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Characteristics of Traffic Generating Posts

When I set TwiTip up look after itself over the weekend (I set up a few posts to go live at specific times) I wasn’t expecting it to be a huge weekend of traffic. The posts were good – but there were less than during the week and past history shows weekends are quiet (particularly those after big holidays like Thanksgiving).

On Sunday night I logged into the blog to moderate comments and was surprised to see that on Saturday the blog had had it’s highest day of traffic since it was launched a few weeks back and Sunday was looking good to be a pretty decent day too.


What happened?

As I reflect upon the reasons for this traffic – it all comes down to content. Over the weekend I had two particular posts that drove the vast majority of traffic to the blog.

In this post I want to take a look at these two posts and reflect upon some of their characteristics that I think were responsible for the traffic.

1. Ten People All Twitter Beginners Should Be Following this is the post that started it all. It was a guest post by Mark Hayward that I really should have known had the potential to go viral (I guess when I posted it on the Friday I was a little tired after a big week).

Why did the post draw in a lot of traffic? A number of reasons come to mind:

  • Controversy – while I don’t believe Mark intended it to be controversial – it was. There was quite a bit of talk around Twitter about those included in this list of Twitter users and whether they should have been included, who was missed out, whether the list should have been written…. etc. Of course every time it was discussed the link was passed on which of course drew people to have a look.
  • List – the ‘list’ format of post is a classic way of getting a post to go viral. Find out why in my post – 8 Reasons Why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to Your Blog.
  • People Focus – there’s something about writing about other people that seems to draw a crowd. I’m not sure why it is – but I can think of numerous occasions that I’ve published posts about ‘people’ where the posts went viral. One of the reasons for this is that the people being written about (and their fans) often pass on these lists to others (a few retweeted it themselves).
  • Fulfilled a Need – whether you agree with the list or not – it actually seemed to connect with a lot of readers simply because they were beginner users of Twitter and didn’t know who to follow. This post gave people with this need an answer to this problem and a practical way to fix it.
  • Social Media – of course one of the advantages that a blog about Twitter has is that it tends to be read by fairly active Twitter users who are used to spreading links around as part of their normal web surfing. This post (and the next one) got linked to quite a bit on Twitter.
  • Repeat Tweets – one of the weaknesses with Twitter as a way of spreading news of a post on your blog is that when you tweet your links the impact of those tweets can be quite temporary because they tend to only be seen by people for a short period of time before your tweet is pushed down the list of tweets that they are following. I find that reweeting your own tweets every now and again can give fresh momentum to those who didnt’ see your first one (I only do it on my best posts and a maximum of 2-3 times a day.

2. Construct your own ‘Top 10 Must Follow’ List as it Relates to Your Own Niche – this next post was not planned and was written on the fly on Sunday morning after I logged in and saw some of the buzz around the first post above.

As I began to read some of the comments on the first post (both those that didn’t like the list and those that did) I realized that there was an opportunity to take the ‘buzz’ further.

Actually – if I am honest, the idea the idea actually came to me as I did damage control and as I wrote a comment on the first post answering some of the concerns that readers had with it. I didn’t really want things to blow up and was trying to find a way to turn some of the negativity into something more positive.

One of the recurring comments about the first post was that it was too narrow – that the list just focused upon those into social media as a topic. It struck me that while this was a valid critique that on another level it actually made the list more valuable to those with that interest.

A light bulb went on and in the comment I suggested people create more lists that focused upon specific niches/topics/industries. Within 20 minutes of making that suggestion people began to take up my idea and post comments. I quickly realized that the idea had energy and decided to make the idea into an actual post.

Once I did this – the post really took off. A number of reasons come to mind as to why it did:

  • Momentum – the first post fed the second (and the second fed the first). I find that when I write posts one after the other that build upon each other that it can have a powerful impact upon a blog’s traffic. This is a perfect example of what I talk about in a previous post – How to Keep Momentum Going by Building on Previous Posts. One of the take home lessons from this is that it’s important to monitor how people are responding to your posts because in those responses could be a seed for future ones.
  • Reader participation – this post gave readers a specific invitation to do something very practical and relevant to their own interests. People respond well to invitations to answer questions or do little challenges (as long as they are not too hard) and that is part of the reason for the success of this post. Interestingly, many of the people who constructed lists then went on to tweet links to their comments because they were proud of their submissions and they were relevant to what they used Twitter for.
  • Positive/Constructive Focus – while there was a slight negativity about some of the comments in the first post’s ‘controversy’ – there was a very different vibe in the comments on the second. People seemed to appreciate and respond well to the positive and constructive challenge.
  • Invitation to Blog about it – in this post I gave people the opportunity to leave their lists either in comments or on their own blogs. Most left comments but a number blogged about it – most of those that did linked back to my post to give their list context (even though I didn’t require or even ask for this).

