Web Strategy Analysis (Part 1/2): Homepage Breakdown of the top 10 Blogs

Share with others: Jim Turner submitted this to Digg

Please read part 2: A break down the top personal tech blogs, notice the difference in advertising use.

Analysis Purpose
To analyze the homepage web strategies of the top blogs in the world

Background
We’re all fascinated and drawn to some of the world’s top blogs, according to incoming links, Technorati has listed the top 10 blogs. (Although that’s not the best way to determine authority) How do blogs get links to them? They do one of two things 1) Be interesting 2) Add Value. As they achieve stardom, the momentum of the brand continues it forward, and the traffic they drive to others increases it further.

Are top blogs afflicted with excess advertising?
As blogs reach nuclear status, it’s interesting to see how they start to monetize from ads, focus less on navigating away from the sites, and how much content they continue to share. At what point does the user experience suffer from excess of advertisements?

Methodology:
I took screen captures at 1400 X 1050, a rather large size. I only took the top page view, so it showed what’s above the fold. I then segmented the content types into five major color keys: Identity (as in self-brand), Navigation, Content, Search, and Advertising. This method is modeled after Jakob Nielsen’s homepage usability book.

Findings
Per Surface area on homepage above fold:

  • Most use of Identity: TMZ
  • Most use of Navigation: Ars Technica
  • Most use of Content: Huffington Post, Ars Technica
  • Most use of Advertisements: Boing Boing, Techcrunch (3 major areas above the fold)
  • Least amountof Advertisements: Post Secret (none), and my blog
  • Most use of Search: TMZ (two for some reason)
  • No use of Search: Techcrunch, Daily Kos (well at least, not above the fold)
  • Most use of White Space: Post Secret

  • 1) Engadget
    Engadget
    Authority: 30,080
    Homepage Analysis: Engadget


    2) Boing Boing
    Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things
    Authority: 25,587
    Homepage Analysis: BoingBoing


    3) Gizmodo
    Gizmodo, the Gadget Guide
    Authority: 23,072
    Homepage Analysis: Gizomodo


    4) Techcrunch
    Techcrunch
    Authority: 21,636
    Homepage Analysis: Techcrunch


    5) Huffington Post
    The Huffington Post
    Authority: 18,344
    Homepage Analysis: Huffington Post


    6) LifeHacker
    Lifehacker, tips and downloads for getting things done
    Authority: 17,166
    Homepage Analysis: Lifehacker


    7) Ars Technica
    Ars Technica: the Art of Technology. News, analysis, and in depth coverage of technology.
    Authority: 16,542
    Homepage Analysis: Ars Technica


    8 ) Daily Kos
    Daily Kos: State of the Nation
    Authority: 12,583
    Homepage Analysis: Daily Kos


    9) Post Secret
    PostSecret: ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.
    Authority: 12,294
    Homepage Analysis: Post Secret


    10) TMZ
    TMZ.com
    Authority: 11,360
    Homepage Analysis: TMZ


    1309) Web Strategy By Jeremiah
    Web Strategy by Jeremiah: Jeremiah discusses how companies use the web to connect with customers. While not a top 10 blog, it’s my blog, and therefore I can analyze it. I don’t have ads on for a few reasons: 1) I don’t have significant enough traffic to sustain more than beer money. 2) I’d rather gain trust from my audience bringing good content than worrying that I may reduce credibility by putting ads on the site.
    Authority: 1,375
    Homepage Analysis: Web Strategy by Jeremiah

    Comments? Questions?
    Submit your own homepage analysis, take a screenshot, go into photoshop and do the overlay. Use the colors I set in the color key and set opacity to around 60%. Leave a comment to your screenshot

    • http://www.onebyonemedia.com Jim Turner

      Just to play a little devil’s advocate Jeremiah, does the fact that the other sites have advertisements make them less credible? Perhaps I am so used to blocking out the advertisements, I am able to more focus on the content. If your point is that they are selling ad space more than the content then I would agree. Content is content in my mind and it has nothing to do with the amount or type of advertising.

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Some would argue that advertising is more useful to the user. It can go either way.

      If the advertisements add more value to the experience then they improve the site, for example, bringing contextual info right to the folks that need it.

      I’m no advertising hater, I know that 85% of Google’s revenue is from ads,

      Ads are not going away, in fact, it’s likely to increase on the WWW.

    • http://www.LuxuryHomeDiegest.com Roberta Murphy

      Jeremiah: Thanks for your analysis and for posting up the top blog list per Technorati.

      As for blog ads, I have been hearing rumblings that Google smiles upon blog advertising–especially its own adsense.

      Thoughts?

    • http://dusenyao.wordpress.com Peter Du

      There is an interesting articles about how much top bloggers earn from their site, with techcrunch being the most impressive according Business Week Recent Article

      It’s interesting how there is little overlap between the top ten bloggers from technorati and top ten bloggers on newsweek.

