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Good to Great, Why some Blogs Succeed and Others Don’t

Good to Great, Why some Blogs Succeed and Others Don’t

Have you ever wondered why some blogs engender the success that they do?

Why Techcrunch has 1/2 of a million subscribers and charges $10,000 a month for a 125×125px ad? Or why more than 20,000 blogs have chosen to link to BoingBoing and 1,500 people have listed it as a Technorati favourite? Why the DailyKos received more than half a million visits a day and every post receives comments number with three digits? What sets these giants of their fields apart from the rest and why have they become some of the most well known blogs in the world? And how many questions can I ask in one paragraph?

What follows are my observations on what sets these blogs apart…

The Givens
First there are the requisites for a good blog that any how-to-blog site will tell you about – that you must blog consistently, be on-topic, produce well written posts and that you need a clear focus to the blog. We will take these as givens as they are all factors in making a blog good. Certainly by themselves these are not a formula for success however, after all there are many, many blogs that do this that never make it to greatness. So clearly there are other factors that separate a good blog from a great one.

First among Equals
Rand from SEOMoz writes a very insightful article about how to choose what not to blog about. He does this by explaining that any area has space for only a given number of great blogs, a larger but still limited number of good blogs and still larger number of also-rans. When looking at the great blogs you quickly see that they each dominate one area, usually with a not quite as popular and successful #2 and #3.There is only a certain amount of mindshare available for any specific sector and this forces a blog to sit somewhere in a pyramidal structure. At the very top of the pyramid there is only space for a couple of people to sit and these are the A-list blogs.

Of course this doesn’t exactly explain what put those blogs at the top of their pyramids, but it does highlight one significant point, all things being equal those blogs have already filled those top spots and unless you can find a way to make a bit more space a new blog won’t fit up there. In that sense they are firsts in their fields. They are innovators that may not have been the absolute first blog on that topic, but are likely to have been the first really good blog on it.

Breaking News

Another characteristic of blogs that rise to the top is that they break news first. That is they tend to be sources of information you either cannot get elsewhere or would not know where to find. By providing the hottest news items the great blogs make it imperative that you subscribe or visit them first. In that sense they become indispensable.


Hand in hand with news is opinion – some would say the mainstay of the blogosphere. Great blogs have an opinion and aren’t afraid to share it. Moreover its an opinion that you can only get from one place. Whether its an educated opinion such as TechCrunch’s, a funny opinion such as theSuperficial’s, an innovative opinion such as 37Signals‘ or a methodical opinion such as ProBloggers‘, it is always an opinion that is highly rated.

Everyone has an opinion, but some people’s are just more worthwhile than others. Great blogs have opinions that matter.

Established since …

A great blog is like a fine wine, it takes time to reach its pinnacle. With time comes momentum and as in many areas of life success breeds further success. As great blogs hit their critical mass they acquire more readers and thus more links and standing and thus more readers and so on. An important difference here is that a great blog capitalizes effectively on its position to push itself forward.

In the Mainstream

Finally a great blog is almost always in a mainstream field – celebrity gossip, gadgets, politics, business, blogging, tech companies. Moreover they tend to reside in reasonably tech savvy fields as well. That is to say areas where a lot of people are online, know what a blog is and maybe even know what RSS is. That being said, this area is only growing and currently only a small percent of the population is online so more and more niche areas will open up into larger arenas.

And now a picture of a crazy dog…

So there you have it, my analysis of what sets blogs apart. Certainly its not definitive and I’d be interested to hear what other people think. To stimulate your thinking here is a picture of a crazy looking dog…

Liam Cavanagh

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