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10 Ways to Optimize a Popular Post on Your Blog

Over at the ProBlogger Room on FriendFeed Keith asks a good question that has stimulated a whole stream of thought for me. He asks:

“If you have a blog post that clearly outperforms all other posts (more than double the traffic in my case) do you capitalize on it by writing more posts on the same topic?”

When a post on your blog does better than others there are numerous things that I’d encourage you to consider doing – only one of which is writing more posts on that topic.

KEY LESSON – The first thing to realize is that ‘hot’ or popular posts on your blog are not only important because of the traffic that they are currently bringing in – but they’re actually more important because of what they could potentially do to improve and grow your whole blog. Most of what follows is about leveraging a hot post to grow your blog.

10 ways to Optimize a Popular Post on Your Blog

1. Analyze the Source of Traffic

The first thing that I’d highly recommend you do when you realize that one post on your blog is attracting more traffic than others is to spend some time analyzing the source of the traffic. Where it’s coming from will determine what actions you need to take next.

  • Is the traffic coming from search engines? If so, you’ll want to do some SEO on the post. You should also do some analysis of what keywords people are searching for that drives them to the post.
  • Is the traffic coming from social media? If so, it’ll be more temporary so you’ll want to act fast and concentrate on converting visitors to subscribers.
  • Is the traffic coming from another blog or site? If so you’ll need to act quickly, concentrate on getting subscribers but also build a relationship with the other site.
  • Why does the post work? – this is an important question to ask yourself, particularly if you’re looking to write more posts like it. Is it the title of the post, is it the topic, is it the voice you wrote it in?

The more information you have on where the traffic is from and why it’s landing on your post the better equipped you’ll be to decide which of the following strategies you should take next.

2. On Page SEO

If point #1 shows you that traffic is coming to the post from search engines you are in luck. Search engine traffic is wonderful because it has the potential to send your post traffic every day for years to come. However don’t just sit back and feel good about yourself – ask yourself how you can take the traffic to the next level and drive even more search engine traffic to it!

One of the things you will want to do is optimize the post for search engines even more than it already is. Obviously you’ve done something right in terms of SEO – but how can you improve it even more?

Knowing the keywords that the post is doing well for in SE’s is important here. Once you know this you can highlight them to the search engine bots by bolding them, adding them to your post to increase keyword density, adding images that have those words as their name and in alt tags, adding them in headings etc. Don’t ‘stuff’ your post with the words – but finding ways to naturally build them into your post can help it rank even higher for those words.

Again – don’t over do this. You’re already ranking well so just tweak the post a little.

Read more about on page SEO at Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers.

3. Off Page SEO

The other thing you can do to attempt to boost the search engine ranking of the post is to build a few incoming links to the post. Search engines see incoming links to a page as like a ‘vote’ – the more votes the higher it’ll rank (in general).

Note: The best type of incoming links are ‘relevant’ ones (ie from sites on a similar topic) and ones with the keywords that you’re trying to rank for in the link.

The first way to get some extra incoming links to the post is to link to it from your own blog/s. Find other posts on similar topics and link to this post from them. You don’t need to link to the post from every page on your blog – but do find at least a few other posts to link up to it from.

The second way to get extra incoming links is to submit the link to other bloggers. You might do this by pulling a few favors with other bloggers or by emailing them to suggest the post might be relevant to their readers. Don’t spam people and do keep the links relevant to the sites that you’re submitting them to – but any links you get can help give the post an extra boost.

Lastly – another source of links can be social media sites that you are active on. Even just tweeting the link in a relevant way to readers can add a little Google Juice. I’ll write more on social media sites in my next point.

4. Submit it to Social Media Sites

If the traffic to your post is coming from a social media site like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit or Delicious you’ll need to act a little faster to optimize the post. I’ll suggest some ways to do this below – but first you might want to see if there are some ways that you can ‘help’ the post become even more viral on social media sites.

For example – if the post is on the front page of Digg there’s a chance that it could also be growing on StumbleUpon or Delicious. Check this out and vote up the post on those services. Send the links over to others to give it their vote too.

You might also like to add a link or button to the post itself if it’s doing well on social media. For example – if I notice a post is starting to build momentum on Digg I’ll add a Digg button to it. This can often be enough to tip it over the edge and onto the front page.

