Write Epic Shit

A reader asked me on Twitter the other day if I would start writing more traffic-building tips here. The implication was that I haven’t been publishing content that will directly help you build a bigger online audience.

I think it’s time again to clear something up here. If you’re looking for the same ineffective/unimaginative/played-out tips on using social media more effectively, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Other blogs and social media “experts” will tell you that if you just learn how to use Twitter better or create a great Facebook fan page, you’ll become rich and famous or whatever. Sorry, but that’s simply wrong, and not what this site is all about. Learning promotional tactics is not the key to building a bigger audience. Becoming a better Twitter user won’t magically make your business successful. If you want to believe that, feel free to unsubscribe from this site and choose from one of the 1,000s of outlets perpetuating the same useless garbage.

Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what real experts have to say.

I’ve been talking with some of the smartest, most popular and successful people online lately.

Guess what percentage of our conversations so far have been spent discussing promotional strategies. Seriously, make a guess.

The answer? Less than 20%.

In every conversation I’ve had with wildly successful entrepreneurs and bloggers about building website traffic, promotional tactics only make up 20% of our talks.

So, what is the other 80% of building a popular site about?

Building a raving audience online all starts with writing epic shit. Period. Hands down. End of story.

(If you aren’t building a blog, substitute the word “create” for “write.” Create epic shit. Either way, the formula is the same.)

Write things that make people think. Inspire people. Change lives. Create value. Blow people away with your usefulness.

Only after you create epic shit should you worry about sharing your content with other people. All the promotion in the world won’t make your site popular if your content sucks.

And I didn’t say “write mediocre shit.” Mediocre content is all over the web. Don’t waste your time or other people’s time by writing the same inane crap that 10,000 other sites have already published.

Proof that Epic Works

I had the awesome opportunity to talk to Ramit Sethi last week for Traffic School about how to take things to the next level online and build a wildly popular site. Ramit’s site I Will Teach You to be Rich attracts over 300,000 visitors per month. He regularly writes for the NY Times and has a bestselling book.

Ramit got me thinking about this whole “write epic shit” concept for this post when he told me he regularly spends 12 to 18 hours writing a single blog post. 12 to 18 hours.

Then I started thinking about some of the blogs that have grown the fastest over the past year or two. Four guys always come to my mind when it comes to recent explosive growth. These guys have all grown faster than 99.9999% of all blogs out there and they all have one thing in common. They WRITE EPIC SHIT.

Want proof that creating epic content works? Study these blogs.

Adam Baker has told me a couple of times that he really doesn’t like the writing process. He doesn’t feel it comes naturally to him. I have a different view. I think he finds writing difficult because his standards for Man Vs. Debt are so incredibly high. He’s produced a string of epic blog posts anyone would be jealous of. Check out this epic post from Baker: How to Suck at Launching a Product

Pat Flynn runs the most popular site of the four I’m singling out here. Over 15,000 people have subscribed to his Smart Passive Income blog in less than two and a half years. His strategy is based around “pillar content” (stuff that people bookmark and constantly come back to). He told me he often spends 8+ hours on a single post. Here is just one of Pat’s epic posts: How to REALLY Profit From Your Blog

Glen Alsopp built one blog to over 6,500 subscribers and sold it. Then he started over and grew ViperChill to over 10,000 subscribers in a year. Glen’s posts are epic because they’re full of an obscene amount of information you just can’t find anywhere else. Glen seems to be on hiatus at the moment, but I hope he starts writing again soon. Check out this epic post from Glen: WordPress SEO: The Only Guide You Need

Think about your favorite sites. How much epic content do your favorite sites produce? Here are four more people who write epic shit and have become massive successes because of it: Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Danielle LaPorte and Clay Collins.

Yes, all of these people understand and use social media. Social media works for them because they create content that matters.

Outside of the blogosphere, think about the fastest growing services and how insanely useful they are. Groupon, Kiva, Evernote and Twitter are all great examples. Is your service that useful, really?

From my own experience, my sites grow slowly when I produce average content, then they grow like bamboo when I pour my soul into a piece of content and make it as undeniably useful as possible.

At my other site, just look at my 33 Things post or 18 Months manifesto as examples. At Think Traffic the posts I put the most effort into, like the Ultimate Guide to USPs and 5 Extraordinary Blog Post Types that will Grow Your Audience Faster have been most popular, no surprise.

What about design, branding, promotion and all the other stuff? Don’t those matter too?

Yes, those other things absolutely matter, but only when you make the core of your site (the content) as good as it can possibly be. If you have great content, than great branding and design can give you a huge advantage and push your site to the next level. It can help you stand out from the crowd and make it easier for you to become popular. But without great content, the best brand and design in the world don’t matter at all.

I’m not saying you should start out with a crappy design or afterthought branding. If you have time and resources to write great content and get all the other stuff right, then do both. But if you only have time to do one thing really well, there’s no question you should be focusing on your content.

The same goes for promotion. Once you’ve created something epic, you need to make sure other people find out about it. But if you really write outstanding content, it won’t take much effort on your part to get the word out. Your new fans will do most of the work.

Great content can promote itself but even the best promotion can’t create great content.

Epic doesn’t mean long.

Don’t mistake length of content or time you put into it for how epic something truly is. I’m sure you’ve seen the way-too-long-and-completely-boring type of posts out there. Epic doesn’t necessarily mean long.

Often it takes more words or time to create something epic, but not always. Again, the point is to create content that matters and that changes your readers’ or customers’ lives. Be inspirational, be entertaining, be useful, be a leader. Blow people’s minds.

Epic comes from experience.

Writing or creating epic shit doesn’t just happen out of your imagination, it always starts with real life experiences. The eight people I mentioned above have one other thing in common that allows them to write those life-changing posts we’ve all come to love. Each of them also lives an epic, balls-to-the-wall, grab-life-by-the-horns life. They’re out there trying things and failing and succeeding and LIVING. They have countless first-hand experiences to draw on when they sit down to write the mind blowing stuff you crave.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to create epic stuff without outside inspiration. Get out there and do things and learn things that people will want to read about. Get inspired yourself, then infect your readers and customers with that inspiration.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” -John le Carre

Somebody asked what my New Year’s resolutions were for my online work this year and I didn’t have an answer. Now I realize I do. I’m going to write epic shit this year. And I know the best way to do that is to start by doing epic shit.

I challenge you to do the same and to watch your site’s popularity explode as you do.

The next time you start wondering why you aren’t getting tons of new readers, visitors or subscribers, the next time you wonder why no one is sharing your stuff, don’t start looking to Twitter or Facebook or StumbleUpon or Digg for the answer. Instead, start by asking yourself one simple question:

Am I writing (or creating) epic shit?

A big thanks to Charlie Gilkey (whose mantra is “do epic shit“) for inspiring the title of this post.

If you’re not already signed up for free updates from us, get on the list and I’ll do my best to light a fire under you and keep you focused on creating content that matters.

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Up Next:

Why Every “Twitter Tips” Article You’ve Ever Read is Essentially Worthless (or Worse)

There is a time for basic information. Everyone needs to know what an RSS feed is, how commenting works on blogs, that guest posting is sometimes a viable strategy for gaining visitors and that WordPress is probably your best choice of content management system. You should also know when Twitter is important and that you can use a Facebook page to spread your message.

The Sparkline — a blog for independent creatives and entrepreneurs building matterful things.

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