Latest posts by Ahmad Imran (see all)
- Serious Bloggers Need Subscribing to These 3 Email Lists - October 23, 2018
- 10 Blogging Distractions That Harm Your Blog Efforts - October 15, 2018
- Why Bloggers Should Consider a Minimalist Blog Design? - October 4, 2018
If you are a blogger, it is unlikely that you have not heard about Jon Morrow or his SmartBlogger blog (previously Boost Blog Traffic).
He started BoostBlogTraffic blog in 2012 and recently transformed it into SmartBlogger.
SmartBlogger provides authoritative and quality information for bloggers and writers. It encourages and helps the average bloggers to become smart and successful bloggers.
Just to give you a flavour, according to Jon, SmartBlogger makes over $100,000 per month and its email list has over 100,000 subscribers. If you have not read him before, I strongly suggest to get yourself on his email list and be a regular reader of his blog.
I haven’t personally met him or had any connection with him to date. I am a silent reader and admirer of his work though. Occasionally, I do not agree with some of his views (two minds are never alike, hey) but mostly, I feel that the information he provides is rich, deep and valuable.
I have been reading him for over 2 years now.
In an effort to improve my blog and learn from his expertise, I have analysed the SmartBlogger.Com over the last few days in further detail.
Success leaves clues as Tony Robbins said. I believe that there are clear hints and ideas that we can extract from SmartBlogger and use them for our benefit.
Let us see what are the 11 key insights I gathered from this review. I am sure you will enjoy and use these if they are relevant in your case after your own analysis and judgement.
1) Focused Niche, Focused Audience
Before I say any further, have a look at the first section of the “about” page at SmartBlogger.
You can see the clarity and focus in what SmartBlogger offers.
Smart Blogging – and that is it.
To make you a successful and smart blogger and ditch mediocrity and obscurity.
It is this clarity and its persistent implementation that his loyal readership has a clear understanding and knowledge about what they are going to find at SmartBlogger.
I have never found anything irrelevant or off-topic at SmartBlogger. I have been following Jon’s blog for over two years now and every time I read a new article, it is equally, in fact, more relevant than before.
As a blogger, it is vital that you understand the scope and boundaries of your blogging. This is how you define your niche and once it is established, you stay within these boundaries to build the readership which is focused and committed to that niche.
Have you got your finger on the pulse of your readers just like what SmartBlogger does?
2) Authoritative Content
Human beings by nature are inclined to follow authority.
We tend to listen more to and act on the advice provided by someone more authoritative than us and whom we have built a certain level of trust.
Authority comes with learning and experience. Before starting BoostBlogTraffic in 2012, Jon worked with some of the top writers and bloggers in the industry including his work at CopyBlogger and Kissmetrics. He knows his game inside out. I will easily call him an authority in blogging.
His articles and of those who contribute guest posts at SmartBlogger demonstrate authority and command in blogging. They are based on research, experience, feedback and knowledge gathered from practising and analysing “blogging” over a significant period of time.
SmartBlogger doesn’t publish mediocre content, it aims for the best.
As a new or intermediate blogger, I am not saying that this is something you will attain overnight. You will gain and acquire authority with time depending on your vision and action plan to achieve it.
There is a road to travel in this journey.
The key here is to understand the importance of mastering your niche and working smartly towards your goal. You should aim to publish content on your blog which people can see as a reliable and useful source of information which they can trust and implement.
It is this authority which attracts you the “loyal readership” later in the game.
3) Mainly One Form of Content
There is a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about various different forms of content and how to present it to your audience.
Podcasts, slides, infographics and downloadable PDFs to name a few.
Many bloggers and experts will encourage you to present your content to your readers in different formats. You listen to these suggestions and try them. This is where the problem starts – spreading yourself too thin.
Half baked strategies don’t work mostly in the game of blogging. You need to be laser-focused and fully committed to what you showcase on your blog.
Notice what SmartBlogger does.
We only see the standard “blog posts” in written text format.
