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A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral

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The Underdog’s Guide to Building an Unforgettable Blog

The Underdog’s Guide to Building an Unforgettable Blog

Note from Jon: The fear of not being able to stand out in a crowded space can be paralyzing when you’re a beginner, but it doesn’t have to be. Today, one of our favorite guest contributors, Henneke Duistermaat, will walk you through how to create a blog no one forgets, even if you’re just one small voice amongst thousands. For more training on how to enchant your audience, also be sure to check out Enchanting Marketing.

Let’s not pussyfoot around it.

Hundreds – maybe thousands – of bloggers write about the same topic as you.

Some have more writing talent than you.

Some have more followers than you.

And some have a huge email list to drive traffic to their sites.

So the big question is:

How can you possibly compete with all of these popular bloggers?

Why Popularity is Overrated

As a blogger it’s easy to focus on volume – more web visitors, more shares, more comments, more email subscribers. Because that’s the proof of your popularity, isn’t it?

Doesn’t Chris Brogan have 266 thousand Twitter followers? Isn’t he circled by 127 thousand Google-Plussers? Doesn’t he have a huuuuge number of people on his email list?

Yes, of course, the number of followers and subscribers you have is a measure of your popularity. But follower numbers are less important than follower engagement, enthusiasm, and love for your blog.

You can only build your popularity when people feel connected to you, when they want to listen to you, when they are excited about you – when you become their favorite blogger.

Without that spark of excitement, your blog remains a “me too” blog – easily interchangeable with any other.

So how do you ignite this spark of passion, even in the face of such stiff competition?

The Myth of Usefulness

I used to think you only needed to share useful tips to grow your blog.

Just share in-depth and uber-useful posts and your follower count will grow – that’s what we’re told, right?

Maybe that was the case once upon a time, but it’s not true any longer.

Sure, your blog needs to be useful, but that’s simply a minimum requirement.

If all you do is share useful tips, readers can easily swap you for another blogger who’s also sharing useful tips – probably identical tips to yours. You’re just another faceless writer. A robot churning out practical advice.

Readers will visit you just like they visit Wal-Mart – because they need bread and butter, or beer, or blogging advice.

But nobody raves about going to Wal-Mart. Nobody tells their friends how wonderful Wal-Mart is. And nobody raves about a blog that’s just sharing useful tips.

Being useful is necessary, but it’s not enough to make you popular. It doesn’t create avid fans. It doesn’t make readers yearn for your next blog post.

So how can you give your readers something so special they won’t swap you for anyone else?

How can you build a bond so strong, your readers miss your voice when you skip a week?

How can you make your blog so appealing that you even start to steal readers from your big competitors?

The Art of Being Irreplaceable

Let’s imagine you’re opening a small shop in town and you want to compete with the mighty Wal-Mart. What would you choose to sell? Chicken feet and pig’s trotters – because you can’t find them in Wal-Mart?

No, of course not; you would still sell bread, milk, and beer, because that’s what people in your town want to buy.

The only way your little shop can compete with Wal-Mart is to set it apart by creating a special place with a distinctive vibe – a cozy shop where people love to browse around, drink a coffee, and have a chat with you, a place where they feel welcome and at ease.

The key to the success of your small shop is personality. Rather than be another faceless store with soulless aisles where people want to get in and out as quickly as possible, your shop should be distinctive and personal.

In the blogging world, it’s the same. In an endless ocean of blogs churning out indistinguishable tips, the only way you can stand out is to develop a blog with personality, with a unique voice. You want readers to come back because they want to listen to your voice, to you.

Your voice needs to be so unmistakable that readers miss you when you’re not there. So that they wait desperately until you publish your next blog post. So that they don’t want to read other blogs because they can’t hear your voice there.

But how do you find such a distinctive blogging voice that your readers miss you as soon as you’re not around?

Where Your Unique Blogging Voice Comes From

Leo Babauta has a unique voice. Sonia Simone has a unique voice. And so does Jon Morrow.

As soon as you read the first few sentences of their posts, you know who’s written it. You can practically hear them talking to you, as if they’re looking over your shoulder to guide you with their advice.

You feel like you know them and can trust them because when they write, they sound like real people.

Their blogging voices are expressions of their personalities.

And the same is true for you.

But you’ll need time to find the right tone, rhythm and style that authentically represent your unique identity, your personality.

You don’t start blogging with your blogging voice already in place – just like you’re not born with your personality fully formed.

But what is your personality? What makes you unique?

Let’s think about your imaginary shop again, because it will help you understand who you are as a blogger.

Would your shop look classic or ultra-modern? Would your products be well-known, unusual, or even quirky?

What would the shop front look like? Bold lettering, flashy neon, or a traditional shop sign?

Can you picture yourself in your shop? If you can’t yet, keep exploring. Think about the flooring you’d have, the decorations on the walls, whether your store is cluttered or spacious.

Once you can visualize yourself opening up your store in the morning and walking in, you can start defining your voice.

Imagine talking to your favorite customer. Let’s call her Sarah.

