Yesterday I was involved in a discussion with travel bloggers about strategy and it was obvious to me why so few of them are successful. They follow really bad advice. Their collective thinking is "noise > value," which, in an endeavor like blogging, is horrible. Many of them care more about how they can take more visitors for themselves (by, for example, tweeting the same link over and over), instead of spreading the wealth (by, for example, tweeting links from other people more often than their own).

Besides yesterday's discussion I get a lot of e-mails, I have a lot of conversations, and I read a lot about business, blogging, and social media.

Many people are divided as to the correct way of going about building a successful project. For the sake of today's article, I'll talk strictly about building a successful blog. Obviously I don't have the biggest blog in the world, but my blog income blew the GDP per capita out of the water so I'm coming from a certain level of experience.

Conventional wisdom suggests one of the following ways to become a successful blogger:

The Field of Dreams Method

  1. Write amazing content on a consistent schedule.
  2. The fans will follow.
The truth: I absolutely hate when "experts" give this advice. It's akin to telling someone to play basketball a lot and they'll make it to the NBA. Amazing content will get you a few fans, but if you actually "hit it big" using this method it's a little like winning the lottery (or making it to the NBA). Sure it can happen, but it probably won't. It's a very passive "hope for the best" method.

I used this for the first 3 months of starting my blog. For those 3 months I had less than 100 visitors/day and 70 subscribers. Of course, it's debatable whether I was writing amazing content. Still is. ;)

The Spread The Love Method

  1. Write amazing content on a consistent schedule.
  2. Write amazing content for others. (Guest blogging)
  3. The fans will follow.
The truth: It's not until I used this method that my subscribers jumped from 70 to over 1,000 ... literally overnight. My buddy Glen, who has used guest blogging to successfully build multiple blogs, has written the ultimate guest blogging guide for free. It's a fantastic resource.

The Gary Vaynerchuk Method

  1. Create amazing content on a consistent schedule.
  2. Interact with your audience through e-mail, comments, twitter, and facebook.
  3. Be everywhere.
  4. The fans will follow.
The truth: I've gone in waves with this method. I used to respond to every retweet and every comment. Responding to every retweet was exhausting. Now I usually only respond to legitimate tweets directed at me, not just tweets of my work. As for comments: I do my best to respond to all comments. I definitely respond to all e-mails. It doesn't make sense not to.

The Take Take Take Travel Blogger Method

  1. Provide fun content.
  2. Annoy everybody in your circle by talking about only yourself and your content. Tweet your links every hour or two because "studies have shown that most people won't see every tweet."
  3. The fans will follow?
The truth: This is a favorite amongst the aforementioned travel bloggers, which is why I had to include it. This method doesn't work, contrary to what a few people who have been successful will tell you. They are/were successful in spite of using this method, not because of it.

What you should do instead of this method: Be cool. If your friend sent you the same text message every 2 hours, would you enjoy that? No? Then don't treat your online followers that way.

The Interview Method

  1. Write amazing content on a consistent schedule.
  2. Interview people in your niche.
  3. The fans will follow.
The truth: Too many people use this method (very poorly, I might add) to make it truly useful for gaining new readers. Just because you interview someone it doesn't mean they're going to promote that interview. More than likely they will not because they get interviewed a lot, and most interviews are the exact same questions. That said, if you come up with great interview questions you will at least make an impact with the interviewee. That is important.

How I use interviews: I interview people for my e-mail course. I keep the interviews short, I ask questions I care about, and I also give the interviewee a chance to talk about themselves and their products. In my eyes that's a win/win/win.

Note: The interview method can rock if you do what David Siteman Garland did with TheRiseToTheTop.com. Of course, now that he has done it, you won't necessarily be able to copy it directly.

The Quantity > Quality Method

  1. Write timely content. Update many times per day. Maybe have multiple authors all providing content.
  2. Do some of the other stuff listed above.
  3. The fans will follow.
The truth: This can work and work really well. Quite a few blogs/blog networks like this have sold for 7 and 8 figures. I have no personal experience though, so I'll leave it at that.

The Search Engine Method

  1. Write content with Google in mind. Quality is important, but targeting specific keywords is most important.
  2. The fans will follow. Eventually.
The truth: A favorite method of affiliate marketers. It's not so much about building a fan base, it's more about getting lots of search engine traffic and selling ads or affiliate products. There's nothing wrong with this, of course. I personally don't focus on search engines at all for this blog, although Google sends me thousands of visitors every month. I know, based on general SEO principles, that I will get search engine traffic, but it's just not something I choose to focus on here.

The Viral Method

  1. Write content with the goal of going viral with a lot of links, Tweets, Facebook likes, and Stumbles.
  2. The fans will follow.
The truth: This can work well to build a successful blog, but it won't necessarily build a successful blog business unless you take steps to make that happen. Violent Acres (long abandoned) built a big audience, but didn't build a business. Leo Babauta, on the other hand, built the biggest single person run blog in the world using this method (along with other methods above). Trent from The Simple Dollar also successfully utilized this method in the early days of his blog. He was on the Digg front page quite a few times.

Why You've Been Lied To

If I said "you have to try everything above and figure out what works for you" it doesn't sell as many "how to blog" courses or get as many Tweets or Facebook likes as "Focus on just this method, it's easy!" It's not as sexy as the magic pill method.

And that's just it. You have to try everything and figure out what works for you.

Maybe you'll have an article that goes viral and brings you a lot of traffic, but it doesn't bring in the right audience. For example, this article I wrote last year has ~600 Facebook likes and over 45,000 visitors just from StumbleUpon. How many visitors who reach that page subscribe to my free Freedom Fighters course or buy something? If I told you you'd quit blogging. :)

Maybe you'll try to interact with every person who comments and tweets, but realize it's not for you. If you're not going to interact, turn off comments and see what happens. Most likely you'll kill your chances for success (unless you're already successful), but maybe that'll be exactly what works in your market.

Maybe you'll be the very rare blogger who makes the interview model work. If you mess with the formula (like BlogcastFM did by creating a podcast) it might just kick ass for you.

I've been messing with my own formula a lot lately. Even recently I mentioned that I need to continue posting Monday, Thursday, and sometimes Saturday because it works for me. But I don't. I'll continue writing every day like nothing has changed, but I don't need to post that writing on any schedule. Last week I posted on Tuesday and Saturday. It was my highest traffic week since March.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion in Practice

Once you've been doing this for a while you'll get a better sense of what works and what doesn't. When I was writing "17 Reasons To Ignore Everybody and Follow Your Dreams" I knew it would resonate with you. I knew you were going to share it on twitter and facebook and I knew you were going to comment. Why? Because it uses a classic "Viral Method" article formula. A great headline, easily digestible content, and a call to action. It uses a bit of influence and persuasion that forces you to connect with it. But, if I can be honest, I wrote it for myself because I needed a bit of a "follow your dreams" boost myself. Which was another sign that it was going to be a well-received article. It came from a place of passion.

Most Importantly: Don't Be Afraid To Change The Formula

It's not an exact science. Mess with it.

If you're sick of being led astray with bad blogging advice share this article with your friends:

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