Catching The Wind With Your Blog – Don’t Bother With Link Bait

by Randy Murray on November 9, 2010

When I look at my web logs and see where the peaks and valleys are, I have to recognize one stark truth: every time I’ve set out to write an article that I think will generate big interest and traffic I’ve failed. The peaks have all, without exception, been posts that I’ve written driven by passion and on fire with an idea. Most of these I expect to slide by unnoticed and it surprises me every time when I see the traffic spike up and the conversations take off.

I see an endless stream of tweets and articles about how to make your blog successful. They are full of helpful tips like “Pick one subject and never vary from it”, or “Make sure your title includes a promise of a secret and the number of steps to achieve it.”

It’s all complete and utter bullshit.

Let me tell you a story. Back before I had kids and long before I blew out a disc in my back I decided I wanted to become a windsurfer. This was in the late 80’s and the sport was just taking off. It looked like it was incredibly fun and the equipment alone was muy macho. I read all of the magazines and scoured the catalogs. The only problem was that I live in Columbus, Ohio, far from the ocean, from any major body of water, and from a steady wind.

But that didn’t stop me. We have a little reservoir not far away and there was a hardy little group of windsurfers that would gather there. My wife bought me a Saturday afternoon lesson and I was immediately hooked. So I went out and ordered a stack of the gear and I went right out on my own. I dressed in my new wet suit and assembled all of my equipment just the way the experts suggested and promptly got blown across the lake. Diane eventually figured out I couldn’t get back and came to find me. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to control the damn thing.

The next weekend I did the same thing. And the third weekend a gust of wind caught me and hurled me down into the water, snapping the mast. I got retrieved once again and considered setting the whole thing on fire. But I was too stubborn to give up. I ordered a fresh mast and set off one more time, swearing not to come in until I’d mastered the board. I ignored that it was too windy. I left behind my fancy wetsuit. I stopped worrying about how I looked to the other surfers. I stood out in the middle of the reservoir with my sail upright and flapping in the wind until I could find my balance and concentrate on what the sail and the wind was telling me. I was out there for four hours, my fingertips bleeding from trying to hang on, when suddenly something shifted in my head and I could feel it. I moved my feet, changed the position of my hands and pulled back just so. I hooked my harness in and felt the board lift out of the water, speeding me across the lake and then back, finally in control. It was exhilarating.

My lesson: I could only ride the wind when I gave up and listened to what was going on in my own head and body. I could not drive my way in or control the wind by brute force. There were no tricks or formulas that could make me instantly successful. I had to learn to feel the board, the sail, and the wind. And when I did, I could fly. I could not become a windsurfer by reading about it in a magazine.

And I couldn’t become a successful writer by following formulas.

You can’t either. Write about what you care about. Keep it up. Do it until your fingers are bloody. Get blown around. Listen to what your readers say. You might just figure it out.

Enjoy the ride.

The Catching The Wind With Your Blog – Don’t Bother With Link Bait by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Eddie November 9, 2010 at 8:16 am

Thanks for sharing this, Randy. Great advice; great story.

One mantra I’ve developed personally: If you want to end up like everyone else, the surest means to that end is to be and act like everyone else.

Following canned advice on anything is a ticket to Normalville. If that’s where you want to end up, that’s fine. But if you want to reach a higher level, regardless of your pursuit, you have to be different. I can’t think of anyone in history that stood out for being like everyone before them.

Being different is certainly not a guaranteed formula for success. Nothing is. I like how Rousseau put it:

“I am not made like any of those I have seen; I venture to believe that I am not made like any of those who are in existence. If I am not better, at least I am different.”

Be different and go down swinging.


Randy Murray November 9, 2010 at 8:29 am

Thanks, Eddie.

Not everyone is self aware enough to really ask and answer that question: Do I want to be like everyone else? For some, the answer is, “yes!” Or “I want to be unique, just like everyone else.”

It take courage and effort to really be different.


Eddie November 9, 2010 at 7:45 am

Quite true. I think many are caught in a catch-22 situation. They want to look like everyone else (visit any major US city and observe the uniformity in dress), but they covet the monetary success of high-profile figures (e.g. pop stars), who got where they are by being different from the masses.

I could ramble on much more on this, but I won’t :)

Thanks again for giving folks something to think about.


Iain Broome November 9, 2010 at 9:00 am

I’m with you 100% on this. I’ve ignored almost every piece of blogging advice out there over the last couple of years, sometimes intentionally, sometimes through circumstance. And it hasn’t done me any harm at all.

In fact, I feel much better for not taking a normal route and yet still picking up readers along the way. Far more satisfying!


Randy Murray November 9, 2010 at 9:19 am

It’s good to ignore most of the advice (not mine, you should carefully follow my every instruction) for one small reason: it doesn’t work.


Ann Janzen November 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I started my blog strickly on passion and having extra time on my hands this summer. When I tell myself “You must write a new post”.. then I don’t write as well as when I just “feel like” writing. But I just really write for me… and help myself cope with living with less money. It turned out that my friends enjoyed reading what I wrote so that was a bonus that was somewhat unexpected for me.


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