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It’s no secret that one-man blogs can make a lot of money. Steve Pavlina makes over $100,000 per month with his; Darren Rowse had an estimated $300,000+ month when he launched his last eBook and my friend Al’s site, Coolest Gadgets, was having $60,000 months way back in 2007.
In a sea of over 100 million blogs, these guys are the exception. It’s certainly not easy or quick to build a blog to reach these income levels. If it were, they wouldn’t be called the exceptions. Many bloggers will tell you that there’s no “one size fits all” strategy when it comes to building a huge blog. Well, I’m going to leave the personal sites alone, and possibly prove those people wrong by examining the Technorati Top 10.
I will first state that these are not the 10 biggest blogs in the world. You might never have heard of any of them and even if you have, you may never pay them a visit. They are simply the top 10 blogs in the world…according to the Technorati engine criteria. That criteria, based on “Authority”, is determined as follows:
Authority is calculated based on a site’s linking behaviour, categorization and other associated data over a short, finite period of time. A site’s authority may rapidly rise and fall depending on what the blogosphere is discussing at the moment, and how often a site produces content being referenced by other sites.
In basic terms, the rankings are based on how many links a site has from other blogs and how many of their posts are receiving links.
I took the top 10 websites right now and decided to analyse them to see if there was anything they each had in common which helped to make them successful. Here are the 10 sites (in order): Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Mashable, Gizmodo, Engadget, Gawker, Boing Boing, The Corner, Hot Air, TMZ.
In order to learn how to build a Superblog, we must first look at factors that have helped the success of other top blogs out there. In this section we’re going to analyse:
I used the Wayback Machine to establish when each of these sites started actually looking like a blog. TMZ, for example, was a robot hobby site up until December 2005 when it started to cover celebrity gossip as it still does to this day.
As expected, the age of a site doesn’t have a direct correlation to where it ranks in the top 10, but it’s clear that all sites have produced content for years to establish themselves as leaders in a niche.
I chose one day of the week to monitor each site in order to determine how many posts they were making on a daily basis. I made sure to choose a weekday as the post output of many of these sites decreased substantially on weekends.
With almost 200 posts per day, it’s hard to still think of the Huffington Post as a blog rather than an online newspaper or magazine. Yet, they’re still thought of one by Technorati so that’s why I’m including them here. I was surprised to see that so many of these sites are publishing more than 50 posts every single day.
After establishing how many posts each blog tends to make on a daily basis, I then thought it would be interesting to see how long each of their posts are. I’ve already performed a similar analysis across different industries, but never one for the biggest blogs in the world.
It’s interesting that the biggest blog not only writes the most content but also produces the longest articles. For sites that had a very small average word count, the focus of the article tended to be around a picture or a video.
As the final part of my analysis, I wanted to see if there was a correlation between how many unique visitors a site was getting and their rankings in Technorati. I used data from Compete.com which isn’t totally accurate but should give a decent estimation as to how much traffic these sites are receiving.
I don’t have a pro Compete.com account so can’t see the traffic stats for The Corner subdomain. Even though TMZ is getting far more traffic than the other 8 sites, it’s back in 10th place. To me this suggests that Technorati have a flawed algorithm or that celebrity sites simply get linked to far less than others. The audience of politics and web news blogs are far more likely to link to content they enjoy, rather than the readers of gossip blogs.
I already had quite a few ideas in mind about what it takes to build a Superblog which the research above has confirmed for me. If you are looking to build your own Superblog, here are the exact steps you need to do it…
The strategy for each of these top blogs is to simply produce a ton of content each day. If you write on a very focused or niche topic, you’re simply not going to be able to do that. The common categories for sites in the Techrorati Top 100 focus on things like general news, politics, gadgets, celebrity gossip, and web news.
These are all industries where there is something new to write about every single day. Not only can you write about what is being said by politicians and their parties, you can also give thoughts as to where the economy is going. You don’t just have to write about what each celebrity is doing, you can cover the wealthiest or who has sold the most records.
Each of these sites can produce so much content because they’re each in industries where there is a lot to say. There are tons of other angles you can take such as movie news, sports updates or even a blog about online games.
The point is simply that you should pick a niche where you’re never going to run out of things to blog about.
Because these blogs write so much, they don’t have as many people coming to their blog via feed readers as you would expect. Can you really take in 50-60 posts every day from your favourite blog in your inbox or in Google Reader? Unless you or other readers have nothing else to do each day, then probably not.
Instead, people come to these sites manually to see if they have new updates. Picking a brandable name means that people can easily come back to your site time and time again via the address bar in their browser or a search engine like Google.
Ideally, pick something that is easy to remember and relevant to your niche. Engadget and TechCrunch, for example, don’t leave much to the imagination about what their site covers.
This factor of building a Superblog is without a doubt the most important. While your content must be readable, relevant and of interest to your niche, it’s important that you can produce lots of it on a daily basis. The smallest site at 21 posts per day still produces 600 articles in a month. That’s a lot of work.
Because this is a true guide on how to build a Superblog, let me now say that you don’t need to produce all of this content on your own. Nor do you need a large amount of money to fund other people to get involved with you.
There are three options you can take to produce the content for your Superblog:
If you can take things a step further then ideally you will have an Editor in place who watches over all of the content that is being produced. Search Engine Land, for example, has someone in place to make sure that a broad variety of content is being posted each day so that at least something appeals to their wider audience.
Some posts on Mashable are large in-depth guides to social media platforms while others are just posts with embedded Youtube videos. BoingBoing sometimes writes long articles but mostly has posts that are image based, video based, or just a few sentences.
Variety is key if you’re going to be producing so much content on a daily basis.
As I expected, none of the blogs in the Technorati Top 10 are even close to being new. Even though Hot Air was started four years ago, there was content on the domain in a similar tone for years before that. Anyone who thinks you can build a blog that has an audience of this size overnight is simply delusional.
Many people tell me that the growth of ViperChill is amazing and I should be really proud of what I’ve accomplished here. I really am, and I know the growth is quicker than most blogs ever achieve, but it has still taken over 7 months to get the point I’m at now. I own an absolutely tiny blog in comparison to these heavyweights.
Of course, I limit myself by choosing such a narrow niche and I’m not actually trying to build a Superblog, but I’m sure you get the point. If there’s anything besides not producing enough content that’s going to hold you back from growing a Superblog, it’s going to be giving up before you even really get going.
The final step in building a Superblog is to refine what you’re doing based on how your audience responds to your content. Last year TechCrunch were a much bigger blog than Mashable. If you go by RSS feed subscribers and Technorati rank, you might think they still are. Yet, Compete isn’t the only tool showing them to be receiving a lot more traffic than TechCrunch these days.
75% more if their numbers are anything to go by. How did they do it? They refined their approach based on what readers wanted. I personally don’t care for their constant posts about Twitter, but the Twitter community does. Their account has 700,000 more followers than that of Techcrunch and they are on twice as many lists.
Mashable did what offline newspapers should have done a long time ago: They adapted to a changing landscape.
If you’re producing so much content on a daily basis, you’ll quickly learn the types of posts that are a) getting you the most search traffic b) getting you the most social media traffic and c) being engaged with the most by your audience.
Once you know this kind of thing, you can produce more of what works for you and your community.
P.S. We’ve recently been getting a lot of comments asking me to post more frequently. Don’t forget that you can subscribe via a feed reader or your email inbox (it’s free) and get updates every time they’re posted so you won’t have to keep checking back for new posts.