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I love to visit other blogs.

I like to see the themes, read the posts, watch how others handle comments, and learn more about the author.

Today’s Lesson

When I started blogging, I read that we should “copy” what the successful bloggers are doing….”learn from those who came before us”.

I wasn’t sure what that meant. In fact, what I saw was quite contradictory.

I looked at some big name blogs and saw they posted many times a day, but others only posted once a week.

Some authors wrote extremely long posts. Others wrote short ones.

Some blogs had lots of advertising, whereas others only had a few scattered ads.

A lot of the blogs used WordPress, but not all.

One big name blog had his comments disabled, but most had their comments open.

Most big name blog authors did not answer each comment.

I questioned it all.

Who should I copy if there is no clear “format”?

Should I copy someone else, or can I have a blog that represents who I am?

After seeing hundreds of blogs, I came to the realization, I had to be ME.

Copying someone else would take away from my authenticity.

I struck out on my own and developed my blog as I saw fit.

Although it’s still a work in progress, it is a reflection of me.

Lesson Eight Blogosphere wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if we had “cookie cutter” blogs. Although we can learn from the A-list bloggers, they too are following what works for THEM. We are all individuals, and our blogs are a projection of “US”. So whether it’s our theme, how we deal with comments, advertising, blog platform, or how often we post, following our heart is what makes us successful, and most of all, unique.

Today’s Assignment

Have you ever tried to emulate a favorite big name blogger? Did it work?

Do you like that you can make changes to your blog, and it’s still YOU?

Would the first impression of your blog tell your readers more about who you are?

Did all of this confuse you in the beginning too?


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  1. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    Beautiful cutting questions!

    When I first started blogging, I tried lazy style — a few posts every couple months. When stats went out on my team, and I ranked dead last, I decided to change my approach. I was going to model the best, so I started collecting patterns and practices of the best of the best. The problem was that the bloggers I learned from were playing a different game in a different arena.

    This lead me down a path of massive experimentation. I decided to do a 30 improvement sprint (http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier/archive/2007/03/10/how-to-make-30-day-improvement-sprints-more-effective.aspx) and focus on blogging. I created 48 posts that month, expanded my focus to personal effectiveness, and cut loose. I double my readership and shot towards the top the next time stats went out.

    What was weird is that my posts didn’t generate comments, but they generated lots of thank you mails from people inside and outside the company (Microsoft – it’s a little software shop up in WA). Here’s example posts that drove the most thanks that month:
    * Secrets of Time Management – http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier/archive/2007/03/21/the-secret-of-time-management.aspx
    * Prioritizing Scannable Outcomes – http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier/archive/2007/03/25/prioritizing-scannable-outcomes.aspx
    * Life’s an Experiment – http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier/archive/2007/03/21/life-s-an-experiment.aspx
    * 30 Days of Living Foods – http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier/archive/2007/03/09/30-days-of-living-foods-ends-today.aspx
    * MUST vs. SHOULD vs. COULD – http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier/archive/2007/03/18/must-vs-should-vs-could.aspx

    The biggest challenge I’ve struggled with over time is switching voice. During my day job I write authoritative, prescriptive guidance on technical topics. It’s tough for me to switch to conversational mode for my work blog (so I started experimenting with other blogs — but it’s still tough.)

    I’m still experimenting but I think you nailed the key. At the end of the day, I gotta be ME. The beauty of the blog, is that each blogger can bring their unique voice, perspective, and experience to the table. That’s a good thing. You might get emulated, but you won’t be duplicated, and personal brand is the trump card in today’s world.

    Another key lesson I learned is that rather than blog what you think folks want, blog what you’re passionate about and you’ll attract more of what you want. If you just blog what you think everybody wants, you won’t like what you get, and you won’t be true to you. If you aren’t true to you, eventually you’ll get lost at sea. Your passion is your lighthouse.

