I am always astounded at the speed I can do research nowadays. What could have taken weeks or a few months suddenly can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less. When it comes to blogging, you can now gather a lot of data for free.

This can help you even before you start a blog around that topic, so you are aware of the amount of work you need to do to be one of the best in the market.

A simple competitive analysis, for instance, can help you determine what you should do next and create a strategy to better penetrate the market. (Like it or not, when you blog, you are communicating with the market.)

What’s astounded me most is the fact that more bloggers don’t take advantage of the Internet from this standpoint.

For example, if you are looking forward to start a blog about gardening, it is impossible to dominate that niche alone unless you have a team working full time for years to build massive content for for the blog. Gardening is a huge industry. You are more likely to get into the top 10 if you target a sub niche. Rose gardening comes to my mind — not that I know anything about growing roses.

By the way, why getting into the top 10?

The Beauty of Being the Market Leader

Don’t get me wrong. You can make very good living by keeping your business small and self-manageable, if you prefer to be a solopreneur. A friend of mine is silently making six-figure income by selling to a quite crowded niche. He was not even known as the expert in the market. If that’s what you want, it is perfectly fine.

However, if you want to grow big, here are a few facts. You need to think about the 80-20 (Pareto) principle. Basically it says that…

“For many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

In niche blogging, perhaps the number is more like 95/5 or even 99.9/0.1. Only a few blogs are really going to make it to the top. Consider yourself lucky if you find a crowded and rabid niche with moderate amount of competitions.

A top 10 niche blog is only going to be more successful because of the following reasons:

  1. It will only grow stronger. Once you have a lot of traffic, every time you update your blog, there will be tons of people link to you, sending you even more traffic.
  2. People want to be part of it. Engagement rate becomes higher. People will spend more time on the blog than any other sites combined.
  3. Credibility and trust. If you sell anything online, you should know how trust affects sales.
  4. Higher advertising rates. When a lot of advertisers compete to tap into the blog’s audience, you can charge even more.

How to Become One of the Best

If you have the chance to start over, or even if you don’t, you can do the following to focus (and refocus) on your niche to zero in on something that you can possibly handle with the amount of resources you have, and become one of the best blogs in the topic. Take into account that you can always hire or outsource once you are getting the momentum and start earning from your blog.

So here it is. The key to dominate and win the game is to study the battle field and the enemies. Find out what they are doing and create strategic plan to do better. Simple enough, but how do you actually implement it?

Identify the top 10 blogs in your niche

Use keyword research tools to determine top 10 most frequently searched keywords in your niche and feed those keywords, one at a time, into Technorati or Google.

Write down the list of blogs that appear in the result pages. For Google, you may have to go to the second or third page before you come down to the 10th blog.

Using a Firefox add-on like SEO for Firefox, you can get a lot of data like Google PageRank, number of inbound links from Yahoo, Alexa and Compete ranks and other information.

Tips: You may find spreadsheet software extremely useful in organizing these data.

Perform a Detailed Analysis of What They Do

Once you get the list of 10 blogs, now it is time to visit them and do some home work.

  • Subscribe to the RSS feed. You definitely want to get the blogs’ feed into your news reader. Chances are good they have a strong blog’s subscriber base.
  • Pay attention to their content model and see why it works so effective. Popular blogs doesn’t always keep their blog updated several times a day. You may be able to determine the publishing schedule based of the pattern you notice.
  • Observe the writing style. Some people have natural talent in writing. If that is a factor that contributes to the success, you want to know it. You will be surprised that a lot of bloggers really don’t write perfectly. They just have the passion to write conversationally and get across their message very well.
  • Identify marketing strategies. You can’t always see what they do behind the scenes but sometimes you can figure out things by doing a bit more research. If you see a blog post that is very popular in social media, start thinking strategically what made it work.
  • Find out how they build responsive audience. If the bloggers choose to enable comments, you will often notice a blog with 1,000 subscribers will have far more comments per post than one with 10,000 subscribers. There should be a reason behind it. I recommend make it a part of your analysis.

I’m sure there will be some other things I have missed, so be flexible and creative when analyzing those blogs.

Expand Your View to Include More Blogs

One reason why we only perform detailed analysis on the top 10 blog is to keep you from a syndrome called analysis paralysis. While this is important, you should not overdo it. At the end of the day, what really matter are content, promotion, and networking (with the audience and other bloggers).

However, once you have done the analysis above, you can expand the horizon and enrich your research by including more blogs. Not all top blogs are going to have the best of everything. Some ideas will be available in other blogs.

What you can learn from those blogs:

  • Design details. I got the idea to include a content feed icon at the end of every of blog post from a new blog. I really like that idea so I test it. Perhaps it will turn more of the social media traffic into subscribers but I haven’t figured that out yet. (It seems like a few other more popular bloggers also use the same technique so I’m quite sure it will work.)
  • Diversity of content formats. I started to see a few smaller blogs complement textual content with video and audio podcast. Some of them were doing very well when they posted reviews. There were always a surge in comments every time the bloggers posted new reviews, perhaps due to how he balanced the information between the drawbacks of the product and promotion.
  • Methods to jazz up the posts. In recent years, I’ve seen bloggers include images from Flickr and other image hosting sites to make the structure of the blog posts more dynamic.
  • Additional moneymaking opportunities. Many smaller blogs that provide monthly earnings report show that creating an e-book can help building traffic and also income. This is an example of one of the most overlooked promotion strategies bloggers make. For beginning bloggers, this means a tremendous opportunity to reach people who are otherwise not available if they don’t tap into this one idea.

Ideas are around us. You can often trigger your mind by stimulating it randomly, such as what we use in this section.

Review

I hope you jot down ideas as you go through the process above. Based on your notes, you should now have an idea about what to do to build your blog and dominate the niche.

It is hard to work based on scribbles of notes though. The next step is to plan your approach to produce content, promote it and use marketing strategies appropriately.

Finally, if you haven’t yet implemented an action management system like Getting Things Done, I recommend you to take a look at it. It will make your life more organized.

Take action!

Photo credits by Luis Alves.

About the author

This is a guest post by Hendry Lee.
Hendry Lee helps bloggers overcome technology challenges in starting and growing their blogs. Get daily tips, techniques and strategies by visiting his blog at http://blogbuildingu.com.