The Truth About Building a Popular Blog

There are two things people care about when it comes to popular blogs:

  1. What they publish
  2. Who they are

When people learn how to make a popular blog they do very well on the first thing, but can often forget the second. Look at any popular blogger. Any blogger that pulls in hundreds of thousands or millions of pageviews and ask yourself if they are seen as an authority figure in their niche?

They all are. Every single one. Not one of them gets by on just what they publish. They are also seen as people that know their shit.

That is both encouraging and discouraging.

You’re Dumb, Get Smart

Here’s the thing that many of us don’t want to admit when we start blogging about a topic: we are dumb about it. When I first started to blog about web design I didn’t know a damn thing about it, but I made sure that I learned everything that I could.

None of the top bloggers started off being experts in their field. They were dumb just like you.

Wait a second, why do I keep calling you dumb? That’s pretty screwed up.

Okay, maybe dumb is the wrong word to use, but it got your attention. I guess we could say naive or lacking the knowledge of other people, but I don’t want to say that. For now, I’ll stick with dumb.

You are dumb, but you can change that. You see what’s great about studying other top bloggers is seeing that they started in the same place as you. In fact, all bloggers start off in the same place and yet some rise, while most stay stagnant.

Why is that?

It’s about hunger.

Are You the Obsessive Type?

Is there anything worse than meeting someone, things click, and suddenly they are obsessed with you? That’s just way too much too fast.

You need to become that person though to build a popular blog. You don’t need to be obsessive about other people, you need to be obsessive about the topic. Whatever your blog is about, you need to think about that topic night and day. You need to read everything you can about that topic.

Running a popular blog isn’t about having good genes. You’re just as “smart” as the next blogger, but you probably don’t work as hard to learn about a topic as them. The most popular bloggers read and then take action.

Theory is great, but to really understand something they put it into action. Once they do that they can talk about it with a tone of authority.

I was labeled a smart kid growing up and it crippled me. At the time, I didn’t know it crippled me, but it did. When I became an adult I expected everything to come easily to me all because I could do my multiplication tables in record time.

I forgot that I didn’t know everything and sometimes you have to work at something to really understand it.

Started From the Bottom Now We Here

My first job out of college was a shitty one. It was terrible. It was for a horrible person that gave me horrible tasks.

I was a tech recruiter. If you don’t know what that is, let me explain it real quick. A tech recruiter finds companies that have open positions and then they find candidates to match those positions. If the company hires a candidate that I found, I get a % of their salary.

I hated it because I was terrible at it. Instead of figuring out how to get better at it, I turned to something else: web design.

Somehow I convinced my boss to let me redo the company’s website even though I had no idea what I was doing. When I was I allowed to redo it, I spent the next two weeks devouring every book and article I could about web design. By no means did this make me an expert, but it made me 100x better than I was before.

When I was done with the website I still wasn’t done learning. I became obsessed. I was going to continue teaching myself until I felt like I was an expert at it.

I also wanted to write about web design to help me learn about it. To see if I truly understand something I like to teach others and that was the purpose of this blog.

It became really popular. Hundreds of thousands of page views a month and I hadn’t been a web designer for a year yet. That didn’t matter to the people that read my blog because I was able to write educated blog posts that taught them something, all because I never stopped learned.

There were much better web designers out there, but I was one of the best when it came to writing about web design.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the notion that the best bloggers are the smartest. The fact of the matter is the best bloggers that I’ve talked to are the ones that worked the hardest on mastering a topic.

So how do you master a topic? You need to set up the right environment for yourself and here’s how.

1. Ditch Your Friends

You hate me already don’t you? I understand, this is tough advice because you love your friends, but odds are they are holding you back.

In my 20s I was the life of the party. I probably went out 5-6 times every single week. My friends loved me and I loved them.

But I was going nowhere in life and I wasn’t doing anything.

On the outside, it seemed like I was doing a ton, but that’s how things always look when you are out drinking.

One night I just didn’t have the money I usually did to buy bottles. I told my friends and they decided not to come out. Pretty shitty, right? However, this isn’t a story about bad friends, it’s a story about what happened after I spent all of my money.

I told myself it was time to get serious and making a real income, but I didn’t know how. When I tried something it never worked out mostly because I didn’t spend enough time on it. It’s hard to when you are planning for your night out and then hungover the next morning.

My friends weren’t lazy people, but they also weren’t trying to get to the level that I was.

You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

No wonder I loved going out and drinking. The 5 people I hung out with the most loved to do that as well. I didn’t surround myself with people that pushed themselves to the levels that I needed to push myself to and it showed.

When I turned 30 I moved to Los Angeles and everything changed. If you’ve ever been to a big city like LA, San Francisco, or New York, you’ll notice something.

