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Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging

Today I want to suggest an exercise that has the potential to improve your blogging profoundly if you build it into your daily routine.

Look at another blog

Image by zev

Image by zev

OK – this may not sound that profound – most of us read other blogs every day but it doesn’t revolutionise what we do – but stick with me for a second while I explain HOW to do it in a way that could have a big impact.

Here’s what I do every day

I choose a blog and then spend 5-10 minutes reviewing it. My aim is not to ‘consume’ it as a reader…. but rather to review it with the view of learning about blogging.

What I’ve found is that my spending 5-10 minutes every day looking at another blog in this way that I learn so much! In fact I’ve learned so much over the last few months that last week in my team meetings I’ve introduced the idea of us doing this as a group – each week we’ll review a blog to see what we can learn.

The objective is not to do these reviews to copy what others are doing – but rather I find in looking at other blogs I often find inspiration and insight for my own blogs. The learnings cover a wide range of areas – from design, to product ideas, to content, to increasing engagement, to use of social media, to marketing etc.

Let me dive a little deeper into how I do it:

Choosing a Blog to Review

I review a blog every week day so over a year I’m potentially reviewing 260 blogs so I don’t have a single criteria for choosing which blog I’ll review.

When I started doing this a few months ago I started doing it mainly with photography blogs (those in my own niche) but I’ve since moved outside my niche too. While it is great to know what competitors in your niche are doing there’s a much to learn by going beyond it too.

Not only do I mix up the niche but I’m also trying to mix up the size of the blog. There’s a lot to learn from the biggest blogs who have lots of readers, staff, developers, professional designs etc – but you can learn a lot from medium and smaller blogs too.

Also I like to keep my eye open for those blogs that are up and coming – those that seem to burst onto the scene quickly – because these blogs are often doing something new or innovative.

Lastly I like to try to mix up the style of blogs. While I mainly focus upon creating ‘how to’ content blogs I also regularly review blogs that focus more upon ‘news’, ‘reviews’, ‘personal’, ‘opinion’, ‘entertainment’ etc.

So if you’re just starting to do daily reviews – do start with blogs in your niche – but mix it up too, and you’ll discover a lot that you can apply in your own blogging.

Tips on Conducting Your Review

I don’t have a set routine for reviewing the blogs that I look at, but there are a number of things that I tend to do.

I usually start by viewing the blog on my desktop computer which has a nice, wide, 27-inch display. However I also try to view the blog on my iPad and phone which is often quite illuminating from a design viewpoint.

I generally will start by reviewing the front page of the blog and pay particular attention to my first impression and feelings about the site (first impressions are often lasting ones), but will always dig around deeper into the site and review ‘posts’ (both recent and those in the archives) and also any ‘pages’ (about page, advertising page, contact page, etc).

Questions to Ask As You Review

There are a variety of areas that you can review when looking at another blog. I tend to break things down into the following areas and find myself asking questions like those that follow.

Note: I don’t ask all of these questions every time I do a review – but I hope by presenting them you’ll get a feel for what directions you can explore.

Content

  • what voice/s are they writing in?
  • what is their posting frequency?
  • how long are the posts that they write?
  • what type of posts are they majoring on (information, inspiration, engagement, news, opinion, etc)?
  • what style and medium of posts are they using (lists, imagery, video, podcasts, etc)?
  • what blend of original vs curated content are they using?
  • what topics/categories are they majoring on?
  • what type of headlines/titles formulas do they use?
  • do they use multiple authors/guest posters or a single writer?

Community

  • how do they engage readers?
  • what calls to action do they use and what is being responded to?
  • what type of posts get the most comments, shares, likes?
  • do they use tools like polls, surveys, quizzes or other engagement triggers?
  • what social media sites are they using and how they using them for engagement/community building?
  • do they have a newsletter – how do they incentivise signups? What type of content do they send?
  • how much do the writers of the blog engage in comments?
  • do they have a dedicated community area? (forum, membership etc)?
  • do they have ‘discussion’ posts or ‘assignments’ or ‘projects/challenges’ that give readers something to DO?