Concluding Remarks

The lists of characteristics in these posts above are things that I think are some great starting points for writing popular posts. They don’t guarantee them – and you certainly couldn’t use them all in every post that you write – but as I look over them I see that many of them have worked for me in previous posts.

It also strikes me as I read through them that while I was quite strategic about my second post – that the first one was a little more accidental (at least from my perspective). Sometimes posts have a life of their own take off for reasons you didn’t anticipate. The key in these times is to be watching out for opportunities to extend the life of these traffic events.

PS: to further build the momentum on these two posts I’m going to take some of the reader submitted lists and turn them into posts themselves (see the update on the second post).

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. Nice to know that you got good traffic even on weekends.

    And I wonder, what if you had published the same articles on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday!
    It would have been still popular, I guess.
    Anyway Cheers :)
    I read those articles on Saturday myself and were good enough to get huge traffic..

  2. Darren,

    Those were awesome posts. i am a regular Twitip reader and I was struck immediately when I saw the second post on how perfect it was. One of my reasons for posting my list of green Twitter folks was to see if others would add theirs.

    I think this post will have a lot of legs as people go back to see what others have posted.

  3. Thanks for sharing this!

    For me I have found that controversy is usually something that creates buzz and generates a lot of traffic.

    It’s especially effective when you take a unpopular/radical/outlandish position.

    Some people structure their post title to take an unpopular position (which gets traffic) and then explain things in their post so they end up not seeming so radical.

  4. Hi Darren,

    I was embroiled in the TwiTip post thing over the weekend. I subscribed to comments and saw a few trickles – left for a bit, came back to find 52 emails in my in basket. Viral indeed.

    This recap is bookmark-worthy as a reminder about post structuring. If you’re going to post something anyway, why not structure it to obtain the most readers?


  5. I found that listing things in a post in an orderly manner, as well as solving some problems is one of the greatest ways to get traffic.

  6. Darren i keep on following your posts on twitip and here @problogger. Thanks for sharing this.

    I have seen that Reader participation on posts help a great deal in driving the traffic. I had success with this earlier. what i was surprised to read was you were getting good traffic even on weekends :). Cheers !!!

  7. I really enjoyed the posts and the comment discussions, it was very valuable to me and kept me clicking back. A lot of the points you bring up are things I’ve also noticed about threads that get a lot of posts on the forum I run.

    “The key in these times is to be watching out for opportunities to extend the life of these traffic events.”

    Is so true, you have to be ready to seize opportunity whenever it presents itself. I do wonder how you present it as genuine enthusiasm and not cynical opportunism (not that I think you do that, just that it’s a concern of mine that I’ll be viewed that way)

  8. Darren, Thanks for another Great Post. I’m a firm believer
    in #1 How to Keep Momentum Going by Building on Previous Posts. We practice that idea in our Blog Endeavors Constantly.
    When You Are Blogging While Sanctified? – Thank God, it’s
    and Excellent means to share grace and truth. Peace!

  9. I agree completely, sometimes posts can really surprise you. I had the same thing happen to me with a post over thanksgiving. I thought it was pretty benign and wouldn’t generate much traffic, but it became one of my top posts in just a few hours.

  10. Great post!

    I find that my posts that generate a lot of traffic are the ones concerning breaking news. Unfortunately though, I don’t write a lot of those since my blog is about literature/writing.

    But if I’m really lucky, a post will be Stumbled and it will shoot my stats up through the roof! I love those times!

    Keep up the good work!!!

  11. Darren,

    Now that’s a great blog post idea!

    Blog about “the top 10 must follow…” Will definitely be my blog’s next post.

    Thanks for the idea :)

  12. Great post I fully agree with you. I have experienced in many times. May be in a few posts. I wrote the post with no expectations in my mind but that was the post which got a lots of readers.

  13. Very good post. Books could be written (and have been) about the psychological aspects of “information consumption” you touched on. It’s important to understand where your readers are coming from, so I think posts like this are more valuable than they appear at first glance.

  14. Hi Darren,

    Very nice post indeed! Thank you for sharing this with us! I also agree that these “traffic generators” are true!

  15. wow, this is really a cool blogging week-end! ;-)
    Thank you very much for sharing these insights… I already started to think about how I can use them for my niche… ;-)
    I think a real key was the reader participation – that really works, people want to get involved, share their opinion… you know, that whole social media thing… ;-)
    And thanks for the idea with the “Top 10 must follow list” – this is really cool!! :-)
    Have an awesome day!

  16. There are many characteristics of traffic generating posts, but the most important thing is getting response out of the reader. If you know that people are responding to your post then they must have something important to say. That tells you that people are interested in your content and it is likely that other people will come and at least read that post.

