This was Tom's comment
Really disappointed to hear that you feel my blog is going the way of "fluff". I'd love to get some feedback from you on that front - I pour an enormous amount of effort in trying to produce valuable posts every single time, so I'd like to know where you think I'm going wrong.
Given Tom's recently surge in popularity, it was nice for him to even bother to comment on blogs like mine. Made no mistake, Tom is a NICE person. His comment is proof of that. However the realities of blogging in terms of generating traffic sometimes can steer you in the wrong direction.
His simple questions actually left me with a lot to think about. I had years in business development/marketing for both real companies and my own online properties. As a result, my bullshit filter is pretty much on most of the time. I can smell the bullshit from miles away but it takes a bit of effort to dig into the details of why I think they are bullshit. This post is my attempt to do so.
So, back to the question: what is the difference between quality content and fluff?
My answer: deep insights into execution
That is my guiding principle to tell me what is fluff and what isn't.
In the world of business and making money, execution is what separates ideas and dreams from reality. I have learnt long ago to look past the marketing bullshit and to see what really make things tick. It is these insights that will determine success or failure. If a piece content cannot bring out these insights, they have nothing to offer but fluff. Fluff makes you feel good as it tricks you into believing you are learning something. In reality, trying to execute on fluff will leave you with hundreds of burning questions.
An example to illustrate what I meantIf you have never heard of Khan Academy, it is one of the fastest growing platform for online video learning. I investigated deeply into why it grew so fast and where the growth is coming from, especially in the early stage where it has not received so much public recognition.
Fluff: "Great content that is easy to follow". "First of its kind". "Person in the video is really great". "Everybody is sharing these content with their friends" Blah blah blah.
Insight: The videos ranked for almost all the maths related queries in youtube search. In other words, SEO on the youtube platform bought tonnes of traffic to the videos. It is only after the initial exposure that people started to share and talk about the great content.
On the surface, the marketing fluff about Khan Academy is not wrong.
- Building what the gurus liked to called "pillar content" forms a strong foundation.
- Referral traffic from sharing is a good source of growth
I loved this particular insight as it is something that anyone can duplicate. Anyone can learn how to do SEO on youtube seach. It doesn't require invisible handshaking which a lot of guru online marketers do that we can't see.
(A side note: this is why a real SEO doesn't focus on Google alone. Any platforms with a large traffic base and a search box can be optimised. If you are not experimenting in getting search traffic from forums, video sharing sites, twitter etc, you are missing out on a lot of traffic).
Other examplesGriz: One of my biggest hero. He taught me many things about SEO by conducting his experiments openly with the SERP results to show for it. I remembered one particular example where he showed the power and the ease of ranking of trend keywords by ranking for the names of American Idol contestants.
Griz created a new blog in front of us targeting one particular contestant and ranked it within days. He also showed the site's traffic stats and how to make money off it. That one post opened up my eyes in terms of how to target new terms that are featured on TV and eventually lead to my success in creating a adsense site in one of the most competitive industry: cosmetic surgery. ( See this post on how I make 1k in adsense using this method of targeting emerging keywords).
Griz posts were insightful as the kickstart engine was open for anyone to see. Anyone can easily duplicate what he has done and have success. There is no fluff and no gaps in the most crucial part of your business.
Michael Martinez: Micheal doesn't conduct these live experiments but his years of experience shine through in this SEO posts. I learnt many things from him including a concept called SERP saturation, which explains why it is tougher to ranked for established concepts and keywords. I am not going to explain it here but it is something that once again open my eyes to how search engines work.
Again, such information can be implementated and they have a real impact on your results because they focus on the kickstarted part of your project.
Back to leavingworkbehind.comThis is the part where I address Tom's question. Let look at a recent post:
"22 Success Stories Reveal The Moment When They Knew They Were Capable Of More"
It is the type of post that most readers will love to read. It is inspirational especially to those who love to live in their heads. However to somebody like me, it is utterly useless. They don't reveal the crucial execution tips in the initial part of their business. As I said above, getting traction is the toughest part of any business. Your first customer, your first 100 readers, your first book deal. All these are the really hard to achieve. A insightful post will tell you exactly the process and the time and the effort you need to get the traction.
Another post: "http://www.leavingworkbehind.com/why-im-getting-naked-for-you-and-no-one-else/"
Seriously dude, you don't need such posts to create your unique selling point. This is again the type of marketing fluff that most online marketers encourage. Your true selling point will come from what you are saying and not telling your readers what you are going to say. Just walk the talk! Don't use this merry go round approach of content to sell your readers to more useless marketing manifestos. These other guys are using fluffy manifestos to establish themselves as the authority and not to provide anything useful.
In fact, most list type of articles fall into this catagory of content. You have nothing to say so you send your readers to a merry go round to other blogs and see if they have anything concrete or useful. Again, most social readers love this because they live in their heads. These folks like to read more than do.
Tom's earlier stuff was much better as it was his personal stories about his money making experiments. Personal storeis are powerful because they reveal insights. Insights about how a beginner can stumble, the kind of mistakes he made and the kind of solutions he thought of. The whole process, including how the initial traction can happen, is laid out in front of your eyes. This is powerful stuff.
Unfortunatley, personal stories don't work that well if you are not successful yet. Causal readers will somehow not share your content or even like your blog unless you have achieved some results. They are ok to missed out on the growin pains of a project which is where a lot of learnings can take place.
This is why most bloggers will go down the marketing fluff path. They can't wait for the day they will be successful. They need the traffic now so they resort to common tactics that I have described above.
My final feedback is this: You need to do things first before writing. Only after real stuff has been done will insights be born. Nobody can produce insightful posts everyday, especially if you don't have years of experiences backing up what you are saying.