9 Habits of Extraordinary Blogs

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We’re in the middle of the Super Blog Age.

These blogs grind out extraordinary content every day.  They have a deep bench of witty writers ready to excite, provoke, and teach their readers.  They branding rivals their newsstand cousins.  The scary part is they seem to get better every day.

Great examples include: TheNextWeb, Thrillist, GigaOm, Good, and Corbett Barr’s gem – Expert Enough.

Like most industries, there is a clear divide between the players achieving escape velocity and the rest of the pack trying to reel them in.  If you are reading this, it’s likely you are pedaling hard in the chase pack.

I am too.

After a few years watching the leaders, I’ve noticed a 9 success habits that mark these leaders.  Every single one of the top multi-million pageview blogs and blogzines out there have these characteristics without fail.

Here’s what they do:

1. Build Tribal Audiences

The superstars know exactly who they serve.  They don’t write for the masses.  They craft content to capture the attention of a specific breed of reader.  TechCrunch appeals to ambitious, type-a, entrepreneurs.  Good’s content fits with the socially conscious technophiles.  Every article hits their audience squarely in their sweet spot.

One more thing,  readers are social sharers.  Their content provokes these sneezers to hit the retweet button and spread the blog’s content across the globe.

2. Insist on Cross-the-Board Consistency

Super Blogs deliver.  No excuses, no unforced errors, no whining about time and stomach aches.  Their audience can set their watch by their editorial schedule.  I’m absolutely sure that Jay Baer will thump me on the forehead with a killer perspective next week.  Politico will deliver Washington D.C. (the good and the bad) every day.  This consistency breeds fierce loyalty.

3. Stick to Purpose-Driven Topics

I just discovered Expert Enough and I quickly saw Corbett Barr knew the Super Blog secret handshake.  Each post on Expert Enough soothes the raging beast inside every overachiever.  Every article from the Julia Child guide to a Great Turkey to the 2 Talents of Experts reinforces the purpose of the blog – being an expert.  I love it when blogs make it easy for me to know where they are coming from.  Nothing irritates your blog readers more than scattershot editorial calendars.  Find a topic and stick with it; this is one of the most important criteria for greatness.

4. Content-Driven

Super blogs aren’t constrained by granny-pantie text posts.  They shoot video.  They design infographics.  They record audio podcasts.  They interview.  They run contests and giveaways – and so on.  They know that surprise and variety keeps readers coming back for more.  Contenders (like you and me) need to get comfortable with experimentation or get out of the game.  If your blog is a hobby then you have nothing to worry about.  If your blog is part of your business then get grab a camera and get busy.

5. Keep a Stiff-Upper Lip

Brian Clark is willing to throw a punch. Mike Arrington will take a groin shot.  Arianna Huffington will embarrass you on national TV.  These guys understand that getting noticed and delivering excellence sometimes means sending a few unicorns to the glue factory.  By the way, this isn’t about being a douchebag, it’s about standing up for your readers and their right to get the best.  Don’t confuse the two.

6. Brand Focused

Super blogs are beautiful.  They spend the money to express their brand perfectly.  Logos, colors, typefaces, and tone are all consistent with the purpose of the blog.

The big leagues require attention to the emotional experience readers have with the blog.  The best players obsess over these details.  You should too – I will be.

7. Learn to Love Promotion

My favorite Super Blog trait is their intense desire to get noticed.  They work every channel to find their ideal reader..  There’s something righteous about this… If you write “epic sh*t” then shouldn’t EVERYONE see it?  Yep, I thought so.  Skittish promotion just confuses and disenfranchises readers.

If you are the best at what you do then PLEASE have the guts to tell the world about it.  #justsayin

One caveat – some prodigal blogs have become slaves to their the almighty “impression”.  They’ve learned that provocative headlines get eyeballs and keep the cash register ringing – while their readers are wondering “where’s the beef?” Don’t do this.

8. Be Revenue Savvy

Top-Tier bloggers understand that there is no nobility in poverty.  They also know that social media isn’t a “bankruptcy pact”.  Super bloggers understand that revenue buys great designers, builds excellent products, attracts talented writers, and keeps the blog great.  These guys have a business model that goes beyond just crowing about the sins of capitalism.

9. Stay Disciplined

The best blogs have a recipe for their success.  Their game plan is Specific, Measurable and Consistent (SMAC from my latest obsession – Great by Choice).  They execute with extraordinary disciple.  They aren’t distracted by the latest tool, strategy, or tactic.  They know greatness comes from a disciplined adherence to a realistic plan.

Tell me – which of these “super habits” do you need to work on?


About Stan

Stan Smith is the Managing Director of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

17 thoughts on “9 Habits of Extraordinary Blogs

  1. Stanford Post author

    Yep, the big boys and girls do have the advantage of attracting guest posters or even paying writers. That’s why its critical to put your blog on a path to earning a profit. This profit can be used to compete and standout in your niche.

  2. Karen

    What I have been noticing is that most of the “super blogs” have teams of people writing them. Has this been your experience? They seem to be rich in content and consistent in frequency.

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  4. Billy_Delaney

    Well, I just read your most recent post and I commented there that I was ready to hear it. I then read the next recommended for you… and it was pointedly true as well. So I am saving both of them and stopping there. I will put them up on the wall and look at them to remind me what I am shooting for and take them to heart. I will end with this. It is scary to really, I mean really be seen. Not that I am afraid to be seen; just that I am aware that once you get up to dance everyone sees everything. Billy

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  6. dance4everDANSE

    This article is just like a straight enlignment : If that’s were you want to go, that’s what needs to be, period. I got to KEEP THE FOCUS on all 9, for like @tsilvestre says, things are not going to happen overnight. But I already have a good understanding of the Tribal Audiences Building part. That’s a good start…

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  11. mdsuburbs

    You mean to tell me that I can’t blog about whatever whenever and have a great blog!?

    Seriously, posts like this, while undoubtedly right on the money, are a bit intimidating. Which of these “super habits” do I need to work on? Only 1 through 9.

    Aside: I just stumbled across this browsing through Flipbook. Good stuff.

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  14. tsilvestre

    This is all fabulous advice and I try to hit all these points consistently. I think one thing folks often forget is that you can’t really expect to go from 0 to 10,000 (subscribers/readers/etc) overnight. Even when you do everything right, ultimately, it’s all about the relationships — and those take a little bit ‘o time.

  15. SallyE

    Hey Stan,

    This one hits all my incompetency buttons. We all try for all of these, but results may vary. You did a great job of explaining them and the examples just made them come through clear as a bell. Now if I could just master a few! Thanks for the list. I’m putting it up on my wall for 2012 To Do’s. –Sally

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