; if my reader(s) are engaged, if I’m not helping them to help themselves…I’m just like all the rest – pretty to look at but nothing gained from the experience.

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    jeni says

    I’d love to hear what you discover when you look at your blog this weekend, so keep me posted. 🙂

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      Ms. Nix says

      Definitely, I will come back and give you my personal critique of my site (smiles)

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Jeanette says

I have pinned this post cause this is a very good post. I really suck in everything when it comes to blogging cause I really want to build a great blog:) Looking forward to the ebook!

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Suzy @ Worthing Court says

Great article, Jeni! I’m looking forward to more!

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Beth Cranford says

Love this advice. I’ve heard all about creating your ideal customer but this is so much more effective! I think I was sort of doing this naturally but I think that if I do it intentionally, really find out who that person is and ask myself the questions you outlined here, I’ll see even better results.
I’m about to launch something new though. In that case, do you kind of guess, or start with that imaginary ideal customer that everyone tells you to create until you actually get some traffic?
Can’t wait to read more in this series.

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    jeni says

    I think that when you’re starting a new project, your options are more limited. To create a reader profile, you don’t have to have met them yet; I’d advise to just make sure you stay really flexible with your definition of that ideal reader, so that you can reevaluate once you’ve started to connect with an audience. Good luck with your new project! I’d love to hear how it goes.

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Heather Jackson says

Wow, I think that was exactly what I needed to hear today! I need to not only let people know how to do thing on the homestead, but that they CAN live this life if it is the one they are craving. *lightbulb*

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    jeni says

    Loved the lightbulb, Heather. Definitely keep me posted about what happens when you make those changes!

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    Christina says

    Exactly what I was thinking, Heather! I’ve written a lot about how-to, but they need to be inspired to do it first.

    Yes, giant lightbulb, Jenni. 🙂 Thank you. Interestingly, my ideal reader actually rarely comments, and isn’t active in social media, but she takes action and makes changes because of my blog. That’s what I want for the blog.

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lori says

Hi Jeni,
Yes, I DID miss you–welcome back! I can’t wait to see your ebook…
Thanks also for this helpful post. I sometimes get caught up in the frenzy and need to relax into “less is sometimes more”…Aloha, Lori

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    jeni says

    Well, there’s nothing “frenzied” around here, but you probably don’t want too much of my casual attitude to rub off on you. 🙂 Hope you’re well, Lori!

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Elizabeth says

This is really an interesting post. To be honest I have not focused so much on growing my blog, lately, but I think this excercise could be also useful for focusing your content, deciding what it is you are really blogging about. I have an older blog where we could really see what resonated from the stats, but not one particular reader. really interesting way to approach it.

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    jeni says

    I appreciate your perspective, Elizabeth. I think it really boils down to what your goals for your blog are. It’s tough to start a new blog now, with so many millions out there; if people don’t yet have stats to look at, this method might be a good start.

    Reply
      Elizabeth says

      I definitely have a no-stats-to-speak-of-yet blog too! I should probably get cracking on this plan!

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Corey @ Tinysidekick says

Hi Jeni! It is so nice to hear from you! I became a subscriber about a month and a half ago when I was doing the large task of switching from blogger to wordpress. I made it through with the help of bloggers like you and now I can’t wait to keep learning and taking my blog further!

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Amy says

Thanks so much for this post! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

I’ve been writing blogs since 2009, but have focused seriously on one blog for the past 1 1/2 years. This came about because of a huge response I had about a post on ADD on an older blog. At that point I created a new blog based solely on adults with ADD. My audience has been growing incrementally and I have employed all the tricks I know to seduce readers to stay, but I seem to be stagnating now. The most exciting thing that happened so far is a bump I got from an ADHD magazine; they found me via my tweet. Since then, not much to report.

Can’t wait for your next installment!

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    jeni says

    Hi Amy, there are so many hurdles to get over with a blog, but it looks like you’re having at least some success. Have you considered guest posting on a larger blog with a similar audience? If that’s not an option, perhaps writing a helpful series about an issue specific to adults with ADD could help you connect with more people. I think it’s smart to keep looking to the horizon, figuring out if there’s a different angle you can “own” on your topic. Thanks for your note!

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Katie says

Jeni, you are SPOT on here! I was just sitting down last night questioning myself, what I’m doing, and WHY I’m failing. I actually looked over a few ways to write up a business plan for myself just this morning to “get back to basics” if you will and figure out my focus.