    J.D. Meier’s last blog post..A Zone Primer

  2. JenniferNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara, yes, it has all been confusing to me. It has definitely been a journey trying to figure it all out. I was told to start a blog and just blog about whatever. I had no idea what I was doing! It has been such a journey, but oh how I love blogging now! Yes, I’ve followed many successful blogs and tried to copy them, but, wow how they are all different! I think that is it – like you said – the successful ones are all unique – a reflection of that person – that’s what makes them successful…. However, I do think that we can learn from what works for others though… It’s all a learning process and that’s okay because we all need to be growing. Okay, I feel like I’m babbling now. (maybe that’s my uniqueness coming out πŸ™‚ )

    Anyway, This was a very timely post as I am about to switch my blog over to something that really identifies with who I am and what I am about. It has been good, but I have felt constrained in so many ways with my current blog. I’m ready to let me out! I am so excited!!!

    I really do feel like I could read your stuff all day. Thanks for being unique!

    Jennifer’s last blog post..Obtaining Wisdom in a Chaotic World (Continued)….

  3. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi J.D.

    Thank you for sharing your experiments with blogging and the results. I find that interesting how you received thanks yous from Microsoft (I’ll check out those links).

    It is tough to “switch caps” when your roles are so different during the day. Often if my day at work is keeping me busy, I have to wait until the house is quiet and I can be alone with my thoughts before I can generate a post. (that probably explains why I get creative late at night).

    You are correct about writing what you’re passionate about and not what you think others might want to read/hear. Your passion will attract others who feel the same way. Being untrue to yourself will attract a different “crowd”.

  4. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thank you for the kind words.

    In the beginning blogging can get very confusing. It’s hard to stay on topic if you have a niche blog and it’s the time when you’re “finding your way in cyberspace”. I laugh because when I was new, I was forever experimenting with different themes. I knew my readership was LOW so I figured it was the best time to do it. Those first readers probably thought, “is this the same blog I was on last week?, or the week before?” I think that was the female side of me coming out…like changing shoes or handbags. πŸ™‚

    You have my curiosity up…about your switch. I’m assuming you are going to be changing themes. Want to hear something funny? J.D. who commented right before you did, is using a theme/header very similar to your current one (your’s is a little larger than his).

    Jennifer, just remember there is no right or wrong way to blog. Do what makes you happy, have fun and enjoy the journey.

    I’m following you in my reader, so I’ll be watching for those changes.

  5. My blog is evolving all the time, partly because I am still in the process of honing my niche and main message and partly because I learn from other bloggers all the time.

    One of the objective of my blog is to build a community of readers who want to find their life purpose and live it fully. So I take comments seriously — I try to respond to each comment individually in a timely manner. This is very time-consuming and honestly, there may be a day when my blog grows to the point I have to change this policy a bit — but for now, I do it and enjoy it.

    I learn a lot from Stephen at Adversity University because he responds to comments very well — his comment section often develops to a mini discussion among the readers (meaning commentators are returning to the post to read what he and other commentators have to say) — that is my ideal!

    Akemi – Yes to Me’s last blog post..Dodging The Many Forms Of Psychological Manipulation

  6. Ian DennyNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara,

    You are so right. I just finished a post on something similar and headed off to yours to see what was happening (and of course get the next lesson).

    There is certainly something artificial and uncomfortable trying to be something else for the purpose of perhaps increasing audience or sales or whatever.

    Regardless, in every aspect of life, we’re drawn to people we like.

    I’ve been learning of late. And discovering that it is probably wrong to be all things to all people. We’ll never make everyone hapy. So isn’t it better to be yourself and seek people like yourself?

    Especially in business when your very livelihood is dependent on attracting the right sort of business and turning down business that can drain your resources and profits, it makes sense.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..Deliberately Displease People For Better Results

  7. Very insightful, Barbara!

    I think it’s like making art – it’s good to learn the fundamentals. Study the masters. Once you have the basics down pat, move beyond it and develop your own style.

    Mark – Creative Journey Cafe’s last blog post..Financial ABCs for Artists, Part 1

  8. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Akemi,

    Comment sections often take on a life of their own. Whether the comments stay on target or not, much can be learned from the visitors who frequent different blogs.

