What attracts blog readers and keeps them coming back? Personality. Content. Entertainment. Information. The problem is that those qualities aren’t enough to make a blog popular. It’s at least equally as important to learn SEO (search engine optimization) so your blog doesn’t get left behind.
These lessons from the most popular blogs aren’t the “secret sauce”. They’re the meat and potatoes of how bloggers attract traffic and keep readers.
On my post about blogs that make money, a reader said: “I like your blogging tips, but I don’t want to start a business or writing blog. My goal is to start a health blog. My question is, what makes a blog good? What do the most popular blogs do?”
As a professional blogger who is currently earning an average of $250 per day from Google alone (every day I think it’s a fluke, but my earnings have been consistently that high for more than four months now!), I started to wonder what I’m doing right. So I rounded up the most important things that bloggers to do make their blogs popular, and I compared how they blog to how I blog.
Search engine optimization is key. If you want to make money blogging, learn how Google ranks blogs and websites. Pay attention to Google’s reliance on the four major components of trust that work at the heart of its search algorithm: age, authority, content, and relevancy. In this book, you’ll learn just how each of these affects Google’s search results, and just how you can best optimize your blog and content to ensure that you’re playing by Google’s many rules.
8 Lessons From the Most Popular Blogs
An important thing to remember is that just because a blog is popular doesn’t mean it’s good. What I think is a good blog may not be what you think is a good blog – and the beauty of blogging is that you get to decide how you want your blog to look, feel, and be.
But, if you want to make money as a blogger you have to balance your creativity and personality with smart blogging tips. You don’t need to have the most popular blog on the block to make money, but you do need to be professional and strategic about how you run your blog.
These blogging tips are from bloggers who have steady traffic, regular readers, and an income from their blogs.
1. Update your blog regularly
“Some people still forget that publishing regularly is, essentially, your main task as a blogger. If you don’t publish regularly, people will lose track of what’s going on with your blog, or even forget about you completely, which is not good for business. If, at some point, you get distracted and don’t publish a post for a longer while, just return to your everyday blogging like nothing ever happened.” – Jeff Bullas.
I more or less stopped blogging when I went back to university to get my MSW. At that point, I was earning about $100 per day from Google Adsense. My income dropped down to about $50 a day after two years of school. But, I took the above advice and just started blogging again.
It’s not just about blogging regularly, though! If you want to make money, you need to pay attention to Google’s blogging tips. Google is generous and helpful (mostly), and they want us all to make money on the internet.
2. Write a variety of short and long posts
This is the most recent blogging tip I’ve learned – I discovered it about two years ago:
“I didn’t realize content length affects traffic until I started to write really detailed posts. It wasn’t because I was trying to game Google or any social site, but it was because I wanted to write content that helps you. And I couldn’t figure out how to do that without writing really detailed content. The beautiful part about writing detailed content is that it ranks higher on Google. If you look at the results page on page one of Google, each site on average will have at least 2000 words of content. That just shows that Google really sees content as king. Just make sure you don’t fill your posts with fluff to reach the 2000 word content. Always write for users and never for search engines. It just happens that people prefer detailed content with actionable steps and it’s hard to do that in a few hundred words.” – from 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My First Blog.
I’ve clicked on hundreds of links from Google’s search engine results, and found blog posts that are less than 100 words long. So I’m not sure I agree with this blogging tip.
3. Follow Google’s quality guidelines
I asked Mr. Google Webmaster for help building a good-quality blog. He said a good blog:
- Makes pages primarily for users, not for search engines
- Doesn’t deceive readers
- Avoids tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.
A useful self-test is to ask, “Does this blog or post help my users? Would I still write this if search engines didn’t exist and my blog wasn’t read?” – from Google Webmaster Guidelines.
The most popular blogs don’t sell sell sell…they try to help, serve, or inform readers in some way.
4. Stay simple and spare
This is another one of those blogging tips that doesn’t really stand the test of random blog research. Many popular blogs are crowded with flashy this and blinking that and popups here and downloads there. As you can see from my blog, I’m not into much of anything but content. And ads. But my dogs and I gotta eat.
“The theme is your blog’s design, or how it looks. You need to love your theme because if you want to start a good blog, you’ll be looking at it almost every day! It should load quickly, run smoothly, and be simple and well laid-out. You can choose from hundreds of free themes for WordPress.org; I bought my theme from Solostream’s Premium WordPress Themes. If you buy a theme from a professional blogger, programmer or designer, he or she may be available for tweaks. And, many theme creators have a forum or even a comments section on their blogs to help with problems.” – from Want to Blog, But Don’t Know Where to Start? 5 Tips for Newbies.
5. Have a voice
“Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute – even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?” – from What Makes for a Good Blog?
Seth Godin, Darren Rowse, whoever else – they have a voice. You have a voice, too. Will you use it? What for?
6. Don’t burden readers with sales pitches or ads
Blogging tips for bloggers who want to make money are different than blogging tips for people who just want to write. Professional bloggers – like me – have to include advertisements and sales pitches, because we have to eat. Not steak necessarily, but at least a salad. However, the most popular bloggers balance making money blogging with offering readers good tips and information.
One of my favorite blogs is ArtsyShark, even though I’m not an artist. Carolyn Edlund has found the perfect balance between being businesslike and professional, friendly and engaging, and informative and helpful. And I’m sure she makes money blogging! I love following her on Twitter (@ArtsyShark).
7. Know their target audience
My biggest weakness as a blogger is I don’t have a specific target audience. Well, for this blog – Writing Blossoms – my target audience is writers and beginning bloggers. But I also have six other blogs with very little focus. I just want to write! I don’t want to build a following, or have fans. I have a hard time responding to comments because my posts tend to encourage requests for relationship advice from readers….and I hate giving advice. So I’m not a good example of a traditional blogger.
But, one of the most important blogging tips is to know who you’re blogging for. This tip is from the ArtsyShark website:
“A good website caters to its target audience. It’s also important to have your target audience in mind when planning your website’s design and architecture. Who buys your artwork now? Who might buy your artwork? Why do they buy your artwork? What are the demographics? What are the most important factors when designing a website for them to use?” – from Top 10 Mistakes Artists Make When Building a Website.
8. Invite comments
“An important aspect of blogs is that they feature the writing of the blogger as well as the comments of readers. When you visit a blog, you often find a comment link under the text of each blog posting. Clicking that link enables you to read comments from other people and submit your own. Usually bloggers make their own comments in the posts on their site, but sometimes a blogger adds a response in the comment section because it’s a more direct way to address someone else’s comment.” – from Writing a Good Blog.
This is another one of those “most popular blogging tips” that isn’t one of my strengths, for the reasons explained above.
What is a good blog, do you think?
I keep thinking about Neil Patel’s statement that what makes a good blog is long posts. He’s one of the most popular bloggers, and I tend to write long. Google says “content is king”, which supports his argument that good blog posts are long. After all, a blog post’s length may mean there is more – and more helpful – information for the reader.
But, alas, length does not always dictate quality! Just because a blog post is 2,000 words long doesn’t mean it’s a good one. That’s why quotations or quotes are so popular: they pack a ton of information and meaning into a single sentence. Brevity is the soul of wit, Shakespeare said.
Fellow scribes, what do you think about long posts? Do they contribute to whatever magic makes the most popular blogs sizzle-y?
If you can’t write a comment, much less a 2,000 word blog post, read How to Know What to Blog About. 🙂