“Don’t call an ambulance… just take me to the hospital…”
It was the summer after my freshman year of college, and my dad was staring up at my from his chair, where he was gripping his chest, pleading with me to not call for help. He had been feeling sick all day, but this wasn’t just the flu. Someone was really wrong.
But calling 9-1-1 made it real.
If we didn’t call an ambulance, maybe it would just be heartburn or food poisoning. Maybe it would just go away on its own.
I ended up making the call. I was just too scared. It was a good thing I did, because my father’s heart stopped twice on the way to the emergency room. If I would have driven him myself, it is very unlikely that he would have survived.
I sat in the waiting room by myself, biting my fingernails until my mom to got to the hospital. She was working at a farmer’s market, so had a really long drive to get there. I don’t know what is worse: being alone with your thoughts as you drive to the hospital where you didn’t know if you’d find your husband alive or being alone with your thoughts and a pair of your dad’s shoes as you wait for you mom to show up so the doctors will finally tell you something.
I don’t know why I grabbed a pair of my dad’s shoes as they were loading him into the ambulance.
For some reason, I was just thinking that he wasn’t wearing shoes, and what if he had to come home in his socks. I think I just wanted to be helpful, and when your world is spinning out of control, you grab onto whatever tangible task you can do to feel like you are in control. For me, it was packing shoes for my dad.
This story has a somewhat happy ending, because my dad did make it. He was very lucky. Having a massive heart attack when you are in your mid-40s is a completely crazy situation, but my dad is a fighter.
Fast forward several years. In 2012, my mom, my sister and I decided to start a food blog. We’ve always loved cooking, but since I lived in Virginia, and they both lived in Pennsylvania, we didn’t get to cook together as often as we wished we could. So, The PinterTest Kitchen was born.
We set some goals for ourselves, to post yummy recipes 3 times per week, and everything was running along smoothly.
Then… life took another turn.
It was a few days before Halloween, and I was getting ready for a friend’s huge haunted house party, when my mom called. My dad was in the hospital again, another heart attack.
This time, a few stents would not fix the problem like they did the first time. The doctor was recommending heart surgery, and he would very likely need a quadruple bypass.
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when someone in your family is very sick and there’s nothing you can do about it?
Yeah, that’s how I felt.
I rushed home to Pennsylvania, and we anxiously pretended to read magazines while waiting for my dad to get out of surgery. We were there so long that the receptionist left to go home. She told us to just pick up the phone on the wall if it rang.
Finally, it did…
A blog is like a child. When you start, it is small and adorable, and easy to love. Over time, though, that child-blog grows, sometimes in ways you never imagine it could.
When things aren’t going well, you begin to question your own abilities, and ask yourself what you are doing wrong.
You get stressed and frustrated, maybe even saying things you don’t really mean.
You might love your blog unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be really, really, pissed at it.
When we started our food blog, our biggest goal was to share recipes with our readers.
But here’s the hard truth… sharing recipes is every food blogger’s goal.
We had a schtick that somewhat set us apart, being so closely tied into the Pinterest fad, but our blogging goal just didn’t make us stand out in a sea of thousands upon thousands of food blogs.
Our traffic plateaued, and we started doing just one post a week instead of three because with everything going on with our family, we just couldn’t keep up.
Who cares about a stupid food blog when you’re in a surgical waiting room waiting to hear if your dad made it through open heart surgery or not?
My dad, as you might have guessed, came out of surgery okay. In the years since, he also had to receive implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), and he suffers from seizures, which doctors suspect may have be due to the lack of oxygen that his brain got during his heart attack. Health problems are never easy, especially for someone like my dad who was always super active. But he’s alive and kickin’ and still has a crazy sense of humor that makes us all dissolve into fits of giggles whenever we spend time together.
During this second surgery, as I was waiting, ideas were swirling around in my head about our blog. We loved doing it, but we didn’t have loyal readers who cared about our posts… and frankly, we didn’t care at the moment either. We just wanted out family to be okay.
Rethinking Your Blogging Goals
As beginner bloggers, we set goals relating to publishing schedule, traffic, and even monetization, but those weren’t the right goals to set.
I mean… they were. Having a plan and number on paper is helpful…
But more importantly, what we should have done is sat down and asked ourselves what we really hoped to help readers to achieve.
Who did we want to cater to with our blog? That busy mom who is trying to resist the urge to swing by McDonald’s is going to want very different recipes than that budding home chef looking to wow her friends with her latest culinary masterpiece.
We didn’t think about our readers at all. We just barreled ahead, posting recipe after recipe.
