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

Posted By Darren Rowse 9th of April 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

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.

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

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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.
Comments
  1. Okay, I’m HAPPY!!!!

    The number of subscribers to my RSS feed raised with 400% overnight!

    What a nice way to begin the day! Thank you!

  2. Hi Darren. Somewhere there is a unwritten rule try to stick to one area when you blog. dont write about too many stuff… well i really dont follow the rules pretty much.. i dont have a niche. i comment on anything and everything.. sports,politics,movies,bookst.t.v shows my gym days, my heartbreaks… I like to believe i am unique but i may be wrong…so no Top blog in “my niche”. atleast till now

  3. A good way of thinking when looking at other blogs: be glad with what you’ve created, but look at what’s better at others, and try to improve yourself.
    Always keep on learning!!!

  4. Michael Layer says: 04/10/2009 at 10:35 pm

    Hello Darren,

    thanks for all your very helpful ideas, tips and exersises. I really enjoy this challenge and also follow your tweets on twitter.

    I’m right now in the process of building a corporate blog for my company BWK Dachzubehoer GmbH. We are a German producer of roofing equipment. I’m also writing my final diploma thesis about the risks and chances of corporate blogging for small and medium-sized businesses.

    Unfortunately I couln’t find any other German blogs in our niche. I guess we’ll have the first corporate blog in this business field, at least in Germany.

    Did by any chance see somebody any other blogs dealing with similar topics and products?

    Thanks for your help and inspiration Darren, I’m looking forward to the next task.

  5. As I was falling asleep last night, I found a way to paraphrase what I said earlier in a much more eloquent way:

    When I was newer at blogging, I used to look at other bloggers and try to copy the types of things they do. Now I look at other bloggers and try to have similar kinds of effects that they have on their readers but while doing things my own way–the ones that I look up to are all super-successful at getting people excited, letting them participate, presenting new ideas, and being original. And I’m much happier with it.

  6. Sometimes with my blog I can hit the mark and have my readers interact and some posts I do not get anything. This analyzing post may help me hit the mark a bit more.
    Thanks

  7. What a great exercise ! One can learn a ton just from reading, watching and learning from other top bloggers !

    I did the task and wrote a blog post about it:

    http://activerain.com/blogsview/1027860/Learning-from-Other-Successful-Bloggers-Watch-Listen-and-Observe

  8. @Bradford Shimp

    Since your brought up your blog design, I’d agree that it’s an issue on your blog. I took a look and it just feels very tight at the top of the page. You might try a search for minimal wordpress themes and see what you come up with :) Something with good spacing that feels more open would be a good fit. Once I was able to focus on the articles though… you do have good content.

    @Ed Coffin

    You also mentioned blog design, and actually I don’t really think there’s much wrong with your core design.. you just have an awful lot of stuff the page ;) It’s an easy thing to get caught in, the ever-growing sidebar syndrome. Example, do you really need 2 other (and different) ways to follow you on Twitter in your sidebar when you have a link to follow you on twitter at the bottom of each post? There are blog templates for blogger too that you can find on a google search – in fact, a lot of WP templates have been ported over to it.

  9. Ah, if I only had a niche :) My niche is the fact that I write about a lot of different things. Probably not the most profitable type of blog, but I enjoy writing it.

    Still, this is a great tip. I have actually been paying a lot of attention to what some other blogs doing, and determining how certain things might or might not work for me.

    http://www.observingcasually.com/

  10. I have posted a new one which talk about ” the red lines ” but my post in Arabic .. you can translate and give me your Advise that will great price from you >> thanks

    http://atyafmsr.blogspot.com/2009/02/blog-post_6630.html

  11. I’m not sure if this is encouraging or discouraging, but the big thing I noticed in the most successful blogs I looked at was that the authors were known for something other than blogging. They have been writing and speaking for years and the blog is an extension of that.

    Either that or they’ve been online since the internet began.

  12. wow! this exercise was so nice to test my self from other bloggers.i had learned lots of things from this.
    thanks to Darren.

    my blog : http://www.readycashforu.blogspot.com

  13. Looking at the competition was interesting. Few people approach it the way I do, and after reading your post I am ok with that.

    Most people writing for small biz, lead with their blog, promoting their expertise, and hoping to sell add space. For me, the goal is to build my marketing business, so I lead with the biz site, and have blog posts on the home page. I don’t sell ads, but am trying to promote my products.

    The popular sites seem to have lots and lots of lists, but not necessarily the best posts. While I will do lists, I think I want to carve out a niche as a great content source.

    Also, the best ranked blogs, seem to be the most focused ( back to day one activitty – elevator pitch! )

    Thanks for this assignment, it is something I am going to do again and again.

  14. Darren,

    Thanks for this exercise because it is helping me to further define my niche and I have determined there is a underserve market from my competition and I want to see if I can capture that niche over the next 31 days. Thanks again for all of your wisdom and expertise.

