Millions of people start a blog every year. Conversely, many blogs die every year from lack of updates, lack of interest, not having original content, copying/stealing of content from fellow bloggers or copyright violation etc. Those that stand above the others stand far above the others.
Have you ever visited a blog and wondered how they got 100,000 RSS subscribers or 200,000 Twitter followers? Well, the most essential and basic ingredients behind any successful blog is Focus, Passion, and Originality. This post looks critically at some of the most successful blogs and identifies some common traits. This is a subjective list of traits that seem to be shared among successful and highly-trafficked blogs. None of these traits guarantee blog success, but rather are a set of common variables among the top blogs on the internet.
You may be interested in the following related articles as well.
Feel free to join us and you are always welcome to share your thoughts that our readers may find helpful.
A number of blogs were examined for common traits in design, function, layout, content type, content format, colors, feel, ad placement, pagerank, technorati authority and traffic. If commonalities or similarities were noticed, they were listed here. Results have been broken into the basic areas of Content and Design.
20 of the top blogs were examined in the areas listed above. These blogs were identified as being the top performers in the blogosphere as claimed by Technorati. The sample included these and many more blogs: Mashable, HuffingtonPost, Gizmodo, BoingBoing, TechCrunch, SmashingMagazine, InstantShift, and dozens more.
Although being a successful blogger and having a popular blog is not an easy task, it’s not the one that should frighten you. Infect, before asking yourself if you can be one or not, take a moment or two to think about what you do and how you do it, and see how many characteristics you can improve from the following points.
Useful or helpful posts attract visitors and encourage multiple visits. The most popular blogs don’t just state the obvious or repeat another site’s content. I read blog posts backwards. Well, kind of. I read the comments first because they tell me how other people find the article either helpful or not.
So what is helpful content? Posts that tell someone how do something that is tricky; tutorial posts; handy workarounds; shortcuts, tools, resources, etc. These posts attract recurring traffic and encourage social media sharing.
Nobody likes a copycat. Your content should be your own unless you have permission to use someone elses. Original does not just mean paraphrasing or restating content you found on another post.
Original content also means you cover topics that have not been covered before. Sometimes this means covering topics that have been poorly or minimally covered in the past.
Things change, so revamping older articles is fine too. As new websites become available, creating a second “roundup” post like this one can also be completely original.
List posts are becoming more and more frequent. These lists often look like “50 of the best WordPress plugins” or “10 of the best simple templates”.
The size of lists are increasing steadily, but here is a list of great list posts :
As you can see, these posts are informative, timely and relevant to the topic of the blog. They present an introduction to the topic, and then identify legitimate resources with current links. They also include accurate descriptions of the resource, screenshots when possible and additional important information like download links and a disclosure if registration is required.
There is much debate about whether it is better to post daily or on a regular schedule of days. Successful blogs that were examined tend to post daily. This may be because successful blogs tend to have the resources to post daily.
As a beginning blog, it is ok to not post daily, but readers should know when to expect new content. At the very least, readers should know that there will be new content consistently. (If there isn’t, why would they bother coming back?)
Here are some more discussions on the frequency of posting :
What you won’t see on successful blogs is claims like “Your source for…” or “The top resource for…” Successful blogs know they’re successful and don’t need to flaunt it.
Put time into the content and visitors will follow. Don’t try to sell big, flashy advertisements until you have the readership to back it up. Develop strong relationships with other bloggers and authorities on the subject (don’t harrass them or comment spam their posts).
You know your blog is successful when readers are inspired by your posts. If your blog is about web development, your readers should be inspired to try that new technique you’re writing about. If your blog is about graphic design, readers should feel the urge to try that new dropshadow you’re talking about.
So why be inspiring with your posts? There are several reasons including :
Social networking is everything these days. Look below every post on successful blogs, you’ll see some reference to sharing content using your favorite networking tool. You will also see some sort of sticky set of links to share content.
You want this to be an easy tool for readers to use. Notice the trend: small blogs don’t pay much attention to social bookmarking, medium-sized blogs pay HUGE amounts of attention to this (big flashy buttons) and large blogs pay a bit less attention because their readers purposely look for these tools.
