Most personal blogs on the internet are absolute rubbish and barely receive any traffic whatsoever. There is no quality control on the internet so anyone who feels up to it is welcome to jump online and write about whatever they want. You might not think that a blog that uses the author’s real name would make it very big but there are actually a handful out there which have not only attracted a repeat reader base but also have become the author’s main source of income. Writing blog posts with the intent of making it your living has an enormous failure rate though. It’s actually very hard to compete online in a market that is flooded with hordes of individuals plus regular content being put out by almost every major company as well. Why should anybody listen to you when they could just go to the a big site like Mashable for online news and content? Since Steve Pavlina managed to do it, we’re going to take a look at what separates his blog from all the run of the mill ones out there.
First a little bit of background. Steve Pavlina started his blog back in October of 2004 when content management platforms like WordPress were either in their early stages or entirely nonexistent. There was less content on the internet and more room for small people to make big names for themselves. In addition, web designs were far less intricate. These days having a very nice looking magazine theme is quite standard among most popular websites. In reference to that fact, you’ll notice by checking out his website that it’s still as ugly as it ever was with a very basic color scheme and standard font choices.
So why do people continue to read Steve Pavlina’s work when there is nothing fancy about his site? The obvious argument is quality content created consistently over a long period of time. Since starting his site in 2004 he’s actually managed to write something in realms of 1000+ lengthy articles with unique content.
That said there are actually a couple other things he does very differently than most other sites. Firstly, the content he writes is ‘timeless’ as he describes it. He writes works that will hold as true 5 years from now as they will today which means that the longer time goes on the more views even his oldest posts are going to continue to generate. Most writing on the internet is very social media or fad based. That type of content is hot today but then in a few days dies out. This means that if you ever slow down or stop your writing, your hot social media channel may die out rather quickly as your audience is just looking for the hottest news. I can attest that there are some of Steve’s articles that I’ve actually read 3, 4, or even 5 times trying to extract value I can use in my own life and processes. In fact it could be argued that a large portion of my inspiration for this site and my personal site at chrisnavarre.com is taken from his works.
Another rather unique thing he does is releasing the copyrights on all of his work to the global community. This is a process he and a few others refer to as uncopyrighting but is the equivalent of creative commons CC0 1.0 Universal or putting works into the public domain. I was actually tempted to do exactly the same thing of uncopyrighting all of my work but part of me honestly believes that this would have lead to minor legal complications down the road. On his own uncopyrighting page he makes mention about people who misuse his name and say that he endorses products that he never did. With both of my current sites, I decided to stop one step short of that and have all my blog and article content on the sites listed as Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution which only requires referencing where and who you took the content from if you choose to use it.
The overall idea by releasing copyrights is so that people may freely share his work and make reference to it with literally no restrictions. They can even compile his blog posts into a eBook and sell it as some people have chosen to do on Amazon.com. He says that as a result of writing content that provides genuine long term value for people and letting people share as they please that his content has become distributed over many sites on the web. However, this is a good thing for him as that provides plenty of publicity and link backs to his original blog.
Let’s look at the current blog and article market though. The year is 2015, social media has been everywhere like some kind of disgusting plague upon the world. South park has made parodies about how kids do nothing but watch YouTube videos of famous gamers like PewDiePie all day long (with a fair degree of truth behind that mind you). Once again, since the internet has developed further there are a lot more competition. It’s a very different market than it was in 2004. Many SEO consultants even admit that most of their old strategies like keyword stuffing, directory submissions, and spamming social media sites do not work nearly as effective as they used to. On top of that, search engine formulas keep changing leaving many trafficked sites and YouTube channels in the dust compared to what they once were.
There is definitely something to be said about how early he got into the business. Of course there is no way of knowing this for sure, but I do hypothesize that if he had started his blog in 2015 that he would struggle a lot harder than someone who started in 2004. YouTube is kind of the same way in that the big channels continue to get bigger but every start-up gaming channel these days really has to work for it because of the massive competition. Even if blogging had once been a potential gold mine, it certainly isn’t quite as lucrative these days as it was if you were a pioneer in the field. That’s not to say it’s necessarily dead though but rather just that the game has been figured out and there are plenty of competitors looking to knock you straight out of the ring.
I could speculate about Steve Pavlina’s site for days. Since I wrote this article over the course of a couple, I guess you could say that I have. In the end though, I believe that the most credible case I can make for his success is what I can vouch for from personal experience with his site and what he claims about his own strategies. I’ve read him for years and continue to reread many of his articles because his content is some of the best I’ve seen on subjects like the entrepreneurial mindset. This does not mean I like or agree with everything or even most of what he says. However, I read him for the information he puts out which I find is valuable, insightful, and also true. The largest part he and many other bloggers claim as the key to their success is the value of the content they put out. He didn’t rely on social media, he didn’t spam other blogs with comments, and he didn’t try to make the best looking site in the world. He just constantly made good content over a long period of time and stuck with it. If I knew the secrets beyond that, then this and any other of my sites would be a great success by now. Most likely there are no real easy answers like anything else in life so making good content, spreading the word about it using white hat techniques, and adapting to the changing web is the obvious advice to go on. To note though, look at how many free back links this guy got without ever asking me to say a thing about him. It seems that there is a strong correlation between quality content and plenty of quality mentions as well as social media shares, doesn’t it?