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!)
Bill Scott’s great article on mouse hovers – Use hover to create a more lightweight but engaging way to cue the user to hidden functionality. Use it as a way to provide just-in-time details. Use it to keep your page visually simpler …
From the Online International Journal of Usability Studies … this is a bit too mathematical for me. I’ve never really been that into statistics… well, not to this degree. What about you? How important/valuable do you think stats are to usability testing?
another from the Online International Journal of Usability Studies. I have to admit that I’m a little skeptical about the benefits of eyetracking… when thinking of bang for buck. It’s rarely something that I consider using (except when trying to convince someone they need to do something about usability on their site). What are your thoughts on eyetracking?
“Wondering how many people have been knocking about your feed just now? Check out this listing of the last 25 hits to your feed displayed by date, time and user agent.’ Very cool. I always wondered what was going on with RSS. Now I have one more set of stats to obsess over ;)
to celebrate his 1000th blog post, Kevin Lim is having a meme contest – find your most popular blog post, blog the story behind the post, and tag it ‘bestblogforward’ and Kevin might have a prize for you! I’m going to get to this on the weekend if I have a moment.
“It’s a craft that takes its wisdom from science, its inspiration from art and the design disciplines, its possibilities and limitations from software technology and corporate culture, and its directions – ideally – from the users.”
OK. I’m a latecomer to Skype, but this going overseas malarchy has finally got me motivated.
How cool is Skype! (and how much work have they done to make it incredibly easy to use! Well done Skype!)
Unfortunately I only have the Test Message lady to talk to at the moment… that’s ok though, because I’m still a little shy about the whole talking thing… Finally I might get to give the old web cam that’s built into my laptop a bit of a workout… (or maybe not. A bit shy about that too!)
Are you on Skype yet? Maybe you could give me your Skype contact details so I can have some people in my address book! :)
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