Jon Morrow, one of the most inspiring bloggers out there, tells us about finding his career path, lists the key elements for a successful blog and explains why the best thinkers are also the best writers.
Jon Morrow is one of the top bloggers in the world, and the founder of the popular site SmartBlogger, that reaches an audience of more than 100,000 email subscribers and generates well over $100,000 in monthly revenue.
Jon’s life story is one of the most inspiring ones we’ve come across. Born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Jon spent most of his life paralyzed from the neck down. Incredibly, He runs his entire writing efforts and business operation through speech recognition technology.
100 Headlines a Day
If you want to achieve mastery you’ve gotta put in time. Jon’s best illustration for this is when he went to work for Copyblogger:
“One of the first things Brian (Clark) told me, he said, ‘Listen, the headlines for your blog post are the biggest factor, and how much traffic you get. So I want you to write a 100 headlines a day, and just to practice. So I said, ‘Okay, cool.’ So I went back to him in 30 days, and I had the rest of over 3,000 headlines that I’d written, 100 headlines a day. And he said, ‘Oh my God,’ he says, ‘I got to tell you, I tell that to everybody that starts writing for us, you’re the first person that actually do it’. And I learned so much writing a 100 headlines a day that I actually continued that practice for my first year at Copyblogger. The first year I wrote over 35,000 headlines, just in the first year.”
Why You Should Read Cosmopolitan
Jon’s story about how he chose topics for blog posts and headlines back in 2010 shows how you can find inspiration in totally unrelated niches:
“Nowadays we have all of these great tools to do analysis on what types of topics are the most popular. This was back in 2010, so none of that existed. The best thing you could do was to look at other industries. So what Brian told me to do was to look at the covers of magazines, and to look at the headlines that they used, to base my headlines on those…like Cosmopolitan magazine.
Cosmopolitan magazine was… The rumor was, I don’t know if this is true, whoever was writing the headlines for Cosmo, was getting paid a million dollars a year. Just to write the headlines. But Cosmo and other magazines, I used to … I mean, this is funny in retrospect, I would have been horribly embarrassed at the time. But I was so broke that I used to go into Barnes & Noble, and to carry the magazine covers, all four of the magazines in Barnes & Noble. And then sneak out with the magazine covers, because I couldn’t afford to buy the magazines.
I had a stack of hundreds of magazine covers that I would go through. And I used those for inspiration. So I mean just like, Cosmopolitan you choose something like 53 ways to drive your man wild in bed or something. So, I would do 53 ways to drive your readers wild with your blog posts or something like that. I would just use the idea.”
The Progress in Accessibility
As a person who spent most of his life paralyzed from his neck down, Jon has witnessed the great technological developments that made the use of computer and other digital products and applications in 2018 much more accessible:
“I can only speak about what it’s like for someone with mobility issues. That’s me, I mean, I’m in a wheelchair, I can’t move from the neck down, so today there are so many things that are available that weren’t available 10 years ago, or were in their infancy, and worked really terribly.
Today I can do anything on the computer that I need to be able to do, because to type I have Dragon Naturally Speaking for voice recognition, and for the mouse I have a lip operated mouse that … It’s hard to describe, I can send you a photo. It allows me to move the mouse around on the screen with my lips, and between those two things, I can do anything that I need to be able to do on the web 10 years ago. Dragon Naturally Speaking did exist, but it was quite terrible.
I remember the training to get a new user profile set up was like a 100 hours of training. Not only that, but the training was only … It wasn’t portable, so every computer you installed it on, you had to do another 100 hours of training. It was absolutely terrible.
I think I own all the cutting edge stuff…I’m so grateful for everything that we have, and that for me the technology has always been there to enable me to do what I wanna do.”
The Key Element of a Successful Blog Post
Having worked with thousands of students now, and studied millions of titles or headlines, Jon noticed the biggest factor by far is your choice of topic. And this surprises people, apparently:
“A lot of the learners, when they come in they think, ‘Well, if I write about what I wanna write about, and I write about it well enough, it will succeed.’ That’s actually not true. People are interested in what they’re interested in. And if they do not have a pre-existing interest in your topic, meaning they’re already interested in it before they ever hear about you, then it doesn’t matter how well your article is. It will not succeed.
What the most critical factor is, and this is what we … We have a course called Freedom Machine, where we train people how to do this. The most critical factor is just figuring out the proven interests of your audience. About what there’s evidence out there that they’re super interested in, the set of topics. And then writing mostly about those topics.”
The Best Thinkers Are the Best Writers
Jon’s loves the definition of writing as “a refined thought”:
“If you have sloppy thoughts, it doesn’t matter how many writing techniques you study. You really gonna struggle with your content. Writing and teaching are mostly about clarity, and organization. They’re not about cleverness, but the most important factor for having any type of successful content is that people understand exactly what you’re trying to say. If you can do that, you’re in a much better position than most of the other people on the internet.”