Once upon a time, perhaps on a dark and stormy night, Seth Godin launched his blog.
Right then and there, or maybe a bit later, blogs exploded in popularity. It was the most violent event since the Big Bang.
And Seth Godin kept punching the keys, publishing a new article every day, writing books on the side, and launching various internet ventures.
Yet, the fascinating thing about Seth Godin was that he has been ignoring the most popular rules of blogging. Consistently. Passionately. With no regard for consequence.
His Headlines Are All Sorts of Wrong
One word headlines. Boring headlines. None of his headlines are capitalized. There’s no clear benefit being stated. His headlines rarely include numbers. Or create a sense of urgency.
Sometimes he throws the occasional clickbait title in there as well.
Most of his headlines aren’t specific enough, simple enough, and there seems to be a total disregard for the Oxford comma.
Most of His Articles Are Too Short
Most of Seth Godin’s articles are between 200 and 300 words long. Some are even less than that.
Few are ever more than 500 words long.
We all know high-quality articles are at least 2,000 words long. And Google loves them too.
Because his articles are so short, most of them don’t have a clear beginning or even a middle. There are rarely subheads in his articles.
His Articles Don’t Have Any Images in Them
Where are all the pictures?
I know this is a minor issue, but a picture is worth at least 1,000 words, especially if you use the right picture and place it at the top of your article.
He Doesn’t Write Listicles, How-To Guides, Tutorials, or Step-by-Step Articles
Seth Godin doesn’t believe in some of the most powerful types of content on the web.
There’s no definitive guide to anything. There are a few “how-to” articles, but as I said, they’re too short to be considered the “ultimate” resource on the world wide web.
He Has Disabled Comments on His Blog
There’s no way to let Seth Godin know whether you liked his article or not. Thus, there’s no way for him to engage with his readers.
He did say he doesn’t enable comments because he’d waste too much time in the comments section of his blog, so maybe it makes sense. Just a bit.
Yet, Seth Godin Is One of the Most Famous Bloggers on the Planet
There are a few reasons why Seth Godin can break all these sacred rules of blogging without getting in trouble:
1. He’s Been Consistently Publishing Content for Decades
Let’s just get this out of the way, OK?
I know there’s nothing you can do about it. Not unless you invent a time machine.
But the truth is that Seth Godin’s been around for a long, long time, frequently and consistently publishing new content.
He’s part of the first wave of blogging. Long before there even was a word for blogging.
On November 6, 2017, Seth Godin published his 7,000th blog post. For context, if you were to publish one post per day, it would take you more than 19 years to accomplish such a feat.
In his 7,000th blog post, Seth Godin wrote the following words:
“The secret to writing a daily blog is to write every day. And to queue it up and blog it. There is no other secret.”
The act of showing up daily adds up. Some three million words call Seth Godin’s blog home. Three million.
Seth Godin managed to create an intimidating portfolio of work because he sat at his desk to write every single day for decades.
2. He Knows Quality Matters
It’s just not the same kind of quality most bloggers focus on.
Seth Godin knows that people read blogs because they want a fast way of absorbing quality ideas.
When it comes to blogging, ideas often trump execution.
And Seth Godin knows his stuff. He knows what he’s about. There’s no denying his expertise.
Sometimes, the 100-word post he shares with us is so good there’s nothing else one can add. It’s so good we’re left speechless. All we can do is nod silently (because he’s disabled comments, remember?), think about the ideas and notions he has shared with us, and do our best to internalize those insights.
3. He’s Reached the Fourth Stage of Competence
Imagine, if you will, learning how to drive a car. Of course, you’re going to struggle. It all feels a bit too much. The driving experience, the road ahead, the cars in your rearview mirror.
Well, the fourth stage of competence is when you can drive, listen to music, and not even think about shifting gears or the cars around you. The fourth stage of competence is mostly based on intuition.
After a couple of million words, bloggers begin to write without even thinking about it.
To Seth Godin, the way he writes just feels right. It feels right to him, no matter what the rules say. He disregards the rules because he’s reached what he once called sprezzatura.
His words seem to be the product of him punching the keys for 15 minutes while staring out the window and listening to jazz music.
That’s what sprezzatura is. We can’t quite put our finger on it, and we sometimes find ourselves thinking that the blogger isn’t the best there ever was, but we can’t help but keep on reading.
In other words, Seth Godin writes in such a nonchalant manner because he no longer has to work hard at it. This is the side-effect of countless hours spent at his desk, writing, rewriting, reading, and thinking about ideas.
In time, writing becomes music. As you develop your style, you develop a certain rhythm.
Something either sounds right or it doesn’t, and that’s one hell of a tool to have in your writing arsenal.
4. He’s Aware of the Importance of Thinking Outside the Box
Writing a blog post is a creative endeavor.
And being creative is all about thinking outside the box. The rules are more like guidelines. When you feel trapped in a cage, you break out.
Rules are meant to be broken. Some can be bent.
Most times, Seth Godin takes it a step further and doesn’t just think outside the box. He thinks like there’s no box at all.
An example of this is an article he once wrote about choosing a title for one’s books. His headline of choice? “How to title stuff.”
It makes me laugh thinking of someone sitting at their desk, typing on their computer the following words on Google: “How do I title stuff?”
Seth Godin breaks the rules and gets away with it because he knows it’s possible.
The spoon is not real.
Most blogging rules tend to become counterproductive if we are over-zealous in enforcing them.
5. He Doesn’t Want Your Money
I’d like to believe that I saved the best for last, but maybe it’s just me being a bit too idealistic.
Seth Godin can get away with breaking most of the so-called sacred rules of blogging because he doesn’t try to get people to buy his “stuff”. He sells his “stuff” by barely mentioning it once or twice.
Also, there are no ads on his blog. There never have been.
No affiliate links either. No paid promotions or sponsored posts. Not even guest posts.
It’s his space, and he’s done a tremendous job at making sure his million or so readers don’t feel like they’re being fed content with the intent to later sell them something.
Because of that, most of the advice Seth Godin shares on his blog is honest, true, raw, and might aggravate some of his followers.
He’s not trying to sugarcoat anything, and it’s well to remember that those who tap dance around the truth are also those who always try to sell you something.
I’d like to end this article with a few cautionary words.
It’s all too easy to fall in love with the highlights of the top 0.1% of bloggers. We fall in love with their success, with their impressive portfolio of work, but we never get to look behind the scenes.
Seth Godin is a true outlier. He’s put his 10,000 hours of work. Real work, deliberate work. Meaningful work.
Sometimes blogging success is as simple as showing up and doing the work. Sometimes it’s about being part of the first wave on a platform, or about being lucky enough to have your first article go viral. Sometimes it’s about being reckless enough to see what you can get away with.
But most times blogging success comes down to this: having the inner fortitude to do your thing, the way you want to, and to write “stuff” your way, because it makes sense to you, and because it sounds right.
It’s that simple and that hard.