  15. Didn’t spend as much time on this as I would have liked.

    Observations:
    I need to focus more on what differentiates my blog. Layout, organization, and voice are some of the elements that do.

    I need to focus more on
    – generating unique content, especially video.
    – link backs from other sites/directories, etc.
    – adding a compelling portrait

    Again, thanks for another thought-provoking challenge and one that I’ll keep re-visiting.

    -Ben

  16. My niche is secular homeschooling. I have found that the majority of successful homeschooling blogs to be religious in nature.

    This was a useful exercise for me to complete. It was interesting to visit a variety of blogs about homeschooling.

  17. great exersice..give me some idea how to find unique post when observe my competitors. thanks Darren so much

  18. It appears that the academic-type blogs have the most traffic when they dovetail with pop culture? I looked at musicalperceptions.blogspot.com His post regarding bracketology/musicology/graduate programs and his post regarding music in movies had the highest number of comments.
    Also, he seems to get much traffic via a very large number of links he provides to other blogs/sites.
    musicalthought.wordpress.com

  19. This needs to be done any which way. One should actually subscribe to all competitors to keep a track of them.

  20. The hardest part of this challenge has been finding any decent blogs to analyse. I write a personal blog which I am now using to share my experience in learning Mandarin Chinese. I’ve taken time out to analyse blogs before and have a template ready, but the most important thing is part one of today’s challenge: Identifying a top blog in your niche.

    The search is still on.

  21. When I first started blogging I would adopt every single cool thing I found on other bloggers’ sites for my own, even if I didn’t quite understand how it all worked. It didn’t take long at all for my blog to look like a poorly decorated high school locker door. What Darren says is important: just because it worked for someone else does not necessarily mean that it will work for you. Before you start copying or “adopting” make sure that you do your research!

  22. Darren,
    I wanted to thank you for having us do this lesson about analyzing other peoples blogs. It helped me uncover a problem with my own site. After comparing it to others I noticed my outbound and inbound links are not showing up in the tools you suggested. But I do have some, so now I’m trying to uncover the problem if anyone has an idea I would love to know what could be causing this.

    Thanks,
    Stephanie

  23. Technorati sucks if you are looking for health or investing information.

    Good thing my boyfriend has some favorite blogs that he goes to, hopefully some of them are popular and successful.

  24. I think I fail in this task :)

    Since the motto and name of my website is not to be a niche! I don’t want to pigeonhole me. There are too many interesting things I like to write about it. :)

    If you want to be successful and making money with your blog, that’s not the right way to go, but I do it for fun and passion!

    But great task anyway!

  25. Hi Darren,

    I have found a couple of useful things and I have added the m too …

    ###################################
    http://www.catdumps.blogspot.com
    ###################################

  26. Just gotta mention: my analysis post (which used all tips so far, list, social bookmarking, etc.) is getting the best rate of comments so far of any blog post of mine ever (including the aborted blogs). Getting agreement and thanks as well, which means the post was useful, which is even cooler.

    For reference: http://development.tobiasopdenbrouw.nl/post/2009/04/09/5-blogs-every-ASPNET-programmer-should-know-analyzed-(31-DBBB-4-method).aspx

    Thanks everyone!

  27. I am not sure that I can match what my competitors are doing. The top ones have their dSLR cameras, and they take photos of everything. For me, I am like, wow. Mac and Cheese. I do NOT want to be a part of that, rather, I want to get people to think about what they are eating, and give them tips on how to go about that.

    For me, I am not sure about the moneytization part. I think I need to get a base of followers, then try and sell the books and videos out of the store that I set up. Would that be a viable alternative?

    http://www.welldonechef.com

    A very good lesson for all!

  28. One of the top sites in my niche also happens to be in Phoenix. He does a great job with informing people about events along the light rail and also makes it a point to REPORT on meetings as opposed to regurgitating what was in the local paper. I see this as a benefit not only to his readers but also to him since people are able to put a face with the blog.

  29. although I personally like to think I am my own niche, I have found various blogs that are similar to yournontoxiclife.com

    I also “follow” many blogs,some for fun, some because they are similar to me. The problem is I can get sucked into reading all the blogs I follow and have no time for own.

    Good assignment!

  30. Listen up, this step might not seem attractive but it’s worth completing. It takes asking all of these questions before one realizes the many gaps out there in the blogosphere. This is part of the process. Learning to do proper research. Don’t skip it, now is not the time to become lazy. :)

    -Mig

  31. I have to say that somehow this has proven to be both the most challenging and the most helpful task so far. One day later and I’ve still not completed the homework, but I already feel I’ve learned more than I expected.

    After some agonizing over a suitable blog to examine, I decided to go the whole hog and look at a big, commercially backed blog in my niche. What I discovered was quite surprising. I found that this very highly rated blog really receives very few comments – actually not many more than I do with my pretty new and pretty much undiscovered blog.

