What do they know that you don’t?
Those top bloggers, with their armies of fans, making waves across the Internet. What do they have that you don’t?
Well, in this research article, you’re about to learn the top 12 secrets of eight of the world’s top bloggers so you can learn how to be a successful blogger, just like them…
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What Makes Them A Top Blogger?
This list isn’t an official Top 8 like you hear on the radio. Nobody, not even Google or Alexa, has enough traffic information to create a real ranking.
The bloggers on this list are the top bloggers in their niche, or incredibly up-and-coming bloggers, based on detailed research (and lots of coffee drinking).
But what they did have to do was meet a certain criteria that looks like this:
- These folks are frequently featured on top ten and/or top blogger lists for their niche.
- They didn’t buy an established blog; they grew it from nothing.
- They have a mailing list or social media following of 10,000 or more people.
- They're actively producing content.
A Look Behind The Research
We care about content here at CoSchedule. And how you can create better content: This research aims to reflect that.
I’ve used BuzzSumo’s content analysis tool, as well as my own research, to focus on the content these bloggers have produced and how it’s made them a success.
This covers, but isn’t limited to:
- Content length
- Their content (and if their readers are content with it)
- Social media
All with the goal of showing you what they do and how you can do it, too.
Each section breaks down a blog, their content, and what they’ve done to become successful—and how to be a successful blogger all by yourself.
If you’re ready, let’s get into it, shall we?
Jon Morrow: Publish Consistent Content To Build An Audience Of Loyal Fans
Jon's blog, Boost Blog Traffic, is a powerhouse in the blogging niche. It covers all the tools and skills a blogger needs to become a success in the least amount of time possible.
And, Jon is reportedly making $100,000 per month from this blog alone, which is testament to his abilities as a blogger. Let’s look at how he’s done it...
#1. Consistency Is Key
Jon has a strict posting schedule of only one post per week, maximum. And, more often than not, that post is released on a Thursday.
While that isn’t concrete—the blog occasionally posts on other days—that’s when he achieves the most success. Which shows his audience knows when to expect content, and is flocking there as soon as it’s released.
That consistency doesn’t just apply to when he posts his content. It’s also in how he writes his content.
For example, the introductions to all of the blog's posts (even the guest ones) follow the exact same style.
Take a look at this from one of their first ever posts back in 2012:
The process may have been refined, but it’s still the same. That’s over three years of consistency just in their introductions.
Heck, even the same opening sentences show up from time to time!
What That Means For You...
Be consistent with your content. And, not just when you post it, but the style you write it in, too. Give your audience something to expect, and a style that feels like ‘home’ when they read it. The more familiar and consistent it is, the more likely they are to return.
Chiara Ferragni: Blog Frequently And Focus Your Energy On One Social Network
Admittedly, she was employed as a Guess model which gave her some platform to build from. But that doesn’t make what she’s done with this blog any less impressive.
Because to consistently get over 2,000 shares per blog post means that your content has to be good.
From my research, this comes down to two easy-to-replicate steps:
#2. Maintain A Predictable Frequency
Between Monday and Friday, she posts content of different lengths at least once a day. As Matt Cutts from Google notes says, publishing content frequently can help you build an audience who checks in often to catch the latest information from your blog.
#3. Build One Clear Distribution Channel
While it’s definitely beneficial to get yourself out there on every form of media, it can be more effective to focus on fewer, or as is the case here, just one channel: Facebook.
By focusing on building her Facebook presence, Chiara's able to predict and manipulate a large source of her traffic. Plus it’s much easier to build a following on one channel than on multiple.
Which is why her blog's Facebook page has over 1,192,000 likes and counting.
What That Means For You...
If it suits the style of your blog, post content more frequently to drive more traffic back to your site. It doesn’t have to be long; it just has to be valuable and informative.
Narrow down your social media focus instead of trying to cover all of them. Build up an authority standing on Facebook or Twitter and then expand.
Matthew Woodward: Know Your Audience And Dream Bigger
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Matt on a number of projects. And, in the world of effective SEO, he’s one of the go to guys.
