Based on my experience with these posts… here’s what I’ve learned about how blog posts get popular. (Note: that’s very different to ‘how to write popular blog posts’. I’m not the person to write that post, I don’t think.)
If you’re a mid-to-low alphabet lister like myself… you need the network to make anything you write widely read (or viewed, at least). In each of these cases, I’m indebted to at least one blogger much more popular than myself to get eyeballs on these posts. Once one of these ‘popular’ bloggers links to you, then it becomes a bit of a snowball effect (or a meme, I guess… hence TechMeme). Interestingly, I’ve had posts on TechMeme a few times now and get virtually no traffic as a result. Bloggers who I really have to thank include Scrivs at 9 Rules, Kathy Sierra, Ben Barren, Anne Zelenka.
If your blog title has a number in it, then it is more likely to be popular. No matter what people say about blogposts that are lists (and it’s often not good), there’s something about a number that sounds authoritative and that people can’t seem to resist reading and linking to. As I discovered, it doesn’t even matter if the number you choose is different to the actual number of species (my six species was actually seven, but hardly anyone mentioned that – thank goodness!). I don’t want to recommend overdoing the ‘number’ posts though… I haven’t done one before or since the six species… I should probably think up another one though :)
Some conversations never die and seem to be eternally popular. In my case, my brushes with the “Ugly Design debate” and the “Where are the Women Bloggers” debate were a lot more high impact than I’d expected. At the time of writing, I wasn’t really aware that these discussions had been going on in the blogosphere for years already, and since I’ve written them I’ve seen them bubble up from time to time.
There is no relationship between the length of your blog title and it’s popularity.
What were the stories behind these posts? Well, I can honestly say that none of them were written with ‘traffic’ in mind. Each of them came from conversations I was having online and offline (Six Species, Women of 2.0), things that were bugging me at the time (Design is a good idea), or someone writing a blog post that consolidated some of my thoughts in a new way and inspired me to post my interpretation of what they were saying (User Experience & Cognitive Pleasure).
Based on my experience with TechMeme, I’d say that if you want to be ‘popular’, it’s probably not that difficult. Write about what everyone else is writing about as soon as you possibly can, and – with bit of strategic promotion and A-Lister flattery – get drawn into the linking maelstrom.
Is this what you want your blog to be though? For me, absolutely no. Occasionally there’s something ‘topical’ that I think is exciting or interesting or annoying, and that is relevant to the work that I do (or my life I guess). A lot of the time, the topics that the blogosphere carries on with are repetitive, reactive, and irrelevant to what I’m interested in.
For me, I’d much rather have a small band of people who read my blog reasonably regularly, and who find what I write to be somewhat thought provoking – either to help them think about something in a new way, or to introduce them to something that they might not have seen before. I’m much more interested in people reading and interacting in a conversation than I am in having thousands of anonymous visitors drop in for a moment, then drop out. (On a slight tangent, that’s why I don’t have Adsense or any other advertising on my blog).
So, popular blogposts. I like it when I have a post that’s popular because I get to ‘meet’ new people who find my blog that way… but I don’t write for popularity or traffic.
I’d encourage *everyone* to write for reasons other than popularity. But that’s just me.
If you *really* want to learn about popularity (and making money from your blog), go see Darren Rowse. (and ponder on the fact that 73%* of his readers are male… more on that later perhaps)
* based on results of poll at time of writing. Results were even more skewed towards men last time I checked so perhaps women bloggers just have better things to do on the weekend!)
[...] 2. Connecting with Real People Nadnut’s popular post was a reader rollcall, where she discovered how a primary and secondary school friend had been reading her since her 1st year blogging. Leisa Reichelt also noted how you need the network to make anything you write widely read. I practice this simply by reading other blogs and leaving comments. It’s a tit for tat routine that pays off for everyone. [...]
[...] She hits home a lot of salient points about blogging for readership, but did especially well in demonstrating how popularity starts with social networking. Striking real conversations and turning them into blog posts is what makes her writing highly connected and meaningful. Having started blogging only this year, Leisa from disambiguity.com has grown readership and relationships fast and furiously. [...]
[...] I’m not sure if it was some kind of a joke or not… I mean, I’d just gotten finished writing about how I didn’t want to make money from advertising, when I get an email from someone who wanted to sell advertising on my blog. [...]
My name is Leisa Reichelt. I am the Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office.
I lead a team of great researchers who work in agile, multidisciplinary digital teams to help continuously connect the people who design products with the people who will use them and support experimentation and ongoing learning in product design.
If you're interested in working with me or would like to talk more please email me