By Neil Patel published May 26, 2015

3 Things to Learn from the World’s 3 Most Popular Blogs


You can learn some of the best things about blogging by looking at the world’s most popular blogs.

These blogs are popular for a reason. And they only get more popular as time goes on. Viral popularity feeds popularity, snowballing into a massive cultural force.

I like learning from people and businesses who know what they’re doing. Some of the top features of the world’s most popular blogs demonstrate three powerful lessons that you can implement on your blog.

A note about selection: These three blogs – The Huffington Post, TMZ, and Business Insider – are the most popular on the eBiz list, which collates data from Alexa, U.S. Traffic Rank, Compete, and Quantcast.

And are websites truly blogs? Yes. A blog is bigger than you might think.

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Each of these blogs is, indeed, a blog, but each includes a lot of writers and a massive output of content.

1. Find and publish killer content

The Huffington Post: 110 million estimated unique monthly visitors

Question: How does HuffPost manage to publish some of the most viral articles on the Internet?

Answer: Because HuffPost is a news aggregator.

The Huffington Post publishes articles found elsewhere on the web by aggregating or collecting these articles and publishing them on its domain.

The Huffington Post employs people not just to write great content, but to look for great content that other people write. When they find it, The Huffington Post publishes it.

The result? Maniacal sharing and instant popularity.

HuffPost’s most popular article in the past year was the somewhat prurient “5 Reasons You Should Have Sex With Your Husband Every Night.”

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But where did HuffPost find this article with such shareable potential?

On another blog.

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Meg Conley published her insanely popular article in December 2012.

HuffPost republished the article in August 2014.

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That’s one of the reasons why HuffPost can make waves among bloggers, lovers of yoga pants, Christians, health fans, and many other niche groups.

You may not choose to aggregate, which is fine. However, you can offer your own content for syndication – the process of pushing your blog content to third-party sites. It’s like saying, “free article here!” A variety of syndication networks helps bloggers promote their content this way.

You also can apply HuffPost’s trick by inviting popular bloggers to post as a guest on your blog. You’ll probably get a lot of comments and interaction when you do.

2. Feed and fuel curiosity

TMZ: 30 million unique monthly visitors

TMZ is a website about celebrities. OK, it’s an unabashed gossip site. And it’s insanely popular.

The question is why? Keith O’Brien tries, somewhat clumsily, to explain the obsession with celebrity gossip:

I think TMZ and gossip sites are popular of course because of the culture we live in – where celebrities’ lives are spectator sports and where pieces of content – rumors, snippets of video, Instagram photos, insensitive Tweets – can easily power the stream.

In other words, celebrity gossip sites are popular because we like to watch celebrities. But why do people like to watch celebrities?

We are insatiably curious beings. Curiosity is ingrained in the body’s neurology, empowering our learning, our discovery, and even motivating our actions. Add celebrities into the mix and we are curious about how the elite live with fame and fortune – sometimes a life to which we aspire.

TMZ feeds this desire for such information while feeding and sustaining the desire for more content on the subject.

The headlines – specific, salacious, and appealing – pique curiosity.

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Each of TMZ’s headlines tantalizes with information, but leaves readers wanting just a bit more:

  • Mariah Carey in a SKIN-TIGHT Wet Suit – Wait ’Til You See These Curves – The teasing headline compels people to click and see those curves.
  • Justin Bieber Opens Up on Relationship & Was That a Slam Directed at Selena?! – People want to hear the inside perspective and determine if indeed the singer was slamming Selena.
  • You Won’t Even Recognize Candace Cameron Bure Now – Or will we? Must click. Must see.

And on the headlines go, driven by the engine of curiosity.

Thankfully, celebrity sites don’t have a monopoly on curiosity. Every blog has a niche, and every niche has curious readers. Your goal is to engage the curiosity of your readers to elicit their engagement.

In my blog, Quicksprout, I’ve tried to engage curiosity with headlines such as this: How a Ferrari Made Me a Million Bucks. (So far, it’s my third-most popular post.)

I knew it worked when people left comments like this one:

quicksprout-blog-example-image 6

Curiosity is backed by the desire for knowledge. Most blog readers want more knowledge. Here’s how you can feed your readers’ curiosity:

  • Write powerful and intriguing headlines.
  • Offer secrets, tips, tricks, hacks, or inside information.
  • Provide exclusive information to people who sign up or provide their email addresses.

3. Know your audience absolutely

Business Insider: 25.5 million estimated unique monthly visitors

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Business Insider knows who it is trying to reach. Evidently, it does a darn good job of it.

How can I be so sure?

Take a look at the stats. Growing a fanatical reader base of nearly 30 million doesn’t happen through haphazard, unfocused article blasting. Business Insider is bigger than its rival CNBC and outperforms Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and other massive news sites.