From working alongside him, I know three things to be true:
- He spends a painstaking amount of time getting to know his audience.
- He is extremely particular about his content.
- He’s a ferocious networker.
So let’s see how that impacts his blog, and how he’s turned it into a success.
#4. Understanding Your Audience, And Engaging Them, Is Crucial...
Matt’s content doesn’t really go viral. In fact, his social shares are some of the lowest here:
But what he lacks in social shares, he makes up for in comments and engagements. Matt goes out of his way to talk to, and get to know, his audience on a different level. It’s not blogger to audience, it’s friend to friend.
And that's why his posts regularly exceed 60 comments.
He constantly surveys and asks his audience what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.
There is no such thing as filler content either. He doesn’t have any fluff that just fills a posting schedule. He only provides long-form, actionable, or insightful content that his audience will benefit from.
This level of control for him—and his readers—makes sure that there’s a consistent flow of traffic, and that Boost Blog Traffic style of brand-standard-ness throughout his content.
#5. ...But Not As Important As Outreach.
What has truly helped Matt get this blog to such heights is getting out there and networking with other people in the niche. You just need to look at his ‘As Seen On’ page to see just how hard he worked at that:
And, all of that exposure has given his site thousands of backlinks from high quality, authority sites:
Which helps him bring in over 30,000 sessions a month from Google and organic sources alone.
What That Means For You...
While social shares are important as a metric, they can sometimes cloud your measurement for success with vanity. And, it’s possible to have lots of success without ever going viral.
Instead, take the time to get to know your audience—through surveys and emails and polls—to find out what they want and give it to them.
While you’re finding out what your audience wants, be sure to reach out and find opportunities to write for other blogs in your niche, too. Not only does this help for SEO, but it helps for your overall branding and drives traffic to your content from other authorities, too.
Benny Lewis: Build A Personalized User Experience
Benny Lewis is a language specialist from Ireland. His blog, Fluent In 3 Months, has rocketed him to Internet stardom in recent years. It’s led him to become a published author, and to even give a TEDx talk in Poland.
Aside from speaking 11 different languages, he’s managed to build a mailing list of more than 150,000 people.
While the BuzzSumo data on Fluent In 3 Months is a little fuzzy, a deeper look into the blog gives you simple insights into how he’s become so successful.
#6. It Starts With Personalization...
Benny’s blog is not about him. It’s not a way to boast about how many languages he speaks or about how good he is at teaching. Instead, it’s all about you and what you want to achieve.
When you first come to his site, he asks you what language you want to learn, and provides a tailored email course for you right away:
That means he’s never sending junk content to his list. And, he’s getting all the benefits of email list segmentation, like the ones MailChimp found here:
So not only is he providing consistent, valuable content to his readers directly to their inbox—he’s laser-targeting them and increasing his opens, and eventual social shares, by doing so, too. An average post gets 780 shares. That's quite an achievement.
#7. ...And It Ends With User Experience.
The rest of the site is built around what you want, too. Instead of wading through blog posts trying to find the one you want, Benny has set his site up to be:
- Tailored to you
- Easy to navigate
And, because it’s an endless resource with instantly actionable content, that means you stay on the site much longer.
It’s simple, but it’s effective. You need to give people a reason to stay on your site, because they’ll easily find a reason to leave.
What It Means For You...
Where you can, personalize your experience.
Segment your email list to fit different sections of your audience and their interests. Whether you’re a retailer, a blogger, or anything else in between, there are different reasons everyone visits your blog. So, do your research to find them.
And, make sure your blog is easy to navigate. There is nothing worse than a blog site that’s clunky and hard to find your way around. If not for user experience, do it for SEO. Because the cleaner your site structure, the easier it is for Google to crawl it.
John Romaniello: People Crave A Personal And Likable Brand
John’s blog and site, Roman Fitness Systems, is personal branding perfection. He’s taken what could have been another drab, boring fitness site, and turned it into something spectacular.
