Thus far, Lorelle (of Lorelle on WordPress) has shared her views on how to stay motivated, and common mistakes bloggers make. We’re now moving onto a question that has often been controversial.

Let’s hear what Lorelle has to say on this one.

3) It’s written that content is King (or Queen) Do you think excellent content is still the determining factor for a great blog, or is content that’s just “good”, good enough?

One of the things that infuriates me about the United States election process is that mediocre is the best choice for candidates. Wouldn’t want to go for the best as they probably have a past. They are the best because of their past. They crashed and burned and walked out of the fire wiser. Unfortunately, we’ve become a nation of “good enough” and settlers – settling for half-assed, middle of the road, not-too-hot-not-too-cold Goldilocks mentality. And we settle for half-assed, middle of the road, boring blogging all the time.

If good enough is your best in blogging, and you can do no better, live with it. You are just another of the millions of bloggers babbling on, sharing your insights and opinions. If you can do better, ask yourself why you aren’t. Your answer might be that it is time to stop blogging. Or a kick in the blogging butt to do better.

If you are blogging your very best, celebrate. And let your readers and fans celebrate you, too. Content will always win, but the issue isn’t so much about good and bad writing. As to the real questions you are asking, if the best writers have the best blogs, the answer is no – and maybe.

First, you must define the difference between good writing and excellent writing, and then explore what that really means on the web.

I spent the past few years on a mission to read all the books by Terry Pratchett and , along with a few of my favorite other writers. I was so lost within the magic of their turns of phrases, the worlds they created that are so lifelike and real – when I finally turned to other authors collecting dust on the shelves, I was disappointed. Are they bad writers? No. Are they magical writers? No. Were they interesting books to read? Sure, but they left me wanting more.

The difference between a good writer and an awesome writer is a fine line. Did I hate the books? No. They just didn’t swirl me away into my imagination, letting their stories dance in my head as I worked all day long, eager to rush pack to their pages for the next step in the adventure – adventures I’d read before but wanted to relive. There’s a fine line between the two levels of writing quality, and many settle for the average, but once you’ve tasted the best of the bread, it’s hard to go back to white bread.

I think that you can be a good enough writer and have a very successful blog. I wish that more brilliant writers had more success with their blogs, but they don’t. For a variety of reasons, none of which has to do with the quality of writing.

Content rules, there is no doubt, but content well-written for the web is different from other writing styles. It must have keyword-rich content stuffed with search terms. It must have short, snappy phrases and paragraphs, and make its point in the first 200 words or the reader bounces away. It takes a lot of skill to turn that writing style into excellent quality writing, while still keeping the reader coming back for more.

But this is also not the point of your question. Popular bloggers inspire conversation, not writing. It isn’t about what they write as much as how it makes the reader think – and respond. It’s a different way of thinking – and writing. The most successful bloggers understand that content rules, but the conversation rules more. That’s the real answer.

Today’s Assignment

I’ve read this answer many times. Every time I read it, and then read Lorelle’s final words, I get the chills. To me, her answer is excellent content, and I’m wanting more.

What do you think? Is good, good enough?

Do we concentrate so much on the content, we’ve forgotten about the conversation?

Can we have both?


Photo Credit: Lorelle’s Logo

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Look Who's Talking
  1. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    Now that is a very good question Barbara!

    My preference is for good content and fresh new ideas. This keeps me inspired and coming back for more.

    But, when good content encourages interaction with the readers, such as this series for example, you have both.

    My final answer? I’ll take the good content, with a little conversation for dessert.

    Davinas last blog post..Core Value Statements

  2. Scott McIntyreNo Gravatar says:

    Ah, Barbara and Lorelle, the dynamic duo of quality content and lively comments!

    In my view, they both should be the worthwhile aims of a worthy blog.

    Without a passionate community to shape and interact with the content, even the best written post becomes empty debris floating around the blogosphere.

    I’m sure Lorelle’s tips will help other bloggers to achieve the winning combination of great content coupled with a brilliant community- like you have here at BWAB! :-)

  3. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Davina,

    Desert? Did I hear someone say desert? 😆 Like you, I enjoy both.

    Hi Scott,

    I’m blushing. Your words are so kind.

    You do bring up a good point. A well written post can be “wasted” if the interaction isn’t there. How sad that would be for the author; knowing they did so good, but no one responded. Without self confidence, they could easily give up. That would be a huge loss for blogosphere, wouldn’t it?

