The Secret Sauce to Rock Star Blogging

When it comes to blogging, why is there a class divide between the rock stars and the rest? Why are some blogs huge with thousands and thousands of dedicated fanatics and others not so much? What separates the wheat from the chaff? What’s the secret sauce that allows these rock star bloggers to dominate the field while most others remain drowning in obscurity? Ever wonder why some blogs stand out in an infinite ocean of competitors? Is it pure talent? Is it pure intelligence? Is it pure luck? Want to know how to write a great blog? Want to know what the secret sauce is? Come find out.


Alright, let’s leave out the Pat Flynns, the Seth Godins, and the Ramit Sethis of the blogging world, as they are in a stratosphere of their own. Actually, no, they are still relevant and apply to this post – keep them in mind as well. Since we happen to be in the personal finance niche of the blogging universe, lets look at some of the rock stars here: J. Money, Mr. Money Mustache, and Financial Samurai. What separates these guys from the rest of the pack?

Well, to explain, we will need to talk about 3 things: Charlie Munger, Good Businesses, and Moats.

CASTLES & MOATS

So, as one obviously does during their spare time, I happened to be perusing some writings by Charlie Munger. For those of you who are not familiar with Charlie Munger, he is the other half of Berkshire Hathaway – Warren Buffett’s long time business partner and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

What Munger and Buffett value the most in a business is the moat. What is a moat? The simplest way to explain it is to provide examples. Coca Cola is an example of a business with an incredible moat. So is Wal-Mart. So is Apple. What do all of these businesses have in common? People will continuously buy from them – sometimes at premium prices – even though there are other businesses offering similar products or services.

There are many components to what makes a good moat, from economies of scale to patents and intellectual property. But the component we are most interested in is the power of the brand.

CROWDED FIELDS

If you think of blogging in a traditional business sense, it is business environment with no significant barrier to entry. Anyone and their cat can get started with a self-hosted WordPress blog in under an hour for around a $100. Premium designs can easily and cheaply be bought to make a website look professional and snappy. And the only thing left to do is pump out content for the world to see.

Unsurprisingly, blogging is a very, very crowded field.

But don’t let the sheer volume of existing blogs and the countless blogs coming online every single day overwhelm you. To be perfectly honest, most blogs are very, very underwhelming. Underwhelming in the sense of business potential. In the sense that the blog can generate significant following, and therefore, significant money.

Most bloggers won’t achieve significant success, as measured by traffic and hence reflected as revenue. You can argue all you want that traffic and money aren’t the only indicators of successful blogging, but they are really the only general metrics that can apply evenly across all blogs and bloggers to gauge success.

Successful blogs will have significant traffic coming through, and because of this traffic, they will be able to make significant money by it.

BRAND POWER

So what differentiates a successful blog from a mediocre one? What separates J. Money and Financial Samurai – bloggers who both make well over $100,000 a year – from the rest?

It’s their brand. That’s their moat. That’s their sustainable competitive advantage.

When you goto Budgets Are Sexy or Financial Samurai, you know you are going to get consistent, quality reads each and every time. It is exactly like how you can expect the same level of consistency and quality from Coca Cola anywhere in the world. And because of the consistency and quality, you go back for more and moar. Why pay for mystery no name cola when you know Coca Cola has never let you down?

That’s brand power. And that is the secret sauce to creating an incredibly successfully blog.

PARALLEL WISDOM

Building a powerful brand takes talent, skills, intelligence, hard work, time, and a dash of luck to all come together to catapult you to the vaunted realm of rock star status. But you need to work hard to make it happen. When all these elements do come together, you create a strong and vibrant brand that differentiates you from the crowd.

These insights came to me as I was reading some great business and investment wisdom shared by Charlie Munger. Warren Buffett also has equally great insights on what makes and keeps a business successful and competitive. Reading widely on business and money has direct parallels back to blogging: there really isn’t much difference between what makes a great business and a great blog.

I’m only here to enlighten you on what makes a great blog. I will defer you to Pro Blogger for the practical steps on how you actually go about creating a great blog. With enough time, consistency, and quality, you will eventually find yourself climbing and differentiating yourself from the rest of the pack.

Do you like learning about secret sauces? Than maybe it’s time you get #moar Kapitalust sent directly to your inbox automagically. No spam. No ham. No nonsense. We take you privacy seriously.

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32 thoughts on “The Secret Sauce to Rock Star Blogging

    1. A lot of what makes a successful business directly translates into what makes a successful blog. The more I re-read Munger and Buffett, the more I realize their teachings and wisdom translate over into the blogosphere.

