I have a friend who’s starting a niche personal finance blog. He’s very interested in the subject, and knowledgeable, and I think he could make it an interesting site.
When the idea first came to him a few months ago, he approached me. “How do I make this a successful blog?” he asked.
“Post lots of good content,” I told him.
“Yeah,” he said. “But what else?”
“There is no ‘what else’,” I said. Actually, I ranted and raved about how too many people focus on things that aren’t important and don’t bother to spend time on the content, but essentially it all amounted to “there is no ‘what else’”.
My friend went away for a few weeks to work on his site. When I talked to him again he told me, “I’ve switched from WordPress to Drupal. Do you think that’ll make a difference?”
“It’ll make no difference at all,” I said. “Readers don’t care what weblog tool you use. All they care about is the content.”
“Yeah, but Drupal offers so many more features,” he said. I just shook my head.
About a month ago, he launched his site. He posted an introductory article. “Looks good,” I said.
“Can you point people to the site?” he asked.
“Not yet,” I said. “You don’t have any content.”
Meanwhile he put up some Google ads and some Amazon ads. He posted a single link to another article at a big news site. I talked to him a couple of weeks later. “Nobody’s coming to my site,” he told me. “Not a single person has clicked on an ad.”
“That’s because there’s nothing there,” I told him.
“What do you mean?” he said. “I spent a lot of time creating the layout and putting up the ads.”
“You need to focus on content,” I told him.
So he wrote another article. It was moderately interesting, but it was all in one h-u-g-e paragraph. There’s been nothing new posted to the site since then. The site layout has changed a half-dozen times, though, as my friend tries to make it as pretty as possible.
He IMed me last night. “Nobody’s coming to the site,” he said.
“It needs content,” I told him.
“I don’t have time,” he said. “I’m so busy.” I pointed out that he wasn’t too busy to party with friends. He wasn’t too busy to play soccer. He wasn’t too busy to tinker with the layout. These are all fine things, but none of them have anything to do with getting readers. “Can’t you point people to my site?” he asked.
“Maybe in a couple of months,” I said. “Maybe once you have some content.”
This concept has been beat into the ground a thousand times before, but it’s the single most important factor in creating a successful weblog: To gain readers, you must publish quality content on a regular basis. Sure, readers like a pretty site. Sure, it would be nice if there were ads for them to click on. But all of this is secondary. All that really matters is the content.
That, my friends, is all that you ever need to know about blogging.