I’ve been watching the del.icio.us Popular Page quite closely lately. I’m fascinated by the list for many reasons – for one it’s a great source of content ideas and links, secondly it helps keep a finger on the pulse of what people are into at any given time and thirdly it’s a highly trafficked page that has the potential to send out large quantities of traffic very quickly and is increasingly being targeted (along with other social bookmarking pages) by bloggers who are doing quite well from the traffic it sends them (in fact I know of three bloggers who credit del.icio.us and digg.com as kick starting (and feeding in an ongoing way) their blogging careers. I know last time I hit the top of the list I had an extra 8000 visitors that day directly from it and the links from others who saw it there.
While I haven’t done an in depth study into del.icio.us – it is interesting to note the type of links that consistently get to the top of the del.icio.us popular page. Here are seven of the characteristics that are often present in these popular links (often more than one of the following apply in each instance) which could improve the chances of getting into the mix as a popular link:
- Make a List – Just by scanning the current popular links titles it is evident that lists dominate the… list (they make up over 40% of the current links). One of the first times I made it to the top of del.icio.us was with a list (fittingly it was a list of why lists are good for getting traffic). Of course some people are ‘anti-list’ – they argue that breaking things down into lists ‘dummifies’ the content. While I’ve seen plenty of lists where this is the case – I would also argue that lists that are well crafted can be just as meaty as other forms of writing.
- Number your List - It’s not just any old list that gets popular but quite often lists that have a number in the title. I’m not quite sure what it is about numbers that capture the attention of del.icio.us users – but they do. I can’t remember the last time when there wasn’t a title in the popular list like ’10 rules for…’, ‘5 ways to…’ , ‘6 trends that…’, ’50 tips on….’. There is obviously something about quantifying a list that readers respond to. How many points is ideal? The jury is still out on this one. As I look at the current popular page I see a list of 50, numerous lists of 10 and a list of 3.
- Write a ‘How to…’ - Another type of link that is often popular is the ‘how to’ post. Walk your readers through a process that teaches them how to achieve a goal they might have and they’re more likely to want to bookmark it. Again as I scan the current list I see a number of titles that indicate that the links will teach or guide readers through a particular issue. Often the titles use the actual words ‘how to…’ in them. Others use ‘Guide to’, ‘Tips to…’ or ‘Tutorials’ etc. On the flip side of the ‘how to’ I also regularly see ‘how not to’ type articles or articles that talk about ‘common mistakes’ that people make.
- Make Big Promises and Claims – It’s interesting that the del.icio.us popular page relies totally upon the title of the link to get people to click on it (ie there are no descriptions to draw readers to visit – just the title). As a result the way titles are constructed has a lot to do with converting the link into visitors. One strategy that some successful del.icio.us links use is to make a big promise or grand statement. A recent post on ProBlogger that did this that got into the popular list was Three simple actions that doubled my website traffic in 30 days. While it’s not a promise – it’s a title that certainly got some attention (well worded Adrian). Of course a good title isn’t enough, unless you have something worth reading you’ll not get the necessary bookmarks to create the social bookmarking wave to surf to the top.
- Get Technological – The vast majority of links in the popular list as I write this post have some sort of technological bent. It features links about SOAP, Powerpoint, video games, AJAX, CSS, Blogging, Top Websites, Linux, Microsoft, Cell Phones etc. Obviously del.icio.us users are tech savy folk – so to get their attention you’ll want to tickle their tech bone.
- Inspire – I notice here at ProBlogger that sometimes my most helpful ‘how to’/techie posts are not the only ones to get attention from readers – in fact probably the most linked to and bookmarked posts at ProBlogger fit more into the inspirational/motivational category rather than an educational one. People like to be inspired and touched on an emotional level.
- Use Humor – Of course it’s not only techie or inspirational posts that get to the top of the del.icio.us heap. Sometimes it’s links that go for the funny bone that are also popular. Ten Simple Rules for Dating My Daughters was a link that caught my eye a few days back for this reason – it got close to the top of the popular page. Of course if you can use humor in the form of a numbered list on a techie, inspirational topic and make a big claim at the same time you’re set!
I’m sure there are plenty of other characteristics of del.icio.us links that make it to the popular page – interested to hear what others think.