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Successful Blog vs. Unsuccessful Blog: What did they do Different?

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Have you ever wondered how to make a successful blog?

No one wants to fail, and the odds are, if you’re here, you want to make a successful blog. After reviewing hundreds (maybe thousands) of blogs–some successes and some not profitable yet–I’ve compiled a list of characteristics that separate successful blogs from ones that aren’t successful. In this post, I’ll be sharing with you the characteristics that make a successful blog.

My Story

I’ve been blogging full-time for two years now. I started How to Entrepreneur with no website visitors and a low startup budget. Thru my commitment and continued effort to provide valuable content, I’ve been able to build this website to get more than 40,000 monthly website visitors, and to earn more and more every month (I’ve just passed the $3000 in one month mark!) in two years time.

I was able to grow my blog even with a tough hand dealt to me in my personal life. I was growing my blog even with my son being hospitalized numerous times, a very inconsistent schedule, having a new baby, a husband who worked out of the house 12+ hours per day, and lots of stress and emotional roller coasters.

I wasn’t like many of the other successful bloggers who say they had a business partner, spouse working in the business, or who were able to live with parents rent-free while growing their business. I still had bills to pay, mouths to feed, dinner to make, a house to clean, appointments to attend, diapers to change, and homework to help with.

Blogging has been a Godsend because it would’ve been nearly impossible for me to keep a job or even manage a client load with all of the schedule flexibility I needed, but BLOGGING WORKED.

My experience proves you can build a full-time blogging income even with lots of responsibilities and difficult personal situations. Of course, my results are small fish in comparison to many blogs out there, but I’m happy with how far I’ve come even with so much going on in my personal life.

I study blogs that are more successful than mine to learn what I can improve. I want to continue to grow and I want to be able to pass on the “secret sauce” to others. Added to that, I coach startup entrepreneurs how to blog on a daily basis.

I use a tool that has most of the categories I’ll be sharing with you, and when I give bloggers website feedback, I grade them between 1 and 5 on many of the categories I have listed. Many of them want to build blogs my size and bigger, and they’ve said my website feedback is very helpful to them, so I’m sharing this criteria with you.

I know most bloggers want to know:

  • What does it take to build a successful blog?
  • What separates the 7 figure blogs from the ones that make less (or no) money?
  • and, Are there certain ingredients that make some blogs take off and others that don’t?

As a result, I’m writing this as a tool you can use to grade your efforts, and as one I use to grade mine as well.

What is a Successful Blog?

I know a successful blog could be referring to one that reaches lots of people and doesn’t make money, but most times, people who want to start a blog are thinking about starting a blog that does both: makes money and makes an impact. In this post, when I talk about successful blogs, I’m referring to blogs that make more than a full-time income and reach lots of people with their mission.

How much do Successful Blogs Make?

Blogging income can vary so much! I’m considering that successful blogs make more than a full-time income, so I’m counting blogs that make more than $3,000 USD per month. There are many blogs that make more than $3000 USD. In fact, there are blogs that make millions every month.

Unfortunately, there are also many blogs that make less than $3000 USD, and at this point, most people don’t know a blogger who earns $3000 USD or more from their blogs, so these successful blogs are the anomalies we’ll be calling “successful blogs”.

What does a Successful Blog Look like?

I’ve shared examples of successful blogs in various niches in my posts:

In these posts, you’ll see what successful blogs look like and how much they make because I’ve shown you in my post and in my videos. The successful blogs I’m referring to range from full-time incomes and some exceed 7-figures in annual revenue.

25 Characteristics of a Successful Blog

These are the characteristics I’ve noticed really separate successful from unsuccessful blogs. Each blog may have a higher score in any of these given areas, but they typically are much stronger in all of these areas collectively than their unsuccessful counterparts.

1. Strong Work Ethic from the Founder (and Outsourced Team)

Many people get into blogging thinking they want to do “just enough” to make an extra $1000/mo or so. Others, underestimate the amount of effort it takes to start a business, and think they can do little to no work and generate lots of income.

They put in minimal effort, and seem surprised when they get poor results.

