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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. I guess 250,000 is OK. But it is only 6,250 times more visitors then I got.

  2. This goes to show how important social media is. Also if you notice, social media traffic is not all that good for conversions, which is a long time proven fact.

  3. Outstanding! Congratulations and thanks so much for telling us how it happened. Helpful.

    Anne Wayman, now blogging at http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com

  4. What kind of hosting do you have for that site? To handle that kind of traffic – dedicated server(s) with a separate server for your DB? Interested on finding out since even with a dedicated server and super cache I will have issues with big traffic spikes.

  5. 82 thousand newsletter subscribers! You truly are a machine, Darren. The mark of a truly successful blogger is not a blogger that blogs about how to succeed at blogging but the blogger that puts all those tips to work and runs a successful niche blog.

  6. As usual Darren superb information. I guess we all aspire to your success. Thank you for sharing as much as you do to help.
    The amount of new signups is outstanding.
    Keep it coming !


  7. This is great Darren. I have been seeking examples of how I can do something similar to spike up traffic to my blog. Thanks for the post again.

  8. Darren, I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times before but what type of hosting do you have to have to manage that type of traffic spike?

  9. Earlier Keith asked a great question about how your hosting services managed through all this? I suspect you’ve purchased sufficient services to hold up, but a lot of folk can only afford what sustains them and this kind of traffic spurt tends to hurt their bandwidth and they go dark until they have at least a one time resolution with their provider.

    On the 1-2% conversion to regular readers, that makes perfect sense and matches up well with real world statistics.

    I spent some years in sales and this will support how cold calling and email spamming works. In the day, about every 100 contacts, whether it be via phone or email converted usually into at least 1 interested buyer. Usually, after about 50 interested buyers chatted me up, 1 to 2 of them converted into a transaction.

    So yea. I see that.

    As far as the rush of traffic, it’s also like an emotional rush with a subtle let down after it quiets down!!

  10. I never even heard of long exposure photography before but I am glad I just found out. Those images are totally awesomeness!

    I would like to large print some of them out as posters.

    Congratulations on your gigantic traffic surge, I imagine you must be feeling pretty good right about now. I know I would. It is very inspiring and shows the power of quality content.

  11. Thanks for the play by play and congrats on the large traffic spike!

    I had one quick question for you though. You had mentioned that the photos you used were all CC licensed via Flickr. Have you had any feedback from the creators of those photos to see if they had experienced a significant boost in traffic as a result of yours? If so, have they quantified it?



  12. Congratulations Darren! Your blog was the “foundation” for when I started my poker blog/website…www.virtualfelt.com…..it has since been tweeked many of times but this was my first attempt at a blog/website and it was greatly influenced by you! Thanks and keep up the good work!


  13. That very exciting! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Darren

    Would be extremely interested to hear what you have to say in answering Ryan Miller’s question about feedback from the creators of the Flickr photo. Would love to see if this goes viral. Would be interesting to pursue.


  15. Great articles on massive traffic, this should be fantastic case study getting from social bookmarking, but how about the CTR, any impact on that, I too have experience jumping traffic came from SU, but only temporary, and the CTR is almost nothing, so my point is whats the good high traffic if your CTR is low.Better off changing strategy to SEO traditional getting quality links by making blog comments or blog guest.I am not trying to discourage the readers here, just think of it if you get visitors from search engine, that means the person apply the keywords or niche is interested to know about your blog and interested also to have sales conversions to your blog.

  16. Hi Darren, I was one of the few first readers of that post and I thought it was amazing and a potential hit. Great work, I love DPS and read every single bit of info there.

    Congratulations on the big spike!

  17. Wow, that is amazing! Way to go Darren. I’ll get there someday!

  18. That is really amazing Darren! Congratulations!!

  19. Darren,
    Thank you for sharing. This is, as has been said, a great case study. I also want to point out that this is an outcome of a collaborative effort. In the social media sphere, it is collaborations that drive reputation, traffic and also ideas. Congrats, and I hope to one day collaborate with you!

  20. Thanks for your great info and resources – it seems some of the best blogs on the net are about blogging. Do you think the obsessions w/ SEO and quality blogging lead naturally to a desire to blog about blogging, or did you start out that way?

