Monday, March 08, 2010

Are you ignoring one of the most important rules of blogging?

The most agonizing and frustrating blog post I ever wrote, was my first one.

It took me FOUR days to write that post. Actually it only took about an hour to write, but it took me four days to have the courage to hit 'Publish Post'.

And it wasn't because I was insecure about the post itself, it was because according to what I had read on other blogs, it was a 'bad' post. In preparing for the start of my blog-writing, I read a LOT of blogs in an effort to discover the 'tips' for writing a great blog. And one of the 'rules' for blogging I read over and over again was 'Make sure the post is only a couple of paragraphs long, otherwise it will be too long and readers will lose interest.'

My post was at least two pages long. So I stared intently at the screen trying to figure out a way to shorten the post to 2 paragraphs, and still tell the story I wanted to tell. After 4 days I realized that it couldn't be done, and hit 'Publish Post'.

Just like that, my blogging 'career' began by breaking the blogging rules. And I have to admit, it felt damn good!

I've been thinking about this recently because I'm really struggling to find 'new' blogs that get and maintain my interest. And I wonder if part of the reason why is because so many new bloggers are following the 'rules' of blogging. In 2005 and 2006, we didn't have Copy Blogger and ProBlogger to tell us the what the 'best' way to blog was. We all had to make our own rules, to a great extent.

But now, there's a zillion blogs giving you 'Ten Steps to Creating the Perfect Blog". Hell I've written those posts myself. And on the one hand these do definitely improve your blogging, but at the same time if everyone is following the same format, then it becomes MUCH harder for a blog to stand out.

Another example of purposely not following the blogging rules was the Z-List. This was the thing that first got me on a lot of people's radars. The premise was absurd to some; Take a list of blogs you think are under-appreciated, then invite everyone else to add their own favorite blogs and share the list. With one BIG caveat; You can't add your OWN blog to the list. Even though my blog wasn't on the original Z-List, I ended up gaining a few hundred links from the Z-list, and a few other blogs got several hundred.

So while you are following the 'rules' for better blogging, don't forget that you can always make and ADD your own rules. That might be the most important blogging rule of all.

Pic via Flickr user atibens


Justin McCullough said...

Great point! I've read all those posts too and I break all those same rules. Guidelines, not rules right?

Besides, what I have to say seems to take a few more paragraphs ;)

My topics range from Pandora Music to Seth Godin to Social Media and Leadership. Conventional wisdom says those should be 4 different blogs. Somehow, I keep thinking people are more complex than that - you know, the idea that maybe people put corn, mac-and-cheese, and a biscuit on their plate along with that fried chicken they're gonna eat.

I could be wrong, but I can't help keep pushing for what I believe is worth sharing.

All the best,

Chris Thilk said...

A two page post? Come on. My MMM column on the Watchmen movie was 12 Word pages long. Who, quite frankly, does that? Only someone who is either completely disinterested in any so-called rules or completely freaking insane. Or, you know, both. MWAHAHAHAHAHA

Unknown said...

Great point. Finding your own voice is what makes people want to read in the first place.

Maureen McCabe said...

I love coloring outside the lines. I love reading blogs that don't look like a paint by numbers picture... One of my favorite ProBlogger posts was about rules and a number of the rules were about how there were no rules.

Jamie Sandford said...

I think that it's important to vary the way that you post as well and not get into a rut. Come up with your own graphics/diagrams, do a video blog once, and be creative.

Blogs are great ways to take brain dumps and those moments of inspiration and cause you to reconstruct and put structure around them for the very reasons you mention -- the ADD-ness of most readers.

A blog series is a great way to chunk your long thoughts and gives you and if you don't write the whole series all at once, it gives you a chance to adapt portions based on feedback from your readers.


Love it! There are the occasional two paragraph blog posts on my blog but I'm just too damn wordy otherwise.

I do try!

Mack Collier said...

Justin they really should be treated as guidelines.

Personally, when I learn something that's worked for me, I want to share that with others. But there really are no absolutes when it comes to blogging or social media in general, for that matter.

Mack Collier said...

Chris you have a great niche blog, and your readers WANT such in-depth information about movie marketing.

Maybe the key lesson here is that instead of following the blogging 'rules', that it's better to understand the audience you want to reach, and how they want the content presented to them.

Mack Collier said...

Jamie I love blog series and think they are as great way to shake things up AND help with writer's block.

Suzanne Vara said...