I don’t think I can share with you how this one post alone might have just saved my blogging life. Thank you, thank you, thank you a million times over. My final thought, and hopefully you have some insight, would be this: I know who my “regular readers” are, but how do you figure out from there which one is your biggest supporter?

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    jeni says

    Really, Katie, I would look for the person who is the most thankful. That’s the person who is going to be most passionate about sharing your message. And those people are always the nicest as well. 🙂 I hope you’ll keep me in the loop about what happens when you make some changes!

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Holly @ My Plant-Based Family says

My ideal reader is me 2 years ago. I was sick and needed to get healthy, I got some guidelines but couldn’t find a guide. As I began to figure out healthy living I decided there should be more information out there and started to blog about my journey.
My blog has grown but now I’m working to turn it into a profitable business.
I appreciate all you do to make us (bloggers) better!
Thanks!

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    jeni says

    Hi Holly, it sounds like you have the big part of it worked out. The next place to go would probably be to figure out if there are specific TOOLS or products that can help people do what you’ve done. By having the “inside scoop” on some of those (even if they’re free, like a motivational app that counts your steps or something), you’ll be positioning yourself as more of a leader. Hope this helps!

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Monica says

I have been trying a number of things to increase traffic…I find that I’m starting to write in the style of some of my favorite bloggers…and I haven’t had enough feedback to know if it works. =) I love making printables that help families and teachers teach the Catholic Faith…and I find that the posts with printables can be really popular (especially when they’re free!) The posts with giveaways of products I review can get a lot of hits too. My favorite subscribers…are the ones that always seem to be the first to pick up a new printable…I guess I just have to keep making these printables. =)

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    jeni says

    Yes! Whatever works for you and your readers, keep it up. 🙂 Nice to see you again!

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Daniel says

Jeni,

This article is an eye-opener. I haven’t been writing to help someone overcome a challenge or solve a specific problem. Thanks for clearing defining the problem and offering a solution to help new bloggers like myself! I was already a fan of your writing and now even more so! I too am looking forward to that ebook!

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    jeni says

    Glad you enjoyed it, Daniel. If this makes a big difference for your business, I’d love to hear about it, so stay in touch!

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Sarah says

I have been missing your posts – my bloglovin has not been feeling the lovin! Thanks for this practical advice – I’ve also had a quiet period on my blog and recently felt re-energised about it and more determined to make it grow and work for me – and now also for my readers. Looking forward to the e-book.

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    jeni says

    Good for you, Sarah! I think it must be something about this time of year…perhaps we rediscover our ambitions as we think about the fact that the year is almost over! 🙂

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Julie says

I think as writers (as well as marketers, business people, etc.) we often tend to resist being laser focused on our ideal reader (or customer). It seems antithetical when trying to build an audience to hone in on a single person. But I think you’re spot on with your advice to write to your perfect prospect. Not a group of people, but a single reader. Really think about what that one person’s fears, hopes, needs, pain are. Really KNOW that person and write to him or her. Your message will be so clear and focused it will land squarely with that one reader and, ultimately, with many, many others.

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    jeni says

    Well said! Plus, you’re able to show a little personality yourself…which is always a bonus when you’re trying to stand out from the crowd. 🙂

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Ida says

Hi and welcome back! Thank you for sharing all these tips. I have only been blogging since February and it is tough to get a following!

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    jeni says

    Glad to see you here, Ida. Hope you’ll find the rest of the series helpful.

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kelly says

Great way to look at blogging. I will definitely keep this in mind & be back! Tweet Tweet!

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laurie says

Suzy at Worthing Court gave me the link to this post, and I’m so glad she did. Great information! Thank you for posting it. laurie

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    jeni says

    Glad you’re here, Laurie. Hopefully you’re subscribed so you’ll get the rest of the series as well. 🙂 Thanks for your note!

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Adrianne Meldrum says

I know this is one of those posts I’ll be referring to when I am struggling with my focus. Thanks so much for shedding light on the right area of blogging!

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Nicole Del Bosque says

This article is incredibly valuable for a newbie blogger like me! Thank you so much for sharing! I’m getting back into the swing of writing again and haven’t known where to begin to start growing an audience. Since I write about biracial and biracial families and the experiences we go through I’ve been at a loss to find my audience since it’s a niche. I look forward to the next posts coming up, thanks for the valuable advice.

