31DBBB Day 4: Analyze a Top Blog in Your Niche

This is Day 4 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project 60+ of us bloggers are doing together in an effort to help each other become better bloggers. You can read an overview here.

Today’s assignment is to spend some time on a successful blog in your niche.  That sounds easy enough.  But I think this is a lesson and assignment many bloggers are going to have a difficult time with for several reasons.

1) Some bloggers don’t know their niche. For some the issue is similar to Day 1 where you’re still trying to figure out what you’re blog is about and find focus.  Others of you are probably bristling at the idea that your blog could be in a nitch because you don’t like to be labeled.

1.5 (Added 5 PM) Some bloggers don’t know what blogs are in their niche. If you don’t read other blogs that touch on the same topics you do, you may not know what blogs to analyze.  A couple of places you can search for blogs by topic are Technorati.com and PostRank.com.

2) This sounds like copying. When some of you read the assignment, “Analyze a top blog in your niche” you heard “Watch what the popular people are doing and copy it.”  This assignment is not about mindlessly copying anyone or losing your identity.  While part of the assignment is to learn things you can incorporate into your own blogging.  It’s just as important to identify how you’re blog is unique and how you’re going to differentiate yourself from other the blogs in your niche.

3) Golden nuggets are easy to miss. Chances are you’ve been to the top blogs in your niche.  You know what they look like.  You know what they write about.  It’s going to be real easy to skim over this assignment and not find anything meaningful.  When panning for gold, first you’ve got to dig, and second you’ve got to look real carefully to avoid missing the valuable nuggets.

Today’s lesson identifies some good elements to observe on other blogs – topics covered, posting frequency, which topics/posts are most popular, things you like & dislike about the design, etc.  Here are some additional suggestions…

  • What modules does the blog have in the sidebar(s)?
  • Specifically, what features does it have to facilitate sharing and social networking?
  • Read the comments.  When people say they like a particular post, what specifically do they like about it?

Discussion

  1. What is your niche?
  2. What site(s) did you analyze?
  3. What did you notice about them that you  may want to incorporate into your blog?
  4. How is your blog unique?  How are you going to differentiate it from the rest of the pack?

Don’t forget, if you’ve posted a new post to your blog today, you’re welcome to include a link to it in your comments.

The Extra Mile

A few other things you can do to take your blog, other bloggers, and this project even further today…

  • Reply & give other bloggers feedback on their analysis.
  • When other bloggers include a link to a new article they’ve posted today, click, read, and comment on it.
  • Check previous posts in the series for new comments.
  • Tweet, share, & bookmark this post.  (You could win a $25 gift card!)

[image by gerlos]

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

163 Responses to “31DBBB Day 4: Analyze a Top Blog in Your Niche”

  1. My new post for the day:http://campfirecowboyministries.com/2010/05/how-o

    I don't know if this is good news or bad news. I can't find anything that is a top blog in my niche. My niche is basically Simple Christianity for Cowboys. When you do a search for blogs in this area, most of what you get are cowboy church blogs that haven't been updated in six months. Or, their idea of a blog is just an announcement of what's coming up in their church.

    Here are a few that I looked at: http://ridinghighministries.blogspot.com/2010/05/http://hunting4christ.blogspot.com/ http://cowboybible.blogspot.com/ http://cowboycrusade.com/

    All of these had good content and had been updated frequently. I looked at other sites not specifically in my niche, but I think that my background display is a little mundane. If I knew what the heck I was doing, I might be able to fix it.

    My blog is unique because of how frequently it is updated and the fact there is very little out there that is really cowboy and really Christian.

  2. 1) I would consider my niche to be spiritual formation / discipleship
    2) I analyzedhttp://michaelhyatt.com |http://perrynoble.com |http://www.brianjones.com/blog/
    3) Brian Jones does a great job of using the blog and also video tools to post each sermon that he preaches as well. Some video would be a great addition to my site.
    4) There is so much information on the web that from a design perspective I am not sure there is anything that can be done to set my site or any other site apart. For me I believe this has to be done through content. Through my personality, unique perspective, and conversational voice.

    Here is today's post: http://larrywestfall.com/do-not-listen-to-the-inv

  3. 1) I would consider my niche to be spiritual formation / discipleship
    2) I analyzedhttp://michaelhyatt.com |http://perrynoble.com |http://www.brianjones.com/blog/
    3) Brian Jones does a great job of using the blog and also video tools to post each sermon that he preaches as well. Some video would be a great addition to my site.
    4) There is so much information on the web that from a design perspective I am not sure there is anything that can be done to set my site or any other site apart. For me I believe this has to be done through content. Through my personality, unique perspective, and conversational voice.

