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Popular Blogs: How to Create and Market One

September 7th, 2011

popular blogsIf you cannot research, write, and publish a quality, original, expert, insightful article on the topic you cover at a moment’s notice within an hour, you will never have one of the Internet’s most-popular blogs in your given niche.

OK. Did I scare you enough? Good. Here’s why.

According to various authoritative sources, there are roughly between 126 million and 133 million blogs in existence. Regardless of the subject matter, the competition for traffic, page views, and advertising revenue is fierce. No matter how specific your topic, there is undoubtedly at least one other person — if not hundreds or thousands — who writes about the same thing. And if you want to be successful, you need to be better than all of them. People do not have time to follow fifty blogs on a single topic; they will only subscribe to the few that interest them the most. The idea that “content is king” exists for a reason.

Here’s one example. (Note: I know that one should not discuss politics or religion in polite company, but this is an example I once saw discussed in a case study long ago. Feel free to replace the “sector” with anything that may be more palatable. Besides, who ever said the Internet is a polite space?) A guy is running an affiliate-marketing website aimed at the Christian sector. He sells Bibles, books, jewelry, and so on, and he wanted to know how to incorporate a blog onto the site in the best way. The guy was given a lot of good advice — do not inadvertently have keyword cannibalization and duplicate content by repeating keywords in tags that other pages are targeting, feed the blog to as many pages as possible to make the website more dynamic, and so on.

Still, the best advice that he received (and hopefully used) was that he needs to become an authority on the topic — in marketing terminology, it is becoming a “thought leader.” Whether it is Christian theology, history, denominations, politics, or anything else, he needs to make his website a recognized, intellectual resource on all of those topics. Then the traffic — from organic search-engine results to referrals and links — will start to increase naturally. Personally, I do not know whether he ever took the advice. It would take a bona-fide priest or someone with at least a master’s in divinity or Christian history to produce such content (whether the owner would write it himself or hire an expert). But you get the point. And the same is true for any blog or website in any sector.

Two of the most-profitable (and most-competitive) Internet sectors are forex and dating. I have talked with people with grandiose delusions of making a million dollars by purchasing a forex- or dating-based domain, writing some crap content, and then having affiliate or direct advertising. My simple question: Have you ever studied economics, finance, relationship counseling, or at least something that is relevant? No? Well, see you later. There are thousands of people who are qualified to discuss such matters and who already have successful websites, and your future website will never surpass them. Quality (or spam) marketing will never compensate for crap content.

As proof, I will offer two examples. One is myself, and the other is hypothetical.

As I am sure people will realize, my purpose in publishing this website is twofold: to comment on all aspects of Internet marketing (since I am passionately obsessive about the topic, and it is my day job) and earn supplemental revenue from people who purchase SEO software through the affiliate advertisements here. After starting this site in November 2010, I have spent only a few hours a week on it, and I have already seen great results. Here is how my SERPs for just a few targeted keywords on the website have increased with only a little amount of effort (for business reasons, I am withholding further details):

popular blogs

popular blogs

So, you want to know how I achieved such results? (And of course, this site is a work in progress — I work for a living.) It’s really not that complicated. I don’t spam. I don’t use black-hat SEO software. I don’t spend hours on linkbuilding strategies. I don’t do bullshit, and I do not do anything unethical. I simply created an SEO-optimized website (which is a lot more complicated than people think), optimized it for social-media sharing, and then write (what I hope is) quality content. And that’s all. I don’t even write more than a few posts a month.

And I can write the content because I am passionate about the topic. I have worked in blogging and online marketing for years — whether as a private consultant, a marketer for a start-up, or as a staffer at an agency — so I follow the latest SEO news all day, every day. I have dozens of blogs and websites in my Google Readers’s RSS feed. If my boss ever wants me to write a quality post within an hour on one of many aspects of marketing (see here or here), or whether I want to do so here or at my journalism website (I was a Boston newspaper-editor in my past life), I can do so. Because I LOVE the sector.

Writing Popular Blogs on What You Love

What do you love? That question is crucial to determine how you can have one of the Internet’s popular blogs (along with one of the few that make money).

Say that you LOVE French wines. (Replace this example with anything.) Research all aspects of the industry to determine how you can make money from that sector online. Hint: Do not purchase wines in bulk, store them, and then sell and ship them after people place orders (hopefully) on your website. The whole process of ordering, storing, and shipping is expensive, and you want to keep your profit margins as high as possible. I knew someone who did exactly that, except that it was in the home medical-supplies industry, and he closed the business because he could not make enough profit. (Another hint: You will never earn significant money from advertising unless you can create a website on the same level as CNN or The New York Times — true revenue comes from “selling products.”)

The key is to become a vehicle for sales and shipping that a third party will perform. In other words, people would place an order for wine through your website, someone else will process the order and ship the wine, and you get a percentage of the sale. It’s a form of affiliate marketing, and it is a way to make money — though not easily, for it does take a lot of work before you will see sales and revenue. Simple searches online will reveal ways to create such a website, program, and shopping cart for nearly any industry.

The key is to create a website that will receive enough relevant traffic — and then that orders for the wine for your customers without you needing to do anything else. The first step, of course, is to create a website that is optimized for search engines. I do not have space here to give the full picture — and, of course, I cannot give away all of my secrets! — but I can tell you that an important part of SEO is website hierarchy. It is keeping search engines in mind from the start — but not in a spamming way.

In a post at my company’s website, I discussed a simple way to look at website-hierarchy SEO strategy. In that context, here is a basic example in the context of French wine:

    • Cabernet Sauvignon
      • Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
      • Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
      • Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
    • Merlot
      • Merlot 2011
      • Merlot 2010
      • Merlot 2009

Of course, I have not done the keyword research on the topic, and I am not an expert on the subject. But you see the point: You want to create a website that has as many niche, specific pages as possible that each target a keyword (if you have fifty pages that each target a keyword, that is better for overall traffic than ten that target ten keywords). Now, here is where the expertise comes into play. If you have followed my writings, you will know that each page on a website needs a good amount of quality, original content. And if you are an expert in French wines (or any other topic, as per this example), then it should be easy. Each of the described pages should have an extensive review and analysis of each brand of wine from each year — after all, you’re the expert, right? And each of the pages will offer a way to purchase the wine that is featured on that page.

If you cannot do this for your desired topic, find something else. Don’t bother trying to become branded as an expert when you’re really not.

Then, after you have created the “sales” section of your website, it is time to create the blog. I’ll admit that it is a complicated process involving search-engine optimization URLs, internal linking, and social-media software — but once the blog is created, all else that matters is quality content. In the French-wines context, it will involve commenting on the ongoing news in an authoritative way to have one of the popular blogs on the topic. Are you an expert enough to do that as well?

Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.