How would you talk to Sarah? Jokingly? Friendly? With authority? Would you swear a little or use fancy words? Would you carefully consider your answers or just blurt out your ideas? Would you speak full of enthusiasm or keep a certain distance? Would you rant about the road that’s broken up yet again?

To determine your voice, write three statements that accurately define you. Consider what your voice is, as well as what it isn’t. A few examples:

  • I’m casual and use humor, but I never make fun of my customers.
  • I’m confident and speak with authority, but I never use jargon.
  • I’m enthusiastic and passionate and sometimes I swear. But I never rant for long.

By imagining yourself in a real situation talking to a real person, you’ll discover who you are and what your voice is like.

Now, let’s see how you translate that into your writing.

The Secret to Creating a Distinctive Blogging Voice

“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.” – Austin Kleon

To learn how to write with a distinctive voice that sounds like you, start by studying the writing techniques of your blogging heroes.

When I was learning how to blog, I studied my heroes. Why does Sonia Simone sound so friendly and approachable? Why does Sean d’Souza have such a unique voice? Why does Jon sound like such a badass?

Sure, these three people aren’t like me at all. But each of them has something special that I wanted to emulate, something that was part of the puzzle of how my voice should sound.

I studied their blogs day in, day out. I didn’t just read blog posts. I tried to understand what made their writing different; and why they spoke so strongly to me.

To develop your blogging voice, you need to learn the writing techniques your heroes use to create a strong voice. You need to study, and analyze, and then emulate:

  • Learn how their headlines attract attention.
  • Understand how they use opening paragraphs to pull you into a post.
  • Notice their use of long and short sentences and bullet points to define the pace and rhythm of a post.
  • Analyze the power words they use to make you feel something.
  • See how they address you as a reader – are their blog posts more like a monologue or conversation? How are questions used?
  • Review how they incorporate personal details or stories to add personality.
  • Determine what words they use – is their word choice flowery, sensory, or bold? Do they curse?
  • Learn how their concluding paragraphs inspire you to take action.

By mixing the techniques of two or three bloggers, you can create a writing style that suits your own personality.

When emulating other bloggers, you’ll find yourself making “mistakes” – you diverge from the style you try to imitate. These diversions are valuable, because you might like them and you can amplify them so your voice becomes stronger, more personal, more like you.

When borrowing ideas for your voice from other bloggers, be careful. Don’t ever imitate just one blogger, and don’t copy whole paragraphs or sentences because, of course, that’s plagiarism. Just emulate writing techniques.

Study the writing styles of two or three bloggers and pick the techniques you like from each of them. Don’t just appreciate the how, understand the why too. See why certain words are chosen, why stories are told, and why an opening paragraph pulls you into a post.

Consider adding influences from different artists like rappers or poets or even film critics. Create your own list of favorite words and phrases that typify your voice.

Now, you need to take just one more step to allow you to compete against the popular blogs and gain your raving audience.

The Essential Last Step That Makes Your Blog Irreplaceable

Let’s briefly side-step again. Let’s think about your favorite restaurant.

Why do you go back again, and again? Is it just the food or is it something else?

The attraction of a restaurant isn’t just about tangible aspects like the menu, the interior, and the free apéritif. It’s also about the smile of the waiter when you enter. It’s about the restaurant owner who stops by to ask about your holiday. Something in the air makes you feel at ease.

Each aspect of a restaurant contributes to its atmosphere, its personality.

Think about a posh restaurant. You’d probably expect a swirly font on the menu, fragrant soap in the bathroom, and bristling white linen, wouldn’t you?

In such a place, you won’t expect heavy metal music at a high volume and you won’t expect a chatty waiter. Loud music and over-familiarity undermine the overall impression of quiet sophistication a posh restaurant tries to exude.

Your blog exudes a certain atmosphere too. Just like the mood in your favorite restaurant, the feeling on your blog isn’t defined by its design alone.

Each element on your website, each moment of interaction contributes to your reader’s perception of you, your personality, and your voice:

  • Do you answer comments with humility or bravado?
  • Do you acknowledge that you sometimes don’t know the answers or do you speak with authority at all times?
  • Do you thank people who tweet your posts?
  • Do you welcome newcomers with a “New? Start here” page? Or do you expect people to find their own way?
  • Does your design seem understated or bold? Cold or warm? Crowded or peaceful?
  • Do you use pop-ups to boost your subscriber numbers? Or are you more relaxed and let your readers decide whether they’d like to sign up or not?
  • Is your sidebar full of adverts like a bustling, noisy bar? Or is your blog an almost minimalist affair?

When a detail is out of sync with your personality and your blogging voice, it undermines people’s perceptions of who you are. You can’t say you’re rebellious, and then start wearing a black suit and carefully cropped hair. You can’t tell people you hate hype and sleaziness, but present a sales page full of yellow highlighter, CAPS, and exclamation marks.

To make your blog cherished and loved and unmissable, each detail should express your personality. Because that’s how your readers recognize you and warm to you. That’s how you form an unbreakable bond and gain a loyal readership.

The Simple Truth About Your Blog

The web is full of “me too” blogs.

It’s filled to the brim with bloggers sharing useful tips and tutorials.

