The Golden Rule Of Blogging
By Matthew Schulz
Don’t waste your reader’s time.
My fellow panelists and I gave a lot of advice during the Writer’s League’s recent First Thursday discussion about blogging. We talked about which blogging tool to use, how often to update your site, why SEO matters and, of course, how to get started with your own blog.
But to me, the first thing that any prospective — or even veteran — blogger must remember is simple: Don’t waste your reader’s time. People are busy, and someone took time from their busy day to read your blog. Respect that they’ve done that, and they’re much more likely to come back.
In the personal finance blogging I do in my day job, that means you typically need to have a takeaway from each article. (For example, how can this save a reader money or make a reader money?) I treat my Writer’s League blogs the same way. (How can this make the reader a better writer?)
I don’t have a personal blog of my own, but if I did, I think I’d treat it the same as well. Of course, that’s part of why I don’t have my own blog. Producing high quality, informative, entertaining content on a regular basis for a possible MattSchulz.com blog is hard — a challenge that I don’t have time for in my daily life.
But if you’ve taken that step, creating your own blog to help you sell your book, make some side money or just to get some things off your chest, is it really necessary to have a takeaway from every article?
In short, yes. However, that takeaway can take many forms.
For me, it’s pretty straightforward. I want to have at least one piece of information or pearl of wisdom that a reader can take away from the article that can help her with her writing or her money. For others, it be a bit more abstract, but it still should be there. There has to be something in that piece that keeps a reader from looking at it afterwards and thinking, “That was a complete waste of my time.”
Make them laugh.
Make them gasp.
Make them think.
Make them cry.
Are you going to put brilliance out there every time you post? Of course not. Will you be terrible or — even worse — forgettable sometimes? Definitely. Great authors write poorly sometimes. Great directors make terrible movies sometimes. And great athletes miss the big shot sometimes. However, I think that you should aim high on your blog. Many people will disagree with me on this, but I would rather see someone post more infrequently and put out consistently high quality content than see someone write too often.
Again, it gets down to wasting your reader’s time. If you put out crap or uninteresting stuff too often, readers won’t come back. People are busy and only have so much time to surf. You have to be good to earn their return visits.
Also remember, most blogs — especially ones that are just starting — don’t have many visitors who come back on a daily or even weekly basis, so don’t feel like you need to post everyday or even multiple times per week. All that ends up happening is that you bury your best stuff under a layer of content that isn’t as interesting.
Of course, there are exceptions, obviously. Larger, well-established bloggers can have fanatical fanbases clamoring for every morsel you can give them. If you’ve reached that point, congratulations. Give the people what they want. If you haven’t gotten there yet, relax. Put out your best stuff and you’ll build loyalty.
Again, that’s the takeaway from this article: Respect your readers’ time. Strive to give them consistently compelling content — whether it comes daily, weekly, twice-monthly or whatever — and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree, or am I totally off-base? Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below.
Matthew Schulz is currently writing his second novel — albeit more sporadically than he’d like — and is still working toward his dream of becoming a published fiction author. He’s also VP of Content at InvestingAnswers.com, a financial education website, and an adviser to the Writer’s League of Texas. But mostly, he just wants to play catch with his son and squeeze in a date night with his wife. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewschulz and learn more about him at MattSchulz.com.