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5 First Year Posts that Led to Over 6 Million Views

Posted By Darren Rowse 10th of October 2013 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts 0 Comments

What sort of content should you publish on your blog to help you grow traffic in your first year?

There is no right or wrong answer to that question as each blog will be different depending upon the topic, your writing style and the purpose of your blog. However, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the earliest posts that I wrote on Digital Photography School and talk a little about how each contributed to the growth of the site.

What follows is a selection of posts that I published in the first year of Digital Photography School (back in 2007) and some reflections on how I think they helped grow readership on the site.

5 Posts on dPS that Helped Me Grow Traffic

Note: what you’re seeing here is how the posts look today. We’ve been through 3 redesigns in that time.

1. 15 Stunning Images Using Blur to Portray Movement

Early posts on dps

This post was the most viewed post on dPS in the first year (in that 12 month period it had 183,269 visitors). It was published about 8 months after the site launched and was one of the first times I experimented with what I later started to call ‘image collections’.

This style of post was a move away from the normal ‘tutorial’ type of posts that I did. While the majority of the posts on dPS were ‘information’ heavy this post was almost completely images (a series of 15 of them) and it highlighted the importance for me of ‘inspiration’.

One thing I’m glad I did in this post was to link it back to a previously written ‘tutorial’ that I’d written on the same topic (which I did in the first paragraph). This led to some decent traffic to that ‘information’ heavy post.

This post was something of a slow burner in terms of traffic. It wasn’t until 4 weeks after I published it that it suddenly saw a rush of traffic from StumbleUpon and Reddit (peaking at 27,000 visitors in a day).

Two years after I published this post I gave it an update and reposted it to the front page of the site. This resulted in another great spike in traffic to the post as at that time it was featured on the front page of Digg (bringing in 24,000+ visitors in a day).

In 2010, the post again had a spike of 15,000+ visitors in a day after being linked to from another large site.

This post has continued to get traffic every day. It’s not spectacular daily traffic (it has averaged 100 or so visitors per day over the last month) but when you think about the long tail life of this post it adds up. The post has been viewed 786,547 times since being published.

2. 4 Easy Photoshop Techniques to Make Your Pictures Pop!

Early posts on dps 2

This very early post (published 20 days after the launch of the site) was the one that opened my eyes to the potential of the site on a couple of levels.

Firstly, it was the first time the site saw a post go viral from any kind of social media after it was featured on the front page of Digg (which brought in 45,000+ visitors in a day and crashed our servers).

Secondly, the post was the first time I’d ever published a guest post. In the first year I did only publish a handful of guest posts and wrote 99% of them myself but this did change my opinion of the featuring other people’s voices on my blog.

Thirdly, this was the first ever post that we’d done on the topic of ‘post production’. Up until this point I’d always just published posts that were how to ‘take’ photos rather than how to manipulate and process them in photoshop. Later I went on to add a post production section to the site.

What is interesting to me about this post is that while it is now dated (as there are new versions of Photoshop out and new tools available to photographers) it still continues to get decent traffic. The post still regularly gets 200 visitors a day and has had over 1.7 million page views now despite me never really promoting it since the early days of the site (it’s almost all Google traffic).

3. 11 Surefire Tips for Improving Your Landscape Photography

Early posts on dps 3

This post is written in a style that has always been popular on dPS – the ‘list post’.

As the title suggests there are 11 tips in the post listed. Each point is 2-3 paragraphs long and then most link deeper into the site to other articles that go deeper on those topics. As a result a reader can get a good introduction to the topic but are encouraged to read more of the archives.

Scattered through the post are also great illustrative images for the points mentioned.

In later years I’ve included larger images and more of them – but this was an early version of this style of post.

This post did particularly well on StumbleUpon in the first year after it was published and saw around 148,000 visitors come to the site in that 12 months (half of which came from StumbleUpon).

Interestingly I noticed that as a result of StumbleUpon traffic (and a day that it did well on Reddit) we then saw a number of other larger blogs link to up to the post.

Lastly – for years I have used this post as a piece of ‘cornerstone’ content on the blog and have often linked to it when I mention Landscape Photography in other posts. By linking back to it so many times I was always driving traffic to this post in those early years.

Since it was published the post has been viewed over 1.3 million times – approaching 10 times more traffic than it got in its first year after publication!

This to me highlights the importance of extending the life of posts in your archives by pushing traffic back to them over time.

4. How to Photograph Fireworks

Early posts on dps 4

There are no prizes for guessing what time of year this post went live – that’s right – in the lead up to 4 July 2007 (about 6 months after the site launched). I actually published the post on 26 June to allow it to have time to be indexed by Google.

My theory was that there would be a lot of people searching for tips on how to photograph fireworks at that time, and I was right.