  1. Thanks for the mention!

    It’s funny, because each brand started from nothing. I still remember thinking up names on my bed one day in early 2009 until Financial Samurai hit.

    Consistency of content quality definitely is important. Don’t underestimate longevity either. The longer you are around, the chances are higher someone out there might take notice!

    Sam

    1. I recall some of the posts you’ve written on Financial Samurai and Yakezie about successful blogging revolve around these elements of consistency, quality, and longevity.

      I remember reading something a long time ago on Budgets Are Sexy and J. Money mentioning that he just persisted and persisted while others came and went and described that persistence as one of the reasons why he has gotten as successful as he has. I’m sure it’s the exact same with you.

      I hope everyone who is interested in taking their game to the next level check out those articles by you at Financial Samurai and Yakezie!

      1. The one thing is I wish I had more time to devote to Yakezie.com. It takes A LOT of work maintaining the site and the community, so I’ve let things be more “fall as they may.” Everybody is free to do whatever they want, and so long as the forum is accessible to bloggers to help each other out, that’s good enough for me.

        I’ll continue to post a couple times a month there forever. Yakezie could be a great business idea too, but I just don’t have the energy as FS has grown.

        1. I do enjoy going over to Yakezie and seeing the posts that you put up there. I do feel that the community could be curated better for more engagement but I can also appreciate how much time it would take to really spruce things up, especially with FS as your main focus.

          I too think there is a lot of potential with Yakezie, but like you said, it’s about finding the time to commit.

  2. Munger is a pretty smart guy. He has a lot of cool ideas and I think he’s somewhat underrated. I like your point that talent and skills are required to build a powerful brand for bloggers. I believe that writing skills, in particular, are super important. All the rock star bloggers I know have a strong grasp of the English language, and are really talented writers. 🙂 I would also include our Ottawa friend, Garth, in the roster of prolific finance bloggers. Mr. Turner’s site receives half a million visitors a month, which is pretty good for a Canadian blog, and rivals the traffic of Sam’s blog.

    1. I think the genius of Garth’s blog is that he found a niche within the niche of personal finance people in Canada are especially interested in: real estate. Then, he branded himself brilliantly as a real estate bear and feed his target audience what they want – that a crash in Canadian real estate is eminent. It’s a pretty brilliant example of branding properly and leveraging a willing audience effectively.

      I think it just goes to show that if you can find your specific target audience, you can do very, very well in terms of traffic. You don’t need to conquer the entire internet. You don’t need the whole internet to come through your site. You just need that specific audience that is interested in a specific niche and write great consistent content for them 😉

      1. Is he a real estate bear in Canada? If so, is it just a bunch of negativity? The Canadian market has been going up all century. That’s great that he’s grown so big being so negative!

        1. I don’t read his posts very often but they do appear to have a central theme of being bearish on housing lol. He still encourages people to invest in real estate through REITs though. I think he’s just under the impression that Canadians on average are overly exposed to real estate and should take steps to be more diversified. He said he believes in the Rule of 90, which is the idea that you shouldn’t have more than (90 – Your Age)% of your net worth invested in residential housing. And that includes the roof over your head.

  3. It takes time to find a your style of writing. I know some bloggers who blog for several years before they began getting visitors. Great content really matters and that takes time to develop. So blogging should be viewed as a long term thing. Great post, thanks for the write up!

    1. Yes, you do have to write and hone and write and hone and write and hone to perfect your voice and writing.

      The trickiest part about great content is finding the perfect audience for them. For example, I can write a post about the intricacies of how to perform security analysis on a specific value stock, but if I’m not targeting the correct audience, no matter how great the content is, no one will care.

      So much of great blogging does involve behind the scenes advertising/marketing/targeting to find and drive the correct audience through the content. Sometimes, it’s mind-bending work 😛

  4. Steve,

    I view blogging just like investing. You have to be in it for the long term if you want to see success. And consistency is incredibly important, especially when we’re talking about high-quality content.

    But I wrote about the “Three P’s” a while back – Persistence, Patience, and Perseverance. And I believe those qualities are important to not only saving and investing your way toward FI, but they’re also important if you want to become successful at blogging, or really anything at life.

    Best regards!

    1. The more I blog, the more similarities I see with a lot of what I have read from and about Buffett, Munger, Fisher, Lynch, etc.

      I love the 3 Ps concept for successful blogging. Perhaps a future post idea for you? 😉

  5. Great post! Agree with your perspective 100%. I have been a PF blogger for 18 months and have yet to develop a large or consistent following. Definitely, tougher than I realized. Important to define your own terms for success. Quality of readers and comments can be more important than quantity!