    Here is today's post: http://larrywestfall.com/do-not-listen-to-the-inv

  4. 1) I would consider my niche to be spiritual formation / discipleship
    2) I analyzedhttp://michaelhyatt.com |http://perrynoble.com |http://www.brianjones.com/blog/
    3) Brian Jones does a great job of using the blog and also video tools to post each sermon that he preaches as well. Some video would be a great addition to my site.
    4) There is so much information on the web that from a design perspective I am not sure there is anything that can be done to set my site or any other site apart. For me I believe this has to be done through content. Through my personality, unique perspective, and conversational voice.

    Here is today's post: http://larrywestfall.com/do-not-listen-to-the-inv

  5. 1) I would consider my niche to be spiritual formation / discipleship
    2) I analyzedhttp://michaelhyatt.com |http://perrynoble.com |http://www.brianjones.com/blog/
    3) Brian Jones does a great job of using the blog and also video tools to post each sermon that he preaches as well. Some video would be a great addition to my site.
    4) There is so much information on the web that from a design perspective I am not sure there is anything that can be done to set my site or any other site apart. For me I believe this has to be done through content. Through my personality, unique perspective, and conversational voice.

    Here is today's post: http://larrywestfall.com/do-not-listen-to-the-inv

  6. Posting my assignment for today. Not a great post but feel free to read it.. :P http://guardraildamageahead.com/31dbbb-day-4-anal

    • I liked your post and enjoyed reading about Jeremy Shoemaker. Thanks for all the info!

  7. lets see if this works

  8. Explains it, comment too long. Tried 3 times and keep having to rewrite it, getting annoying.

    I don't remember everything we're supposed to answer but my niche isn't about something specific like a church, leadership, a business, or one thing, it's vairried and covers many things. I look up to many of the bloggers I'm subscribed to and so I specifically went to their blogs to see how they do things. I want the retweet button, google friend connect, share this, and a couple other things.
    A few of the blogs I read are Perry Nobles blog – http://www.perrynoble.com/, the Sears blog – http://searsinok.blogspot.com/, Lifechurch.tv Swerve – http://swerve.lifechurch.tv/, Scott Williams blog -http://bigisthenewsmall.com/.

    My first blogpost for today is "Things In The Spring 2 -http://tijuanabecky.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/thin

  9. My blog niche is that I'm a recovering "Christian" a**hole husband. There are not a lot of "Christian" husbands blogging out there who willing to admit the same. I see a lot of wives blogging about their marriages, presenting a pretty rosy picture. I see some pastor/husbands portraying that they have it all put together in a nice little package. This doesn't seem to be the reality that I see in a lot of churches.

    • Reality is good. I prefer the word honesty but tinged with grace or sensibility so as not to offend ;)

      One suggestion if I may: knowing how short our attention spans are (ohh look, shiny) can I suggest you turn your 000 post into an About page. One less click might make folks hanround longer.

  10. Anyway, I like LL Barkat's bloghttp://seedlingsinstone.blogspot.com , I like Ann Voskamp's bloghttp://www.aholyexperience.com . But, the things I like about them might not be relevant to my blog. They are artistic. They are poetic. Ann's doesn't allow for comments. Ann's has music that starts up after a few seconds. I don't really like that. I like Gordon Atkinson's bloghttp://www.reallivepreacher.com mostly for its content. And I think that's THE MOST IMPORTANT thing for a blog to have is GOOD CONTENT.

    I'm in the middle of a series about how husbands can be a source of safety for (or a threat to) their wives that I call "The Best Safety Device is a Careful Man." Today's post starts, "A safe man is careful with: His eyes…"
    http://preparation4eternity.blogspot.com/2010/05/

  11. Like most of you, my blog is kind of different. It's not going to be a top blog, and I'm okay with that. I'm not trying to make money on it, but I would like to get it out to the small target audience of people who, like me, are exploring alternative approaches to the identity of the church. Frank Viola's blog would probably be tops in this area, but his blog is way different from mine, and it wouldn't fit my personality or my calling to try to emulate it. Felicity Dale has a good blog on this, and from time to time I come across other bloggers in this area that are a blessing to me. Only none of them are "top blogs" either. :lol: I'm afraid we're all in the same boat with this one. Our audience is, by definition, small.

    • I am with you there Cindy. Seems like we have a similar niche, which is great to know.

      I am however trying to make something out of my blog, even if it is just a little, for the amount of time I tend to pour into it.