This post saw only a bit of traffic in its first week but on 4th July it saw 32,000+ visitors – almost all of which came in from Google.

I’ve updated this post and republished it on the front page of the site every July since 2007. It is the post that just keeps on giving. Here’s a screen shot of traffic to the site – with spikes every 4th July and New Years Eve.

Fireworks seasonal traffic

To this date the post has been viewed just under 1.5 million times.

The key lesson to me from this post was to consider when you can write seasonal content. We’ve done this a variety of times with Christmas Photography Tips and Halloween Photography Tips posts doing pretty well too.

5. ISO Settings in Digital Photography

Early posts on dps 5

All of the posts linked to above have had spectacular days of traffic but this post was quite unmemorable in many ways.

It was on a very beginner topic. I even remember wondering whether I should publish information this basic in those early days. It was a relatively short post on a niche topic that was a part of a series where I looked at the topic of Exposure and covered ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.

Traffic to the post in the first year never rose above 800 visitors in a day and averaged only 150 per day.

But here’s the thing… this post is one of the most viewed posts I’ve ever written and has been viewed just under 2.4 million times since I published it.

You might be wondering when it featured on the front page of Digg or was linked to by a major blog… but the reality is that it never had a day of traffic over 5000 visitors (and that was just once). Here’s the traffic graph since the early days:

ISO

Where did the traffic come from? The vast majority of it was from search engines. Facebook is the next highest referrer of traffic and it only sent 17,927 views.

This is another example of a ‘cornerstone’ piece of content that must have linked to hundreds of times from other articles on the site when I mention the term ISO. I did this the same with the Shutter Speed and Aperture posts in this series (incidentally this 4 post series has had close to 6 million page views – I’m glad I wrote it).

The key lesson here is that even the most simple concepts are worth writing about. You might think a concept is too basic but there’s no doubt that others will want that information (another example of this was my ‘How to Hold a Camera‘ post that I almost didn’t publish but which has been viewed almost 600,000 times).

The other key lesson is that growing traffic to your blog is not always about trying to write shareable content that might go viral. This post is just a simple article that attempts to serve my readers. It wasn’t written with growing traffic in mind – rather it was written to serve my current readers.

I do believe that it is wise to write some of your content with ‘finding new readers’ in mind – but the majority of your posts should focus upon serving the readers you already have.

What Posts Did You Write in Your First Year that Helped You Grow Your Blog?

I have really enjoyed creating this post and have actually gotten some great idea for future posts on dPS from doing this analysis of old posts on the site.

I’d encourage you to dig into your own stats and see what you notice about your old posts that have gone well – I’d also love to hear about them in comments below!

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Mister Sir (Darren),

    You are an inspiration. I am just barely two months old with my blog and have just hit my 100th view. No, they aren’t unique views, but they are views nonetheless. It is hard to stand out with all of the competition, but I plan to stay the course. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Josh

    • Josh,

      Have you seen the latest platform yet? Go to my site and check out the video’s and grab the PDF. Your whole world will change.

  2. Wow! You just amaze me with those numbers. Will I be able to get there Darren? I have a post on my blog that has got more than 4000 words and I am moulding it to be my cornerstone content.

  3. walaweeeyy..its awesome to see u got such high traffics with awesome articles.

    i’m doing a few experiments and i get about 6k sharings on facebook on a article. It feels so great!

  4. The photo in the third post (about landscape photography) is one of the best shots I’ve seen. Beautiful!

    The power of patience is profound! (Sounds like a good headline huh?)

    :-)

  5. Cool…Awesome, Wish I could get as many visitors as it is,
    So far, the daily average visitors of my blog recently reached 3k

  6. Woow theres no doubt about that good content gets quality traffic, this is an example of the dedication that bloggers must have a to his website to get results. Congratulations

  7. That is a lot of traffic. You must be ranking number 1 in most google searches

  8. Niche topics seem to do well for me – like a post I wrote on whether Costco membership is worth it. Not numbers like yours though! :-)

  9. I think that the posts that have the most potential for traffic are the ones that have pictures of videos. I do not have too many of either on my site but I noticed that my posts with infographics get the most shares, likes, tweets and traffic.

  10. Though my blog is not primarily about writing, my post “Writing Tips from C. S. Lewis” got me nearly a 500,000 pageviews in one of my early years of blogging. http://www.tillhecomes.org/writing-tips-from-c-s-lewis/

  11. I have two websites and the two major posts that went viral were:

    CrashingRed.com – DIY tutorial for a neon rope necklace. That post went wild from the first day and until now it’s the major traffic driver. Over 100,000 views now, I published it in January 2012.

    SoNailicious.com – the post where I announced my new “30 Nail Art Designs & Tutorials” e-book published. It was March 2013 went crazy. It’s a cornerstone post too. Now, just that one post gets around 10,000 views every month. For a blog that is less than a year old, I consider this is a great number.

