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Build Upon Your Strengths as a Blogger

Posted By Darren Rowse 24th of February 2009 Blog Promotion, Writing Content 0 Comments

This post belongs to the ‘taking your blog to the next level‘ series which looks at tips for bloggers whose blogs have got a start but want to take it up a notch. Read the intro here.


Analyze why Readers Come to your Blog….. and then Build on It

The first thing that I’d highly recommend medium sized bloggers do when I speak with them is to set aside some time to analyze the current performance of their blog and particularly to focus upon the successes and strengths that the blog has.

While there’s a lot to be said for identifying a blogs weaknesses in order to improve I think many bloggers spend so much time working on improving the negatives (patching holes and fixing problems) that they fail to build upon their successes.

Here’s a ‘secret’ of success that I’ve observed in quite a few successful bloggers…

They don’t do everything well, but what they do do well they keep doing it over and over again.

3 Examples of Blogs that Build Upon their Successes

Many successful blogs illustrate this principle. Let’s take a quick look at three:


  • I Can Has Cheezburger – these guys are geniuses, I don’t know when they discovered that putting captions on pictures of cats would draw hundreds of thousands of readers to a blog – but when they did they focused upon that. Their blog design might not be the sexiest and they rarely write a post with more than a handful of words – but they worked out what their readers wanted and kept giving it to them. In fact they’ve taken the LOLcat formula and have rolled it out for Dogs, Celebrities, News and Politics etc.
  • post-secret.png

  • Post Secret – in some ways this is a similar story to I can has Cheezburger – Frank discovered that the idea of posting people’s ‘secrets’ on postcards captured people’s imagination. Again – I’m not sure where the idea came from but Frank latched onto it and has continued to keep his blog focused upon what works. In fact he’s expanded the idea into books and traveling exhibitions – all focusing upon the same thing – postcard secrets.
  • smashing-magazine.png

  • Smashing Magazine – this blog has seen incredible growth in the last year or two and a lot of it is by building upon what works. If you analyze their posts you see certain types of posts that are repeated again and again. Check out their post 35 examples of animals photography for example – a post filled with great images on a theme. They do these weekly and they always generate lots of interest on social media sites. In fact this ‘list’ type post isn’t just photographic – they do lists of tips, resources etc. They’ve worked out what types of posts work with their readers and they continue to apply it again and again.

I could go on with most successful blogs. They identify something that works and repeat it over and over again. This doesn’t mean that they simply repeat the same content – the key to their success is to find new ways to apply the same formulae.

So what has worked on your blog? How can you do it again and even improve upon it?

Let’s Get to Work and Do Some Analysis

Here are some questions to ponder to help you to identify these points of energy on your blog that could be worth expanding upon:

Questions about Content

  • What posts have had the most traffic to them?
  • What posts have had the most comments?
  • What posts got the most links from other blogs?
  • What posts did better than others on social media sites?

When you’ve compiled a list of these posts that did better than others – do some analysis of WHY they did well.

  • Was it the topic?
  • Was it the style of post?
  • Was it the title that you used?
  • Was it the use of an image?
  • Was it the posts length?
  • Was it the use of humor?

There could be any number of factors that contributed to a post’s success – but there’s usually one or two that stand out. Do this analysis on a number of successful posts and you might just discover that the same things come into play in each case. Identify what these factors are and you’re in a great position to develop more of this type of content.

Questions about Traffic

Another type of analysis to do is asking questions around the ‘source’ of current traffic to your blog.

  • What are the top sources of traffic to your blog?
  • What other blogs or sites are linking to your content?
  • What social media sites seem to be liking your content?
  • What search engines send you traffic?
  • What keywords are people arriving on your site as a result of searching for

Looking at the source of traffic coming to your blog is a powerful technique to help you grow your blog further.

I’ve found that when you see a significant source of traffic to a blog that there are almost always ways to build that traffic further. For example:

  • When you notice a lot of traffic coming to certain posts from Google it can be helpful to optimize those pages for the keywords people are searching for to increase the traffic (looking at keyword density, linking to the page from other parts of your blog with good anchor text, tweaking titles etc).
  • When you notice another blog linking up to yours there’s an opportunity to build a relationship with that blog. Get to know the blogger, thank them for the link, submit other posts that they might find useful, link up to them etc
  • When you notice a social media site has been sending traffic it is a signal for you to get involved in that site. You might want to do some analysis on the type of content that does well on that site, you could educate your current readers on how to use the site, it might be worth adding a ‘voting’ button from that site to encourage readers to vote for you etc.
  • When you get a lot of traffic for certain keywords from search engines it can be a hint to write more content on that topic. Pay particular attention to ‘questions’ that people are typing into search engines as these can be ready made post titles and topics to write about.

Identify Your Blogs Successes and Strengths

In this post I’ve only unpacked two types of strengths and successes that a blog might build upon (ie traffic sources and types of posts) – but there are of course a lot more. The same principles apply – once you identify something that you’re good at or something that people are responding to on your blog – keep doing it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t explore other things or improve upon weaknesses – but spend as much time building upon your success as you do in fixing weaknesses and I think you’re probably onto a good thing.

