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Reflections on the Group Writing Project

A few people have been asking me to write a post summarizing the benefits of running last week’s ‘Top 5′ group writing project (GWP).

I’d summarize it as being worth doing in five main areas (and will add a few ‘costs’ of doing it below also):

1. Participation

The main reason that I run GWP’s is that it gets current readers participating in the blog. While there’s already a pretty good level of interaction on the blog in comments I find that a special opportunity like GWPs draws people who might previously have been lurking into coming out openly as active readers. I find that the number of comments in the weeks following a GWP are usually higher than in the weeks before – so it does seem to impact the interactive culture of a blog. I find that with increased participation comes increased ownership from readers.

2. New Readers

There’s no doubt that this last GWP created a buzz around the blogosphere. In doing this I find that they put the name/brand of ProBlogger ‘out there’ in ways that it might not have been previously and as a result every time I run one I seem to find new readers. While I don’t require people to mention that they’re in the project on their post – most do and in doing so they give those readers who also have blogs a way of discovering my blog.

Hint – What I’ve found when running GWPs is that you need to work hard to convert some of the new readers into loyal readers. Don’t let every post in the week that you run this type of thing relate to the project but work hard to provide excellent content that will make those discovering your blog for the first time want to hang around for more (and content that will keep your current loyal readers interested of course). There is a danger in running this sort of project that you become obsessed with it and ignore your current readers (and run the risk of losing them).

3. Incoming links

Related to this is the numbers of new links pointing at ProBlogger. I have not counted how many blogs linked up to ProBlogger and the GWP this week but I would suspect that there were well over 1000 (and probably closer to 2000 as many linked up numerous times over the week). Now people will argue over the benefits of so many links coming into a single page (or just a few) so quickly in terms of SEO – but the main reason that these links are so great is that they bring new readers with them.

NB: I’ve been told by some SEO types that my daily posts are risky to my blog when it comes to SEO also because they have so many links on them. I understand this but am more than willing to run that risk because I think the benefits of running GWPs far outweigh the costs – both to me and those participating.

4. ‘Happy Readers’

I’ve lost count of the numbers of emails that I’ve had in the last week from readers thanking me for a range of things that have come out of participating. These have included:

  • finding new readers for their blogs
  • big traffic days (from direct traffic from the GWP)
  • big traffic from social bookmarking (quite a few participants seemed to get on Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon etc)
  • lots of comments (a number of readers reported having more comments on their posts than they’ve ever had on a post)
  • new rss subscribers
  • new ideas for posts
  • discovering new blogs to read/subscribe to

The list could go on (and the emails keep coming in). This is probably the best part of GWPs – new readers are great, but happy readers are even better. When you help someone you find they advocate for you, promote you and keep coming back for more. It is also very energizing and encouraging to get these emails on a personal level.

5. Traffic

It is difficult to quantify the actual traffic that this latest GWP brought into ProBlogger. It was made harder to gauge because in the same week I was also on the front page of Digg and Delicious for one of my ‘creativity’ posts. There has definitely been an impact though on traffic (I’ve also noticed an increase in the length of time that people are staying on ProBlogger per visit this week).

A couple of graphs:
I’m a bit of a graph junkie – before I move onto the costs of GWPs here are a few that might interest others who are more visual:

This first one measure the amount of posts in the blogosphere over the last two months with the words ‘top 5′ in them – via blogpulse.

200705112320511Ligi5Vlmfcj8Rola8Pv

This one measures the number of posts in the blogosphere over the last two months with ‘problogger.net’ in them (incoming links) – via blogpulse.

20070511232057Uz2Jwasecudtvqe72Uvj

This one graphs mentions of ‘problogger’ over the last 90 days – tracked by Technorati.

Problogger-Technorati

Lastly – an Alexa graph measuring traffic. It shows some increase (although this was probably more to do with a good two days on Digg.

Graph

Costs of the GWP

While there are some obvious benefits of doing a project like this there are also a few costs (some obvious and some more hidden). To give a little balance to this post here are a few of the costs that I’ve observed of this last GWP.

1. Time

Perhaps the biggest cost of these projects is the time that it takes to put them together. This time around was easier due to the plugin that Gary put together for me to help automate it – however administering something with so many people contributing does take significant time and energy.

