How to Improve Your Blog by Watching What Other Bloggers Do

It’s day 4 in our 31 days to build a better blog challenge and today is one of my favourites – in fact it’s something I do very regularly in my own blogging.

It’s all about spending time on another person’s blog in your niche to observe what they do (and don’t do) to see what you can learn (no magnifying glass required).

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This exercise can be done in 10-15 minutes (although you can take longer if you wish).

Listen to this episode to find out how I do it.

In this Episode

Much of this episode is a series of questions for you to ask as you look at the blog that you’ve chosen to analyse.

You might like to get the blog’s page loaded up and then run todays episode for a bit while I run through some questions and then pause the episode as you do the analysis.

Here are the areas to analyse that I run through:

  • Questions to ask about how the blog you observe handles content
  • Questions to ask about how the blog engages with their readers
  • Questions to ask about how the blog uses social media
  • Questions to ask about who the blog is designed
  • Questions to ask about how the blog monetizes/sustains themselves
  • Questions to ask about how they use email/newsletters
  • Questions to ask about how they are getting traffic to their blog
  • Other questions that might help you identify opportunities to work with this blog

I also share 2 words of warning with this exercise.

Further Reading

This podcast is based upon this post on the ProBlogger Blog where some of the questions I run through are included so you’ve got them written somewhere.

Mentioned in this episode were two tools for looking at the traffic of other blogs. They are Alexa and Compete. These don’t give you exact stats and I don’t find them 100% accurate as I analyse my own blogs but they can give you a bit of an idea of how a blog’s traffic might be trending.

For Alexa just add the url of the site in the top right corner where it says ‘Browse Top Sites or Enter a Site’ and then click ‘Find’.

For Compete just enter the URL in the front page but note that for full stats you need to pay these days so you won’t get a heap of information.

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Welcome to the ProBlogger Podcast episode 4 on day 4 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Today, your challenge is to analyze another blog. You’re going to learn so much from this challenge and learn a whole heap about how to differentiate yourself as a blogger, too. Today’s show notes are at

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Hi, this is Darren from ProBlogger. Welcome to day 4 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, where each day we’re giving you a little bit of teaching and a challenge to go away and to improve your blog. Today is one of my favorite activities and it’s something that I do semi-regularly on my blog.

I go through periods where I actually do it every day but at least once a week I do this activity. I never come away from it without learning something that I can go away and improve my blog on. The activity is this, to analyze another blog in your niche. You can do it with a blog that’s not in your niche but you probably get more value by doing it with a blog on your niche.

The idea is really simple. Put aside 10, 15 minutes longer if you can, and just watch what another blogger is doing. It’s about watching, listening, observing, learning, how other bloggers approach what they do. Not so that you can copy them, but so that you can perhaps notice what someone else is doing well that you could emulate, but also watch what they’re not doing so that you can differentiate yourself.

It’s a simple activity. Firstly, identify a successful blog in your niche, or maybe it’s an up and coming blog in your niche that seems to have burst onto the scene in different ways and that people are starting to talk about. Keep in mind, you can do this with blogs outside of your niche as well, but you’ll probably get more value if you choose one in your niche.

Choose a blog that has been successful, maybe start with one of the big ones and then take 15 minutes to do some analysis. I encourage you to ask some of these questions, and I’ve broken them down into different areas. I’ll give you a post that does these and gives you all of these questions.

The first area is this: content. What topics are they writing about? What topics are they ignoring? What voice or style are they writing in? Are they writing in an authoritative voice, or are they more conversational? What style of posts do they have? Are they writing list posts? Are they writing opinion posts? Something else? How often do they post? Is it once a week? Once a day? Once an hour?

What level are they pitching their posts at? Are they writing for beginners or more advanced audiences? How long are the posts that they are writing? Are they writing lots of short, sharp ones? Are they writing really long, deep mega posts? Are they writing posts that are more information-based? Inspiration-based? Are they more about engagement? Are they more writing about the news?

Are they using different mediums? Are they using video podcasts? Infographics? Are they doing purely original content or are they curating content, using other people’s content to bounce off? What topics and categories do they major in?

Look at the headlines. Do they have any formulas that seem to be working? Are they a single author, blogger, or do they have multiple authors? Do they accept guest posts? All of these questions will just help you to understand the content that’s being used on this successful blog. Again, this isn’t so that you can go away and copy it, and just rewrite their posts or anything like that, but it may give you some ideas of the topics that might work on your blog, and may actually show you some different types of posts that you could experiment with as well.

The second area you might want to think about is reader engagement. How are they engaging with their readers that they’ve got? How are they building community? How are they giving people a sense of belonging, or do they engage at all? What course of action do they use in their posts to get people to comment? What types of posts seem to get the most comments, shares, and likes?

Do they use polls, surveys, quizzes, or other engagement triggers? What social media sites do they seem to be using most to get engagement and build community with their readers? Do they have a newsletter? How do they incentivize sign-ups for their newsletter? What topic content do they send to their newsletter? Maybe it needs to subscribe to yourself?

How much do the writers of the blog engage in the comments section of their blog? Do they have a dedicated community area like a forum or a membership area, or are they doing that more on social media? Do they create discussion-oriented posts, or assignments, or challenges to give their readers something to do? What questions are their readers asking of them in their comments?

All of these things will help you to understand a little bit more about how this blog is engaging with their readers or perhaps how they’re not engaging that you could actually do yourself, to help you to differentiate what you’re doing.