To win your place in the hearts of your readers, you need to do more than just share tips.

Because tips are like one-night stands. They meet a temporary need, but involve no sense of connection, no feeling, no emotion. Readers just move on to the next blog without missing you.

To become someone’s favorite blogger, you need to show your personality.

Your readers must get to know you, like you, and trust you.

That’s how you win readers in the face of stiff competition. That’s how you make your readers come back again and again. That’s how you make readers yearn for YOUR next blog post – because they want to hear your voice again.

Be yourself. Be genuine. And share your passion.

About the Author: Henneke is an irreverent copywriter and marketer on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook. She’s a regular contributor to Boost Blog Traffic, KISSmetrics and Copyblogger. Get more blogging tips and learn how to write fascinating content at Enchanting Marketing.

The Underdog's Guide to Building an Unforgettable Blog by

132 Comments

  1. Jake Parent
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:00:10

    Enchanting!!!!!!!!!! :-)

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:05:46

      Thank you, Jake ;-)

      Reply

      • Rukayat
        Feb 23, 2014 @ 14:37:38

        Thank you for this piece. It’s worth the time.

  2. Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:14:48

    Thank you for this, Henneke! Letting my voice shine through the tips and how-tos is something I wanted to work on this year. I’m trying to infuse my blog with my personality at every tern. This post was really helpful – definitely bookmarking so I can come back again and again to make sure I stay on the right track.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:45:30

      Glad you find it helpful, Kali :)

      Reply

  3. Jake
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:30:17

    Really enjoyed this post very much. I’ve never really been interested in reading or writing the sort of “textbook” how to or guru blog posts and this just fuels my fury to find my own voice and do my own thing! Many thanks!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:47:01

      Yes, go for it! The web needs your unique voice.

      Reply

  4. Galen
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:30:33

    Great post! I love how you describe the web as full of “me too” blogs. So true.

    It’s so important to stand out and let your personality show so you can build trust with your readers. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:47:32

      Exactly!

      Reply

  5. Stacie
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:36:33

    Wow…what a great post! I recently put a bunch of tips and tricks on my blog and did get a huge spike in traffic, and feel like they will add more opportunities for new readers as time goes on, but the personality is the glue, isn’t it? Really appreciate this …and I could feel your personality coming through this post as well…

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:48:43

      Yes, your personality is the glue — it makes the connections between you and your readers.

      Reply

  6. Michael Feeley
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:36:57

    What a wonderful post and so pleasurable to read! I love your advice about studying the work of your favorite bloggers, emulating their style and while you discover your own voice. I’m in the heart of that right now and it’s a fine adventure.
    Thank you Henneke.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:49:47

      Enjoy your adventure, Michael. :)

      Reply

  7. Yelena Reese
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:40:44

    Whew! What a relief! Here I am thinking how I’m going to crank out the most useful tips ever found on the web (close to impossible). Turns out I just need to find my voice and connect to my readers (self reflection, hard work, and persistance). Thanks for the great article! :)

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:51:55

      You’re welcome, Yelena. I hope you’ll have fun discovering your voice :)

      Reply

  8. David Schuller
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:41:41

    Hi Henneke
    This was a great post. I especially like the idea of using 3 favorite bloggers as an example.
    When I first began blogging I always tried to sound proper. But as I progressed I have realized that I need to speak like I speak to a person.
    It takes a mind transition because they are 2 different modes.
    Great job
    Thanks again
    David

    Reply

  9. Jo Gifford | blogger and blog coach
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:42:29

    Such a brilliant post, thanks so much. I do think finding your voice takes time,and it evolves. I really think that blogging less and engaging more goes a long way; so many “iconic” bloggers ignore comments, are never seen on social platforms and I always think it’s a shame, communities need interaction, discussion and personality. I love it when my audience take the time to read and comment, or when someone shares a tweet or post from me I drop them a note. It takes 2 seconds and shows I am human :)

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:55:07

      Yes, I so much agree with you. Building a community and interacting with my readers is for me the most fun part of blogging.

      Reply

  10. Steve
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:53:48

    Henneke,

    Great topic! I found particular value in the section on how to carefully consider all of your website elements and making sure they, like your posts, uniquely reflect you. (And since I’m at the early design phase, it’s particularly timely!)

    Another benefit of being yourself is that you attract readers you want to write for. Wouldn’t we all rather craft our best work for someone who truly appreciates it, instead of just some random Joe/Jo? Not that your readers always agree with you (and they shouldn’t), but that they fully engage with you instead of just lurking.

    Thanks for the insights – they got me thinking this morning!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:12:47

      Yep, that’s true. When you let your personality shine through, you can connect with the readers who like you — not just for your tips, but because of who you are. That’s a good foundation to build a relationship.

      Good luck with your site!

      Reply

  11. Mike
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:55:28

    Well, I agree with the premise that it is the experience and personality that wins blog readers. There is so much available on the Internet, people come to see the writer not the information. Higher Education is struggling to redefine itself in this world – it’s not the information, it’s the experience.

    At the same time, I wonder how guest blogging fits into this. Jon does have a distinct voice, but this and a lot of of other blogs out there you mention primarily have content from guest bloggers. It seems to dilute the experience.

