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The Truth About Creating a High-traffic Blog

Posted By Skellie 24th of September 2008 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. For more, you can follow her on Twitter.

Did you know that some blogs receive over one million visitors each month?

Have you ever wondered how they do it?

This kind of traffic isn’t easy to attain, but the pay-off for a high traffic blog with hundreds of thousands of page views each month (or more) are considerable. With that kind of traffic it’s hard not to make good money!

Most blogs with huge amounts of traffic are in fact run by a dedicated staff of writers who can churn out content much faster than a single blogger could ever hope to manage. Part of the reason these blogs are so highly trafficked is because a repeat visitor knows there’s likely to be something new every few hours or so. They have reason to visit multiple times during the day. Examples of blogs like this are the Gawker Media blogs, such as Lifehacker and Kotaku.

Most of us don’t have the money or the desire to take on a large contingent of writers to keep our blogs updated every few hours. The good news is that huge traffic is still possible at a single-author blog. Look to StevePavlina.com, Zen Habits, Entrepreneur’s Journey, even ProBlogger itself (I pick these examples because you’re likely to be familiar with them, but there are so many others). These are just a few examples where a single-author blog is receiving hundreds of thousands of page views each month, and in some cases, over a million.

Can we do the same?

These are the kind of stats we dream of for our own blogs, but most of us doubt that this would be possible for us. This is probably because the steps involved in getting there seem very blurry. You’re producing great content, growing in size slowly but surely, gathering new loyal readers and increasing your traffic, but you’re still miles away from the kind of huge audience those blogs experience. What are the factors that separate the average blog from these super high traffic blogs?

This is the point where you expect a cop-out — for me to say that it is, of course, great content that separates those blogs from the average. Unfortunately, your expectations won’t be met here. I’m not interested in content right now. At least, not directly. In fact, your content may be just as good, or better, than any one of the blogs I’ve mentioned, or any other successful single-author blogs you can think of.

What I am interested in, and I hope you will be too, is to know where that traffic is coming from.

On a multi-author blog producing reams of content it’s likely to receive many of its ‘visits’ from single visitors who make multiple return visits each day, in addition to high search traffic due to the vast amount of content archived at the blog, and social media traffic, because multi-author blogs generally have the resources to break important stories. When we look at single-author blogs, however, traffic sources are going to be coming from very different places.

Instead of producing dozens of posts each day a blog run by one person is probably going to be producing, at most, a handful of posts per day. The average level will probably be one post per day. For this reason, single-author blogs probably can’t expect visitors to return five or ten times a day to check for new updates. So, we knock out that traffic source.

I want to suggest that very highly trafficked single-author blogs are knocking the ball out of the park in at least two of the following three core areas:

  • Search
  • Social media
  • Evangelism

The last one is a must. Waves of social media traffic come and go and search engine traffic can disappear with the next Google algorithm update. If readers evangelize your content, as they do for Steve Pavlina, Leo Babauta, Yaro Starak, and you have probably done for Darren Rowse (by recommending him to a friend, or linking to one of his articles with a glowing recommandation) you will find it difficult to receive anything but huge traffic.

Performing exceptionally with at least one of the others is also very important, and it’s particularly useful if you can master both.


Most single-author blogs with huge traffic are getting a lot of that from search (sometimes as high as 20%). Some blogs, however, will never receive exceptional search traffic, no matter how popular they get or how much SEO work is done on them. After all, most people use search to solve a problem. They want to know how to do such and such thing, and the problem is that they don’t. So they search. However, some blogs are not so much about providing answers as they are about asking questions. Others might provide answers to questions you didn’t know you had. If you’re seeking to be entertained, they might entertain you in a way you never would have searched for on your own.

One of the best blog posts I’ve read in recent memory was Errol Morris’s dissection of two pieces of war-time photography in an effort to decide whether one of the pictures was faked. It was called ‘Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?’ and generated over 900 comments. Were people searching for this content before they found it? Very unlikely. Even putting the photographer’s name in the headline probably wouldn’t have improved the SEO situation very much, but it still didn’t hurt the story any. In fact, it went on to become a viral sensation.

Photo by victoriapeckham.

Social media

I relate the above example to show that some topics suit high levels of search traffic much better than others. If you feel you’re in the latter camp it’s still very possible to receive high levels of traffic, but you’ll find it much easier to so with the help of social media. If you’re not setting StumbleUpon on fire with your posts you should aim to get some love from Digg or Reddit. If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who does and get them to write for you once a week. There are plenty of talented writers out there, looking for work, who really ‘get’ social media. Look for for an excellent front-page story on Digg that relates to your blog topic and then find out who wrote it. If you’re lucky, that person may be looking for more work.