5. Add Options to Subscribe

This one is important whether the source of traffic is search engines, another site or social media as it focusses upon converting your new visitors to the page into ongoing readers of your blog.

When I have a ‘hot post’ I’ll often add a link to the post that says something like ‘enjoying this post – get more like it via our newsletter’ and link to a page giving the blog’s subscriptions options. These links can do very well at the end of posts.

6. Add links to the post to other pages on your blog

Drive people deeper into your blog by adding links to other pages on your site. You can do this within the content of the post itself or at the end of the post as ‘further reading’.

The key is to make the link to your best posts and to posts that are relevant in terms of content to the hot post.

7. Optimize Page Loading

Hopefully you won’t need to do this because your page will already be well optimized – but if you’re getting ALOT of traffic (for example from Digg or some other large site) your loading times might slow down – particularly if you have a lot of large files that need to load.

I learned this the first time I got on the front page of Digg on a photography related post where I had 20 large images that needed to load. The page didn’t crash but I burned through a heap of bandwidth that day and probably lost a lot of readers who got frustrated with the slow loading images.

8. Monetize the Post

Personally this is not something I do straight away as I like to work first upon converting readers into subscribers – however if you have one post with a lot of traffic it could be wise to add monetization streams to that post.

For example – if the post is doing a lot of impressions you might want to add some CPM ads to the page.

Another technique is to add relevant affiliate products to such ‘hot posts’.

I would avoid adding too many of these to hot posts as you could end up putting readers off. My personal approach is to monetize sites by converting people into regular readers and letting their continued visits to my blog make money over a longer period. Sure you might be able to earn a few extra dollars by stuffing such pages with CPM ads – but those visitors will be less likely to return in future.

9. Improve the Post

Some bloggers resist updating their blog posts – but I think it makes a lot of sense to not only add new posts to a blog but to improve old ones. I’m not just talking about editing posts for SEO benefits – but editing and adding to posts so that they become more valuable to readers.

Here’s the thing – if you’ve got a post that is attracting thousands of readers to it but it’s and ‘average’ quality post – you’ll have a lot better chance of converting readers to be loyal if the post is of an ‘excellent’ standard. So look over such hot posts and see if there are ways you can improve them.

10. Write More Posts Like it

Finally – we’re onto Keith’s question and the idea of writing more posts like the one that is ‘hot’.

I think that this is a good idea – on a number of levels.

  • Extend Ideas – write an update to the post, or another one that takes the ideas to a new level.
  • Related Topics – if there are other topics of a similar nature write posts on these.
  • Target Other Related Keywords – write posts that target related keywords to those being searched for to find the first one.
  • Similar Voice – sometimes it’s not the topic that you write that attracts people but the way you write it. For example I chatted to a blogger recently who had an avalanche of traffic to a humorous post that they’d written (the first time they’d ever written in that style). They began to write more of these types of posts and saw continued success with it.

If you write a followup or related post to the first – make sure you add a link to it on your hot post.

What Have I Missed?

In this post I’ve shared 10 things that I do to popular posts (I should say that I rarely do all of them to the one post – each will be more important in different situations) but what have I missed? What else do you to to popular posts on your blog?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Great Post!

    Isn’t it true that when you’re submitting to social media sites (Digg, Reddit, Delicious, etc…) that you have to have a pretty good fan base in order to rank really well? The chances of even submitting a good post of yours that ranks really well is tough. Correct? Most of the people I know shout at all their friends to “digg” their submission and that’s how it gains some rank.

  2. This is wonderful, thanks for sharing some techniques on how to optimize a popular post.

  3. Great post. For on-site SEO tips, what tags in the img tag are logged by search engines? Alt, Title, what about text immediately following the image? Is there one that is better than the others?

  4. What about the long run? If a post was really good, you should keep it alive and not let it get lost in the achieves.

  5. Hm, I think I must have commented on the wrong post, this is the one I meant to comment on. lol

    Well, I have this one post that is only about 2 paragraphs long, and it talks about this random singer I found on GodTube. Apparently he’s pretty popular among certain people, and I’m one of 3 sites that come up when you search for him. I’ve gotten a lot of comments, and the post is always at the top of my charts.

    I haven’t tweaked the SEO yet, but I will now that I was reminded to.

