15 Irrefutable Qualities of Successful Blogs

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Do you want a blog that is highly successful? Do you want visitors to flock to your site, readers to leave comments, and advertisers to fill your wallet? I know that I do!

A few years ago blogging was a brand new art. People were wading through dark jungles of unknown territory trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Those first bloggers were pilgrims in a sense paving a way for the rest of us.

15 Irrefutable Qualities of Successful Blogs

We now have the luxury of sitting back and learning from those bloggers who have made it big. I’ve made it my goal to do just that.

  • Successful Blogs Are Credible: Anyone with a little bit of time on their hands can publish false information to the internet on a homemade website, a blog or even on mainstream websites like Wikipedia. As a result, people are now less likely to take you serious than ever before. If you want your site to be taken seriously you’re going to have to demonstrate your authority, your accuracy, your objectivity, your currency, and your coverage. For more details about each of these concepts, check out The Litmus Test for Assessing Online Credibility.
  • Successful Blogs Have Authentic Authors: If there was a single buzzword to describe the key to success in 2010 and 2011, it would have to be the word authentic. Never before have people been looking for genuine, down-to-earth educators and entertainers to connect with on blogs and social media. As you write your blog, be real with your readers. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Folks have a special disdain for people who live the fake-it-till-you make it lifestyle.
  • Successful Blogs Are Entertaining: Regardless of the topic of your blog, you will always enhance your user’s reading experience by conveying your material with a fun, easy-to-read style. Use humor, storytelling and fun graphics to make your site more fun and inviting. The only limitation on this concept is your own imagination. For more about this, check out Ow! Ow! It’s so boring it hurts my head.
  • Successful Blogs Have Amazing Designs: Average bloggers tend to fail on this one…a lot. Most people get into blogging because they have a passion to write about something. The majority of bloggers assume that as long as they write about what they love then they will be successful. The problem is that every visitor that hits a less-than-amazing blog ends up leaving before even looking at the first post titles. Many visitors never even makes it far enough to see the ‘amazing’ content that the blogger has put together.

Remember that blogs are like babies. Nobody else thinks yours is as cute as you do. You’d better give your readers a reason to stick around because they aren’t going to do it on their own.

  • Successful Blogs Offer A Unique Experience: According to Technorati, a new blog is created every second. There are literally millions and millions of blogs competing for traffic and if you want to succeed then you have to find a way to set yourself apart from the rest! If you want to propel your site to the top then you need to ask yourself these questions:
    What do I offer my readers that they can’t get anywhere else?
    Are my posts creative and original?
    Is my design a popular template or a rarer, more unique layout?

15 Irrefutable Qualities of Successful Blogs

  • Successful Blogs Provide Well-Written Content: I’m sure you’ve heard it said, “If you build it…they will come!” Well that’s not exactly true. You not only have to build it, but you have to build it well. Take the time necessary and develop some amazing articles. Before you hit the publish button you need to put your post through the following series of questions:
    Are there spelling errors or grammatical mistakes?
    Am I staying on topic or do I ramble?
    Is my post a comprehensive look at the topic at hand?
    Is my post inviting to commenters?
    Is my post broken up with sub-headings, bold content, bullet points and quote blocks for post skimmers?
  • Successful Blogs Connect With Their Readers: Comments are the life-blood of a successful blog. I believe that comments are vitally important as they are the identifiable marks of the connection between blog authors and blog readers. That’s why I’m willing to do just about anything to get people to break away from being passive readers and become active participants in the conversation at Site Sketch 101. I want to connect with my readers and I want my readers to connect with me. Invite feedback in your posts by asking for thoughts, opinions and even disagreements. Let your readers know that you want their feedback.
  • Successful Blogs Provide Simple Connection Options: As people work to connect with the author of a blog, they may wish to take their virtual friendship with a blog owner to the next level by friending them on Twitter or liking their Facebook page. This can only happen if your readers are able to find you on these platforms. Simplify this process by using clear labels or large, easily identifiable buttons to lead your readers to you.
  • Successful Blogs Provide Easy Share Options: Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are now being used more than ever by people who wish to share online content with one another. Sharing links on Facebook, liking pages and websites on Facebook, and sharing content across Twitter seem to be the most popular methods of doing this. You can amplify the level of sharing that takes place by making the share options easy to find and use.