    I wonder if this guest blogging thing is just an endless loop of people who want to break into the big time…

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:18:14

      Even as a guest blogger it’s still important to write in your own voice. As guest blogger you can look for the blogs and audiences that suit your personality.

      When I studied Jon’s style of writing, I looked for his guest posts on Copyblogger and ProBlogger (this was before Boost Blog Traffic was launched). When you read these posts, it’s still clearly Jon’s voice.

      Sometimes you may need to adapt a little to the audience of a blog, but most host blogs will allow you to write in your personal style.

      Reply

  12. Margaret
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:00:39

    Brilliant! As a novice, this article felt like you were talking directly to me! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:18:41

      I wrote this especially for you, Margaret. Just don’t tell anyone that ;-)

      Reply

  13. Sonia Thompson
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:00:57

    Henneke – all great points! Way too much work is put into being a blogger for the work to be just another “me too”blog. The more we delight our customers by using our own unique voice and personal kind of awesomeness to interact with them, the more likely we are to create raving fans!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:21:06

      You bet :)

      Reply

  14. Randy
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:06:02

    True confessions time. I’ve been struggling with this forever! To the point of being completely stalled out and trying to find my way back into blogging. As a professional photographer, I feel my work has a unique voice, and I enjoy writing and thought sharing tips I’ve learned from decades of hard work would be unique, but your post hit the nail on the head. I’m lost in the noise. Great article. Trying to implement this is another matter entirely!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:29:58

      When you go beyond the technical aspects and visual tools of photography, it becomes much easier to let your voice shine through. What can help you is creating a list of your favorite words and using these to describe the emotions you’re trying to convey in your photography.

      Also, you probably have a good sensory awareness. Try to emulate that into your writing – paint pictures with words and make people feel something.

      Reply

  15. Janet
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:12:01

    Great post Henneke. Nicely written, spot-on points and good formatting to make it easy to see the flow. Of course, personality as well! It reminded me of writing tips I had forgotten and also brought up a few new ones that I can incorporate in my own blogging. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:33:08

      Thank you, Janet, and good to see you here! :)

      Reply

  16. Rama
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:13:26

    Wow. This was too good. It was so sincere and held my attention till the end. Thank you so much for this blog.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:33:29

      You’re welcome :)

      Reply

  17. Jeremy
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:21:10

    Wow, this is like a complete guide for anyone looking to find their own unique blogging personality or who are still in the process of developing it!

    Super informative article. I’m bookmarking this and will be sharing it with new bloggers.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:33:50

      Thank you for sharing, Jeremy!

      Reply

  18. Sarah Mueller
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:23:02

    Great article! I love Sean D’Souza, too, and don’t hear him referenced nearly enough.

    Reply

  19. Henneke
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:34:08

    Yep, I’m a fan, too :)

    Reply

  20. Brenda Spandrio
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:35:44

    Just what I needed! I haven’t posted to my own blog for a while now because I just kept feeling this sense of “this is already ‘out there.’” Now I have direction on how to freshen things up a bit.

    There are lots of action items for me here, primarily injecting my personality. My decluttering clients have told me that they appreciate my approach; it’s time to translate that into my words.

    Many thanks!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:53:51

      Yes, it’s safe to assume that everything has been said already. As bloggers we just have to find our own unique way to say it again. :)

      Reply

  21. Kashif
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:51:58

    You have summed it all up. Must read post for everyone who wants to have a killer blog. I especially like the idea of Start Here section for new visitors.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:54:44

      Yep, I’m embarrassed to say that creating a “start here” section for newcomers has been on my own to-do list for far too long…

      Reply

  22. Tom M. Southern
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 13:57:56

    So glad to be reading another guest post here from you. And what a guddun!

    It’s all about remembering that your blog (and your message, your ideas, etc) is the only blog that has YOU in it! That’s what makes it unique. Don’t worry about trying to compete with the rest of them. Do your thing. And take your crowd with you.

    Btw, Henneke, you forgot to add you as a unique voice.

    Oh, and I think I’ve spotted a “superhero’s red cloak” theme on this blog too. :)

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:01:25

      Yes, it’s been a while since my last post. I’m glad to be back :)

      Thank you for your kind words, Tom.

      Reply

  23. Dave Nordella
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:02:59

    Thank you for your last step, Henneke. Your metaphor made so much sense.

    You have laid out a wonderful menu for your restaurant and have shared how we can do the same for our own restaurants. Creating your own voice can be as easy as choosing what you like. I like a great variety of writers so my job is to strip away those writers that I merely like to those I must read.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:06:28

      Yes, my restaurant has nice dishes on the menu. Will you come for dinner some time ;-)

      Reply

  24. John
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:03:12

    Inspiring Henneke! I often find it difficult to balance my personality when writing vs. composing long rants on a topic. What would you suggest in terms of writing with passion vs. simply going on and on for a certain topic that fires me up? Great post!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:09:36

      I think both are fine. When you compose a long rant, however, it’s good to review (preferably not the day you’ve written it) whether your readers still get something out of it. Don’t just rant for the sake of ranting.

