The Five Essential Elements of an
Influential Blog

What makes a blog influential?

Influence is often attributed to traffic and readership levels. But in reality, those are actually benefits that are symptomatic of something that precedes them.

How do we get people to pay attention to what we say in the first place?

Ultimately, a blog catches on just like any other idea spreads—it must somehow speak to people in a way that they want to hear. Your posts must fill a human need, and that will most often be at an emotional level, no matter how practical we think our subject matter is.

The following are five components that I think are essential for a blog to gain traction and influence with its intended audience. These elements were inspired by the forthcoming social-science research findings of brothers Chip and Dan Heath, a psychologist and an educator who are trying to assign qualitative measures to Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of “sticky” ideas as set forth in The Tipping Point.

1. Simple

Ultimately, the idea behind your blog must be easy for your target audience to immediately grasp. Your readers must be able to quickly communicate what you and your blog are all about in order for your ideas to spread.

2. Unexpected

Something about what you have to offer must be out of the ordinary. Providing valuable information that seems to be against your own self-interest, like a Realtor blog that details how to sell your own house, may provide that spark that gets people talking (or linking). Or maybe it’s just a completely new perspective on a topic, or a combination of two seemingly unrelated concepts into something fresh.

3. Concrete

The information an influential blog provides must be specifically useful to your intended audience. There’s a reason “how to” posts are so popular, even as we outsource more and more to others rather than performing tasks outside of our own expertise. Actionable information is desirable and alters how others perceive you for the better.

4. Credible

Credibility is crucial to any successful blog, and it’s easier to lose it than it is to earn it. People must not only feel that you know what you’re talking about; they also want to know they can trust you.

5. Story

Here’s how all of the above is communicated and the emotive element that connects with the reader gets added to the mix. The story of your blog must be simple, have an unexpected hook, reflect concrete benefits and inherently state the credibility of the blog owner, all while triggering an emotional response.

How you say it is important.

But what you say is critical.

If your blog is not performing at the level you desire, or even if you’re simply trying to maintain the success you have and perhaps take it to the next level, keep these five elements in mind. The story of any successful blog is told one post at a time, and you can start tweaking your story today.

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Reader Comments (53)

  1. says

    The Heath brothers actually break out “emotion” from “story,” which leaves them with 6 elements that spell “succes.”

    Too contrived and cheesy for me, so I changed it. :)

  2. says

    Hi Brian. Thanks for the great advice! I am just learning to blog for our small business and we can use all the advice we can get. We will be sure to keep reading!

  3. says

    Your list is right on target Brian. I’ve been trying to take my blog to the next level and it has been a challenge to get all the pieces right. I’ve been experimenting with many things and it has been very surprising what works and what doesn’t.

    Your blog has been very helpful in helping me see things from a little different perspective. Thanks for helping me develop my own unique story!


  4. says

    Hi Brian.

    I totally agree that unless your blog doesn’t hit a chord with your readers it cannot succeed. Traffic and all is fine, and there are many ways to get traffic even without great content but your blog is only successful people your words extend a hand towards the readers and touch them where they really need it.

  5. says

    only successful people your words extend a hand towards the readers and touch them where they really need it.

    Well, I don’t know how I wrote that :-). It actually should have been: …your blog is only successful when your words extend a hand towards…

  6. says

    the probem i find is focusing for any lenght of time… there i go again shifting the topic out of focus.

    if it was a top 10 list maybe FOCUS will get in there.

  7. says

    I think a lot of blogger find item #1 and #5 in direct opposite to one another.

    After reading many personal stories posted on blogs, the last thing I would classify them as is “simple”.

    Good post!

  8. says

    This post reminds me of one of Seth Godin’s about how to blog or something to that effect.

    Seth discussed that you have succeeded on blogging if your reader’s mind has been boggled by what you have blogged about or something like your blog post has changed the way your reader thinks.

    And I can just totally agree with that if being an influential blogger is one’s goal.

  9. says

    This post caught my eye because I think Malcolm Gladwell is a genius. I’ve been trying to hit on the certain something that gets my blog to the tipping point, and I just haven’t found it. I value good content, which absolutely includes well-written content; but I think I might lack a defined niche or greater benefits to readers. Great post!

  10. says

    I love it!… SUCCS!…. It’s so memorable, and easy to follow. To add to our credibility as bloggers, I have another acronym to expand on point #4 – Credibility. We all know that, in a court of law, our credibility, supported by our evidence DEFEATS doubt. Well, to help all of you savvy bloggers remember the types of evidence that you can use to support your credibility, remember:
    D= Demonstrations
    E= Examples
    F = Facts
    E = Evidence/Results
    A = Analogy
    T = Testimonials
    S = Statistics

    For example, when I tell you that 1 in 120 children today are diagnosed with autism, you are far more likely to be interested in learning about autism than if I said, “I know many people are impacted by autism.” The evidence gives us something concrete into which we can sink our teeth!

    And, our audience sees that we are no longer just spouting off our opinions. Rather, we are educating, and moving ideas forward with the support that makes people believe and want to learn more.

  11. says

    Another excellent post which guides me in my quest for excellence. I think I have the Unexpected and Story aspects (so I’m good on “US”, I guess), but I’m not so sure I’m hitting the Simple, Concrete and Credible (so maybe I “SCC”?). Good advice, and thanks for it. – Joseph

  12. says

    this is a very informative post. thanks for sharing the 5 essential elements of an influential blog. i am coming up with my list of such blogs and this post of yours is a helpful one. cheers!

  13. says

    Another great post Brian. Again im very new to blogging, but your posts, along with Darrens and all the other authors posts on this site are helping me a great deal, in how i should be running my blog, and generally what blogging is all about.

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

  14. says

    Good article. But, I don’t think any of that is unique to a blog. Same rules apply with anything you put on a website — blog or not — seems to me.

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