  12. My blog is leaning towards general musings on life, spirituality, writing, music so it's kind of tough to figure out a niche. However, there are several blogs that I look to for inspiration and would like to emulate in some sense:

    Shaun Grove's blog:http://shaungroves.com. His balance of wit and humility make for good reading. Most of all he shares struggles and questions that others won't out of pride.

    Jason Boyett's blog: http://blog.jasonboyett.com/ . His writing shows a real vulnerability and openness that I wish I could be half as good at.

    Wil Wheaton's blog: http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/ Profanity and adult humor aside, watching him transform from that 'kid in Stand By Me' or 'Wesley Crusher' to serious writer and actor is an inspiration, especially in the way he is able to weave a story that draws the reader in.

    John Scalzi's blog: http://whatever.scalzi.com/ John is a sci-fi author who is very candid about how he got into the career and what that career has entailed as well as other observations on life. He is in the top 5 of people that got me interested in writing as an outlet and a profession.

    Granted they all have one thing that I don't in that they are all celebrities in their fields, but the writing inspires me to embrace my creative side. All of the post on a regular basis and all of them frequently interact with the people that read their blogs.

  13. I am still searching to find blogs that most closely fit the same niche. There are a number of blogs out there that somewhat fit such as:http://www.simplechurchjournal.com/ ,http://h2hmissions.wordpress.com/, http://blog.oikos.org.au/ andhttp://www.floydandsally.org/.

    I am going to need to spend more time analyzing each of these blogs and find a few others that relate more closely.

  14. I would say my "general" blog niche is in the pastor-blogger realm.

    Blogs I analyzed and resonate with most arehttp://www.perrynoble.com, http://www.evotional.com,http://www.benarment.com, http://www.moviepastor.com, andhttp://www.donmilleris.com.

    Things I like about these blogs to incorporate into my own: Perry Noble–passion, Mark Batterson–super smart and creative thoughts, Ben
    Arment–creative, real, and master of short but powerful posts, Dave Anderson–authentic and passionate, and Don Miller–a great writer who isn't afraid to take on difficult topics.

    What differentiates my blog? Cut through the "Christianeze" and give me real truth in short bytes. As a pastor with a full time real world job that doesn't give me computer access during the work day, I will give you thoughtful, powerpacked posts that won't waste your time with 1000 words when 100 will do!

  15. As part of my daily reading of different blogs I tend to observe and learn the different things mentioned in todays lesson. Now i need to narrow them down to find websites that fit my niche. Being a beginner i am still in the process of discovering my niche. Great lesson.

  16. Yes, finding my niche has been a challenge just like the elevator pitch. The terms and topics I use come up empty or with blogs with 21 or less subscribers. At first this was quite discouraging. I did some experimenting chosehttp://www.thechangeblog.com/five-myths-about-cha… and to review. There were ways of linking and methods of organizing posts that I would like to incorporate. "READ IN" fascinated me. Does any blogger find that helpful? My blog is more concise and usually more interactive. Adding reader interaction will really help differentiate it – I hope! ps. your comments have provided even more niche words. Thanks.

  17. I studied both xtreme sports blogs as well as Christian xtreme sports blogs. I noticed xtreme sports bloggers are flaky and not consistent. There are three basic types of xtreme sport blogs (1) informative (like bike repair) and (2) documentary of adventures (3) sales of DVD's and books. I couldn't find a Christian xtreme sport blog that integrated God's word in the mix. So, there you have it – a refined niche.

    • Nice … !

      You are the one and only – song there somewhere.

      • The christian extreme sport blogs I found had scripture on the page somewhere but didn't use an extreme sport story or metaphor to deepen their understanding of its meaning.

        I did finally find a website that offers free on-line bible studies that is somewhat interesting. Well, interesting until you watch the videos. 99% of such sites are amazing in content but extremely lame in the approach. I would rank this one good in content and good in approach. The statistics of the twenty somethings that are unchurched is staggering.

      • I did find this very cool blog with lots of encouraging statistics about my audience. My audience is for the most part NOT hostile toward studying the bible and learning about God's word. In fact, they are thirsting for this knowledge. They will not come to us … we have to come to them where they hang out – on the computer.
        http://www.evangelismcoach.org/2009/statistics-sp

      • I did find this very cool blog with lots of encouraging statistics about my audience. My audience is for the most part NOT hostile toward studying the bible and learning about God's word. In fact, they are thirsting for this knowledge. They will not come to us … we have to come to them where they hang out – on the computer.
        http://www.evangelismcoach.org/2009/statistics-sp

  18. My niche is Christian inspirational. – Stories, Poems, Articles, Gifts.
    I analyzed: A Daily Inspirational Christian Bloghttp://www.partnershiprussia.com/partnershiprussi
    I would like to incorporate a blog roll.
    My blog is unique because I purchased an image for it and all my stories are my true life stories and all my poems are my original poems.
    I hope I have differentiated from other Christian inspirational blogs by adding all different types of inspirational posts. Most Christian Inspirational blogs that I come across stick to one type of post . Either stories, poems, bible verses, book reviews or articles. I incorporate all of those types of post in one blog which I hope makes it more interesting.

