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Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Magazine Shares a Popular Post Case Study

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of September 2009 Case Studies, Pro Blogger Interviews 0 Comments

This week I’m featuring a short series of interviews with successful bloggers looking at a popular post on their blog and why they think it went viral. Today Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine has agreed to dissect the popularity of one of their most popular posts.

popular-post-smashing-magazine.png1. What is the post on your blog that has had the most traffic in the last 12 months?

The most popular post in our magazine was the article “Adobe Photoshop Tutorials – Best Of” which was published in October 2008. It is one of the many tutorials round-ups that we’ve done then. Overall, the post has now almost a 1,000,000 unique visits.

2. Where did the traffic mainly come from?

Most traffic came from Google, followed by social media, in particular via StumbleUpon, Twitter, Digg and Reddit (in this order). Since we are paying a huge amount of attention and time investment into preparing well-researched, high-quality posts, it is very likely that stories published on SM are going fairly well in social media. After all, almost every story needs over 25 hours to be completed. Another reason for our popularity in social media is the simple fact that we don’t post too often – at most 2 articles per day appear on Smashing Magazine.

About a couple of months after the post was published the organic traffic via Google etc. started to catch up, so at the moment we (on average) have much more traffic from search engines than from social media. All the social media together are still only a small portion of the traffic coming from Google.

3. Did you do anything extra to market or promote this post or did it just happen organically?

We never push a story hard to reach some critical mass of diggs, votes or tweets. The post did well, because many designers found it useful and bookmarked it or recommended it. That’s the basis and the requirements for a good, successful, popular post.

4. What can we as bloggers learn from the success of this post?

The quality of the content defines the nature of post’s popularity over months and years. The more time you invest into preparing a post, the more quality it will deliver to the reader and the more appreciative your readers will be. The latter will deliver your blog organic growth, traffic and solid readership. That’s as simple as that. Deliver quality and you’ll be rewarded with good reputation and good traffic.

5. I notice you’ve got a book coming out soon – how did it come to be? Got any tips for aspiring bloggers wanting to do a book?

Yes, we are currently in the final stage of publishing our “Smashing Book” – a printed book about best practices in modern Web design and development. Books are still valuable, because they are more solid and permanent compared to bits and bytes. The idea to create a book came because we wanted to explore how we can strengthen Smashing branding in further traditional media. We decided to create the community book, a book that is based upon ideas and suggestions of our readers, involving them in basically every step of the process.

Publishing a book is easy these days is easy – with digital printing and numerous layout applications one can create an e-book in hours. The process is also fast and relatively cheap. But this is not what we decided to do. The Smashing Book is printed the traditional way. We aim to the masses. This is possible because we have a huge audience and we are selling to them directly, bypassing common bookstores and shops. To do this we need plenty of money to pay for paper, layout and printing. But there is a traditional solution to go around this, the pre-sale phase. We have started the pre-sale to gather money and estimate the circulation (yes, it’s a secret). In exchange for customer’s trust, we are offering a big discount of 20%.

Since we wanted everybody to be able to afford the Smashing Book, we have decided to introduce something that we call “social shipping”. The idea here is that we offer customers from US and Germany free shipping, but since shipping costs are extremely high to some parts of the world, they can voluntarily pay more for the shipping of their copy. And, of course, selling around the world needs some serious logistics. There are literally tons to move. An e-book would be more much more comfortable, but we hope that our readers will appreciate our efforts to create a physical piece that can be put on the shelf. The printed Smashing Book will appear in the end of this year.

Check out the Smashing Magazin upcoming book (it is available for pre-order) here.

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. Smashing is one of my favourite sites to visit each morning, there’s always new & informative posts there.

    Why is their book shipping free in the US and Germany only? Seems like an odd coupling! I’d happily have contributed to the social shopping scheme if it included the UK, but I guess that’s just how the logistics work out sometimes!

  2. The post that have the most traffic will usually come from search results.

    Because that is what most people will search for online, you can do that by going to the Free Wrodtracker Tool to find out the keywords, or you can use use a paid keyword tool to do your keyword research.

  3. I love reading Smashing. I have only been checking the site out for about 2 weeks now, and it has quickly become one of my favorite places to go on the internet. Being a new blogger, many of the graphics tips truly cannot be overvalued. Additionally, I have been toying with the idea of getting into photo editing, so I’m really excited to have Smashing as a resource.
    Great interview! Props! :-)

  4. It’s amazing how prominent social media is becoming as far as traffic is concerned.

    It seems that if you rank high in the social media world (digg, delicious, twitter, youtube, etc.) That you ranking in google shoots straight up. More traffic. ;)

    It’s also incredible how powerful commenting still is as well.

    I definitely agree that the content of the article is a huge factor. You can send social media traffic to a blog post, but if your post is crap then people will leave and you will lost there trust.

    At the end of the day, the better quality and quantity of your blog will determine its success.

  5. It is this type of information that is very useful to people like myself. Thanks for taking the time to put it together, and congrats on your forthcoming book.

    I’m wondering if you happen to have more information on the traffic source of your post. Have you been able to determine if the post also resulted in a higher conversion rate of some sort, like RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, an Opt-In, or some other desirable action?

    Thanks again, and congrats on your success!


  6. It seems this is gonna b a gr8 week @ Problogger … srry 2 hear abt ur wrist Darren … btw Smashin Magazine has been my all time fav 4 finding designing resources :)

  7. Smashing is one of the best websites, ever.

    And it’s very cool to hear someone state how long it takes to prepare an article. Received opinion is “whip ’em out.” And “make ’em short.”

