What do all great blogs have in common? We wondered about that too. But we didn’t want to create another boring checklist like all the ones already out there.
Have blog. Need success factors. Yada yada. Wait, don’t go. We actually did some heavy digging and probing on this one and gathered up some unique and surprising insights. So get back here.
That being said, if you’re already doing all 7 success factors, here’s your virtual and completely germ free fist bump. Be on your way, Gary Vaynerchuk. You, sir, have f-bomb filled marketing genius to shout at the Social Media masses.
You know the social media people we’re talking about right? They’re the ones eating dinner with their smartphones… with symptoms of C3 disc inflammation in their neck… chin impressions in their upper chest… and an unrelenting insistence that their 2015 bottle of merlot was chosen for its aromatics. Ya, ok then.
We know you’re not Gary V. In fact, you’re a flesh and blood mortal in the blogging world. We know. We saw the valet park your Toyota Camry. So, please read on.
Let’s talk about what our 12 successful feature blogs have in common.
Passion, lol. Yes, sure, you need that. Insert narcoleptic event here. Someone get the smelling salts fast. Really… just forget the abstract stuff.
Let’s get into specific factors you can actually add to your blog to make it more successful. First, here are the 12 blogs we think earned the right to have their success factors broken down and stolen! Or “adopted” in case you’re reluctant to use ethically-challenged metaphors.
Here’s the 12 successful blogs that do it right.
We’re harvesting our success factors from some of our favs in the “blogs for bloggers” niche.
- Boost Blog Traffic
- The Marketing Profs
- Content Marketing Institute
- Blog Herald
- Jeff Bulas aka “The Headline King”
- Search Engine Land
- Seth Godin
- Daily Blog Tips
- Gary Vaynerchuk
So your favorite blog isn’t in the list? Slow down, we’ll explain our picks:
Of course we Googled it and found a couple trillion results. But we didn’t want to just grab the ones with the best Alexa rank and be done with it. Instead we zoomed in on niche blogs and let our own bias guide us. We made sure lots of our favs made the cut! It was bound to happen.
Even with niche stuff, Google spewed back way too many results. It was hard to find a focus that was substantial, but not overwhelming. Who does innovative blogging stuff but still keeps a down-to-earth writing style? That’s what we want.
After a few hours having an “editorial meeting” at the patio (wink, wink)… the coffee, pizza and suspected other substances by at least one team member… led us to an aha moment. [ Editor’s note: substitute “duh” moment for “aha” for reasons of ego ]
We went with the niche we know best. Blogs about blogging.
Between all of our AdNgin team members (both of clear mind and “We were on the patio!” fogginess), we checked out just about every blog for bloggers worth reading.
It was a lot of work. Even our cuddle partners at home got upset with the incessant glow of our iPads. It was only 2 am – that’s early right?
Our final decision was to get focused and stick to what we know best. We’ll start by giving you the key highlights on each of our top 12 selected blogs on blogging.
But then we’ll give you your checklist of 7 success factors that are a part of their shared DNA.
If you’re pressed for time, just got yelled at to pass the salad, are running out of battery… or just don’t care about our feelings… you can speed things up by skipping ahead to the section titled “7 Common Blog Success Factors to Steal”. Just scroll down below a bit, and we’ll let you get away it, but just this one time.
Otherwise, top up your glass of 2015 merlot boxed wine, find a patio somewhere, and read this in-the-middle stuff too!
What Stands Out About our Top 12 Blogs? AKA The Killers.
Quicksprout is the brain trust of serial entrepreneur Neil Patel, a hit maker who isn’t afraid to tell you as much. When it comes to infopreneurs, Patel has the others beat hands down. You can’t create multiple advanced analytics startups like CrazyEgg or Kissmetrics and not know your stuff! That leads to not only actionable strategy info, but strategy based on someone with an analytics or data-based understanding of how the entire Web works. Neil is a metrics guy. And that makes him instantly popular with our AdNgin team.
Darren Rouse lives up to his blog name, focusing on blogging strategy and monetization. Beyond his blog he parlays his expertise into ebooks, published books, podcasts, and speaking engagements. He’s a bit akin to a Gary Vaynerchuk with a more intent niche focus on the blogging world, and much less hair.
The CoSchedule team is in the business of content marketing and social media scheduling. Their software assists more than 10,000 bloggers and social media marketers. Their blog is a great “How To” command center that covers blog strategy, content marketing, and SEO. The tips here are highly influenced by a process oriented team. That’s a winning recipe for great info.