Finding Readers

  • where do they seem to be putting most of their energy in terms of generating readership (social, guest posting, media etc)?
  • which social media sites are they primarily using for outreach and what are they doing their?
  • what type of content seems to be being shared the most on their site?
  • how do they try to ‘hook’ new readers once they’ve arrived (newsletter, social, RSS etc)?
  • what type of reader is this blog attracting?
  • how does the blog rank on Alexa? What does Alexa say about sources of traffic, type of reader that the blog has?

Monetization

  • how are they monetizing?
  • if advertising, what advertisers are they working with directly?
  • are they using an ad network like AdSense?
  • how many ads are they showing per page?
  • where are they positioning ads on their pages?
  • what size ads do they offer advertisers?
  • do they have an advertiser page? Do they publish their rates, traffic or other interesting information on it? Do they have a media kit? What is their main selling point to advertisers?
  • if selling products – what type of products seem tot be selling the most?
  • what can you learn from the way they market their products?
  • what affiliate programs/products are they promoting?
  • do they offer premium paid content or community areas on their blog?
  • do they have a disclaimer/privacy page? What can you learn from it about how they monetize?

Design/Tech

  • what layout do they use?
  • what navigation/menu items do they have?
  • what first impressions does their design give? What is the first thing they seem to be calling people to DO when arriving?
  • have they used a designer or blog template for their blog?
  • how do they communicate what their blog is about (do they have a tag line)?
  • how are they using their front page? Is it a traditional blog format, portal or something else?
  • what do they have in their sidebar?
  • do they have a ‘hello bar’ at the top of their site? What are they using it for?
  • what do they put in ‘hot zones’ on the blog (above the fold), below posts, etc?
  • what type of blogging tool do they seem to use?
  • what can you observe about their approach to SEO?
  • what kind of commenting technology do they use?
  • what widgets and tools do they have that make the reader experience more interesting?
  • how do they use images in posts?
  • what’s their logo like?
  • what colours are they using in their design?
  • how do they highlight ‘social proof’ in their design?
  • do they have an app?
  • is their design responsive to mobile/tablets?
  • do they use any techniques to increase page views?

Email/Newsletter

  • do they have an email newsletter?
  • if so – how are they driving people to signup? Popups, forms, hello bar etc?
  • are they incentivising signups with something free?
  • signup for the newsletter and watch what kinds of emails they send. Is it an auto responder or more timely broadcasts?

Social Media

  • what social media accounts do they promote on their blog?
  • how are they promoting their social media accounts?
  • are there social media mediums that they are ignoring?
  • which type of social media seems most active/important to them?
  • where are they getting most engagement?
  • how often are they updating their accounts? what times of day seem to get most engagement?
  • what techniques are they using on social that seem to get most engagement and build community?
  • what techniques are they using on social to drive traffic?
  • what techniques are they using with social to monetize?
  • what feedback is this blog getting from readers on social? What are they known for (both positive and negative)?

Other Questions to Ponder

  • are there opportunities to network or partner with this blog/blogger?
  • do they accept guest posts – could you write with them?
  • do they have products that you could promote as an affiliate?
  • do you have a product that they could promote as an affiliate?
  • if they are in your niche – what ‘gaps’ in their content could you be filling in your own blog?
  • what are they doing poorly that might provide you with an opportunity to have a competitive advantage?
  • what are they doing well that you’re not doing to the best of your ability?

What would you add?

The above list is not something I systematically work through for every blog that I look at – rather it is the type of questions I find myself asking as I review a blog and might be useful as a starting point for you to work from.

I’m sure there are other areas you could dig into further and I’d love to hear your suggestions in comments below.

Learn From The Actions of Others

Let me finish by coming back to the motivation for doing blog reviews like this.

What I’m NOT suggesting is that you review other blogs to simply steal other peoples ideas and replicate what they do.

What I AM suggesting is that you will learn a heap by looking at how others blog.

