My name is Russell Newquist. I am a software engineer, a martial artist, an author, an editor, a businessman and a blogger. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science, but I'm technically a high school dropout. I also think that everything in this paragraph is pretty close to meaningless. I work for a really great small company in Huntsville, Alabama building really cool software. I'm the owner and head instructor of Madison Martial Arts Academy, which I opened in 2013 less to make money and more because I just really enjoy a good martial arts workout with friends. I'm the editor in chief of Silver Empire and also one of the published authors there. And, of course, there is this blog - and all of its predecessors. There's no particular reason you should trust anything I say any more than any other source. So read it, read other stuff, and think for your damn self - if our society hasn't yet over-educated you to the point that you've forgotten how.
There are no men like me. There is only me.
It’s very difficult to predict if any given blog post will hit it big. Sometimes you can kind of call it. I had a pretty good idea that my Women of DragonCon 2016 post would be big. Even so, I didn’t expect it to account for a full 9.25% of my 2016 traffic. But I expected my post on choosing a niche for your blog to do better than it did. And I had no idea that my Shady Rays sunglasses review would become so popular.
But let’s focus on the two popular ones for a moment. That will help us understand two factors – out of many – that help make a post popular.
The popularity of the Women of DragonCon post needs little explanation. Sensationalism and titillation sell. That post has a bit of both. Even better, it has pictures of attractive women in interesting clothing. Bingo. I also posted links to it in several relevant forums. That earned it a lot of attention.
The Shady Rays post has a simple explanation, too, although less obvious. As of this morning, that single post has brought in more traffic than this entire blog earned in all of January last year. That’s right – nine days of one blog post generated more traffic than the entire blog did in a full month in a comparable period. What happened?
Key in a search for “Shady Rays review.” That post is currently the number four result – and number one is the Shady Rays web site itself, with numbers two and three being YouTube videos. How on earth did I achieve such a feat? Well, I used the “Yoast SEO” plugin for WordPress to optimize the post for search engines… but I do that for every post. Why was this one special?
Because there aren’t very many product reviews for Shady Rays yet. I know. I looked for one before I bought mine. The Internet let me down. I found a very small handful – but I couldn’t be sure that they weren’t plants from the company itself. My sunglasses broke again, so I needed new ones – and I took a chance. Then I wrote a review about it, and now my post is one of the top results for that term.
It will probably stay there for some time. This sort of thing tends to be self reinforcing. Other people looking for Shady Rays reviews will find mine and share it with their friends. Because I’m early, I have a head start on the link building game. It’s too bad they don’t have an affiliate program – I could probably make a bit of money this year off of referrals.
Even so, ranking high on the search results doesn’t guarantee a lot of traffic. I have other posts that rank high on search results. My post on Ted Cruz’s Asperger’s Syndrome ranks highly as well. But while that post does bring in a steady stream of traffic from Google, it’s a small stream. The difference is that Shady Rays is advertising heavily on social media, and they’ve got a good sales pitch. People are interested in the product. What they’re missing is a solid set of user reviews to seal the deal – but people are looking for that.
So although I may rank high on the search phrase for quite some time, the traffic will probably ultimately level off. I can’t rely on that forever. But sooner or later I’ll write another post that does equally well – or better.
There’s a lesson here, and it’s worth pointing out. This is why I write a general topics blog rather than a niche blog – and I recommend that you do the same. You never, ever know when you’re going to write that tiny throw-away post that blows up big and doubles your traffic – and you never know which post it’ll be. That’s also one more reason why quantity is so important. The more posts you write, the more traffic draws you have.
What are your biggest surprise hit posts?