Why Valedictorians Make Lousy Bloggers (And Class Clowns Rule)

by Jonathan Morrow

Customer Relationship

Care to play a little game?

Okay, think back to your days in high school for a moment. Try to remember some of the class clowns. You know, the people that never seemed to get any work done, preferring to either tick someone off or make everyone laugh.

Can you remember what they looked like? If I asked you to tell me a story about them, could you do it?

Good. Now, forget about the class clowns. Try to remember your valedictorian, the person with the highest grades in your graduating class. Who was it? Can you even remember?

I sure can’t. I tried this test with several people, and none of them could. You might be able to remember them if you had a super small class, or if they were related to your best friend or something, but for the most part, valedictorians are forgotten the moment they step down from the podium.

But everyone remembers the class clown.

Whether they made you smile or you wanted to punch them in the face is irrelevant — the point is, they provoked a reaction, and that’s what makes you remember. They made you point your finger and say, “Look at what that idiot is doing now.”

Is blogging really so different?

The Secret to Getting Noticed

The secret to getting noticed is doing or saying something that’s worth noticing.

It’s a truth that guys like Brian have been trying to pound into people’s heads, but the response is always the same. The class clowns of the world nod their heads, instinctively knowing it’s true. The valedictorians sit there with puzzled looks on their faces, thinking “That can’t be all it is… What isn’t he telling me?”

Why?

Because becoming a valedictorian is all about dissecting things. You dissect books, problems, frogs, your teachers, tests, and anything else that you need to understand in order to get the “perfect” grade. By understanding all of the pieces of the system, you hope to master the whole.

“Certainly,” you think to yourself, “Blogging must be more complicated than getting others to point at you.” You pour over subjects like headlines, social media, and viral content, hoping to fit all of the pieces together into a comprehensive blogging strategy.

Except you can’t seem to make it work.

Your headlines are perfect copies of the classic templates, but no one links to them. Your posts are targeted at Digg, but no one votes for them. You write a post with all the signs of becoming a piece of viral content, but no one talks about it.

Here’s why:

It’s Boring!

In the pursuit of perfection, valedictorians forget that readers aren’t looking for the perfectly constructed post. They’re looking for something interesting.

I could have titled this post “How to Write an Interesting Post That Gets Lots Of Attention,” but I didn’t, not because it’s inaccurate, but because it’s boring. The web is so saturated with headlines like that that we routinely skip over them.

Instead, I had to find an angle worth noticing… like an attack on the deity of high school intellectuals. I had to break your “guessing machine” for a moment, stopping you in your tracks. Then I had to say something so interesting that you couldn’t help but look.

If you’ve read this far, then I guess it worked.

Blogging Clowns are Smart and Courageous

The good news is valedictorians can learn to be clowns. Look at all of the comedians and screenwriters that come from Ivy League schools. Not only can they make you laugh, but they can make you think too. They find a way to express the truth that breaks through distractions and grabs your attention.

That’s the crucial difference.

Unlike high school, being a blogosphere “clown” is less about acting stupid and more about telling the truth in an interesting way. Sometimes they’ll laugh, sometimes they’ll get mad, and sometimes they’ll be thinking about your post two weeks later. Regardless, as long as you’ve captured and maintained their attention, you’ve won.

So stop trying to impress other people with your smarts. Have the courage to write something that forces your readers and other bloggers in your niche to pay attention.

How are you supposed to do that, exactly? Stay tuned for my next post.

About the Author: Jon Morrow is the co-author of Keyword Research for Bloggers, an 8,000 word guide for how you can use keyword research to build a better blog. Learn more about keyword research tools and how they help you succeed.

How to Stop Being Invisible

by Jonathan Morrow

Invisible Blogger

Have you ever felt like your blog is invisible?

You slave away on your posts, pouring every ounce of emotion, creativity, and insight you have into them. You submit your best work to Digg, Del.icio.us, and StumbleUpon, certain that people will vote for your posts and send you a torrent of traffic. You link out to other popular bloggers, desperately hoping that you’ll grab their attention and earn a link in return.

