Business, Life and Business Life. Real Talk.

Blind Leading the Blind; Or Following A-Lister Advice

a-list bloggersA-list blogger…the illusive label that everyone wants to attain in the blogosphere. But is it really worth anything?

For this month’s Word Carnival I’m supposed to write about something I want to tell the A-listers. But let’s be real, if I were in their position I’d keep doing as I’m doing – because it works.

So I’m going to talk about them instead :).

Years ago, when I first started blogging, I looked up to A-list bloggers just like many (if not most) other new bloggers do.

The thought process is usually something something like this:

They are so successful…
They must be really smart…
They have to know what they’re doing…
And I have to follow their lead to be successful to!

Except I didn’t have to. I don’t have to.

And neither do you.

In fact, if you are blogging to drive your business forward, you are often better of not listening to advice from A-listers. And here’s why..

*Note: There are of course exceptions to every rule. I can name a few “A-list” bloggers who don’t fit the descriptions below. But most bloggers recognized as “A-listers” unfortunately fall into one of these categories. 

They Are Grandfathered In

Blogging is really a new phenomenon. It has only truly taken off over the last couple of years.

But many of today’s “A-list” bloggers have been around long before blogging got big. That means they got in at the beginning – the equivalent of buying Apple or Google stock when it was first released.

They experienced huge growth just because they got in early.

You don’t have that luxury any more. Sorry. It’s too late.

The problem is, much of the advice they dish out is still often based on what used to work. It’s minimally altered to adjust to the changing landscape, but the advice certainly doesn’t evolve as fast as the industry does.

They Don’t Do What They Preach

There is a good reason to follow A-list bloggers. But it’s not to follow their advice.

It can be very advantageous to analyze what they actually do…not what they tell you to do. In other words…do as they do, not as they say.

This post from Peep Laja brings up the example of Copyblogger (the epitome of an A-list blog). Notice how they tell you to write headlines, and the kind of headlines they actually use themselves.

Tisk tisk.

Actually, quite often their advice isn’t even actionable – so you can’t really act on it in the first place :).

They’re Not Even the Ones Writing

Once you get to a certain level of fame online, people will claw at the opportunity to get feature on your blog and take advantage of the audience you have already built.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a great marketing tactic on the guest-bloggers part. And there’s no reason not to feature great guest content for your readers.

If you take a good look at ProBlogger, for example, most content is from guest authors. And some of it is actually really good.

Except it’s not the “A-lister” creating in. Which goes to show that the best advice is coming from people that don’t necessarily have that level of “fame.”

Remember You Have a Business! 

Ok, this is the big one.

Whatever you do…remember that you are trying to run a business. And every business is unique.

That means your business goals should come first and foremost. Just because an A-list blogger tells you comments are important, for example, it doesn’t mean they are!

Don’t just follow advice blindly. Think about how it’s going to effect your bottom line – because that’s really what matters.

And if you want some actionable, non-A-lister, advice that is targeted at your specific situation, feel free to check out my consulting page :).


This post is part of the October Word Carnival. The topic is A Call to Arms for Decent Bloggers: What Carnies Want to Tell the A-Listers. This month’s topic is more exciting than the fire breather, fortune teller and strong man rolled into one!

Photo: rbrwr




24 Responses to Blind Leading the Blind; Or Following A-Lister Advice

  1. Welcome back to the carnival, Eugene! Nicely done. Loved that other post by Peep that you linked to, as well.

  2. Totally agree, Eugene – it’s always a good idea to have your own viewpoint and focus on your goals. Nicely done.

  3. Annie Sisk says:

    “Grandfathered in” … YES, exactly. I was trying to describe this phenomenon to someone who’s not involved in digital marketing in any way, and I couldn’t think of an evocative way to describe that part of it – “grandfathering in” is exactly the right phrase. Put simply – they get away with preaching (and doing, for that matter) a lot of shit that used to be fine and dandy, but no longer applies.

    • Eugene says:

      Yep, the internet, and the blogosphere, is changing rapidly to say the least. Just preaching the same stuff that worked when they first got started (i.e. a decade ago!) doesn’t really hold up any more.

      When there’s 10 big bloggers online, it’s easy to grow and get noticed. When there’s a ton of new blogs launching each day, on the other hand, things get a bit more difficult.

