When creating a company blog, you have to determine the same information as you do with your product — who your customer is and what you can offer. Then you have to execute using more creativity than other marketing efforts.
To figure out how the best blogs addressed this, I went through all the blogs I could possibly get my hands on. The knowledge I gleaned from this experiment really surprised me.
We’ve previously covered how to execute a good content writing strategy, but let's dig deeper. In this post I analyze seven business blogs related to the topic of “Productivity” to give you some examples of what works for the best of the best.
Top 7 business blogs on productivity, ranked
A note on the ratings:
#7 - Zapier
Impressions When I started working on this post, I expected that Zapier would be on the top of this list. It is one of the more successful productivity blogs in general, even without narrowing to business blogs.
However, upon deeper inspection, I found I had only read the best ones. Zapier has a high volume, and their best posts are really useful. Unfortunately, I discovered that many of their posts are not original. The posts are more like content marketing. You can see this in the high variability in their shares: most posts have few shares, whereas some have a lot.
In a sense, Zapier is the archetypal example of why having a high volume of posts is valuable: by statistics alone, some of it will turn out good.
#6 - 99U by Behance
Impressions 99u is Behance’s blog. It has real insights about creativity and productivity, and covers topics you might not find elsewhere. Given its many authors, the quality is variable, but you can always tell that someone spent some time on what you’re reading.
What pulls it down from great to good for me is the blog’s seriousness. This is peculiar, considering it is the publisher of great posts such as “Get over yourself: how your ego sabotages your creativity”. But the posts lack the playfulness found in other great blogs that keep you hooked and coming back for more.
#5 - Buffer
Impressions Buffer’s blog feels like reading the writing of someone who has downed a gallon of the content marketing kool-aid and is just excelling at every single post. For its size, Buffer has a lot of visitors, a fact they attribute to their content strategy. They describe how one of their founders wrote 150 articles the first 9 months of the company (overlapping with HubSpot’s blog, which the 2nd link is to).
Their posts are long and impressive. Buffer uses extensive data-based insights to look at which blog posts are most read and which are most shared. The posts are all well-researched and useful, launching them to the top spot in content quality.
This is, however, not where you will usually find originality. With the exception of the posts about themselves that have original insights, it often reads like something you could have read anywhere. You sort of get the sense that they gather the best content from around the web in interesting posts. Don’t get me wrong: doing compilations is valuable work, and in practicing it, they are the best in the business.
#4 - Hubstaff
Impressions Some of Hubstaff’s blog posts are so well-researched that they can probably pass them off as work published in a book or journal. It is remarkable how each post gets to the bottom of a specific problem, deals with all the aspects of that problem, and then records it in organized chapters.
Every time I return to their blog, I am pleasantly surprised at the quality of their content, although I rarely tend to stay. I figured the reason is that the writing struggles to hold my attention, and the topics and perspectives raised—while interesting—often fall into familiar categories.
Still, an impressive blog worth your time, especially if you’re researching a specific topic.
#3 - Intercom
Impressions It shines through that Intercom is investing a lot in their blog. The blog has full-fledged content of its own, with different categories, a podcast, guest posts, guest videos and original illustrations on almost all posts. They even made several books!
It is the most whole-hearted content strategy I’ve ever seen implemented. And the texts are good, really! They are absolutely readable, have real insights, real opinions and original perspectives. Sometimes funny, always thorough. The only reason this isn’t a 10 in all categories, is because it feels very much like the best student in class. Intercom’s blog deserves an A+ clearly, but they have yet to take it beyond that.
#2 - Priceonomics
Impressions Priceonomics looks more like a blog that happens to have products than the other way around. Its posts are nerdy economic deep dives into topics they seem mostly curious about (rather than something they think people will share), like price differences between men's and women's shoes.
The originality of the posts is remarkable. I would go so far as to say that most of their posts are completely original, new additions of knowledge in the world. As far as public service, the posts have great value.
I do find that the posts are sometimes undersold. The titles, especially, don't draw audiences in by using proven methods for building interest. It is in some ways the anti-clickbait. By improving titles, and adding a little bit more micro-humor, they have the potential to get many more visitors than they currently have.
#1 - First Round Capital
Impressions This blog is different. It covers a lot of topics you know from before, but they all do it in such an authentic and original manner that it feels new and magical. How a VC manages to be this sincere on their blog is hard to even fathom.
Each post is so well-prepared that it could qualify as the outline for a book on the subject. They mostly include real people who have gone on a journey and overcame challenges using unusual viewpoints or skills. The blog is widely successful, with thousands of shares even on the newest and not very popular posts.
Lesson learned: Authenticity is the x-factor
Some things we found in this analysis were as expected: stable and high volume of posts seem help a lot. The successful blogs are usually long, contain original insights and are told by someone with experience in the real world.
Other things were not as expected: some of the best and biggest blogs are not particularly good at headlines or do not allow comments.
My biggest impression after reading and rating these top blogs is that the common link is an air of authenticity. Either because it covered specific stories about specific people (the challenges they met and how they overcame them), or because the topic was written from a place of genuine curiosity.
Authenticity is hard to fake. Unless you are writing about your own experience, it will be difficult to come across as authentic. When reading authentic blog posts, everything changes. Audiences feel like they are listening to the writer speak about something of genuine interest, rather than something the writer thinks people want to hear. And that makes all the difference.