Tomorrow we’ll continue this series of posts on taking your blog to the next level by looking at converting first time readers into loyal ones.

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. Never thought of the many viewpoints that could help grow your blog. Looking forward for the next series since Im drowned with the info above.hehe

  2. A great summary. Thanks a lot.

    Post, research, and post more.

  3. This is great!

    How do you know where your visitors are coming for if they do not come from search engines?


  4. Thanks Darren, I’ve been looking for info on how to push to the next level, I have a new blog a couple months old and have roughly 300 visitors a day would like to keep growing.

    This analysis will help wonders on crafting new posts.
    Thanks for sharing your knoweldge and for the inspiration.


  5. Thanks for this post! Very helpful info you got there. Can’t wait for the next part of the series.

  6. What a great, but often overlooked, piece of advice—build upon your strengths and successes as much (if not more) than shoring up your weaknesses. Can be applied to so many areas in life, not just blogging!

  7. Great info. I’ve got some traffic, but am working on getting comments on posts. Have you any suggestions on the best ways to encourage commenting?

    Thanks for all of your input.

  8. This was a very interesting post and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

  9. “When you notice a lot of traffic coming to certain posts from Google it can be helpful to optimize those pages for the keywords people are searching for to increase the traffic (looking at keyword density, linking to the page from other parts of your blog with good anchor text, tweaking titles etc).”

    This is a great tip. I started getting some traffic from google this month after an article i wrote about the stimulus package got to the front page for “government stimulus package.” This led me to write a few other articles on the subject giving links back to the original article with good anchor text. I moved all the way to #1 and received a very nice influx of traffic. I’ve since dropped to #2, but the point remains that onsite SEO can be very helpful. Let google know what information on your site is important and tell it what it is about.

  10. Seems to me that I will have to invest one full day to get the answer of this question and one more day to plan about it.

    But I am sure if I will do this than I will be able to get maximum benefit and more targeted visitors in coming days.

    Usually I give half an hour for my planning but I think I will have to invest more and more time to it.

  11. I think building on our successes makes sense, really build on the success we have had and then once we have had a good go at the best things we can do and then we tackle the weaknesses.

    For my blogs, especially as some of them are visual blogs I am getting more traffic from google images more than anything else and so my weakness I suppose is driving traffic up through regular blog posts that simply provide information.

    I’m taking on board your suggestions as have gone before and I will report on the results of this by checking the usual analytics tools.

  12. Great post. It is very useful to go in and take a look at your posts. You can find out which posts have been the most successful and then create more content that is similiar.

    I have found that list style posts are always the most popular on sites like Stumble.

  13. Great post. I just read thru a bunch of your earlier posts on how to improve subscription to your site. Look forward to your next post on this series!

  14. Great post, now that my blog is 1 year old, I have a good idea of what sorts of posts people respond to and my goal for year 2 is to build on that, while still occasionally trying new things.

  15. Great article, with the right research done, you can understand what your guest(readers) like from you. Thus you are able to give back the things they like to keep them coming. Great advice like always.

  16. My sister keeps telling me to find what works and drop the rest.
    We work in two totally different areas. What works for some genre does not always work in anther.

    Looking at your own strengths is a good idea from the start of a site to keeping it keeping it rolling.

    I hadn’t thought of thanking the bloggers that link to me.



  17. Play on your strengths…why the heck didn’t I think of this! Oh yeah, because I’m a novice blogger – almost forgot for a sec.

    I’ve been seeing people come into my blog through Google search results on two key topics. I’ll focus more on these content areas and see where it takes me. Good stuff.

  18. Seems kind of obvious, huh. I think many bloggers don’t really analyze their traffic enough. They don’t look at referrals and which posts get the most hits. Maybe they look at comments, but not everyone leaves a comment.

    Keep up with traffic so you know what works.

  19. Recently I’ve been paying more attention to the sources of my high traffic and trying to play to those kinds of topics and social media involvement. Building upon success is definitely an important part of growing. You can’t get anywhere if you just focus on the negative!

  20. Thanks for the tips.

    I often get so caught up scrambling to create as much new content as possible that I forget to analyze and mimic what has worked in the past.

    You’ve got to look backwards to see forwards I suppose.

  21. It’s important to analyze things and play to your strengths, but at the same time if you’re not happy writing posts like “20 Amazing Steps to . . . ” then what’s the point? If you focus on what makes you unique as well as marketable (the standard USP), it’s just as important to make sure you’re reaching the right audience with that message.

  22. This is a truly very timely post for us bloggers.. man it is very necessary to build upon your strengths during these times of economic recession and job losses.

    I have started to think in those terms too. How to continue getting the traffic levels i got for my highest visited post is the biggest question to ponder upon.

    Thanks for the great and thought provoking post.

  23. Good post. I’m starting to analyze my blog casually as time goes on, but I really need to get down and analyze it more professionally.

  24. Analysis is important but often overlooked by bloggers but it’s really the best way to learn how to grow your blog and keep your audience happy, instead of just blogging blindly and hoping for the best.

    This should be a great series of posts!