    This really got me thinking. While it seems like it’s very hard to keep up with a multi-author, very authoritative blog, the smaller personal blog run by just one blogger, who is often tearing her hair out about how to manage everything, has some obvious advantages.

    Great assignment Darren! I just have the SEO analysis to complete, which I will get done soon. Since SEO is something I am absolutely struggling with, using a, hacked by me, Blogger template, I’m really hoping to turn up something instrumental to getting my blogging to the next level.

    Thanks :-)

  32. Great post! As I look around to see my “competition” I realized that I don’t really think of these blogs as competition, they are like “friends”. Hmm

    delicate flower,
    Thank you for leaving a really useful link on your comments!

    blogtrepreneur.com – 100 must read blogs by women

    and Mrs Green,
    Your blog is amazing!

    Thanks Darren for another thought-provoking day… on to Day 5!

    Wendy

  33. I don’t get a lot of comments over at Beyond Beeton http://beyondbeeton.com but I always try to respond when I do.

    In the very early days of my blog, I noticed a commenter who had an unusual name and was from my city. I had recalled a friend mentioning a friend of hers by that name on a few occasions.

    I mentioned that to the commenter and it turns out that we did indeed have a friend in common. We started tweeting and then emailing and we’ve now caught up a number of times in person. I’ve made a good friendship as a result!

    I’ve also been fortunate enough to recently ‘meet’ some new people as a result of 31DBBB and commenting on their blogs.

  34. A very tiring exercise, but I am glad I did it. I have seen some ways I can already look to improve my blog.

    Here is the link.

    http://limetouch.com/archives/analyze-a-top-blog-in-your-niche/

  35. We identified ZenHabits.net as a similar blog to ours. Our competitive analysis was pretty intensive and included demographic analysis of the traffic

    Summay: ZenHabits.net and related niches may be difficult to monetize.

    Here is our analysis:
    http://www.excitedbylife.com/better-blog-challenge/competitive-analysis-of-zen-habits-blog/

  36. Hello!

    Will someone help me how to find the source code of a web page but not necessarily intruding the privacy of others.

    Thanks.

  37. @BizMind – If you use Firefox, why try the Web Developer’s toolbar? Then you can right click the page -> Web Developer ->View Source -> View Source

  38. 2 Top Blogs that I’ve been following and amazed by, and they are very successful in terms of followers/subscribers/readers.And they are Bali Blog WhyGoBali http://www.baliblog.com that has the most comprehensive guide on Bali out in the world of the wide web, and The Naked Traveler (TNT) http://www.naked-traveler.com, a backpacker blog that’s been published as a book as well and is very hilarious!!

    TNT blog always got great response from readers for each post, specially those who are fans of the book, while WhyGoBali I see that it’s backed-up by a big travel company in Australia so the advertisers on this site seem to be well targeted.

    And the designs are also simple, not complicated, clean, attractive with special header design.

    And NO, I won’t copy them at all, I love my blog WP theme :)

    Thanks,Darren! I’m 2 days behind because of my activities here in Bali (too busy on the beach!)

  39. I’m a bit behind so I’m not up to the actual analysis yet – I’m still working on choosing a site. Because my market is so very narrow (art and art jewelry afficianados) it’s hard to find similar as well as successful blogs. Moreover, just because I know the artist doesn’t mean we are aiming for the same or even similar audience. Some blogs are oriented to other artists. And I know a few of these though I don’t know how popular they are. But my blog is meant to appeal to anyone who appreciates the work of an independent artist and especially people who are interested in buying art and art jewelry.

    Well… I’m sort of stuck. Google was prety much useless. So I’m going to choose the blog for one of the guilds of which I am a member; the blog for the Etsy Beadweavers Street Team. Every month there is a beadweaving challenge and everyone helps promote it. So there’s a lot of voting and several comment posts. Clearly as I am a member, it must be a releted site.

    Hm, does LiveJouranl count as a blog?

    Let’s see what I can dig up. At the very least the exeercise should give me some experience so that if I later find a site that has a focus similar to mine and impresses me, I can use the tools and experience to researsch that site.

    Thanks!

  40. The blog I am analyzing is http://etsy-beadweavers.blogspot.com/ the blog for the Etsy Beadweavers Street Team.

    Content:
    Most of the topics are the Monthly Challenge Theme – so there have been only about two posts per month, though once there was a post of a piece several of us worked on about cleaning and caring for beadwoven jewelry.

    We seem to be ignoring everything else. Wow this is not telling me anything!

    The voice is one of excitment, but restrained so still professional if conversational. Thankfully not that shouting used car dealer voice that so turns me off.

    Posts are ever so rare. So maybe this is only popular during the 5 days of voting?