15 Irrefutable Qualities of Successful Blogs

  • Successful Blogs Offer Easy Subscription Options: RSS and email subscriptions are the absolute best ways to create repeat visitors. These outperform just about any other method that you can think of when trying to get your visitors to come back for more. Make it your goal to get as many people to subscribe as possible to your RSS and email updates. Here’s a few ideas that I practice on Site Sketch 101 and I’ve experienced amazing growth in my subscribers since the start of this blog:
    Place large RSS and email icons near the top of each page.
    Place subscription options at the end of each post.
    Email first time commenters and include a link to your RSS and email subscriptions in the email.
  • Successful Blogs Have Optimized Post Footers: If you have a visitor that just read one of your articles and enjoyed it then what would you like for them to do next? Regardless of your answer to that question, optimizing your post footer is the key to achieving it. I have several things that I would like my users to do after reading an article and you can see these options at the bottom of every post at Site Sketch 101. I recommend that you develop something similar to this:
    View and read other similar articles.
    Subscribe to the RSS or Email updates.
    Bookmark or share the article at social bookmarking sites.
    Leave a comment.
  • Successful Blogs Have Organized Sidebars: This is really one of my pet peeves. It’s also one of those things that really separates the professionals from the amateurs. Amateur bloggers float around the internet looking for ‘cool’ stuff to put in the sidebar of their blog. They end up loading their sidebar up with countdowns, the latest tweets from their dog Fido, their daily astrology fortune and all kinds of other nonsense. Take the time to clean up your sidebar. Get rid of anything that doesn’t support the overall topic of the blog. It’s better to only have a few items that focus on and compliment your content than to have dozens of widgets that distract your users and subtract from your effectiveness.
  • Successful Blogs Are Search Engine Optimized: I take the time to create a meta description that is between 100 and 160 characters long on most of the posts at Site Sketch 101. I manually create a few tags that I also use as meta keywords. I use heading tags for post titles and for headings within my titles because Google and other popular search engines use these titles to determine what keyword to list your site under in their index. Google and Yahoo can be your largest source of traffic but you have to let them know what your site is about. Don’t try to spam your meta tags with bogus keywords. Take your time and input what your articles are actually about.

15 Irrefutable Qualities of Successful Blogs

  • Successful Blogs Are Easy To Navigate: Most casual web surfers don’t want to have to solve some sort of a puzzle to figure out how to find what they are looking for on your site. Let’s accommodate them by making our site very easy to navigate. Place large links to your categories across the top of your pages. Include a link to the homepage on every page perhaps in the form of a logo so that if a user feels lost they can head to the homepage and start over.
  • Successful Blogs Have Effective Headlines: If you haven’t read my article ‘10 Tips to Awesome, Eye-Jerking Post Titles’ then you should hop over and check it out. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Most bloggers fail to realize that their post titles are the number one advertisements for their articles. Post titles have to put on the gloves and go head-to-head with dozens of other post titles in people’s RSS readers, email accounts and search engines. It’s your job to get your post titles ready to perform like the champs they have the potential to be.

Conclusion – The Law of Multiplication

Do you want to add readers to your blog? Pick any one of these principles and put it to work on your site. You will be amazed at how fast your readers will add up.

Do you want to multiply the number of readers at your blog? Pick any two, three, four or even all of these principles and put them to work for you. When these blog qualities are combined in the same blog then you will begin to see growth like you have never experienced.


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59 Vibrant Comments

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  1. January 17, 2011

    Moosa Hemani said:

    I might not agree with the last part as ground reality is different. This should be the case but most of the times the blogs like Aaron wall blog it has no option to share but his information and quality is amazing…


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      While I agree that amazing content will be shared regardless, I also know from personal research that certain types of share options cause content to be shared more often from the page.


  2. January 17, 2011

    Farnoosh said:

    Very good points here Nicholas. Here are some of my thoughts:
    -I don’t like undated posts. I just don’t. I know the authors try to make it seem timeless but I like to know the rough time frame a post was published.
    -Grammar and spelling errors, especially more than a couple, turn me off because it says either the author does not know better or hardly takes the time to check his content before publish.
    -Sidebars are key. In fact, even in Site Sketch, I would love to see Top Posts or Most Recent Posts. It’s important to draw your reader into your archives, or the best of it.
    -Search button. PLEASE make this available for your readers. Some blogs do not even have it.
    -On Share buttons, I have heard philosophies of not having too many. What do you think? I see here you have 6 share buttons. I reduced to two: twitter and Facebook. I still see my stuff shared on StumbleUpon too.
    -Design: Sure, it matters a great deal but if it is a simple design – nothing fancy but uncluttered- with great content, I’ll go back.
    Thanks 🙂


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      All great points and you inspired me so much that I’ve added a “Latest Posts” widget in the sidebar.

