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Blog Exercises: The Secret Sauce

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.In “Letters to Laurali” on Laurali Star Diaries, author Larauli responded to her first “letter to the editor” on her site. The request was from a fellow blogger asking for help blogging. Blogging has changed her, she admits. Laurali has soared, stretching her wings with glory and radiating in the new connections she is building online. The tips she shares in response to the email are for all of us.

In summary they are:

  • Follow and be followed.
  • Publishing consistently on a schedule.
  • Make mistakes. Blogging is an art form.
  • Comment well for the conversation.
  • Blog about at least three topics and spice things up once in a while.
  • Pictures are like magnets.
  • Enjoy the journey.

These are excellent tips. I’d like to add one more before I hand out today’s blog exercise.

The Secret Sauce

When I traveled around the world as a keynote speaker and workshop leader for the new world of WordPress, blogging, and social media, I asked my audiences to answer the question “What makes you not trust a website?” The consensus was “You know it when you see it.” It’s a gut reaction. An instinct. While there were characteristics most spammy sites had in common, if the same elements were presented differently, more professionally, the visitor still knew in their heart that this was a site that couldn’t be trusted.

The secret sauce in the recipe for a successful blog is the same. You know it when you see it.

If I were to spell it out, I’d probably say it was the blogger’s personality shining through the virtual pages. Their compassion for the reader. Their faith in the reader, their trust. Most of all, the blogger’s trust for the reader to join them on the journey. It’s respect.

Is it the words? The images? The website design? I’ve seen sites with words only, no graphics, all graphics and visuals and few words, and crappy designs, and they still attract a loyal and passionate following. Sites with the exact same design and content elements fail. Why do others succeed?

Is it the link recommendations? The advice? The tips and techniques they offer? What is it that keeps people coming back for more? And telling their friends all about the site?

That’s the secret sauce.

For me, it’s the personality and character behind the site. Their energy, determination, and commitment to the readers is so clear and passionate, their energy is a giant magnet, attracting like minds and voices.

The secret sauce is what builds a community around a website, a party or conference table in the clouds.

I believe it is something you have within you naturally. Some people just got “it.” I also believe it can be learned, only if the blogger has the passion and commitment for their subject matter and the reader’s enthusiasm for it.

They say that you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. I say you can if you bring other thirsty horses to the water and he sees them drinking. He’ll want some of that, too. That’s the secret sauce.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to determine what your secret sauce is for the success of your site.

Check in with yourself. Is what you blog about boring to you? Do you find it starting to be a struggle to get to the computer and find something to share?

Are you turning to videos and unoriginal content to share with readers more than your thoughts and expertise just to have something to share?

Are you thinking more about yourself and your needs on the site than the needs of your readers? Ask yourself how committed you are not just to the process but to the interaction.

How does your energy, your passion, connect with readers? Do you organically attract like-minds to your site, have fascinating dialogs and feel encouraged by their support and attention? Do you feel the connection?

Inside the 22nd Street Station Cafe in Forest Grove with trains and airplanes hanging from the ceiling and transportation pictures along the wall - photo by Lorelle VanFossen.

Cindy owns the 22nd Street Station Cafe in Forest Grove, Oregon. Every Monday finds myself and a group of friends having brunch there. Cindy is the most passionate waitress and restaurant owner I’ve ever met, and I’ve met many. A grandmother, you would never know it! She works long hours and never rests. She is in constant motion, yet takes a moment to make everyone that enters the colorful cafe feel like they are the only ones in the room. She doesn’t hand you a check. She remembers everything you ordered when you go to pay. Don’t have enough money, pay her next time. Pay her too much, she’ll credit you on your next visit, nothing written down, just trust and respect for her customers.

I asked for some fish one day and they were out. She promised there would be fresh fish the next Monday. Not only was there fresh fish, it was baked perfectly to my specifications by the cook. I raced in the kitchen to give him a big hug – it was that kind of a miracle meal. Between the two of them, they do all the work in the cafe from food orders to clean up. It is that kind of special attention to details and the needs of her customers that keeps the place packed every week.

There are restaurants all over the area, but I keep coming back with my friends to the 22nd Street Station Cafe because of Cindy. She makes me feel like family, something I need right now. Her compassion and passion infect all of us. We walk out the door satiated in body and spirit. She doesn’t “do” anything special. She is just her, and we love her for that. She makes you want to come back for more.

That’s the secret sauce that is hard to define. Can you define it for yourself with your site?

What keeps your readers coming back for more?

Blog about this, remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.


  1. Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    Amazing! Once again you made me fall in love with your writing and your enthusiasm for the subject. I absolutely loved this post! I also wanted to say thank you so much for featuring my blog and tips 🙂 You have truly made my day! I am feeling more motivated then ever to make it clear in my blog what my special sauce is. I’m going to be doing the exercise, as I am considering the structure of my content over the weekend. Reading this has created a spark of excitement within me for blogging and I can’t wait to put all of the practical tips to good use.

    I loved the story of the waitress and how she interacts with the cook to make great food and service for the customers. It really does show how the blogger and the reader can interact together to create that special something. It seems as though it’s a little bit of both give and take. For a really great blog, you can’t have one without the other. Thank you again for re-instilling a new commitment to my blog and readers. I’m really excited to see how my little project turns out! 🙂


    Laurali Star

  2. Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    I also wanted to add that I never quite thought about it that way but you’re right when you say say that you have to have that something special. It’s like this invisible connection that you feel between yourself and the community. There has to be flow. I’ve had other blogs before on different platforms and while readers had some excitement for some subjects that I shared, I never had a real community. It was the occasional straggler here and there. I believe that part of it is that special sauce that you’re speaking of. It’s having all of the right ingredients to make the recipe perfect 🙂

    Again, I’m loving your description of it and now that I’ve got the sauce tasting good, I can work on making it into amazing 🙂


    Laurali Star

  3. Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering if this charming Cindy keeps the same menu?

    Would you trust Cindy to offer Sweet and Sour pork, Kung Pao chicken, or a bit of teriyaki salmon? Because you trust her, her fish is freshly caught in the morning (and her trousers are still wet with sea water), she gutted the fish in front of you, and the fish is always baked to meet royal specifications (no msg, squeezes of lemon, some dill, tarragon, not over-cook…), and what if one day Cindy decides to go off a bit and try out new exotic oriental flavours? Would Cindy still be Cindy? Would you still be Cindy’s loyal fan at the 22nd Street Station Cafe in Forest Grove, Oregon?

    p/s: Not a good idea to hug a chef in the kitchen. It doesn’t agree with the Health and Safety regulations here.

    Have a lovely weekend!

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] « Blog Exercises: The Secret Sauce […]

  2. […] 5) Lorelle has a special friend called Cindy, who owns 22nd Street Station Cafe in Forest Grove, Oregon. Cindy has got The Secret Sauce. […]

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