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

Analyze a Blog in Your Niche

Day #4 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is all about learning from the success of similar sites.

Identify a Successful Blog in Your Niche

On day #1 of the 31DBBB, I struggled mightily to identify the new niche for my life change blog. I came up with an idea, but I’m still mulling over the best way to express it.

Because of this uncertainty, finding another blog in the mystery niche was something of a challenge. Today I finally settled on a large, group blog with a pagerank of 6 that publishes posts similar in nature to the new direction of my blog.

Analyze Another Blog in Your Niche

Content:

What topics are they covering?

General self-help, life improvement, productivity, lifestyle.

What topics are they ignoring?

The site is a clear “make your life better” site, but they focus only on certain aspects of life improvement, with sort of a business/productivity angle.

When I work on  personal improvement — and when I teach it at seminars — I like to categorize my efforts into specific life areas that, when working together, make for a high quality of life. Many of these essentials are missing on this site.

What voice/style do they post in?

While there are many authors, the general voice is first person, conversational, with a slight professional tone.

How often are they posting?

Approximately every other day. Never more than one per day.

What level are they pitching their posts at?

The posts are general interest, mostly appealing to someone struggling with the particular aspect being discussed. Some of the concepts are simple (appealing to a broad audience and those without much life experience) and others complex (targeted toward those with more general competency).

Reader Engagement:

What topics generate most conversation?

This is an area of blogging that is sometimes baffling to me. And this blog analysis is no exception. I can’t discern any pattern that would determine which topics garner the most comments. (Other than the massive response to contests/giveaways.)

While this may seem like a “duh” moment, maybe it’s worth noting that the posts that get the most comments are those that not only give info, but that compel others to reply. I don’t necessarily mean those that ask direct questions of readers (although sometimes that technique works), but those that make people want to speak up, give input, be heard. This desire may come out of enthusiasm, passion, loyalty, etc.

What styles of posts seem to connect with readers best?

This question seems to fit with the previous. Those that “connect” tend to be those that garner comments — at least that’s the only indicator I have of connectedness. Try as I might, I couldn’t see many connections. Often two very similar posts had wildly different responses. I considered many factors and could see no patterns:

  • How to posts
  • List posts
  • Timely posts
  • First post on a topic
  • Buzzwords in title
  • Clever titles

I have found the same things on my own blogs for the past 7+ years. Some posts that I think are really appealing bring almost no comment. And some that were near throwaways, or even some lacking in much substance, have been big hits with regard to traffic and comment generation.

Apparently either there a great deal more randomness (and luck) involved in this than we’d like to think, or I just need to analyze this better to find the patterns I’m missing. I’ll keep watching and see if anything sticks out.

What questions are readers asking in comments?

Mostly practical questions to clarify information in the posts or further implement the ideas.

Note: A tip for those of you following and working on the 31DBBB on your own blog: An easy way to find commenter questions is to scroll down to the comments and search the page for question marks.

What complaints do you see readers making in comments?

Some that were incomprehensible (possibly comment spam); some that disagreed with the conclusions or advice given in the article.

What tools/mediums is the site using?

Polls asking for input about design and future posts; podcasts; Twitter

Design:

What first impression does their design give?

Clean and neat, but blah and boring.

What have they done well?

The title and URL (the same) are quite clever and descriptive — and brief! Easy to navigate and find things.

What have they done poorly?

The mission of the site isn’t clear. There aren’t a ton of ads, but some of the ads obscure the purpose of the site. Some styling is inconsistent. Design induces yawning.

What Options do they give readers to subscribe?

Feed and email subscriptions.

Monetization:

What advertisers are targeting this blog?

They advertise their own productivity apps and ebooks. They offer advertising, but the current ads appear to be affiliate banners.

What type of affiliate programs are they promoting?

AdSense; FreshBooks.com; Audible.com.

Traffic:

The traffic for this blog tanked last year. From over 300,000 unique visitors to just under 200,000. The low count was last November since which it has made something of a recovery. Of course, “tanked” is a relative term, but a 30% drop in readership is significant.

The site ranks over 6,000 in the USA, but it ranks higher in South Korea. Over 40% of its traffic comes from the US, next is India, which makes sense when you consider the linked economies. Most popular for ages 18–34, no kids, with some college or a college degree and most likely to browse from school. Sounds like a college demographic. And that fits the productivity-centric model.

Since I graduated from college decades ago (ouch!) and I’m just a teeny bit older than this site’s readers, my site would tend to cover the same topic but in a way geared to those in established careers (including stay-at-home moms) and with established families, who want to be productive and are on a quest for self-improvement.

One thing I noted is that the name of this site is part of the site name of a much more popular (and similar) site. My analysis site also uses a less popular domain name extension. That probably is confusing to readers and a cause of lost traffic. (I actually found the other site because I misremembered my research site’s name and typed in the other site!)

Note: When you analyze a site using Alexa, there is a “Related Links” tab that points you to other, similar sites. You may find some surprising and interesting results.

SEO:

Who is linking to this blog?

There are over 4,000 sites linking in. A rather typical mix of social networking sites and personal sites (including blog and forum comments). Also intra-company linking is evident.

What does their source code reveal about how they’ve set up their site?

The site uses WordPress with a custom theme. Meta keywords include: productivity, organization, management, getting things done.

“Getting things done” refers to one of my absolute favorite organizational methods based on David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. His method is one of the things I teach in my organization seminars and something that would be good to write about.

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?

After the site name, most popular searches that result in traffic to this site are surprising even though they do point toward increased productivity:

  • best firefox plugins
  • easy healthy recipes
  • greasemonkey scripts

Another popular search is “how to spam”!

Conclusion

As with others, this post has taken some time, but I’ve learned quite a bit and have a much better idea about approach and focus of my life change blog.


{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Dana March 15, 2010, 10:00 am

    I knew that we could gain a great knowledge by analyze the top blog in our niche a long time ago but i never practice it. And now, I am remembered by this article — so thank you. 😀
    .-= Dana @ Blogging Update´s last blog ..Blogging Tips Blog’s 101 Blog Posts =-.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 15, 2010, 3:37 pm

    Thanks, Dana. It was another really good exercise to go through.

    As I work through this great blog improvement program — conscientiously and carefully — I am finding it to be really valuable. I’m already done with 31DBBB Day #5 (will post tomorrow) and starting on Day #6. 🙂

  • Meteorr July 7, 2010, 6:24 am

    How to analyze traffic from your own site search? What code should be set for Google Analitic

  • Alison Moore Smith July 11, 2010, 12:27 am

    Meteorr, I’m not sure I understand your question. If you are wondering about how to do the same analysis on your own website, then you can just follow the outlined steps using your own blog as the basis. Otherwise, could you clarify what you mean by analyzing traffic from a site search?

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