Almost all popular blogs have some sort of guest-blogging policy. This author has written for some of the biggest blogs in the blogosphere like Mashable, InstantShift and Smashing Magazine.
This is a great thing to do for aspiring bloggers as well as well-known bloggers. It is a nice thing to do and gives you some (usually) great content. You can be as picky as you want and choose from a number of proposed topics. It also keeps the content a little fresher by inserting a new perspective, new language and a different style.
Here are five big blog’s guest-writing pages :
If you are serious about your blog design then there is a lot of information out there about various interfaces, design techniques and patterns you can follow when crafting your user interfaces and blogs, solutions to common problems and general usability recommendations. It should be necessary that you have all the elements of a great blog design which can ensure that readers will enjoy the content and not get disturbed with the flow of presentation.
Successful blogs rope the reader in to their articles first, and then redirect them to other posts. This is cleverly done through sliders and “related posts” windows.
You’ll see a lot of “if you liked this post, you may like …” kind of links. These are not just for your convenience. They increase time on the site, increase conversions (email signups, etc.), decrease bounce rate, and increase the likelihood of social bookmarking.
Popular blogs are easy to find and easy to navigate. You’ll see navigation menus commonly along the top of the page with categories along the right side. This is for a reason.
When a blog gets popular, you find it. This happens for two reasons: a) they have lots of content to find through search engines and b) the search engines give them lots of credit which ups their position on search results. Once the reader is at the blog, it is important to help them navigate it.
Categories should be clearly identified and easy to get to. Don’t make readers click multiple times to get to their goal whenever possible. Static pages (about, contact, etc.) should also be easy to get to from both the top and the bottom of the site. Don’t forget to cross-promote content from the bottom of the page as well as that’s where readers end up.
At the top of every successful blog is a way to subscribe to updates either through RSS or email newsletter programs.
You spend tons of time researching content, you spend tons of time pulling it all together and creating a coherant, helpful article. The traffic comes and your blog is becoming popular. Now that this pretty picture is painted, imagine this: your bounce rate is 100%. (Bounce rate is the percent of visitors who visit your site once, and never come back)
Why would this be? Because there are no conversion tools on your site. You haven’t included options for readers to subscribe to updates either through RSS or email. This is a MUST DO to retain visitors you work so hard to get.
Here are some options for your blog
Also, this post at Copyblogger is a great intro to the topic of conversions.
Successful blogs don’t use that free WordPress theme everyone else has. They have an original, branded and beautiful design. Readers should be able to recognize your blog by the colors and shapes alone. Although popular blogs have the resources to commission unique designs, there are lots of ways to make your blog stand out for less.
Use a free or premium theme that has the features and layout you need. Important features are different for each blog but typically include easy category navigation, social media integration and aesthetically pleasing typography and formatting.
After you choose the foundation, customize it to be your own. Either do the work yourself if graphically skilled. Or you can hire someone to do some basic customizations that will have a dramatic impact on your site. Commission a custom background, header images, logo, etc.
You can also make small changes like new icons, widget header graphics, etc. by hiring a pro from GraphicRiver.net.
It should be easy to identify how your blog is organized. Your categories and tags are prominently placed and the taxonomy of your content is obvious to the reader immediately. For example, your categories should not be “web design, graphic design, SEO and discount dog collars”.
Sub Categories should be easily found using some sort of indicator like an arrow facing down or a “…” or “more” link.
Also identify your categories as such. Many blogs utilize categories, sub-categories, tags, pages, etc. These can all be confusing to the reader unless you identify them.
Successful blogs focus on what they know. As described above, categories are related and appropriate.
This means your blog is both organized well and incredibly focused. You started the blog because you are passionate about the subject. Find out what excites you most and focus on that. If your blog is about WordPress, consider focusing primarily on WordPress themes.
What you seen so far is quite a challenge. What, besides the obvious, do successful blogs have in common? We know that we’re also not 100% certain. But at least we can get the idea started. Maybe you can help. What are we missing? As while compiling this list, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great resources. Feel free to share it with us.