Once you’ve produced a great post, get a top user to submit the content before anyone else. You’d be surprised at how easy this is if they think the content is good. Once it’s done, let their network take over. With a talented writer and a bit of audacity it’s surprisingly easy to go popular on social media pretty much, well, whenever you want to. But that’s material for another post, another time.

Case studies

Let’s examine three blogs that I’ve mentioned above. First, this one, ProBlogger. I’m pretty certain most of Darren’s traffic comes from direct links (evangelism), search (a high percent, due to practical topics and clever SEO), and StumbleUpon (a whole lot of it). While most of us are receiving traffic from these sources, high-traffic blogs take this to another level. The importance of evangelism from the reader base is the driving force behind all these things. ProBlogger wouldn’t rank as high in search if thousands of people hadn’t linked to it using juicy keywords. It wouldn’t receive loads of StumbleUpon traffic if its readers weren’t motivated to vote for it.

Next, let’s think about where Zen Habits is getting its traffic from. I’m not sure about the level of search traffic it gets, but I know it receives an exceptional amount of social media traffic from StumbleUpon and Digg. I also know the reader base is highly evangelical and links to Leo’s articles regularly. The blog is also spread through word of mouth networks. Once again, the success on social media probably wouldn’t have progressed as far as it has without an evangelical reader base. That factor is essential for the other factors to exist.


By now you will have noticed I’ve been throwing the word ‘evagelical’ around a whole lot without really explaining what I mean by it. The word comes from religious evangelicals, so it’s best to start there. While the word has been appropriated to describe a particular group of religious people, it has also been absorbed into the language of marketing.

To evangelize something really just means that you are passionate about it and try to get others to be passionate about it too (in a religious context, this would be a particular understanding of God). In fact, I want to suggest that you’ve done some evangelizing whether you are religious or not. If you’ve forced a tattered copy of your favorite book into the hands of a friend, you’re evangelizing it. If you told someone their next laptop should be a MacBook Pro because you love yours, you’re evangelizing the product. When you tell an aspiring blogger that they really should be reading ProBlogger, you evangelize this blog. When you link to it, vote for it or recommend it via word of mouth, you are evangelizing it, and the same goes for any blog you enjoy and try to share with others.

The key difference between the average blog and a high traffic blog is that the high traffic blog has an evangelical following: people who think, “My God, more people have to see this!”

Someone who only skims your posts will register on your stat counter but they are not going to spread the ‘gospel’ of your blog to others, so to speak. An evangelical reader might stumble every post they read and link to you every week. They do the kind of things that allow you to rank highly in search, and to get torrents of traffic from social media. In other words, to build a high traffic blog you need to create a highly evangelical audience.

What makes someone passionate and evangelical about a blog?

It’s not fluff. It’s not controversy for its own sake. It’s not self-indulgence. It’s not stale formulas. It’s knowing deeply the kind of individuals your audience is made up of, what their needs and wants and dreams are, how you fit into that, and how much you can make their lives better, whether it’s by making them smile, laugh, cry, go ‘Ah-ha!’, feel empowered, feel informed, entertained or more skillful.

The amount of improvement you make in the lives of your readers will be in proportion to the amount of effort they put into evangelizing your blog and helping it become more popular than you may ever have imagined.

  1. I think that it’s much more easier to get your blog from a medium level of traffic to a high level than to get from a low level/starting point level of traffic to that of a high level, or even a medium level.

    Getting 1 millions visitors sure seems unlikely when you’re starting out than when your blog is receiving 500,000 visitors. Once you have momentum, your blog will only go forward.

    In order to get evangelical readers, one must constantly deliver content that invokes emotions, as you say…

  2. Giving people a reason to evangelise (like a contest) is a great way to get this started if you are a new blogger. Then as you get bigger and more well known then more people are likely to link to you as you churn out great content.
    If you can’t get people to evangelise for you then do it yourself by leaving comments (about 60% of my traffic comes from comments)….then let others do it as your blog grows.

    Great post. I am loving this stuff at problogger these days.

  3. Wonderful posts as always, Skellie. Thanks.

  4. Thanks Skellie, for this post. No doubt this is a one man power of the big guru’s of blog like problogger and zenhabits.

  5. Thank-you for a wonderful and informative article, Skellie.

  6. Good stuff Skellie. Feel free to guest post on my blog anytime ;)

  7. When you find one of your readers evangelising about your blog, you’ve got to reward and encourage their behaviour – go and comment on their blog, write a post in response to their questions, give them a name-check, keep them singing your praises.

  8. I remember when I first found Darren on the web, I was drawn back to his blog over and over again not only for the content, but because I was also drawn to his personality. His genuineness keeps me coming back.

    Nice post, Skellie.

