Typically, I'm not interested in how-to books regarding blogging, social media, search engine optimization, and all the different Google tools. Those books become obsolete so quickly since those platforms and how to use them change so much. For example, there's a book about Google Buzz on the shelf at my local library, a Google service that only lasted about a year. I always chuckle when I see because I wonder who would borrow it. But, I did find a book about blogging on my local library shelf called, Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers. It was published in 2008, and the premise of interviewing the top 30 bloggers in 2008 and publishing the conversations sounded intriguing and evergreen. It seemed like Blogging Heroes would be one of those few how-to books that wouldn't be too outdated, and would still have a few awesome blogging tips to offer that would still apply in 2014.
I was right.
These Are Some Great Blogs
Of the 30 blogs/bloggers featured, 18 are still going in their current form. By "current form", I mean the same domain name and pretty much the same topic. Another seven still exist, but either have a new domain name, or the content is now found with another site (DIY Life is now part of Style Me Pretty, while Luxist is now part of Stylelist.com). The main reason why that number is high, in my opinion, is that the book featured Weblogs Inc. and several Weblogs properties. AOL acquired Weblogs Inc. in 2005, so some of their properties were added to the Huffington Post or to other AOL sites.
Only five of the 30 blogs featured have stopped entirely, where either the domain name listed doesn't lead to anything, or the blog hasn't posted anything new in several years. I mention this before sharing the tips because the sources of these tips come from the other 25 that are still going in some way, illustrating the timelessness of blogging as an art form and how to do it right.
Great Content Beats SEO
Robert Scoble of Scobleizer made this point best, and I was so glad to hear it because even in 2007/2008, when SEO was still new, the top bloggers of the time still understood the importance of great content. Others echoed the sentiment by emphasizing how quality content is what ultimately builds and keeps an audience, but I loved that the awareness existed back then that gaming the system was a short-term strategy at best.
Of course, many bloggers in the book acknowledged SEO's importance in getting found online, and paid attention to it to some extent. But, none of them obsessed over it to the point that is was more important than the content being written or offering value to the reader. No one even considered SEO more important than actively promoting the blog and its content on your own, either through networking or working with other great bloggers to highlight what they're doing.
Remember: Google doesn't buy from you! Google doesn't read your blog, subscribe to your blog, or comment on your posts. Therefore, worry more about offering something awesome and beneficial to customers, versus trying to please Google for higher search engine rankings.
Write about What You Are Interested In or Passionate About
"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman
"Finding your passion" is harder than it sounds, and Marie Forleo does a great explanation of how to find your passion and where you shouldn't look for it. But, a great point made by Scott McNulty from the Unofficial Apple Weblog, and many others in the book, is that successful blogs have a topic or several topics that they want to share with others and simply do that. Successful bloggers write about what they found interesting, or when they have something to add to the conversation. Many people may write about something because it's trending, or because they think people like X or Y so they ought to cover X or Y. But, McNulty and Howard Thurman point out that a blog really comes alive when the blogger is passionate about the subject and has his/her heart in it.
"I Don't Decide to Blog and then Look for Something. I Find Something, and Then I Blog It."
Rebecca Lieb of ClickZ gave life-changing (it changed my perspective on blogging for the rest of my life, that's for sure) advice on how to find blog post topics and how to remain relevant as a blog. I loved this quote because it takes the weight off about creating an editorial calendar and sticking to it. I've created a calendar and filled it in with blog post ideas many times, only to look at it a week later and not feel any excitement for these topics that I spent so much time to think about. I like Lieb's advice because it harnesses the initial creativity and spark of when you see something, and immediately come up with thoughts, ideas and responses to that something. From there, you can write a blog post. The energy is there when you write the blog post, versus scheduling to write about something in three weeks when you saw it and thought about it today.
Overall, Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers is an excellent book with plenty of relevance to blogging in today's world. I would highly recommend the book as it is a chance to learn from some of the original pioneers in the industry and practice. I do have a few criticisms and differences to point out, of which I will cover in a future post.