9 Things That Will Make Your Blog Successful (and it’s not the posts you’re writing)

As a professional writer, a former English teacher, and a full-time blogger it pains me deeply to write the following sentence:

Good writing isn’t enough to make your blog successful.

(Can you hear that? It’s 2007 me weeping. It’s Professor Purdy shaking his head. It’s the sound of ‘Bird by Bird’ throwing itself off my bookshelf.)

The truth is, good writing and helpful content are significant aspects of any blog’s success, but if we’re screwing up the other stuff, we’ll struggle to keep readers around or make any money.

And I don’t want that for you! I want your readers to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole of your online space and emerge hours later, fingers numb from clicking the ‘older post’ link. I want them to pick up what you’re putting down and buy what you’re selling.

With that in mind, here are nine things that make for a successful blog … and have very little to do with your actual blog posts.

  1. Your site is clean and professional-looking

How many times have you clicked a promising-sounding link only to find yourself on a center-justified, GIF-filled, neon-fonted Geocities-eque nightmare? For most people, it wouldn’t matter if the blog posts rivaled David Foster Wallace, we want to read things in an aesthetically appealing space. When a site is busy or ugly, we’ll immediately navigate away.

Having a well-designed site is especially important if you’re selling products or services. When your site is polished and professional, you seem more trustworthy, so we’re more likely to buy things from you.

In fact, having a well-designed site is so important, I’ve re-directed potential clients to a web designer before we work together. All the content and strategy advice I give can’t do much when it’s housed on an ugly site!

  1. You show us + tell us what to do next

    Do you want us to sign up for your newsletter? Then make sure you have sign up boxes in multiple places on your site. Do you want us to read through your blog archives? Then make sure you’re using a ‘related posts’ plugin or giving us a P.S. that links to other posts.

  2. You make it easy to find your best stuff

    We all have a few pieces that are our cornerstone content, stuff that’s super helpful and really insightful. Do you have a ‘start here’ tab? Or a ‘popular posts’ widget? Do you have an email series that shares your best things with new subscribers? Don’t let your best stuff gather dust! Find a way to bring it front and center so new readers can find it easily.

  3. You share your stuff all over. Repeatedly.

    If you’ve slaved over a blog post for three hours, don’t tweet about it once and then allow it to fester in your archives. Tweet about it several times (with images, of course). Share it on Facebook and Instagram and Google+ and LinkedIn. If that post is particularly applicable to a specific time of year – the holidays, tax season – promote it then, too. If you’ve linked to businesses or people in that post, email them and tell them so or @mention them on Twitter.

  4. You’re easy to find

    Are your social media icons easy to find? Are they on every page of your site? Do they link to the right places? Do you have the same handle on every social media platform, the same headshot, and the same bio? Are you sick of these questions yet?

  5. You’re elsewhere on the internet

    Writing wonderful, useful posts for your own blog is lovely, but if we’re not careful it can get a bit ‘if a tree falls in the forest’-y. Your fantastic blog posts will strengthen your relationship with your current readers, but they don’t do much to bring in new readers.If you really want a successful blog, you need to introduce your writing and ideas to new audiences. Write guest posts. Do interviews. Appear as a guest on podcasts and webinars.

  6. You’re creating supportive, lovely relationships all over the web

    What’s that old cliché? No blog is an island? Yes, I’m sure that’s it. You’ll find more support, inspiration, success, and inbound traffic when you make an active effort to develop relationships with other bloggers. Create link roundup posts and send traffic towards other awesome bloggers. Retweet. Comment. @mention. Send now-fawning fan emails. Befriending bloggers isn’t hard!

  7. You’re making your content easy to share

    If you write something awesome, your readers just might want to share it – but what happens after that depends on how shareable you’ve made it.

    Are you creating Pinterest-friendly images to accompany your posts? Are you writing title text for your images so they’re more SEO-friendly? These little tweaks make your content exponentially more shareable.

  8. You’re meeting up with internet buddies IN REAL LIFE

    All the Twitter conversations in the world can’t match a great dinner or a window-shopping date. Reach out and get to know your favorite internet people in Actual Real Life! Invite them to coffee. If you’re traveling through their city, invite them for coffee or a drink. Go to meetups and conferences. Ask them if they’d like to rent a house with you in Mexico.*

    Now, all the professional relationships and good site design can’t make up for poorly written, unhelpful blog posts. But if you’ve wondered why your awesome blog has failed to thrive, these seven reasons might give you a bit of insight.

    I’d love to hear from you! What non-writing, non-blog post things do you think make for a successful online life?

    * Yes, really. After we’re back in the states, I’ll write a post about how to DIY your own ‘mastermind retreat.’

Photo found here // cc



I love these points, Sarah! I would also add: behave like a decent person. Be genuine, be kind, be human, be reciprocal (don’t just get in touch with people when you want something), act with integrity, and leave entitlement at home. It’s common sense, but it makes a *huge* difference!


Yesssss! Really and truly, the only advice anyone needs to be successful is “Do what you said you were going to do.” THAT’S IT.

The best on the web: 10 articles that will improve your life! - Sarah Evelyn

[…] 9 things that will make your blog successful (and it’s not the posts you’re writing) {Sarah von Bargen} […]


This is such a great post! Bookmarking for future use to improve my visibility on the web, which is definitely something I’m still struggling with.

I don’t know if this is of interest, butmy current opt-in deals with 17 Common Design Mistakes I see people making on their website, which covers the stuff you mentioned in post #1, i.e. Centered Text and what I lovingly term the “Technicolour Font Soup Vomit” 😉 along with a host of other things such as how to treat your copy right and how to streamline your design.

Might be of interest to your readers? http://bit.ly/1Gde4OY

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[…] blogging is part of your freelance marketing strategy (hint: it should be), read Sarah’s 9 things that will make your blog successful. Sarah Von Bargen has been blogging and freelancing for years, so she knows what’s […]

Karishma Kasabia

Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge! Sometimes you think you’re ticking all of the boxes and then you read something like this and realise there is more to it :) Love the posts! :) x

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[…] for anyone who might be new here to offer a compendium of some of my favorite posts. I was reading an article last week by Sarah Von Bargen (from the Yes and Yes blog) about how to make your blog more […]


I think being an actual human being also makes a difference! Sharing the flaws and not putting up this continuous front of perfection becomes boring really fast.

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