      I think that less is more as well on share buttons, but the six fit really nicely there where 2 would have looked funny so it was a design compromise.


      • January 17, 2011

        Farnoosh said:

        I love the latest side bar, and the social media buttons go beautifully with your impeccable design so don’t change it. I was referring more to my own and wondering if maybe I don’t have enough! 🙂


        • January 17, 2011

          Nicholas Cardot said:

          I find that the only buttons that are really the most useful are the facebook (both share and like), the twitter and sometimes the stumbleupon buttons. Most of the others are really hit or miss. Those are the ones that seem to be dominating the market for me right now.


    • January 18, 2011

      Amitash said:

      “Sidebars are key”.. I dont have any of em..!


    • January 18, 2011

      Kars said:

      I also don’t like it when there is no post date. Especially when you are looking for content that is recent or from a certain time.

      Even though supplied I probably wouldn’t use the delicious button, because when I want to bookmark a site in delicious I have ctrl-D as a shortcut.


  3. January 17, 2011

    TrafficColeman said:

    Nick I tell people to be themselves and people will respect you more and follow your content closer..

    BTW..Nick send me an message through my contact page..its important..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”


  4. January 17, 2011

    John Soares said:

    Nicolas, I went down this list and saw that I’m comfortable with my performance in most areas, but I also see that there are a couple of aspects of my blog I should improve, starting with the footer, which I have basically ignored.


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I find that these large posts with 15 items in it are useful for many people for the exact reason that you’ve just explained. I imagine a lot of people probably skim through and identify one or two areas that they want to be stronger in and focus only on those. I’m glad that you found one.


  5. January 17, 2011

    tushar said:

    it is a great post buddy but to be very honest, i think some of those points are inspired from your blog.
    Not every blogger (like me) can out in money for the designing of their blog.


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Whether or not you can afford it will not change the fact that it is important. Although I started with a template, I’ve done all the modifications and design work to this site myself. I have spent a total of $70 on this site for design which is how much I paid for the original template.

      Any time that you make a reason why something can’t be done, you are accomplishing nothing except limiting your own success.


  6. January 17, 2011

    Gabriele Maidecchi said:

    Your “law of multiplication” is golden. It actually makes sense to work on the weakest aspect of your blog and work it out first, then take on the next one, and the next and so on.
    It’s in my opinion a very good way to give a big positive bump to the user experience of your blog.


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      That’s exactly right. It’s much less work to bring something from a 2 to a 4 than it is to bring something from a 4 to an 8 and both double your effectiveness.

      This also encompasses my concept of “The Total Package” where your success is expanded greatly as you focus on strengthening all areas of the business not just a few focused highlights.


  7. January 17, 2011

    mark said:

    This is a great list that all bloggers would benefit from reading.

    You know, I saw the title, and I knew that you were going to say something about disorganized sidebars.

    I like what Farnoosh said about design – a simple, clean design that loads quickly is probably best.

    Your point about post titles is one that I have been considering lately as writing titles that make someone want to read is one of my greatest weaknesses.

    As always, thanks for the pointers Nick.

    Have a good day!


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I think that if you thought of it before even reading the article, then you might have some spring cleaning to take care of. LOL

      This is almost off topic, but I thought of it as I read your thoughts on post titles. Always make sure that there’s not a disconnect between the energy or the idea being projected in the title and the actual value of the content.


  8. January 17, 2011

    x-tra said:

    It is difficult to disagree with you about this post. There is a lot of work to do to be a successful blogger.
    “A new blog is created every second” that says all about the competition 🙂


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      It’s true and that can be discouraging to some folks or it can be a kick in the seat of the pants and a motivation to step up and make ours even better.


  9. January 17, 2011

    Dino Dogan said:

    This was the imputes I needed to clear up my sidebar. I have a Twijazzle widget (not its real name lol) in my sidebar and been thinking abt removing it for some time now…

    Good stuff as always, thnx bro


  10. January 17, 2011

    Seth W said:

    Exactly right. Adding each one of these to your site will add to your success. Blogging is not complicated if you follow steps as easy as these.


    • January 17, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Thanks for the validation, Seth. It’s nice to be seeing you out and about again. I’m grateful for you. You’re an encouragement.