  6. HEY HEY, I remember asking you about this! If you had a post about optimizing a popular post, and here it is! Excellent Darren, you are da man my friend! Thanks for all the great tips and advice but most of all, thanks for being real with people about blogging- Effort, time and consistency, blogging for money is like health and fitness, no quick fixes or over night changes!

    With that being said, I’m planning to launch a new site sometime in the near future; the aim of the site will be “Fitness for Bloggers.” How does that sound? :)

  7. These are some techniques that I haven’t thought of. Thanks for the heads up :)

  8. I have a few regularly high traffic posts. I keep tweaking it with better info and updating it, but it is on (ironically) a topic that readers would enjoy but that attracts a ton of non-targeted readers for my niche.

    So, knowing I won’t get any significant play or readership from that traffic, I’ve been trying different monetization schemes. They are moving FAST though and want the information and, seemingly, nothing else.

    FYI – it’s my Top 50 Video Sharing Sites posts. You can imagine what people are looking for and the majority aren’t looking to build traffic to their sites – because they don’t have any. They just want to watch videos it seems.

  9. That is some really good stuff. I enjoy reading about ways to improve my blog and to help me in making more money.

  10. I’ve created a script for one of my sites that calculates overall traffic and does a comparison for each page using a cron job on the hour. If any page gets over a certain amount of traffic it automatically starts dropping in various ads, “popular links” widgets and other fun stuff…. directing traffic to other sites I own. A bit too much clutter to do this on every page of the site. I don’t have to overkill on ads anywhere and yet I’m not losing much income while keeping an overall clean site. Especially for those sites that are a bit newer.

  11. I always think that if you post something that gets a lot of traffic you should try posting a lot more (of anything). Readers like content.

    The Masked Millionaire

  12. nice post as always .

    But darren – does making the keywords BOLD really help the bots ?

  13. Great tips! I’ve had a couple of posts that have been outperforming all others for quite some time and haven’t really done much about it. What I’ll probably do is link to it from other pages on the blog and try to monetize it a little bit with Amazon links.

  14. This is a great summary of techniques and I’m looking forward to trying to do a better job of implementing them! I have also been experimenting with using Google Adwords to promote individual pages of my blog (like our new post on lunch boxes) to try to encourage subscriptions. I try to find key words where there are not currently tons of Google Ads running so the ads won’t cost me too much to get a good placement. I also try to pick a post that I think is nicely done and will attract subscribers and then I add our subscribe form to the post, but I’m going to take your recommendation and change the wording on the invitation to subscribe!

  15. this is an awesome list of things to do to optimize a blog post….many things I didn’t think about. Very good article! Thanks for writing it

  16. cool… i like these tips, esp, write more like it…
    i tend to put my more popular posts on the home page. i’m still getting comments on ‘how to walk in high heels’ written over a year ago.

  17. Darren,
    Great post, and one that couldn’t have come at a better time for me (I actually just asked him this morning on Twitter if he had any advice about this!)

    However, my situation is a bit unique and I’m hoping you and your readers may have some suggestions for me.

    You see, my blog isn’t a tech blog, by any means. I cover writing, marketing and productivity. A lot of my productivity posts do have to do with web apps, gadgets and the internet, but the “tech blog” niche is overflowing and so I shy away from that theme.

    But I decided last week to post a slightly off-topic little tidbit about the Canadian iPhone launch including some information from a source within the exclusive carrier, Rogers.

    It wasn’t meant to be a traffic-bringer, just a juicy nugget for my Canadian readers, I thought…but it kind of took on a life of its own.

    And when I say a life of its own, I mean it was picked up by Boy Genius, Engadget Mobile, The Financial Post, CNN/Fortune Magazine’s Apple Blog, Ars Technica and million other sites. I mean it gleaned 600 Diggs, made the fornt page of TechMeme and garnered over 25 thousand uniques over a 3 day period…

    All this on a blog that is a month and a half old and happy to pull in 300-500 visits a day usually.

    I’m not emphasizing the coverage to toot my own horn, but rather to give a clear picture of the magnitude of exposure I’ve experienced here, relative to my usual obscurity!

    I wish I’d been more prepared and perhaps I might have monetized the post better, but as it was I naturally did a few of the things you suggest here such as including a subscribe link and links to other tech-ish posts I’ve written at the end.

