In order for a blog to become really popular, its inbound links have to be self-propagating, kind of like a virus.
Suppose that each of your inbound links spawns 0.9 new links. Suppose further that through much marketing efforts, you obtain 10 inbound links. Those 10 links will spawn 9 new links, the 9 spawn 8.1 links, etc, until you wind up with 100 inbound links.
But suppose another blog is just slightly more interesting than yours, just enough so that each inbound links spawns 1.1 new links. It’s only 22% more interesting. But what happens is that the 10 links spawn 11 new links, which spawn 12.1 links, and in no time all the blog becomes an A-list blog.
Very few blogs, if any, have a link spawn rate that exceeds 1.0, the number required for blog links propagate without any marketing efforts on the part of the blog author.
Half Sigma has a link spawn rate well below 1.0. Maybe my link spawn rate is around 0.5, which means that for every link I manage to obtain through blog marketing efforts, it eventually gives rise to one additional link.
The now defunct blog Libertarian Girl had a link spawn rate much closer to 1.0. The picture of the pretty blonde girl on the blog sidebar made the blog more interesting and therefore increased the link spawn rate. As we saw from the examples above, even a small increase in the link spawn rate results in a huge increase in a blog’s popularity.
A blog’s eventual popularity is a function of the link spawn rate and the marketing efforts. A blog with a link spawn rate close to 1.0 can become an A-list blog if the blog author puts forth a good marketing effort. A blog with a link spawn rate of around 0.5, like Half Sigma has, can never become an A-list blog. A blog with a link spawn rate of 1.0 or greater can become an A-list blog without any marketing efforts at all.
One can increase the link spawn rate by writing better and more interesting posts and by posting more often, but many factors which affect the link spawn rate are out of the blog author's control. A person with fame outside of the blogging world, or a person who is a pretty young woman, just has an inherently higher link spawn rate that a regular guy with a boring job can't compete with.