But it’s like no one even sees you.

Other bloggers ignore your links, acting like you couldn’t care less about what they wrote. Your posts get buried on Digg. None of the few people who do stop by leave you a comment, telling you to keep going, that you’re doing a wonderful job.

It’s like you’re invisible… and you wonder if there’s anything you can do about it.

Well, I have some good news. Not only can I tell you how to stop being invisible, but I can give you some proven tips and tactics that will have the blogosphere buzzing about you in no time.

Let’s go back to where we last left off…

The Power of Class Clowns

We’ve established that valedictorians make lousy bloggers because they’re boring, and class clowns rule the blogosphere because they’ve become adept at getting noticed. But how do class clowns do it? And why are we so apt to pay attention to them in school?

In one word: value.

Very few teenagers actually want to go to school. They’d rather be playing video games, running around outside, tormenting their siblings, or any number of things. Not because they’re lazy, but because school is both overwhelming and boring. You spend the entire day learning stuff you don’t want to know.

After several hours of it, most students are desperate for a diversion. They’d rather put their attention anywhere than on the teacher or their books. Class clowns are simply the only ones brazen enough to oblige them.

Put another way, class clowns are doing nothing more than responding to a need of the people around them. They’re filling demand. And they are rewarded, not with money, but with the attention of their peers.

Is it really so different than blogging?

Why People Read Blogs

People read blogs for lots of reasons. They might want to stay connected to a particular person, learn a valuable skill (like copywriting), or keep up with the news. But I’d argue there’s another reason that we as a community are hesitant to admit:

Blogs are a diversion.

Much like how we pay attention to the class clown to avoid boredom, blogs allow us to procrastinate, avoiding all of the other stuff we’re supposed to be doing. If you don’t believe me, look at the number of people who read blogs at work. Aren’t they supposed to be working?

But they’re not. They’re tired of working and feel like they deserve a break, even if it’s only for a few seconds while they catch up on a few blog posts. Besides, they might even learn something. That still counts as being productive, doesn’t it?

Or so the thinking goes.

If you look at it carefully, it’s really not so different than school. People need a diversion, and we’re the ones that supply it to them.

Why Some Bloggers Are Invisible

Bloggers that are invisible online misunderstand their role. They think they’re supposed to become a teacher, when really, that’s only a secondary role. Your first responsibility is a blogger is to get the attention of your prospects, and to do that, you need to emulate the class clown.

Here’s an example. When I started my last blog, On Moneymaking, I poured all of my best ideas into Moneymaking 101, an introduction to the theory of making more money. With so many brilliant ideas, I thought it would be a hit, but it wasn’t. In fact, those posts were some of the least popular on my blog.

Want to know what’s the most popular? The Forrest Gump Guide to Becoming a Gazillionaire, a post I wrote tying Forrest Gump quotes to principles of personal finance. Tens of thousands of people have read it in only a few months.

At first, I found it a little depressing. How could all of my best ideas be trumped by a piece of “cotton candy” content? That’s when I gradually realized that my role as a blogger isn’t to educate the world. People will buy a textbook if they want to learn. They come to me if they want an interesting little diversion with a few valuable lessons.

As soon as I accepted that, growing the blog got a lot easier. I built it to over 1,000 readers in about two months and sold it for a tidy profit.

How to Stop Being Invisible

Write what your readers want to read.

It’s a hard truth to accept. Most of us live in a culture that tells you to “be who you are” and don’t worry about whether anyone likes you or not. Telling people exactly what they want to hear feels… dishonest.

Get over it. If you’re going to be successful online, you need to find the overlap between what you want to write and what other people want to hear. It’s a process every writer goes through, and you’re no different.

Accept that you have to be valuable to your readers. There’s no other way to get (or keep) their attention, and the day you stop is the day they stop reading.

So figure out what they value, and give it to them in an interesting way. Stay turned for my next post, where I’ll show you how to do exactly that.

About the Author: Jon Morrow is an Associate Editor of Copyblogger and co-author of Keyword Research for Bloggers.