      In your first draft you can ramble on and on, but you have to edit rigorously to ensure you’re not repeating the same thing too often or make too bold statements without backing them up.

      Reply

  25. Daryl
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:04:52

    I think the important message to take away here is that if you want to be a successful blogger, you have to do something DIFFERENT.

    Simply by doing something different, you’re almost magically creating value for your readers, and separating yourself from the thousands of other blogs that focus on the exact same topics or areas as you do.

    The easiest method of differentiation is to use your own unique voice, personality and experiences and transmit that uniqueness in your blog posts or copy.

    Great stuff Henneke!

    Reply

  26. Henneke
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:10:15

    Yes, you got it – that’s the key message :)

    Reply

  27. Laney Galligan
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:53:16

    Great analogy – best post I’ve read lately. Am definitely making some changes!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 15:45:33

      Wow, thank you :)

      Reply

  28. Lilli
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 14:54:53

    I am so glad I found this post! I’ve been having the same thoughts for a while now and saw a big increase in engagement when I finally decided to use my own voice for my blog posts. Writing me-too posts was boring me and felt so pointless, and now my readers are leaving comments that show I hit a nerve! You really nailed it, thank you!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 15:45:55

      Glad it’s working for you, Lilli!

      Reply

  29. David Wilson
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 16:30:49

    Excellent and inspiring! Thanks Henneke.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 17:44:04

      You’re most welcome :)

      Reply

  30. Beat Schindler
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 16:35:27

    Enchanting post. Reading it brought music to mind. Because your writing has a nice swing to it?

    Bloggers and musicians both must have personality, but they must also sound good and their output better be “music to my ears” to at least some ears. In the beginning we focus typically on sound, rather than on personality. We begin to understand “the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” (Einstein).

    Or to not hide them at all. Since we’re talking blogging AND music, Ray Charles comes to (my) mind. In early recordings he did impersonations of Nat King Cole, but soon enough put his stamp on everything he touched, be it r&b, country, jazz or rock.

    Another quality to his genius that’s equally important to (genius) bloggers: Persistence. Among Ray Charles’ innumerable recordings you find a fair number of duds [I should know for I listened to my entire Ray collection again at his death :-] Point is, Ray had zero tolerance for not recording. Hits were okay, but his true love was music. So I think bloggers should have zero tolerance for not blogging. And if at the beginning you sound like someone else, get over it – just keep blogging. However, not without first reading “The Underdog’s Guide to Building an Unforgettable Blog”!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 17:49:20

      I do try to pay attention to the rhythm of my writing. Maybe that’s what you heard?

      And yes, good point about Ray Charles doing impersonations. We often feel we have to be original, but we all learn by imitating others first.

      Reply

  31. Dr Rie Natalenko
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 17:03:08

    I think you’re spot on, here, Henneke! I’ve always been too formal in my posts and newsletters, and yet I’ve been teaching web writers to embrace the idea of voice and persona! I think it’s a fear thing for beginning bloggers – “What if they don’t like me? No, I’ll stay nice and neutral…” Now I’m going to take my own advice – and yours – and simply be myself. And if they don’t like me – tough toenails! Thanks for the post :)

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 17:51:47

      Yes, that’s so true. When I started to blog I was hiding myself and just trying to be nice, but it’s just impossible to build a relationship that way. I had to force myself to open up a little.

      Reply

  32. Monica Womble
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 17:34:49

    I guess I need to find my blogging heroes!!!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 16, 2014 @ 17:52:44

      They don’t need to be blogging in your niche. You can emulate the techniques of any blogger who speaks strongly to you.

      Reply

  33. Stef Gonzaga
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 18:29:41

    Henneke,

    Thank you, thank you so much for this. For the longest time I’ve wanted to start a new blog, either about writing (which I’m very passionate about) or apps (my weekly obsessions), but have stopped myself due to intimidation and the fact that there are so many awesome blogs out there on these topics.

    I’ve been struggling with myself over this problem because I feel my voice and personality wouldn’t make the cut in a niche full of big names already. You’ve just given me the encouragement I needed to give myself a chance.

    As always, great post. Keep writing and enchanting!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:18:25

      When you pick a popular topic like apps or writing, then you’re sure an audience exists for what you have to say.

      Go for it, Stef. Everything has been said already, but not in the way you say it.

      Reply

  34. Kate (Daily Tarot Girl)
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 20:08:41

    No one raves about shopping at Wal-mart? You haven’t met my father in law!
    Thanks for this article, it reminded me of why my old Tarot blog had no readers and why my current Tarot blog is much more popular – it also reminded me of what I need to focus on in my writing :)

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:19:15

      Nope, I’ve not met your father-in-law ;-)

      Reply

  35. Melissa Robinson
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 20:37:59

    Wow, Henneke, this is just what I needed to hear! Thanks so much! I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, about how to stand out in a crowd of a million blogs, and I started to get really stressed.

    I’ve had this inkling that the key is to just be myself. It sounds so simple, but it seems like a monumental jump. My whole life I’ve been told, both subtly and overtly, that I need to hide myself in order to “make it” in the world.