    That’s all the more reason for us to leave comments when we see a new (or older) blogger who has great content.

  4. Al at 7PNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara and Lorelle,

    Great point about Terry Pratchett and Alan Dean Foster. A blogger can be a good writer, but we are writing alongside some great writers out there.

    OK, now I’m convinced, I’m going for great – “good enough” is not sufficient to hit the Publish button for me.

  5. RobinNo Gravatar says:

    To be honest, I read a book if I want great writing and comprehensive coverage of something or other.

    I personally can’t read very much at a time on a computer screen, so I keep my own posts relatively short. As for what works – it depends on the topic and the purpose of the blog, doesn’t it?

    Robins last blog post..A Magic Trick For Relationships

  6. MizFitNo Gravatar says:

    I oft wonder if Im too much about the set in motion and RELEASE.

    the conversation with the readers.

    but as with my childrearing 😉 (please to see ROOTS AND WINGS) it’s just how I roll….

    thanks for a thought provoking post!

    MizFits last blog post..Guest Chef Time!

  7. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – I think it’s difficult to churn out excellent content every day. And even extremely well written posts become difficult to read if they’re too long. I like much of what Steve Pavlina has to say but I often print it out to read it.

    I like the posts that make people think and join in the conversation best. You do those really well, as does Liz Strauss and many others.

    Blogging is definitely a different way of writing. I find I’m able to break more grammatical rules, or at least bend them on a blog. Then when I write offline I get stuck because I can’t get away with so much. I’m really struggling with my novel as it’s a completely different type of writing.

  8. Wendi KellyNo Gravatar says:

    I want both, great to good content and good conversation. In fact, I’m looking for more than good conversation, I am looking for a sense of community where everyone seems friendly, goes back and forth, seems respectful. I’m not interested in the arguing, rant style of *conversation*. I think the blogger sets the tone and it shows.

    Wendi Kellys last blog post..A Lighthouse in the Storm

  9. Ellen WilsonNo Gravatar says:

    Ah! I love this stuff! Yes, the content should INSPIRE conversation. That’s where the stew of imagination and story come in.

    I see a lot of “yes, that’s so wonderful,” comments on blogs. Puhleez! Can we not question things and debate? Perhaps it is all a reflection of society becoming mediocre. Which I agree, the US had become.

    Of course there is a respectful way to do this. People seem quite frightened though, if someone disagrees with them. I think you should use it as a learning experience to see how others think – expand your own thinking.

  10. I’ve heard people say that when you see blogs with just “good enough” content but huge followings, they got their readers back when there was little competition. And once they got a lot of subscribers, it became easy to get even more because people thought the blog must be good if there are so many subscribers.

    I’m not entirely sure if this is true, but it very well could be. But today, there’s just so much competition out there, I can’t imagine why I would read a blog that’s just “good.” I tend to agree with Mrs. Fields: “Good enough never is.”

  11. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hunter – that’s interesting and it could well be true. I’ve noticed the traffic ranks of some blogs with heaps of subscribers plummet recently. There’s not much point in having thousands of subscribers if none of them are coming back to your blog.

  12. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Al,

    Great authors inspire us to be better, don’t they? As bloggers, there are many we can try to emulate and learn from.

    Hi Robin,

    Our readers will tell us if what we’re doing is working; by our readership and comments. If we’re not seeing growth, it’s time to do some self evaluation.

    Hi MizFit,

    You’re welcome.

    Hi Catherine,

    Yes, great posts are difficult to churn out on a regular bais, but we need to keep trying.

    Like you, I also like posts that make me think, laugh and/or learn. If they inspire me to comment, then all the better.

    Switching between your novel and your blog must be difficult as the writing “style” is different.

    Thank you for your kind works.

    Hi Wendi,

    Me, too. I want both.

    Blog comments do build community. There’s nothing better than visiting a blog and feeling like you’re amongst friends.

    Hi Ellen,

    I agree disagreement is good. How boring the world would be if we all thought the same. How we, as blog authors handle that, is another question, isn’t it?

    You’re right, it is in those debates that we grow.

    Hi Hunter,

    Isn’t that funny how that works?

    Personally, I don’t care how many readers a blog has. I’ve seen some with tens of thousands (of subscribers) and I don’t visit them a second time. Then I’ve seen brand new blogs with one post, and I instantly subscribe.

    If the content moves me, I’m hooked.

    Is that what Mrs. Fields says about her cookies? They are fabulous. :)

    Hi Catherine,

    Those subscriber numbers don’t mean much if they’re not reading our blogs, do they?