  19. My blog fits the niche of Christian Inspirational. I follow many blogs with the same theme. My top three are: <a href="http://www.aholyexperience.com” target=”_blank”>www.aholyexperience.com by Ann Voskamp <a href="http://www.claireburge.com/” target=”_blank”>www.claireburge.com/ by Claire Burge http://gettingdownwithjesus.blogspot.com by jennifer lee

    Ann Voskamp's site features posts that emphasize God in the everyday life, marriage,gratitude, Christian seasons of the year, and grief. It is writen in the first person and she does not have a place to comment. You can email her. Her design is elegant yet strikingly simple. The black background is highlighted with white lettering, sometime giving way to colored ink for emphasis. There is a fluid style of presenting the post with photos punctuating her story. She has topics twice a week which encourage readers to post blogs related to her topic at their own site~and then tie back into Ann's site with their URL & photo. She also has music playing that is gentle and contemplative, making you want to stay. You can subscribe to Ann's blog by one of several different networks, noted by symbols at the bottom of her page. Ann writes every day.

    Claire's site was great to review. She had already analyzed what draws people to her site as well as others. In her post today, she said, "People relate to another's vulnerability, to a display of pain or weakness." She went on to note that these elements in a post have received the most feedback. She also commented that the reader is attracted to "open display of kindness". Claire's blog has a large banner of design at the top of her post. Her background is white with black ink on it. Her site has a crisp, clean feel, making the type easy to read. It's not all bunched up. As she is learning more about photography, she often has several photos posted on each site. Both at Ann's and Claire's, this makes for great appeal. Most of Claire's post revolves around Christian Inspiration, her travels, life's lessons, and photography. Readers to her post comment on how the post makes them feel or what touched them personally in her post. You can subscribe to her post by email or RSS feed.
    She writes about every other day.

    Jennifer's blog has a colorful design with a scrapbook feel..She writes in brown ink on a white background and changes ink color in the post for emphasis. Her blog has an airy feel like the others. It makes everything easier to read, and helps you stay with the story. Her posts focus on Christian Inspirational from personal experience, her interests that are global (like running), and family topics. She also writes extremely well in first person mostly. Her readers comment on her writing ability, photos that she uses lavishly in her posts, and share how they relate to her post. Readers can subscribe by email or a reader. And she has a button to grab on her site. She has an extensive list of blogs that she follows. Her posts draw anywhere from 15 to 40 comments, averaging in the teens. She writes every couple of days.

    One of the common factors in each of these blogs is the airy feel that makes them inviting to read. In addition, they all use numerous quality photos with each post. Their designs are relaxing to look at–not structured and stiff. And none of these three writers have any advertising on their sites. They are all top-notch creative writers but their styles reflect their individual personalities.

    As for my blog, I have started using photos to make the text more interesting. I want to redo the design of my blog to give it more of an airy feel rather than the look of a column in a newspaper. As my blog stands now, I have a pink background with darker mauve type. I'm not sure if I would stay with those colors when I redesign. My type face is too big. I need more ways for people to sign up and share. I want to be able to reach more people and become a more creative writer focusing on inspiring Christian women.

    In Him,

    Janis

  20. I guys, sorry for being absent yesterday, but life happens. I have thought about this for a long time, and THE blog that got me going washttp://www.ragamuffinsoul.com/

    This is what I have modeled my blog on intially. I am currently going through a change period with my blog, so my niche has not been defined for myself yet, and hopefully as I discover that, I will be able to model some things of my blog on what the other players in that niche does.

  21. My blog fits the niche of Christian Inspirational. I follow many blogs with the same theme. My top three are: http://www.aholyexperience.com by Ann Voskamp http://www.claireburge.com/ by Claire Burge http://gettingdownwithjesus.blogspot.com by jennifer lee

    Ann Voskamp's site features posts that emphasize God in the everyday life, marriage,gratitude, Christian seasons of the year, and grief. It is writen in the first person and she does not have a place to comment. You can email her. Her design is elegant yet strikingly simple. The black background is highlighted with white lettering, sometime giving way to colored ink for emphasis. There is a fluid style of presenting the post with photos punctuating her story. She has topics twice a week which encourage readers to post blogs related to her topic at their own site~and then tie back into Ann's site with their URL & photo. She also has music playing that is gentle and contemplative, making you want to stay. You can subscribe to Ann's blog by one of several different networks, noted by symbols at the bottom of her page. Ann writes every day.

