A few weeks ago, I posted about the seven characteristics of highly effective online video. Taking this theme a little further, I decided to branch out into the blogosphere, but using the number seven this time around was a tad too limiting. There are at least ten characteristics off the top of my head that make blogs and bloggers successful. These characteristics give the blogs mentioned below fame, fortune, and loyal followings.
Want to build your blog and following? Here are some key ideas and takeways — as well as inspirational bloggers you might want to follow — who can help you realize that dream.
If you want your blog to be recognized as a household name, you better be consistent at providing quality content on a regular basis. The most popular blogs, according to Technorati, maintain that consistency by posting more than once a day. Granted, these are typically publications that have a staff of writers at their disposal, but they are like the newspapers of the blogosphere and readers have come to expect frequent updates. Blogs like Mashable and Gizmodo offer a consistent stream of stories every single day.
Blogging numerous times daily isn’t necessarily a necessity for blogs just starting out, nor is it feasible for most blogs, especially those who don’t blog for a living but for a hobby. Bloggers like Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent, who don’t have a team of bloggers at arm’s length, offer content on a very regular basis (in Valeria’s case, 6 days a week). You don’t necessarily have to pump out content hourly or even every day, but if you want to be a successful blogger, you should try to stick to some sort of schedule. If your readers are expecting content from you weekly, you should deliver weekly content. If your readers expect content from you daily, skipping a day might cause worry or the decision to unsubscribe because neglected content may inadvertently translate to neglecting your readers too.
My three favorite bloggers are Brian Solis, Lisa Barone, and Adam Singer. Why? Because they write damn well. They always have something insightful to say, and it shows in every single blog post that they write. It’s pretty clear that their content exudes intelligence and occasional wit. They treat writing like an art and their art is viral. You can tell that you’re reading blog posts of brilliant writers. They’re that good.
For every post you write, take the time to proofread thoroughly. Would it be embarrassing for me to admit that I proofread every post I write 9-10 times on the low end? (This post has 53 post revisions, for the record.) It’s surprising to see how few people actually do it!
Want another tip on how to write well? Read a lot. Blog posts that are well written are well-received. By putting effort into the writing process, you reap the benefits of a community that supports you because you lift them through your words.
Darren Rowse wrote a great post about how you can be a unique blogger. Here’s a hint: it requires not doing what everyone else does. There are so many blogs out there that regurgitate news, causing clutter in the blogosphere. Darren suggests having a memorable design, trying your hand at being a character (e.g. Fake Steve Jobs), and being a vault of resources (e.g. Smashing Magazine), among other things.
Search Engine Roundtable is an excellent example of a successful unique blog in a saturated market. This blog covers specific topics if and only if there’s discussion in a variety of internet marketing forums. The discussion has to be highly specialized and relate to search engines and it must not have originated in the blogosphere; typically, discussions are discovered at WebmasterWorld, High Rankings Forums, Cre8asite Forums, Digital Point Forums, or Sphinn. Is there no related discussion there? Then you won’t get covered.
Are you a distinguished expert in a topic matter? Bloggers who focus on a niche and tackle it are highly respected among their peers and within their communities. Who do you look up to for productivity tips? Tips on self-improvement? Search marketing? Social media? Small business?
Having a specific focus is what made Dumb Little Man (productivity tips), Lifehacker (productivity and tech), Jonathan Fields (lifestyle, business), The Happiness Project (self improvement), Small Business Trends (small business), Social Media Explorer (PR and social media), and other blogs successful. They’re chock full of great content on the subject matters that their readers care most about. I know exactly what kind of content I am going to get when I go to each blog and there are typically no surprises.
Not yet an expert in a topic, but have aspirations to get there? Read Career Renegade (aff). The premise of the book is about quitting your current job to go after your passion, but it’s got a ton of great ideas to take that topical blog — which could be your business (or not) — to great heights.
Specificity is why SEO blogs exist in great numbers. It’s why we can find social media blogs in the thousands. If there’s an interest in a subject matter, there’s probably a blog. Or two. Or two thousand. And if you want to be first, you certainly can try your hand at it.
There’s a ton of informational content out there on blogs, though sometimes it’s not about the information that you share that makes you a spectacular blogger. It’s about getting to know who the person is behind the screen. Mommyblogs are a great example of thriving personal blogs; they take you behind the scenes into the life as a parent. Personal accounts of everyday events is what made Dooce and the Bloggess so successful.
You don’t have to make your blog completely personal, though. Instead, give personal stories as it relates to your mission in blogging. Jon Morrow wrote an incredible piece on fighting for your ideas, which is perfect Copyblogger content — except it relates to his battle with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It’s an incredibly personal but powerful piece. Darren Rowse talked about how changing his style in a 90s road trip made him a better blogger today.
Give your readers a taste of the real you. Sometimes it helps to just be yourself.
Blogs that take a good look at data and analyze it clearly are hugely resourceful. Brian Solis does this with regular status updates of everything in the social media marketing and PR universe. Yuvi Panda became extremely successful at a young age (15!) because he analyzed other blogs in the space, especially when Robert Scoble picked up on it. Unfortunately, much of Yuvi’s analyses are hidden in the depths of the Wayback Machine, but from what is accessible, the detail is amazing.
