Two Cents Tuesday: One Amazing Blogger Broke All the Rules

in Editor's Corner

This post is part of Two Cents Tuesday, where I throw in my two cents, and you throw in yours, too. Open forum.

We talk about how to be successful bloggers. Some people talk and then some people do.

Why do we talk so much (I’m guilty of this)? Because people ask so much. In my opinion, sometimes, there is too much asking and not enough doing.

I was doing some research on food blogging and found Orangette by searching under famous food bloggers in Google. Orangette’s author, Molly Wizenberg, has created a beautiful, pretty lively food blog obviously loved by many. Because we are obsessed with stats, I will let you know that her page rank is/was 6, and her Alexa ranking at the time of this writing is/was 159,857 with 1,461 sites linking in (links that Alexa is counting). Her BlogGrade is/was 94. I don’t want to focus on stats today since we always do, and for this piece those particular stats are not directly relevant.

She Breaks the Rules

Again, we talk about rules. We say these rules are 100% necessary for success. We say do these, or fail. But then we stumble across awesome, popular blogs that are breaking all of the rules and scratch our heads. Bear with me – resist the temptation to call Orangette an outlier, because I really do not believe it is. I wonder if somehow we, in our efforts to capitalize on and even monetize success, just miss the freaking point.

The Rules Orangette Breaks

These are the things that I and most only blogging niche bloggers always talk about as necessary for success… and Orangette breaks them.

  • Her blog is on Blogger, for one.
  • She doesn’t monetize that blog (say what?)
  • She didn’t bother to get her own domain name.
  • She uses multiple blogs on blogspot for her About, recipe index, and blogroll, rather than just creating pages (note, pages are actually quite new; they didn’t exist when she started her blog there)
  • On-page SEO – no trace of intent there whatsoever.
  • She never responds to comments that I can see. When you see 107 comments, for example, that’s 107 reader-submitted comments… on a post about berry cobbler that’s titled, But then… (hmmm)
  • She doesn’t have a social media sharing widget to be found on her site, yet if you check out her BlogGrader report, her posts are shared consistently on Twitter and Facebook alike.

So… What’s She Doing Right?

From what I can tell – for her – everything. Those rules above matter for certain bloggers with certain goals, but they are obviously not the keys to success. They are just guidelines.

How did Molly, who writes in her spare time now, create such a popular, engaged blog? One that would land her #4 in Google SERP for the term famous food bloggers? Hint: she did NOT write a post called Famous Food Bloggers and bookmark the heck out of it. This same blog led to her a book deal with Simon & Schuster, and was the catalyst for bringing she and her husband together (added bonus?) and the two of them now run a restaurant in Seattle.

The answer: I don’t know, frankly. But here are my observations. Things that I think are so key, they are worth making mental notes about them.

  • She obviously loves writing about food and her life. That is very clear.
  • She writes in the first person. She doesn’t use “we” or “us” or “you” nearly as much as she uses “I.”
  • Her posts are the sum of all of the intangible qualities we all want to possess: touching, real, inspiring, unpretentious, informative but not preachy, etc.
  • The above observation is entirely subjective, and in a way, that’s the whole point.

If a food blogger ever comes to me and asks for a blueprint, I’d probably say, “you should check out Orangette.” Technically, there may be things I would do differently, but when it comes to blogging, she’s got it down.

Funny things happen when you take money out of the equation.

Un-Conclusion: There’s No Formula

There’s no formula. I don’t care how many ebooks (including my own) you choose to read, or buy, or sell as an affiliate. The good news and the scary news about this is that you either got it, or you don’t. You can fake it, and maybe you’d go down as the biggest, most successful poser in history. That would be your legacy to deal with.

Success may very well be the result of doing everything right. That’s certainly how we seem to go about talking about it.

But, I would sum up Orangette’s recipe for success with one word: heart.