There are three of the very popular sites online and one very popular blogger turned into politician. Mashable, The Daily Mail, Perez Hilton and Beppe Grillo.
- Pete Cashmore started Mashable, the online news site, in 2005 and has built it into one of the most influential sites in the world. Mashable gets millions of unique monthly visitors, has ten million followers in social media and its content regularly tops the trending lists. By learning about how Mashable got there you might be able to find a way to get there yourself.
- The Daily Mail is now the most popular and the most visited traditional newspaper website online. The website of the British newspaper even beats the New York Times website in terms of traffic and consumption of their content. It is an amazing achievement. Let us take a look at the key ingredients for the success of The Daily Mail and what lessons bloggers and content marketers can learn from them in order to better attract traffic to their own content.
- Mario Lavandeira has made millions of dollars as the person behind PerezHilton.com, the very popular and famous blog about celebrities. Perez Hilton celebrity gossip is read by millions of people each and every day and he is one of the most visible and popular bloggers in the world. Perez Hilton is a celebrity in the media, gets invited to all the big events and even has prime-time TV show. He must be doing something right but what is it that makes him so successful?
- A political comedian Beppe Grillo turned into a blogger and started an anti-establishment political movement focusing on blogging and social media to spread the word that ended up having 25% of the votes in the last general election. Just wow! A simple blog and regular blogging can actually make big change in a society too.
Wouldn’t you too want to achieve similar levels of success with your own website?
Don’t plan it, just do it
Pete Cashmore was passionate about the social media and the social networking tools. It was a personal interest that he spent a lot of time on and he just decided to go for it and start writing about it. Without that “just do it” attitude he would most probably not have gotten much further with his interest in technology. Do you have a passion yourself that you want to go with? Do not wait, do not plan, do not think about, do not listen to anyone else… just do it. Go for it.
“I felt like social networking wasn’t being covered to the degree it could be. I didn’t necessarily know there was an audience for it. I find it best to dive right in and learn the hard way.”
Stay focused and consistent
It took more than a year before Mashable started making money but Pete Cashmore was very focused and was constantly working on the site with 20-hour work days being a norm. How long will you give your site before quitting? Make sure you are in for the long haul as you never know how long it might take before you get your big break. This is why blogging about your passion is key. If you’re not, you might not be motivated to put in the hours that are needed.
Beppe’s site is updated daily with latest comments and opinions on topics of both national and international interests. He uses quiet a lot of multimedia in his content, especially videos. The site is open to reader comments and invites a lot of discussion to every post that is being published. It is multilingual too and is translated to both English and Japanese. Blogging and social media are the medium of choice for his party.
Beppe Grillo has not become popular instantly. He started doing comedy in the 1970’s in clubs, was even banned from the Italian TV for his opinions. He stuck at it though, built his arguments, built his audience base and with the growth of blogging and social media amplified it all to become what he is today. Blogging is a marathon and it takes long time for you to see any results. It is important to know this before going for it as you need to be committed in the long run to succeed.
“I blogged seven posts a day, and about a year in, I started getting ads on the blog. When I got a deal for $3,000 a month to put ads on the blog, it was massive for me”
Produce immersive content
Mashable is great at producing immersive posts. They make no assumptions about their visitors and they explain everything in simple terms keeping the newbie and beginner in mind. There is not much text on average. The images are large.
In order for you too to make a different and achieve success for your blog, you do need to have something interesting to say and you need to try and say something useful regularly. Create your own content calendar and a posting frequency, follow it by publishing the best articles that you can and eventually you will start seeing great progress.
How can you make your content more accessible?
“Figure out blogging, short-form writing. You have to write the story in three paragraphs. We like writers who can take complex ideas and explain them in simple terms”
Keep the design simple
Your visitors should not have to spend a lot of time working out how your site works, what it is about or what action they have to take next. Simplicity works in online design. Keep it simple, Stupid! Keep the font large, stick to the same colors, have a logo people can get used to and comfortable with, use similar format on headlines and subheadings.
