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The Day 250,000 People Showed Up At My Blog: Case Study

Picture 1.pngWednesday was the biggest day of traffic that I’ve seen to any of my blogs for a very long time (perhaps ever). I mentioned this on twitter yesterday and had a few followers request that I write up how it happened – so here’s a quick recap/timeline on the 24 hours that saw around a quarter of a million visitors to Digital Photography School.

  • It all started with the publishing of this post – Long Exposure Photography: 15 Stunning Examples. The post is simply a collection of 15 amazing images all illustrating the same technique (long exposure photography). The images are all creative commons images from Flickr (meaning they are all available for republishing).
  • The post went live on DPS and was quickly submitted to Digg and StumbleUpon. I added a ‘Digg this’ button to the top of the post (now removed).
  • I had a feeling that the post would do well on StumbleUpon so was on the lookout for traffic from there so when I noticed the traffic coming in from StumbleUpon I tweeted about the post – noting that it was doing well on SU. This was the only ‘help’ I gave the post – a viral like thing began to happen.
  • Momentum from SU began to build as more and more people began to organically come from the StumbleUpon toolbar. As they did I noticed that Digg numbers began to rise also. People saw the Digg button and were clicking it naturally.
  • 4 hours after it was submitted to Digg it hit the front page of Digg. It did so with around 110 Diggs. I was quite surprised by the relatively low number of Diggs that it took and the speed that it went to the front page.
  • The first hour after the post hit the front page of Digg the traffic was around 28,000 unique visitors. This surprised me a little as it was midnight on the West Coast of the US and the early hours of the morning on the East Coast (not usually the best time to hit the front page).
  • The diggs continued to come in. StumbleUpon traffic also continued to gain momentum. The post hit the ‘popular page’ on Delicious (where it remained for at least 15 hours… again an unusually long time – you can see the page for it here).
  • Traffic from Digg tapered off after the first hour on the front page. From memory it was around 8000 visitors the 2nd hour and tapered further to around 4000 the next few hours.
  • I went to bed around this time and expected things to continue to taper down and return to ‘normal’ sorts of levels while I slept.
  • I woke up the next morning to find that DPS had had another big spike of traffic just after I went to bed. Most of the traffic came from Digg. Getting a 2nd big spike of traffic from Digg wasn’t something I’d experienced before but it had definitely happened. It came around 7 hours after hitting the front page of Digg and send around 25,000 visitors in an hour (and quite a few more in the hours that followed). It turns out that the post had gained so many Diggs that it hit the ‘Top in All Topics’ list which sent it a second wave of traffic.
  • traffic-sources.pngOver the next 6-7 hours Digg traffic again tapered off (but was still significant). StumbleUpon continued to send good traffic and I began to see a lot of secondary social media sites sending traffic (sites like popurls (it was the #1 story there for quite a while), Wykop, Jimmyr and plime) and also quite a few other blogs and websites (big and small) like The Agitator, Monitor and Naver. Interestingly many of the links were from non english sites. I have included a screen shot (right) of the top 15 sources of traffic to the post over the last 36 hours.
  • Today things are somewhat quieter in terms of traffic – but they are still around double a normal days traffic. Most of the traffic now is coming from StumbleUpon and secondary links from blogs and websites. From past experience this will continue for a while. StumbleUpon has the potential to send decent traffic to a post for weeks (and months). In the long run I expect StumbleUpon will probably send more traffic to the post than Digg (although Digg has currently sent triple what SU has).
  • What will generally happen next is that a little search traffic will come in because the post has been linked to from quite a few sources (Yahoo currently sees a couple of hundred incoming links – Google sees quite a few more).

So what impact does a rush of traffic have on a site?

Beyond getting a rush of adrenaline and perhaps a bit of an ego boost – what impact does a day like yesterday have on a blog?

  • Ad Revenue – traffic to the site yesterday was around 5-6 times normal levels. Conversion in terms of ad revenue was not that high – but did see a good bump. For example AdSense earnings were almost three times higher than normal.
  • New Loyal Readers – it is too early to tell how many of the 250k readers subscribed to my RSS feed yesterday (it is at least over 1000 new subscribers) but I can see that newsletter subscriber numbers were considerably up on normal levels. On an average day we get around 450 confirmed new newsletter subscribers to DPS – yesterday it was around 1000 (and there will be more as some take a while to verify). Today it’s over 800 (and will probably hit 1000 again). While a 1-2% conversion rate doesn’t sound like much it can actually be quite significant. 2000 new daily readers over a year or more really adds up to a lot of new page views on a site.
  • SEO – one of the best parts about a day like yesterday is the extra links that point at your blog once everything dies down. As mentioned above – there are around 200 links pointing at the post mentioned – some of which also point to the front page of DPS. There’s no real way to tell what impact this has on a blog but it is a significant number of links and will add to the authority of the page and site in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
  • Buzz – another benefit that is difficult to measure is that of ‘buzz’. There’s something very uplifting to an online community when they get noticed by other parts of the web. I’ll highlight what happened in the weekly newsletter that I send our regular members tonight and I find that doing so helps lift the morale around the community. It’ll also send a fresh wave of traffic to the post as people go to see what caused all the traffic.