And we didn’t think about our own personal goals either. We just wanted to do something fun together, but we didn’t really think about what it might become. It seemed like we were putting a lot of time into a project for no reason.
That’s why it was so easy to forget about the blog while my dad was in the hospital.
Now, I’m of the opinion that no blog should every be more important than your health and the health of your family, but we honestly did not care at all. My mom and I worried about taking time away from our jobs, and my sister worried about her schoolwork, and we worried about household concerns like bills and cleaning and pets and whatnot… but we didn’t worry about our blog.
The answer wasn’t really clear to me at that moment, sitting in the hospital waiting room, my heart heavy with the hope that my dad would be okay.
But I knew one thing above all else: we needed to change our blogging goals. We had to stop blogging for the sake of it and start thinking about what we really wanted, and what our readers wanted.
Finding Your Blogging Purpose
As it turns out, the answer to our problems was staring us right in the face. We just didn’t realize it.
My dad recovered fairly quickly, all things considered. And we got back to blogging. We plugged on, posting recipes like normal, but I started to talk a little more about our family.
It was on my mind. Family is what is important to me, and when I thought about it, that is why I went to my mom and sister in the first place to start a blog. I wasn’t trying to be some kind of big shot rich and famous blogger. I was just trying to find a fun project to help us stay connected as a family, even though I lived 300 miles away.
From this seed, this small realization, the real purpose of our blog became apparent.
See, the purpose of our food blog is not to share recipes.
Weird, I know.
But any good food blog… that’s not really the purpose. That’s just the benefit – you’re giving readers amazing, tasty dishes to try out in their own homes.
The purpose of your blog, no matter what your niche, is something much deeper and more personal.
It’s the why behind what you do.
Here’s the honest truth… everything we do is fueled by some kind of internal need. Even when you’re doing charity work, it isn’t completely selfless. You’re doing it because it makes you feel good to help others or because you feel guilty about having stuff when others don’t.
As a blogger, your purpose is not to help readers.
You need to do that to survive if you want your blog to grow and bring in an income. But your purpose is something different.
When I dug deep, I discovered that the purpose of my blog was connection. Connection to my family. Connection to my friends. Connection to my past and my future.
Our blog was masquerading as a food blog, but it was really about learning to unlock that deep need to stay connected to one another.
Once I figured out that… I knew that how we wrote posts needed to change. If we really wanted to attract a readership and make money, we had to take this theme of connecting with your loved ones and really run with it.
Writing Posts People Really Want to Read
Finding your blogging purpose is crucial no matter what type of blog you write, but in my case, it is really easy to illustrate the importance. Food bloggers have a bit of a conundrum. We love to write posts that are interesting to read… but most people are just there for the recipe.
Most of the posts I write on this blog are well over 2000 words, but on my food blog that would never fly. People would have to scroll forever to get to the recipe.
I belong to some groups on Facebook, and this was actually a heated topic a few weeks ago – should food bloggers write a “story” to go along with the recipe, or should they just post the recipe and be done with it. And if the latter… does that really mean you are a blogger? Or are you just a recipe mill, churning out dishes for the masses?
Most of the other bloggers in the group admitted that they personally don’t like to read a lot of story with the recipe. They just want the ingredients and directions…
… yet they still post a long story with their own recipes, because that’s what it means to be a blogger and hey, some readers like it, right?
Well here’s the thing. Food bloggers are not alone in this dilemma. In some niches, you can get away with writing much longer posts and people don’t mind at all, as long as you’re teaching them something and it’s not just a boring account of your day.
But in a lot of niches, readers don’t have as much tolerance for a longer post. They come to the post for a specific reason, and they want you to get to the point.
Once I discovered the true “point” (i.e. purpose) of our blog, though, I found it a lot easier to write posts that people actually want to read.
With the newfound blogging purpose of connection and family, everything else could fall in place. We stopped writing long blog posts that bored our readers and left them skimming and scrolling to find the recipe at the end, and we started writing posts about our tips and experiences with this topic.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea… but it doesn’t have to be.
A really smart person gave me good advice one time, which was basically this: You don’t have to be everyone’s favorite blog, but you have to be someone’s favorite blog.
When you find your purpose, the true reason behind why you blog, it’s easier to think about the type of reader who wants to be a fan of your blog. You can write posts to those people, instead of the more general posts that you’re probably writing right now.
And in that way, you’ll connect with more people.
Now, your purpose is probably not the same as mine, and in fact it would concern me if it was exactly the same. You need to really think about the why behind your blog.
The why is NOT “I want to help readers with *topic*.” The why is something deeper. Why do you want to help them? Why is this topic important to you? Why is your blog your passion?
And then, write blog posts that cover this purpose. This is how you make a deep connection with readers.
