As a content-driven agency that works closely with established online sports brands and publishers, we at ICS-digital are always looking to build on our capabilities.
In the realm of sports blogging, we converse with other experts in the field to uncover patterns and processes that we can integrate into our workflow, as well as our advice to global clients who want to build their brand while earning traffic.
We interviewed a small focus group made up of sports blog owners and readers, all of whom have been reading UK sports blogs for 10+ years. What stood from our conversations was their shared passion for expert knowledge and reader engagement.
“You need to find what makes your blog different, set your tone of voice on social media and stick to your guns.”
Top sports bloggers consider quality of blog content as a given, while placing most emphasis on standing out from the crowd through successful reader engagement and SEO. Personality, as well as accuracy, is a major priority.
“Of course, you need well written informative content too, but that's not much use if nobody is there to see it.”
Readers organise their priorities differently and they really aren’t interested in your SEO performance – only in the value you can provide to them as consumers of content.
The one expectation all interviewed readers’ shared is: in-depth, analytical, and contextual content that goes much beyond mere summaries of fights/matches/games and that is written by the experts in the field. Easy enough.
We wondered: Could some of the most successful sports bloggers be undervaluing the importance of good content to their readers?
An investigation into a total of 50 posts from five successful blogs quickly dispelled this thought.
We identified a common structure in successful UK sports blog posts, which favours in-depth analysis over widely available sports updates. All 50 texts observed the following structure:
Two points stand out:
Input from the readers showed that bloggers need to score with in-depth analyses and avoid a regurgitation of well-publicised information:
“Deep and contextual analyses that cannot be found in any daily news outlet is crucial”.
The findings above have confirmed that UK’s top sports bloggers are following a structure that is intrinsically built to meet these reader expectations.
As all 50 blog posts followed the same overall structure, we can even speak of a UK-specific sports blog genre. We tend to learn and follow genre conventions naturally, which is why they hold much power in our online discourse.
Long story short: Successful sports bloggers who want to monetise their content might be prioritising SEO principles; however, their content is also meeting high reader expectations.
Next to unique, genuinely insightful content, another reader requirement towards sports blogs became clear in the conversations. Readers see themselves as experts and want to be recognised as such.
At the same time, they expect to receive input from an authoritative source; after all, the readers want to go beyond reading quick sports updates when accessing blogs. Therefore, bloggers would ideally position themselves as experts, while also acknowledging the readers’ advanced sports knowledge. The most successful blogs manage to navigate this smoothly.
1. Background information is either taken for granted or only provided through the use of synonyms or in subordinate clauses. The reader - a sports expert - is expected to have prior knowledge.
2. Bloggers establish authority through their evaluation of key moments/information (here put in bold).
It becomes clear that the expectations around sports knowledge from readers and writers feeds into the previous discussion on high-quality content.
Blog readers consider themselves somewhat “above” quick newsflashes and are turning to sports blogs for an analysis of a sports event. In the posts, readers are positioned in exactly this way: knowledgeable of background information, interested in further analytical content.
Meeting reader expectations is tough. Therefore, it might not come as a surprise that the most successful sports bloggers in the UK are multitasking, delivering on SEO best practices and analytical content - written by experts for experts.
Aspiring sports bloggers should be aware of how deeply content expectations are rooted in genre conventions. (Not) following the latter can make or break a sports blog.
At ICS-digital, we produce sports content for thousands of sites across markets and languages. We consider it key to be aware of local differences in reader expectations and to engage a target audience effectively. If you are interested in working with us, please get in touch via the contact form.