    But the real challenge is this: Because “gadgets” are not the theme of my blog, how do I now take this traffic and turn those visitors into regular readers, without throwing my other readers, who’ve been with me since I started, under the bus, so to speak?

    I would really appreciate any insights people can offer.

    Thanks in advance,

    Daniel Smith
    Smithereens Blog

  18. Great tips! I keep all my post popular posts on the home page and, as noted by others, get comments some months (even years) after :-)

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  19. Excellent post!

    Suggestion: If the post receives a lot of feedback why not build its own page on Facebook?

  20. Again Darren,

    Another Great Post that is greatly appreciated by Champion
    Business Builders everywhere. Making a Post even like this for audio into MP3 content increases the Positive Viral Marketing nature of the content. Some people love to hear High Quality Content such as this example Darren. Here is an Illustration of a place where we recommend that the MP3 can be created from shows and made available for Distribution, we use it. http://tinyurl.com/5t9rxs
    Thanks again, for the Great Tips.

  21. Thanks for a thought provoking article. You make it sound so easy, I should have realized the truth of it all on my own.

  22. Darren,

    How do you update old posts without having them get sent back out over your RSS feed? I wouldn’t want to confuse readers into thinking an article has been substantively updated when in fact it may just have some new alt image text, for example. Thanks.

  23. Scanning your blog posts for typos are another of my perfectionist optimizing methods, although I’ve never tested this away from updating a post, as I have done these two at the same time, so I don’t quite know if correcting things like grammar and typos actually strengthen your blog post, but I carry on regardless.

    I also add keywords in the alt image tag on pictures and if relevant I put the full blog post title in there, which seems to help a little with thte relevant keywords.

  24. Great article. To answer Dan Cole, I would put it as a featured article or post in my front page. BTW, this is a detailed analysis for the question raised and I am very happy with the answers directed to. Thank you.

  25. Great timing for this post for me. I just recently had a post get crazy popular and had been asking myself these questions a few days ago.

    I spent a good bit of time just trying to figure out what it was about that post that made it popular whereas I had other posts that I felt were better yet received little traffic. After analyzing the why, I can see how to write similar posts that might garner the same attention.

    Thanks for the great post.

  26. This is a very interesting post. I recently published a post that was a real hit. When I then followed on with a related article, interest sagged. I’ve noticed that pattern before.

    My learning is to wait a couple of months before publishing a follow-up post. That keeps the interest fresh.

  27. Darren,

    This was awesome, as we just had one of our biggest posts ever today. I was excited to see that I sort of naturally did some of these things, and I’ll be going back to follow a few more of your suggestions.


  28. Daniel – while gadgets might not be your main focus perhaps you could do some followup posts on:

    gadgets that make you more productive
    iphone aps that will help you get more done etc

    related topics that perhaps relate to the hot post?

    hope that helps

  29. great post, some ideas that I have been thinking about but now reading it – makes me want to actually implement them! Thanks!

  30. Thanks this is a good list.

    The problem one for me is social media. My posts do get some stumbles and this leads to a spike in traffic but doesn’t seem to lead to an increase in subscribers. Not sure why, unless it’s because I don’t write on the same topic all the time so those who follow the post to my site don’t find lots on the same thing.

    Any ideas?

  31. Great observation about the source of traffic and how to maximize them differently.

    Evan: I had my post got 15,000 traffic once from stumbleupon in a 2-day-span. It increases my subscriber from 50-80 at that time. It’s not much but still a good increase of around 50%!

  32. Well thought-out post. Thanks for the tips in case I ever have a dream post that catches everyone’s eye.

  33. Darren,

    Excellent! Speechless. One of the best entries I’ve read in a while. Thanks.

    I’m going to comb through a few of my top posts and see what I can do to enhance them.

  34. I have been touring your blogs for the past couple of hours and listened to you discussion with Blog Squad and I must say, I’m extremely hyped up. I really did not know what a Blog was until I somehow I stumbled across Problogger. In actuality, I was trying to figure out how to publish a book online in the D I Y fashion. I don’t want to use any publisher if possible. I don’t want to spend any money either. I’m challenging myself and most likely am soon to be on a very prickly road. Nonetheless, I can now see how a blog would be an extremely valuable tool. In fact, indispensable. So thank you, and ah, I guess I’m going to break my first rule concerning money, because I promise, as soon as my next Social Security check comes in, I’m buying your book. Thank you Darren

  35. Thanks Darren with your valuable information, I going to do something with my favorites posts.

  36. Nice information. Thanks. Too bad the most popular posts in my blog is a post where I’m giving away invitations. Haha.

