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A Walk-Through of Reasons Why My Recent Top Posts Have Done Well

Today I’m going to talk about some posts that have worked for me in the last month on Digital Photography School, my main blog.


This episode comes about from a question received by one of our readers, Matthew. He asks if I could walk through a number of posts that have recently done well and why they have worked.

We have done this before on the blog and it worked really well, so let’s try it for the podcast.

In the last month, these four posts have all been in the top 20 on Digital Photography School. I checked Google Analytics for the most read posts, and I tried to pick ones that I haven’t talked about in the past.

In Today’s Episode 4 of My Most Viewed Blog Posts This Month and Why They Worked

  • 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know
    • Written in 2010. It’s always been a strong performer. Over 100,000 views this month. It’s shareable.
    • It’s a sneeze page – it links to 21 other posts
    • Topic – good big picture overview
    • Generates a load of page views
    • Makes a bit claim
    • Generates curiosity
    • Gets a lot of shares – over a million, people recommend this post to beginners they know
    • Feature image – has been tested and honed, something our readers love about dials works great on social because it signals topic and builds reader anxiety/curiosity
    • This post promotes our course which solves a problem
    • What we could do better – specific opt-in for the post
    • Better formatting – looks a bit tired
    • Replicate this format for specific niches of photography
  • 11 Stages That Every Photographer Goes Through
    • This was written by James Maher a guest writer. I had reservations about this post. It wasn’t a tips post.
    • It was written tongue in cheek a humour story
    • It didn’t have a “hero” image or hit the inspiration angle
    • It worked because it was relatable – I shared on facebook with a question of which stages do you relate to?
    • Touches on a pain point, stage 6 everything sucks
    • Key lesson – you don’t have to always solve a problem, you can create content that shows the reader you know where they are at and can relate to that
  • Everyday Carry – Must-have Tools for Photographers
    • This one surprised
    • Bulk of our articles are tips related
    • This is an accessory or gear article
    • Writer put all of these things in a small tin, which created a strong visual
    • The items were affordable and accessible
    • We claimed must have tools – the word tools works well
    • The post has a hack/DIY perspective
    • EveryDayCarry – is a movement that people are obsessive about, possible share on EveryDayCarry forums
  • How to Make Colors Pop in Your Portraits – Without Using Photoshop
    • I had a feeling this would work well
    • It connects with something people want to make their photos pop
    • It has strong visuals – uses beautiful images with gorgeous kids and color which would be great for sharing
    • The topic – Photoshopped images can be a polarising topic to photographers, some think of using Photoshop as evil, a technique that makes a claim to not use Photoshop will attract readers in that segment
    • Simple but useful techniques
Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view

Hey there and welcome to Episode 104 of the ProBlogger Podcast. Today, I want to talk about some posts that have worked for me in the last month on Digital Photography School, my main blog. This episode really comes about from a question that I received via email from one of our readers, Matthew, who asked if I could walk you through a number of posts that have done well for us recently, and talk about why they have worked.

We’ve done this in the past on ProBlogger on the blog. These posts have always gone really well, so let’s try for the podcast.

You probably want to check out the post I’m talking about today. I would recommend that you head over to where I will link to the four posts that I’m going to talk about. You can go away and look at them. Whilst I’m very tempted to edit these posts right now because there are a few things, particularly one of them, that I do want to update. I’m going to resist that temptation so you can see them as they are right now. Again, they’re at Let’s get into the first one.

The four posts that I want to share with you today have all been in the top 20 posts on Digital Photography School in the last month. I’ve looked in Google Analytics for the most read posts. I try to pick ones that I haven’t talked about too much in the past and particularly looking at some of our new posts which have done quite well. Traditionally, some of our older, longer term posts that have done well because they generate pretty good search traffic, but I’ve resisted the temptation to just go with those. I’ve got one of them, the other three are all fairly new posts.

Let’s start with the old one. The first post that I want to talk about before, I think I have mentioned this once before in a podcast, is a post called 21 Settings, Techniques, and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know. It’s a bit of a mouthful title. In some ways, I’m tempted to change it to make it a little simpler. It is pretty much what it says. It’s 21 Settings, Techniques, and Rules All New Camera Owner Should Know. It was written back in 2010. It’s a post I wrote myself. 

