The Essential Blog Success Factor No One Tells You

Why Blogs Fail

NYC MarathonDo you want to create a successful blog?

You’re probably thinking “Who sets out to fail? Why start a blog if I don’t want to succeed?”

I could tell you the answer. It’s plain and simple.
And the reality is that the answer is more like Joe Pulizzi’s, A Blog Post Is Like A Miniskirt.

It’d be easy for both of us. But it’d be a cheat.

It would shortchange you, my readers, leaving you without the guidance you need, a core value of this blog.

Competing against long listicles and detailed blog success guides, my essential blog success article would lack many of the attributes needed to rank for search and get lost deep in Google’s inner pages.

Even worse, it would be a momentary flicker on social media.

The essential blog success factor is a lot like Dorothy’s ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz. She was wearing them but she didn’t know the secret: All she needed was the desire to go back to Kansas.

Don’t worry—I’m not sending you to Kansas. (In fact, I’ve never been there.)
The reality is it took me a long time to understand the essential blog success factor.

May be the problem was that it was right in front of me.

The essential blog success factor: What you need to know first

First, let me explain with a bible story about an uneducated man. (No, I’m not getting religious on you.)

He goes from learned teacher to learned teacher. He asks each one to teach him the bible. But they all turn him away.

It’s not that they don’t want to share their wisdom.

Rather, the man has one stipulation that makes their job difficult, if not impossible.

They must teach him everything while he stands on one foot.

As result, the teachers all refuse.

How can they possibly impart the knowledge they’ve spent a lifetime learning in a few brief minutes?

Their position seems reasonable. Translated into today’s terms, could you condense the breadth of your professional knowledge into a single text message?

Even your professional elevator pitch wouldn’t give a satisfactory answer.

Then the man met Rabbi Hillel. The rabbi said he would do it.

After all of the rejection, the man was amazed.

He stood on one foot and Hillel told him, “Don’t do unto your fellow man what is hateful to you.” (Another way of saying this is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”)

Surprised the man asked, “What does that mean?”

Hillel responded, “Now go study the bible and you’ll appreciate what it means.” With that the man goes off to study.

The essential blog success factor is a lot like Hillel’s teaching. 

You must give yourself permission to create a successful blog.

No one can do this for you.

If you blog because it’s a job or you’re trying to prove something, it won’t work. Your heart must be in the act of blogging.

Only you have the power to give yourself permission to create a successful blog.

Blogging success must come from your heart, not your head.

Blog success must be part of your self-speak. It’s what you tell yourself, whether you vocalize the words or not. You have to be The Little Train That Could. You have to tell yourself “I think I can, I think I can.” You have to do this until the words become part of you.


Essential blog success and faith

Essential blog success is grounded in faith, namely your faith in your abilities.

I was lucky. I learned this from my father. It was a tough lesson because my dad was a physically big man. He was intimidating. But his faith in his family never wavered.

University of Chicago professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains this in his book Flow.

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

The elements involved in achieving flow include:

  • Clear goals at every step of your process.
  • Actions receive immediate feedback.
  • Challenges and skills are balanced.
  • Action and awareness merge.
  • Distractions don’t interfere with consciousness.
  • Failure isn’t a concern.
  • Self-consciousness disappears.
  • Time is distorted.
  • Activity becomes an end in itself.

The essential blog success factor: My experience

Personally, I got this wrong when I started Actionable Marketing Guide.

I didn’t fully understand that blogging was a marathon.

NYC Marathon 2021Todd Heisler/The New York Times

After being named a top content marketing blog and then a top social media blog, I learned Actionable Marketing Guide was something greater. It was about teaching you, my readers, to make sense of the new, ever-changing marketing landscape. In the process, I gave you the skills to achieve measurable results.

Despite having taught graduate level marketing for 10+ years, I didn’t realize how much being a teacher was ingrained in me. Actionable Marketing Guide is my deepest expression of this calling.

When I first started teaching at NYU, I was challenged. I was assigned the marketing analysis and finance. It was the course most students actively hated.

While I disliked arithmetic, I was always a top student in math class. The subject just clicked for me.

Since the course was required, my students had to pass it to graduate. This pushed me to become their unlikely cheerleader. I had to put myself in their shoes to help them to overcome a lifetime of believing they were bad at math.

My biggest satisfaction wasn’t my star pupils. Rather it was transforming students who had always viewed themselves as math failures into successes.

Shortly after starting Actionable Marketing Guide in 2010, I had a one-on-one conversation with Chris Brogan. We were at a soiree on the terrace of a fancy hotel in San Francisco for the launch of his book, Trust Agents.

I told him, “I thought that I was too late to the blogosphere in 2006 so I waited until 2010.”

At the time I was writing ClickZ’s Actionable Analysis, column. I had a large reach as one of their top columnists. Why did need another platform?

Brogan responded, “Write a blog post titled, “How I got the balls to start blogging.”

I never wrote that column. It wasn’t the way I wrote. My blog and my other professional writing are about my audience, not me. I generally write in the second person.

But looking back, Brogan was right.

Maybe I was afraid to discover the answer.

Maybe I didn’t want to know what inner forces I, like many writers and authors before me, had to overcome to become a successful blogger.

Social Triggers’ Derek Halpern notes that blogging success requires showing up. Don’t give up after a month, 3 months, 6 months. He’s right. Moz’s Rand Fishkin uses his wife’s blog to prove the point. Rand Fishkin Blog Traffic Growth

But even before you show up, you must give yourself permission to be a successful blogger.

As Ann Handley says, “Writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.” In this sense, giving a damn means giving yourself permission to succeed.

Go on. I know you can do it.

Just start! Tell yourself you can blog.

Set some achievable goals. Take the first baby steps.

Professor Csikszentmihalyi proved that you’ll succeed.

And success will make you happy.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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