In contrast, many of the successful bloggers try to keep up with the market. They look at the most successful bloggers out there, and see how they can develop the skills to be the best they can be.

Often times, this may mean they work more hours than most to hone in on skills like video presentation, writing, graphic design, copywriting, or others. They also tend to be very aggressive in their approaches to excelling in business. They’re hungry for success.

2. A Committed Mindset

Some people say “I’ll try blogging for a month and if I don’t see results, I’m out”. It’s funny because the same people might be willing to spend 10 years or more in traditional education to earn $100,000/yr, but when it comes to blogging ( a career field that could earn well over $100,000 in less than 10 years), they’d put a ridiculous time line on it.

Most successful bloggers have a committed mindset. They know serious careers take time to see results, and it doesn’t matter if you choose medical, engineering, or starting another business type–they all take time, effort, and commitment.

The model is proven, but the successful bloggers tend to say, “I’m going to make this work for me” and commit to it.

3. Clear Buyer’s Intent

Some blogs you visit and you don’t have a clue of how they plan to make money. They may have posts, graphics, and a nice look, but their posts are all informational: tutorials, how to’s, and no clear intent to sell anything.

As a blogger, you’re a small business owner. You can’t go into a brick and mortar storefront that’s unclear what they’re selling, so why would you expect that to work online?

Your blog is a storefront. You’re a small business owner. You have to have products and services to sell (even if they’re not your own).


4. A Mix of Informational Content and Sales Content

It’s okay to have informational content. In fact, it’s great. Informational content helps to build trust, context, authority, and it attracts lots of readers.

Unfortunately, it falls short of delivering a full solution in many cases. If you tell me how to do something, but you don’t make it easy for me to take action, and get the tools I need, is that really helpful? Yes, it can be somewhat helpful, but it’s much more helpful when you tell people how to do something, and you also link them to the tools and resources they need to take action.

5. Clear Understanding of Audience and Pain Points

Sometimes, when I visit websites, it’s obvious, the author doesn’t know who they’re writing to. They do things like write text that doesn’t solve a problem or they don’t explain the use-cases of what they’re selling well.

It’s important to understand who you’re writing to, what might motivate them to come to your website, how it would feel to solve the problem they’re looking to solve, and articulate to them that you understand where they are.

Successful blogs clearly understand their audience and pain points. Every post may not be targeted well, but overall, they have a monopoly of posts that are perfectly aligned. They offer relevant content to relevant readers.

6. Streamlined Site Structure

There is probably nothing more frustrating than visiting a website and not knowing how to get around. It might not have a menu or the menu is weirdly put together, so it’s confusing trying to figure out how to find anything.

It reminds me of going to a brick and mortar store, having to use the bathroom, and not being able to find it. Hahahaha. It’s horrible.

Most people don’t want to waste time trying to figure out how to get around on your website, so if your navigation is complicated, you’ll miss out on visitors and sales. Successful blogs are usually very simple when it comes to navigation. The top level menu will have only a few things, and they use internal links as a super power to help people get around to other content they might like.

7. Clear Calls to Action

Like navigation, if a reader reads your whole post, and they’re confused about what’s the next step to take action, it’s likely, you won’t get results. You could have a very thorough post about “How to make a peanut butter sandwich”, but if you don’t break it down, and say at the end “If you want to make you’re own peanut butter sandwich, grab your bread, peanut butter, and jelly and follow the steps I’ve included here”, then you’ll have a lower rate of people who take action.

Successful blogs typically have very clear directions for what to do after reading each post. They might say “join me here”, “Try this here”, or some other direction that’s specific about what action should be taken.

8. Unique Selling Proposition

There are so many places that sell burgers, why do people buy from McDonald’s? It’s because they’re quick, they consistent, they’re affordable, and the list can go on and on. They have a clear advantage in the market.

People will go to Chik-Fil-A for something completely different than when they go to McDonald’s.

Each successful company should be able to answer the question, “Why should they come to you instead of someone else?”. Bloggers have to carve out something that differentiates them, and makes them an ideal solution rather than other blogs.

