How 3 Seemingly Mundane Tools Are Killing It with Blogging
Can boring tools and services create interesting and popular blogs?
Yes — yes they can.
That’s my conclusion after studying the blogs of Evernote, Ahref, and Buffer.
Before we do anything, I want to stress that these tools aren’t bad. On the contrary, I use — and love using — all of them. It’s just that at first outlook you wouldn’t think they had that much to blog about.
But you would be wrong.
Evernote — mastering life through note taking
“You have something to accomplish. We publish stories, tips, and tricks to help you do it. — Evernote profile“
At the core of it, Evernote is a notetaking app. It helps you organize your notes and tasks.
Their tool has developed into much more than just notes, but notetaking is still the primary use of Evernote. It’s also what I use it for — notes.
But how on earth do you run a popular blog about note taking? Sure, you can give a few tips on how to take better notes, but then what?
Well, that’s what Evernote has figured out — the then what.
Evernote has more than 110K followers on Medium and runs a publication called Taking Note with another 7K followers.
The first hint at what Evernote does so well is in the fact that the account is a top writer in the categories of productivity, self improvement, and life.
Evernote has realized that this is the common theme for their users, and that’s why they don’t just share notetaking tips.
Instead, they share and write content that their users — who want to improve their productivity, self, and life — would want to read.
Ahref — SEO and much more
Ahref is a website for SEO. Marketers can research, monitor, and grow their search engine traffic using a wide range of tools.
The ahref blog is located at https://ahrefs.com/blog/. The first thing you note is the simple layout and consistent posts with lots of comments on most of them — a sign the blog is alive and well.
Just like Evernote, Ahref has realized that their content strategy should include much more than just articles about their SEO tools.
SEO is a massive niche with topics like keyword research, link building, SEO basics, website traffic, SEO tools, outreach, and much more.
And Ahref know this — the topics I just listed are all from the Best of Ahrefs blog section on their blog homepage, showing how Ahref is covering many different — but related — SEO topics.
Ahref is also on Medium with a marketing and a technology publication, although on a much smaller scale than Evernote.
Buffer — social media made easy
Buffer is a social scheduling tool. I personally use it to queue posts for my Twitter and Facebook accounts.
But like the two other tools in this case study, their blog offers much more than just social media scheduling.
The buffer blog is located at https://blog.bufferapp.com/.
Like Evernote, Buffer is a big player on Medium with 183k followers on their Buffer profile — a profile that is also a top writer in the social media and productivity categories.
They also have several Buffer-exclusive publications: Buffer Stories (35k followers), Buffer Social (1.2k followers), and Buffer Customer Experience (172 followers).
Case Study: What are these tools doing well?
At first glance, these tools don’t seem like the best candidates for successful blogs.
But after introducing them — and their big following — I hope you are starting to see that this first intuition may be wrong.
Indeed, these blogs seem to be doing quite well.
Let’s explore that now.
Below are 5 key strategies these blogs use.
1) Know your audience — like really know them
Evernote is a notetaking app, so their audience should be people taking notes — except, it isn’t.
Evernote knows that nobody is taking notes just for the sake of taking notes — they do it because they want to become more productive, reach their goals, and improve their lives.
Or as Evernote puts it: You have something to accomplish.
That’s their true audience — and Evernote knows it.
That’s why they are publishing stories on Why Happiness, Not Stress, is Key to Success and 6 Ways to Have More Productive Meetings.
What about Buffer?
They know their audience is marketers looking to use social media to their advantage.
Which is why they post stories on How the Miami Dolphins Generated $4 Million in Sales Using Facebook Video and The Future of Facebook.
These companies know their audiences
Not because they are specified by their tools and services — if that was the case, Evernote’s audience would be notetakers and Buffer’s would be social media schedulers.
No, they know their audiences because they know the type of people that are likely to use their service — and they do their best to reach these people.
2) Think about your audience in a broader sense
Having a laser-focused niche for your website is great. That way, you’ll have an easier time understanding and speaking to your audience.
You can only align your message correctly if your target audience is specific — if your audience is too broad, you’ll always alienate some part of it no matter what you do.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t think broadly when creating content or planning new marketing campaigns.