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    jeni says

    Hi Nicole, it can feel like your niche is really small sometimes, but the fact is, the people who have your same experiences can really identify with you! In a much stronger way, perhaps, than people who are just looking for “tech knowledge” or other kinds of information. Have you thought about connecting with any adoption bloggers? Sharla Kostelyk, for example, has a large family with five adopted children, and they definitely get stigmatized by well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) people. When you’re determining your exact audience, I think it’s also important to figure out where you have some crossover with another group of bloggers, if only for networking purposes!

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      Nicole Del Bosque says

      At times I have worried about painting myself into a corner so to speak by exclusively sticking to my niche but I feel very passionate about my topic and I haven’t found many blogs focusing on biracial relationships. I have never thought of “crossing over” before! This is something I can do, great idea! Thank you so much your comment, your advice helps me tremendously. I will be brainstorming about what other topics of interests I can cross over into. I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts and I’ll be searching around your site to find answers to the many questions I have. Have a great weekend!

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Laura@JourneyChic says

Thank you for this! I’ve been blogging since what seems like the dark ages (2008!) and those three comments you mentioned at the beginning of the post – I have said those exact same things to myself so many times! I’m really looking forward to your posts in this series and the eBook (your blog practices have worked on me!).

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Riley says

Great post, and well-written Jeni 😀

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Laura says

I think you hit the nail on the head with this one, and I definitely need to focus on this more. My blog is a craft blog. I am naturally a crafty, creative person, but I know not everyone is. My main goal with my blog is inspiring other woman, like myself, to realize crafting and organizing doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. I think for many of my posts I do a good job of focusing on this. Lately though, I have been in a blog slump. Perhaps focusing on blogging for my reader rather than just myself I will have more to write about! 🙂

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    jeni says

    I think it’s great that you’ve figured out where the gap is between what you’re doing right now and what you’d like to do. If you make any changes, I’d love to hear how it goes for you, so please stay in touch!

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donnarossa says

Thank you for your advices. I’ve started my blog a year ago and would like to grow my readership. My focus was especially on the first impression you get, when you visit a new site like my blog. I’ve changed the design/layout, learned CSS, played with colors and headers. Now that I’m satisfied with it I still don’t have more readers. My intention says that it might be the content. I’m willing to learn and looking forward for your next tips.

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    jeni says

    Hi Sabrina, you *do* have a nice looking site. Do you have any online social events you participate in? With the knitting specifically, I’m thinking of Ginny’s “Yarn Along” that she does every Wednesday. People whose projects are added first (which are placed near the top) seem to get good traffic. Also, it helps to be very social with other people who have similar hobbies as you – taking the time to leave lots of comments yourself and build a relationship with other bloggers, and perhaps eventually working with some of them. You really do have a lovely blog – keep me posted on how everything goes!

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Liz Clark says

Thank you for the clarity of vision you have shared. To think this way really simplifies blog planning.

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    jeni says

    Yes, you don’t have to wonder what to write anymore, do you? 🙂

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Alice Prier says

Great – you’re back. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with your fabulous photoshop elements tips. This is sound advice too. Looking forward to the ebook.
Keep up the good work!
Didn’t try the sourdough recipe yet. But as the only thing in my fridge when I came home feeling peckish just now was a block of marzipan and some left over cooked kale from the weekend I must conclude I’m not the earth mother type – just hope I’m better at blogging.

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    jeni says

    Ahhh Alice, you made me laugh out loud. I think you’re probably too stylish for sourdough. 🙂

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Carrie This Home says

Glad to see you back and looking forward to reading your ebook!

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Amanda says

Thank you for writing this post. If nothing else, it’s always great hearing I’m on the right track! I know it takes time, but it can still be so hard. I’ve only been blogging for a couple months now (http://idlewildalaska.com) and I was so thrilled the other day when a complete stranger (as opposed to a family member) commented!
This post reminded me of what I need to be doing. Thanks 🙂

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    jeni says

    Good for you! It does take time, but something that can speed up the process is finding other like-minded bloggers, usually who are also just starting out, to encourage each other, talk about blogging, and be there even just to leave the first comment. I just recently met my first blogging “friend” in real life and it’s a magical thing!

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Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen says

This is so helpful. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day to day tasks of blogging and life in general. Your fresh perspective is inspiring and I can’t wait to read your new book!