    • http://www.livingstonbuzz.com/blog Geoff Livingston

      Interesting analysis. I don’t think advertising hurts if its done tastefully. Still my blog doesn’t have advertising because I’d be lucky to get peanuts at the ballgame with the amount of click-throughs I could generate.

      What are the best practices gleaned from the top 10? What would you suggest to top 500 blogs trying to crack this stratosphere?

    • http://blog.instantcognition.com/ Clint

      Jeremiah,
      just a quick note about the two search boxes on TMZ…

      Because TMZ is part of AOL, the top search box is the AOL websearch while the lower right one is TMZ-specific search. It’s a little confusing to the user certainly, but I can understand the business reason behind it.

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Peter, I read that Jeff Jarvis makes 10,000 a month from his ads.

      Clint, I saw that too. Good point.

    • http://www.centernetworks.com allen stern

      Jeremiah, like Jim, I will play devil’s advocate here too, this site (yours) has loads of advertising.

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      No, it’s Marketing Allen, but you’re right, I promote those around me quite a bit. (but always transparently)

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    • http://www.sharepointbuzz.com Kanwal

      Advertising, its not just a revenue stream for the owner of a site but also provides an additional stream of information for the web visitor (which if they find useful/relevant).

      Integrating ads into a blog can add value and its something to seriously consider.

    • http://www.blognation.com Sam Sethi

      Hi Jeremiah

      I like the analysis but where is the conclusion?

      What is the correlation between these sites and advertising? Are you saying less is more in terms of advertising and/or content is king?

      The only conclusion I can make is that if you are less of an authority or have little traffic then you should not try and advertise but the more traffic you have the more adverts you can integrate both to earn revenue and your readers won’t mind.

      As someone building an ad network on blognation it is a fine balance between using the space for content value and generating ad revenue. I guess if more people provide you with a usability “heatmap” maybe we can start to draw some inferences?

      Sam

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Sam

      I think your conclusions are what I’m observing, as these blogs build credibilty and authority, they can produce ads, as they’ve already gained enough momentum to sustain.

      Heatmap is a great idea, but that requires each of the site owners to let me use it (if we use crazyegg)

      who knows, someone may build a browser plugin that will let us observe.

    • http://jetsongreen.typepad.com Preston

      This was cool. I’m usually thinking about how to use the space on my website, but this made me think about space in terms of types of usage: navigation v. content, identity v. navigation, navigation v. search, etc. Here’s my screen shot.

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    • http://www.sproutly.com Jeff

      Great breakdown on the layouts of the site. Looks like most have no problem with the big ad on the very top of the page. Good reference.

    • http://www.useit.com Jakob Nielsen

      Glad to see you use the method from my book Homepage Usability. I completely agree that usability applies to blogs just as much as to corporate websites.

      It would be great if you would please post the pie chart showing the average distrobution of the screen-space categories. Then we could compare with my pie chart for company homepages, and we could see what type of site focuses the most on user content. (Blogs will probably win that contest, but let’s see the pie chart first, before jumping to conclusions.)

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Jakob

      Good to see you here, long time reader I am. I don’t have the resources to accuratly create such graphs.

      Be sure to see my other part 2 of 2, which has personal blogs.

      If you’d like to collaborate on a joint study, send me an email.

    • http://www.nik.com.au Nik Cubrilovic

      I don’t see what the message from this post is either. If the user experience was suffering from the excess of ads, then these blogs wouldn’t be in the top ten! your own methodology ruled out any form of useful conclusion

      also, ‘user experience’ is something that can only be determined by asking more than one user..

      You won’t learn much from a heatmap either, since CTR is more than just positioning

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    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Nik, you’re right, I was asking more questions than making conclusions.

      I didn’t conclude that ads were a bad thing for top blogs.

      See this second analysis, which compares personal blogs and the top blogs.

      http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2007/07/22/web-strategy-analysis-part-2-homepage-breakdown-of-tech-related-personal-blogs-in-technorati-100/#comment-65443

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    • http://www.iblogcup.com/ Greg

      Nice review!

      You can vote for above mentioned blogs at International Blog Cup that just started. And don’t forget to nominate your favourites (including your own blog)!

    • http://www.glosslip.com Dawn Olsen

      Ads are essential to the growth and sustainment of a site. The key is to keep your audience in mind. Types of ads are as important as the number of them.

      Jeremiah is right, ads aren’t going away and they play an important role in the quality of content the reader receives. The less time a site needs to concentrate on making money, the more time they can spend on content quality.

      In fact, loyal readers should make it a habit of clicking on the ads of sites they like as a way of supporting that site. It’s free to do it, and it benefits all parties.