To give you a little feel of that, take a look at this excerpt from the About section on his blog:
Love it or hate it, it’s unique and attention grabbing. And, he also does everything you’ve seen so far in this article, too:
He focuses on one social network: Facebook. Remember that this is the social platform that he's found to work best for him. Play around with your social networks and test them.
His site can be personalized to the fitness goals of the user:
And, he consistently turns out long-form, valuable articles.
#8. Use Your Blog To Build A Personal, Likable Brand
But the real takeaway from John’s blogging success isn’t just in how well he does all these things. It’s the personal brand he’s built. Because people don’t just come for the knowledge bombs—they come for him.
With a close look at the blog, you can see not all of the content is to do with health and fitness. Instead, he focuses on the attached subjects to it that he, and his readers, care about.
- Life skills
And, not only is this done in an informative way, it’s also done in a charming, funny, sometimes controversial way. Whether that’s through a Facebook post or the headlines he chooses for all the articles on his blog (even the guest posts).
He always makes decisions, and chooses content, that builds his personal brand. By creating such a strong, audience splitting tone of voice, he rallies people towards him (or pushes them away from him). Which is exactly what makes his blog remarkable.
What It Means For You…
Building a personal brand—or a clear brand identity—is a must.
It doesn’t have to be as quirky or controversial as John’s, but it needs to be a little more than the usual beige personality that brands go for.
Pick a side or a stance on your niche and run with it. Hammer it into all of your content, from the small pieces on your site, through to your blog posts and social media updates. It’ll galvanize people around you and create an aura people want to associate with (or get the hell away from).
Stuart Walker: Focus On Providing Value Rather Than Virality
Stuart’s site, NicheHacks, has seen rapid success over the course of the last few years. In fact, in 2 years alone, he’s managed to build this site to generate more than $80,000 a year.
Now, as a disclaimer, I’m part of his writing team, so I’m a little bias to the charm of this blog.
But the following he’s built over the last few years, and the critical acclaim the blog has started to receive, goes above and beyond any of the nice feelings I get in my belly when I think about it.
For example, his Mastermind Group on Facebook alone has more than 10,000 members.
So, how has he managed to build such a successful blog?
#9. Give Away More Than Just The Milk
You’ve heard the saying, “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” before, right?
Lots of bloggers and marketers believe this to be true. That you need to save your best, and most valuable content for your paid content, because it’s stupid to give away your knowledge for free.
But, that’s not a belief he shares.
The average length of content there is around 3,000 words (I used to write him a 5,000-word epic each month), and he covers any topic a niche marketer might ever need.
Just look at this list of his most popular content. Any of these could easily become a downloadable product to sell to people:
#10: Shooting For Virality Is A Waste Of Resources
While this might not equate to a lot of social shares (his average is only 85 per post) what it does equate to is massive engagement, email subscriptions, and conversions into sales:
Like Matthew Woodward, Stuart Walker doesn't focus his energy on creating tons of social shares for his content. Instead, he focuses on providing valuable information he knows his audience will seriously dig.
What It Means For You...
As odd as it sounds, give away your best content for free. Let people see that you can guide them to success and you have their best interests at heart. And, do it all as frequently and often as possible.
By doing this, you build more trust, boost engagement and create a feeling of authority around yourself (or your brand). The more trust you have, the better your bottom line will be.
Jeff Goins: Authenticity Is An Audience Magnet
Jeff’s blog is all about the art, craft, and lifestyle of being a writer. And, as you know as a writer yourself, good blogs about that are few and far between.
Understanding how he’s built his blog doesn’t require a lot of stats and figures and fancy data breakdowns, either. Even though his stats are impressive—an average post gets 423 shares.
What truly makes Jeff successful is how he approaches his content. Because all of it is aimed at empowering you—yes you, sitting there, right now—to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.
#11. Authentic, Transparent, And Personal...
He grabs your attention with stories, both personal and of others, to maintain your attention and keep you on the page:
His stories are insanely powerful because they give authenticity to everything he does. That also taps a deep psychological need of people.
There’s a high level of transparency in what he does, too. He’s open and honest with his readers about everything, and even makes open commitments to his readers.