  13. VeredNo Gravatar says:

    I agree that writing on the web is different than traditional writing. Personally, I don’t do the keyword or SEO thing, but I do write short phrases and make my point quickly.

    I often say that I deliver great thoughts and ideas (which fill my head to the brim and the blog is a great outlet for them), not necessarily great writing.

  14. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Vered,

    Like you, I don’t do a lot of SEO on this blog (maybe I should), but I do on my OM blog.

    You blog in a way that provides us with thought provoking ideas, and your comment section/community reflects that. I think you “nail it”.

  15. Hmmm…I guess it depends on the purpose of my visit to a site. If I am going to a technial site, or a site I want health information for example, I want to know the content is good AND accurate. If you had led me astray with setting up my avatar, I wouldn’t have been too happy with your site *smile*. For the rest, I want my thoughts challenged, and my imagination ignited. And yes, I want conversation, either online with comments, or in person as in “Hey, I read this interesting blog today….” And as for ‘is good enough, good enough?’, not for me. I’m just not that type of person. What I put out there is my best effort. Somedays that best effort doesn’t match other best efforts, but I never throw up a post just to get it up there. I will trash the post and start again, before I do that.

  16. Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

    I think many mediocre writers are successful bloggers because they know how to play the game. They know how to write good SEO and they know how to network in a way to bring people to their blogs. But, for me, I prefer to read the blogs where the writing is good. Just like a book or movie. I might watch or read the mediocre ones, but I’ll keep coming back to the good ones. I hope my writing is not “just good enough”. I pride myself on being a good writer and I hope that’s what keeps people coming back. I don’t mean to sound snobbish, but I blog because I love to write, not just because I want my own personal soapbox.

    Debbie Yosts last blog post..Podcasts

  17. Most of the compelling content I’ve read over these last few months has been on blogs that are “undiscovered”. They’re deeply personal, and even if the writing isn’t “great”, they’re very moving and absorbing.

    It seems that many of the “A-list” blogs (is that how we define successful?) are not particularly well-written, but they offer content that readers are interested in.

    I don’t know about conversation. I would say there’s conversation here, but on many blogs, the comments are mostly aimed at the blogger, and not at the other readers.

    Hmmm . . . I have too many thoughts and not enough time!

    Ann at One Bag Nations last blog post..What Are You Reading Right Now? Here’s My List.

  18. What I value most are amazing ideas. The writing can be flawed if the idea and the passion behind it are present.

    I think that’s what is wonderful about blogging. People who aren’t superstar writers can be heard. They often have valuable things to say that would never have been expressed to anyone but their inner circle without blogging.

    Would I prefer fantastic writing? Sure. But to be honest, it’s not what I value most.

    In my own writing, I find that I also enjoy the pieces that were written with passion instead of precision. I doubt yourself or Lorelle would call those qualities mutually exclusive, but they don’t always go together for me. :)

  19. Linda AbbitNo Gravatar says:

    There are so many types of writing. Do I consider myself an excellent fiction or creative writer — definitely NOT!

    But I strive to be an excellent blog writer, which to me includes conversation with my readers.

    Being a blogger to me is like being a journalist who gets to interact with their audience. Gotta love it! :-)

    Linda Abbits last blog post..Inspiring Quotes for Caregivers

  20. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Urban Panther,

    You do bring up a great point. Reference sites best be good (or great) AND accurate, otherwise they will lose credibility.

    Being aware of what we’re putting out “there”, is part of the battle, isn’t it? Although we can be our worst critic, we honestly know when our writings aren’t up to par.

    Hi Debbie,

    I hear you. I don’t think many of would frequent a site that is post after post of rants.

    And yes, there are those who do grow their blogs quickly via SEO, social media, and other methods, however, it’s one thing to grow a blog, but another to keep the readers coming back.

    Hi Ann,

    Some of those undiscovered bloggers are producing great stuff, aren’t they? And many have been writing for a long time and producing great stuff, but due to their subject matter, they may never become an “A lister”.

    Conversation is a two way street. If blog authors aren’t participating in their comment section, then that’s all it is, a comment section.

    Hi Sara,

    I like that, “passion instead of precision”.

    I agree. If I find someone is writing with passion, it doesn’t matter how good their writing is, as long as the message is there and it moves me. However, when I do see a mediocre writer, writing with passion , I also see a diamond in the rough.