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Shirley@ Housepitality Designs says

So very well said…you are so right…thanks for this wonderful insight…looking forward to this series…yes, you have our attention and “coming back for more” 🙂

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Darcel {The Mahogany Way} says

Yay, you’re back! I love this line right here “If your blog is going to be successful, you need to be helping someone. Inspiring someone to think differently and act differently. Making someone’s life better.”

I feel like I did this when I first started my blog back in 2009. I notice that my most personal posts are the ones that get the most interaction across the board. Lately I’ve been afraid to b e personal because my children are getting older(8,6,3) and I worry that I may share too much information. The truth is it’s been a really difficult year for me personally, and on top of that I lost readers , and slacked off on blogging.
Sometimes I feel bad for wanting to have a successful blog and actually make money from it.

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Joann@ The Italian Next Door says

Jeni, I’m excited to see your new e-book. I can use all the help I can get! I started my blog in September of last year and have over 70 something suscribers, with only 50 something activated and I just don’t get any comments. 🙁 I’ve tried to be interesting and have even come out and asked for interaction, to no avail! HELP!!

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    jeni says

    Hi Joann, since you’re on Blogger, it makes me wonder if people might be having trouble leaving comments. I have a client or two whose readers had given up trying to comment, but once they moved over to WordPress, were finally able to be part of the discussion! It’s not extremely likely that this is the case, but always a possibility.

    Have you considered forming a blogging group with other new bloggers for support, encouragement, and just to have friendly faces leaving comments? Real-life alliances like this can really help bloggers to get a good foundation for future growth. I hope this is helpful, at least to get you thinking about forming partnerships. Thanks for your note!

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    Julie@teachinggoodeaters.com says

    Hi Joann, There is nothing more frustrating that putting yourself out there and not getting any response. As a blogger, there is nothing that motivates me more than comments! I stopped by your blog and have a few suggestions for you (if I may be so bold.) I am still very much in the phase that you are, but I have found a few things that made a difference. First of all, other than the current post, it is very hard to find anything else to view on your page. If you go into your template there are two gadgets you can add quickly and easily that should instantly help: The first is recent posts and the second is most popular posts. Choose to have images included and this will automatically entice people to stick around and also give them and idea of what else they can find and look at when they come to your site. I would also shorten your “about me,” and add an “about me,” page (and when you do, give people a way to contact you- I was looking for that so I wouldn’t have to write a novel here 😉 ) You could also add the pages gadget (I’m still not good at using this, but when I added it, it immediately added to my total page views.) Finally, I would go to linkwihtin.com and add that gadget. This will show three of your old posts at the bottom of each post and give people somewhere to go. Finally, to increase comments, join linky parties and when you do, comment on as many of other people’s posts as you can and when you do name yourself as “Joann@theitaliannextdoor” and make sure to add your html so that the name links to your blog. That way people can visit you back and return the favor.

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RT says

I stumbled upon this idea of “writing for the one” recently. I was never so excited as the first time this reader shared one of my posts. I’ve picked up a few more readers because of that. I have since found myself thinking, “I wonder if ‘x’ will like this,” as I’m writing new posts. Knowing how much I like getting comments, I try to make more comments, too, even if it’s just something like “enjoyed your post.”

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    jeni says

    That’s great news! It’s definitely exciting when you first start to make waves, and it sounds like you’re paying it forward by leaving comments as well.

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Christy, The Simple Homemaker says

Thank you for sharing. Time to pinpoint my one person.

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Wendy says

Thanks for sharing this concept!

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Caroline says

Hi Jeni! I’ve just started blogging several months ago, and this is very helpful! Great thoughts to incorporate. You touched on a struggle of mine: discovering who the reader is. 🙂 But I see that it’s am important aspect of blogging, so not giving up on the task of reading the reader!

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Yolanda YoTrip Triplett says

Jeni you provide great information to read but also to use. Your comments about knowing your audience is the second time I have heard this in two days. I hear it loud and clear, I will take action because it will make the difference with who, how, and why I connect with people. Thanks for sharing!

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Kim Masters says

Hi Jeni,

I’ve been blogging for just under two years now and while everyone says you need to grow your email list, I’ve also come to believe that it’s about serving a few people really well. My husband and I run a small community and it’s like you said that even if you connect and help one person then that’s really powerful.

So, thank you Jeni for a great post. I’ve learned a lot from you and will be back to read more.

