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Analyze a Top Blog in Your Niche [Day 4: 31DBBB]

You task today in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is to spend some time on a successful blog in your niche.

Analyze-Blog

The purpose of this task is not to promote yourself on the blog – but rather to spend time watching, listening and observing how the blog operates with the goal of letting what you learn help shape your own blogging strategy.

There is a lot that a blogger can learn about spending time on other blogs (particularly those who are doing well). You can pick up all manner of ideas, strategies and tips both things that they do well that you might like to emulate but also things that they’re missing that could help you to differentiate yourself.

Here’s how I suggest you go about today’s task:

1. Identify a successful blog in your niche

You might already know of these sorts of blogs or you might need to do a little research.

If you’re not sure which one to choose head to Technorati’s top 100 blogs or Google Blog search and attempt to find a blog that is doing well on your topic. If you can’t find one that is exactly on your topic don’t stress too much – choosing a blog on a related topic will work too.

2. Take 15 minutes to do some analysis of the blog in some of the following areas

Content:

  • What topics are they covering?
  • What topics are they ignoring?
  • What voice/style do they post in?
  • How often are they posting?
  • What level are they pitching their posts at (beginners, advanced etc)

Reader Engagement:

  • What topics generate most conversation?
  • What styles of posts seem to connect with readers best?
  • What questions are readers asking in comments?
  • What complaints do you see readers making in comments?
  • What tools/mediums is the site using (eg: are they using Twitter, forums etc)

Design:

  • What first impression does their design give?
  • What have they done well? What have they done poorly?
  • What Options do they give readers to subscribe?

Monetization:
if you’re attempting to make money from your blog this will be relevant as it will give you hints as to how you might make money:

  • what advertisers are targeting this blog?
  • what type of affiliate programs are they promoting?

Traffic:
You might also like to head to a site like Alexa or Compete to do some analysis of the blogs traffic levels. Is it growing, plateauing or shrinking. Alexa also gives some stats (not always accurate) on page views, time on site, sites linking in, bounce rate, where the audience is from (geographically), where people go on the site etc.

SEO:
If you have some competence in SEO you might like to check out how they’re doing in some of these areas:

  • Who is linking to this blog? (use the link:www.blogurl.com command in Google to find out)
  • What does their source code reveal about how they’ve set up their site
  • If they have an open or unlocked stats package what can you learn from their stats? What pages are popular? Where does their incoming traffic come from?

Really the numbers of questions you could be asking is limitless but what you’re attempting to do with this exercise is to identify what is working well on the other site and what opportunities there might be to position your blog in ‘gaps’ that the blog is leaving.

When you do this type of analysis with a number of blogs in your niche you should begin to see some patterns emerging. Things that consistently work on blogs in your niche and things that perhaps you could do that nobody else is doing.

Two quick words of warning:

1. Don’t become Obsessed with what other Bloggers are Doing
A trap some bloggers fall into is spending so much time watching their ‘competitors’ that they spend less time actually building something of value of their own. This analysis is useful to do every now and again – but don’t let it become something that you do at the expense of other core activities on your own blog.

2. Don’t Copy – Be Unique
Another trap I see some bloggers doing is virtually replicating every aspect of another blog. While there’s a lot we can learn from others and lessons we can take from what others are doing – if you simply copy everything another blog does you don’t differentiate yourself and give potential readers no real reason to read you instead of others.

How did you go with your Analysis?

As usual – feel free to share what you learned from this task in comments below.

Join the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge

It’s never too late to join the 31 Day challenge. New people are joining and starting the process every day. To learn more about what it is and how to join check out our 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Information Page.

Update – You can also share, discuss, and explore this Daily Task over at the forum: Day 4 – Analyze a Top Blog in your Niche

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

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About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Soulpowr says:

    Found one that was really good in my niche and subscribed to the feed. This blogger posts everyday and posts at varying links. The content is fantastic and there are multiple comments on most posts. They cover a gamut of stories which would be really ambitious for me as I’m still finding my way, however reading it does provide a little more focus, provides some ideas for better design and provides an additional source of news.

  2. Man there is a lot of crap out there!! Many people’s blogs are so narcissistic which equals BORING!

    The best blogs are the one’s packed with information. You know those “AHA” moments when you learn something new.

    I like Zen Habits, and here is what they do that floats my boat;
    1. Keep the blog simple in it’s layout
    2. Advertising is present but not in your face
    3. Emphasis is on the articles and their content
    4. Posts every 2 days or more
    5. Posts by different authors
    6. Social Networking sites present but like advertising not in your face.