    So yes, you’re absolutely rigt on all your points – cornerstone posts, how to-s and image collections work wonders :)

  12. There ain’t nothing better than to be yourself, people, to get traffic to your web. Talk about your problems, solutions and thing great in your life and it gets read, period. Be real and your content becomes informative. It’s not hard at all. Have common sense. People want to know they are not the only ones going through what they are going through. They want solutions, be that solution and people will read your stuff desperately.

  13. Wow….that’s lots of traffic. Thank you for inspiring and sharing your views. I have got certain ideas to put up on my blog. Thanks again.

  14. You blog presentation is awesome.I really liked it…..Keep writing more and more. I voted for your blog and suggested your blog to my friends also.

  15. Hello,

    Nice way to illustrate your success online. I found a few things I’m going to implement today :-)

    Best,
    Anders Hasselstrøm

  16. Blur Movements are a great tactic of photography.
    Coming to your question, I currently don’t have written any posts that can go viral like the ones generating thousands of pageviews. However I am willing to write some and I have to perfect idea for the topic of the post.
    Great work Darren :)

  17. This is really valuable insight Darren, thanks. In one post you’ve given more information about how to really stand out and get noticed than most of the advice that supposes to give such advice.

    In the end, the lesson here is to love your topic, care more about giving people the tools to stand out and get noticed themselves. I mean, who doesn’t want to have their photos admired or feel the sense of pride and fulfilment of creating something beautiful.

    And making it easy to find out how to do this is another hot tip. Of course, it might not be easy to do this. It takes time and practice, and sometimes a lot of mishits. But it’s worth it in the end.

    Thanks for sharing this, Darren.

  18. I just started a new blog a few months ago. I’ve noticed that even though I do not run a photography blog, photography-related posts bring more hits. Interesting.

  19. hi, i really like firework photography tips and i like to find-out something new in my today’s whole day. thanks for this really lovely tutorial.

  20. Darren, great post! Your the photographer I have always wanted to be, haha. At least I got some reading material to help with trying to figure out how to work this SLR beyond the button to snap photos.

  21. Hi Darren — now that’s a useful post above!

    I, too, often almost overlook 101-level topics, which can often prove to be great ongoing traffic drivers.

    For my site, real practical How to Do It type posts have also done very well. One of my longest-running popular posts along the lines of your ISO basics is How I Make $5,000 a Month as a Paid Blogger. (As it happens, I think even you retweeted that one!)

    Apparently, a lot of people want to know how to do that. Also have a basic Twitter tips for writers post that keeps on trucking.

    Every blogger should think about what sort of basic, evergreen information they could impart. Every blog needs those “tent poles,” as they call them in movie marketing — big posts that will keep on drawing a crowd, and draw the audience to the ‘theater’ (your blog) to maybe consume other posts as well.

  22. Wow! What a shoot up! This is really inspiring especially for us internet marketers. Blogging used to be my hobby but now it’s giving me money so that’s how I started my online online business and decided on having my own website.

  23. Hello Darren!
    I’ve been following your site, your tutorials and e-books for quite a long time. I guess I am in a sense your “product.” I’m now going through your various tips and tricks concerning building new post and brainstorming ideas for these posts (The First Week of Blogging e-book). This post is simply brilliant. You showed a very clever way to make even more of your best pieces of writing. You showed that pillar content pieces are ever green and that blogging can indeed last for years, not weeks or months (as some say).
    Thank you!

  24. From my 6 years of experience in blogging, I can say that, we will get 80% of more traffic from an article that was having an attractive image/illusions.

  25. I have yet to make any headway to get huge traffic on my blog despite blogging for one and a half year. I have hardly 200 daily visitors because I could not have gotten any big lift from back links or google rank; but I will do it and not disappointed a little even. I will never quite blogging either I succeed or not

    • Hi Edson,

      Just took a quick visit to your site. This is just my thought on why your traffic is a little slow at the moment: You’ve got Adsense on your site plus other quite large adverts. Both these overwhelm your actual content and make it a little hard to read. You’ve got a good message that’s getting hidden at the moment.

      Ads on a site like Problogger work because it’s an established blog. You might think about dropping the ads on your site until your audience has grown larger. And make your content stand out more by making the font bigger and darker.

      Hope this helps a little.

      Cheers!

  26. Blog posts written in form of a directory of tutorials, resources, bookmark tools and in-depth how-to guides will generate ever green content because they have more potential to go viral.

  27. Hi Darren,

    Heavy emphasis on teaching.

    I like it.

    Big number lists/tips worked for me too last year.

    Thanks!

  28. Thanks for the tips, and the inspiration.

    As a relatively new blogger, I’m still learning the ropes, but have been surprised to see which of my posts have become popular – mainly due to SEO or two small /r/frugal reddit spikes.

