When someone comes to me for advice about how to grow their blog and following, this question usually slips out– quietly, and with some embarrassment.
“But why are there bad blogs that are so popular?!”
No one will admit who or what blog they are referring to, but I’m sure with a little thought, you can come up with a blog that is growing by leaps and bounds- and doesn’t have near the writing skills, design, photos, or brand that you have.
Some blogs have the appearance of popularity, but it isn’t really real. Usually these blogs amass throngs of followers by going above and beyond the call of “blogger” etiquette. They comment on everyone’s blog, they join every blog hop, follow every person they can find. In return, these people come and do the same. That’s not to say that is a poor strategy. It is a legitimate way to grow your following. When a good blog does this, it works beautifully. The person comes to check you out– then sticks around because your blog is ____________. You fill in the blank; funny, helpful, poignant, etc. Even if you stop scratching “their back” by commenting on every post, you still have a new reader.
But if you stopped all the runaround– the comments, the hops, the sharing…would the following disappear? If that is a yes, is that the kind of popularity you want anyway? It’s evidence that the crowd mostly there out of obligation.
Bad blogs can look popular because once there are enough numbers, group psychology comes into play. Now a new blogger comes along and WANTS to be noticed by the big bad blogger. They have numbers. It’s the idea of, “I don’t want to miss out!” Like a snowball racing down a hill, it picks up steam quickly and before you know it, this blogger is covered in little bloggers who want a piece of the pie. It grows and grows and yet, there is very little substance.
Blogs that do a lot of giveaways and sponsored posts are offering their audience more than just content. You can’t compare yourself to a blog like that. The writing may be horrible, but who is going to ignore cash, prizes, and other goodies? Bad writers can hide behind these opportunities and grow enormous followings. I want to make it clear that there are a lot of GREAT blogs that do giveaways. I have nothing against them– I do them myself. They are a great way to earn some money. But bad blogs can grow through giveaways, all the while– the writing is fluffy, incorrect, and lacking substance.
All you need is one minute on the news or in the media somehow, and you have an overnight following. Bloggers with no real idea about how to write can gain loads of followers in an instant. Keeping them will be harder.
Don’t let the numbers fool you
All of us bloggers want to have large numbers of followers– on Facebook, Twitter, wherever. It’s normal and natural to grow those because it helps your brand. But I’ve worked on blogs with massive amounts of Twitter followers, and then I realize they only get 100 hits a day on their blog! And I’ve worked on blogs with a very small social media following, that have HUGE statistics. It’s a lot of politics!
Their following is only bloggers
The other question to ask is where do you want your following to come from? Are you wanting only bloggers to read it? Bad bloggers usually only have other bloggers reading because they are the ones that understand this strange “blog etiquette” we all follow. Good blogs have people outside the blogosphere reading. If you are one of those blogs that attracts non-bloggers, they may not comment as much, or at all. It looks like no-one is reading because none of them say anything. They don’t have to scratch your back with a comment because they don’t blog! But it’s getting read right? Non-blogging readers is a good thing! You are appealing to a larger audience. It just may not “look” as popular.
And then there’s Google. Bloggers who get a lot of traffic from Google may not have a big following on Twitter or Facebook, but they are raking in the numbers.
Bad bloggers can have HUGE amounts of comments, large followings, tons of giveaways, but is it a lot of smoke and mirrors?
You don’t want their secret, because it isn’t sustainable forever.
Don’t be afraid of all the “noise” in the blogosphere. Write the best that you can. Enjoy your work. Do what you can and don’t compare yourself to others. It’s so simple in theory, extraordinarily difficult in reality.
If you see other blogs with bigger followings, higher numbers, more comments – it might be because they are good.
It might also mean they just have a lot of people that feel a sense of “indebtedness”. It might be mob mentality. It might be crazy awesome giveaways.
Keep telling yourself– you want people (and not just bloggers) to read your excellent, funny, poignant, and meaningful blog because they want to, not because they feel like they have to.
I’d rather be that blogger any day.