It was about two and a half years after I started Digital Photography School that I wrote that post. There was a fair bit of content on the site already. This was a bit of an attempt to do what I would now call a sneeze page. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you remember back in episode 18, I talked about this technique of building sneeze pages for your blog. Basically, if you look at this post, you’ll see that it’s basically just a list of links to other things I’ve written about already. There’s a paragraph to each point. Then there’s a link where you can go away and read more. 

As the title says, it’s 21 Settings, Techniques, and Rules All New Camera Owner Should Know. For each one of them, there is a paragraph which describes the settings, or the technique, or the rule. Then, there’s a link where you can go away and read more about that particular topic.

The post itself doesn’t have a whole heap of teaching in it. To give you an overview, a big picture kind of post. Whilst that’s quite different to a lot of the posts on the site, I think it really has appealed to our readers. They get this really quick overview. It’s a fairly introductory type of content as well. Unashamedly, we say in the title it’s for all new camera owners. We’re qualifying it. This is useful if you’re just starting out. As a result of that, it has been shared a lot. 

Every time I share this post on social media, I see people retweeting it, or tagging a friend who they think it would be relevant for. You get a lot of, “This post would be great for you because you’re just starting out,” type of sharing of content. It’s a good topic. It generates a lot of page views for us because it’s linking to 21 other posts on the site. It not only gets shared a lot and gets a lot of page views itself, it’s generating a lot as well. 

This is the beauty of a sneeze page. I really would encourage you to experiment with that technique as much as possible.

One of the other reasons I think this post particularly works is the title itself. It signals with 21 Settings, Techniques, and Rules—it’s a fairly comprehensive post even though it turns out it probably isn’t in the post itself. Although it does give you so much to go away and read. It also makes a big claim. This is 21 things that all new camera owners should know. It does make that big claim. I guess it generates some curiosity. 

People seeing that title are like, “Do I know all of these things?” It does make a bit of a big climb. I hope that even though the post is fairly short, it’s not a long post because it does link through that site so much. I hope the content backs up that particular claim.

The other thing I would say about this post is that I have changed a bit over time. It probably is in need of a bit of an update in terms of its visual design. I have changed the feature image. I did test that feature image. You’ll see there if you go, there’s a picture of a camera, its styles, and settings which relates to the topic. It is also something that seems to work on social. It signals that topic. I think in talking to a few people who’ve seen this post, they say it builds a bit of anxiety. The picture itself builds some anxiety on those who see it. 

There’s this feeling a lot of people have about cameras when they see all the dials and things that they don’t really know what any of it means. That builds some anxiety. I wonder whether that particular image is building some anxiety and maybe stimulating people to click on the link to see what it’s about. 

I guess the other part about is that it is a great starting point. If you come away and you’ve read the article and some of the others, it starts that journey for you. A lot of people do have that challenge of how do we get out of automatic mode, what do all the dials on my camera mean. This begins that journey for a lot of people in helping them to decode what’s going on with their camera. I guess it brings about change for people. It equips them to begin to get control of their camera which is what the whole site is about. It’s a good first point of contact with us.

As I’ve said, this is the post I think I would like to redesign. I probably will in a month or so once you’ve had a chance to have a look at it. I don’t want to go away and change it now, midstream. There are a few things that we can do better. I do think that this is a post that is ideal for us to add and opt into. I think we can come up with an opt in specific for a post whether it’s just a PDF version of it or whether it’s a free report for new camera owners or something like that. I think it needs an overhaul in terms of its visual appeal. It could be formatted better. Some use of headlines and some better images down the post would really help to lift this post as well. I think there’s probably some followup that we could do on this post as well.

We can do a second post—another 21 Settings. Or, we can replicate the format for posts for different niches of photography so we could do 21 settings, techniques, for portrait photographers or for landscape photographers. These are some of the things as I look at this post, it’s worked really well for us. It has probably close to two million page views over time which is pretty amazing. It’s probably now a top 50 post on the site but I think we could improve it as well. 

I guess that’s one of the things I would encourage you to do if you’ve got a great post on your site. Do the analysis, why does it work? What could you learn from it? How could you improve it? How could you make it convert for you even better? 