    Claire's site was great to review. She had already analyzed what draws people to her site as well as others. In her post today, she said, "People relate to another's vulnerability, to a display of pain or weakness." She went on to note that these elements in a post have received the most feedback. She also commented that the reader is attracted to "open display of kindness". Claire's blog has a large banner of design at the top of her post. Her background is white with black ink on it. Her site has a crisp, clean feel, making the type easy to read. It's not all bunched up. As she is learning more about photography, she often has several photos posted on each site. Both at Ann's and Claire's, this makes for great appeal. Most of Claire's post revolves around Christian Inspiration, her travels, life's lessons, and photography. Readers to her post comment on how the post makes them feel or what touched them personally in her post. You can subscribe to her post by email or RSS feed.
    She writes about every other day.

    Jennifer's blog has a colorful design with a scrapbook feel..She writes in brown ink on a white background and changes ink color in the post for emphasis. Her blog has an airy feel like the others. It makes everything easier to read, and helps you stay with the story. Her posts focus on Christian Inspirational from personal experience, her interests that are global (like running), and family topics. She also writes extremely well in first person mostly. Her readers comment on her writing ability, photos that she uses lavishly in her posts, and share how they relate to her post. Readers can subscribe by email or a reader. And she has a button to grab on her site. She has an extensive list of blogs that she follows. Her posts draw anywhere from 15 to 40 comments, averaging in the teens. She writes every couple of days.

    One of the common factors in each of these blogs is the airy feel that makes them inviting to read. In addition, they all use numerous quality photos with each post. Their designs are relaxing to look at–not structured and stiff. And none of these three writers have any advertising on their sites. They are all top-notch creative writers but their styles reflect their individual personalities.

    As for my blog, I have started using photos to make the text more interesting. I want to redo the design of my blog to give it more of an airy feel rather than the look of a column in a newspaper. As my blog stands now, I have a pink background with darker mauve type. I'm not sure if I would stay with those colors when I redesign. My type face is too big. I need more ways for people to sign up and share. I want to be able to reach more people and become a more creative writer focusing on inspiring Christian women.

    In Him,

    Janis

  22. This is a really difficult assignment. There are a few really great bath and beauty blogs, so I am still working on this assignment. I probably will be for quite some time. One thing I notice is most of them post more often than I do. Thinking of ways to increase posts without sacrificing quality.

  23. I apologize for being late to the party with my post. But I am committed to working through this project even if it means I'm running at the back of the group.

    I've enjoyed following your comments and your blogs. Here is what I discovered with the Day 4 assignment.

    My niche is arts leaders in the church. This seems to be a small and unique group. Often in churches this role is filled by the worship leader. So, the blogs I reviewed arehttp://rkweblog.com/ andhttp://nancybeach.typepad.com/. Rich's blog does come at this role from the worship leader perspective while Nancy's blog is more closely the niche that I fit in.

    I love the creativity of Rich's blog. It's the first thing you see at the top of the page. My own bloghttp://www.theorganizedartist.blogspot.com has been long overdue for a face lift and my perusal of Rich's blog cemented that for me. A creative's site should be if nothing else, creative. While it is something I don't always take note of, one item in a blog that I personally appreciate is a brief "about section" on the home page. Nancy does this well on her blog. I find it very helpful and enjoyable to know more of the person I am reading from and about. So to know some of the author's life and experience in a brief overview gives me better understanding of their point of view.

    I always enjoy a "currently reading" list as is on Nancy's blog and was reminded again of the importance of keeping it up to date.

    I really like the recent comment listing Rich uses on the top right column and love the potential it has to spur on further discussion. I wonder if he's finding that to be the case and wonder how to create such a module.

    I think some of the ways I will best be able to differentiate my blog will come in content, specifically offerings of practical organization and systems tools to use in ministry. Much of the other ways I think I could improve what I offer would come under visual improvements. Now… to figure out Dreamweaver….hmmm….

  24. This is a powerful blog for Pastors in my niche. All Pastors are encouraged to connect
    http://www.pastors.com/

  25. This is a blog in my niche that every Pastor is encourage to connect http://www.pastors.com/

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