Boost Blog Traffic
You don’t get more specific in focus than the title name of this blog: Boost Blog Traffic. But this is less about techy SEO jargon and more about content marketing and writing strategy. Read over their headlines and you’ll instantly see a demonstration of how they leverage the power of words for traffic, clickthroughs, and social shares.
The Marketing Profs
The Marketing Profs has a more academic-feeling approach. They built up a significant library of data focused case studies, host conferences and events, and online marketing seminars. Much of their content is derived directly from their own research. And it’s solid stuff.
Content Marketing Institute
Another authoritatively structured blog, the Content Marketing Institute leverages their blog to promote their events, magazine, and consulting services. They frequently recruit expert authors to bring a diverse but highly authoritative perspective on the topics they cover. With “Institute” in the name, how could they not?
For a blog that is named similar to a news site, The Blog Herald’s writing style is more akin to a niche magazine. Expect easily digestible reading with best practises and enlightening topics on blogging, content marketing, and monetization.
Jeff Bulas aka “The Headline King”
More in keeping with the over the top superstars like Gary V and Darren Rouse, Jeff Bullas’ self branded site is a value rich blog for one of the web’s top content marketers and influencers. And he’s smart enough to remind you of his accolades on the about page. We think of him as the headline king, because we can’t stop clicking on his listicle style blog post headlines! However, it’s not just the headlines. He knows his stuff. By stuff we mean blogging expertise. What stuff were you thinking?
Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land started out with an SEO specialty as you might have guessed. However, it’s been around – and a very big deal – longer than the iPhone. So it’s had time to evolve into every insider viewpoint on how to get traffic, period. There’s still a big focus on search specific content, but you’ll find the full gamut of online marketing strategy covered here. It’s not a theme park, but you will find yourself wandering around it for hours.
One of the most distinguished brains (and smooth craniums) in all of online marketing, Godin’s style gives us something different from all of our other favs. His posts are quick reads that give you an initial spark causing you to think more deeply about and draw on your own experience with each of the topics he shares. He leaves you feeling smarter after just a few paragraphs – letting you usurp some of his instinctive philosophical observations on the digital world. He’s Gary V’s grandfather. Not really, but we do think they fit the Plato (minus the wrestling ability) / Aristotle model.
Daily Blog Tips
Don’t you just love a blog that you can add “Get” to the front if its title and you have a compelling niche call to action? We do. Don’t let the “daily” bit fool you. The articles are comprehensive and well structured. We love this as our daily excuse to learn something valuable and enhance our own skills! We missed reading it last Wednesday and it rained. Coincidence? We’re not so sure. So keeping reading unless you’re in the dry season!
We didn’t demote Gary here today by forcing him to the bottom of the list – at #12. We’ve saved the best for last. And when we say “best for last”, we mean: We expect you to tweet a link to this post, @Gary. Salud!
For people in the online marketing and social media world, Gary V is probably one of the most well known and passionate personalities you’ll encounter. He crushes it! That’s turned him into a media magnet, both with his trips to frequent TV news roundtables and his successful consulting business. He also won’t be fooled by anyone that claims their 2015 merlot was selected for the aromatics – though he could probably sell it for double price using that same pitch. He proved his genius by turning his family wine store in a multiple million dollar business by becoming an early adopter of *all* social media marketing technology. He’s a prolific, hyperactive, attention grabbing, workaholic, video blogger. And he may be the most engaged personality on the Web today.
Now there’s your dozen killers introduced. Let’s get into the stuff we want you to steal from their blogs.
7 Common Blog Success Factors to Steal
- Design for objectives
- User experience for users not bots
- Social sharing leverage
- Headline mojo
- The guest blogging advantage
- publishing frequency
- Frontman strategy
Did you skip ahead to here, or did you read our tribute intros to each of our 12 favorite blogs? If you read them, you should know:
There are specific commonalities that have lead to their success. You don’t have to be ahead of your time if you start leveraging these 7 factors into your blogging.
#1 Design for Objectives
Among our top 12, you’ll find several examples of very different designs. Compare Gary Vaynerchuk’s highly visual, graphically bold design to Godin’s sparse, all about content, template.
However, design for aesthetics is often a factor but still somewhat of a secondary influence. Seth’s blog is visually compatible with Netscape, circa 1995, but so well written.
Design for objectives has to be a top priority when you actually have objectives. You do, don’t you? Ad clicks, sign ups, sales… that sort of thing? Here are some of the key decisions for design when it comes to conversions.
Though this is a pervasive blog strategy, you should understand the benefits. Only 1 of our 12 violates the rule. That’s you Mr. Bullas! Godin’s entries are so short, the full text is not unlike a summary, so he’s an in-between.