  9. Aira Bongco says: 09/24/2008 at 1:04 am

    Nice term on addressing a traffic tip – evangelism. I’m just fascinated with it. That is true. A quick look at the Technorati top 10 blogs will reveal that almost all of them are group blogs. Quick, genuine content can’t really be churned out by an ordinary person like a machine. Of course, he needs companions who will help him out.

    I guess evangelization can be attributed to experience. Also, it’s about doing the right thing. A lot of people may get away with their cheating schemes at a time but then after an update, they will find themselves buried. So long as you do the right thing – build unique and useful content, build natural traffic and backlinks, then you should be fine no matter how many updates search engines make.

    Keep them coming Skellie!


  10. Thanks Skellie, you’ve shared some very useful tips here – and answered some of the questions I have around getting more visitors to my blog (which is still in its infancy compared to those you mention) and am encouraged to know that it is possible, even for a single authored blog. BTW I’ve enjoyed all your guest posts.

  11. Excellent post – I think the word truth in the headline is correctly chosen here…

    As I read “not only content” I got the word “marketing” into my head. I think all three kinds (Search, Social media, Evangelism) are basically marketing-concepts.

  12. I think Evangelism is a product of an excellent grasp of the first two items (SEO and Social) multiplied by the presence of good quality content. But really, if you write a blog for a narrow niche like I do, it’s not realistic to think you’ll be capable of pulling in those kind of numbers.

  13. This post would be a classic example. It is likely to show on search engines (“creating high-traffic blog” sure is a sentence often searched. It’s entertaining and informative, gives questions but some tips too, and for the evangelic part.. well I feel like mentioning it to a couple of friends.. Thanks for practicing what you preach Skellie!

  14. Knowing your audience and thinking of them as you compose each and every blog post is TRULY the key to a successful, high traffic blog. Without that element, social media and evangelism won’t happen and search engine traffic will quickly click away!

  15. I thought just getting high traffic on a blog consisted of just writing your @$$ off for an entire year…lol

  16. This is an excellent post, very much in line with what Seth Godin advocates: create something remarkable (a purple cow)–in this case great content that really helps out your readers–and appeal to a small group of early adopters who will spread the word about your blog like a virus.

  17. Good article… some great information. I did see an error — your link to Entrepreneur’s Journey goes to a “just registered” page on NetSol…

  18. I’m kind of surprised that you feel 20% is a high amount of traffic generated from the search engines. I have an established niche blog that gets almost 70% of its traffic from search engines and a new blog in the same niche that currently gets 30% of its traffic from search engines. Now, I’m curious to know what percentage of other reader’s traffic comes from search engines.

  19. Superb Post
    You get to the point in this fascinating article, I had never heard of the connection between evangelizing, must be my ignorance! I see a lot more clearly with every post that i read from you. There are undoubtedly several dedicated groups of people who drive traffic to these super blogs and word of mouth is a glowing example of this.

    I am but your humble servant, yours hopefully
    I look forward to your next post with anticipation

  20. I have been thinking a lot about how my very-niche blog can grow. I already have a good bit of search traffic (31%). I have been working on getting my blog name out to other sites and have been moderately successful (45%).

    But much of my traffic still depends on StumbleUpon spikes that I find don’t translate into regular readers.

    This article made me realize that I need to focus much more on readers who will evangelize my blog. “It’s knowing deeply the kind of individuals your audience is made up of” that is my main challenge now!

    Thank you for your excellent post!

  21. Love this post!

    One trend that you mentioned, and is growing, is the StumbleUpon, and if you’ve picked a very narrow topic, you are losing out on a lot of potential traffic. People search for one thing, end up finding an answer, solution, product that serves their need or want; very specific niche marketing limits your possiblities.

    Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely be back to read more!

  22. An eye-opening read…. I hadn’t considered the traffic differences between multi-writer and single-writer blogs – thanks for sharing!

  23. Great informational post Skellie! There are so many avenues that people can use to drive traffic to their sites, it can be somewhat overwhelming..

  24. Great information. I have been facing this issue for awhile now and it is very tough to break the hump to get more visitors. Especially if your blog does not have a specific niche. I think this article gave me some insight on what I need to do to keep my traffic growing.

  25. I get about 1.4million views per month and it’s ust me and my iMac :) I am passionate about what I do though.

  26. I’m a great evangelist for a whole bunch of blogs in my niche. Seriously, if you’re interested in personal finance you should definitely read get rich slowly, brip blap, rocket finance, clever dude, notes from the frugal trenches.

    I love lots of personal finance blogs, but I will go to these first in my reader. They have distinctive voices and almost always have content that I am interested in.

    My favourite of their posts are not ones that are solving a problem, but the ones asking a question. I like the way that they reply to commentators, and I’m always delighted if one of them links to me. Most of the time there are other places I’d send you if you wanted information (in fact, I’d probably send you to google). These are blogs that make me think.