It might sounds odd coming from a guy writing a blog about blogging but I think you’ll actually learn as much – if not more – by doing the above exercise each day than by filling your RSS reader full of blog tips blogs. There’s only so much theory you need to hear – much more can be learned by watching people practice their craft.

A side note about Blogs about Blogging: The reality is that most ‘blog tips blogs’ are written by bloggers whose most successful blog is a ‘blog tips blog’. While this doesn’t discount them as people to listen to, it’s worth keeping in mind as you ponder their teaching and calls to purchase what they sell.

It also strikes me that the vast majority of successful bloggers going around are quietly going about building amazing blogs and not broadcasting their tips and learnings. Their focus is building their blogs – not teaching others how to blog. While it’d be great to get inside their heads the great thing is that almost everything they do is live on their blogs for all to see – hence the opportunity in spending time learning by watching what they do.

My Challenge to You

For the next week, review a blog every day. It need not include every question above – but put aside 10 or so minutes each day over the next week to look at another blog and see what you can learn.

I dare you! It could just be the most valuable 70 minutes of blogging learning you ever have!

If you take the challenge, I’d love to hear in comments below what you learn!

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.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

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Comments

  1. David says:

    Thanks for the tip Darren. It makes a lot of sense to review competitor blogs in detail to know both about the advantages as well as the disadvantages of the same.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This is a great idea. I’m going to try it out!

  3. Luke Guy says:

    I’ve noticed, by using your method, people seem to love post between 600-1,000 words. More images, that are related, within the post the better. They also like posts that either inform you, or helps them in a DIY kind of way. Like an action blog. Always offering some kind of tip.

  4. Lee Cole says:

    Very timely article for me. One thing I’ve been doing lately is looking at top blogs in my niche and comparing the amount of space on the page that’s devoted to content and advertisements. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against ads. That’s one big way bloggers get paid. It’s just that I’m starting to at least feel like I’m getting an overall sense for a given bloggers monetization strategy by paying attention to such details. As my own blog grows, this helps me plan for the future. Thanks! :)

  5. enzo testa says:

    It’s always nice to read other blogs. That’s how we learn and get feedback and or examples to improve our own blog[s].

  6. Sharon says:

    Great tip! I learn so much from checking out other blogs, but also learn a lot about social media by checking out other social media pages too. Learnt a couple new tips just yesterday after following up a facebook link to a new page in my niche that I hadn’t discovered yet!

  7. This is a simple accessible idea everyone can do. I like the idea of purposely looking with an eye to review not to consume. Thanks Darren!

  8. Jay Lickus says:

    I am still a neophyte blogger and have found that once I review another blog I leave a comment or send seen email to the owner letting them know what inspiration I found. This has already increased my circle of friends and followers…..Great Blog Darren !

  9. bruce jones says:

    Very interesting article and I like the list of questions. What is your criteria for picking the blogs you review. How do you go about selecting them.

  10. Gowthami says:

    thank you for sharing this post! It really helps to know about other blogs and also bring out the inspirations! Reviewing blogs helps to improve mine a lot! I’m trying over past 2 weeks!

  11. Zach says:

    If you’re looking for a blog to review, check out: http://appalachiantrials.com

  12. Nikhil says:

    Hi Darren,

    Awesome tips. Your blog reviewing idea is great. This is a great way to learn new things from other blogger. Thank you for sharing your questions list. I will help.
    Thank you man for this awesome idea…. :)

  13. Wow totally original Darren and truly a tip for all times, There is so much we can learn from other Blogs and by taking the time on a daily basis to see what make other blogs tick, we can in turn find what works for us and implement this to our own benefit and that of our readers.
    Also solid point on the Pros of Blogging they are not out there tooting there own horns but building solid Blogs and websites. The sad truth is that a lot of websites/Blogs as you said on how to blog are simply experts in theory.
    Great stuff keep them coming.

  14. Floorin says:

    I had learned a lot also by visiting other blogs when I started blogging but I never thinked about doing it a few minutes daily. It’s a good ideea!