    Most commenters freely share what works for them, and if you can become active in a community of like minded people, the information you can gain is enormous.

    Hi Ian,

    So true. We cannot be everything to everyone, but by being authentic, we can draw to us, those who have similar goals and dreams.

    Trying to appeal to the masses could end up being extremely time consuming, not to mention, exhausting.

    That’s an interesting title to your new post…I’ll head over and see what you’ve written today.

    Hi Mark,

    I like how you put that. Short, simple and true.

  9. I didn’t find anyone that I could emulate that still felt like ME. You’re right – there are so many different styles and I soon realized that the blog did reflect that person’s taste/style

    So instead, since I knew nothing about blogs, I went around many blogs and looking at things that I thought might be useful (like navigation)

    If I saw a method that might work for me, I picked it up and figured how to implement it JEMi style lol

    There are still some changes I’d like to make but yes – I love that its all me
    ..hmm I sound like a control freak. But thats ok lol I’ll take that

    and I do love discovering new blogs..the people behind them.. it’s exciting when I find a great new read

    btw I think its great that you decided to be you Barbara.. You have a warm community here and of course this is because of how you are as the person behind the blog who interacts with us. This site easily became a favorite of mine and the readers you have here also have some quality goods. Looks like you definitely found a way to make this blogging thing right for you πŸ™‚

    JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You’s last blog post..An InMyHeels Note: Thank You Kelly of She-Power.com!

  10. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    i think in anything you do, it doesn’t hurt to look at those who are doing what you want to do successfully. if you want to be a great ball player = study the great ball players. if you want to be a great musician = learn from great musicians. not copy, but always study what it is that they do that makes them better than the rest and then put YOUR stamp on it.

    Have you ever tried to emulate a favorite big name blogger? Did it work? No. I only know one big name blogger, John Chow, well not personally and I’ve only been to his site once.

    Do you like that you can make changes to your blog, and it’s still YOU? oh yeah, groovy.

    Would the first impression of your blog tell your readers more about who you are? yep, at least i think so. i love to blog about stuff…nothing in particular, my interests range from A-Z. i can’t focus i guess. do i have ADD

    Did all of this confuse you in the beginning too? a little i guess, but not much. i always try to be ME because ultimately that’s all i’m left with…just little ole me. πŸ™‚

    Natural’s last blog post..Blog: For Sale By Owner

  11. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi JEMi,

    Isn’t that fun to kind of “cut and paste” that which you like on other blogs to create your own style?

    Finding great new reads is one thing I like about my NBOTW series. I will often track a blog for a few weeks, see if it gets updated, and try and determine what direction the author is going. If I like their progress, they may become a new selection.

    You know JEMi, when I started blogging I looked at some of the older blogs, and saw that they had hundred of posts. There is no way I could write that many without being me, so I started my blog being authentic. The community that formed was a result of that, and it’s my/our community of fellow bloggers that continues to fuel my passion. You all have tons to share, and for me it’s a joy reading the unique, value filled posts that are produced by each and every one of you. πŸ™‚

  12. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi 4.0 point (Natural)

    Groovy? Been awhile since I heard that term. πŸ™‚

    I like that your blog isn’t too “nichey” (is that a word?) If it was, it wouldn’t be you.

    Each visit to your blog proves to be a surprise. Whether you’re writing about how you can get red lights to change to green, ask the thought provoking question “would you sell your blog?”, or share a guest post written by your daughter, it’s always a joy to read your writings, and hear your viewpoint on a variety of subjects.

  13. When I first started my project I did it with someone else and it made things pretty frustrating because we had different impressions of how it should be. I did not see the point of copying all the alterntive medicine websites that were already out there. Everyone can talk about health in a boring scientific way…anyone that has made it through med school that is. So, my dream was to make something more candid fun and conversational and do it in my own direction which seems to be working out pretty well. The more I grow the vision the better the blog gets and the more enthusiastic I become about doing it. I am excited about the new cartoon theme we are about to implement. I think it will set me apart from everyone else while providing a website that is truly fit for “family medicine”.