We don’t see many videos from SmartBlogger on YouTube and we don’t see any podcasts either. Jon has decided to keep one format mainly (text articles) and has mastered it to exceptional standards.
The key is quality vs. quantity.
Don’t put your fingers in too many pies. Focus on one and enjoy it to its fullest. I am sure life will give you opportunities and the right time to attempt more.
But get the basics right first.
4) Evergreen-ness and Freshness
This is a big one and it depends on the niche you are writing about too.
I am a technical blogger and I write reviews of personal technology. An Android flagship this year will be less relevant, in fact, nearly irrelevant in a couple of years time.
But that is my niche and there is nothing wrong with it. I am not saying here to squeeze evergreen-ness in your article if you are writing about an upcoming concert ticket deal which will be over in a month. You just can’t.
However, at SmartBlogger, we see articles and information which are mostly ever-green and retain their evergreen nature and longevity over a relatively longer period of time. I agree that they need updates and tweaks on a regular basis but as an overall niche, most of the articles showcased on Jon’s blog have been solid-performers over a long period of time.
There is another interesting thing I noticed on SmartBlogger as well.
I randomly checked at least 30 articles on a 32-page long list of blog posts on SmartBlogger. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any article which was not updated within the last 4 months. In other words, in June 16, all articles were found to be updated in March 16 or onwards. This was shown as “Last Updated” tag against each article.
This shows that keeping the content up to date is not only an important factor for audience satisfaction but it also helps to keep Google happy as well. I am sure Jon cares for both of these factors very much.
I would be very interested to know Jon’s strategy about updating his existing content and its frequency. I guess it is not easy to find out though.
What is your strategy to update your existing articles after a certain period of time?
5) Help and Resource for Bloggers
SmartBlogger is not just a blog where new articles are published on a regular basis.
It is an excellent help resource for bloggers and new starters to make a robust and solid start in their blogging journey. Even if you are a few years into your blogging, there is a plenty of useful and relevant information available to you to benefit from SmartBlogger.
- There is a menu item titled as “Start Here”. This takes you to a page full of useful articles, guides and how-to’s which can help you to improve your blogging.
- The other menu item “Our Products” take you to the courses which SmartBlogger offers to interested visitors.
- Jon has also compiled a dedicated page for tools he recommends to his blog audience, titled as “Tools We Recommend”.
In essence, it is not just a blog.
At SmartBlogger, it is a great collection of tools, courses, recommendations and guides which can help any blogger to be more successful and smart with his/her blog.
6) Design Not Stunning But Highly Effective
No one can say that SmartBlogger is a stunning and jaw-dropping blog design. If I am honest with you, it is nothing special in terms of how it looks on first sight. I am not saying that it is ugly or a bad design, I am only saying that it looks like an average blog on first impression.
But then we come to the real part.
The actual design – which is how it works.
It covers all bases and I am not hesitant to say that there is nothing missing from the design which Jon’s blog reader/visitor will miss or crave for. Jon knows his readers and has provided everything in the design which is necessary to fulfil the task.
The text is big, the font is easy to read, the sidebar is full of useful information and the menu/navigation is dead simple.
What else does a reader want?
This reminds us again that we don’t need to spend hours and hours tweaking minor design details on our blogs. Yes, a good design helps but spending exceptional amount of time and money to refine finer details are not recommended from my side. Same effort can be applied to something bigger and more important.
7) Emphasis on Growing Email List
If there is one thing that strikes you when you visit SmartBlogger, that is its big and bold email opt-in banner in its header. Just under its navigation menu and repeated on every single page of the blog.
Jon hasn’t forgotten it in mobile mode either. Collecting precious email addresses of his readers looks to be very high in the priority list.
No doubt that building an email list is perhaps the biggest asset a blogger can have. I am not old enough in this game to confirm that but looking at all big players in the world of blogging, this seems to be the case.
SmartBlogger has over 100,000 subscribers and joining more every day.
A big asset.
Are you doing enough to capture email subscribers on your blog?