  15. Krista says:

    I think this is just what I need to do…. thank you!!!!

  16. Rox says:

    This is great, ive just brought your problogger book and im researching the best way to start my blog before i take the leap into blogging. I have been looking at other blogs for alot of these things since I started reading your book. I have started making a corsetry community through facebook and im now ready to start blogging..

  17. Great idea, I need to do more of this! I often add a bunch of new blogs to my reader and never get around to reading them! May need to focus on one or two a week and really absorb them! thanks for the hot tip!

  18. Suzanne says:

    Any tips on how to find good blogs?

    • Avadhut says:

      Hi Suzanne,

      One way is to check alexa.com > Top Sites > By Category

    • why not start with some of the ones here in the comments, I just took a look at Licorice and Olives (above) xx

    • Natalie says:

      Personally, to find new blogs, I usually look at the blogrolls of the blogs I read. There are often really good blogs on there. Google blogsearch has also been helpful to me. :)

    • David says:

      Try looking through the member directory of different blogging groups like The Fellowship of Christian Bloggers!

      You will find lots of great blogs this way!

  19. Ajay says:

    This would be really helpful!

  20. Abha Jain says:

    This post really make a sense.. and I am looking by accepting your challenge and will share my learning soon..
    Thanks :)

  21. William says:

    This is really a great tips. I will try it. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Charles says:

    Very enlightening. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Sam Woods says:

    I may just have to steal that idea :) – recently I’ve found it beneficial to put time away to read other blogs (on a daily basis) but reviewing them I can see being more beneficial.

  24. Afeef says:

    It’s great tips on breaking blogging job into pieces. It’s like a slice of bread and eating it one by one (10 minutes for everyday blogging)

  25. Okay I just went through your questions (put them on a spreadsheet one for each day this week). I started with my own blog, hmmmm enough said.

    What I did see from this first 10 mins is that ‘ouch’ I’m behind in many ways, ahead in others. I do spend time looking at other blogs in this way so this week will be an interesting exercise.

    You really had me clarify just what it is that I write about, and what my readers actually respond to, it’s heart, totally heart, and our story, we were filmed for House Hunters International recently and the producer was so excited after spending 5 days filming with us….he kept saying “You are the product”…..you are a real life River Cottage, your readers are in love with your story….why did it take me until just now to actually accept that.
    thanks Darren xx ciao lisa

  26. That’s an interesting advice but the problem for me is that if I start looking a blog I will probably end up spending much more time than 10minutes :( Anyway thanks for sharing!

  27. Thanks for sharing the very resourceful article.

  28. Vidushi says:

    Very informative articles. But the biggest problem is how to find good blogs to read and review? But one thing which u clearly pointed is that we should learn from other. And that’s exactly what I am going to do now. :)

    Thanks :)

  29. Dhruv Bhagat says:

    All we need is to subscribe your blog for daily updates!!

    Just this and nothing else ;)

    :D

  30. C.L.F. says:

    Great advice for me. I just closed a blog that I wrote for five years and started a new one, so it’s time to learn some “new tricks.” I’ll start my daily blog review today! Thanks.

  31. Sabine says:

    Sounds great Darren and fairly easy to do!
    Now, lets see I can make it a daily habit.

  32. Reviewing a blog to know what made it thick could really provide one with useful information to improve one’s blog. I do this from time to time as well, i look at sites i think are doing better than mine, i study their contents, i study their design, i study other things i find useful and compare how my site is different from them.

    That way i learn what it different, that way i see what others see and try to implement it to my site. I have really learnt a lot of things from reviewing other sites that have improved my site in a lot of ways.

    I found this post on Kingged.com and also left a comment on it.

  33. Rhonda says:

    Thanks for the lists!

    I’ve been subscribing to the email newsletters of the ones that I look to for inspiration so that I can park their posts in my inbox. The past few months I have been spending more time focusing on improving my writing and building good relationships with other bloggers, more than trying to promote my writing because I feel having a support group and community is important. Now I’m gradually moving into getting things read by said community and my own audience.