    My biggest lesson learned is ‘post more posts!’ I need some help with getting more quality posts (with lots of “Aha’s) out there.

    Any health and fitness writers want to contribute to my blog???!
    Amelia

  3. I anaylsed a blog I’ve been following for a while (actually I’ve been anaylysing it for a while too!) and I know just what makes it successful.

    It’s a coaching / LOA blog and the author posts 2-3 times a week. She writes as she talks, with awesome energy and an informal style, like talking to a friend. All her posts are super relevant to current topics and have an LOA twist.

    The posts that attract most attention are the one that make one think a little more about LOA and manifestation, esp the challenges faced therein.

    The blog has a sexy style with good use of colors and very simple to navigate.

    No advertising or affliliates on her blog, yet she has awesome alexa rankings and a faithful following. 47 backlinks and active on social media sites, esp twitter.

    I’ve learned a lot from hanging around her :D

  4. Oh forgot to mention the blog I analysed was http://goodvibeblog by Jeannette Maw

  5. alwaysLovely says:

    I would think the words of warning are apt. Those 2 points are traps which newbie bloggers might fall into easily, including myself. I truly understand the importance of putting your voice in your own blog, allowing your reader to know your personalty and style.

    Thank you!

  6. It seems to me that successful blogs in our niche has MUCH to do with the personality/role/experience of the author and not with any
    “blog techniques”

    In other words, blogs of “cool” people (=media whores) get read more :-)

  7. Great perspective Darren. I appreciate you sharing with us a step by step guideline on how to analyze our blogs to make it successful . Yes, these steps are necessary to ensure the effectivity of the blog.

    thanks for that!

  8. madafan says:

    for travel bloggers, I definitely recommend http://www.tipsfromthetlist.com as they are authors specialized on all travel2.0 (though you can find lot of useful tips for us in the travel blogging section).
    Editors are very friendly and are very proactive in including other bloggers feed into the Tips from the TList. Moreover, they are pioneers on integrating Google Friend connect in order to build some community around their topic. By the experience of their bloggers and their network, I personally consider them as one trusted source of informations and news related to internet applied to the travel industry

  9. Patti says:

    I have found only ONE blog that is active and in my “genre” of choice.

    The stories at http://modernhistorian.blogspot.com/ are similar in length. I have added the quotes, which this person has not. The Modern Historian blog has been up for years while mine is new.

    However, I don’t miss any days :) I have an entire year’s worth of essays I will post here for free perusal in the hopes of getting a book of them published in the future.

  10. Kristin says:

    After reviewing several blogs in my niche (handmade bags), I seem to have a wider focus on my blog, including a lot about my personal life as well as the bags/business end of things.

    I’m not certain if this is a good or bad thing, but for now, I’m going to stay with this focus, as I think it adds a personal touch and lets my customers get to know me better.

    http://mymeanbean.com/Blog

    If anyone has any suggestions or critiques as far as why a narrower focus would be better, I would love to hear it!

  11. Sam sall says:

    Hi
    great assignment Darren i learned a lot
    when i After reviewing blogs on my nich in speechstarter.com which is about business and money advice , i found out the following
    Content:
    • What topics are they covering?
    Making money online especially from blogging
    How to get more visitor and traffic to your online products
    Best ways to advertise business and websites
    Blogs monetization
    A lot of how to articles in various aspect especially starting up business, internet marketing, how to become successful
    Correction misconceptions and myths small business
    Working less and earn more
    Freelancing and Home Based Business Tip
    Search Engine Optimization & Search Marketing
    Email Marketing
    Business Strategy
    Business Ideas and Opportunities
    Few talks about Personal Development
    podcasts

    • What topics are they ignoring?
    Complicated deep business issues,
    • What voice/style do they post in?
    Good writing skill and grammars, optimistic voice , selling the dream, simplifying
    • How often are they posting?
    at the beginig of their blog they blog ddaily even 2-3 article aday the when the blog become popular they blog Once every 3 days
    • What level are they pitching their posts at (beginners, advanced etc)
    Beginners, commoners, few advanced stuff

    Reader Engagement:
    • What topics generate most conversation?
    How to bring more visitors to your blog
    How to earn more for less work
    • What styles of posts seem to connect with readers best?
    The less formal discussion, how to articles, catchy title discussion that tell personal real experience
    • What questions are readers asking in comments?
    About marketing , site traffic,complementing
    • What complaints do you see readers making in comments?
    Long post,
    • What tools/mediums is the site using (eg: are they using Twitter, forums etc)
    Twitter,forums, Blogosphere, technorati,blogtopsite rss feeds, StumbleUpon – del.icio.us – Furl – reddit – Facebook

    that’s for now
    thank you again Darren

  12. Kris says:

    One of the most widely read blogs that I know of it that comes closest to my niche is widely read because of an Ebola outbreak in Uganda. If that’s the price to pay, I think I’ll stick with just a few leaders. But it was interesting to note characteristics – they have excellent photos, post about their activities and provide thoughtful reflection

  13. Tshombe says:

    I found this exercise very helpful, Darren. Thank you!