    It’s going to take some re-training to remove that mindset, but it’s also a huge relief that, wow, maybe the world is actually changing.

    Thanks for the great post — I love how you incorporate concrete methods for improval as well as an overarching theme. Really inspiring!

    Best,
    Melissa

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:25:05

      Yes, at some point in our life we all learn it’s safer to blend in than to stand out. It takes courage to unlearn blending in; and to allow yourself to be different and to be you.

      But in a competitive world (like copywriting!) the biggest point of differentiation you have is your personality. Your clients don’t need just another copywriter, they’re seeking you out and working with you because they like YOU.

      Reply

  36. Jonas Ellison
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 21:05:18

    Henneke! Love the restaurant analogy. It’s all about how you carry yourself across all online mediums. Kinda like what Joe Sugarman said about creating the buying experience. You’re setting the stage and curating how you present yourself to your audience.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:28:40

      Yes, that’s a good way to put it – “setting the stage”. Everything counts – from a profile pic on social media to the text on a contact page.

      Reply

  37. tam francis
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 23:06:01

    Thanks Henneke, it’s nice to know I’m on the right track. I started off trying to hard and trying to give people what I “Thought” they wanted. Then I just decided to write about stuff I like! More fun, too.

    You gave me some wonderful ideas and tips on how to be MORE me, and make my blog special. Already took one tip about the “NEW:START HERE!” love that, I had something similar, but I like this verbiage more!

    Jon, thanks for sharing your guest with us!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:30:33

      Yes, it’s important to find the intersection of what you want to write about and what your audience wants to read about.

      Reply

  38. Stan Eigi
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 02:02:53

    Thank you fir sharing this. I think even a beginner can become a most-read blogger if he/she can get her personality and voice shine among numerous “me-too” blogs.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:30:51

      Indeed :)

      Reply

  39. Simon
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:06:39

    Thanks. Just what I needed. I recently started my own blog and had great trouble finding my own voice. In fact I just went back and deleted 90% of my posts because it wasn’t ME. I had no idea who it was or where it came from. I didn’t even know who I was talking to. I was writing for the sake of writing, and trying to be all things to all people. Big fail.
    It’s so important to be open and be yourself, and never create “stuff” just to fill out your blog. I fell victim to that, but now I’ve seen the light ;o) Praise the Lord !!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 05:33:08

      Yes, writing posts just to fill out a blog is a crime ;-)

      You touch on an important point here – it is important to know whom you’re writing for. You want to be yourself, but you also want to be a good friend (or mentor) to your readers. You want to show them you care about them and genuinely try to help them.

      Good luck with your blog!

      Reply

  40. The Underdog’s Guide to Building an Unforgettable Blog
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 06:54:41

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    Reply

  41. Alicia Rades
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 09:24:25

    Excellent post. I feel this subject is very important, and I even had myself thinking of who I’d like to emulate while reading it. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 13:42:03

      Yes, I agree – this is an important topic and it’s not discussed enough!

      Thank you for your comment, Alicia :)

      Reply

  42. Shauna L Bowling
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 09:57:54

    Great article, Henneke. Your allusion to stores and restaurants brings the message home. I enjoy blogs that leave me feeling I’m having a conversation with the writer. I try to do the same with my own posts.

    A while back I’d written a post and my dad called me to say it was unnecessary and unprofessional of me to use the word ‘shit’ in my blog. I simply responded that that is the way I talk. If I would normally use that word in a conversation, I’ll use it in my posts because that’s what they are: conversations. Whose going to read the information I’m offering if I come off sounding like a text book?

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 13:42:46

      Yep, agreed. Maybe your dad isn’t exactly the audience you’re trying to reach! ;-)

      Reply

  43. Sarah Murphy
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 10:22:02

    What a refreshing post. I always aspire to these ideals and I want my blog to be just like my clinic; warm and welcoming. Am in the process of cultivating a Robin Hood gang of merry followers and trying to avoid the marketing hard sell. Now I feel vindicated, well put! Thanks for your words Hanneke, you’ve given me lots to think about. Am now banning the post checklist and writing from the heart :)

    Reply

  44. Henneke
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 13:44:45

    Yes, the web needs more warmth. A hard sell is not required to be successful. Go for it! :)

    Reply

  45. Helene Martin
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 14:00:12

    This is a wonderfull article I may use all this info to become popular. To be a blooger these day is a challenge. Of course it is.So thanks for all your good advice I may translate your article into French for my readers When it’s done I will put a link back to your article…

    Reply

  46. Penelope
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 18:55:25

    Another amazing post from one of my favorite voices, Henneke! People must remember that it takes a bit of time to build a blog. In this instant gratification society, we want it and we want it now! Quality is a process. You must begin with the blog foundation; next comes the bare bones structure, and then add in your voice–word by word. Forget the fear, do it anyway, and trust that you will find your way.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 18, 2014 @ 04:42:28

      Yes, this is so true, Penelope. A voice doesn’t suddenly appear. You work on it, and work more on it, and then it slowly appears. The work is never finished. Your voice always evolves. But that’s the beauty of it.