    The question of level as such is not exactly relevant. On the one hand, anyone can vote and all you have to do is choose the piece that most appeals to you. On the other hand, most people one expects will be visiting are other artists, their friends, their clients, and anyone curious about beautiful beadweaving creativity.

    Reader Engagement:

    Wow. All of the posts have lead to approximately the same number of comments: range between 9 and 20.

    I had thought that the winner announcement posts or the care post would generate the most comments but that isn’t so. There are not enough data points to accrue any meaningful conclusions.

    The comments are not very informative. Mostly just beadweavers ooohing and ahhhing over each others’ work. Occasionally there’s a typo correction (as for the care document). And of course congratulations to that month’s winner.

    Promotional tools are whatever the members have. I have twitter (hum and my newsletter), other folks have facebook and other SN connections.

    Design:
    First impression is how colorful and uncluttered the layout is. Clearly an art site. I like that the font is actually readable and that the page is not cluttered with ads and flash and sounds.

    The only thing that might be considered to have been done poorly in my opinion is that it’s not always easy to find the comments link. In fact one has to guess that “Comments” means not just read them but leave them as well.

    There is a single option to subscribe by leaving your email. It’s a thrid party util (Feedblitz) which I need to check out. There is a Follow thingy by Google. I’m not sure if that’s considered subscribing, though.

    The monetization issue is subtle here in that there are no direct requests for purchases of any kind. Rather readers are encourages to visit each members etsy shop and especially those of the various challengers’.

    Hm, alexa shows traffic to be about 2 million. I really don’t believe that. Though I do believe that the visitors are dropping. compete requires membership so… no thanks.

    approx 176 links according to google.

    So… not a world shaking site but I know some of the members have had sales of their challenge pieces. Is this a successful blog? I have no idea. Still.

  41. My blog is artquiltmaker.com/blog. It is about creativity, design and quiltmaking.

    The blog I analyzed was Anna Maria Horner’s blog: http://annamariahorner.blogspot.com/

    Some things I noticed were:
    1. color is consistent throughout the blog. The post pictures have the same look as the pictures in the banner and on the sidebar.
    2. she has tons of followers despite the fact that she doesn’t post every day.
    3. she uses the regular Blogger template with her own photos.
    4. The photography is really good.
    5. She has Flickr badges, but no Twitter or Facebook badges that I can see. She also has links to Sitemeter, a Technorati Fave badge/link and a ‘subscribe with Bloglines’ link.
    6. She talks a lot about her projects at home, her kids and her work. Her blog has the sense of being very real and she comes across as very accessible. I know that I don’t talk about my personal life that much, but stick to my projects and process. It makes me wonder if the tone isn’t real. I don’t know how to measure for that.

  42. I am going to write these questions into my composition book. These are really good, composite, questions. Someone gave me similar advice, once, and what you have posted parallels what they told me.

  43. Wow, that was hard work but well worth it. I now have lots of ideas to incorporate into the blog. I have just installed a new theme and am working to get the colours and header right (still not quite there) but there are lots more things I can add/change now, too. I am happy that I know where I should be going. Thanks for this topic.

  44. Analyzing other top blogs in my niche really helped me see what they have in common that draws volumes of readers and what contributes to their success.

  45. I will have to work on this. It hadn’t really occurred to me to look at advertisers and affiliates, but as I grow I’m keeping that in mind.

    When I first started blogging, I did pay a lot of attention to what the bigger blogs in my niche (mainly Christian mom blogs) were doing and got a lot of ideas from them. I also decided to be brave and just ask them to look at my blog and give me some feedback, which they kindly did! So I encourage that, too. Ask some bloggers to give you feedback – the worst they can do is say no or not respond. No big deal! But you may gain some very valuable feedback.

    Thanks again! I’m having trouble keeping up on a daily basis, but just going in order as I have the time. I really appreciate all the info.

  46. This was such a fun exercise. I had 2 related blogs open side by side and problogger questions next to them. I learned a lot with these questions.

  47. Thank you for the conceptual framework. I was already analyzing other blogs in my niche (self-help credit repair) but you gave me several things I was missing in my analysis.

  48. This turned out to be a very valuable exercise. I just finished analysing yoast.com and it means I now have a list of things I know my own blog is missing and to try and include in the next design (without blatantly copying of course, but a lot of it is sensible stuff I just haven’t gotten around to).

  49. Anway, great post, I’ll make a copy of this list and tick them off as I go

  50. I found this lesson more challenging in the fact that it was hard for me to find a similar blog. Since I am not a master search engine specialist, I had to spend some time thinking of how to word the search BUT I did finally find one to critique.
    I saw a lot of stuff that I could incorporate into my blog like; addthis. So, I added it…and I also saw things that I feel I like better the way I have done it on my own site. Like my template. I changed mine to me more energetic and ALIVE to reflect my tagline.

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