  4. This line grabbed me by the collar, Eugene …

    ” … do as they do, not as they say”

    BINGO!! For the longest time I’ve felt the suspicion, if you will, that what goes on “behind the scenes” is a whole other Oprah versus what we see in the storefront window. I’m an intuitive kind of gal and, to date, my gut has never lied to me.

    It seems a lot of A-List blogs rely heavily on guest posts. Maybe that’s a good thing. At least some lesser-known bloggers can get some eyes on their awesomeness. Just not sure how simple or smooth a process it is to be selected. And now that I’ve said that, I’m getting a queasy feeling in my stomach. Hopefully they don’t show “preferential” treatment in their selection of guest posters based on some unsavory practice.

    Maybe I worry too much. Or maybe my B.S. Meter’s signals are scrambled. 😉

    Super post!

    • Eugene says:

      Thanks Melanie.

      I think guest posting is an incredible way to get your business noticed. Like Buffer App, for example. They saw huge growth based on spreading content.

      But the hard part definitely lies in actually getting selected and published.

      I guess the Buffer guys started with MyBlogGuest, and then grew from there.

      But if you want faster growth, you pretty much have to buy the big guys’ products and coaching programs to get access to them.

      That’s where the real value of those programs lie. It’s not in the information itself, but in granted access (and higher likelihood of them giving up space on their blog for a guest post from you).

  5. Eugene – spot on.

    The problem becomes: how do you grow an audience organically from scratch?

    It’s certainly possible. A-Listers provide all sorts of tips and tricks that worked for them (either because it was so early on in the process that nobody can catch up or because they had help, really good SEO, money to throw at it, or incredible luck combined with an incredible product).

    Every n00b wants more traffic. Everyone wants to grow their list. But they don’t know how and a lot of us get stuck in the cycle of, “Oh, I have a tiny-ass audience and don’t know what to do next and I’m not getting engagement, so – I’d better sign up for this webinar/course/ebook”.

    I think education of the marketplace is going to have to occur before any of the true snake-oil salespeople are uprooted. Short of that, folks will just keep watching webinars and buying ebooks and so on – and then never implementing the tips that actually work.

    • Eugene says:

      I think part of the problem is what you said in the end. Some of the stuff being sold actually does work. Unfortunately there’s SO MUCH information out there that people just collect it, and collect it, and collect it, and never actually act on it.

      And while a lot of what A-listers say doesn’t necessarily work for the new guy, we can still use A-lisers to our advantage (which is what I tried to do, with pretty good success, when I launched

      People really need to start acting and experimenting on their own to see what works and what doesn’t. And just because something works for one person, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work across the board.

  6. Nicole Fende says:

    Eugene thank you for bringing up the Grandfathered In point. I’ve often thought that, and wondered why others didn’t comment about it. Sometimes you really are in the right place at the right time.

    • Eugene says:

      Yep, it’s funny when people write about getting in touch with influencers when half of the influencers get in touch with each other simply because they were one of ten or twenty people that were around from the beginning :).

      Just because you bought stock in Google when it was first released, doesn’t necessarily make you qualified to give investment advice.

  7. Of the biggest, most popular blogs, Facebook Pages, YouTube accounts, Twitter accounts, etc – almost all of them are owned by celebrities, corporations, or those who got 1) really lucky, 2) have been on the platform for many many years, or 3) promoted by a famous friend.

    This isn’t something to get bitter about, but it’s important to understand how the game works.

    Every bit of advice must be consumed with a grain of salt, even that coming from non-A-listers. People will always feel a pull to give you unsolicited advice; in the case of A-Listers, it’s because they may have the best of intentions and the success to back it up. Even so, your business situation is unique and as with anything, your mileage may vary.

    Thanks Eugene!

    • Love this line, Nick! …
      “… your business situation is unique and as with anything, your mileage may vary.”

      Everything about us is “unique” — our backgrounds, our skills set, our knowledge base, our personalities, etc., etc. So, you’re right on the money! “Every bit of advice must be consumed with a grain of salt” :)

    • Eugene says:

      Glad you commented twice because you just gave me an idea for a new blog post :).