    It’s always an eye opener doing my monthly analytics deep dive to see the trends in traffic sources, hot posts, etc.

  29. The potential of the online environment is amazing. I love these type of examples. The passion and the work is deadly combination. In this example, it can be seen perfectly. Darren you are an inspiration to me, thank you for this entry and for being such a great example of person who DO it and show how it was done. Yours sincerely, Michael May.

  30. The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is more than true… In this case, it was not only worth thousands of words, but millions of page views too :-)

  31. Well, in addition to the fact that these are posts with pictures they are also about solving a problem. That is exactly my experience with my new blog. If you can help someone make their life easier or solve their problem or save them time/money, readers will appreciate that. It is all about creating a value proposition for your reader.

  32. Wow! 5 Years and counting! Congratulations!

  33. Kudos! It’s unbelievable, I don’t think I’ll be ever able to write a post that generates so much traffic. Of course, when the content is good, there is no reason not to expect many visitors. I guess these articles have been shared many times. Your post really inspires me!

  34. Wow ! Very nice share , Darren. 5 years and counting . Congrats.

  35. Nice post and amazing information for me because most of thing which i was not aware whereas those are very important. Great post

  36. This article is definitely a win.Thanks for sharing these tricks.

  37. I love photography and those posts were great. I liked the first one about adding blur and motion to photographs. Wish I had more time to take pictures than I do. Thanks.

  38. Budi for a second I was convinced you were going to say much less than 3k, that’s alot of traffic. May I ask, what your best traffic strategy is :D

  39. This was one of the first websites I went to when I started my blog almost 2 years ago (after reading your book ProBlogger). My blog has gone from strength to strength. Thank you for all of your great tips and advice, it’s really appreciated :-)

  40. Darren,

    This is truly an inspiration to see how you’ve managed to keep updating these posts to keep them fresh and keep getting insane levels of traffic year after year.

    I’m going to have to make a note of this.

    P.S. – I dabble a bit in photography, so I’m going to have to check out all the posts that you mentioned too.

  41. Thanks for the inspiration Darren, and congrats on the numbers. I really love your blog, I will be visiting often.

  42. Really inspiring articles Darren. New bloggers can get motivated just by looking at your traffic figures.

  43. I think the trick is always to try and find a content gap in your niche – all of our most successful posts always come as a result of either writing about, or presenting something in, a novel way, finding a gap in the niche, or writing something that is targeted to influential Tweeters i.e. with tons of relevant followers.

    Good post.

  44. What I have perceived from blogging in the last 8 years is that you have to help people to be successful. When I say Helping People, I mean it. Yes, that’s the key to success. If you ask me a time-frame for that it’s really not possible for anyone. In fact, analysis of this blog post can help you to understand what I really mean. In fact, Darren has got success by helping his target audience in his own way. What is the right topic for getting success, is a vague concept. Even if you write upon something where the number of searches are less, that can’t stop you from becoming an INEVITABLE component if you provide Original, Helpful, and Real Life Experience, just like what Darren does. Thanks Darren for such an important blog post like this.

  45. Inspiring number of shares!

    But I was surprised by the strange distribution of number of shares. e.g. post “ISO Settings in Digital Photography”: Facebook + Tweets + GooglePlus + Pinterset = just 28. Where did other 3.4 K come from?

    And if you go to that post it is interesting that “Other” shares is minus 378 shares. How can shares be negative?

    • Michael – with our very recent redeisgn we’re currently tweaking our sharing buttons – in doing so we lost some of the shares that had previously been recorded. Working on fixing that at the moment.

  46. Excellent post. You have given nice Ideas and i created a post about how to get your website back from Penguin update and it got more then 1 million views ;)
    Thanks
    Saif

  47. Thanks for this Darren, excellent information!
    What I have learned the hard way, it’s that the 80/20 rule applies to blogging.
    20% of your content is worth 80% of your traffic. If you research other bloggers
    it’s always a few posts that make them famous.

  48. After reading this post, I found myself on the right way. Very inspirational..

  49. I’m still learning blogs, I’ve got a few but the one I did was on my personal website which was more of a test it was about Long Tailed Tits (type of bird) and I called it:

    Know your Tits – Long-tailed Tit – Aegithalos caudatus – Scotland UK.
    and posted it to: http://gavinhamilton.com/blog/?p=85

    It got picked up and shared by bird lovers on twitter for a while and for a few days the website was very slow.

    Still learning and playing with the plugins to wordpress etc. It’s great fun and enjoyable to share content.

  50. I love this – something to aspire to – thanks Darren!
    My first two blogs were EPIC – first one was Turning Pro | is it time your little biz or blog to look professional and the 2nd was How to develop credibility through your website. Only started last month [september] – but from my experience write epic shit and don’t just write for the sack of posting.