Related to this, you might want to do some analysis of their social media accounts because social media is not just for engagement. Have a look on their sidebar, which social media accounts they have. Are there any there that you don’t already do? How are they promoting their social media accounts? How are they trying to get followers?

Are they using all of those social media accounts or some of them just doing automated stuff like posting their blog posts as they come up? Which ones seem to be most important? Which one is getting the most engagement? How often do they update these accounts? What times of day do they update? What types of posts on these accounts seem to be working best? Are they monetizing their social media accounts? What hashtags do they use? All of these things will give you hints as to what you might do.

Another area you might want to do some analysis on is the design of their blog. What layout do they use? Do they have any different navigation or menu items that you don’t have? What’s the first impression that their blog design gives you? What’s the first thing that they seem to be calling people to do? What call to action do they have on their blog?

Have they used a designer, or are they using a blog template? How do they communicate what their blog is about? Do they have a tagline for instance? How are they using their front page, is it just a traditional blog format with the latest post at the top or are they doing more of a portal style or magazine style?

What items do they have in their sidebar? Do they have a Hello Bar at the top? What type of blogging tool are they using? Can you tell? Is there anything you can tell about their approach to search engine optimization from the way that their blogs laid out? What commenting technology do they have? Are they using WordPress’ native comments? Are they using Disqus or another tool?

What logo do they have? What colors do they have? How do they incorporate social proof into their design? Do they offer an app? There’s a whole heap of different ways that bloggers design their blogs, see what you can learn from the way they do it.

Another area you can do some analysis in is monetization. How are they monetizing their blog at all? This might give you some hints as to how blogs in your niche best monetize. Do they have advertising for sale on their blog? If they do, they quite often might have a page for advertisers, and that page can give you all kinds of information about how much they charge for instance or how much traffic they have, and this is really useful information, particularly if you are looking to advertise your blog, but you don’t know how much to charge for it.

Are they using an ad network like AdSense? How many ads do they have on their page? Where are the ads positioned? What size ads do they offer? What can you learn for the way that they sell their own products if they have them? Do they have an ebook, or a course, or a membership area? These again can be useful hints as to the type of products you might want to develop.

Do they promote products as an affiliate? These might be products that you could promote as well. Do they have any disclaimer page or privacy page? What can you learn from that page about how perhaps you should be disclaiming as well? What advertisers seem to be targeting their blog if they are on that? All of these ideas will just give you things that you maybe one day could aim for with your blog. This might be a big blog, so you may not be able to attract the advertisers that they attract, but it gives you something to aim for.

Another area you can ask questions about is their email newsletter? Do they have an email newsletter? If so, how are they getting people to sign up for it? Do they have pop-ups, forms or Hello Bar? Are they incentivizing people? What type of emails are they sending?

Lastly, traffic. How are they getting traffic to their blog? This sometimes can be difficult to work out, but you may actually, as you look around at other blogs, see their guest posting, or you might see that they’re using social media in different ways, perhaps using hashtags, and who are they engaging with on social media?

Are they engaging with other social influencers who are sharing their content? Once new readers come to their site, how they try to hook those readers, it may be through their newsletter or might be through different social media accounts. How they call people to interact with them. You might also want to have a little look at sites like Alexa or Compete that give you an indication of how much traffic they might be getting to their blogs.

These services don’t always give you highly accurate information on the exact numbers, but you might be able to tell whether the traffic’s plateaued or whether it’s still growing, or whether it’s on the decline.

Lastly, you might want to ask some of these sorts of questions. Are there opportunities to network with or partner with this blogger? Do they accept guest posts that you could then submit and write some content for them? Do they have products that you could promote as an affiliate, or do you have a product that maybe they could promote as an affiliate?

If they’re in your niche, what gaps are there in what they do that you could fill with your own blog? What do they do really well, that you’re not doing? What are they doing poorly that you could do? Again, you could do this analysis with blogs in your niche, or you could even look outside of it. I usually stick within my niche, but from time to time, it’s worth having a look at a blog that’s completely irrelevant to yours just to see what they’re doing because you’ll learn all kinds of things that are going on outside of your niche.

The last few things I’ll say, a little bit of a word of warning. Some bloggers when they do an analysis of other blogs become so obsessed with what others are doing, that they forget to actually do anything unique themselves. Maintain the focus of your own blog and build something worth reading of your own, but do pay attention to what others are doing as well because you might learn all kinds of things, and you might spot some opportunities to collaborate and work with these other bloggers too.

I hope today’s exercise has been a useful one for you. As I said at the start of this podcast, it’s something that I do on a weekly basis. Sometimes even more often than that, almost anytime I find a blog in my niche that I find interesting. I’ll spend 10 or 15 minutes really just asking these questions and learning from them. I hope you find it useful, and we’ll see you on day 5 of 31 Days to Build a Better blog tomorrow.

I hope you found today’s podcast useful. Again, the show notes are at Lastly, another quick word from our sponsors, 99designs. Maybe, you see your blog as innovative, perhaps it’s fun and youthful, or maybe it’s all about trust. Whatever it is, you need a logo and branding that shows off your strongest traits. It’s so easy at 99designs, where you’ll fill in an online brief and let designers from around the world compete to deliver the best design for you.

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How Did You Find Todays Exercise?

I would love to hear how you found todays challenge. Please share what you learned in comments below!

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Also check out the great offer our friends, and new podcast sponsor, 99designs have for you (worth $99). They’re a fantastic place to go if you’re looking for any help with graphic design in your blogging.

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