      My girlfriend is a dietitian. She often gets really annoyed because when people find out what she does they instantly ask her for a diet.

      But how can she do that? She doesn’t know the person…they just met! And there is no one-size-fits-all solution (although people love to think hat there is).

      So she gets annoyed because, as she says…

      Business consultants get to ask questions first, doctors get to ask questions first, why do people assume I can just give them an answer without an examination.

      The problem is, that even in business, people want the solution without diagnosing the problems first.

      Well…that pretty much sums up the blog post I guess :). Just have to meat it out.

  8. Michelle says:

    I think the grandfathering in thing is an important point, fo’sho. I also feel like people so often forget about this: “Don’t just follow advice blindly. Think about how it’s going to effect your bottom line – because that’s really what matters.” Going off of someone elses’ metrics can be useless – for example, I almost never get blog comments on my video review posts, so I assumed that most of my readers didn’t really like them and considered stopping doing them. But when I surveyed my readers, I got NOTHING but awesome feedback about the review posts. Go figure! I see this a lot with the social media stuff too – I don’t think social media is useless, but I cringe when a client tells me that they want to increase their Facebook presence, because someone else told them to. A bigger following on Facebook does NOT necessarily automatically equal more sales (and then, when they change something up as they recently did, you might kick yourself for focusing so much on them instead of something else).

    • Eugene says:

      One word: AWESOME

      I’ve written blog posts about ignoring social media, and about blog comments. Both might make you feel good, but do they really affect your bottom line?

      I used to do a lot to increase comment counts, for example. Then it dawned on me…why? Because some “A-lister” said it’s important?

      The new blog over at barely gets any comments. And yet the list is larger, and the money is better. I’ll take a paycheck over a blog comment most days of the week :).

  9. Carol Lynn says:

    I see that the one thing I wanted to comment on is the one thing that most people resonated with too, and that’s the “grandfathered” part. It’s a point I couldn’t put my finger on until you said it out loud. Blogging IS pretty new and some of these “famous” people have just been around that long. You’re so right about things working for them not necessarily working for us. I think even within the past couple of years blogging has totally exploded as everyone gets into this “content marketing” thing and Google keeps pushing content. There’s so much content out there, good luck getting noticed! I attended a webinar once, not naming any names, of someone who said you should put a signup box on your blog before you launched it – and build this giant list based on anticipation. Is he nuts? Who the hell is going to anticipate “my nobody’s blog”?? Yeah, that might have worked when it was way cool to find a blog. it may even work once you’re already famous and people will hang on everything you say and do. But can you imagine putting a blank page with a signup box? Ha!!!

  10. SandyMc says:

    The overall feeling I’ve experienced reading and absorbing this series of carnival posts on a-listers, is relief.

    A validation of being able to get on with doing what we do well without feeling compelled to invest in yet another set of advice, most likely to sit on our desktop taunting us with a sense of what hasn’t been done yet.

    Or better, spend the time reading awesome posts from people who are actually extremely good at what they do and have some really valuable advise to pass on.

    Eugene, I first read a post of yours about a year ago, commented then and I believe passed on your info to Tea. Now here’s the thing, I might not be an active visitor to your site, but I’m part of your wider online ‘clan’.

    What this describes to me is a much better way of doing business than the a-lister formula which has been so well covered in this series of posts. When you’re touched by authenticity, you’re more likely to advocate. We can’t tell in advance what’ll come out of advocacy, but it often results in really good business.

    Which is why there should be less emphasis on gathering clusters of folk and more on building community.

  11. Anderson says:

    Yeah, it seems so weird that so many A listers do not do what they preach but they’ve just been around long enough to be respected and grandfathered in.

  12. Shaleen Shah says:

    Mind rebel? I love reading posts that challenge the norms and it’s quite brave of you to do so. I think that many of these A-listers had their luck because they were at the right time and place. Now, for the ideas they share.. I guess, these are old ideas, but they harnessed the power of story-telling to make it work for them. I bet, something was called some boring term – before Seth Godin turned it into his signature ‘purple cow’ and made the term stick to his personal brand. Just my two cents.

  13. Bryan says:

    We may have the same products or services but we are unique in every way. I just hope we have the same goal as to better the community.