    Dr. Nicole Sundene’s last blog post..Diets

  14. JenniferNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara, you hit it! There is no right or wrong way to blog. That’s what makes it so beautiful!

    That’s so funny about changing themes like handbags and shoes! πŸ™‚

    Yes, I’ve been to J.D.’s blog before and noticed he had the same theme. What was even funnier, was we had some similar content. My new blog will have a much different feel.

    Dr. Nicole. You have done an outstanding job of setting yourself apart! I love your blog!

    Jennifer’s last blog post..The Excitement is too Much!

  15. Barbara –

    Being your own soul is the best way to pursue anything in life with blogging as no exception. I’ve seen that copy can only take you to a point where it becomes apparently frustrating to be someone who we are not. Pretending someone to be is the death sentence to live for your purpose. I’m destined to pursue my own path no matter how difficult the road may become. I will succeed in the end. Great post.

    Shilpan

    Shilpan | successsoul.com’s last blog post..4 Fallacies of Myth about Wealth

  16. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – I didn’t copy anyone as such, but I followed a lot of the tips I read on Problogger etc re – the different types of blogposts you can do etc.

    But, I chose what I wanted to write about myself. And I think, if you draw a lot of what you write about from your own experience, you can be original, no matter what niche you blog in.

    As for voice, blogging is no different to any other type of writing – you develop your own voice as you go. We learn how to write from reading and there is nothing wrong with anyone using the writing style of others as part of the learning process. It isn’t going to come out the same way they write anyway.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Fab People Of The Week

  17. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Dr. Nicole,

    I like how your site is evolving. It’s easy to navigate, and your advice is so solid. I can’t say I always like reading what you write, as even though I know it’s the truth, sometimes it’s difficult for me to break a few unhealthy habits.

    Your site has become my “go to” blog when I have a question on diet and health.

    But, do I REALLY have to give up milk chocolate?

    Hi Jennifer,

    Isn’t that great? It’s your blog, so what YOU want to do with it. With good content *which yours has), readers will come back no matter how many times you make cosmetic changes.

    Hi Shilpan,

    You have the determination to make anything happen, and I don’t doubt whatever you attempt, if it’s your desire, you will be successful at it.

    It is such a waste of precious time when we try to copy others.

    Hi Catherine,

    Yes, we can get great ideas from blogs like Problogger. After all, Darren has been around for many years.

    You raise a great point about reading. It goes hand in hand with writing, doesn’t it? And yes, no matter how much we may read others works, when we put our own spin on a topic, it becomes us.

  18. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara – I think that in the case of your blog – what makes you stand out from many of the other blogs on blogging is that you share the importance of writing well and learning more about the art of blogging. Plus, you often use personal stories to introduce your topic, which is hugely effective.

    Too many other blogs on blogging go on way too much about how to make money from it and offer very little in the way of useful advice.

    I think also, you have definitely found your voice. If you guest blogged on another topic, I would still recognise the post as yours which is a good thing.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Fab People Of The Week

  19. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Catherine,

    What a nice compliment. Thank you so much.

    I doubt I could ever be a “make money online” blog. Even though I use affiliate ads here, and AdSense on my other blog, all I know is the more visitors you have, the better chances your chances are to make money.

    Yes, I do think I have found my voice, and with that, hope to help others find theirs too.

    You’re so kind, my friend. Thank you again.

  20. Pat RNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara – you’ve come up with another interesting topic. I started my blog from the suggestion of my husband who had been reading posts and articles on what people can do to make money online. Since we didn’t have jobs at the time and were in need of making some money I checked it out. It took me awhile however because when I start something I want to commit to it wholeheartedly and wasn’t too sure about the making money aspect. It seemed like another sales pitch.

    At the beginning like Cath Lawson I followed a lot of how-to blogging posts and tried to implement them with affiliates and AdSense but only with companies that I had personally purchased something from. I followed Google and Feedburner’s advice on monetizing and tried adding those things but later took them off as it didn’t seem to make a difference.