9. Buyer’s Journey

If you’re writing blog posts, but you don’t have a clue how they’re translating into a sale, then something is wrong. Hahahaha. Most successful blogs clearly know that each blog post is created with a goal in mind: to bring more visitors, to increase brand awareness, to encourage a buying decision, to get people on the email list, etc.

The buyer’s journey clearly outlines which content is meant for people in the awareness phase, and how you plan to link them from the awareness phase and bring them closer to a buying decision.

10. Customer Promise

You don’t want to be confusing for people to know why or when would they come to you. For example, it’s very clear that you go to the doctor when you need medical advice, and you go to the gas station when you need gas. You want it to be crystal clear what type of advice, products, and services your visitors can expect to get from you.

11. Branding

Often times, the opinions of others, the logo, brand colors, or some piece of marketing material may introduce a new potential customer to your business (even before they’ve spoken to anyone). You want your branding to speak positively about your brand and what you offer.

If your reputation is negative, people feel disappointed in what you offer, and your marketing materials are low quality, it could prevent others from doing business with you.

Successful blogs usually put a lot of emphasis on high quality content because they know it’s the words, graphics, videos, and reputation that does the talking for them.

12. Optimization for Conversions

Offline companies observe how people walk thru their stores, and move shelves around to make things easier to find. Online companies should also optimize their layouts for better conversions as well.

In the online world, we have things like analytics, heatmaps, recordings of user behavior, and A/B testing that can help us to improve our results with content. Successful blogs often have very in-depth ways of keeping tabs on what’s converting versus what’s not.

13. A Plan to Get Traffic

You cannot make sales if no one knows about you–successful blogs know this. Often times, blogs who make full-time incomes and beyond have tens of thousands of visitors (possibly even millions) every month, and this doesn’t happen by happenstance.

Blogs don’t “naturally” get traffic because they publish lots of content. No. Instead, successful blogs are intentional about how they get traffic to their websites. They might be really good at search engine optimization, Pinterest marketing, running paid ads, video marketing, or some other method of attracting new visitors to their websites.

14. Author Voice and Personality

I don’t think anyone like to read research papers. Hahahaha.

Blogs that don’t make money tend to be void of personality and relatability. In contrast, very successful blogs are entertaining like watching TV. They make you laugh, cry, think, and you walk away different than when you came.

It’s important to be able to evoke emotion in your writing, to entertain, and to captivate readers (even if it’s not about how many sources you cite or how sharp your grammar is).

15. Publishing Frequency

Lawn companies are successful because they consistently cut grass. Grocery stores are successful because they consistently sell groceries. Unfortunately, many new bloggers don’t realize that successful bloggers are successful because they consistently blog!

Successful businesses have a constant. They have something that other people can rely on them for. If they’re not reliable, they usually don’t built trust and authority, and people go to somewhere with reliability.

As a blogger, it’s important to publish content consistently. When you’re starting out, it might be better to have a higher publishing frequency, so you can learn the skills, build the habits, and start building brand awareness.

17. Products and Services to Sell

Blogging isn’t actually what “makes the money”–it’s like business cards, promo products, TV ads, or cold calling. Blogging helps to build the audience, but once the audience has arrived, you have to have something to sell (even if it’s ads that are generating your revenue).

You can post ads on your website, but in this case, you have to have high-demand content that is relevant for advertisers to sell from your website.

Aside from ads, you can make money with a blog by selling your own products and services, or by doing affiliate marketing, and selling other people’s products and services.

18. Average Order Values that Makes Financial Sense

Some people get stuck on high ticket or low ticket, and say that you have to sell one or the other to make money. Companies who sell $1 products make money and companies who sell $1 million products do as well–it’s not the price that is the only factor.

Beyond price, you also have to be able to sell in enough volume and keep your expenses low enough to sustain a profit. Profit in a business requires three levers: product price, expenses within means, and sales volume.

In most cases, I recommend bloggers to have a mix of high ticket, low ticket, and recurring commission sales, so you can sustain all kinds of things that could happen in the business.

