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How to Surf Blog Traffic Tsunamis

Surf-1Sometimes it’s the simplest posts that you do that seem to get the best reactions from readers.

Yesterday on my Digital Photography School blog I posted a ‘beginner’ tip that I almost considered not publishing because it was pitched at such a basic level. The post was titled How to Hold a Digital Camera.

What the post contained was nothing that anyone would consider ‘Rocket Science’ by any means but was on a topic that I see many people getting wrong.

I set the post to publish and then went to bed.

This morning I wake up to find that it’s one of the most popular posts on delicious, digg and has been linked to from lifehacker and gizmodo (among others). An hour ago it had 7000 visitors (peak) and now as the US heads towards sleep its tracking at around half of that per hour (and still rising on delicious and digg).

Some of the comments on those sites are not particularly flattering of the post (many of them don’t seem to have read it) saying that it’s too basic – but the way people are hitting the page and linking up to it I’d say that there are plenty of people who do appreciate a ‘basic’ tip.

A few take home lessons from the experience:

  • Sometimes it’s worth stepping back from ‘advanced’ or ‘technical’ posts and remember that many potential readers are not at that level
  • People love a ‘how to’ article – so do social bookmarking sites
  • When your posts get popular they’ll also attract criticism – it comes with the territory – get over it and move on
  • When you get an influx of visitors to a post like this consider how you might leverage the traffic (I added two links inviting people to subscribe to my RSS feed and email newsletter to the post as soon as I saw what was going on – it’s paying off with a new subscription to my newsletter being added every 2-3 minutes at the moment). Another option is to increase the prominence of ads if you’re more interested in monetizing the wave of traffic – I’m not as interested in that – I’d rather build readership.
  • When you get a spike in traffic like this make sure you have something else ready to post as soon as possible for readers to look at (I posted an article on ‘how to photograph pets‘ while there is still a lot of traffic on the site). Keep the momentum going.
  • Enjoy the traffic while it lasts – tomorrow things will be a little higher than normal but the spike in traffic will soon become a distant memory

Update – for more information on capturing traffic from sources like Digg and StumbleUpon and converting them to loyal readers read:

Stickify Your Blog
How to Keep First Time Readers to Your Blog

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Darren,

    I had a traffic tsunami once when I did a post about putting social bookmarks on a blog (at my elamb.org site). Only, I knew I had a homerun. I was one of the first to do that post. I don’t think it ever made it to del.icio.us Popular though. I’m still short of a massive “lifehacker” worthy post. I’ve had a taste of the digg effect, it is bitter sweet as there are so many angry, whiny nerds there. Funny thing is Digg is one of my favorite sites. Like you said, criticism “it comes with the territory – get over it and move on.”

  2. katiebird says:

    Thank you for sharing this story, it’s like a fairy tale.

  3. Sheila says:

    Well, that worked on me, at least.

    I’ve never had a tsunami hit my site but I do have a basic digital camera and have had the “blurry” problem sometimes which had me rather puzzled. I saw the topic here, hit the link, liked the straightforward explanation and writing style, hit the RSS feed, and voila, another reader takes Darren’s Kool-Aid. :)

  4. Darren Rowse says:

    hehe – not quite a fairy tale but fun!

  5. Darren, I visited that post earlier today via Digg, I had no idea it was your blog. (I didn’t like what you did with the top and bottom sections of your page though).

    I liked your idea of adding a sentence about subscribing to future posts. I took it one step further, I added it to my blog’s template, so it shows up on all posts, not just the popular ones.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  6. Darren Rowse says:

    Daniel – yeah those are elements of the design (its a free template) that I don’t particularly like. I’m yet to get a pro design on it but it wont be like that in future.

    In terms of building it into the design – I actually have a places for ‘subscribing’ built into the template in a number of spots and it works pretty well – but on a post getting a lot of traffic I tend to put in more.

    thanks for the feedback.

  7. Steve says:

    I’ve had those tsunami days as well, and your last point is unfortunately the bittersweet truth. Within a week, traffic almost always goes back to exactly what it was. Of all the ups and downs of blogging, I always find this the most discouraging, the constant battle for retaining readership.

  8. Darren Rowse says:

    It is a bittersweet truth Steve.