2. SEO Costs?

I’ve already mentioned this in passing – but while there are some potential gains with having so many blogs point links at the GWP there are also potential risks to this blog in having so many links pointing out from it. I also do wonder whether having so many inbound links appear so quickly will have costs also as it seems so unnatural to Google’s bots.

3. Server Load

There were a few times when the project tested the back end of ProBlogger – particularly on the two days when the blog was also being Dugg. Thanks to the great tech team at b5 we got through that without too many problems.

4. Reader Distraction

The thing that worries me most about these projects is that they can be a little distracting from the main focus of the blog. While I actually run these projects to give people a little inspiration to write something that might improve their blog or bring it a little life (which does fit with the main purpose of this blog) it can be a little distracting also and I try to balance this with other on topic posts.

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. TurtleKing says:

    Thank you again for running the group writing project. I really enjoyed reading other blogs and hopefully making some connections with fellow bloggers. I hope you do something like this again in the future as it has certainly helped me (I’m a new blogger). Your site is also a daily visit for me to get information and tips to help improve my blog. Thank you again!

    Turtle King
    http://turtlesatwork.blogspot.com

  2. Grace says:

    Thankyou for analyzing your group writing project like that. (and sharing it.) ;)

  3. Wolf Stone says:

    The GWP is something i look forward to and am guessing Darren does too…i think it benefits both him and the contributor…like for me personally…i’ve gone from being ranked 400,000 something on technorati to under 100,000…solely due to the GWP. It is a super event and i hope it keeps gaining momemtum and popularity…thanks Darren for organizing the event !!

  4. engtech says:

    I’ve been doing GWP every two months for the past six months (latest here) and I find they can be distracting to me. You have to ride a fine line between promoting the GWP but not straying from your normal blog content.

    I also find that monitoring/maintaining the GWP feels like work, so I have a tendency to not want to do it. I think doing only one or two a year is a much saner way to go about it.

  5. engtech says:

    It’s also dangerous if you focus on the contest aspect of it more than the group writing aspect of it. People get annoyed when they don’t win, or if a post they feel wasn’t as good as theirs wins.

  6. Rhys says:

    The interesting thing is that now people are jumping on the bandwagon (myself included) and trying to run competitions through their blogs. Some are being successful, others (myself included) are being not so successful :-)

  7. Tony says:

    Thank you for your article.I know more

  8. Matt Jones says:

    Nice graphs :) What caused the massive increase in April 25th on the Technorati graph?

  9. A Marques says:

    Graph junkie ha? But ok, really illustrates very well the points you are trying to pass…

    Congrats on the success of the GWP. Hope to see another one in a near future.

  10. xxxChick says:

    Well i missed this one, hope there will be some more opportunities anyways. Btw who is approving these comments i want to know! .

  11. Roberta says:

    This was a really great project. My stats went up some, but the best part was that I found some really friendly people in my niche, to connect with. I’ve noticed that others are doing the competitions and things of that nature, but this one had such mass appeal.

    Thank you again, Darren, this was fun, creative, and informative. I’m trying to jump on the Chitika bandwagon, too. Wish me luck! :)

  12. Daniel says:

    Yea I like the idea of group writing projects. I’m glad this one turned into a success for you.

  13. Liz says:

    Great project Darren. Not only did it get me to think outside the square, but it also increased my traffic, my links, and introduced me it a number of other blogs that I am now visiting regularly.

    Cheers, Liz

  14. Ali says:

    I think true success can be measured in the way that the community came together in this project by linking to each other, I still get link backs today from people who are re-posting the entire three day list.

    My Top5 post became the most commented ever, more than a previous one that got on the front page of digg.

    Thanks, Darren. For a crazy three days.

  15. Carolyn says:

    Yes, Darren, thanks so much for the writing project. I enjoyed it very much. I’ve discovered many wonderful blogs that I’ve added to my favorites list. I’ve seen your other GWP and followed them, but this is the first time I submitted my own post. I loved being a part of something big!

    Your analysis was very informative. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I learned more about blogging from this project than I ever thought possible
    - and I thought I knew alot. I stumbled upon the 2nd day post and on the spur of the moment decided to enter the contest.