By giving a quick text summary along with your headline (or a feature image), you can get more visual coverage of your topics on the homepage or category page. If your visitor doesn’t arrive on a specific entry, you don’t know which entry will likely get their attention. Blog summaries ensure that they can quickly scan and find something to grab their attention before leaving.
Call to Action
Each of our 12 is a business blog. They are not out to win pulitzers even if their writing is great. So they don’t operate with an artist’s uncompromising need to focus on the work itself. Instead they refuse to miss an opportunity to get conversions. Many of our favorite 12 have related products to sell and they actively promote them. You can’t setup a blog to help get you leads, and then be afraid to get the leads! Break out the call to action on every page. But don’t forget to test it! You’re not rainman. You’ll need stats.
Not all content is created equal. Some posts are deadline focused when the author is hungry from missing lunch, and some are works of inspiration. The ones written the day after your 10 year high school reunion generally don’t make it out of draft mode. You get the idea.
Our top 12 blogs aren’t shy about promoting their best content. Some of it is automatic using “popular” post features native to most blog platforms. But take a look at how the Blog Herald, Gary V, and Search Engine Land all punch it up using graphics to funnel their visitors to their top content.
Let’s say you have one post that keeps converting for you. Isn’t it a no brainer to try to channel your visitors into that page? There is such a thing as a wrong answer for this one!
Generous Ad Placement
There is no definitive number of ads or specific placement for any blog. Did you know that at AdNgin our entire existence is based on our methods of making those kinds of optimal determinations to max out your ad revenue?
There isn’t a single example in our top 12 that are shy about ad placement. They inject them into highly valuable page real estate. It doesn’t matter if it’s an actual CPC ad network placement or a conversion to one of their own products/services. They make sure their bottom line is addressed. Even the most conservative of the 12 (Godin) still showcases his top books.
#2 User Experience for Users!
How many white backgrounds do you count? Yes, that’s right. 12. It’s not about a fascination for bleakness. It’s just one of the user experience (UX) factors that they share.
Blogs are focused on their content. So it should come as no surprise that our top 12 (among other top blogs in any niche) think it’s important. And they aim to optimize readability. Though we might think it would be cool to just upload a picture of some handwritten notes, it doesn’t make for readability and good user experience now does it? So scrap that idea now.
What do our top 12 blogs do in terms of readability to improve the user experience?
Clearly expressed, moderately informal, writing style in a more conversational tone. Crisp sentences, and shorter blog paragraphs on average.
- Content organization by structuring things into sub-headlines and bullet point segments. The longer the topic, the more vital this is to the readability.
- Consistent use of support graphics. We are not much interested in books that lack cover pages, are we? And in the blog world, who wants to read content devoid of some supporting graphics to keep our interest levels high?
- Headlines. Can you find one of our 12 that isn’t tweaking their headlines for best results? We can’t. Just look at the number of entries with tips, how tos, listicles, and guides. There is a reason. They are effective.
- Centered content of fixed width. Only Gary V takes the sprawling Pinterest style approach that consumes the entire browser window. His graphics-heavy approach is more fitting with that style. For the other 11, they are focused on the content readability, and the fixed column width for the text display continues to be the best configuration for most readers.
#3 Social Sharing Leverage
Google isn’t the only source of traffic in town. If you disgree, we’re taking away the virtual fistbump we offered you earlier. Because you’re at least 30 dog years behind on social media strategy!
The top social networks are some of your best channels. Without them, you can forget about the idea of going viral. Each of our 12 featured blogs gives recognition to the importance of social media sharing in two ways:
- promoting their social media channels directly, and
- making it easy to share their blog post to yours.
When you visit the top 12, you’ll see them focused on a varying number of the top social networks. They include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, sometimes Pinterest, and… out of SEO concern or sympathy… Google Plus.
We’re not convinced they have always placed them optimally, but that’s something that can be tested on your blog. The key is that it would be foolhardy to ignore the source of traffic you can gain by making it easier to get your content shared into the big networks. Make it easy for people to share.
#4 Headline Mojo
Love it or hate it, you’re in a time of listicles. To an extent, the artistry of writing is taking a back seat to the efficiency of information. News sites like Vox are now creating content formatted in a way that will force all major media enterprises to follow suit.
Quick question: How many of you tried clicking the sample links on the right? Admit it!
Our top 12 blogs know the importance of the headline. Not only is it obvious that it creates clickthroughs, but it has a direct relationship with factor #3: social sharing.
Good headlines work because they make their value apparent, and they are both aware and respectful of the fleeting nature of the Internet, and the feverish competition.