    At issue isn’t the length of the article. It’s the quality of the article that counts. Smashing Mag proves it, as do several other “long form” blogs.

  8. Smashing Magazine has to rank as one of THE topnotch sites online…I’ve lost count of just how much I’ve learned by going thru all of their free resources.

    They deserve every bit of success they’ve achieved.

  9. Amazing Darren! I like the way the matter is being conveyed and specially the presentation of the content.

    Really this would invite and create lot of fresh bloggers.

  10. What most caught my eye about this post was that the folks at Smashing Magazine spend around 25 hours in preparation of their blog posts. That number is spectacular, and speaks to the quality content that they produce.

    Well done, guys!

  11. Focusing on the content and relevance is something I am continuing to master. I really appreciate the information in this article. Now I need to go read the SM article!

  12. So, is it safe to say that Social Media works in the short term only??

  13. There are to lessons that Freidman mentions that I want to re-emphasize: Spend lots of time on quality posts, and don’t post too often.

    Seriously, both of these seem counter-intuitive, but it is the future of blogging.

  14. It’s always great to get an inside tip about how to make a popular post. I find that making a resource like a tutorial or a great list goes a long way towards making a post really hit off!

  15. “Social Shipping,” sweet concept.

    And once again I’m reminded about social media to drive traffic. Guess I better finish that “Twitter For Dummies,” after all.

    Off now to check out Smashing Magazine.

  16. Interesting thing about social media is they stop sending traffic to your particular post after few days or months but search engine will keep sending you even for months and many months.

    So that is the reason why people are going for search engine and doing SEO.

  17. I am not familiar with Smashing Magazine, this is something I am going to have to look into. My blog is not even a month old yet so I can not tell which article has recieved the most traffic. I am still learning as I go. Thanks for the great article.

  18. Thanks for the post. Quality of quantity is definitely the best way to go.

  19. Good to know about the insights of popular post of the popular blog. Thanks.

  20. The site itself is pretty sick. As far as the article goes, I’d be lying if I said it gave me any insight on how to replicate their success.

    “Uh, yeah, uh, just get on the first page of Google, Digg, and StumbleUpon and your post will go viral too.”

    The rest of us have to do it the hard way. How about some interviews with some sites that HAVE JUST CROSSED from being little wimpy sites into being more popular as a result of viral content? That would be much more helpful.

    Shameless plug: http://www.vipinternetmarketing.com

  21. 1000000 unique views. So awesome. *daydreams*

  22. I can see that lots of people are very much overwhelmed with self-promotion activity via social media, leaving “quality” unattended. There are a lot of discussions about how significant social media is, indeed it is, but not as vital as “quality post” is. I think what people should focus on, is how they will get loyal visitors that will last long and not a temporary glimpse of attention. I can’t agree more to this passage, “Deliver quality and you’ll be rewarded with good reputation and good traffic”. Glad to read this post. Thanks!

  23. Nice interview. Very crisp. I hope the next in the series will have a just a few more pointed questions. :) Oh and i have some space cleared on my shelf for the smashing book!

  24. I only know of Smashing Magazine for their Top AdSense WordPress themes. I didn’t realize they posted regularly.

  25. This is really an amazing interview.I think most of the traffic mainly comes from from search results.There are so many tools online to search the keywords.You can also use pain keyword research tool.Really an informative post.Thanks for sharing.

  26. Very interesting interview. It just goes to show how important the quality of any blog post is. They make take a long time to put together, but the longevity they experience makes it worthwhile.

  27. I got a blog post that is bringing my old blog a lot of traffic.

  28. I still don’t get why you call it social shipping…? Is it just because you give free shipping to US and Germany?

    Anyway, can’t wait for the Smashing Book. Already enjoyed your blog for almost a year now so I have a very high hopes for the book.

  29. I really like the third answer about letting the content bringing in the traffic rather than trying to push it up through diggs, tweets, ect. Anyway excellent post very informative.

  30. Content is the king, that is it, and our problem is how to get great articles.

  31. I love these interview posts, always quite interesting to see what works.

  32. Great post. In addition to great content, knowing and focusing on your core subject matter is key. Too often bloggers (I’m guilty as well) steer off the path of their expertise. Although the post may be well written, people come to your respective sites for xyz material. Define your site niche and focus, focus.

  33. This is very interesting information. Especially the bit about where the traffic comes from. People tend to look for results from Google all the time, by building links etc, forgetting that the places that give you the links are also sources of traffic as well. Ezine articles and a couple of the other big article sites also perform a good duel function for me as well.

  34. Content always give you the benefits, if it is original.

  35. That’s makes sense, oldman said, “Content is the king”.

  36. This is great! I’ve been religiously reading Smashing Magazine the past year and they are indeed a success story, one that certainly deserves a spot in your series.

  37. Social Shipping is a wonderful idea! Americans, and citizens of other developed nations, need more opportunities to share their individual wealth across the globe.

  38. I’m amazed that Smashing spends 25 hours+ per post! I was told to only post 2-3 times per week. Can you shed some light on this?

    Thanks :)

  39. Yes you nicely described the way of effective ranking in google

  40. This is a very inspiring interview. I am quite surprised that they spend over 25 hours on each post. This explains how each of their post is of such a high quality.

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