One of the things we have added to it in the last few months is that we now use this post to promote a course that we’ve since developed, that solves the same problem. It’s a course that we’ve developed for new camera owners. You’ll see as you look at the post down the bottom, there’s a call to action, and a video from that particular course there. It has worked pretty well for us on that front. I do want to test out a lead magnet specifically for that post as well. That’s the first post. 

Let’s look at another one. The next one I want to talk about is one that we published just four days ago as I am recording this podcast. It’s called 11 Stages That Every Photographer Goes Through. It was written by one of our guest writers—a regular writer actually—James Maher. I have to be honest, when I first saw this post, I just went live on the site. Then I do it in our Facebook sharing. I see every post that goes live usually the day it goes live.

When I look at them, I’m like, “I’m not sure whether this one’s going to really fly.” I think it’s a good post. I thought it would go done okay with our readers. I didn’t think it was going to go viral or anything. It turns out, I was wrong. I supposed that’s been in the top three posts from the last week on the site and probably end up being one of the most read posts on the site this month.

My reservation when I saw this post, again, you can find the link on today’s show notes, was that it was a bit different to most of our content on the site. It’s not a tips post, it’s not a how to post. That’s generally what we’re known for at Digital Photography School; we produce tutorials, we produce technique-based posts, this one wasn’t.

This one was written with a bit of tongue and cheek and a bit of humor. It was James telling his story in photography and the stages he went through as a photographer. It didn’t have that teaching element and a bit of humor. I wasn’t sure how my readers were going to interpret it. It also didn’t really have a hero image. A lot of our content has a beautiful inspirational image at the top of it. Whilst this one’s got some okay images in it, they almost illustrate some of the problems that we have as photographers. I was like, “Is this going to work?” Turns out it did. 

I think the number one reason that this post worked is that it’s relatable. When I shared it on Facebook, I did so with a question. I asked, “Which of these stages can you relate to the most?” Remember the title, 11 Stages That Every Photographer Goes Through. Asking that question, “Which of these do you relate to the most?” I think it was actually a good question to ask on Facebook. It may have been one of the reasons why so many people clicked on that particular post, went, and checked it out. I made them a bit curious. To really answer that question, I had to read the post first. When you go and read the post, you’ll see there that James used a bit of humor but he’s also touched on some pain of our readers as well.

It’s interesting, the most common answer to the question, “Which one do you relate to the most?” by far, people have said stage six. If you go and look at the post, stage six is titled, OMG, everything sucks and I suck. In stage six, James talks about how a lot of photographers just get to this point where they think everything that they take photos of, it sucks. It seems like that stage in particular really resonated with the readers. 

I guess my key lesson for this one is you don’t always have to solve a problem with your post, even on a teaching side. Sometimes you need to create content that shows your readers that you know their pain and where they’re at. Show them that you can relate to that, and that you’ve been there yourself. I reckon that’s why this particular post went so well. It may also be 11 Stages. I think our readers do respond well to list posts but they’re also in stages or steps or anything that walks people through something that does well to our readers. Most of all, I think it’s just one that our readers really relate to. I encourage you to try and create some content that shows your readers that you know the journey that they’re one and you’ve been there too.

The third post I want to talk about is a fairly recent one. I think it’s probably two or three weeks ago now that we’ve published this one. It’s titled, Everyday Carry—Must-Have Tools for Photographers. This was another one I was a little bit unsure how it was going to go. It surprised me that it did so well. Although in hindsight, it probably shouldn’t have. The bulk of the posts on Digital Photography School are tips related, as I’ve mentioned before. They’re tutorials. From time to time, we throw in some gear posts—posts about cameras, lenses, or accessories. This one is about accessories. It’s a suggested collection of 14 small things that photographers should carry with them all the time. 

The writer of this post, this gorgeous little tin, and shoved all of the things in quite a small little tin. I think one of the reasons that this post worked really well is that it had that strong visual—an intriguing visual. There’s something about this little tin with everything packed in it. In another shot, he unpacks everything from the tin, lays it out flatlay, and numbers out all the items. Underneath the image, lists what the items are. The items in it are a memory card, a 12-in-1 multitool pen, a Paracord, a Blu-Tack, cleaning cloth, pain relief tablet when you get a headache. It had all these little things that are just useful for photographers to have with them. All the stuff in the tin is really quite affordable.