  21. Congrats, that was a great thread – I saw it from Digg as well

  22. Glad I found this site – I’m finding the content very useful – thanks!

  23. Your blog is without a doubt one of the most informative and helpful blogs out there. I truly appreciate your content. I am always trying to look to improve my knowledge and tactics to make my own business stronger. I am never disappointed when I come here. Keep up the good work

  24. Congrats, but I can’t help but think your name attached to it had something to do with it.

    This is why beginner bloggers can’t reach the front page, big bloggers submitting, people see their name and think oh it must be good and thumb it up.

    Envious yes, it’s all in the name of the submitter in my books.

    Let’s do an experiment, I submit a post and you submit the same post and let’s see who gets the most thumbs up, I guarantee you will.

    Seriously, let’s do an experiment.

    Let me know if you are interested in proving me wrong.

  25. Problogger is the king of posting killer post, you are something else…..250,000 visitor in 24 hour, wow. I don’t even know what to say….you are dangerous.

  26. the key is getting big traffic stream…. automatic increasing your income online, congratulations daren

  27. I too have seen tons of traffic from Stumble, all though the traffic isn’t the best for conversions it can bring some clicks, sales and readers.

  28. How I wish I have 250,000 people showing in my blog even just for a year.hehe ^_^

  29. A great example of the power of viral marketing via social bookmarking sites.

    I’ve had some traffic resulting from social bookmarking sites (notably StumbleUpon). While it is nice to see, the key to remember is to make those new visitors regular visitors, and to ensure your blog is “sticky” so that they’ll explore your site. A problem which I’m sure you didn’t have.

    Great inspirational post, Darren!

    The Geek Entrepreneur

  30. I actually saw that post the other day and I agreed it was an amazing post. It great how wide it spread.

  31. Congratulations !

  32. I enjoyed reading your post Darren! Congratulations on the spike of traffic – that is a great thing indeed.

  33. Google “Stumbleupon Traffic Guide” for a blueprint on how to reproduce this.

  34. Thanks for the break down on the rush of traffic Darren. Amazing the power two little social sites can yield if you just manage to strike the right cord with it’s viewers.

  35. That’s crazy Darren. Congrats though. Totally awesome. I know that that was quite the adrenaline rush for real. You really have some great tracking systems in place to have been able to keep up with all of that.

    The Work From Home Secret

  36. Wow. Amazing.

    That’s all I have to say about that.

  37. Why don’t you use Quantcast on dPS, Darren? Would be amazing to analyze such traffic.

    I was “slashdotted” once and was able to analyze the traffic quite nicely using other analytics, always a fun thing to do.

  38. Do you do anything to protect your site from spikes like this? I am thinking cache plugins etc, the majority of blogs would just crumble under traffic like that :)

  39. I just wonder when will I be able to reach that level of achievement. I mean this is not something that happens to any ordinary blogs. Well…Congrats.

  40. WOW, Really big number!

  41. Wow it’ll take me a year to get that kind of traffic to my blog

    Wondering whether a cache plug-in that I use (WP-SuperCache) can save me from this kind of massive traffic

  42. Thanks for the great in depth report. This shows content is king. Thanks for breaking it down like that.

  43. Tracking Traffic: Could you elaborate as to what you use to track your site’s traffic in real-time? You said, “I had a feeling that the post would do well on StumbleUpon so was on the lookout for traffic.”

    Awesome “how to” get huge traffic numbers by simply posting good information.

  44. I’d be happy with 10% of that!

  45. Yes WP Cache can help by reducing the loads on the PHP pages, congrats Darren. I guess you didn’t do it for the money then.

  46. WOW!
    I wonder when I will be able to manage atleast 10% of that traffic.

  47. Congrats Darren. I love reading your site because it is so obvious that all this success has not gone to your head. You are such a great person, and I’m so happy this happened for you! You earned it and deserve it.

    Keep up the great work!

  48. Amazing , that is really impressive , thanks for sharing that with us , i dont get anywhere near those figures but im new here , thanks for the info

  49. I know the feeling of just one post going viral. It does give you a rush. I did a post on the horse jumping events at the Olympics last year and thought I would just get a few hundred visitors like I normally get. It ended up at Digg and someone Stumbled it and I had over 15K visitors to that one post.

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