Is Good Writing Important to Blogging Success?

Writing samples: Parker 75
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Ralph was adding new content to his blog regularly and attracting new readers from search engines but return readers were stagnant so he worked on making his writing more interesting.


My inciting incident

I’m a by the numbers kind of guy. I like lists. I love checking off action items and following guidelines. It has always worked for me in whatever jobs I took on and so I anticipated that blogging would be no different. It has been a two year journey so far that has taken me from a personal blog on Blogger to providing regular contributions to three self-hosted WordPress blogs. I have reigned in my eclectic interests to focus on specific niches and held my nose and developed a list of keywords to write to. Technically, my blogging is competent, perhaps better than many but I am a long way from success.

My vision of blogging success

My vision for the blogs is aa a focal point for a community of people with the same interest who come together to exchange ideas about retirement and second incomes. I have a history of regular posting which covers the range of topics in my niche and have a modest number of readers who return on a regular basis. As I worked my way through my check list, I always believed that when I finally took on SEO that I would begin to break out of stagnation because some of the new readers would become return visitors and my stats would grow. That is not what is happening. It is time to move along on the list.

What follows SEO?

While much of the blogging advice suggests that SEO is the answer to all blogging problems, when you follow the more successful bloggers, you find that they all talk about writing and telling a story or grabbing your audience’s attention. My style is more like tipping a dump truck in the readers lap than making them interested in learning what I think. I haven’t done creative writing since my first year at college and even then I wasn’t good at it. So the next check off on my list is to improve my writing skills so that readers will want to return.

What makes good writing?

With the guidance of David Doolin at Website in a Weekend, I have been struggling with narrative arcs and inciting incidents to make my writing better. Recently the good Doctor in an attempt to get my writing head on straight asked me to send him ten inciting incidents. Pedestrian writer that I am, I had no idea what he was talking about but after a Google search I learned that an inciting incident is;

Also called the catalyst, this is the point in the story when the Protagonist encounters the problem that will change their life. This is when the detective is assigned the case, where Boy meets Girl, and where the Comic Hero gets fired from his cushy job, forcing him into comic circumstances. …

Armed with that definition, I completed the assignment for Doctor D who turned my assignment into a lesson about writing.

Will improving my writing, make my blog a success? I can’t say for sure. What I do know is that SEO isn’t everything. Making the search engine happy is all to the good but in the end, it is those human readers that will make me a success or a failure. So far those humans have been disappointed. If I can learn to make them happy, it certainly won’t hurt.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Dave Doolin October 3, 2010, 1:11 pm

    I’d have to say, from observation, that good writing per se is not necessary for success in blogging-type marketing. I’ve seen too many people “make it” on sub-par material.

    But something has to be good. Whether it be promotion, ability to connect, whatever, it has to compensate for not-so-good writing.

    However, really good writing is so much more portable than being on the promotion treadmill. Good writing will stand the test of time. Whereas on twitter, you’re only as good as your last tweet. No thanks, I want off of that treadmill. I prefer to invest my time into learning how to write as well as I can.

    And everyone promoting poor writing…? I can’t see the payoff. At some point, people will get bored of hearing the same old broken record and bail. I’ve seen it happen, I’m sure you have too.

  • Ralph October 3, 2010, 1:29 pm

    I never thought that people were actually promoting poor writing, more that they just didn’t know the difference. It is also about the KIND of good writing. I ‘ve been focused on business oriented writing during my life after college. The kind of writing you have to read but you need to be clear. No need to entertain, titillate or engage. It is almost like speaking a new language. Sometimes I don’t even recognize what I write because it ends up someplace different from where I though it was going. Between SEO and narrative acs, I feel schizophrenic.
    Ralph’s last Blog Post ..Social Media- Making and keeping connections

  • Bob @ JuicyMaters.com October 3, 2010, 7:35 pm

    Ralph…you and I rely heavily on Dave for making us better bloggers…a good thing because he is good at what he does and he likes it.