  11. January 18, 2011

    Amitash said:

    This article went straight into my bookmark list. Top Priority. Probably this answers my question i asked you nick!


  12. January 18, 2011

    Jason Acidre said:

    A blog that has a face, distinctive voice, personality and really offers something of high value are the traits that I really first see on authority blogs that I personally follow (such as rand fishkin’s SEOmoz and Ross Hudgens).

    With regards to the design, I’m quite attracted with just simple and plain designs (just like yours Nicholas).

    However, I do think that to really have a successful blog, you need to work on it full-time, since it does require a lot of tasks (engagements, writing, promoting, a lot of thinking, etc…).


    • January 19, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I do believe that a successful blog requires a lot of time, but it doesn’t have to be full-time. I work for the United States Army about 50 hours a week and I keep this thing alive. It’s definitely doable.


  13. January 18, 2011

    Davina K. Brewer said:

    Nicholas, Some smart advice and good comments from Farnoosh. Important to think both of content (writing quality, entertainment and educational value) AND execution (the technical stuff, design, SEO).

    To Moosa’s point about great content being shared anyway, 1) it goes back to SEO, it can’t be shared if no one finds it and 2) the more connected you are, the more multipliers for sharing; best to make it easy.

    Love that you included making so much of this simple: easy for readers to share, navigate, connect, find. To the connecting with the readers, I’ll add making it easy to comment. One of my peeves is having to register to comment, I think you alienate your readers making them jump through unnecessary hoops. FWIW.


    • January 19, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I have the same pet peeve. That’s why I’m so adamant about keeping the comment form as simple as possible and that’s why I moved the comment form on this site to above the comments so that people don’t have to scroll as far if they want to jump in and join the discussion. I want it to be easy to be part of the conversation.


      • January 19, 2011

        Davina K. Brewer said:

        I have a blog post drafted about it, if I ever have the time. And now you’ve got me thinking about the page position.. which I will debate in that post if I ever finish. 😉

        One the one hand, ITA with you. On the other, I read over some other comments before I post, so I don’t repeat what’s been said. Maybe keeping the login at the bottom helps encourage discussion? I mean, even if there are 35 comments and someone just wants to add their own w/out reading them.. not like it’s hard to just quickly scroll down to the bottom of the page. Yes, I’ll definitely raise that debate for a future post, thanks for the inspiration.


        • January 19, 2011

          Nicholas Cardot said:

          I actually did some research on this a while back. I have one post on this site that gets around 600 – 800 unique visitors per day. Immediately after I moved the comment box to the top, I began getting comments on that article every single day.

          My conclusion was that the people who want to read the comments will and those who want to engage only with the author don’t want to have to chase it.


          • January 19, 2011

            Davina K. Brewer said:

            Yes, will have to link back to these comments if I can. I think a post that gets 600+ comments would be the exception, not the rule but do see your point about not chasing it. Enjoying this discussion, thanks.


  14. January 19, 2011

    Ryan Critchett said:

    Remarkable. I’m remarking about it! Kidding aside, great post. It’s a bit rare to find such good quality. You’re absolutely right on all of this stuff, and this helps confirm it for me.

    Sharp idea on the bottom of each post, that’s something we should all be like “of course I should be doing that!”

    Just found your blog, will bookmark.


    • January 19, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Thanks, Ryan. I know that a lot of people often ask me what my most important advice would be for a beginning blogger. I actually get that a lot on Twitter and I have to chuckle because there’s no way to sum it all up in 140 characters. This post is my attempt at answering that question. I’m glad it was helpful for you at least on the point about post footers.


  15. January 19, 2011

    Atul Vhale said:

    This article answered all question which were wondering in my mind. As a new blogger I always wanted to ask question regarding these points here you covered all what I was looking for. I feel good I spent my time to read this whole article instead wondering here and there on web 🙂

    Super article Nick ! as always


  16. January 20, 2011

    Heidi said:

    This post and The Litmus Test for Assessing Online Credibility has completely changed the way I will present my own blog from now on!
    I’m a newbie and I hope it’s not too much to ask but, I have a question. Do I have to be active in social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to allow my future readers to use them with my site?
    Thanks so much for the blogging lesson!


    • January 20, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      No, you don’t have to be active in order for them to use them, but I would strongly encourage you to be. I literally get hundreds of visitors a day from Twitter and Facebook as a result of how active I am on there.

      What’s your hesitation with being active on there?


