Case Study: Top 30 Of Something In Your Niche

by Robb Sutton

A popular way to get viral content spreading like poison ivy on a hot summer day is to do a top [insert a number here] list post. We have seen these in the blogging industry as top bloggers or top designs as bloggers around the world look to attract new traffic and show appreciate to others in the industry.

The big question: Does this same theory work outside the blogging industry as it does inside?

Well…I decided to take on a tall order last week and launch two posts with the same theme on two different sites to test the theory.

Case Study: Top 30 Of Something In Your Niche Article

Now…I used 30 but obviously you can use and number of items you want. On my mountain biking sub-domain of Bike198.com, I published an article titled “Top 30 Most Influential Cycling Blogs and Websites of 2010” and on RobbSutton.com I posted “Top 30 Most Influential Bloggers and Website Owners of 2010“.

The task was simple. Post two very similar posts in two completely different niches and watch the results and trends.

Side Note: I published both of these articles during a holiday week in the states. For optimal results, I would not recommend placing articles around periods of time when traffic is normally lower…like I did.

As you can probably imagine already, list posts such as these can generate a lot of new traffic for your blog, so let’s take a look at how they did. It is also worth mentioning, Bike198.com get triple the traffic of RobbSutton.com (love out accurate those Alexa numbers are?! Don’t pay attention to public online statistics) which makes the results even more interesting.

Results: RobbSutton.com Top 30 Post
  • Comments: 75
  • ReTweets: 108
  • Facebook Shares: 77
  • Newsletter Sign-up Increase: 100%
  • 1st 2 Days Traffic Increase: 200%
Results: Bike198.com Top 30 Post
  • Comments: 11
  • ReTweets: 17
  • Facebook Shares: 88
  • Newsletter Sign-up Increase: 10%
  • 1st 2 Days Traffic Increase: 20%

As you can tell by the posts, both of them did pretty well, but the RobbSutton.com posts far outperformed the Bike198.com post in total increases. Especially given the exposure and traffic differences between the two sites, the RS article really jumped out and pulled its own weight while the Bike198 article saw lower returns on the thousands of visitors it sees a day.

After Careful Contemplation: What Do These Results Mean?

There are several things that you need to take away from this test, so let’s spell out what I have learned from this whole experiment (besides not posting long, viral articles next to a holiday).

#1 – Comments Are Not A Measure Of Success

In the blogging niche, we tend to think of conversation on our blogs as a measure of how successful our blogs are online. However, having a lot of comments on your blog has nothing to do with how successful your blog is online. Outside of the blogging/MMO niche, comments are a lot harder to come by as your core audience is not used to using that form of communication. Within your target niche, your audience might be more used to Twitter, Facebook or forums as a way to communicate with others. Try to ignore the “I have to get as many comments as I can” syndrome. That theory does not apply to all.

#2 – You Need To Know How People Are Going To Spread Your Content

Hopefully, you already know the answer to this question. If you have been blogging for awhile, you should have a pretty good idea of where your content is spreading. When you are looking to make strides with a viral article like both of these, it is always a good idea to place at least your top two content spreading sources at the bottom and top of the article to make the viral condition of the article easier on your readers.

List posts are typically long, so do you really want to make them scroll all the way back to the top of the article to hit that RT button? Plan accordingly and you should have better results than if you just going along as business as usual.

#3 – Know Your Audience: What Do They Want To Read?

Honestly, I hit the nail on the head on RobbSutton.com but I could have done a better list on Bike198.com. I wanted to take this chance to form relationships and show my appreciation to other cycling sites (which I accomplished in spades), but my readers would have been more likely to comment and spread a list more like “Top 30 Mountain Bike Parts You Wish You Never Used” or something along that nature.

The tendency for many bloggers is to use something that works in the blogging/MMO niche and apply it directly to their sewing blog. The idea is to apply the techniques, not the direct application. Keep that in mind as you structure your next list post. You need to ask yourself the question: I know this worked on ABC’s blogging blog, but how can I make the same theory work on mine?

#4 – You Need To Go Over The Top With Your List

Far too many bloggers out there try to half ass this process by just putting up a simple list and hitting publish. If you really want to see success with a list post, you need to go over the top with the content. Because there are so many half ass’ed ones, you really need to set yourself apart. With both of my lists, I chose the imagery very carefully and stylized each one. I then carefully wrote a description/definition of why I thought that blogger or website should be on the list.