Everybody is hustling for a better life.

It’s brutal and invigorating. If you slow down, someone else will pass you. On the other side, it charges you up seeing people strive for something more. I began to surround myself with people where I was the least successful. I’m not talking from a superficial standpoint, I’m talking from a life standpoint.

I hung out with CEOs, doctors, lawyers, and athletes. All of them striving to be the best at what they do. Because of that, I wanted to be the best at what I did. It’s like adding gasoline to a fire, it just changes everything.

So yeah, you might have to leave your friends behind if they aren’t the ones building you up. I had to let some good people go. It sucked, but at the same time, it’s what I needed to do. That doesn’t mean I completely cut off communication with them, it just means I saw them less because I wanted something more.

Want to become a better blogger? Surround yourself with better bloggers.

Want to become a better teacher? Surround yourself with better teachers.

If you hang out with people that make you feel dumb through the conversations you have, that’s a good thing. If they make you feel dumb through insults then I suggest you punch them in the damn throat.

Be the Encyclopedia of Your Topic

I love the movie Limitless with Bradley Cooper. The gist of it is, Bradley Cooper takes a pill that allows his brain to use 100% of its capacity. Because of this, he begins to devour all types of information. He becomes an expert at everything.

You need to pretend you’ve taken the same pill.

The best bloggers never stop learning. If you have a question concerning the topic they blog about they will have an answer for you. A good one at that.

And if they don’t?

They will make sure they learn the best answer so next time they are prepared.

When we leave school many of us start learning. The best bloggers never stop learning. In fact, the best bloggers learn more while building a popular blog, than they ever learned in school.

The great thing about learning in today’s world is that it is so easy. Every popular blogger knows that the best way to build a tribe is by sharing their knowledge. That means there are millions of pieces of free information out there for you to devour.

Beginning bloggers kind of wade around hoping answers fall into their laps, while the best bloggers actively spend time searching for new knowledge.

The key to learning is how are you spending your time? Is it watching TV or is it spent reading the archives of the best bloggers?

I can’t tell you how much stuff I read a day. I probably consume over 30,000 words a day at the very least. When I decided to create Thrive/Strive with my wife and brother, I made it my mission to become someone that can easily talk about health and fitness with anybody.

When I have an idea for a new blog, I take the time to read up on the topic as much as possible. If I find that I want to continue to read more on the topic I know that it’s a good sign I should start the blog.

Set aside time every single day to consume new information.

This isn’t school. You don’t study to pass a test and then forget what you’ve learned. Instead, you are building a city. Every new thing you learn adds to the foundation of that city and there are no limits to how big the city can grow.

Remember, it’s not about being born with the most smarts. It’s about who really wants to become an expert in their field by putting in the time and effort to learn.

Take Time to Gain Perspective

When you start to blog it can be very easy to put your head down and do nothing, but work. I fall into the same trap when working on my businesses, but you need to spend even more time thinking.

I can’t tell you how many bloggers have come to me to tell me that they’ve spent a month or two writing and publishing posts with no results and they don’t know why. I ask them what have they learned from their site and they give me blank stares.

The problem is they’ve become robotic in their routine. They treat blogging like a recipe where they follow specific steps and then something magical happens.

But here’s the thing, everybody’s blog is different. We might share the same audiences, but they react differently to you than to me. How you are getting traffic might be different from how I’m getting traffic. Your growth strategy might be completely different from my growth strategy.

You’ll never know how to improve if you don’t spend time to think.

Want to write better content? Spend time thinking about it more. A lot of the best bloggers eventually fall into a pattern where they only publish something once or twice a month. The reason why is because they want to spend more time thinking about a particular topic. That way when they do write about it, it’s a homerun.

The problem with spending time thinking is that it takes time. You might be thinking that you’d rather be writing or doing something else that you believe will lead to you making money, but thinking leads to money just as much as anything else. Yes, you need to take action, but if you always act without thinking, you are just holding yourself back.

What it Comes Down to

You want to build a popular blog then you need to understand that it all comes down to you. It comes down to how you decide to spend your time. It comes down to how you relate to your audience. It comes down to whether or not the person you are now is even capable of being a popular blogger.

Some of you reading this aren’t setting yourself up to be a popular blogger. You’re setting yourself up to be a blogger that makes $500 extra a month from a blog and maybe that’s the level you want to be at. However, most people I know (the ones I like to hang out with) want to make 5, 6, or 7 digits a month with their blog not because they want to swim in swimming pools of champagne. But because they like to have control over their lifestyle.

Those people understood at some point that they needed to change who they were to make it happen. They actively figured out that they needed to create an environment that set them up for success and once in that environment they did what was necessary to excel.

You are the biggest obstacle to your blog’s success. How do you conquer you?