    In the past, I’ve looked at “competitor” websites, but this gave me specific questions as a way to assess their blog/site, as well as offer me food for thought on what I’m doing and how I want to position myself.

    One of the things I realized is that I really want readers to get a solid feeling and experience of who I am through my blog, including what it would be like to work with me if they so choose.

    The blog that I assessed has many strengths, but it didn’t offer much (some, but not much) in the way of revealing the personality of the blog owner, nor much in the way of opportunities or invitations to interact.

    I found that the assessment also raised more questions in my mind. For example, though the blog has seen a sizable increase in traffic over the last year, there has been a couple of large spikes followed by plunging lows. It makes me want to look at what was being written on the site during those periods to get a clue what occurred.

    There was much more that I learned from the process, and I want to thank you for the assignment. It really helped me to solidify what I want to do, how I specifically want to position myself, and how I intend to offer value even to this owner of the blog I assessed.

    One thing’s for sure and that is that this assignment helped me see how we both can be of service to each other and to our readers.

    Thank you, Darren!

  14. Kat Rice says:

    Just getting around to today. I’m trying to expand my horizons a bit so I decided to analyze a new blog. I went to technorati and found these two:

    http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/
    http://www.quickonlinetips.com/

    Couldn’t find one quite in my niche (I blog for businesses about their online presence) but these were both close.

    I noticed first off that design for each of them isn’t central. Its much more about content. Design is important to me since I own a web design company, but it did make me think for a minute.

    The other thing I noted that for being highly ranked by Technorati and getting a lot of traffic, still left them with ten or so comments to a post. Interesting.

    I spent some time browsing but I plan to subscribe to both for long-term learning.

  15. Lynda says:

    This is all so valuable! And i must say, I am learning so much also from visiting the blogs of the participants, so thanks for your included links! Oh, and btw this link is to my business site – blog has not yet launched..but not far away! Thanks for this fantastic programme Darren,I know the effort involved for you will be huge – absolute kudos to you. Lynda.

  16. Wow. Never used Google Blog Search before. Went on there and put in “build your custom dream home” and…my own blog is the very first to show up in the top “related blogs” list.

    I don’t know how that happened, but hey.

  17. Melani says:

    Great tips. It really is helping me simplify my ideas and narrow down what I want my blog to be all about. Thanks for the help.

    http://www.marzipanmama.com

  18. Cougar says:

    What begun as a routine tweak of my site turned into a full-on redesign after I read this task. I decided to pick up the things I saw on my favourite sites into practice. If i wanted to promote the idea of a professional music opinion site I couldn’t rely on a standard template but needed a few upgrades.

    My new website is up now at http://www.cougarmicrobes.com and hopefully there will be many more tricks I can learn through these pages,

    thanks Darren.

  19. I already do this thing. And I think they succeed because they have a high frequency of posting!

  20. Hi Darren,

    For my blog your blog is the niche one :). I have been spending sometime (even though i do this daily) following today’s post and let me tell you its really interesting :).

    I know for sure am going to learn a lot from your blog…

    Thanks for the post.

    Cheers
    Krish
    http://www.bloggertalkz.com

  21. I constantly analyze blogs in my niche–Problogger being one of them–because I need to be mindful of how I can compliment them.
    Here’s a quick analysis:
    Problogger/Blogging Tips: blogging medium
    Copyblogger: copywriting (sales copy)
    Write to Done: craft of writing
    Wordful (that’s me): content and editorial strategies

    I’m still evolving this model but I’m sure there’s a place for me.

  22. Ark Lady says:

    I have been following and regularly follow three blogs in my niche area.

    What this has done is shown me what topics get the heavy comments and also what topics are hot.

    I also participate by commenting but seldom have the favor returned.

    However, I have been working on finding the unique spin to make my blog stand out from the masses.

    Each blog has a unique focus or voice and mine has to narrow down a bit more instead of being so broad.

