This guest post is by Hassan Osman of TheCouchManager.com.
Less than a month after I launched my blog, one of my posts got featured on Freshly Pressed—Wordpress.com’s homepage where each weekday, ten posts are selected from around 450,000 new blog posts.
I didn’t even know what Freshly Pressed meant until I saw an email from one of the WordPress editors congratulating me on being featured.
As you might imagine, the traffic results were huge. In the following day or so, I received over 12,000 hits, 150 comments, and 200 new subscribers. I almost fell out of my chair as my inbox filled up with hundreds of “Please moderate” and “New subscriber” messages.
In the six months that followed, my blog was featured again, and again—a total of three times for only eight posts that I had written since I started the blog. It seemed like I was doing something right.
Before sharing the reasons why my posts got selected for Freshly Pressed, there are a couple of things to note.
First, I am still relatively new to blogging and don’t have any “connections” in the blogosphere. I never asked for a favor, had my tweets endorsed by a celebrity, paid a single dime for marketing my blog, or even guest blogged (in fact, this post you’re reading right now is the first guest post I’ve ever written).
Second, the title of this post should really say why I think I made it on Freshly Pressed. I didn’t solicit nor receive any feedback from the WordPress editors explaining why they selected my posts, so the following reasons are only my own assumptions.
Why my posts were featured
I chose quality over quantity
I write an average of one blog post a month, partly because I have a really busy schedule but mainly because I don’t want to publish something on my blog that doesn’t add value. You’re probably sick of reading “content is king,” but I took that advice seriously. Given that I’m a slow writer, it takes me a good ten to 18 hours to research and write a single post. I could certainly publish a lot more frequently, but the quality of my content would definitely suffer. Had I flooded my blog with low-quality posts, the good-quality ones would have been lost in the crowd, and I might have fallen off the WordPress editors’ radars. If you’re a part-time blogger like me, then you’ll most likely have to choose between either quality or quantity—and my vote always goes to quality.
I used list posts
Here are the titles of the three posts that made it on Freshly Pressed:
- 8 Interpretations of Silence Ehen Using Instant Messaging
- 5 Annoying Replies That Don’t Require “Reply All”
- 14 Tips for Designing a Highly Productive Home Office (GTD Friendly)
The one thing that’s common to all of them is that they’re list posts (posts that have a number of list items in them). I think people love reading those types of posts because they have a lot more structure than free-form ones. They’re also much simpler to scan through for readers who don’t have a lot of time to read. If you look at the top viral articles on sites like Digg, Reddit, and Delicious, you’ll most probably find several list posts on their front pages, so they do get shared more frequently among readers.
It is worth noting that not all of the Freshly Pressed selections have been list posts (in fact, the majority of the ones that were selected along with mine were not), so this is not really a rule of thumb, but it certainly worked for me.
I created custom images
I’m a highly visual person, and I love using images to illustrate my ideas. Most bloggers (including A-listers) use stock image photographs in their posts to break up text and to support content. While using stock pictures is definitely more appealing than using no pictures at all, I think that you need to differentiate yourself from the masses by using customized images.
For my blog, I use either an illustration or a picture that I create myself—and I don’t need to use any sophisticated software to do so. For the illustrations in these posts, I hand-sketched them using plain paper and colored pens, and then scanned them into my PC. For the pictures, I use plain old Microsoft Paint to tweak and type some text on them. Of course, it takes a bit more time and effort to create customized images, but that, apparently, pays off.
I focused on a niche, but targeted a mass audience
This sounds counterintuitive, so let me explain. My blog is about increasing productivity and saving time while working from home, so I focused on a niche that targets professionals who work remotely.
However, for the posts that got selected for Freshly Pressed, I didn’t focus purely on that niche alone. Instead, I allowed for some flexibility by targeting a broader audience. For example, my post about building a productive home office primarily helps business owners and managers who telecommute, but it also helps a greater demographic, including regular office workers and college students, in organizing their workspaces. By targeting a mass audience while keeping my niche in mind, I increased my chances of being selected.
Not just for Freshly Pressed
As an added benefit, those four reasons also helped increase my subscriber base because they made my blog more “sticky.” When I analyzed the site statistics after every surge in traffic, I noticed that there was a relatively high click-through rate for my other posts. This meant that visitors were not directly leaving after reading one post, but they were sticking around to read other posts and eventually subscribed. So even if you don’t get featured on Freshly Pressed, following those tips should help your blog grow!
Hassan Osman is a Senior Program Manager at Cisco Systems and a graduate student at Harvard. He runs large and complex projects while working from home, and blogs about increasing productivity and effectively managing virtual teams on www.thecouchmanager.com (views here are his own).