It’s not an easy thing to do, and maybe that is why so many blogs fail.
I’ve always talk about my food blog as an example on this blog, but I want to give you another example since this topic is a bit of a hard one to wrap your head around. So let me talk about my purpose here on this blog, AllisonBoyer.com.
I started this blog just to have a place to teach others about blogging, content marketing, social media, and other Internet marketing topics, and to have a portfolio of work to show clients. And for a long time, that’s all it was.
I would have the occasional hit post that would get passed around and bring in some traffic, but this blog was never super successful, and I never really focused much energy on it.
Then, a few years ago, I was going through some rough personal times, as happens to all of us occasionally, and I decided that I really needed to simplify my life so I could focus on a few things that really matter instead of lots of things that don’t. I decided to abandon this blog for a bit.
When I decided to revisit the idea of a blog about blogging, I realized that I needed to take my own medicine and really find my purpose for this blog, which is not easy to do.
On the surface, my purpose is to share tips to help you build a better blog, and I hope my posts do just that.
But the deeper purpose is something a little different.
See, my deeper purpose is to make the world of blogging better all-around, so that great content rises to the top, and crap content goes away.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really sick of going to yet another post that’s filled with generic information boiling down to common sense. “5 Tips for Using Pinterest” and tip number one is to use better pictures? Honestly, if you can’t figure that out yourself, you shouldn’t even think about using Pinterest.
Hey, I know we need beginner-level content out there, but even that seems to be failing. The beginner content I see about how to build your blog is typically pretty unhelpful, without links to resources, examples, or step-by-step information. It’s just generic.
Of course, not every blog out there is filled with B.S. In fact, I think there are a lot of really great blogs about blogging and making money online out there. Smart Passive Income. Backlinko. Boost Blog Traffic. I could keep going, but you get it. Lots of great blogs out there!
But I want to add my voice to them, to drown out the unhelpful blogs who are just in it for a buck, the kind of blogs that are white noise on the Internet making it harder to find actual good, helpful information.
Worse of all, people are turning this crap content into ebooks, courses, coaching, and other paid products.
People just like me… just like you… are being duped into paying for these products, which are usually filled with information that you can freely find on thousands of blogs and often bad or outdated advice.
This is going on in every niche out there.
Food bloggers are posting crap recipes that they haven’t even tried and posting stock photos to trick readers into pinning their stuff. I’m not going to name names, but one of the most popular food bloggers has admitted in a private group that she makes a recipe she finds on elsewhere, takes a bunch of pretty pictures, then changes the recipe around to make it look like a brand new recipe she personally developed. It’s a complete scam, yet she is making 6-figures per year as a blogger.
In the fashion niche, I had one blogger tell me that she knows bloggers who basically get everything they wear for free from companies, but act like they actually shop at those stores. They don’t disclose relationships, and they only wear items they are sent, sometimes even changing afterward because they don’t really even like what they’re wearing.
I’ve had parenting bloggers tell me that they basically make up interesting stories about their kids. I’m not talking about embellishing the truth a little to make a story a little more interesting or leaving out details that don’t matter for the sake of a more cohesive post. They flat-out make stuff up just so they can write a post about a topic even though they have no first-hand experience. Moms are talking about health scares, postpartum depression experiences, public breastfeeding confrontations, and more… that never happened.
Not everyone does this of course. Lots of bloggers are completely honest and passionate about what they do. But there is this shadow on the world of blogging because so many people are out there vying for attention and willing to write whatever it takes to get that popularity they crave.
I think we can do better, as an industry.
All of this internal ranting I was doing about this topic led me to the true purpose of my blog here at AllisonBoyer.com – to encourage bloggers to be better, not just for themselves, but for their readers.
When I created my new header, “Better Blogging with Allison” I intended it to have two meanings.
One, better blogging in the sense that I do want to help you build your blog traffic and income.
Two, better blogging in the sense that I want to encourage you to write posts that actually help your readers, instead of just getting them to your site because you wrote a great headline or know how to optimize it for search engines. Those things are important, but my challenge to you is to be extremely proud of every single piece of content you put forth, so you are making the Internet a better place, not dragging it down with content that doesn’t matter.
I suppose, in a sense, this blog post has become my manifesto, and I do hope that you feel a connection with it. If not, though, that’s okay too, because as much as I want you as a long-term reader who shared everything I write, I know that not everyone will like me. It’s okay.
You don’t have to be everyone’s favorite blogger. You just have to be someone’s favorite.
I’ve written enough today I think. 🙂 Go out there, figure out your purpose, and get started on your next great blog post… I know it is going to be amazing.
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