It’s relatively easy to track the conversation of top blogs in your chosen niche and generate topic ideas. It’s another thing altogether to have your blog standout amongst all those already in your niche. Joining the conversation does not mean just following trends but contributing something new, with the hopes of building an authority site yourself.
That’s a goal that I’m currently working towards on a few of my current projects, and I’m studying various approaches. Cribbed from my notes, here are some tips to consider.
1. Lead, don’t follow. Sounds obvious, but after browsing through a hundred posts, it’s often easier just to write a list of links to other bloggers’ posts. Except everyone does them (myself included). Try to be a unique blogger.
2. Enhance links posts. If you’re going to write a links post, make it more valuable. Turn it into a resource list.
3. Enhance summaries. If someone blogs about a particular topic, don’t just summarize their conversation and link to them, enhance the conversation. First summarize several related posts to get the gist of the current/recent conversation. Now write an original post and link to all relevant recent posts that you summarized.
4. Have parallel conversations. Don’t blog exactly the same thing as everyone else. If a post inspires you, maybe there’s a related subtopic that has not been well-addressed in your niche yet. You can launch off from what other blogs are saying. (I believe Darren Rowse talked about this in late 2006 or early 2007, but I can’t find it on Problogger.)
5. Create authority content. Depending on your niche, this could be an article series, tutorials, giant resource lists, or anything else that demonstrates what you know about a topic. Article series have added link value because if you do them properly, the posts will be interlinked – which some SEs (Search Engines).
6. Have a mix of post lengths. Blogs in some niches do best (in terms of traffic) if they have 10-20 short posts per day. Such blogs usually build their authority by creating a dialogue in the comments of their posts, or via a forum, not solely from indepth articles. (Though sometimes they rely solely on promotion on niche social voting sites.)
If you’re not in any such a niche, your authority probably has to be built with indepth content. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot mix in shorter posts daily. Personally, if I plan to be a regular reader of a blog, I prefer a mix of several short posts and 1-3 indepth posts per day.
7. Add visual media. Visual content is sorely lacking in the blogosphere. Sure, some sites have lots of it, but most sites have none. It’s not necessary in every post, but adding an image, illustration, diagram, mindmap, chart, video, or a slideshow to occasional posts helps your blog stand out visually. Some SEs also give such content more authority. Just make sure you optimize by using apropriate tag/title text.
8. Link to authority sites. This is purely my opinion, but I’m sure most SE algorithms prefer it… If your blog is new, point most of your external links to authority sites in your niche. That doesn’t mean NEVER link to other new sites or sites in other niches, but keep their collective percentage low compared to authority outbound links in your content. The other reason for doing this is that if you link to relevant authority sites that have trackbacks turned on, you’ll eventually gain additional natural and search engine traffic.
9. Refine your audience target. This is arguable. Do you want to write what you want, or do you want to refine your blog to target the people who seem to be regulars? That’s up to you, but if you want to refine, you need to know your audience and define a portrait of them.
These tips are simply my assessment so far of how to build an authority site from scratch – an effort I’ve been involved in for only a handful of sites. My feelings about any particular approach might change in a year.
Have you built an authority site? Have used any of the above tips yourself? Did they work?
As editors, we understand the importance of knowing your audience: What does your audience want to read? What information needs do members of that audience have? What do they need in terms of writing style, complexity, and depth? Only if you meet the needs of your target audience will you have an audience.
[Edited by moderator to remove self-promotional links]
Number 9 isn’t talked about a lot. However, it’s very important to have a good idea of the type of person you are writing for.
Nice list. I bookmarked it on del.icio.us.