      Trusting yourself and trusting the process is important. I agree. Never give in to the fear.

      Good to see you here :)

      Reply

  47. Peter paul
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 21:51:23

    Wonderfull article I like this
    Thanks you

    Reply

  48. Sri Varshan
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 01:10:18

    The Best way to learn blogging is by watching how others blog. A simple technique that is often overlooked, handpick 3 to 4 blogs in your niche and identify patterns that are common in all those blogs and start incorporating them in yours.
    Building a blog is like building an empire, takes time and perseverance. We often forget to consider that our fellow bloggers who are skyrocketing with their content have been in the blogging arena for quite a long time. Time also plays a vital role :-) Thanks for sharing this wonderful post Henneke, have a nice day.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 18, 2014 @ 04:43:25

      Yep, so true. Overnight success doesn’t exist :)

      Reply

  49. Ganesh Narayan Gupta
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 12:57:05

    Hello Henneke,

    Wonderful article. I love to read the blogs of experts in my niche. That shows me the areas, where I need more improvement to make my blog more popular. Infact, your article is telling me many things which I should implement on my blog like stories writing, famous quotes. Enjoyed the article :-)

    ~Ganesh Narayan Gupta

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 18, 2014 @ 13:01:24

      Great!

      Happy blogging :)

      Reply

  50. James Bradrick
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 16:59:46

    Thank you for nudging me in the direction I need to go with my blog.

    Reply

  51. Ali Manning
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 21:55:44

    Thank you for this incredible post. I just wrote a detailed description of my ‘shop’ and I found the experience very powerful. I can see, taste and smell it – it’s a place I want to hang out! I look forward to translating this experience to the subjects I write about and things photograph. Thanks so much!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 19, 2014 @ 05:01:27

      Sounds great! :)

      Reply

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  53. lisa thomson
    Jan 20, 2014 @ 19:21:21

    Thank you for this fabulous post. Nice to meet you, Henneke.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 07:16:55

      Nice to meet you, too, Lisa :)

      Reply

  54. Marge Piatak
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 11:38:30

    Fabulous article filled with valuable advice. I’m just beginning my blogging venture & you provided a great blueprint to work with. I love the “shop” concept. It gives 3 dimensions to the written page. Thank you!!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 17:57:43

      Great :) Good luck with your blogging venture, Marge.

      Reply

  55. Leigh Shulman
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 13:41:54

    Fantastic post! You’ve directly addressed one of the questions I’ve been asking myself recently.

    See, I’m a writer, but now that I’m building my blog and coaching business, I see how important it is to be very specific when marketing. Creative writing and marketing, while there is some overlap, are not equal.

    But I too often find marketing writing to be more obvious than I want to be. Your writing, though, manages to cover both sides really well. I love that your first suggestion is to develop your own voice, which clearly is possible in marketing as well as in creative writing.

    I’ve already signed up for your newsletter and look forward to hearing more!

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 18:00:58

      Welcome, Leigh :)

      Yes, it’s definitely possible to develop your own voice for marketing content – have a look at sites like J Peterman, ManCrates.com or ThinkGeek for examples of strong voices in product descriptions.

      Reply

      • Leigh Shulman
        Jan 21, 2014 @ 18:23:55

        I’ll check them out. I also signed up for your mailing list. Right now, I’m in the trial and error phase of self marketing. It’s also about highlighting the specific areas where it seem to be most important to use more marketing type language, like headlines.

        Thanks again!

  56. The FitJerk
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 21:00:23

    This shit was badass, well done.
    I know many reading this will want some kind of deadline or a time frame of expectation when it comes to “voice”… so here it is, you instant gratification junkies: A solid voice takes about a years worth of continuous writing to develop. Anything less and you might as well blow smoke up your ass.

    Cheers ;)

    Reply

  57. Maricel Rivera
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 23:15:42

    One of the great writers I admire is an email marketer. His mails usually start with stories like a weird dream he had the night before or the chicken in the coop, even his disgust for a political figure or so. He always finds a way to connect the story with his marketing message. I guess what I’m saying is I’ve already found one hero, so there’s two more to go. I have a lot of candidates, but yes, two it is.

    Thanks for a beautiful post, Henneke!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 22, 2014 @ 05:58:42

      Yes, your email marketer sounds like a great voice to emulate!

      Don’t feel you have to limit yourself to three heroes – it’s just a starting point; and over time you’ll find yourself experimenting and picking up ideas from many more sources. It’s just easier to start with a small band of heroes. ;-)

      Reply

  58. Mark Barrett
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 23:26:04

    Great post. It has given me a greater courage to start writing and a reminder of an old English teacher who had a message very similar to yours, “In order to become a good writer yourself, you must constantly read what others have written, not only the story they tell but how they tell that story”. Thank you for that reminder and the encouragement to pursue the creation of my own voice.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 22, 2014 @ 06:00:23

      Great quote and it makes an important point. Thank you, Mark.

      Reply

  59. Stef Morgan
    Jan 22, 2014 @ 07:05:19

    Thank you for this post. It’s excellent and an eye-opener.