  21. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Linda Abbit,

    That is one thing great about blogging; we do get to interact with our audience (although some don’t). It’s like having the best of both worlds (writing and conversing).

    Like you, I love it, too! :)

  22. J2RNo Gravatar says:

    There are tons of sites that are gaming the system, either buying links or using link baits, or even hacking the site (mine got hacked recently)

    These guys are top results in search engines without any good content.

    So “Content is King” is questionable. It all goes to the author. If you’re in this just to make money, then you prob don’t care much about content.

    But if you want to be proud of what you do, then obviously content is king.

    JRs last blog post..Be honest with your finances, even if they’re bad.

  23. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    JR – my blog has been hacked too and someone even changed the password. Barbara Ling wrote a post about this going on a lot and provided a link to something you can use to fix it (forgot the technical word).

    I think a few people are being a bit unfair re: some of the A list bloggers. The only A listers I see who are pretty bad at writing are a couple of the make money on line/blogging ones. But they are good marketers.

    There’s many who have a huge following who aren’t cheating – I don’t think SEO, networking and marketing is gaming the system. It requires a lot of time and effort. And true – there’s many well written undiscovered blogs that have only been on the Internet for a very short while. There’s also some truly dreadful ones. And many of them will give up blogging just as quickly.

    What we should remember is that many of those A listers have persisted for years before they built up a huge following. And that is why people admire them so much.

  24. Thank you, Barbara and Lorelle.

    This post really made me think. I agree that the most “successful” bloggers out there are generally good conversationalists first and foremost.

    I say generally because I have seen several blogs out there by people who never pose any questions to readers, yet still go on to be wildly successful because they are excellent writers.

    Personally, I did not learn the art of promoting conversation on my blog until fairly recently.

    What happened with my blog was that I noticed it had been slowly but steadily growing without my doing anything (sometimes, without even blogging regularly!) so I figured that I needed to capitalize on my “luck”, buckle down and learn to do this blogging thing properly if I was going to do it at all.

    That’s when I began researching, reading tons of helpful blogs like yours that focus on blogging. It has served me well.

    I think what I’m saying is that for the most part, I agree that blogging in and of itself is a whole different animal from simply being a very good writer.

    I would like to be both a great blogger AND writer when I grow up some day! For now, I put everything I have into each and every blog post I write. :-)

  25. LorelleNo Gravatar says:

    It is so wonderful to see you all getting the point of how a blog works and how blog writing is different from other forms of writing. And Sara knocked it on the head when she said that a great idea will survive poor writing – if passion is attached to the idea.

    Without a doubt, writing quality matters, but if you don’t have the passion nor interesting plot twists in the story, who cares. It’s just echo chamber rebabble.

    Which is also part of the fun. I love to honor the diversity found in blogging, covering everything and anything from all different angles – and the best of the best rises to the top organically.

    I just referenced one blogger in an article I published who came back to say that it wasn’t a fact, he was just talking out loud and assumed no one was reading his blog. As an expert in the subject, I took his words seriously. Now he says he will put in a disclosure statement when rambling.

    You never know when someone is reading and paying attention. Write accordingly.

  26. Hi Barbara –

    This is a thought-provoking post and the first time I’ve been to your blog. (I arrived via Catherine Lawson’s blog.) So far, I like what I see and what a great post to land on right off the bat!

    I agree with Sara at On Simplicity – I may prefer great writing, but even more so, I prefer passion over precision. It certainly can be a fine line.

    And Lorelle makes a good point just above here – you never know when someone may be paying attention. Good words to remember. 😉

    ~ Annie

  27. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi J2R,

    I’m sorry to hear your blog got hacked. I know you’ve worked hard on it. It’s a shame you had to go through that experience.

    You’re right, those of us who care, try to make content king, while (some of the) others are just seeing dollar signs.

    Hi Catherine,

    You do bring up a great point, most of the “A-listers” (whatever that means) have been blogging for many years. How they got there is really neither here nor there. Just like the brand new blogger, they too, have to strive to keep (and build) an audience. I’m guessing it’s often more difficult for them as they need to be on the cutting edge of (blogging) technology.

    If they have a drop of 10% (of their subscribers), that could be 4000, whereas for a new blogger, it could be 3.

    Hi Sara with an “h”,

    You’re welcome!

    That’s what blogging is all about. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about a raw food diet (like you), or business (like Catherine), or a variety of subjects like so many others, as a blogger, it’s important to know what goes into a blog, and what happens behind the scenes.