Kim

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Julie@teachinggoodeaters.com says

It’s interesting how sometimes I find exactly the post I need to read, at exactly the time I needed to read it. I blog about teaching kids to be better eaters. A new friend of mine recently discovered my blog and has been trying some of the things I suggested. Though she has seen some success, she still is facing a lot of challenges… I was thinking today that I need to write as if I’m writing to her. She is like so many parents out there, and when I talk to her in person, I can see and feel her struggles. I want to help and I think that this needs to be my focus. Reading this post today further confirmed this. Thank you!

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Linda had a little Lamb says

Thanks for the tips. I admit that I am clueless as to what I am doing with my blog. I only have 4 followers at present. I gotta work at this whole blogging stuff.

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Jennifer @ The Quirky Momma says

I’ve had my blog for about a year now, and my readership hasn’t grown to how I think it should be. I think that I really need to fine tune what I do in order to attract and maintain readers. Thank you for your information, it’s helped me.

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    jeni says

    You’re welcome! That first year of blogging can be so tough – great work powering through it. Hopefully you’ll really have your feet under you as you head into this second year!

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Amanda L says

“A great way to write 400 posts and only get 60 regular readers” …. yup, that’s me! It’s really my dream to build my blog into something that makes money, because I get so much great feedback from friends, co-workers, friends of friends who get forwarded my links, etc., and most importantly I love writing it and could do it forever. As usual, your advice is super spot-on! Especially the part about imagining your ideal reader and then writing just for them — and IGNORING the people you “might” lose by targeting a more specific audience. Thank you, thank you. Can’t wait to hear the rest.

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    jeni says

    It sounds like you had a light bulb moment here, Amanda. I’d love to hear how things go if you decide to try something new, so please keep me posted!

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Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections says

Very interesting advice. I think I learned early on to write many different topics on my blog because I was simply getting bored of writing about the same few things. When I frst started blogging, it was so easy to let my posts be totally random, almost about nothing because I didn’t realize that my readers NEEDED something from them. Now my blog boils down to about 5 basic topics. I still have random posts, but I tie in those 5 basic “needs” of my readers to keep everyone at least somewhat interested.

I find that writing about a myriad of topics has helped increase readership, but sometimes traffic is still low. I think the high traffic comes from a high quality post (that usually gets shared a lot) or from being really active in the blog community.

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    jeni says

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Melissa! I think we all have seasons on our blogs where we’re trying different things, looking to “shake things up” just to keep things interesting. I love what you said about the “5 basic needs” of your readers. Great thoughts!

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janmikael says

Hi Jeni! Thanks for inspiration. So far, I’m afraid, my small amount of new readers or new followers don’t know who’s writing and what’s my blog’s mission. I’ll keep an eye on that. Thanks again and have fun writing. Cheers!

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Laurie Cohen says

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m dedicating the next two months to learning the right and wrong ways to blog. Can’t wait to read you ebook! I really value your insight.

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Gena says

Glad you’re back, Jeni! I always learn so much from your posts!
–Gena

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Taryn Kae Wilson @ Wooly Moss Roots says

Hi Jeni,
I was so glad to see an e-mail from The Blog Maven the other day. I wondered if I wasn’t on the mailing list anymore and then I saw your post.

A lot of good points in this post. It has me thinking. Thank you for the inspiration once again.
I love blogging and really want to help inspire others through what I say. The reader I am probably most thinking of is an exhausted mama (like me.) We all have so much power to encourage each other, uplift each other, and inspire each other. It’s good to be reminded of that.

Love,
Taryn

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    jeni says

    Glad to see you here too, Taryn! I think it must be something about this time of year that causes us to reflect a bit more about what we can do better. I’d love to hear your results if you decide to try something new. Stay warm! 🙂

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Michelle Sarabia says

I am the blogger with only 11 subscribers and have been blogging since 2009! I stopped in 2012/13 and just recently picked back up. After many years of writing, it is hard to stay with it. But I came to the realization that if I can reach just one, the others will come.

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Colleen Kessler says

So glad you’re back, Jeni! Fabulous post — now to pinpoint my “one” and stop spinning wheels. 🙂

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Nicole Ichtertz says

Thank you Jeni! I am just starting to build a website, blog, store, etc, and everything you posted here was sooo helpful! Thank you!