    I guess I need to cultivate my readership, ask more questions, and make people think if I want to get people to feel the same way about my blog as I do about my favourites.

  27. I’m slowly learning all these lessons as well. I signed up for Chris Garett’s course on Authority Blogging, and once of the things I had no idea about was how much “behind the scenes” work was needed to get a blog off the ground besides just writing great content.

    You can get a reader base with nothing but content – but it is going to be a long, hard slog =)

  28. I’m joining Stumble Upon now! Excellent info, Thanks.

  29. I know I don’t have the time to worry about SEO or social media, but I pour myself into every post, and the evangelical approach is working very well for me. Thanks, Skellie. I always enjoy your work.

  30. And all this time I thought excellent content would do the trick. There is always something to learn, and I’ve gained even more from this post. Thanks!

  31. Wonderful post. Evangelize is the key word. My sucess as a blogger is the result of evangelization. I write for portuguese teachers. Portugal is a small country: 10 millions. My blog has 3000 visits a day. I started the blog last February. Every portuguese teacher knows my blog.

  32. I agree @writer, evangelism can be the most effective tool you have in growing your blog audience. Mixed with SEO and social media, it’s amazing what a single blogger can do :-)

    Thanks Skellie, you always rock!

  33. Ah, awesome as usual. I must say, I don’t believe I’ve /ever/ written anything by you that didn’t give me /more/ than just a nugget of truth. :)

  34. it is about connection, after all, I think– connection and quality content.

  35. If you want an idea on how to generate evangelism for yourself, look to Gary Vaynerchuk.

    Skellie, the point about SEO and answers vs. questions is a very good one. If you’re blogging to market a business or services, you need to be the answer to the question your customer has in mind when she starts to type in that Google box.

  36. Absolutely excellent post! Skellie, though I’ll be glad to see Darren again, I will miss you at problogger. I’ve been enjoying your blog and have really gotten a lot out of your time here at problogger.

    Great insight today. It will be information that I will most certainly use. Thanks again, Eric.

  37. Great post. Sadly my reptile content I usually generate does not relate to the digg or other social media viewers. I guess it’s time to dip into a new niche!

    Thanks so much for the great read!

  38. Denise says: 09/24/2008 at 7:56 am

    Truly enjoy your very informative writing(s) as always; to the point and with clarity. This particular article helps me to put my site and plans in a more clear and decisive order. Another great writing by Skellie. Thanks!

  39. A good post. I like that you didn’t hammer the good content line. I think everyone understands that.

    I also like your points. I just need to learn to translate them to my site and style.

    I am still in the early stages of my blog and still trying to get good traffic. These techniques will help me.

    Thanks again

  40. Amazing post!

    Social media sites are great for traffic but it seems that evangelism would be better for readers instead of just visitors. Evangelism is an interesting way of putting it and the first time I’ve heard it put any other way besides religious.

    Great post Skellie.

  41. Your post is very much needed for many of us bloggers out there who are trying to compete to get higher rankings – PR. An excellent reality check for single author bloggers.

    Personally, I know I will not be able to compete with blogs who have dedicated staff writers to make posts several times a day and to get their volume of traffic. However, it is good to know there are methods to get huge traffic as a single author.

    Thank you for the tips, they are greatly appreciated! I do agree the key is to make your blog an authority site that posts content that brings improvement into the lives of your readers.

  42. Good stuffs like this article gets evangelized. Lol.

  43. I just tried to make a buzz by posting a series of contoversial articles telling people how to cheat Google AdSense on my Indonesian blog. But, I think it’s not a good way to gain more traffic. Instead, I receive many negative comments. :))

  44. Excellent post. I love the distinction between multi-author and single author blogs. I always wondered if there was a difference in their marketing!

    Love the comment about getting evangelical over contests!
    Thanks Skellie.

  45. This is some very good advice. I’m incredibly experienced at generating word or mouth buzz, offline, and at using social networks as marketing tools. This teaches you how to combine both! I hope it helps conqueringsuccess.com become more popular.

  46. A most informative post as always Skellie.

  47. When I started out I asked friends to help me evangelize. They didn’t really help much. I thought I needed a new method. Now I think maybe I just need new friends. :P

  48. Wow. I have a few blogs and I gotta say, this is one good benchmark to strive for. I especially like the idea, even though I write for a living, to have a writer with expertise in social media, do what is needed to get some profiling in top spots. THANKS

  49. @DoctorWill: LOL! Good one.

  50. It may be evangelism, but I think it’s something more practical – to learn new insights, to get linkjuice, to advertise.

    There’s a parallel with golf here. Why do people watch golf? for the sheer enjoyment of watching a little ball driven into air and into a little hole? I think it’s more to learn strategies, pick up tips – both mentally & physically & to see how the pros handle things.

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