  37. Thanks for the post, Darren! *rushed out to add options to subscribe and links to the post on other pages*

  38. Great post. Here’s a thought. It’s happened to me.
    One post on my blog (dating back to Jan 2007) gets not just 2 or 3 times as many hits as any other. It regularly gets TEN times as many hits. Good news?

    Well, the thing is that the majority of those hits come from searches made by people who are NOT my target audience. It just so happens that the title of the post and the content are of much more widespread interest than are the other posts on the blog.

    My target audience comprises (wait for it): Accountants.
    The popular post is on as aspect of communication that is clearly of widespread interest. The hits generated by that post skew my stats and mean that I have to work hard to glean info about the real audience for the blog – being accountants who I try to encourage to return on a regular basis.

    Just another perspective I guess.

    Love your advice though Darren. It’s got me thinking.

  39. Hi,

    Interesting post. But how about linking back to a popular post from recent posts. That is also a good way of getting more impressions to a post.

  40. You’ve just won a subscriber!

  41. On a “vegetarian myspace layout” post i wrote at the beginning of my vegetarian blog, it was/is a BIG POST.

    I get good traffic from it daily still, and have optimized it some, since first writing it. Will be sure to see how else i can do better with it.

    I actually created a whole page, as an offshoot on that first post. And it does well, but as i read your tips above, it can do even better.

  42. Definitely a good post for me right now. I have a specific post that has got a lot of traffic from a related blog. I tried to spin it into a series, but the other posts just don’t get as much love.

    I also get a lot of SE traffic for this post as well. I think my problem is interlinking the posts better.

  43. Darren,

    This is a fine post! I’ve practiced some of your explained points here.

    I agree – when a blog post hit big time, I must capitalise and explore what would made it a big time, and write my future posts evolving around the similar topic and writing style.

    Thanks Darren :)


  44. Submit your site to web link directories [quality ones not link farm] will also help your web traffic.

  45. Thanks for these tips. Would surely implement them in the near future once TN gets a steady traffic.

  46. Great post. Will keep coming back to track your stats!

  47. Reading your posts on a daily basis is a pleasure! Learned alot :)

  48. One thing that I was missing: when a certain post performs really well, in terms of conversion rates and/or in terms of the traffic it gets, it might be a good idea to link it from your homepage. Or better yet – using a sitewide link through a sidebar.

    Using the right anchor, will help such pages in the SERPs. If such a page doesn’t convert well but is linked often, or is already has a link from a strong source (otherwise it wouldn’t be popular in the first place), than it should make a good landing page.

    I use lists of such selected links, with “best of” titles. I mix in pages that convert well but aren’t that popular, which usually gain attention this way.

    Another thing: I wouldn’t recommend any further on-page optimization (tip no. 2) to an already successful page, except for people who know exactly what they’re doing, since it has a better chance of harming the page due to over-optimization.

  49. There are a lot of good tips here. Thank you!

  50. Darren, I havent read all the comments and if anyone mentioned this already. But though you mentioned improving your old posts, I believe you missed one huge point: Rewriting

    Yes, the first thing of optimizing your posts should be a rewrite. You have other great advice there, though I guess it’s widely not possible to make the old post load faster since it is dependent on the overall loading time of the blog, correct? I don’t know about self-hosted blogs, in Blogspot it’s the case. Recently I did a better rewrite on one of my popular old posts and it thenceforth attracted some good user viewpoints.

    when you look back at your posts some months ago, you will know there are certain errors and weak constructions you overlooked at the time of publishing them. Hence it is extremely important that you occasionally check out your old posts and find ways to improve them

    Another reason is deep linking. Anyway, you are going to continue writing more posts and on relevant topics. There is always room for deep linking to newer posts from one of your older posts. You have to revise them that way.

    Also the search engines value the blogs that well tend their posts. The bloggers that revise their old posts occasionally are ranked higher, yes, actually.


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