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Rachel says

I have actually been tracking different portions of my web site for a number of years to see which types of articles people like best (recipes, DIY, gardening, etc.). It wasn’t until I started really looking at my newsletter stats before I really got a good handle on what people are clicking on when I send my newsletter out every week. People definitely click on one category more than another, and if you are trying to make money doing this you obviously are going to write more articles about what people are clicking on. Sometimes I get so involved in what I want to write about I forget to concentrate on what people are actually looking for, and when I go back to that I am always surprised at the extra clicks and the extra money I make, LOL. Sometimes it’s really hard to remember that as personal our writing is for us, it is also a business.

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    jeni says

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Rachel! Newsletter stats can be a “hidden gem” if you have them – unfortunately, most bloggers are still in the “automated delivery” world of Feedburner so they don’t have access to click stats. I wish more of my readers put in the extra time to do things the “long way” and dive into producing good quality newsletters. 🙂

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Stephinie says

Hey Jeni! So nice to “see” you again….. loved this post!

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Jay - Life of Creed says

Great post! Thanks for the tips to help a newbie grow her blog.

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Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm says

For the life of me, haven’t a clue how I “found” your blog but am glad I did. You give great advice and ask better questions. Please consider writing an article along the lines of ‘How to Find Blog Designers’…iow, finding and hiring high tech folks to help with doing “blog stuff”. Maybe I haven’t asked enough people (6) but it’s a struggle finding and hiring people. My farm blog is for fun but my 1wifetowidow blog is to help people prepare their affairs *before* the death of a spouse. Did you know a will, once probated, is public information? Anyone can go to the courthouse, read your will and see what you left to whom. Yes, one should have a will but there are ways to keep your affairs private, never public.

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Keren // The Walkup says

I have found myself saying the “twitter ghost town” comment more than twice in the past week alone! This post was spot-on.

http://www.thewalkupblog.com

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Addi says

Great read! I have read a million articles about writing the content that you are passionate about and how it would grow my site, so it is refreshing to read that is not the only thing to focus on. I started my site with what I was interested in and slowly realized that it was not enough. I have been changing the focus the past few months to suit my readers needs and my site has honestly grown more than 65%.

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    jeni says

    I love hearing about your success, Addi – it’s amazing what can happen when you step outside your comfort zone and start writing to fill the void in your readers’ lives! Thanks for taking the time to comment – I look forward to seeing more of you here. 🙂

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Sarah @ Saving Money. Creating Resources. says

Definitely some great thoughts. I have heard it a lot as well to appeal to everyone, so I cringe when I write things that I know will really help my friends. My friends all ask me to teach them the same thing. How a single mom can be able to live well and stay home with her kids with no outside financial help. This article gave me some great insights into what I need to be teaching on and it also makes me know, sigh, I’ve wasted a lot of time in the wrong areas. Bittersweet. 🙂 Loving your blog!

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    jeni says

    I appreciate your comments here, Sarah. Even more important than posting on a regular schedule or churning out a certain “amount” of content is whether or not you’re helping the people who come to your site. I started my blog very intentionally and there are *still* things I’d change if I were starting over again. But moving forward, it sounds like you’re armed with a great game plan.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – I look forward to seeing you here in the future!

    Reply
Wonder Incubator’s top 5 free resources for newbie bloggers | Wonder Incubator says

[…] I especially liked Jeni’s article “The Great Content Hoax: Why Just Blogging Your Passion Won’t Build You an Empire.&#8221… […]

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Shirley ~Light Love Hope says

Thank you for this. My blog is relatively new, too, so I appreciate all the help I can get. 🙂

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Celeste says

I’ve been thinking about this post ever since I read it a few days ago. Made me realize I need to rethink my content. I used to have 3 words below the screen of my computer, Engage, Enlighten, Inspire and I still think that’s part of it, but now I’ll be doing that while keeping in mind how each post will better serve my readers and their needs. Thanks!

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    jeni says

    Hi Celeste, thanks for your note! It’s just a subtle shift, isn’t it? From “engage my readers-enlighten my readers-inspire my readers” (where the focus is on you as a blogger) to “serve the needs of people who are struggling with something” (which shifts the focus more toward the reader). And when you make that tiny mindset change when you sit down to blog, you’ll probably end up accomplishing all those things. 🙂

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Shana says

Thanks so much for the great advice, I am starting a brand new blog and this info has helped in huge way! Amazing blog !
Thx <3 Shana

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April 2014 Monthly Blogging Income Report - Less Than Perfect Parents says

[…] I had come across an article that I mentioned in last month’s income report, the Great Content Hoax. I used that article to describe my ideal reader and the article was a huge success. Not only that […]

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luisa says

Great content thankyou! I have been looking for a way to focus my blog and give it a voice and this is a great idea!