    I’m a freelance writer and I’m so used to writing for others that I’m actually conditioned to write impersonal articles. It’s almost as if I’m afraid to let my personality come through, even when I’m working on my own projects, which is something I really need to work on.

    As you said, people stick with bloggers who have a voice. I’ll skim a dry article with tips, but I’ll read every word Jon writers. So, definitely need to let go of this phobia of being me.

    Thank you again for the wake-up call.

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 22, 2014 @ 13:37:41

      Yes, this can be really tricky if you’re a freelance writer. Sometimes simple tricks can help you to get out of that impersonal mindset and remind yourself you’re now writing as YOU. For instance: use a different font or a different text editor when you write your own posts (in some cases I’ve even allocated specific fonts to some clients). Some writers also find it useful to write in a different place, e.g., a local cafe or just to wear something different.

      Good luck and enjoy discovering your own voice again!

      Reply

      • Stef Morgan
        Jan 23, 2014 @ 05:59:02

        Thanks for the advice, Henneke. I’ll try the different font idea and maybe even a different page color. Hopefully it will help me change gears and write with a little more personality.

        Thanks again for the great post and looking forward to more awesomeness!

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  61. Steve Daar
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 13:15:04

    Great post, Henneke! And unselfish putting such a tour de force article on someone else’s site. I’ve got a lot to think about for my blog/site I’m building.

    - Steve

    P.S.
    Glad you liked my suggestion for your upcoming book on G+!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 24, 2014 @ 05:15:37

      Thank you, Steve and I appreciate your help with my book title :)

      The most important word in your reply is “building” – developing a voice takes time. I’m still working on it!

      Reply

  62. Rania
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 02:00:17

    Thank you for this great post, Henneke.. This is exactly what I need :)

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 24, 2014 @ 05:16:06

      Great! You’re welcome :)

      Reply

  63. Eric
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 04:10:27

    “To become someone’s favorite blogger, you need to show your personality.”

    This is so true. Even for gifted writers it can take a while to figure out the best way to achieve this through text, but it’s certainly something worth spending some time on!

    Reply

  64. JavaJane
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 08:26:44

    I think I’ve got my blog all wrong. Love reading your articles Jon, I do take heed of them, honest.

    Reply

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  66. maxwell ivey
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 18:59:36

    Hi John and Henneke; Thanks for the blueprint to making your blog unforgettable. I am helpful courteous and pleasant but also driven persistent and determine. I answer emails calls and voice mails promptly with as much information as possible and without considering the immediate benefit to me when speaking or writing. My dad used to constantly tell us boys that on the carnival midway you never know who is going to spend their money so you have to ask every person that walks by if they want to play your game or buy the novelties you are selling. I constantly hear from people who have been let down by the leader of my market of selling amusement equipment. they tell me how poor the service is from this other company. they tell me that calls aren’t returned promptly and emails are hardly ever returned. and nothing happens unless the owner knows they are ready to buy. I’m making enroads and my site has surpassed his in alexa thanks to being more conscientious and client oriented. thanks for this post. Take care, Max

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 25, 2014 @ 09:10:41

      Sounds like you exactly know what your voice should be, Maxwell. Good job.

      Reply

  67. Sunaina
    Jan 25, 2014 @ 01:43:19

    Very great and humble to listen your writing! Exactly spotted the needs for creating memorable blog. Well very carved and written in a great style. And as you said no one is born genius, only everything comes from experience!

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 25, 2014 @ 09:13:17

      Agreed. The idea of talent is overrated as Geoffrey Colvin says. Hard work and experience can get us quite far!

      Thank you for stopping by, Sunaina :)

      Reply

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  69. clara54
    Jan 27, 2014 @ 15:28:26

    Thanks for the tips Henneke! I write about authentic truths at my blog and it helps to keep a mindful refresher like your topic in mind:)

    Clara

    Reply

    • Henneke
      Jan 28, 2014 @ 08:03:40

      Yep, authentic truths and a strong voice go well together :)

      Thank you, Clara.

      Reply

  70. Janis N. Senungetuk
    Feb 08, 2014 @ 14:30:05

    Thank you Henneke. You’ve written advice that I needed to hear as I struggle with my writing. My website/blog was launched with the new year. I’m finding my intent to project a voice of authority really restricted the tone and hid my personality from the two blogs I’ve posted. The Wizard of Oz keeps coming to mind…so it must be time for me to come out from behind the green curtain.

    Janis

    Reply

  71. Diandra
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 19:26:32

    Thank you for sharing! I’ve been struggling to find the courage to blog among the “giants.” Your post has loads of useful information and I’m retooling my blogging approach as a result.

    -Diandra

    Reply

  72. Abhishek Tavasalkar
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 12:56:01

    If I could swear on God and only tell truth; then I would say this is the post I thought of and wanted to read.

    I read your 18 ways to seduce readers and then landed here. Your starting lines got me so much engaged.

    Its so great you compared a blog with a shop so that there is something to remember; something to hang on to.

    I will never forget this post. I’m a worshiper of Jon Morrow; will read more of your articles (mostly the starting paragraphs) and would worship you too.

    Thank God! I landed on this post.

    Reply

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