Kumiko asks – ‘I was studying John Chow’s traffic patterns through Alexa and noticed that his popularity really surged after four of his articles were listed on Digg and his traffic went through the roof. He was ‘discovered’ through these and his traffic levels have never really looked back. And receiving a link in one of your posts has done wonderful things for my own traffic!
What were landmark posts or actions that you did in order to receive the traffic that you have now? Was there a single post or link that sent your traffic sky-high and made you a ‘pro-blogger?’
Good question – although not the easiest one to answer as there have been many such moments in the 4 or so years that I’ve been blogging.
Before answering the question from my own perspective let me make a more general observation.
Being ‘Discovered’ vs ‘Slow and Steady’ Blog Growth
Every blog is so different and for some the process of ‘being discovered’ that you write about above is definitely a factor (usually after a big blog or social network site links up).
On the other hand there are also many popular blogs out there where the rise to success was much more slow and steady.
For this second group it is the accumulation of good blogging over a sustained period of time that gets them discovered – one reader at a time, one day at a time and one post at a time. I suspect this second group represents the majority of bloggers.
If i were to plot my own blogging experience on the spectrum between being ‘discovered’ and the ‘slow and steady’ approach I’d have to say that it’s differed for me from blog to blog. Here’s how it’s been on three of my own blogs:
My first blog(a personal blog that I really need to reinvent) was definitely a slow and steady growth blog. While it did become very popular in it’s niche (emerging church/spirituality) there was no major moment when traffic exploded and stayed at high levels. Sure there were moments along the way where I had bursts of traffic but it was a long and slow growth over a number of years of blogging. The growth initially came from regular readers and then from Search Engine Traffic as my ranking in Google increased.
Here at ProBlogger things have been a little more ‘explosive’ at different times – however the slow and steady factor has definitely played a part. Perhaps the posts that put ProBlogger into the minds of many readers in it’s early days were my posts talking about the kind of money I was earning from blogging. These obviously caused a real stir – particularly when they got onto Slashdot and other large blogs (I’m not sure Digg was on the scene back then).
Also along the way there have been many other occasions where I was Dugg or LifeHackered or featured in mainstream media – however I’d still say that these exciting bursts of traffic were just part of the slow and steady growth that I’ve experienced over 2.5 years of blogging. While the big explosions of traffic are great – the readers they bring in do tend to disappear a few days later and only small percentage stay on. What you do the day after you get on the front page of Digg is in my opinion just as important (if not more) than what you did to get on the front page itself – this is where your day to day readership decides whether to keep coming back or not.
Digital Photography School
Traffic levels at DPS have been somewhat more explosive than here at ProBlogger. Perhaps it is that the topic there is a little more mainstream – but I’ve noticed that the big link ups really do have an impact – and a more lasting one than when they happen at ProBlogger.
Perhaps the post that started it all for DPS was ‘How to Hold a Digital Camera‘ (a post featured on many large tech and social bookmarking sites). I’m almost embarrassed by that – it’s the most basic post I’ve ever written – however sometimes basic is what people are after and for some reason that post was like a call to action for potential readers – the action that they took was to sign up for my newsletter, bookmark the site and subscribe to the RSS feed.
There have been numerous other posts that have done well along the way in a similar fashion – each bringing bursts of traffic (usually from larger blogs and social bookmarking sites) that resulted in more people becoming loyal to the site.
Two random thoughts have come to mind as I’ve written this:
Write for ‘real’ people
Writing about how to hold a digital camera might not be the most profound thing I’ve ever written – but it struck a cord, met a need and connected with real people (not those cool web 2.0 types – but people like our parents, neighbors and school kids). Write for real people – after all, it’s not just the web 2.0 crowd who surf the web.
Balance is the Key
While I’m someone who is always on the look out for a way to ‘get discovered’ in a new space I’ve found that it’s the day to day posts that you write that really matter most. While your linkbait might bring in 20,000 new readers from Digg today, what will you write tomorrow and what have you got in your archives that you wrote last week to keep them hanging around? I suspect that many bloggers put so much time and effort into the 1% of posts that are about getting discovered that the 99% of posts that really matter suffer.