  34. Wow, best post I have read in ages. I know Tony Robbins always says model those who are succeeding at what you want to do, but you have taken that concept and ran with it. GREAT post and I will be actionning it. I have a long list of to dos, including upping my podcast frequencies but think your idea could massively cut down learning time.
    Thank you ;-) Marysia – actress and blogger

  35. Micahel says:

    Thanks for the excellent resource. I routinely look for ideas whenever I read blogs; now your post provides a check list to do it systematically.
    Cheers,

  36. I think it is especially important to look at blogs outside of your niche. Great advice – thank you!

  37. An excellent post as always. But I especially want to give a resounding AMEN to your “Side note about Blogs about Blogging.” That’s something that has been on my mind of late. Thank you for the confirmation.

    Cheers!

  38. I know I could improve my blog a lot but I have never had the time to fix it. Maybe this 10-min a day thing will finally give me a push towards making my blog better.

  39. Diana Foree says:

    Thanks Darren for sharing your insight into a valuable tool. When new to blogging like I am, it’s always a good idea to look at some of your favorites blogs and see why you like them and follow them. Just using a few of your tips in the beginning will give the blogger ways to improve their style and content.

  40. We are just beginning to design our content writing strategy and using these tools will certainly assist in evaluating others websites. We have have a hard time trying to make sense of what approach we should be taking and how to best connect with our users, but we hope to solidify a strategy soon.

    Thanks again! Great post

  41. A great post.

    To success my blog, I must review other blogs. There are lot of things to learn from reviewing other blogs. This post is very useful for me. Thanks for the post.

  42. Sunday says:

    While the idea of reviewing a blog for learning could be appealing the challenge would be sticking with the discipline to do it continuously.

    Already, blogging on its own is overwhelming and adding this task could be discouraging for some.

    However, I guess the looking at the bigger picture should be motivating to the blogger. If doing this 10 minutes task would bring better results for a blog, why not take advantage of it? :D

    The best takeaway here should be following the key questions asked during the review!

    I have shared this comment in kingged.com – the content syndication, aggregation, and social bookmarking website for Internet marketers and bloggers, where this post was found and “kingged”.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    http://kingged.com/spend-10-minutes-doing-this-every-day-and-you-could-transform-your-blogging/

  43. Ratz says:

    Great idea, spending 5-10 minutes on other blogs and learning some new stuff will really help us to improve our knowledge.

  44. Leah Quinn says:

    Your blog post could not have come at a better time – and the time is so right for me to really get back into blogging not for myself – but for my customers in showing and sharing with them our latest products – I will gladly and certainly take your challenge – and even printed out a copy of this post for all my shop managers to do the very same thing! I am challenging every person who works at my shop to start doing this! Thank you Darren! Thank you!

  45. Valerie says:

    I love how you broke this down into specific questions to ask yourself when it comes to blogging. And I absolutely do agree with you on how important it is to take action instead of immersing yourself in theory. I spend quite a bit of time throughout the week examining other blogs. It gives me a ton of inspiration and boosts my creativity levels. Thank you, Darren!

  46. David says:

    This is really inspired tips! Thank you for the sharing. I’m definitely will start practise it as guided. Thank you. Thank you.

  47. Mike Long says:

    SERIOUSLY great article Darren!
    While it’s great in terms of evaluating other blogs, it’s also – without question – a great “checklist” of how I could look at my own blog with a critical eye; both the “already published” as well as the content that’s in development. Kudos!

  48. Great idea. How do you go about finding the blogs you read? Do you just type whatever niche you feel like reading about into google and see what comes up?

  49. Ryan Felps says:

    Very interesting. I like the simple approach. When things get complicated they tend to get pushed off. The 10 minute idea is really sound. If you don’t pick up and look around at what others are doing like you suggest, you will miss quite a lot. People are innovating the blog process all the time. Thanks for the post.

  50. Minos says:

    Hi I’ll spend 10 minutes each day to review your blog from now on!