    However I tend to look at these traffic spikes in two ways:

    1. Immediate opportunities – it’s fun, it can immediately impact profts etc

    2. Future opportunities – while the traffic might not last I think bloggers need to see these waves of traffic as opportunities for future blog growth. There is potential in every wave of traffic to find new regular readers for your blog – via newsletters, via rss, via getting them to bookmark you etc.

    If all you do is see the immediate gain and don’t work on leveraging the wave of traffic things do go back to normal.

    However if you concentrate on the second type of opportunities things do go back down to a lower level of traffic but it does tend to be higher than it was before the spike. I’m expecting that in a couple of days when this traffic goes back down that the daily average will be 100-300 visitors per day higher than it was yesterday as a result of new readers. Each time the wave hits your goal should be to pick up a percentage of the one off visitors as full time readers.

  9. i-ming says:

    Great post, and great title, see you’re milking the ‘how to’ for all it’s worth, still great title!

    a few things,

    1. I didn’t even know you have a photograph blog, i like how you write diffrently for a diffrent type of reader, what other blogs do you have?

    2.i experience the same kind of spikes on my blogs, especially http://30dayartist.com , due to the nature of the blog, each new blogger brings some readers, and i get a few of them in the end.

    what you experience in thousands, i get in tens:)

    3. abut basics, any complex idea, is just alot of basics! GO PROBLOGGER!

    ming

  10. Thilak says:

    So True. Something these do happen to me too. But i didn’t have traffic as much as you had.

    The basic thing which you need (To get traffic tsunami) is Returning Visitors.

  11. Rob Elam says:

    Mr. Rowse,

    I agree with “2. Future Opportunities” but only if your site is set up to take full advantage (i.e. social bookmarks, newsletters, rss). I guess that is why it is imperative to be prepared for the Tsunami.

  12. Emile says:

    Darren,

    Interesting post and who woulda thunk that such a post would have been “dugg” so much. As an aside, I would maybe add to your digital camera post for the photographer to hold their breath, much like trained military snipers, esepcially for certain shots with longer shutter exposures and without the use of the tripod (hey, you are recommending leaning on a wall or something similar)

  13. Markus Merz says:

    I had some unexpected spikes recently and I can only say that it is absolutely true that some of the ‘readers by accident’ do stay. Every spike gave me another step on the ladder of raising my audience numbers a little.

    For me most interesting is the aspect of nearly not publishing because the subject is so basic. Lesson learned!

  14. Franck says:

    It’s a very interesting plug in. I’ll try to use it when I have time.
    Well done for your 7000 bookmarks on the Social Bookmarking sites.

    All my Blogs are beginners geared, and I like this way to approach a new audience. I am loosing some advanced people, but it’s my choice.

  15. Armand says:

    My biggest traffic spike to the moment was 260 in a day, from Stumble Upon. :) I don’t know if I captured anyone from that tsumani… Only if I could’ve read this post before that.

    Thanks for sharing! Good tips.

  16. Darren, great post.

    One question — do you usually keep a timeless post draft sitting in the wings to use when you need it? Or how do you come up with quick, improv material?

    Maybe it’s different for me, but a lot of my content is news, and it takes a few hours to jump in and write something really quality…so it can be tough to jump on the wave! =)

    Thanks for your tips.

  17. Adam says:

    Hey sweet post, you got me thinking now hehe.
    I have you bookmarked due to this post great work and keep it up

    Cheers

  18. This is really great post.I have never really thought of this in that way. Earlier i also read a post on link baiting.If i had not read your post i would have had it all wrong.

  19. Sherry says:

    Thanks…this was really helpful information. I have noticed that some of the posts that I thought no one would be interested in actually get a lot of traffic. Now you have explained to me why this is. Cool!

  20. Hi Darren, thanks for the tip, will make sure to apply it myself :) A lot of visitors in the social bookmarking sites surf from site to site very quickly since they are literally flooded with options, so it is critical to catch them and hook them in when they finally come in.

  21. Great post Darren.

    I think that this is a great tip and while posting on my blog this is what I usually do keep in mind and I never leave a chance of posting something that is not so advanced but it is simple and easy and that’s what I get most links on.
    ——————————————————–
    Mohammad Afaq
    Free Website Traffic

  22. wow gold says:

    But many of my most highly-read posts are those in which I shared my take or observations on something going on in the news or elsewhere in the blogosphere…and had I sat on them for even 12 hours I would have missed the wave of people reading, talking and writing about the topic. In that situation I think it’s better to make the post quickly and then go back and refine it later if needed.

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