  23. cafedave says:

    It’s taken me a while to get back to this one. One of the things that I work on at my blog is reviewing cafes, and so I spent a bit of time looking at another blog that also reviews cafes. It’s given me some ideas for how to improve, and to even be able to surpass their approach in some areas.

    http://cafedave.net/cafedave/archives/2009/04/whos-doing-it-better-crema-magazine

  24. cyza says:

    I have no problem getting to know my niche competitors…mainly because it’s a small niche…chemical engineering…

  25. Patty Reiser says:

    Good assignment. I took some time to review different Blogs. Found some new ones I had not seen before. One was in the area of my passion (Photography) and a few others I made notes about how their blogs were set up to perhaps apply these techniques to my blogs in the future.

    Wishing you a scent-sational day!

  26. I’m so glad you ended this with “don’t become obsessed.” I was getting stuck on day four. Now I can move on!

  27. kathi says:

    I am going to run with “don’t become obsessed with what other bloggers are doing.” My blog is a personal blog focusing on dogs and technology. Most popular personal blogs seem to have been in existence for a long time; obviously longevity is something I can’t rush! But since I blog mainly for my own pleasure, I’ll get the time in eventually.

    I posted the following observations on my blog somewhat tongue-in-cheek. In order to emulate more successful bloggers in my niche:
    * I have to have funnier or cuter dogs
    * I have to become an actual expert about either dogs or technology
    * When I go off the main topics, I have to write about sex or relationships, or else use the F-word more

    Seriously, though, my dogs are actually very funny and attractive. It is my writing skills that need to improve to better describe their antics in a more humorous way, and I could definitely benefit by posting more and better photographs. I don’t know if I will ever become an actual expert myself, but I can do mini-interviews with experts for dog topics if not technology. The last one really was tongue-in-cheek, but it does seem that a lot of popular personal blogs have a fair amount of what to me is *overly* personal relationship stuff that I’d never write about, especially not online. And that’s where I’m going to run with “Don’t copy – be unique.” :)

  28. RunningWolf says:

    I analysed a blog, http://kikolani.com

    What topics are they covering? To sum it up: Technically beautiful, artfully beneficial. The blog is covering Blogging, Discoveries, Dreams, Fetching Friday, Life, Motivation, Photography, Poetry, Social Media, Viewpoints

    What topics are they ignoring? This is a wide spectrum, don’t thing Kikolani is ignoring anything

    What voice/style do they post in? Very casual, yet informative and professional style.

    How often are they posting? Regularly, at least 2-3 times a week (I think)

    What level are they pitching their posts at (beginners, advanced etc): They are pitching to all users, the posts about Blogging and Social Media are aimed at all users, not just advanced users

    What topics generate most conversation? Blogging and Social Media

    What styles of posts seem to connect with readers best? The casual yet informative professional ones

    What questions are readers asking in comments? Questions related to the topic in question, mostly enquiries or praise when it comes to Social Media and Blogging

    What complaints do you see readers making in comments? I have not seen any complaints in the comments :)

    What tools/mediums is the site using (eg: are they using Twitter, forums etc): Twitter, Digg and Delicious

    What first impression does their design give? It gives the impression that its done professionally, you just know u’r going to be able to navigate and find what u need on the blog very easily. It has that feel to it.

    What have they done well? The whole layout, the whole way the options are presented for readers to subcribe. The option that is available to readers to “Tweet”. Also the listing of the amount of Diggs for each post on the top of the page.

    What have they done poorly? Nothing in particular. Everything is laid out clearly.

    Judging by the way this blog is done, the traffic rating is quite high on Alexa and I’m sure that the blogger is using SEO plug-ins on WordPress to generate traffic.

    The analysis went overall well, and I think that http://kikolani.com should keep up the good work :)
    What Options do they give readers to subscribe?

  29. Tara Seale says:

    I analyzed a blog in my niche: http://jimburke.typepad.com/my_weblog/

  30. Mom Time says:

    When you said “use the link:www.blogurl.com command in Google to find out sites linking, how do you exactly do this? I put http://www.blogurl.com in google and it came back with http://www.blogurls.com which I couldn’t open because of errors.

    Or did you mean put the exact url of the site I’m analyzing to see which sites are linking to it? I did this too but it just came back with all the pages of that site.

    Please help.

  31. To my surprise the other blogs in my niche are running very similar stats to mine. They blog on similar topics. Interesting.

  32. Prince Sioni says:

    This is a very good assignment. I run a “Make Money Online” blog that I started last week.

    googling blogs in my niche brings out tons of blogs. The niche seems too saturated and I hope to improve on my writing over the time.