      Interesting article!

    • http://marioolckers.com Mario Olckers

      Thanks for sharing this methodology, it is a nice way to augment the tools in the analysis toolbox especially when it comes to advising clients and also good design consideration in the planning stage of a site

      Loved this bit: “While not a top 10 blog, it’s my blog, and therefore I can analyze it.”

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    • http://MentalRise.com Marcel Chastain

      Great review.

      It’s clear that the designers of these blogs have their audiences and subject matters in mind when planning the layouts. The balance struck between advertising, navigation, branding and content is no accident.

      I’m struck with how much navigation Ars Technica is able to stuff in, all the while staying natural and well organized.

    • http://www.ecommerceadviser.com/ Jimmy

      This is an amazing piece of research and has really pushed me in the right direction for something I am going. I need to carry out an investigation into the best overall site design for a specific industry and I think that your screenshots of pages with colour overlay is probably the best way I can display the pages for presentation.

      With what you have done above its interesting to see how the focus of blogs and sites in general is fast becoming the centre of the page and there is space on both sides, I think this is something to do with the ever increasing size of the average screen

    • http://www.ecommerceadviser.com/ Jimmy

      This is an amazing piece of research and has really pushed me in the right direction for something I am going. I need to carry out an investigation into the best overall site design for a specific industry and I think that your screenshots of pages with colour overlay is probably the best way I can display the pages for presentation.

      With what you have done above its interesting to see how the focus of blogs and sites in general is fast becoming the centre of the page and there is space on both sides, I think this is something to do with the ever increasing size of the average screen

    • Simon B.

      Collaboration starts here:
      1.engadget x y
      total 500 317
      purple 203 50
      red 270 43
      red 110 91
      blue 190 10
      blue 100 22
      yellow 100 15
      green 169 25
      green 160 166
      green 300 17
      green 112 117
      Totals: Green 31%, whitespace 46%, purple 6%, red 14%, blue 3%, yellow 1%.

      2. boingboing x y
      total 500 317
      purple 123 29
      red 268 35
      red 60 233
      red 52 244
      blue 166 9
      blue 187 20
      yellow 121 11
      green 187 218
      Totals: green 26%, whitespace 45%, purple 2%, red 23%, blue 3%, yellow 1%.

      2. gizmodo x y
      total 500 317
      purple 66 85
      purple 270 37
      red 64 224
      red 117 20
      blue 142 26
      yellow 51 25
      green 172 21
      green 263 185
      Totals: green 33%, whitespace 44%, purple 10%, red 11%, blue 2%, yellow 1%.

    • Simon B.

      Collaboration starts here:
      1.engadget x y
      total 500 317
      purple 203 50
      red 270 43
      red 110 91
      blue 190 10
      blue 100 22
      yellow 100 15
      green 169 25
      green 160 166
      green 300 17
      green 112 117
      Totals: Green 31%, whitespace 46%, purple 6%, red 14%, blue 3%, yellow 1%.

      2. boingboing x y
      total 500 317
      purple 123 29
      red 268 35
      red 60 233
      red 52 244
      blue 166 9
      blue 187 20
      yellow 121 11
      green 187 218
      Totals: green 26%, whitespace 45%, purple 2%, red 23%, blue 3%, yellow 1%.

      3. gizmodo x y
      total 500 317
      purple 66 85
      purple 270 37
      red 64 224
      red 117 20
      blue 142 26
      yellow 51 25
      green 172 21
      green 263 185
      Totals: green 33%, whitespace 44%, purple 10%, red 11%, blue 2%, yellow 1%.

      Content to non-whitespace for engadget 57%, boingboing 47%, gizmodo 58%.

    • Simon B.

      Collaboration starts here:
      1.engadget x y
      total 500 317
      purple 203 50
      red 270 43
      red 110 91
      blue 190 10
      blue 100 22
      yellow 100 15
      green 169 25
      green 160 166
      green 300 17
      green 112 117
      Totals: Green 31%, whitespace 46%, purple 6%, red 14%, blue 3%, yellow 1%.

      2. boingboing x y
      total 500 317
      purple 123 29
      red 268 35
      red 60 233
      red 52 244
      blue 166 9
      blue 187 20
      yellow 121 11
      green 187 218
      Totals: green 26%, whitespace 45%, purple 2%, red 23%, blue 3%, yellow 1%.

      3. gizmodo x y
      total 500 317
      purple 66 85
      purple 270 37
      red 64 224
      red 117 20
      blue 142 26
      yellow 51 25
      green 172 21
      green 263 185
      Totals: green 33%, whitespace 44%, purple 10%, red 11%, blue 2%, yellow 1%.

      Content to non-whitespace for engadget 57%, boingboing 47%, gizmodo 58%.

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