  17. Wow, I didn’t know about your Twitter blog! Another one to keep an eye on.

    You really hit the nails on the head with this one! Whether we like it or no, controversy will get a post rolling in no time. The key is to make is a controlled discussion and not a bar room brawl. :-) Eric.

  18. Yesterday (Sunday) was my highest traffic day ever and it happened because someone who follows me on Twitter reTweeted my link. She is WAY more popular than I, and it drove traffic to my blog. I linked to an old blog post with relevant appeal on the holiday weekend. It was a short video, easy on the eyes, so to speak and very poignant for everyone – writers (my niche) and non-writers alike.

    I guess it can be said that in blogging, a little help from our friends is a good thing indeed.

  19. Thanks for the twitter tip – I think that’ll help a lot of us bloggers out as that seems to be one of the main ways of generating traffic nowadays –

  20. Interestingly enough I had pretty good traffic this weekend, and I didn’t even post this weekend.

    I will have to try to set up posts ahead of time like you did.

  21. Darren, another great post. Thanks for sharing these tips, I’ll be sure to employ them in my future post.

  22. Thanks for the tips, I’ll be sure to employ them in the future!

  23. Awesome post. I love using top 10 lists because they are easy to follow and people love reading them.

  24. Since Friday I have noticed a huge drop in the number of visitors to my sites which is a little worrying, but has spurred me on to write a few more posts to publish throughout the week. I to have experienced the ‘list-post’ effect when I published one just a few weeks ago. It became my most popular post from day 2 of its publication and has remained there ever since. I must think of more……and quickly!!

  25. Very interesting. I think an important element to the popularity of that post is because it speaks to the human inclination to compete, rank and file. I’ve been seeing sites out there that rank Twitter users, assign values to your Twitter account, and all numbers of things. So, a post which lists the top Twitter users is bound to get attention. And, sure, its also going to be controversial.

    The post is good because it sets a spark to the gas can which is normal human inclination.

    Just my theory. ;-)

  26. Has anyone promoted there blog with adwords. Im think of doing that you can get some cheep clicks like 0.01 to .05 which is great for my blog and not much if your willing to promote your blog. Anyone please.

  27. Yea, I got alot of great ideas for my own Top 10 list from these posts over the weekend. Good job!

  28. great evaluation darren…………you have good analysis…!

  29. Thanks for another wonderful post, Darren. I could indeed use a prepping up of my post to gain more traffic and beef up my blog’s PR. :)

  30. As a blogger myself I am very grateful for this insight you have here…has helped me a lot. Also I understand the importance of gaining quality oneway links for SEO etc. With this in mind I have created a bloggers link directory where you can get a permanent oneway backlink with 3 deep links as well. The directory is mainly aimed at bloggers but if you have a blog attached to your website or you have regularly updated content then that is ok too if you want to list in it.
    Cost is minimal for now as the directory is new so jump in while it is cheap, just click on the link in my post. Just like to say thansk Darren for offering such a great analysis of the above case and it has helped me immensely. I hope my directory is able to help out some fellow bloggers!

  31. I have some great idea for a blog post and now the idea for “10 must follow people” combined to write one great post.

  32. Thanks dareen.
    I have same story.
    I will not mention the accurate day but want to tell.I posted 1 article on my blog and put some back links.After 2 hours i was surprised to found that 890 visitors are came from only 1 link.And 23 Email readers registered on my blog that time.
    But this happened due to backlinks.

  33. hey Darren – interesting observations and thank you for making the stats data available as I was wondering how the post did.

    As you noted, it was NEVER my intention to be controversial. In fact, I was shocked when I finally came back to the connected world after the weekend and fournd there were so many comments….

    Funny, because I do everything in my power to avoid confrontation, but it does go to show you the “power” of the list.

  34. Darren,

    I really appreciate your post(s). This post will help a lot of people, especially me, and you are most kind to put in the effort.

  35. Yes, everyone likes controversy, for every one commenter there were probably ten readers that just wanted to watch the shock!

  36. Question:
    I had a stat graph like you showed in this post when I used wordpress.com. Now I use self-hosted WP.

    Is there a way to use their stats? A plug-in?

    Thanks for your help.
    I can be contacted on Twitter @jendisjournal.

  37. Impressive traffic. That’s what I want for Christmas. Wake up on Christmas morning and see my traffic hit the 8,000 mark!


  38. I finally got around to joining Twitter today. Thanks for the advice.


  39. I tried a list piller content post a few days ago, I think I did a pretty good job at it. Then I joined two reasonably big photographer net working websites and posted 2 blogs and 2 forum posts in the sites about the life of a photographer paparazzi with links back to the list blog post in my profile. I did get a surge in page views that lasted about 3 days but it went back down. I need a bigger archive maybe.

    Still a baby paparazzi blog.

  40. thanks for great eavaluation about traffic generation…. I see the progress in the grafik

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