This is what a lot of people get wrong — and what the three companies above get very right.
You can think broadly in terms of what your targeted audience needs to overcome their problems.
Social media marketers don’t just need to schedule their social media posts — they need everything surrounding the process, from creating a campaign to using the social platforms correctly.
And so Buffer use that to create content for their blog — content that will reach and attract their target audience.
You should do the same.
If you are running a website in a food niche, you shouldn’t just publish recipes or tips on how to cook — you should be looking at everything involved in the process, from how to buy the right ingredients to how to save leftovers properly. Or what about the history behind some of your specialties?
When you are specifying your audience, think specific. When you are brainstorming content and campaign ideas, think broad.
3) Guest posts are a way to provide varied information
Most marketers think of guest posts as an outreach strategy. Probably, you are aware of the benefits from a guest poster’s point of view.
But there’s a reason why guest posts have been popular for many years — because they are beneficial for both sides.
If you look at the blogs of Evernote, Ahref, and Buffer, you’ll quickly realize that many (most) of their posts are guest posts.
First, guest posts can provide a much richer experience for readers than just one or a few writers. With guest posting, these companies can tap into the knowledge of many experts and share it on their blog.
Second, guest posting is more of a synergy than just a benefit for the guest poster. Whenever I write guest posts for other sites, I always share the post with my audience when it goes live.
And I’m far from the only one doing this.
So guest posting is a synergy between two websites, collaborating to share their audiences and content with each other.
Third, guest posting provides a flow of new content. If you look at the blogs, you’ll see that the publish often — more often that they would be able to if they had to write all their posts alone.
4) Reach your audience with distribution and social media
Another common trait of all three blogs in this post is that they actively seek to distribute their content.
Evernote, Ahref, and Buffer are all regular users of Medium with their own profiles and publications.
Medium is also the place where I found these blogs — and started following them. And so did thousands of other readers.
They know a simple truth about free traffic:
If you want more traffic, go where your audience is already hanging out.
And one way to do that is by distributing your content on sites like Medium, Tumblr, reddit, etc..
But you can also do it by using communities, other blogs, social media channels and groups, and everywhere else your target audience might be.
I have received more than 118,098 visitors using this idea alone. Although I did pay for most of these visits, my story still shows the potential of online communities.
5) Be more controversial — be yourself
Ahref does a lot of awesome stuff. But one thing I’ll point out is their awesome, controversial blog posts.
Like their outreach guide: I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry. (Evergreen).
Or their philosophy towards automated sales funnels: How I learned to stop worrying about my sales funnel (and embraced the unpredictable).
The outreach blog post was the first post by Ahref that caught my attention as it was linked to from another website — and I’m now one of their regular readers and a follower.
What’s so good about these two blog posts?
First, they offer great, valuable information. That’s a requirement for almost any blog post to be good (except if the goal isn’t to educate).
But even though great content is a requirement, it’s not enough to make a post truly popular.
You need something more — and that something can be a bit of controversy.
Both posts are pointing out the flaws of the traditional way of doing things — spamming outreach emails and creating big, automated sales funnels.
Which is exactly what makes the posts interesting — not just educational (education is the baseline, interesting is what makes posts become popular).
They go against the norm.
Imagine for a second that these blog posts instead followed traditional, common advice.
The outreach post would describe a step-by-step approach for reaching out to other bloggers and the sales funnel post would show what a sales funnel looks like.
Most marketers already know this stuff.
Instead, Ahref shows where they have had success going against the norm, something very valuable and unique to them.
If you want to write blog posts that are not just educational, but also interesting, try using a bit of controversy — or at least uncommon advice — in your next post.
I should note that controversy is just one way of making your blog posts more interesting — and it shouldn’t be overused.
For example, you can go in another direction with a massive blog post like DigitalMarketer has done in their post on sales funnels: Customer Value Optimization: How to Build an Unstoppable Business. (This post also shows a very different sales funnel philosophy from the one used by Ahref.)
More blogging tips
– Need more content? Avoid these writing mistakes.
– Step-by-step guide to better (and faster) blog posts.