And, he even goes out of his way to nurture relationships with people away from his blog, by communicating with followers, friends, and fans on their own Facebook feeds:
So, where a lot of bloggers go for stardom and distance from their audience—like a performer on a stage or screen—Jeff aims to connect and become a friend with them and to get involved with them beyond his blog.
What It Means For You...
Break the fourth wall. Connect with your audience on a different, more personal level beyond the realm of your blog and its posts.
But when you are writing your posts, aim to put yourself into your posts. Share stories and events and emotions that come from deep within you, or your brand, too.
Gretchen Rubin: Create Content That Stands Out From The Noise
A lot of blogs out there tackle to topics of happiness, habits, and personal development. But few of them do it as successfully and enthusiastically as Gretchen has over the last few years.
She has frequency and consistency down to a T by posting every day of the week.
But what really makes her content special is the content of her content. She treats herself as a case study all of the time…
#12. Breaking The Content Mould
Where most blogs churn out content like, 5 Ways To Be Happier Today, and the yawn-inducing, 10 Habits Of Happy People, Gretchen grabs the topic by the scruff of the neck and creates content you can use.
A few examples of her recent headlines are:
- Agree, Disagree? “Forming New Habits Can Actually Be Fun.”
- Always Late? 9 Tips for Overcoming Chronic Lateness.
- Do You Ever Get a Huge Pleasure Just From Looking at a Particular Object? What?
She case studies herself, and others, to create actionable real world advice that’s proven. Not nice-to-knows or the occasional motivation booster.
These posts work, and have been proven to work. And that’s why those articles get the most traction and shares.
What she’s done, remarkably, is break the mould of her niche and create content of a different kind. As Seth Godin would term it, she’s created a ‘Purple Cow’ in her niche.
What That Means For You...
Look at your competitors and what they’re doing. Then, make it better. Improve on it. Break the mould and give them more than they’re getting elsewhere. It’s the only way to stand out in a more and more cluttered blogosphere.
How To Be A Successful Blogger (In Short, So You Don’t Forget)
That was a monster post, wasn’t it? I hope it was as enjoyable to read as it was for me to research and write.
Let’s look at the key points of how to be a successful blogger one last time, so you don’t have to go through the whole post again:
#1. Be Consistent: With your tone and with your schedule. When people know what to expect from your blog, they’ll be dying to come back every week.
#2. Share Your Advice Frequently: Your audience will come back if they can expect new content often. Plan a blog posting schedule that shares great advice frequently to build a loyal following.
#3. Focus On One Social Media Channel: Don’t spread yourself too thin, get a foothold on one channel, and then grow from there.
#4. Engage Your Audience: Get to know them. Understand them. And, ask them what they want. It’s better to create a small army that loves you then try and please everyone.
#5. Outreach: Get out there and network. Guest blog, comment and share. Make your name known by relevant people with similar audiences. Your next big hit may only be a conversation away.
#6. Personalize: Make the experience as tailored to your reader as you can. And, segment your mailing list accordingly.
#7. Focus On User Experience: Make your blog easy to navigate and find information. Use blog categories and tags to group similar content.
#8. Create A Clear Brand Identity: Take a stance, find your tone and create something unique. Let people flock to you (or run away from you) based on how they feel about it. But always be unmistakably you.
#9. Give Away As Much As Possible: Value will never die. And, you need to give it to your audience. The more you’re willing to share with them, the more they’ll trust you.
#1o. Going Viral Really Doesn’t Matter: Most of the bloggers, from the biggest to the smallest, don’t have viral hits every time. Their average shares per post are always under 900. So don’t fret about it too much. As long as the number is going up over time, you’re okay.
#11. Be Authentic And Transparent: You’re not a movie star. You can connect with your audience on a more personal level. So, get beyond the computer screen and reach out to them and become a bigger part of their lives.
#12. Break The Mould: Go above and beyond your competitors. Live and breath what you do and go to a level of depth that nobody else is willing to. It might be harder, but it’s definitely worth it.
Now, where are you going to start? Let me know in the comments...