More than 10 posts on the front page
This could boost search engine rankings but also make your visitors stick to the page longer as there is a bigger chance they will find something they like. Try and use teasers of your posts where you show the headline, an interesting image thumbnail and a brief and inviting description (some 100-300 characters) instead of listing the whole post on your front page like the traditional blog design does.
More than top 10 most popular posts
They also feature many more posts in the sidebar than an average blog does. Traditionally a blog design would show up to 10 popular posts in the sidebar. The Daily Mail features many more. Again this means there is a bigger chance a visitor might find something he or she likes. This makes their site more sticky.
Popular posts with pictures. Even in the sidebar Daily Mail uses a lot of pictures when showing their popular posts. It is their “wall of shame” as it normally has pictures of celebrities next to attractive headlines. They incentivise the reader to click with an interesting thumbnail image and few words about the story. Again this contributes to people spending longer time on your site. It is so sticky that many people end up clicking on several popular posts each and every time they enter the site.
Create irresistible headlines
Most of Mashable’s posts have very attractive, shareable and irresistible headlines. They frequently use top list or how to type of posts. They also use many “Alerts” and “Warnings” in their post headlines. It is important to spend time on thinking up great headline for each and every post that you publish. The headline is what people will encounter in their inbox or in their newsfeeds so the headline is the main reason why they would click on your post. Some examples from Mashable headlines that work:
- 3 Great Social Media Policies to Steal From
- HOW TO: Get Real-Time Traffic Reports on Your iPhone
- WARNING: New Facebook Malware Attack Is Spreading
Daily Mail articles feature pretty long headlines packed with celebrity names, shocking statements and other attractive and clickable keywords and phrases. Just look at the long headline in the image I’ve used on the top of this article. Spend a lot of your time getting the headline right for each of your articles. This will help you get more clicks from people that scroll past their newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter and see a post from you that they cannot resist but click on.
Appeal to a mainstream audience
Even though Mashable was originally categorized as a tech news site, they have expanded their coverage to appeal to more mainstream audience. They now focus a lot on celebrities, big events and established brands in their posts, and use these current and popular topics to attract shares and page views. How can you keep evolving your own site in order to broaden the appeal and get even more popular?
Publish news that people want to read. People love celebrities, people care about themselves. You will see a lot of content featuring celebrities and different health concerns on The Daily Mail. You have to find a topic that not only you care and know a lot about, but that people want to engage with as well. Ideally a topic that a lot of people are interested in as well. Create content about your audience and not about yourself.
Find a topic there is an audience for. People love reading about celebrities and gossip. Do not restrict your topic to a too narrow niche as you will have a hard time growing your blog into a major site. In other words find something that there is a large audience for. Look into social media trends. Look into popular phrases people use in search engines. Look into what is covered in media both online and offline. Which of these topics do you care about and have a lot of knowledge about?
Find a topic you have passion for
The topic has to be something that you can and you would love to write about daily. Perez Hilton focused on celebrities “because it was something I was inherently curious about, fascinated with.” You have to find a topic that you have a passion for. This will help motivate you and will get you to put in the time and the effort that is necessary to make a site work over a longer period of time.
Focus on great stories
Focus on good stories, particularly human stories. Majority of Daily Mail stories is focused on people. Celebrities and non-celebrities in a wide range of different life experiences. Everyone can find something to relate to when the story is about real people. Can you do similar in your own posts? Try and feature real people in your articles as much as possible. Focus on the influencers, others in your industry, your customers. Publish featured profiles, do interviews, highlight interesting feedback and comments.
Celebrity-focused websites are nothing new, but Perez Hilton created his own oversize persona to stand out from the crowd. He differentiated his content with a unique writing style and handwritten captions scrawled on top of pictures of celebrities. Take some time to think about how you can make yourself unique in your own field. Maybe you too can introduce a personal touch and create shareable imagery? Maybe you can do videos instead of text only? What about podcasts or infographics? Think how you can put more of yourself and your personality into your own articles.
Beppe is real, he is direct and honest – a real outsider in the Italian politics. He doesn’t mince his words and sounds nothing like any of the other traditional politicians. He speaks the truth, names the names and says things that other people and press think about but don’t dare to talk about. How can you put more of yourself into your articles? How can you present yourself in more interesting ways?