If not, perhaps this is the time to seriously re-think and concentrate your efforts to build your email list. Because it still works and works better than any other form of marketing, I am told.
8) No Ads, Emphasis on Own Services and Affiliate Products
You won’t see any conventional ads or banners on SmartBlogger.
You would think that with the amount of traffic SmartBlogger receives, there is no harm in slapping a few banners and ads here and there. They will make some money at the end of the day.
SmartBlogger has a different view.
I include below Jon’s own words from one of his articles on monetisation.
If you have an engaged audience that trusts you, selling ads is never a smart move. You’re better off either selling your own products or getting a commission from endorsing another company’s products, assuming you truly believe in them, of course.
SmartBloggers advertises their own products and services – their blogging courses. And that is the biggest source of revenue for them.
It also uses affiliate sales for products which are tried and tested and recommended by Jon.
I am sure there will be other ways and means of monetisation as well but the above two are the main ones.
9) Not Big on Images and Videos
You will get this advice from many places – keep your visitors engaged with multimedia, use interesting and relevant pictures and videos if you can.
Jon does it slightly differently.
At SmartBlogger, you will not see many images (especially when there is no pressing need for it).
In fact, even the main blog post image is a small thumbnail size picture tucked in one corner of the article. I can only imagine that one is in a position to do this if there is enough faith and trust in the “writing” part.
The key is to make the words so powerful and compelling that you don’t need other aids to keep the readers engaged without their inner will. Respect their time and offer them exactly what they are looking for.
They come to read the words and gain insights, not to see the images on your blog.
10) Focused Social Media Involvement
Jon only advertises two social media platforms on the blog to connect to his readers. Facebook and Twitter.
What do most of the new bloggers do (including me)?
Sign up to every single social media platform which they can think of.
I have six platforms where I am active. Spreading myself too thin and not managing a single one to its full potential. Wrong approach. This needs to change.
You need to think where does the social media sit in your overall content marketing plan. I am sure you will realise that it is so easy to get distracted and sidetracked by social media if you are not careful.
I have personally found it to be a huge distraction and if you are not careful, it can dilute your focus and objectives. It can be counter-productive. The quality and engagement of the social media traffic is not as good as some of the other sources in my experience. So watch out.
Are you going to revise your social media strategy as a result of this insight?
11) Encourages Social Sharing
Social “sharing” options are different though.
These are the sharing buttons which you offer to your readers to share the article or page with their followers and social circles.
SmartBlogger offers sidebar sharing option on every single page of the blog (pages and posts both).
There are no social sharing counts shown. If Jon is reading these lines, perhaps he can shed some light on why there are no counters shown with the buttons. I am sure his articles get hundreds, perhaps thousands of shares easily, so why not to show them as a social proof.
Perhaps he is not bothered. But this is not for me and you to worry about.
The key learning point is to allow your readers to share your content as easily as possible. Don’t let them go to find the way to do this. Offer them the sharing buttons as “obviously” as possible.
14.06.2016 update – SmartBlogger has responded to this query and explained that the social counters are recently taken out due to rebranding and changing the domain name. As the social share counts are linked to the unique URL, they usually disappear if the post or page link is changed. See Glen Long’s comment below (Managing Editor SmartBlogger).
Lessons from SmartBlogger.Com
You have read above my key observations and insights from analysing Jon’s SmartBlogger.Com. It is one of the best blogs on “blogging” that I have found in my journey in the blogosphere.
Join his list today, start reading his posts and be a regular visitor.
There is plenty to learn and tons of information to boost and refine your blog. Success leaves clues and Jon’s blog is an open book in front us to observe, learn and benefit from it.
Having said all of the above, creativity and uniqueness are equally important.
If there is a certain element which you do “your way” and believe that you don’t need to follow the footsteps of other famous bloggers, you are more than welcome to implement and practice it.
It is your blog, your voice and your style.
Be a student and make your own decisions.
Don’t just be a follower.
What do you think?