If you don’t capture their attention, there are a million (and then some) other sites that will. You’re competing with cartoons, and youtube, Facebook and Twitter… not to mention your own niche competitors. There’s a very deep rabbit hole filled with competitors and various distractions.
If you don’t have strong headlines, you’re done for. That’s why our top 12 don’t make the mistake of making them an afterthought. Don’t create a great post and kill it with your weak headline.
The reality is that creating a great title is very complex. A listicle format or using some persuasive power words is the easiest way to improve them. Of course, there are successful headlines that are not listicles, but they have to be out of the ordinary.
At minimum, it has to immediately make the reader believe there is something here they need to check out. Convince them that it’s something they can’t easily find a better version of somewhere else.
#5 The Guest Blogging Advantage
If you’re a blogger, you know that creating a great post takes research, writing, and editing time to get right. So all other reasons aside for now, recruiting guest bloggers helps ensure you keep high quality content consistently shared to your readers – without burning out and running into writer’s block.
Godin continues to be a bit of an outlier in our top 12. It’s very unlikely you’re ever going to find a guest blogger on his site. But he does use teachable moments from others to create conversations.
For the most of the rest of our top 12 blogs, they do leverage guest bloggers to keep up with their publishing schedule. It helps ensure there is always a supply of fresh, new, valuable content.
The more the brand is about the individual, the less guest blogging activity (generally speaking) you might expect to see. Gary V, Seth Godin, Neil Patel (Quicksprout), and Jeff Bullas are instinctively going to create a lot of their own material. The rest of our prolific publishers take greater advantage of sharing the expertise of specially invited guest bloggers.
#6 Publishing Rate
Publishing rate varies based on approach. Godin can publish daily because his blog posts are shorter in length, more thoughtful and less analytically focused. So there are tradeoffs.
More comprehensive blog posts take more time to do a high quality job. It’s not feasible to turn them out on a daily basis with only one author. If you see a blog pushing out high frequency, in depth content, you are going to see that they are leveraging factor #5 above: the guest blogging advantage. For teams like those at MarketingProfs, they actually manage to publish new content multiple times per day. Well done team!
You have to keep in mind that blog posts may be consumed by regular visitors who anticipate new content. However, for the most part, they should also be considered evergreen. Content created this week may get a bunch of interest from your readers.
However, it can also offer value for years to readers who find you by search – as long as the information remains relevant. By example, we don’t see any time in the near future that most of the success factors we talk about today will cease being relevant to great bloggers.
At AdNgin, our own focus is quite specific and we’re a relatively small team. So we tend to stick with a general once per week rule on publishing to our blog. This lets us balance digging into each topic in enough detail to provide excellent takeaways for you, but not to the point of disrupting our other activities. For us, our blog is another way to reach out to our readers and customers and provide them with, hopefully, valuable content.
#7 Frontman Strategy
If you made it to factor #7, then you’re already familiar with several names that have gotten lots of mentions up to this point. That’s because their brand is largely synonymous with their own name – and most cases directly so. We’re not going to read into the fact that there are 3 bald heads and two receding hairlines featured above. But it could be from these guys thinking too intently.
This is the frontman or frontwoman strategy. They enhance the authority and even charisma of their content by positioning themselves as blogger celebrities. And it’s not just positioning. Many of them are best selling authors, highly successful startup founders, speakers, and people that just know how to create aha moments for us with their writing.
If you’re a part of some of the startup, social media, or blogging related niches, we’re doubtful this is the first time you’ve heard reference to Neil Patel, Darren Rouse, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, or Jeff Bullas. These 5 are clearly highly successful frontmen.
Is your content consistently of high value? If so, then why not position yourself as an expert and even thought leader within your niche? You might not become a niche celebrity overnight like the gentlemen above, but your authority will grow. And with it, so will your traffic and social shares.
Get to the bottom and still didn’t find the success factor you were expecting?
Then share it below.
Props to you for each factor that you already have in place. The best among you will always be exploring and testing new options. That is the only way to ensure you’re are approaching an optimal configuration.
Can you share with us another great blog that implements these success factors? Just post here and we’ll get back to you asap. For now, we’re heading to the patio. There’s a rumor that the boss is serving a nice 2014 merlot. That’s one whole year more of great aromatics!
On a serious note: When you get to the stage of working on your ad placement, make sure you come back to get a refresher on what we do at AdNgin. Optimizing your ads and revenue is what we do and we’d love to help your improve it for your blog or site.
— Eyal Katz (@eyalk100) October 25, 2015