    Kindly visit my blog to drop comments. Be sincere when doing this. :)

    http://princesioni.com

  33. Prince Sioni says:

    @Mom Time
    For you to know all the sites that are linking to a particular url, what you do is go to google.com and type in link:www.blogurl.com (for example, you want to know all the sites linking to problogger.net, you type in site:problogger.net)

    I hope this answers your question.

    Prince Sioni

  34. Prince Sioni says:

    @Mom Time
    For you to know all the sites that are linking to a particular url, what you do is go to google.com and type in link:www.blogurl.com (for example, you want to know all the sites linking to problogger.net, you type in link:problogger.net)

    I hope this answers your question.

    Prince Sioni

  35. Great challenge Darren. I couldn’t find a wedding blog in the top 100 so just went for the highest authority after doing a search on technorati. I did find another blog to subscribe to in the top 100 though.

    Definitely time well spent as the blog I found is much better designed than most I’ve been visiting. I also noted that most articles were very short – getting the keywords out and then adding several images for graphical impact.

    Pat Bloomfield
    PatB Photography – Weddings

  36. I went back to the blog that started me blogging. I don’t know what her stats are, but if you google Connecticut real estate, her blog comes up second. I did actually copy her blog pretty much because I hadn’t done any blogging and didn’t know too many. Now I am trying to be more original.

    What topics are they covering?
    Local news and real estate information

    What topics are they ignoring?
    Promotion of the real estate firm she works at

    What voice/style do they post in?
    Folksy

    How often are they posting?
    3-4 times a week

    What level are they pitching their posts at (beginners, advanced etc)
    The site is for consumers. Local people can find local non-real estate news and others can find general real estate information

    What topics generate most conversation?
    Local news and novelty type stories get the most comments

    What styles of posts seem to connect with readers best?
    Same as above

    What questions are readers asking in comments?
    Don’t see many questions, just comments

    What complaints do you see readers making in comments?
    None

    What tools/mediums is the site using (eg: are they using Twitter, forums etc)
    I don’t see much of that; although I know she’s on twitter.

    I’ll have to get back to the rest of this another day!

  37. Jeannette says:

    So much good advice! I’m more than a little awestruck. I agree with many others… Darren, this is a great thing you’ve put together.

  38. Preston says:

    I know this sounds a little neive or cocky but what if there is no “highly successful” blog in our niche? any suggestions?

  39. I found this a little bit depressing as I found a related blog in the Technorati top 100 and they seemed to cover every topic and post lots of times a day, something that a one woman band is never going to achieve. I guess this is why they are in the top 100 – doh! I think I might go and look for a smaller successful blog to review instead. I was surprised that this large blog did not get many commenters though. I am trying to get some comments on my blog and even had a toy giveaway over the last 2 weeks to increase visitor interaction but still only got 2 comments – doesn’t anyone want free stuff anymore?!! Back to my review I liked the ‘Image of The Day’ from this large blog along with a ‘Weird But True’ section. They didn’t seem to provide any review type posts which I thought was causing them to miss out on some revenue perhaps. They had no links to Twitter etc but did offer RSS. The design was a bit bland for my liking and the title fonts were huge. There were also too many moving images causing me to be distracted from reading. So I’m now off to find a smaller blog I can check out.

  40. Would anyone know a good blog on children and youth placed outside of their homes – anywhere in the world will do..
    Thanks

  41. Baba says:

    Fabulous idea doing a comparison to see what works and what doesn’t. I loved doing this one.

  42. owen says:

    Good exercise to do once in a while. I found it hard to find successful blogs in my niche.

    It might mean I don’t know what my niche is or that it is hard to be successful there.

    I write about living in France. I don’t like the cut and dry style of just being informative.

    Sometimes people are too personal and don’t give enough meat.

    I would like to focus on good writing style, informative yet entertaining, and being useful.

    I want people to come to my blog to read funny stories about living in France but to also gather resources for moving to and living in France as well as if you just want to travel around my region, Toulouse.

    Maybe that is not enough and I need to get a tighter niche.

    I don’t like a lot of the UK bloggers doing what i am doing but maybe that is because the experiences they share with each other are too UK based so it doesn’t resonate with me.

    I wonder if my blog comes off as being too American based, though I am not trying to target Americans.

    Tough exercise if you really try it.

  43. my net hubby says:

    I want to have additional information using HTML, Java, CSS for my blog site. And finding what themes are applicable to my blog site and choosing what is the best version of blogengine for my blog site.

  44. Great idea, this technique would surely make us more creative. Thanks for giving us examples too Darren.