People love data, and they love knowing how data can be aggregated to make conclusions. They love charts and graphics, and they love the findings that can be made from this data in aggregate. A good example of this is a recent post on blog lengths in certain industries by Glen Allsopp, who recently guest posted here. By looking at the standard lengths of blogs in certain industries, new bloggers can get a feel for blog word counts that are successful and that which may not be as helpful to grow a new blog.
Bloggers who actually show that they put their passion into the blog post, offering deep insights instead of just regurgitating news, are the winners of this category. My favorite examples of this come from all corners of the Internet, with some blogs always offering original detailed content (which is what I hope to achieve here on Techipedia) and others providing a mix of news bytes in addition to deeper commentary. A good example of this is Search Engine Land, which features search-related news briefs to keep the public informed of the industry, but also offers two separate categories contributed to by members of the search engine industry that offer great detail: the how-to category and the features and analysis category. Both categories offer a great amount of detail and insights from dozens of experts.
Other blogs only provide detailed content. If something is newsworthy, the blogger turns that into an opportunity to give a detailed analysis into the story. Jeremiah Owyang’s blog does this with deep, meaningful insights. A great example is how he provided a deep matrix into Google Buzz, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter just a few days after Buzz was launched. I actually also found out that PayPal was being accepted via Facebook through Jeremiah and not through the regular blogs I read that cover the social space/tech industry.
Blog posts that make you think once you finish reading the article to improve are the ones that fit this label. Seth Godin’s posts are short but sweet, but he’s so well read not only because he’s been blogging since before I graduated college (which actually was a bit of time ago!) but because his posts are really that thought-provoking. You can’t help but read his posts and get a few takeaways on what to do next. Seth also explains ideas very well through illustration — and have you ever heard him speak? This guy is swimming with thoughts from head to toe. Color me impressed.
Controversy, done correctly, also fits under the notion of thought-provoking blogging content. Two of my three favorite blogs do this regularly; they push the envelope but make the reader (and possibly others) think long and hard about what’s going to happen next. In many cases, their audience is applauding.
Sometimes bloggers have it. Sometimes bloggers don’t. Bloggers who seethe passion attract visitors who need the inspiration to continue. In an earlier post, I touched upon how Gary Vaynerchuk and Chris Brogan show passion through their work. In everything that they do, it’s evident that they love what they do and will work tirelessly to provide the ultimate experience to their readers, their audience, and their community.
When Danny Sullivan writes his most lengthy and great pieces, you can see passion all over it. You might even feel some emotional bond with some of this kind of content. You can tell that there’s such depth to this content because of the proximity of the “story” to the blogger that you get drawn by it.
Most bloggers, though — at least those who have kept at blogging for such a long time — are the true examples of passion. It’s very hard to provide regular content for readers on a consistent basis, and there are countless bloggers who do so regularly. I’m amazed to see how some people, especially those operating a one-man blogging operation, can do it with different topics every single day. Sure, this might overlap with the first section of this article, but I’ve found it difficult in the writing of this article to separate some themes from others. Most of my favorite blogs are true examples of many of these characteristics.
Instructional blogs don’t just give you insights. They actually hold your hand to get it done. Blogs in this category include DIY (do-it-yourself) blogs, such as MAKE or Instructables, or recipe and cooking blogs.
I’ve said in the past that informational videos and how-to content are extremely spreadable. The idea behind this is no different. If people in your community seek you out so that they can learn something new, they’ll follow and they’ll spread the ideas to others too. I see Lifehacker regularly sharing DIY content sourced from several blogs because the content is educational and enriching.
I also come across really savory recipes that just beg a share. And it’s pretty incredible to see how the content across some of these instructional blogs intersects across different online communities. I learn about these new blogs mostly outside the “social” space because they do the hand-holding from start to finish, and as such, they often cater to a wider audience. This is the kind of content that spreads beyond the typical blog reader to an entirely different group of people.
Being networked is a quality that bloggers must have in order to be successful in this highly saturated space. I’ve been asked more than once about how bloggers, who seem to meet all other criteria — that is, they may be consistent and eloquent and cover a specific niche — can still succeed in the blogging space. The answer, really, lies in thinking outside the blog. In order for people to find you, you need to be able to market your blog to them. How does one do this? Comment on other bloggers’ posts consistently. Send tweets out to the bloggers with your own commentary. Go to local or national face-to-face events to meet other bloggers.
Blogging is an online activity, and one you may think should stay there, but the bottom line is the most successful bloggers are known outside their blogs. (However, they became known through their blogs.) Putting a face to a name can translate to great opportunities. It’s one thing to be a great writer. It’s another to let people know you actually exist in the real world. Face to face networking can help do that.
Bloggers become successful out of staying connected to their peers online too. That’s why you need to engage in other communities, on Twitter, and anywhere else you may find them.
Not all blogs will meet all these criteria, but if you’re a growing success, you will likely find that your habits overlap with a few of these traits: consistency, eloquence, uniqueness, specificity, personal[ity], analytical, detail, thought-provoking, passion, instructional, and networked. The more you can cross off your list, the better your chances for success and influence as a blogger. Who are your favorite bloggers and why?