All in all it was a good day. I’m most happy about the conversion to new readers than happened and about the SEO boost (I’m also happy that the servers didn’t skip a beat) – however I’m very aware that the extra traffic is relatively fleeting and today it is back to work.

Social Media Traffic Tsunamis are exciting events but the real challenge is to keep growing your loyal reader base by providing quality content day in day out. Speaking of which…. it’s time to get back to work.

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. Very interesting post. I’ve managed to hit the Digg front page once and it was very exciting to see all those visits and page views come in and then to see that momentum infect other sites such as Stumble Upon and Delicious.


  2. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing the nice dissection of a phenomenal traffic event! So Digg & SU are still the best sources.

  3. Darren

    Thanks for the great in depth report, very interesting.

    You may have mentioned this before, but what kind of hosting/server do you have running the three blogs? How did the server handle the bump in traffic?

    I had a day last week on one of my blogs where it saw about 6k uniques, 6 times the normal amount, and MT folded under the pressure of one site.

  4. Would be interesting to know how much money you made with adsense. I have couple of blog which uses Adify adserver – they are like adsense (CPM based mostly) but very high rate of CPM if you have a high traffic site. With 250,000 hits in one day, which is a little less than what I get in one month, I would have made $600-$700 dollars easily.

    As a matter of fact, last month I made $950 on 350,000 traffic.

    I know you use B5media – since you are a co-owner. But I didn’t see any CPM based ads other than adsense (and shopzilla is not CPM).

  5. Congratulations for hitting big time. But did you check your bounce rate on Google Analytics?

    Here is my take on these social media sites. They boost your site numbers and ego but they fail to boost your bank accounts. We get 27% traffic from twitter alone, yet it has not made a dent our my revenue intake. Why? Because these people are not ORGANIC searchers who are looking to find solutions to their problems and clicking on ads and links. They are all looky looks, their bounce rates are 70% and higher.

    Have any ideas how to capitalze of social media traffic into bank account flip?

  6. Now this gonna help a lot of people Thanx darren :)

  7. wow 250k in one day, many sites strive to get that in a month… great going Darren :)

    thx for making all feel so small, jk…. lol

  8. This is amazing , great stuff on the blog post ..This shows content is king and will always be king

  9. Wow cool, I wonder if I’m ever going to get traffic like this on my blog lol. How on earth do you do it?!

  10. I remember digging that post; those were some awesome photos!

    Now if only I could replicate the process…

  11. Thanks for giving us a a “behind the scenes” look at how that unfolded, Darren. It’s impressive that your server/hosting company held up through the spikes…definitely a testament to them and the way your site is coded. Excellent work!

  12. Darren,

    Thanks again for sharing such intimate details about your blog. I adore the fact that you’re sharing how many RSS subscribers you gained as well as the effect of the social media “blitz” on your adsense revenue.

    It appears from what you’ve shared that “social media” driven traffic is not “worthless” as some would proclaim in other places on the web. :)

  13. Wow, impressive indeed…and informative — thank you very much for taking the time to present this case study, many lessons can be learned!

  14. I might have to go ahead and die of happiness if my site got 250k visits in a month, let alone a day. If it didn’t break my site that is. Or get me shut down by my host for overuse of my shared server.

    Good on you!

  15. That’s cool. thanks for breaking it down like that.

  16. I love social media traffic, however the last time I had an article on Digg was last summer :( I get plenty of stumbles & reddits, but I’ve actually got Lack of Digg depression lol!

    Seriously nothing makes a blogger more happier then seeing that stream of Digg visits on mint.

  17. Those are some pretty stunning numbers! I would love to get that many in half a year!

    http://findcollege.info – helping you navigate the social jungle that is college
    http://streetartnews.net – Street art. What else can I say?

  18. Thanks for sharing this Darren. As per usual you are always over delivering to your readers.

    A great post

    David Atkinson

  19. Darren – great story about how something as simple as a great concept can spread like fire!

    How did the server itself handle the traffic? Are you running any caching tools to handle the spikes? I notice it is just a WP powered blog platform, so I assume you are using a cache plugin.

    Thanks in advance.


  20. Wow, thanks for the informative, step by step rundown of your traffic spike. The details you gave really give a clear picture of how a traffic rush unfolds. Thanks for the post. I hope this also clues people into some tips on how to generate that kind of buzz to their own blog.

  21. Darren, Thanks for sharing! That was some story! I am glad to know that social media traffic does convert. Hope to get 1/10th as much traffic some day soon :-)

  22. Darren,
    Thanks for the play-by-play on this. It is so instructive to see how closely you tracked the movements. So many treat social media like a black hole. While it is difficult to influence on a mass scale, there is plenty to learn if you just sit back and listen. Thanks Darren!

