Exactly three years ago, as I was walking home from the gym, I noticed I was getting a lot of likes and comments on one of the posts I had published on The Art of Blogging.
I was also gaining a lot of new followers, around 1 new follower every minute or so.
It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I had been featured on WordPress Discover.
Those of you who had blogs on WordPress.com in 2010–2015 or so might remember it as Freshly Pressed.
You even used to get a nice badge to place on your blog’s sidebar.
So, my post got shared with 25 million people. Not only that, but it was the only post that got shared on WordPress Discover on that day, so I got 24 hours worth of exposure.
During those twenty four hours, my article:
- was viewed by 17,160 people
- received 437 comments
- got shared 164 times, including 46 shares on Twitter and 26 shares on Facebook
- received 2,617 likes
I also gained 768 new followers and received two new orders for one-on-one mentorship, worth about $300.
Overall traffic for the day was 36,350 views.
What Made This Post So Special?
Obviously, I haven’t reached out to the editor who selected this article, so I can’t speak for their motivation, but I’d like to share with you my thoughts on why they chose to feature this article.
As a side note, this was a repost of an older article. The first time I published it, nothing extraordinary happened. About a hundred or so likes (which was the usual number of likes most of my posts received back then) and 10 comments.
I waited a couple of month and republished it as it was. I didn’t change a thing. And it got featured.
This shows that sometimes an article’s success is all about timing, a bit of luck, and whether or not there are significant current events that might disrupt the normal flow of traffic.
A Short Disclaimer
There aren’t many articles around about, “How I Won The Lottery,” and there’s a good reason for that.
All the had to do was buy a ticket. There’s no formula for their success, so it can’t be replicated, by them or others.
But I did read an article about this math teacher who was certain he had cracked the code, and could win the lottery as often as he liked, but I guess that just shows how irrational we can be sometimes.
In any case, the idea is that a blog post going viral is 50% pure luck, maybe even more, and there’s no recipe to help you become luckier. It just happens, which is why I’m not a big fan of this endless pursuit to share viral content.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, your success is not worth much. You are at the mercy of forces you can’t understand.
That being said, the goal is to analyze this article and see what exactly attracted so many people, and why it resonated with them. There’s a recipe for that, and it’s something that can be replicated.
So, let’s get started.
1. The Headline
What is the first thing a potential reader notices about your blog posts?
The headline, alongside the featured image and the first paragraph, act as a hook.
The title of the post is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers.”
It’s kind of funny, or better said, it’s got a bit of swagger to it. Just a little bit. It’s obviously a spin on Stephen Covey’s super famous book. It’s also clear that it’s a listicle, and we do know that those tend to attract readers.
A couple of things I’ve noticed:
- Odd numbers work best.
- More than 5 items/steps/etc, less than 10.
- 7 seems to be a sort of magic number. All the articles I wrote that included this number performed extremely well.
Another often overlooked rule of writing irresistible headlines is that you’ve got to state at least one benefit for the reader, or, ideally, an insider benefit.
This article provides a list of seven habits of highly effective bloggers. It makes the reader curious to know if they have those traits. If they don’t, they’re not highly effective bloggers.
Simply put, the title makes use of qualities that everyone wants to have ( I mean, what blogger does not want to be as effective as possible) to ensure that folks are curious enough to read it.
2. The Introduction
Do you want to be a successful blogger? Do ideas for posts randomly pop into your head whenever, wherever? Do you think about ways to improve your blog?
How to write more? Better? Faster?
Do you study what the most successful bloggers have done to get to where they are right now?
I was writing this introduction and imagining readers nodding their heads and going all, “Yes, man, yeah, yeah… now just let me read the damn thing!”
A blog post should build momentum right from the opening line. There’s an emotional and intellectual journey that you’ve got to map out with each sentence.
The emotional undertone of an article is something most bloggers tend to overlook, especially if they’re part of a niche that’s heavily biased towards “adding value.”
3. The Rest of the Damn Thing
Of course, now I proceed to list my habits.
As a four minute read, this is just the right length not to be considered an investment in time and mental energy, so it appeals not only to those who are genuinely dedicated to improving their blogs, but also those who are kind of curious.
Some people found some stuff in there funny. Want to know a secret? I wasn’t trying to be funny. I never do. I was just writing my opinion, and trying to be clear about it.
What was it that I thought of those habits, and how did those habits affect me as a blogger.
I also make use of some analogies (like the one with the Chinese bamboo tree) and metaphors and such, all in the hopes of better translating how I felt and what I thought into actual words that you could understand and relate to.
4. The Call to Action
What do you think the most important trait of a top blogger is?
What do you think?
After all, I just wrote this article for you, and only for you. I wrote it because I had some knowledge that I’d like to share with you, so that we can both succeed as bloggers. So that we can both solve certain issues and meet certain goals and expectations that we have.
Yes, asking questions at the end of posts does ensure that people will comment; you know, to answer the question.
But it’s also important to take a few moments to think what question to ask, and how much does it relate to your blog post.
I thought that as people read through the list of habits that they’d come up with new ones, that maybe they’d disagree with some of them and come up with different ones to replace them, and that they’d offer me feedback in that way.
5. The Emotional Undertone
99.99% of people take action when they feel like it. People don’t read an article because you want them to, and probably most shocking, they don’t even read it even if they need the information.
People read an article because the author made them feel this inexplicable urge to find out what is what.
People do not comment on your blog posts because you ask them to, because you wrote something that is useful to them, or interesting, or even amusing. They comment because they felt like commenting.
Always, always, always try to understand the emotional undertone of your article, try to figure out what buttons you’re pushing and why, and be intentional in setting up certain expectations and then delivering on the promise you make in your headline and introductions.
Also, I believe that great content tends to divide people, so rather than trying to please everyone, try to focus on engaging readers on an emotional level.
Blogging is not an exact science. It’s an art.
Writing an engaging blog post is more than just following a certain recipe.
There are a plethora of factors that influence a blog’s success. Too many to even count.
From the trust your audience has in you to the number of highly engaged readers to what current events are dominating the headlines on the day you publish your article.
Of course, you can’t control those factors, but you can control the quality of your content, and the truth is that the basics are just as easy to follow as they are to ignore.
Writing a great headline, a fantastic introduction, being aware of the emotional undertone of your blog post, and genuinely doing the best you can to add value are the only things you can control.