Learn by Example: 20 Lessons from Three Successful Blogs


I’m a big believer in learning by example. In fact, most of the books I read tend to be biographies or autobiographies. Theories and concepts are great, but there’s nothing quite like learning from real world results.

So, I’d like to take today’s post to look at a few successful blogs and see what they did right. Why did they succeed? Why do so many people follow them? The three blogs we’ll look at are:

1) ProBlogger – Perhaps the largest blog on the internet about blogging.

2) Steve Pavlina’s “Personal Development for Smart People” blog.

3) James Altucher’s “Altucher Confidential“.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Blog #1 – ProBlogger

Here are some of the many things that ProBlogger did right:

  • They post every single day. Stats shared by bloggers consistently show that the more often you post, the more traffic you get. This has an exponential effect. Posting 5x a week doesn’t mean you get five times the traffic of someone who posts once a week. In the long run, it could mean a hundred times or more.
  • He stuck to the schedule, for years. No missed posts, no days off.
  • Their titles are extremely catchy. There really isn’t a single dull title on the site. If nothing else, ProBlogger is a great example of how to write phenomenal blog titles.
  • It has a clear niche. It’s about blogging. It teaches bloggers to make money. Crystal clear.
  • He expanded out. There’s now a jobs board, a forum, a book, etc. Having more offerings adds depth to the brand and the community.
  • Darren Rowse found a publishing model that works for him. He doesn’t write, instead he’s just the editor of the content that people send in. He’s basically built a world famous blog that now doesn’t require him to write anything at all.
  • At the same time, it’s hard to get published on ProBlogger. The guidelines are stringent. That means only really high quality content gets through. That in turn means people love reading the content and come back time and again.
  • It’s a content first site. No blaring ads, no popovers, no hard selling. Just content, content, content, for years. The site was built around its content and thrives today because of its content.

Blog #2 – Steve Pavlina’s “Personal Development for Smart People

Here are some of the many things that Steve Pavlina does right:

  • He’s unusually honest with his visitors. He publishes his stats, not just for his traffic, but for his earnings. He communicates authentically, with integrity.
  • He doesn’t advertise products he doesn’t believe in. He only advocates a handful of products and has reviews he wrote himself about his own experiences. He took down AdSense from his site, which cut his income by over $100,000 a year. He did it because he felt the ads being shown weren’t in integrity with his blog.
  • He has a very clear layout, especially on the left sidebar. His best posts are all laid out there for you to see. New visitors can easily find their way to some of his best content.
  • Likewise, he has related post on the bottom of every post, making researching a topic a piece of cake.
  • He hasn’t changed his design in years. It works and he doesn’t change it because he feels he has to.
  • He has a great central topic, but manages to cover a huge range of diverse topics within that topic. The main topic is self-development, but within that he’s covered sleep experiments, raw vegan diet experiments, money, productivity, courage, happiness and more. All his posts revolve around experiments he carries out on himself.

Blog #3 – James Altucher’s “Altucher Confidential

  • Like ProBlogger, Altucher posts every day. I find this incredibly impressive, because James Altucher writes very long posts and he writes them all himself.
  • He talks a lot about his failure. He’s very open and very willing to be vulnerable. His guests really get that they’re seeing the real him in his posts.
  • He gives specific numbers. When he talks about his businesses, he talks about exact investment amounts, exact profits and exact losses. People can tell he’s speaking from experience because he’s so specific.
  • His style is very spontaneous. It doesn’t read like a corporate blog. It’s just plain fun to read his writing.
  • He references other posts on his blog very frequently. Someone who’s reading one article might easily open 3 to 5 new tabs by the time they get to the end of the article, which keeps them on his site for a long time.
  • He knows how to name drop. Titles like “How I Screwed Yasser Arafat Out of $2mm (and lost $100mm in the process)” and “10 Unusual Things I Didn’t Know About Steve Jobs” attracts attention. Most people unconsciously want to get “the scoop” on famous people, even if they won’t admit it. Wouldn’t you like to know about the secret life of Steve Jobs?

I don’t pretend to know everything about why these blogs were successful – These are just some of the many things I love about the way these blogs are run.

Question for the audience: Do you guys like this format of posts? I can do more posts like these and even dissect different business models, writing styles, blog types, etc.


- Derek

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About the Author

Derek Pankaew
Derek Pankaew has been building internet businesses for over 5 years. He’s helped businesses go from startup to over $1 million per year, has built successful marketing campaigns in 4 different countries and has gotten new sites to over 30,000 visitors a month in under 60 days. His specialties include SEO, content marketing and increasing conversions.

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  • http://www.wahboomers.com Vida Evelyn


    Very helpful article. Yes, I’d like to see more of this type.


  • http://www.aliceseba.com Alice Seba

    Seeing the very concrete things people do right sure makes it easy to see how one could apply it their work. Nice work, Derek.

  • Dorothy

    The information shared in this post will help me as I seriously take on blogging. Profitable blogging takes time and a genuine interest in the blog topic. Since I am enjoy personal development, I visited Steve’s site first.

    • http://www.aliceseba.com Alice Seba

      Glad to hear it was helpful, Dorothy. Good luck on your blog journey.

  • Cindy

    I would love to see more posts of this format. Dissecting different business models, writing styles and blog types are great topics. I wouldn’t have thought of making those comparisons. Thanks!

  • http://RubMyBellyToo Fran


    I hate you!!!! I first got lost in your article and excited to check out these blogs. The only one I was really aware of was Problogger and had not been to Steve’s site in about a year. I hate you because you made me see what I was missing and now I have to add two new tasks to my list to read their blogs. My task list was already long enough. I went to Steve’s blog and couldn’t stop myself from reading and this was not on my schedule for today. Reading my emails was on the list. Thank you ,this is really great post you have reintroduced me to some old friends.

    Thank you

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