  23. Robb Sutton says: 01/24/2009 at 6:24 am

    And writing about it on your site about blogging further fuels the fire! Thanks for sharing the stats. I will be really interested to hear the final estimated results of the spike on traffic. Even coverting a low percentage is a huge success.

    That is a lot of people…

  24. 250,000 thousand visitors, is that it?

    We almost get twice as that in our dreams!

    Darren, those images on DPS look amazing. Thanks for the elaboration of the how it all went down.

  25. Darren,

    Fascinating stuff, thanks for the detailed analysis. 2 questions:

    1. With this kind of traffic explosion, what lessons did you learn that you will use in the future about the role this type of content can play in generating traffic? For example, do you see yourself creating more “spectacular example type posts” as a traffic boosting strategy.
    2. If you’d had an idea in advance that the post would go nova would you have done anything different to further monetize the traffic. Your ad revenue was up but would you have maybe added links to long exposure specific product or info offerings?

    By the way, I looked at the images and they are absolutely stunning.

    LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomasjgray
    Tweeting away at http://www.tweeter.com/tomjgray

  26. This is amazing. I am taking notes. I cannot wait until my readership gets to that level.

  27. Congratulation with such a rush of traffic.
    We had a smaller success and reported the effect of getting StumbledUpon – the viral results http://bit.ly/4hSgJ3

  28. Great pictures and a great post about them!

    I would have like to see an analysis of why you thought this particular post garnered 250k views: was it the subject matter, the format, the few words? I’m sure you’re thinking about this subject; it would be great if you were to write a post about your conclusions.

  29. A huge achievement! I like the analysis and the results of where traffic ultimately comes from and reaches. Great stuff.

  30. Great post… It’s awesome to peer into the action going on behind the scenes at one of Darren’s blogs.

    Seems like Stumble and Digg are the most valuable players when it comes to social bookmarking sites. The rest are second tier. Am I correct?

  31. The power of the web never ceases to amaze me. Something can flash around the world in just seconds.

    Great boost for you.

  32. wow, fantastic result!

  33. Question for you: you mentioned that people clicked Digg and Stumble but I didn’t see the place to click on those in your article (I think you mentioned you disabled them). Where were they placed?

  34. Congratulations on hitting the blog traffic jackpot!

    I have seen what StumbleUpon can do to traffic first hand (although not even close to the same level that you saw). I’ve had a few posts get stumbled and it really kicks my stats up for a day or two.

    As they say: “When it rains, it pours”.

  35. Hi Darren!

    Congrats for you! and I’m glad that I’ve put a little grain of sand because I stumbled and facebooked this awesome photos.
    The result confirm how important is today all the aspects of social media in blog traffic and seo.


  36. …and it was probably one of your easier post to put together, right?

    Gotta love these social bookmarking gems!

  37. A great post and a great accomplishment. I think you will reap the benefits from this “tsunami” for weeks to come. Congrats!

  38. Darren — neat post and very interesting information. I was curious as to why you removed the Digg button.

  39. That is amazing. It is like getting mentioned in a newspaper or on TV and you get a load of traffic. Everyone needs a day like that to jumpstart their blogs.

  40. How in the world did you manage to go to sleep with those numbers rolling in? I would have been glued to the screen all night! Congrats!

  41. It’s good to hear that you had a decent conversion. There’s nothing worse than an exciting day that turns out to be a bunch of hot air.

    Thanks for sharing the details with us. Eric

  42. Darren, can you please let us know the bounce rate and the average time spent by the visitors on that particular date

  43. woaahhoooooo.

    I want to dream that blog post in a dream.


    but then waking up would suck.

    Will do that someday! can’t wait for it!!!!!!


    thanks for the stats and informative detailed post darren!


  44. I’m always surprised at the power of social media, but this demonstrates it beautifully.

    I had a couple of stumbles on my 8th blog post, which wasn’t long ago because my blog is new, but it hasn’t amounted to too much traffic. I have hopes for the future, though.

    Thanks for the insight into the world of social media, and congratulations on a great post. I loved it the first time I saw it and it looks better each time I see it. Plus, I learned from the shots taken, looking at the exposure times was enlightening for a beginning photographer.

  45. Interesting numbers, especially the ranking with the sources. How did your server manage the load?

  46. Social networking is king. It also doesn’t hurt to create excellent content and a loyal following :)

  47. Well done Darren!

    Im very jelous……

  48. Congrats. . . Not every blog can get this type of achievement. . . . Bookmarking sites works for me too, but not that much.

    Shaan Haider

  49. That makes me think I should start submitting my site to social networking sites:)

  50. So is there any specific advise you could give regarding posting to Digg. Since Digg traffic matters the most.

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