What Determines Your Blog’s Popularity and Success?

The two most common “successful blogger” posts tend to consist of:

  • What you need to do to become a popular blogger.
  • What it took to make me a popular blogger.

As I read through these, I find that while these are similar points, the perspective is often very different.

What it takes to become a successful and popular blogger is often based upon assumptions not reality. When those who really make it share their opinions and advice on what it really took to become a successful and popular blogger, reality tends to rule because they’ve already “been there, done that”, and paid the price for the lessons learned.

What do you think it really takes to become a successful and popular blogger?

Example of a web traffic chartFor those working from the assumptions, the number one method of becoming a successful and popular blogger appears to be web traffic. The more folks pushing up the spikes on the traffic chart, the better the blog. Is that true?

Some thrive on getting dugg by Digg, slashed by Slashdot, tagged by Technorati, or whatever the new hot social networking recommendation service is. The sudden influx of traffic must mean “success”. Right?

Being dugg and linked to isn’t always just about the soaring numbers but about the fact that others are talking about you on the site and/or writing about it on their blogs, recommending your writing to others. Many thrive on the attention and call that a measure of their popularity. “They like me, they really like me!”

Some bloggers are intent on measuring how many incoming and outgoing links they have, since that is an important part of Google PageRank and getting found by search engines. The more likely you are to be found, the more successful you must be.

Bloggers who understand how important feeds are to many members of their audience monitor feed statistics, including who is using which type of feed reader to access their blogs. They watch their feed statistics and Feedburner numbers like a scorecard in a game. The higher the numbers the bigger the win!

Bloggers intent on making money with their blogs measure success by the income they receive, working hard to position income producing elements in the right “click zones” to encourage more activity, thus more money. Traffic is important to them, but more so if that traffic turns into income. Watching the cents turn to dollars is a good indicator to them of blogging success and popularity.

A very small number of bloggers don’t count the spikes in traffic but the average traffic numbers evened out over months or a year or more of showing a slow growth in returning visitors as the baseline slowly moves us in spite of the peaks and valleys. The return customer is more important than the big influx of traffic.

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Then there are those who are thrilled if their mother visits their blog and leaves a kind word like “I’m so proud of you, honey. Don’t forget to pick up some milk and bread at the store on your way home.”

Most typical bloggers use some combination of the above statistics to measure their success and popularity.

What is your definition of blogging success and popularity? What do you use to measure it?

And if you are already successful and popular as a blogger, did what it take to get there match your original assumptions? Did everything you thought would work really work to make you successful and popular?

Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on , and is a long time support volunteer for . Lorelle travels too much and reports about life on the road in and covers family history and genealogy on , teaches and presents workshops and programs, and writes for many blogs, ezines, and magazines.

View Comments (15)
  • I’m a new blogger (3 months old) and still get totally lost trying to understand tags, web traffic, digg etc, etc, etc.

    Yet I feel my blog’s successful – why ? Because I have regular visitors who leave comments and provide me with encouragement. In other words, I have created a community of like minded people (freelance writers).

    My point – maybe blog success is not in the numbers but who visits and how many are regulars.

    Cheers, Liz

  • I feel I have had success when people regularly return and interact. My blog is a craft related blog and my greatest measure is when a challenge of some sort it proposed and people join in. I am currently running a weekly creative challenge and about 200 people stitch each week. It’s easy for people to leave comments etc on the blog but takes more effort to spend a few hours making something.It means they really want to be part of it.

    Another successful challenge consisted of people making blocks that were assembled into quilts and sold on Ebay for Katrina huricane survivors – we raised quite a bit of money.

    I don’t check my stats often – about once a week – As for me success is when I can organsie something like a fundraiser successfully – or a creative challenge that people engage in. When this happens the blog and what I do becomes something greater than just me – its a buzz to see it happen

  • The sad thing is, when people follow a set formula for how to be a successful blogger, we end up with lots of clones that pat each other on the back for rehashing very similar content.

    I have never followed a fixed formula in my blogging, other than writing things I believe in, truthful information about what works for me that might be things others haven’t tried, and actually try hard not to write about anything unless I can give a totally unique perspective.

    It takes much longer to build up readership if you don’t follow the “chummy” path, but the readers you do turn into subscribers tend to be regular repeat visitors and commenters.

  • I think you hit it right on target when you said some bloggers “use some combination of the above”. I think people get into blogging for one reason and then it evolves. Success to them suddenly isn’t just about attaining the goal that got them into blogging in the first place but becomes a measure of how well they attain evolving goals.

    For example, for me, I got into blogging and websites because I wanted to make some extra money. Now, three years later, I want my sites to be authority sites; I want people to consider me an expert in my chosen topic areas. My personal measure of popularity and success is how well I’m getting to those goals. All of the stats (be they revenue, comments, number of subscribers, etc.) merely gauge my progress.

  • “The sad thing is, when people follow a set formula for how to be a successful blogger, we end up with lots of clones that pat each other on the back for rehashing very similar content.” – Andy Beard

    Thank you Andy, this needed to be said. Do we really need another review of an Apple iPhone hidden among the google adsense?! Success vs. Failure is a matter of perspective which is directly related to the intentions of your blog. If your intention is to make $1000/mo in income within 6 months of establishing your blog, then success or failure can be determined at the 6 month mark because either you hit it, or you didn’t. It’s funny, we all get caught up in the obsession about more readers, our ranking on site X, our subscriber numbers, or whatever… Successful blogs are like successful companies – they give value. When they stop giving value, they fall off the radar. Sure, you can go on the ad campaign and push and promote like crazy, however, make sure you’re backing it up with some content that adds value.

  • Lorelle,

    Thought provoking as always!

    My few thoughts …

    1. People who write “how to be successful” without actually *being* successful holds much less water for me. In my humble perspective you cannot be one without the other.

    2. Metrics of success: I find that its determined by the blogging author. Sometimes its bucks. Sometimes its engagement. Sometimes its traffic. And not all of them are mutually inclusive.

    3. Digg / Slashdotted / Redduted etc: It is totally possible to build your blog this way; on the other hand, you have to have consistent and sustainable content both in the past and in the future to hold them up.

    4. For me, success = great content + some kind of marketing effort (I listed a few ideas on a guest spot at Problogger)


  • I recently had this discussion with a fellow blogger. My personal definition of a successful blogger is the amount participation, discussion and comments by your users.

  • Way to go Lorelle! I didn’t know you were here, you get around kiddo.

    I measure success based on two metrics, are my unique visits growing and what is the return rate percentage. It tells me whether my posts are helping people. In the past many months I have started getting more comments and having some great discussions.

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