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Mama Z says

Okay, you got me… I spent the last 30 minutes reading some of your posts and took notes on what to do with my blog next. I’ve just signed up for your mailing list, so be sure to tick the “+1” on your list of returning readers. 🙂

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Mark Barnes says

For about 8 months, I’ve been working hard on design and constant posting. While traffic is considerable, it’s far short of what I want. Your advice is well taken. Thanks so much for the insight.

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Angie Lewis says

Great advice. Your blog is such a fab resource for bloggers everywhere. Thanks for the perspective!
Angie
http://www.honeyanddenim.com

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maryanne helms says

I often receive anywhere from 35-100 likes on many of my posts, but will receive one or two comments. And my email subscription does not grow. I know posts are being read and often shared, but this is not translating into growth in other areas. Would love to know how others create a unified front across social media, email lists, etc.

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Jennie says

Great, thought provoking post. I just had to think a little to know just who my one reader is, and I guess I’ve been subconsciously aware, because my posts fit it better than I thought they would!

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Christa Sterken says

This is just what I needed to read today, truly. Thank you so much

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Why Your Decision To Become A Blogger And Thinking Like One, Will Never Make You Successful says

[…] I continue, I found an excellent article by Jeni Elliot who wrote about this same thing here: http://m44.siteground.biz/~theblogm/great-content-hoax that’s worth […]

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Vickie McCarty says

I’m drinking in advice like yours to help me examine who I am writing to. This makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Danielle says

Brand new to blogging (like less than 15 days brand new) and there is just soooo much to learn! I have really enjoyed reading all your posts–making things slightly less scary and overwhelming. My blog partner and I will definitely be checking in daily for all your advice!

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    Jeni Elliott says

    Glad you’re finding it helpful, Danielle. But don’t check in daily – I’m working on some behind-the-scenes stuff right now and am not super present on my blog. I will be in the Fall, though. Make sure to sign up for my list if you want updates. Good things coming veeeeery soon. 🙂

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Cyndie M says

I’m getting ready to finally launch my first blog (hopefully within a week or two) and it’s information like this that really helps. I know I’ll make mistakes along the way but with articles like this, I’m sure the growing pains will be less.

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How To Get More Blog Subscribers (Infographic) - Black Girl Marketing says

[…] “If your blog is going to be successful, you need to be helping someone. Inspiring someone to think differently and act differently. Making someone’s life better.” -Jeni Elliott, The Blog Maven […]

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Jeffro says

I have been asking myself that very question lately: “Who is my ideal reader and why did they decide to subscribe?” I want to grow my readership, yet I had never really asked myself that question until recently. I hadn’t even asked myself WHY I visit certain blogs often and WHAT brings me back? Funny how that is. Thank you for this post. I enjoyed it and am now combing through your archives.

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Sarah says

Hi Jeni. I’m new to blogging and I found your article so helpful. Thanks for sharing your wisdom in a way that’s easy to understand and implement.

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Samantha Clarke says

I have been blogging for nearly 4 years. I’ve heard it all–all the corny fluffy advice that doesn’t really mean anything. This was legitimately helpful as well as inspiring, plus it was truly well written. I’ve decided you’re awesome. Success: you’ve hooked me!!

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    Jeni Elliott says

    Thanks, Samantha. So glad you found it helpful. There’s more goodness to come. 🙂

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Naomi says

Jeni, I just discovered your blog through the podcast with Tsh and I have been reading and reading. Your posts break it down and are actionable. And I understand them…I read a post somewhere else about social media meta tags or something and my brain shut down. I already added a photo to my sidebar and moved social media buttons to the bottom of the sidebar (couldn’t quite totally get rid of them). Usually I procrastinate on doing things because they seem hard. Anyway, thanks for all the great advice. I’ve recently been thinking about who my reader is and I have NO idea. Something to think about. Cheers!

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    Jeni Elliott says

    So glad you’re finding it helpful, Naomi! I’ll actually have a course coming out in the next few months that’s about building a powerful brand for your blog, and I’m creating it to help bloggers like you connect with the right readers and stand out from the tens of thousands of other blogs in their niche. It sounds like it would be a perfect fit for you.