    It is more than just writing. It’s about conversing with others, asking questions, researching, joining social networks, learning the language, plus much more.

    You get it Sarah. You’re a writer AND a blogger.

    Hi Lorelle,

    Thanks for stopping by again. Your words ring true. We write for the whole world to see. :)

    Hi Annie,

    Welcome to the BWAB community!

    You have landed on a great post. Lorelle blessed me with an interview and we’ve only made it to the third part. There’s much more to come. I hope to see you here again soon.

  28. Brad ShorrNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara, your blog is awesome (found you through Cath Lawson). I just subscribed! As a writer who writes a lot of traditional sales and marketing materials, learning to write to inspire conversation has been a slow process. I’m continually trying to overcome the impulse to be complete, to wrap up all the loose ends with a neat conclusion. But I think Lorelle is right, and this blog post of yours is a good demonstration. Good conversation is always interesting and inspiring.

  29. Evelyn LimNo Gravatar says:

    Hmmm…interesting point about the conversation and content bit. I realise that I’ve been trying very hard to concentrate on the content part, hoping to educate my readers that I may have missed out on the conversation aspect.

    How then do we invoke conversation? What happens if no subscriber makes a comment? I’d be happy if these questions are answered.

    Evelyn

  30. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Brad,

    Welcome to the BWAB community! Thank you for your kind words and for subscribing .

    Writing for a blog is different, isn’t it? It must be a difficult transition to switch between writing marketing material and your blog.

    I’ll be over later to visit you.

    Hi Evelyn,

    Conversation is often invoked by the use of questions, and like Brad said, not “wrapping it up”. Sometime soon I’ll do a post dedicated to this issue.

    It’s not uncommon to see a blog without many comments. Some blogs are such they don’t need them based on their content (such as a blog that is for informational purposes only-on those if you do see comments they’re short thank yous)

  31. I’m with Wendy, community, conversation and good content and I’d put them in that order. Without the community and conversation how can you even tell who is reading and what kind of connection you’re making?

    Yes there is a fourth C isn’t there? Connection. We’ve all read the blogs of name authors who write good stuff but because they don’t connect by visiting other blogger there is seldom and comments on their blog.

    Without connection they might as well turn the comments off and have a static web page.

  32. Hi Barbara –

    You mentioned above – “Conversation is often invoked by the use of questions, and like Brad said, not “wrapping it up”. Sometime soon I’ll do a post dedicated to this issue.”

    That sounds like a great topic. Can’t wait to see it! I’ve also subscribed to the RSS so I don’t miss it. 😉

    ~ Annie

  33. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Tom,

    It’s great to see you here again. From someone who has been blogging for nearly a year (and also a life coach), you know how important community and conversation are. It’s no different than in the real world, is it?

    The only “name” blogger whom I visit that I’ve never seen leave a comment on a blog that I frequent (most blogs I frequent are relatively new) is Darren Rowse/Problogger. Having read his blog and his schedule, I can see why he doesn’t have time for commenting. However, one of the BWAB readers said he did answer a question she had on Twitter.

    Hi Annie,

    Thank you for subscribing. That post should show within a couple of few weeks as I first want to complete the interview series with Lorelle. On Monday she’s answering my question on finding fresh content for our blogs.

  34. Evelyn LimNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Barbara, for answering my question. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on “how to not wrap a post up” but to invoke conversation and participation.

    Have a great weekend,
    Evelyn

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..How To Do Pendulum Dowsing

  35. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Evelyn

    You’re welcome. Have a great weekend, too.

  36. DEFINITELY a stumble!

    Hmm, I read her answer a little differently than you, Barbara. I kind of got the feeling that conversation is king.

    I suppose though if you are to inspire conversation you first need the content to support it. Perhaps conversation is king but content is the engineer that builds it?

    I realize that not every great blog has an explosive comment section, but I think a blog will attract more readers if people can see a lot of other people like this blog.

    Worth thinking about.

    John Hoff – eVentureBizs last blog post..Choosing The Best Kind Of Affiliate Marketing For Your Website

  37. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the stumble.

    Haha. I think what I said confused you. I meant that Lorelle’s “answer” was excellent content, not that “excellent content” was the answer to the question. I agree, conversation is what’s really important.

    But…..it’s hard to have one without the other.

  38. […] I was rereading my Interview With Lorelle VanFossen – Part 3 – Content: Is Good, Good Enough, Lorelle left a comment that make me […]