      • January 21, 2011

        Heidi said:

        I dove into internet marketing in mid November. I am currently overwhelmed and kinda confused with what most of your readers would consider as a no brainer.

        The thought of adding another component to my confusion is a little scarry. As for Facebook I would prefer to help people and not subject them to my disfunctional family. My goal is to learn the right way of doing things so that I can allow my professional website to go live.

        Thank you for the answer to my question I am releaved to know that I can offer the option without having to learn it right now.


  17. January 20, 2011

    Steven Shomler said:

    Great post! I especially liked your “effective headline” tip!


  18. January 20, 2011

    Whiztechy said:

    I totally agree with you it is important to take care of quality content as well as designing and navigation.
    It is good to write for readers but I have seen many blogs without professional deign and properly arranged content which repeals me. If any blogger want to create a successful blog then these points will work as checklist. Useful tips Nicholas 🙂


    • January 20, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Thanks, Whiztechy. I agree completely and I believe that each one is can add a multiplier to the effectiveness of a blog.


  19. January 21, 2011

    Shree said:

    I must say you have covered some great points here. The sad part is that my blog does not cover some of them. I will try and implement them.


  20. January 22, 2011

    Pastor Wynn said:

    Nick,
    As usual, you article is well-written and extremely helpful. Thank you for your help.


  21. January 25, 2011

    Fabrizio Van Marciano said:

    Top post and top insight, thanks plenty for sharing. Connexting with readers is my all important one.


  22. January 28, 2011

    Gibson Goff said:

    I have to echo what Seth W said – follow the easy blog steps and you’ll find blog success.

    And it really is that easy. I went venturing out into the ‘blogosphere’ the other day looking for specific blogs to comment on. I can honestly say the folks I know writing about blogging have umpteen million times better blogs than those that [don’t focus on it].

    Take Nicks list, and apply it. Or just compare the list to some other blogs and the proof is immediately visible.

    Another home run Nick! Good stuff!


  23. January 30, 2011

    anthonynlee said:

    i just realized…i gotta start using more lists in my blog articles. i never do the lists, and they really are so powerful.
    that….and i need to learn some SEO…bad. i am clueless about that.
    well, here’s to having more to work on in the morning. 🙂


  24. January 31, 2011

    shweta kodgire said:

    As I am new to the bloggin these 15 quality keys will unlock the quetions related to the blogging which are in my mind thanks a lot Nick for this post.


  25. February 5, 2011

    Reza Winandar said:

    Succesful blog are useful for the readers and for the bloggers.


  26. February 16, 2011

    ah hong said:

    Successful blogs has optimize performance in terms of speed as well. I still remember in previous post you recommended W3 Total Cache to speed up the page loading. I am glad that I installed it Nick 🙂


  27. June 2, 2011

    Seth W said:

    It’s been months since I first read this post and it’s still very important. I think for ant reader the key here is to follow Nick’s example and constantly improve your site.


  28. July 5, 2011

    Melody said:

    Hi Nicholas!
    I love this list. I immediately notice when a blog is sloppily written. I would say that 90% of blogs are very careless when it comes to grammar and typos. A well-written blog is important!

    I have to agree with the comment above about dating blog posts. As I read the blog article, I didn’t have a sense of when you wrote this piece. I was looking at these comments, I realized this wasn’t a new article. I still feel it would be nice to have dated posts.

    You’ve definitely given me some food for thought about how to improve my own blog. I fear my sidebar would be too disorganized for your tastes! There isn’t anything in the sidebar that I want to part with though. Tough decisions!

    I do notice silly widgets like these funny things that say that the blog has “had a visitor from Seattle,” and I don’t see much of anything useful about putting a “hit counter” on a blog.

    Nicholas, if you get the chance, it would be great to see you weigh in when Mack Collier does #blogchat and reviews 3 blogs for area of improvement. I know your busy, but your two cents would be valuable.

    (And I think these 15 points make a lot of sense whether you have a blog to make money, or just a fun little hobby blog.)

    ~Melody


  29. September 23, 2011

    Noel Addison said:

    A point about easy share options:

    It depends on your target demographic. If you have a blog that focuses on the needs of the elderly, you cannot expect your readers to have accounts on digg, reddit, stumbleupon, and other similar sites. Twitter and Facebook maybe.

    My point is having easy share buttons, especially if you are using plugins can slow down your site. With internet people getting shorter and shorter attention span, you need your blog to be as fast as it can be.




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