How a Blog Went From Zero to AdAge 100 in Nine Months

The success of {grow} has been stranger than science fiction and a wonderful surprise.  In less than nine months, it’s rocketed up the charts from being unranked to as high as 65 on the Ad Age list of global marketing blogs.

My friend Adam Vincenzini recently asked me to describe the keys to this success. I’m not sure I can — which I understand is a wholly unacceptable answer! But I can certainly describe what I have LEARNED.

First you should understand that the Ad Age list is not necessarily a reflection on the quality or even the popularity of a blog, including mine.

Blog alchemy

The list is comprised of five individual scores which together create a somewhat controversial alchemy of algorithms. Only one of these five scores is tangentially associated with reader engagement as expressed by number of tweets, comments, etc.  If rated only on engagement, my blog would be in the top 25 of all marketing blogs … thanks to YOU!

The Power 150 ranking is also highly dependent on historical back links, directory submissions and other SEO blogging devices.  That puts a new blogger at a permanent disadvantage. Older blogs will probably always be at the top of the list no matter how hard anybody works on their blog in the future.

A very real example of this — there is one blog in the Top 100 that has not been updated for two years!   Based on this strange scoring system, I would guess top guns like Chris Brogan or Copyblogger could never write a post again and still not drop out of the Top 10! I think it would be more fair to have some sort of running average based on the last 12 months.

But however flawed the system may be, it is the most noteworthy and prestigious system around.   And I also think it passes the “sniff” test — if you look at the blogs at the top, I think most professionals would concur that yes, they reflect some of the best blogs out there. So, I’m honored to be part of it.

A different path for {grow}

I have not followed a typical path to success that you might read about on Problogger or TopRank because I simply don’t have the time and energy to pay attention to keywords, backlinks, and self-promotion.  I have literally spent ZERO time worrying about SEO.  For better or worse, I just write.

This attention to content and personal respect for my readers may be the thing that has helped power the blog.  In fact, I have evidence to suggest that traffic from search engines only results in “tourists,” not really anybody who becomes a contributor to the community.  I find that authentically engaging on Facebook, Twitter, and the comment section is a much more effective way to build a real audience instead of just blog traffic.  There is no SEO short-cut to success. You have to create value one reader at a time.

I can offer four core values I try to demonstrate with every post:

1)  Content that is “RITE” Relevant, Interesting, Timely and Entertaining. I try to write a blog post that only I could write.  In the end that’s the only competitive advantage each of us has.

2) I honor my audience. Anybody who spends their time reading and commenting on my blog deserves my care and attention.  I try to reply to each comment and if I can’t answer something succinctly, I invite the commenter to call me. I have provided employment, recommendations, guest posts, personal advice and much more to my readers because they have become my friends.

3) Humility. On most blogs the comments are far better than the original post because the world is filled with people smarter than me — people who are amazing in their own way. I love that. I respect that. I thrive on that diversity. So many bloggers write with this air of self-righteousness or a trumped-up voice of indignation.  Who am I?  A conversation starter, nothing more.

4) Consistency. I don’t consider blogging an after-thought.  It’s difficult to be consistent but it has to be a priority.  I have a family, a career and charitable projects. To make a blog achieve its full potential, you have to work like hell.

Where does it go from here?

I question whether {grow} can sustain its place in the Top 100, let alone move up any further. The primary reason — there is only a handful of blogs at that level written by one person instead of an organization. As the blogosphere gets more crowded, it will be tougher to compete as a solo artist when everybody else is playing with a back-up band!  But who knows? I’ve been wrong plenty of times — as you well know!

This would be a good time to say THANK YOU.  Blogging is the best part of my job thanks to your comments, tweets, and amazing support!  I think this is the best blog community on the social web! Thank you for being so very generous to me and loyal to the community.

Any way, that’s the best I can do as far as what drives the success of {grow}.   It’s an unorthodox approach, but maybe it can work for you too?  What do you think?

Note: After I published this post, Debra Andrews of Marketri pointed out that some people might infer that I have only been blogging for nine months. I began blogging in April, 2009 and was unranked for a year (until April, 2010).  So from the time I was a “zero” on the list of more than 1,000 blogs until the time I was in the Top 100, it was nine months. I wanted to clarify this point and thank Debra for pointing this out! Sorry if I was unclear.

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