I think it probably appeals to our readers as well. We’re not talking here about, “You need to go spend $2000 on your kit.” Here’s some little things that are going to be useful for you and you can carry with you in your pocket all the time. I think that was probably part of the appeal of this post. We also make a bit of a claim here. These are must have tools for photographers. That probably makes people a bit curious as well. 

I find that even just the word tools works well. We’ve seen this on ProBlogger recently. We’ve written a few posts, “Here are the tools we use.” People liked to see those tools. They like to compare the tools that someone uses to what they use. I know from myself if I see a post with tools that photographers should have, I’m opening that post. I want to see what these tools are. It’s just one of those things that grabs my attention.

This particular post also has a bit of a DIY about it. One of the tools is Blu-Tack. One of them’s a Paracord, like a shoelace. It’s a bit of a hack kind of thing going on here where the author shows you how to use some of these particular tools. They’re kind of DIY type of stuff. I think that appeals to our audience as well. We’ve certainly seen anything DIY works well. 

Then, the last thing is there’s this whole movement at the moment. You may or may not be aware of it called EveryDayCarry. There’s a whole forum and blog set up for the things that we carry in our pockets. I suspect this post got shared on a couple of those forums which might help generate some extra page for use as well. That one worked for a number of different reasons. I’ll be interested to experiment with that type of post again.

The last one I just really quickly want to touch on, is a post that was about a month ago now. It’s titled, How to Make Colors Pop in Your Portraits—Without Using Photoshop. This one I had a feeling at that time when I saw it that it would work well. I think there’s a number of reasons here. One, it connects with something that people want. They want their pictures to pop. That word pop has worked for us before in titles. I guess it’s something about the visual. We’re talking about photography so we want to have photos to pop. It’s just a word that I think has worked. It’s something that people desire. They want to have photos that look crisp and colorful. It taps into that. 

The post itself has very strong visual images in it. They were probably four or five images from this particular post that I could have used in social media, really beautiful images. Some of them with gorgeous, cute kids and very colorful images as you’d expect on a post on the topic of color. That really worked well for us as well. They grabbed attention. I suspect that really stood out on Facebook and on Twitter. 

Then there’s the topic itself. There’s something about this topic that I just knew would work well. Every time we talk about Photoshop on Digital Photography School, it polarizes our readers. Some people love photoshop and have no problem with post-processing images. There’s quite a segment within our readers who hate Photoshop. They think Photoshop is evil. Anything you do in postproduction is altering the true character of the image. Everything you should do should happen in the camera.

I had a feeling this particular post, How to Make Your Colors Pop in Portraits—Without Using Photoshop, I had a feeling that this particular topic would appeal to that segment of the audience who sometimes don’t like all the post production tutorials that we have. It certainly would’ve grabbed their attention and maybe appealed to them as well.

I guess the last thing about this particular post is that it’s really useful. It’s got some really simple but useful techniques as well that I think people would have benefitted from. Also, it’s on the topic of portraiture, which is our most popular topic on the site as well.

Anyway, there are four posts that I just randomly went through Google Analytics. They’re all in the top posts for us in the last month. They all have between 40,000 page views and 110,000 page views. That 21 Settings one did the best. They’ve all done pretty well in one way or the other. They all have different sources of traffic as I’ve said before. The Everyday Carry one, I suspect, had a bit of referral traffic to the others. The Color Popping one and the 11 Stages That Photographers Go Through, they all did pretty well from Facebook. Then, the 21 Settings, Techniques, and Rules did okay from Facebook. I did share it this month. It also always does well from Google. It ranks well in Google for some reason. They all had different sources of traffic. Generated quite a bit of sharing amongst our readers as well.

I hope you find that useful. It’s a bit of a different approach to our podcast. If you found it useful, please let me know over in the show notes at You can let us know why you think the post did well and maybe share your most popular posts from the last month. Tell me why you think it worked. I wouldn’t mind doing a podcast, looking at some of your most popular posts. If you’ve got one and it worked well for you, share the link in today’s show notes. Tell us why you think it works. Maybe I will pick it and tell my readers why I think it worked as well.

I look forward to chatting with you again in Episode 105 of the ProBlogger podcast in a couple of days time. Thanks for listening.

How did you go with today’s episode?

We would love to hear from you. Let us know why you think these posts did well and share your most popular post. I wouldn’t mind doing a future podcast on the topic of your most popular posts, so share one and why you think it did well.

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