    All the time, I was writing and sharing and experiencing for the first time a voice that I didn’t know I had. I realized from writing that I had all these feelings and experiences that maybe others would benefit from and I enjoyed the feeling of expressing it and putting them to words and sharing them with the world.

    Now I’m approaching 100 posts and have slowed down in my posting (now 2-3 posts per week versus regularly 5 per week) as a full-time job takes a chunk of time out of your day. I love the feeling I get when I can put voice to something from my heart.

    The traffic doesn’t matter as much to me as it used to. I religiously watched the Site Meter stats. Yes, I don’t deny that I enjoy seeing when I have a good day in stats but the pleasure is when someone sends a comment that something I wrote resonated with them or expressed exactly what they were feeling that day.

    Great post Barbara. Thanks for the opportunity to share. Your posts do that for us.

    Blessings,

  21. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Pat,

    Thank you for sharing your “how I got started blogging” story. It always fascinates me to find out why/how someone started a blog. Hmmm, sounds like a good post topic. πŸ™‚

    Isn’t that interesting how the longer some of us blog, the numbers begin to lose their effect, but we continue to blog because we find joy in it, and comments hold more value than the stats.

  22. John HoffNo Gravatar says:

    Hey there Barbara –

    Great post. This topic goes beyond just blogs and can relate to static websites, too.

    I have tried very hard to make our site (not just the blog) different from other hosting sites. Stop reading for a moment and think about a web hosting company’s website. Imagine what it looks like.

    You probably are seeing pictures of some kind of web server and people staring at you from the page or 3 boxes showcasing 3 different plans (i.e. Silver, Gold, and Platinum hosting plans).

    From day one of creating my site and starting my company, I knew this wasn’t the way I was going to go. That’s the same as copying the A-list bloggers. Nothing unique and a lost voice among many.

    My site as a whole (blog, forum, static site) is simply put an extension of me.

    To do otherwise, I would not be following the advice of that A-list blogger who has his comment section closed πŸ˜‰

  23. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi John,

    That’s very true about websites too, and yours is a good example of that.

    I was on your site the other day and noticed you had a “special” for bloggers.

    I’ve been updating my plugins and your post name didn’t show up (as commentluv was one I was updating), so here’s the link for anyone who’s interested. http://eventurebiz.com/blog/a-special-offer-for-my-blog-readers-only/

    I have the CommentLuv updated and working again. πŸ™‚

  24. John HoffNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the linky love Barbara.

    What got me thinking about offering the deal was how right now everyone’s hurting for money. People want to and need to start a business & blog but have no startup funds. Someone helped me once, it’s only right that I do the same.

    John Hoffs last blog post..A Special Offer For My Blog Readers Only

  25. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi John,

    Isn’t it great when we can pay it forward?

    We always remember those who gave us a chance, don’t we?

  26. Barbara, I just discovered your blog by following your comment to Pat R.’s most recent article. I have found some of my favorite blogs that way. I don’t usually read blogs that have the comment section closed. I like to comment and even ask questions when I read something that I like.

    I have been blogging for almost a year and, like Pat R., only recently wrote my 100th post on my blog. I also started out by reading a lot of “how to blog” blogs to learn the best way of how to do things. I have learned some of the technical side of blogging but still have a long way to go. It has been exciting learning new things.

    My blog reflects who I am. Even my title “Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker” says my writing is about “my journey.” I have been pleased by the reception of the blogging community. My stats are still relatively small but are on an upward spiral. I love it. I love the wonderful new friends that I have met through the blogging community. It has been a glorious trip on the internet.

    Patricia – Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworkers last blog post..I Feel Like A Woman

  27. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Patricia,

    Welcome to the BWAB community.

    Pat has a great blog, doesn’t she? Your blog is good too. I was on it earlier today and really enjoyed your “I Feel Like A Woman” post. I’ll be back again soon to read more of your writings, and drop a comment.

    The journey we put ourselves on when we start a blog is one that is filled with uncertainty and lots of surprises. To me, it’s amazing how the journey takes us on a path we never expected.

    I hope to see you here again. Thanks again for the visit.

  28. […] Lesson Eight: The uniqueness of your blog and first impressions […]