    We are a bit different than many, if not most, of his readers, at least from what I have seen in comments on WIAW. We don’t have a product to actually sell…be it an actual thing or a service…we just inpart information and hope enough folks like our info to keep coming back. Our monetization of our blogs, if that is what we want, will always come from that…people reading info and enough of them doing it so we can sell advertising for enough money to put a fair amount of coin in our pockets INDIRECTLY rather than buying something directly from us. That means being entertaining…perhaps telling a story…but definitely NOT lecturing.

    Have a discussion with your readers. For example, rather than telling me that investing in a vineyard in Argentina is a bad, risky investment, pretend I’m a neighbor about to retire who stops by for a cool glass of lemonade and mentions vineyards in Argentina. Don’t lecture about the shortcomings…have a conversation. Talk about other stupid…and funny…investment schemes that became almost caricatures of bad investing that are good for a laugh. Tell about the mink farm your cousin started back in the 50’s when mink farming was the up-and-coming get rich quick scheme.

    Many of my posts end with the admonition to readers:

    “This blog is a discussion, not a lecture. Use the comment section to add, adjust, or correct information here, or just plain disagree because I COULD be wrong, you know.

    “Not likely, but I could be.”

  • Ralph October 4, 2010, 7:51 am

    Bob,
    I think you are wrong about the product. I think we all have a product or two. We just don’t see our own value. And Dave, where to start. want to grow up just like Dave, devious and manipulative.
    Ralph’s last Blog Post ..Social Media- Making and keeping connections

  • Bob @ JuicyMaters.com October 4, 2010, 9:10 am

    Oh hll Ralph…I could use my blog to develop a few products…if I weren’t so lazy and really wanted to.

    Give time, I’ll have enough recipes to add some narrative and have a cookbook…or I could do a “How to build a yurt video and sell it either ebook style or as a mailed out DVD, or work harder on the momesteading and sell subscriptions…but I’m a bullshit artist. That’s what I do well, and I research heavily or live what I’m writing about so I’m an authorative bullshit artist who actually knows what I’m talking about…and that means that, at least for now, I like making the blog readable and enjoyable so folks come back and tell their friends so I build stats to point I can get some advertising coin.

  • Ralph October 4, 2010, 9:24 am

    Bob,
    If you know about which you speak you are no bullshit artist- perhaps bombastic and emphatic.

  • Dave Doolin October 4, 2010, 7:50 pm

    @Ralph, yes, it’s more like they don’t know the difference.

    I think I just had an epiphany: most readers don’t know the difference either.

    A few days ago, I ran across an article written by someone who actually said something very close to “Say what everyone else is saying, because that’s what readers want.”

    Preaching to the choir.

    For as long as each of us has been doing this, she’s making a boat load more money than I am. So I can’t say she’s wrong. I find that tragic.
    Dave Doolin’s last Blog Post ..Google PageRank- What does it tell you

  • Ralph October 5, 2010, 6:24 am

    Dave,
    Are you saying that people want you to tell them what they espect to year and are unsatisfied with anything that makes them think?
    Ralph’s last Blog Post ..Site Visitor Report for September 2010

  • Blanche October 8, 2010, 9:12 am

    I think it isn’t just the writing, it is how you relate to the reader. You are writing a personal type blog which is good.

    I think it is really getting a blog noticed, and then getting the viewers involved. Seniors are a fast growing segment who are now online, reaching them is as important as good writing skills.

    The way I like best is to post on blogs that I like. Since I like to write this is a good way for me to support another blog. I get to read some really good material and learn something at the same time.

    I haven’t tried getting bookmarked yet. There are companies that do this for free. Press releases are also a way to brand a blog.

  • Ralph October 9, 2010, 7:48 am

    Blanche,
    That has been the most effective method for me too.
    Ralph’s last Blog Post ..Retirement Lifestyle- What is your legacy

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