    And I’m really happy you’re able to use the information here – great job implementing!

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Chiereme says

Hi Jeni,

I am a beginning onlinepreneur and I’m getting cold feet with my topic as far as monetization goes. I am passionate about creating opportunities and resources for women to grow spiritually, relationally, professionally and financially. The problem is that I’m also a public relations/communication enthusiast and can spend almost as much time talking about branding. Should I create two separate blogs? One for my business advice and one for my womanhood chronicles (as I call them)? I just don’t want it to be random if one week we’re talking about relationships and the next email is promoting my latest infoproduct on branding your business. Any advice? I just want to find the line between passion and profit and how they can coexist ethically and comfortably.

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    Jeni Elliott says

    Honestly, it’s incredibly difficult to run two blogs simultaneously and give each one its fair amount of your time and effort, especially when one of them “pays the bills” and the other is more of a personal outlet. My advice would be for you to either:

    1. Prioritize and create one blog now, and save one for a certain future time when you have things running smoothly with the first blog, or
    2. See if you can find the overlap between the two areas – is there one ideal reader whose needs you could address with all those ideas? If you want to succeed the quickest, you need to narrow your offerings to start with, but as time – and your audience – grows, you can branch out…but only once you have established yourself as an authority in one area first.

    I hope that helps answer your question!

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      Chiereme says

      Hi Jeni,

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I think there is some overlap, but I need to figure out where to start. Thanks for your helpful advice!

      Reply
Alanna says

Great post! I love the idea of thinking of that ideal reader and just worrying about her. It definitely takes some of the pressure off!

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Adam says

This post was amazing. All the other posts said the exact same things that I have already implemented. I think this may be my problem. I am definitely going to think about this while writing my next post.

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Elle Ay Esse says

“Content is King” rings out across the blog-o-sphere in every guide to posting or content creation or “how to build a blog” post that I have seen. I am guilty of using that cliche to my own clients. The fact is that it is not. King, I mean.

True that without good content all you will have is a pretty webpage that people land on and comment how pretty it is. And without good content you definitely won’t get returning readers. But a blog and especially a blog as a business is so.much.more! If you don’t put every element in the right place as well as turn out great content all you will wind up with is a giant mess of a blog no one wants to read because it looks messy and unprofessional.

I have recently started advising potential clients as well as my social media fans & followers to get a blog design first bu to not go live until it is set and organized and well put together. Then roll out a minimum of 10 posts containing various topics and categories tat they plan to cover. Finally, then, when all those things are pulled together in a gorgeous package, they should release it to the masses.

Thanks for not making me feel like the only one who laughs at “content is king” 😉

– Elle Ay Esse
http://www.eae-design.com/

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Lyn says

I’m just two months into blogging and sometimes I wonder if I really want to be bothered with SEO and pageviews or just continue writing what I want. Well, maybe I’m still to young in blogosphere to think about it too much. Thank you for your wonderful tips 🙂

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Mandy winter says

Wow, with one quick blog post you have changed my on going what am I doing online problem! I can’t seem to blog. I love the Internet and social media but can’t seem to find my presence and this content hoax article has given me exactly what I needed to find that solution! Thank you so much. I am now eagerly devouring all the other posts you have! Thank you 🙂

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Garry says

Wow, I am speechless. Currently, I together with a partner are running a traveling blog. I guess after reading your post, I need to evaluate my strategy overall about this. Especially your example about the fitness. It just somehow our case is like that. Even though I used to feel that my blog could help by providing info and tips, that was still not enough….

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Lawal Lekan says

Am glad I found another blogger talking about how passion is just not enough to become successful blogger because I also have been a victim of such circumstance but now, am happy other bloggers are preaching this around.
Thanks for this.

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Nicole says

This is great and all, but not everyone is a guru. I don’t have a way to help someone or make their life better, but I can be someone they can relate to and connect with. There are lots of bloggers who have built very large and successful empires on this very concept.

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Mamablog says

I’ve been blogging for 6 years now and am still wondering who my ideal reader is. Why are some articles successful? Why are others not, though I expected them to attract many readers? I honestly don’t know. Aren’t all people just trying to participate in sweepstakes and win something?

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Zaini Ismail says

Great post. If the post not benefit even a single person, then there is no point having a passion on the article.

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