19. Ability to Get Enough Attention and Trust to Get Sales

In the online space, it’s not enough to post content. There are so many people who are also posting content. You have to be posting content that’s good enough to stand out, and cause people to give you their attention when they could give it to 1000’s of other things.

Once you’ve gotten their attention, your content has to be high-quality enough that it builds trust and leads to a sale–this isn’t slapping words on a screen. It takes a considerable amount of thought and effort.

When you master it, attention, context, authority, and trust should lead to sales, and as you have more and more of these ingredients, your income should scale with that.

20. A Focus on Interpreting Data and Watching Key Performance Indicators

In online business, there’s lots of data you could analyze. There’s metrics that go along with each post, each web page, and each piece of content that you put out. Thru data, you can tell what”s working and what’s not.

New bloggers tend to make changes based on what they think without thorough investigations of data, but successful bloggers usually thoroughly screen their data to make decisions about what content to post, what not to post, what products and services to sell, and so on.

21. They Give Lots of Free Valuable Information

Whether online or offline, people who are generous build friendships and trust much faster than people who aren’t. It might seem strange to give away majority of your effort and only charge for a bit of it, but that’s somewhat how blogging works. You have to put a lot of high value out into the world to demonstrate the value of your advice and situations where you can be most helpful.

Most successful blogs have hundreds of articles, videos, graphics, and other free content that serves as a portfolio for potential customers. Regardless of whether they’re selling information, software, or a digital product, it’s the blog that demonstrates why that purchase is necessary and helps to overcome lots of objections that might come up.

22. Willingness to Get the Education and Support they Need

Bloggers are business owners and every business runs into points where there’s uncertainty, confusion, or where you feel like you’re pinned against the wall. Successful bloggers tend to find ways to educate themselves, get new ideas, find fresh eyes, or seek trusted advisors to overcome those tough situations.

Bloggers who are new or unsuccessful typically try to handle all of their problems alone; somehow thinking they can outsmart obstacles without help, without paying for anything, and solely relying on free stuff and experiments. Sometimes, trying and trying can help, but in most cases, the person who gets relevant advisors, will also find an answer much faster.

23. They Have Accountability

I’ve seen successful bloggers doing income reports, joining masterminds, and becoming parts of communities where they’re held accountable to a high standard of progress–this is paramount. They know if they present income reports monthly, and people are waiting to see them, they have accountability.

If they show glowing numbers one month and the numbers drastically crash, they’ll have to respond to lots of questions about what happened. When you have accountability, you tend to stay more on track of things, and it doesn’t matter if it’s something like cleaning your room, or if it’s blogging related, and it’s about generating a certain # of sales.

24. They do Outreach

In keeping with accountability, most successful bloggers also do outreach. They network with:

  • Vendors of products and services they use
  • Affiliate partners
  • Customers
  • Potential customers
  • Others in their niche
  • Others in complimentary niches
  • And, they joint venture

25. Clear Goals

Many new bloggers might set goals like “earn $50,000/mo by month 1”, “buy first mansion on Miami beach”, and other things without considering the steps it takes to achieve those goals. They might expect to gain a lot from a little effort.

Sometimes, they even have goals that completely stretch their time too thin. Sometimes, I make goals that are too aggressive considering everything I want to accomplish, but I’ve gotten much better with goal-setting over the time I’ve been blogging.

Successful bloggers tend to focus most on what they have control of like”write X number of blog posts”, “post X number of posts on social”, “pay for ads to increase the # of impressions by X amount”, and so on. They also tend to move step-by-step: accomplishing one thing and moving onto another.

It’s best to make goals that keep stretching metrics you’ve accomplished before. For example, rather than saying you’ll make 400 sales per month when you haven’t made 1 before, it might be best to say “make my 1st sale”, and keep challenging your results from there.


There are quite a few metrics to watch that play into the success of a blog. It’s not quite as simple as building a website and making lots of content. It has to be engaging, believable, helpful, and fill a hole in the market. Hopefully, these list of 25 metrics helps give you more clarity on how to make a successful blog. If you have any questions about this, leave them in the comments section below.

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