As a blogger, have you ever taken to the time to examine your readership statistics to discern what seems to garner the most attention…and what doesn’t? I’ve been blogging for a year now and have published dozens of posts. During that time, I’ve had some spectacular failures as well as a few relative successes. Using the data available I will attempt to identify what worked, what didn’t and pass an honest judgement as to why. In the second part of this assessment I’ll identify what, as a reader, draws my interest to a blog post.
First, let’s set the parameters. I feel that a “view” is the most important data point. You can “like” a post and even “follow” the blog but only the “view” reliably indicates that you drew the reader’s interest. “Follow” statistics are somewhat useful, especially if you see a spike after a blog that garnered a decent number of views. This indicates that some people a) read your post and b) decided to follow your blog as a result. Of course, you can follow a blog or like a post without reading it and this seems to happen to some extent. “Likes” are therefore nice to have, but not a reliable indicator as to the “market value” of the post.
A quick analysis of my posts: As a blogger my stated interests, as laid out in my “about” page are varied but include strength training, literature, travel and sundry other topics. Below, in descending order, are blog topics that generated the most interest:
- Writing/blogging – This had a comfortable, but not overwhelming lead, over other topics. Not surprising, really, as we’re all blogging because we love to write so it’s a shared interest in the broadest sense.
- Literature – Books are my lifeline, as they probably are for you so it’s not surprising that in the blogosphere there is a widespread appreciation for reading/literature.
- Travel/Living in other countries – Well, again, not surprising, it’s part of the title of this blog. Other cultures, and by extension travelling are also a universal interest.
- Strength training: A slight majority of my posts are about strength training, powerlifting or gym going in general. You’ll notice it’s 4th on the list. Primarily, strength training, and especially powerlifting, is a niche activity. If you factor in how many readers in the blogosphere would be interested in those activities, it’s probably not surprising those posts are not my most read. That being said, they are some of the most loyal readers.
- Cooking/Cuisine/Recipes: I’ve done a just a few of these posts. They were unique, I feel, and garnered some interest but were no doubt handicapped by poor “marketing’.
- Life Lessons/Motivation: Dead last. A few views but really no interest. I think there were a number of reasons why this happened (bad titles, dense prose, etc) but basically I wouldn’t read this sort of post from somebody I didn’t know either. It’s that simple.
What helped success – and what caused failure:
- Clear, concise titles: The biggest take-away from this analysis is that cryptic titles for your post just don’t work. It can be brilliantly written and categorized/tagged correctly, but it’ll never work you can’t tell in 2 seconds what the post is about. I wouldn’t read such post, so why I expected my readers to is an embarrassing mystery.
- Good layout/well written: How many times have you, against your better judgment, clicked on a poorly titled blog post (hoping against hope that the title was not indicative of the writing quality) and immediately regretted your decision? Exactly. You don’t like reading somebody’s BS “This is what I did today, guys!” post so don’t inflict that on your readers. Stream of consciousness, laundry list types of posts are boring and you’ll lose credibility.
- Add value: We all have a unique voice and viewpoint that, if correctly targeted, can generate interest. The first step is to find your voice and identify the areas where you truly add value. Blogging is part of this first step for many of us. The “market” will decide where it thinks you add the most value and, in some cases, it might not be what you suspect.
What works for me as a reader: At it’s best, reading blogs exposes me to a myriad different viewpoints. It’s a direct line to access some quality writing from bloggers around the world. There is quite a bit of cra*, though. If you filter out all the commercial blogs, there remains quite a bit a poorly written, poorly conceived dreck. Hey, I’ve written some of those and chances are you might have as well. The posts that resonate the most with me are those who have clear title, have a strong sense of what it is they want to communicate and are well written. What this means is different for every writer and subject. For example, I follow one young writer who writes seemingly stream of consciousness “slice of life” stories that, on the surface, shouldn’t be worth the time. Still, she has a strong, unique voice and an innate sense for storytelling that make all of her posts quite worth reading. And, yes, in her own inimitable way, the title of her posts always gives you an indication of what you are in for.
As a blogger, what were your most widely read posts? Were they the posts you expected or did you have surprises? Please comment below.