Chasing. That is where a many people are at these days. Chasing or really sprinting to get ahead by following what has worked for others. While it is beneficial to read and learn from the blogs it is also important to take that information and make it your own. The part that I think that gets lost is the individuality as we chase the traffic by trying to write what will get shared. Ultimately the posts that are written with fury and passion actually tend to do better.

Kherize5's blog, written by myself, is the tips, rules, etc for the small business owner who is new to the space. For the clients we work with, it is about learning who you are and showing how you can bring that out and own it.

It is easier at times to join the group instead of creating a style of your own. Chasing the numbers to be popular is the driver and also wanting to be at the cool kids table.


Angela Daniello said...

Enjoyed your post! We are all different so why shouldn’t our blogs all be different? One size does not necessarily fit all. I like this idea too for businesses and social media in general. Try things out, see what works, and do that.

Anonymous said...

Hm hm.. that's very interessting but actually i have a hard time figuring it... I'm wondering what others have to say....

Jamie Allsop said...

Great point you have mentioned. Like you said their a zillions of blogs out their giving you the best tips for the perfect blog.

Although these tips are helpful, you need to try your own things out, they might not always work but it is worth a try and plus you don't want your blog to be the same as everyone elses.

crockstar said...

Thanks very much!

It is really refreshing to read about someone else making up their own rules as they go along.

I have read more "how to blog" posts than I care to admit. And even though I "know" all the rules, I find I am always doing it wrong.

I have no trouble suggesting to a client what the "right thing to do" is or how to create a blog strategy... but at the end of the day, I just can't be asked!

Davina K. Brewer said...

Mack, I've got many drafts in a "bad post/rant" folder, will have to revisit them someday. I'm picking the rules that work best for me: reading and commenting on OTHER blogs being the most important.

I write what I write, try to be vicious with editing but then they're still "too long." My most egregious sin, not blogging more often. Le sigh, always room for improvement. Now back to work.

Mack Collier said...

Jamie I was coaching a client a few months ago and helping them get their blog off the ground. One of the problems he struggled with was 'I just don't know what to write about. And how can I pick a topic that hasn't already been covered a million times?'

I advised him to make his content personal. Instead of writing '10 Things to Make Your Blog Better', a post MANY bloggers have written, I told him to write '10 Things I Learned in My First Month as a Blogger'. He was the ONLY person on the planet that could write that post, and in doing so, he would be giving a unique take on a common topic. His take.

I really think this is a problem many bloggers make, they either never give any personal takes, or they go overboard and make the blog completely about them. The middle ground is better, I think.

Mack Collier said...

Davina I swear I left the previous comment about 'what i learned in my first month of blogging' before I read this post from you:

Ivan said...

Hi Mack,

I studied journalism many moons ago. How to structure your article was drilled into us. Have an intro, start, middle and then close.

This also works on the web. 200 or 2000 words, it has to have some structure, otherwise the reader is left floating.

Also, the

When and

Are useful to keep in mind, especially if you want to give more depth to your post.

Finally, say something that triggers that reader into responding. Wrap up with some call to action.

Don’t leave them dangling.

What do you think? Tell me I'm wrong?

Whitney Sewell said...

Great post! Sometimes all the blog rules suck the joy/creativity out of blogging.

Unknown said...

Blogs are great ways to take brain dumps and those moments of inspiration and cause you to reconstruct and put structure around them for the very reasons you mention -- the ADD-ness of most readers.
grow taller 4 idiots

Eric Brown said...

Hey Mack,
Blogging really isn't any different than running a successful business operation, You best be doing something different from what your competitors are doing.

We are a world of copy and go's. We follow the rules. Innovators however, who lead the way, blow up that mantra, blogging really isn't any different.

The fact that so many businesses have figured out the benefits of blogging furthers pushes toward commoditizing the process.

Time for something new, Are you up for it?

ANIB said...

I don't care how long a blog post is as long as it comes with pictures! Even if it barely has anything to do with the post, it just gives your eyes a nice break and something to associate the article with when you are trying to remember what all was said in it. Visuals!

Shelley George said...

Mack, can I just say thank you! I am a blogger newb (as they say), and have been reading blog after blog giving advice to fellow bloggers.

This is the first one that made me sigh with relief. Posting something of your own for the world to see is a very personal business. I suppose that if the blog feels right to you, then it is right for the world.

Thanks for your honest opinions, which strike me as being quite rare in the Blogosphere – I am a fan.