    1. It really does take a lot of hard work to figure out how to find your right audience and convert them to regular readers. You have to experiment with all sorts of different methods and ideas. I think a huge factor is being able to tell a captivating and engaging story. Easier said than done 🙂

  6. Great post. Creating a brand that differentiate from the rest is very important. I will need to spend some time on Pro Blogger. Thanks for sharing the link.

    1. It’s so easy to say and understand, yet so hard to actually put into practise. I’ve been experimenting and tinkering with all sorts of stuff to make the voice here resonate with readers and to make it a little bit different from the typical fare out in the pf blogosphere.

      I’ve definitely failed way more times than I’ve been successful, but the failures have taught me so much and I continue to apply lessons learned, and probably fail a gazillion more times, in the pursuit of creating an effective and powerful brand 😉

  7. Well thx man! Just stumbled across this post randomly today and what a surprise to see myself reading about…. myself 🙂 Great group up there no doubt – glad you like the site!

    And if you’ll notice, all of those guys are pretty creative too – helping them stand out even more. Everyone has their own story and unique skills/traits, but the trick is infusing them into your articles and stories. Showing personality (as you’re doing with your site – don’t think we don’t notice! :)) can really take a blog a lot farther. That and a $hit ton of time, as Financial Samurai has alluded to, haha… we’ve been at it for 5+ years!

    1. Isn’t it the best when you randomly come across something online and you find you’re reading about yourself 😉

      Yes, time and patience and consistency – gotta have the eye on the prize and always be hustlin’

      The biggest takeaway I have so far reading your blog is how well you infuse and blend your absolutely unique style with the content that you write: that’s you’re secret sauce for sure from what I can gauge!

  8. A huge part of blogging success is also approach-ability of the content. I’ve given up trying to educate, and I’m just chronicling my progress from poverty to world-domination.

    Thus, my content isn’t exactly a cake-walk, thus I have no readership. Perhaps once I start posting more sexy charts proving my financial successes, the unwashed masses (who don’t understand option trading) will start to take notice.

    Yesterday for example, I closed a decidedly typical move for an annualized gain of 78%. Which your readers might be inclined to think that it’s gambling, or crazy risky, or super time-intensive. pro-tip: It’s NONE of those things.

    1. I think you can still educate, it just has to be in a creative way – which is a very difficult thing to accomplish.

      To teach without seeming like you are teaching all the while incorporating captivating storytelling is a truly hard thing to blend well.

      I think chronicling a journey is good – make sure your journey resonates with the readers. Believe me, it’s not a skill I am close to mastering but I am chipping away at it.

  9. I’m definitely a fan of sauce in all its many forms. More to the point, I agree with you that those guys have a crystal-clear voice and point of view that people (including me) love reading about!

    I really enjoy the entire PF blogging sphere and reading about what everyone else is doing with their money… not in a creepy way or anything… uh, right? 😉

    1. Of course we bloggers don’t share too much with internet weirdos and never go snoopin’ and creeping’ around to see what everyone else is up to 😉

  10. Great post, Steve, really like it!

    It’s weird how you should treat your blog as if it were a real business, even though it makes perfect sense.

    How do you feel about having tons of hardly engaged readers versus a small dedicated audience? I think I’d rather have the second, even though it’s sometimes fun to see your total pageviews go up and up.

    Cheers,
    NMW

    1. I mean, I’d want the best of both worlds: lots of traffic PLUS a smaller dedicated audience to create a community feel 😀

      But for now, I’d settle for the smaller, engaged audience. It makes it more fun to comment, respond, and engage as opposed to faceless traffic pass through with little engagement.

  11. I love this comparison with investing – very insightful Kapitalust! It’s amazing now that you mention it, and I reflect on Financial Samurai’s history of posts in particular, just how consistently high quality they are. Seems like being unique, persisting, and consistent high quality will all take you a long way with enough time – and I already have a sense that you’re on this path Kapitalust! If I had a few spare dollars, I’d probably invest in your site 🙂

    1. HAHA thanks for the kind words, but it may be TOO risky to invest in Kapitalust just yet 😉

      But on a serious note, those three factors are integrally important. I think J. Money mentioned above, and if you look around at all the “established” bloggers, they have been around for a long time.

      Persistence is really important. I mean, even for me, there have been times where I just don’t want to write or continue on, but I just keep soldiering on. Of course you have to have great writing and a unique spin on the content, but you also have to be able to persist for a very long time.

      Hope to see ya persisting on in years to come 😀

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