To get people’s attention you need a certain amount of charisma. Beppe is a comedian, he decided to focus on topical humor, and built his charisma using the brutality of the reality in a satirical way. He focuses on big issues like corruption, environment and consumerism. He made Italians think about the bad things happening in the country. People got interested in those topics thanks to the over-the-top humorous way he presented them. Serious social topics presented in an entertaining way made them more appealing to the general public. How can you show more charisma through your articles, your imagery, your videos and podcasts?
Don’t just report on the news, spin the news
You most probably cannot break the news but you can go deep into the news, find unique angles, spin it and make it interesting to read. Anyone can and does report on the facts, but not many sites actually analyse and figure out how the news and facts will affect the situation. Can you dig deeper and create more interesting content out of the news that everyone in your field just reports on? Put more points of view together for example. Look into the historical context. Analyse how exactly this will affect your audience and tell people what they can do about it.
Spit out content
Mashable publishes great amount of posts each and every day. Majority of posts are pretty short, but there is something for everyone in there and that is also a reason for you to come back to their site several times a day. This leads to more shares in social media, which leads to an increase in page views too. Page views are a very valuable metric for Mashable keeping in mind that one of their main monetization methods is selling banner ads.
Be consistent. Post on a regular schedule. Perez Hilton posts new articles to his site an average of 40 times a day. He constantly checks his e-mail and scours the web for the latest gossip. Figure out a schedule that works for you and make sure to follow it by creating new content regularly. This will help get more loyal readers that will come back to your site daily and even several times each day in order to find out the latest information that you have published.
Use large, stunning pictures. Use lots of pictures. Many of the Daily Mail posts have only a few lines of text but include several large pictures, most of the times featuring pictures of celebrities. Internet is a very visual medium and a picture tells a thousand words – use this to your advantage. Social networks like Pinterest and Instagram are visual networks and help spread the word about your content thanks to the imagery. How can you include more imagery and other visual elements in your own articles?
Caption the pictures
Daily Mail captions their pictures in funny and interesting ways. It’s kind of like writing an interesting headline for each of the pictures. It gets people scrolling more and more looking at the captions and comments. These one-liner comments are also very shareable and get spread through social media. Could you include captions, facts and quotes in your own posts in order to make your site more interesting and shareable?
Do not censor yourself
Perez Hilton writes what he thinks, he does not care if celebrities, media or fans like it or not. This attitude has gotten him in trouble several times, but on the other hand his outspoken persona has earned him a huge following as people love to hear what he has to say. Simple advice is just to be yourself and don’t pretend or try to make yourself sound like someone you are not. You should rather get a reaction with people either loving you or hating you after checking out your blog, instead of getting no reaction at all and being quickly forgotten.
Perez often makes harsh and derogatory comments about celebrities. This results in a ton of publicity to his site as celebrities respond back, media reports about it and readers share his content with their friends in social media. How can you create posts that stir a reaction in your readers? How can you get more of them to share your articles in social media? You might not necessary want to make people angry but anyway you can get a reaction from more people is useful in terms of getting you more engagement, shares in social media and visitors.
If you publish valuable, informative and entertaining content that your visitors enjoy, they will help you spread the word to their friends and networks. This will help you grow your site and get in front of more eyeballs. In order for your visitors to share their posts, Mashable makes it easy by including different social media share buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and Stumbleupon. There is a lot of focus on number of shares and the share stats for individual posts are showcased very prominently on the top and the bottom of all the articles.
Make content more accessible
If you read some Mashable posts you will quickly see how they track down the source of information, they check out the original report, examine the original study and write a short summary of the most interesting points. They also present the most interesting facts in social media friendly ways by using quotes, graphs and images. This makes them are a great source of information, their visitors love the accessible posts and other publishers like to link to it. In fact other sites link to Mashable’s summary posts much more than to the original reports. How can you use the original content that is already out there to create valuable posts on your own site?