  25. Thanks for the useful tips, I’m looking forward your next series of posts! :P

  26. I would never think those blogs would get much traffic. It proves you don’t know what works until you try it.

  27. Well this answers one of my questions. I’ve noticed a fair portion of my traffic coming to me from Google via a specific few keywords, and I have never been sure whether I should expand more on those specific keywords, or maybe focus on the ones which do not bring as much traffic to try and bring them up.

  28. Darren,

    I never know more about it, you list out a very clean and clear summary. It takes me some times to absorb it.
    Thanks for the tips and summary!


  29. As someone who is trying to get their first blog off the ground, I got a lost of useful guidance here that’s going to help me shape the direction my blog is headed… and I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series. Thank you.

  30. great post often bending the form can create great sites. The power of drupal cannot be understated.

  31. Nice insight into finding what your readers or audience like, always is good to do this type of research.. When i see diggs or stumbles to a post more than once i always go with all angles of that keyword in my niche.. :)

  32. I find it incredible that you still manage to do posts that are so good and useful after all this time Darren. Always little nuggets of gold even if we have heard some of it before.

    This post reminds me of a friend of mine who saw one blogger’s abrasive style which was very popular and then tried to replicate it on his own blog. His traffic collapsed because he had a perception with the readers – a social contract almost – and they didn’t like the change. Not only that, but you need to be a very clever writer to be abrasive and not come across as too much of a tool. He wasn’t clever enough. Nice post.

  33. I have known smashing magazine. very nice blog.
    good post, thank you.

  34. Good post! That’s true that we are more obsessed by our weaknesses and we do not work hard enough on our existing strength. Do you think it might be different for a corporate blog??

  35. Useful article, we are thinking about this process at the moment.

  36. This post is an excellent example of applying dedicated research and (most importantly of all!) ACTING upon it. Nothing will happen to your blog unless you proactively take ownership of it…and invest the time and effort to making it a success.

  37. Yea I noticed that people like the “free links” and “free stuff” posts more than the others.

    Good point.

  38. Ok Darren,

    First, I just have to say that without a doubt, this is the most useful post I have EVER come across. The practicality of the tips and the depth of content are over the top. You’ve seen my comments here and at TwiTip and you know I’m not a gusher. Well, I’m gushing now! I cannot wait to get started on this project.

    My blog is just about 6 months along and has seen peaks and valleys. As of late things seem to have stagnated and I’ve not had a clue why. Now, I have a method to help figure that out and for that, I am grateful.




  39. A very helpful post. I plan to take more time and analyze my blog with these questions. But I wanted to pop on and say that I’ve had an epiphany of sorts — I actually wrote about it last night on my blog.

    My traffic leveled off over the past year after increasing steadily for the first 2 years of its existence. I was driving myself CRAZY trying to figure it out. Then a friend cautiously informed me that my blog had changed over the past year. I’m a mommy blogger (and I am not ashamed of that title!) :-), and in her words, my blog had become more “businessy” and less me.

    When my blog gained popularity and I started getting cool perks, I actually got away from what made it attractive in the first place. I felt like I had to be more purposeful in my posts, I guess, and I stopped posting a lot of the random, newsy posts about my life that had attracted people in the first place.

    What I’m getting at is, I had let go of what was working, and that really hurt my growth. I’m trying to get back to what was working in the first place, and so far my readers are extremely encouraging.

    All that to say, this article makes an excellent point — figure out what it is that you do well, and just do it! :-) Thank you for that great advice!

  40. I really needed a post like this. I haven’t spent nearly enough time analyzing what works on Green Your Decor. I think I have a long date with Google Analytics in the near future.

  41. Great post very on key to what most Bloggers need to do. This is something that I believe is on going whether you have 100 unique views a day or 100,000 you should still be analysing your traffic and your plan works well.

  42. “I Can Has Cheezburger”.. Every time I see it, I can’t help but think their logo is absolute genius, one of *the* most creative ones I think I’ve ever seen.. :D

  43. Thank You, excellent suggestions I’ve already done 2 and filling in the rest of the list.
    Thanks also for your book. I enjoyed it alot.

  44. I guess I need to install Google Analaytics and analyse. I never thought of analyzing my strengths. Thanks Darren for showing me the light :)

  45. Another important factors to look for.. thanks for listing down.

  46. Search engine traffic can be dubious. Currently my top post gets a lot from Google and Google images, but when I took probably just bounced. Building more upon those keywords would give more traffic, but that traffic will never convert to subscriptions. On the other hand, it might push post’s ranking and give a bit more visibility to readers that might be really interested.

  47. This is exactly right! I’ve had some posts that seem to do well even though I have no idea why…

    I just need to learn how to build upon that a bit more…

  48. My main blog is only about a month old, so it is hard to measure which articles are more popular yet. I have noticed that a couple have ranked decently in the search engines for some terms, yet others are lost out in cyberspace..lol

  49. Good information, thanks for helping me increase my blogger skills !

  50. So this works like the continuous improvement process, where you try to make each cycle better than the previous one with a little modification where the aim is to shape up the performer and get rid of everything that doesn’t work out.

    Or like the 80-20 principle, focus on 20% of work which is responsible for 80% of rewards.

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