Over the top content will produce over the top results. Basically…you get what you put in.

#5 – It Is Not Always About The Stats

One of my main objectives with each of these posts was to show appreciation to others and create more relationships within my respective niches. On that front, these posts performed well above expectations. I was able to reconnect with bloggers I hadn’t talked to in awhile and I even got to meet some bloggers that I didn’t even know existed. If I didn’t get any increase in traffic or conversions at all…that would have still make it all worth it.

Are List Posts Worth Doing?

Absolutely. Regardless of your niche, you should be able to find a list that you can put together that your readers will soak up and then spread it out for you like wildfire. However, you need to carefully plan out your posts content, timing and formatting to insure the best results. Do not go out there and be just another “me too”. You need to hit the market with some over the top content that will bring you new readers, subscribers and new connections.

13 comments

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13 comments

Jade Craven June 9, 2010 - 6:41 am

Interesting post 🙂 When I did my top 30 list I put a lot of effort into linking to previous posts about that person from the Problogger archives, adding twitter handles to pictures and creating a twitter list. It went totally nuts on twitter but you seemed to get more comments in relation to tweets.

And sometimes, you DO need the networking post. Even though it wont resonate with your readers, it will help you create the relationships that will. And thats awesome.

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Robb Sutton June 9, 2010 - 7:38 pm

Interesting how things shake out isn’t it?! I did get some new followers on that post. Thanks again for including me!

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Dev | Technshare June 9, 2010 - 6:57 am

Hey Rob ;),

Super-interesting post man. Your last point is really awesome ” It Is Not Always About The Stats” Great post.

Thanks for sharing this great Post as usual.

~Dev

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Nabeel | Create Your First Website June 9, 2010 - 7:37 am

Hi Robb,

Great Article. This is the first post I have read at your blog. I asked Dev from Technshare about some of the big blogs and he mentioned yours.

“Outside of the blogging/MMO niche, comments are a lot harder to come by as your core audience is not used to using that form of communication. Within your target niche, your audience might be more used to Twitter, Facebook or forums as a way to communicate with others.”

This was very useful, as I never knew that. But now when I think about it, it actually makes sense. As there are usually less comments on non-MMO blogs!

Well, hope to keep visiting your blog!

Nabeel

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Robb Sutton June 9, 2010 - 7:37 pm

Thanks for stopping by Nabeel. Comments are a funny thing. Some sites with a massive amount of traffic have next to none while other sites have loads of comments with no traffic. You always have to look at the complete package.

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Kwame June 9, 2010 - 8:39 am

I find list posts to be very useful. I wrote a list post titled : 25 Characteristics of Highly Influential Social Media Campaigns. It got featured on Socialmediatoday.com. It hit the Delicious Homepage and it became the most read content on Socialmediatoday with over 17,000 views. People have now asked me to help them with their content.

My advice to other people is to write list posts that are remarkable and insightful. This way, you win.

Congratulations on your results Robb. You worked hard and you deserve this result.

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Robb Sutton June 9, 2010 - 7:36 pm

Congrats on the traffic! I bet that brought a ton of new subscribers. It’s all about building on successes just like that one.

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Kwame June 11, 2010 - 8:52 am

Thanks Robb. I actually got consulting gigs from that exposure. My subscriber count barely increased because there wasn’t any link to the original article on my blog. So the people who came to my blog came from my profile on SocialMediaToday.com

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Chris C. Ducker June 9, 2010 - 3:14 pm

Fantastic evaluation, Robb.

I am seriously off, right now, to plan my List Post which I will have go live next week sometime.

Thanks for the inspiration, as always.

Chris

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Robb Sutton June 9, 2010 - 7:35 pm

Shoot me a Tweet or something when you are done with the post.

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Tony Ruiz June 9, 2010 - 10:37 pm

Sweet case study. Way to go in depth into the topic and provide statistics.

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Martin June 17, 2010 - 2:29 am

Very interesting, Robb. Makes me assess the first few blogs that I’ve done. Thanks for sharing!

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Paul Piotrowski April 7, 2011 - 9:37 am

Very cool. I haven’t done a list post in such a long time. I think it’s time again.

Thanks for the reminder and the tips / analysis.

-Paul

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