“There is original reporting and there is curation, which is just as hard, saying, “This is what’s out there, this is why it is important.” Both have their places, and it’s not a case of either or.”
Despite Daily Mail being a British newspaper, their website targets a global audience. They are born global. Thinking of domestic audiences and limiting your own blog on the Internet will not get you far in terms of traffic. Make sure to include as many people as possible in your target group. Writing in English language is recommended in order to reach the global audience.
Experiment with the monetization
Perez tested everything from banner ads, text ads, wallpaper ads behind the posts, sponsored posts… he obviously perfected it as now advertisers pay up to $54,000 to run short-term ad packages on his site. Do the same and find what type of monetization deal works best for you. What works for Perez might not work for you. Try things out, be open minded to all avenues and explore things in order to get the best deal. Are banner ads the best option for you? Maybe affiliate marketing gives you better results? Maybe have sponsors is the simplest method? You won’t know until you give them a chance.
Do some marketing
Beppe solely focused on word-of-mouth both online and offline. He has inspired a wide following on Twitter and other social media. He blogged regularly, he tweeted regularly and held meetups and other meetings all around the country. He didn’t make any TV appearances or any other traditional media appearances that are favourite medium of choice of his competitors.
It just shows you that it is possible for someone to get far only using these new tools that we all have access to. You do not need tradiitonal media to build an audience. You need great content that people love and you need to go connect with people in your audience one by one day after day for many days in a row. This is all very possible, it just needs dedication and a lot of hard work.
Beppe is very good at networking with experts and people with the authority in the different fields that he discusses online. He regularly chats with, interviews, or reads from the best in the field, refers and quotes experts and this helps him create opinions for himself or helps his support his existing opinions. How can you connect to the best people in your field? Be it bloggers, social media power users or moderators of different communities. Try and get involved into the community more often and show your face out there, attracting attention to the value that you provide.
Be present offline
Mashable regularly draws large crowds of fans for their social media and tech events in cities around the US. Offline events are not only an income source for Mashable but they also help create loyal fans of the brand as the site connects with people in the real life and gives them great experiences. Several other bloggers have achieved similar success with their own events. Does this make sense for you to do too with your own loyal audience?
“A lot of the benefits from running events has been in terms of greater visibility for Mashable as a brand. We are connecting our audience to other members of the tech community, and people are going away and talking about Mashable.”
Expand your empire. Perez has used his success to expand into other media and has built an entire empire around his persona. TV shows, radio shows, clothing line, book deal… Many bloggers have gone into book deals, being speakers and doing presentations at different conferences etc. This is a great way of creating a new business or a new source of income indirectly and independently of your blog. Figure out what could work for you in your field. What events are happening in your area? What are other bloggers doing to expand their empires? What are you comfortable with doing yourself?
It’s good to have an audience online but it helps when you get people together offline as well. Beppe started meetups that were spread throughout the country. Offline meetings helped connect people at a local level, people were surprised to find other people that had something in common with them. This made people bond together and more momentum was gathered with more people taking up the cause and spending time working on promoting it.
Many bloggers have created their own tribes and organized offline events where people from all around the world get together under a common theme. Could you do that too with your own website and your own audience? Sites like Meetup could help you start something in your own area.
It is important to always keep learning and evolving to stay with the times. Beppe initially was a TV comedian, was banned which got him into being a touring act, with rise of the Internet he became a blogger and a social media power user, and then evolved into a political leader. Same for you. Are you evolving from text only into imagery? What about infographics? What about video blogging and podcasting? Keep evolving in order to stay current, to stay fresh and keep building and growing your audience.
Time for you to get started
These sites are great examples of how anyone can start a site with a simple idea and build an empire with some luck and lots of hard work, consistent dedication, passion, effort and creativity.
Thinking about and incorporating these strategies into your own blogging could bring you results to. These strategies will make sure that your site gets more attention, gets an increase in loyal readership, gets forwarded via email and shared in social media and will ensure that you build your name, your profile, your brand and increase your blog traffic.
Think about how you can do use these tactics for your own website and start working on implementing those that you believe in as soon as possible. You are bound to see better results than just by doing the same things that you have always done.