Henry Blodget, Business Insider’s CEO explains, “Our site is half the size of The Wall Street Journal, and they have about 1,700 people on staff.” Business Insider, by contrast, runs a lean, mean content-generation machine with far fewer people.

So, what are the characteristics of Business Insider’s target audience?

  • Male
  • Young
  • Affluent
  • Business-focused
  • Many Wall Street traders
  • Consume content during the workday
  • Average four minutes on the site (which is the estimated reading attention span of Wall Street traders)
  • Read Clusterstock more than any other section on site

Business Insider pivots to make the most of this audience and its proclivity for engaging headlines, its love of business news, and its human curiosity about celebs, clothing tips, and cool start-ups.

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Entrepreneur Mark Cuban got it right with his analysis on Business Insider:

I like that they pull no punches. They find stories that you would sit and discuss with friends and associates, that are topical, interesting, and often give a unique side of a story. I’m a big fan.

How do you create content that people would “sit and discuss with friends?” You have to know for whom you’re writing.

Everything about content marketing rests on this one point – who is your audience? If I’m writing for fitness aficionados, I’m going to write a certain way. If I’m writing for programmers, I’m going to write another way. What works for group A is not going to work for group B.

If you want to take your content marketing to the next level, what’s the most important thing you can do?

  • Write more frequently?
  • Write longer content?
  • Post more images?
  • Do more social promotion?
  • Create better headlines?

All of those are important but useless if you don’t know your audience. Defining your target audience is critical to the success of any marketing effort, especially content marketing.


Now, just to be clear, these aren’t the only  things that have skyrocketed The Huffington Post, TMZ, and Business Insider to stardom. A website doesn’t hit the top three by a single trick.

Even so, they’re doing some things right. And you can imitate those things.

It comes down to great content. You don’t need a star staff, a celebrity endorsement, or a $7 million round of funding to be successful in the content marketing game. You have all that you need right now.

Looking to score big points with your target audience? CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook has tips, insights, and ideas that can help increase your success with 24 of the top content marketing tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he has created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. You can connect with him on Twitter @neilpatel.

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  • Hashim Warren

    Neil, how much does the sheer quantity of content play into a each site? And do you recommend brands aim for high volume of content?

  • Hannah Stacey

    Hi Neil! Quick question about your point re: pushing your blog to be syndicated on other sites – is it not bad lots of duplicate content floating around the internet?

  • Adeel Sami

    Hello Neil,

    Besides the killer headline, the content has to be most-killing one so that it justifies with what the headline portrayed in readers’ imaginations.

    Just like @hannahstacey:disqus, I am so worried about the duplicate content through syndicating – If you could put a light on this issue, that would be so great!

    For knowing audience, it’s exactly like selling breads to the person who’s in store to buy loafs. If we can’t decide the demand and interest of the people even in any fields we try to blog into, our content won’t serve anything despite of making it qualitative and fixing all the loose-ends.


    ~ Adeel Sami

  • Alicia Rades

    Neil, great article! One thing that’s worth pointing out with #1 is that you can’t just find great content and copy and paste it on your site. The original author allows Huffington Post to republish it, so make sure you’re operating on ethical grounds.

  • Edgar Raymond

    One of the most thorough posts I’ve read in a long time. It’s not enough to just have unique content, the keys to delivery that you’ve pointed out, Neil, are fantastic. These are the ways to make your content viral and bring in massive traffic. Well articulated and fabulous post!

  • Iral Zetina

    Great article Neil, thanks for sharing!

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  • Farid P.

    Hello Neil,

    I truly like your article for learning from popular blogs. It is always necessary to learn from the persons who are doing well in their industry, whether it is blogging, SEO or anything else. There is nothing wrong in adopting the things which can benefit us our business along with right practices. One thing I find in all this popular blog is that they are creating a curiosity for audience and therefore making them subject to read the content, so from this point I can understand that there should be such thing in your blog content which can create curiosity in the reader.


  • Richard Moore

    I guess it’s frowned on BUT is it possible to contact sites like Huffington POst asking them to review or mention your blog ?

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    3 awesome blogging rules that will never die: news is shareworthy, appeal to your reader’s interest and curiosity, and make sure to know – and give ’em – what they want.

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    Great post and this can really help me get my blog site going in the right direction.. We need more content like this on the web

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    Hi , Point no 1 is really a Smart Act and good, but does not that will raise the issue of duplication content ? for point no 3 can u please suggest about Better Headlines ?

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  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Neil,

    Spot on as always. Huffington Post is a winner because they reel you in with good, relevant headlines.


  • Aaron Wright

    That was a really nice list there. I am not going to lie guys, I am here to try my best at promoting my blog. My blog pages are not for everybody because I aim mostly at people like myself who are new to being active online. As I am just starting out myself, I am by no means an expert but I managed to get 115 views in approximately 15 hours which I think is alright and it would be great if you could check me out, leave a comment and share if you like it. This will really help me push forward with my posts and motivate me.
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