A Case Study on Growing Blog Popularity

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 1/26/2008

One of my research interests is in how to increase the popularity of websites. My primary interest is in how to increase the popularity of websites that fall within a niche market, such as church websites and author websites. In that vein, understanding the reason any website quickly rises in popularity is a matter of interest, so when I read that Word Press recognized Dan Morrowís blog as the sixth fastest growing blog I became interested. I wanted to know why his blog is growing in popularity.

I have not been reading his blog, so I scanned through his blog posts and I noticed a common theme. Dan Morrow is a Ron Paul supporter and he is using his blog to write about Ron Paul. After seeing that, it is a fair assumption that the reason his blog is growing in popularity so quickly is because he is following one of the primary rules of successful blogging, Write what people want to read. Another reason is because he has done something else; he has found a sweet spot.

Write What People Want to Read

Itís an election year, so people have an interest in politics. Turn on the news and you canít help but see a few politicians. It is still early enough that there are several candidates and the little news blurbs tell us more about their campaign strategy than what they tell us about what the candidates believe. People who want more information are turning to the Internet. Sites like Dan Morrowís are likely to receive many hits because people are searching for information about the candidates.

Search engines attempt to measure relevance by the content and the content of links to the site. When a website contains a lot of content about one particular candidate and the content is written fairly well, like Danís is, the result is that the things that search engines use to determine relevance tend to improve. This results in more people finding the website, which causes these things to improve even more, but only because people want to learn about Ron Paul. If people had no interest in Ron Paul then Danís blog would not be growing at the rate it is.

Find a Sweet Spot

By writing about Ron Paul rather than one of the more popular candidates, Dan found a sweet spot. A sweet spot in blogging is that place where the subject matter is interesting enough that a fairly large number of people are doing searches for it, but uninteresting enough that there are a relatively small number of people who are writing about the subject. If there were a thousand bloggers, all putting as much effort into their Ron Paul blog as he is then he would have a much harder time increasing his readership. If he had chosen to write about McCain or Giuliani, who were already house hold names, he probably wouldnít have much hope of getting noticed.

While it may be easier to find the sweet spot in politics because there are so many polls to tell us how well the candidates are doing, that sweet spot exists with all subjects. If you are interested in finding that sweet spot in your own subject, do a search of the Internet before you write your article. Search for the things you think your target audience will be looking for. If the search engine comes back with a large number of websites that cover the topic then it may not do you much good to add your voice to the mix. If the search engine comes back with hardly anything, then it could be that people arenít interested. In which case, unless you happen to know that you are one of a very few subject matter experts, you probably should avoid the subject.

Going from Popular to Normal

I am a proponent of always focusing on your target audience rather than trying to increase traffic for the sake of creating traffic. Some people have the idea that if they can get the traffic high enough with off target topics then they will be able to get them to read the things the blogger really wants to communicate. To some degree, there is some truth to this, but it is also true that many people will just ignore the stuff that does not hold their interest.

The reason that I mention that is because one of the things that Dan Morrow states is that he plans on splitting his blog into three blogs about Faith, Family and Freedom. I do not anything about the people who are reading Danís blog. It is possible that they all happen to have an interest in Faith, Family and Freedom, but it is also possible that the only thing that links them together is their interest in Ron Paul. If this is the case, when the election is over these people will likely move on to some other topic of interest and rather than continuing its climb, Danís blog will begin to fall in the ratings--unless he sticks with them.

The important thing to notice about Danís blog is that he is covering current events. Covering current events can do a lot to increase a blogís popularity because there is relatively little written about a given subject and there are many people looking for information. If the blog stays with the same subject, but the current events move away from the subject then the blog goes from being popular to being normal. The increased readership that came from the current event can be used to move the blog up among blogs covering similar subjects, but the general trend will be the loss of readers as they move on to another current issue. The only way to keep the popularity for a blog that gained popularity by covering current events is by continuing to cover current events.

What This Means to Us

In the long run, the best way to build website popularity is to stick with the core subject. Popularity will go up and down, but over time it will increase as people begin to realize that it is a source of information for that subject. Websites such as Danís have their place, since it is providing information about a political candidate, but the subject and the audience will have to change if it is to survive for the long haul.