    It was cool, and alot of fun. Downside for me was that I forgot everything else for a few days! Thanks.

  17. Ginene says:

    I have always been a fan of your blog but normally don’t comment that much. The project have encouraged me to comment a little more. I am glad that you go into the details that you do with your blog and the project. This was really a great project and I am glad that I found out about so many great blogs in one place.

  18. Hi Darren,

    I wonder whether your incomng link amount was the cause of you losing on Pagerank (from 7 to 6) ? Did you see any traffic change due to this ?

    Thanks,

    LV

  19. Darren, though I have lurked on your site occasionally, this project actually pulled me in to comment. It did increase my traffic, but better yet, it gave me a starting point for discovering new bloggers that I already love. I can’t imagine the amount of work you did with one of these contests before you had the plug-in! Thank you for pulling us all together.
    Shelly

  20. jhay says:

    Time would be the most essential and hard to manage. I tried a similar project last year and going through all the submissions before the deadline proved to be a gargantuan task.

    But it sure was fun and a very good learning experience.

  21. Brennan says:

    Darren,

    I can’t thank you enough, for hosting the Group Writing Project. It was mutually beneficial, I can see, and I hope you plan on hosting another one in the future. Thank you for all your hard work, and the traffic to my blog :) .

    Best Regards,

    Brennan Monaco
    http://bpmonaco.com/

  22. Interesting. I’ve read a great blog post about this project. It’s not easy to be original when there are hundreds of participants.

    Kudos to the winner!

  23. This project seemed to have an unprecedented number of people posting the entire group writing list on their own blogs. This didn’t give me any extra traffic but it did triple my Technorati authority rating in one week! (This gives me a chance of gate crashing the next Australian top 100 blog list :)) While all these extra links don’t hurt I much preferred the people who included my post in the cherry picked top 5 top 5 posts of the day or who picked my list because it related to my blog niche or came and commented because I had commented on their list.

  24. My top two reasons (sorry can’t think of 5) why I think this project inspired so many to participate:

    1. No barriers to entry. The top 5 theme, with no other restrictions or hoops to jump through, made it easily accessible to ANY blog writer. I couldn’t think of an excuse not to enter, though I tried!

    2. Everybody was in with an equal chance due to the winner being chosen at random rather than judged on the merits of their blog posts. If the prize had gone to the entry judged the best, it may have discouraged many still-developing writers like me from entering, knowing the high standards we would be competing against. By picking a winner at random, it was participation, not brilliance, that was being rewarded with the chance of a prize. We may not all be brilliant writers yet, but we can ALL participate (and in doing so we get better).

  25. David says:

    The GWP was great. Please run another one soon.

  26. Andy Beard says:

    It was actually the first group writing project I had taken part in since your 31 Days project, which I still gain an occasional visitor for.

    From what I have seen on many blogs, there is a huge difference in the traffic for participants and links for those taking part on the first day.

    Most of the links I received were from people publishing all 800+ links rather than a day 4 list.

    I took part mainly because I was writing the post anyway, so submitting it took an additional 5 minutes.

    I wouldn’t worry about the SEO effect, as you use “more” on the posts thus only the specific permalink has a leak, and most of the incoming links would be to the project page itself.

  27. It certainly has been a win-win situation for us all — we all read a lot of interesting posts, established connections with a bunch of fellow bloggers, Darren got more traffic out of it, and the project winner was a happy camper indeed.

  28. Brangelina says:

    With the “unprecedented number of people posting the entire group writing list on their own blogs,” my question is how ethical was that? I got over 30 trackbacks from people doing it. The links are great but are those people getting a free ride from Darren’s content?

  29. markus941 says:

    I don’t think you have to worry about SEO costs. The benefits you received from this project will outweigh any potential leak (as long as you didn’t link out to any “bad neighborhood” sites).

  30. Hi Darren,

    Your GWP events gave my original Family Travel blog a real boost last year, so thank you for that.

    Now that I write for several blogs, I decided to put my Top Five post on the newest one, the Perceptive Travel Blog, which is just starting and tends to the quirky (in other words, might not be discovered on its own for awhile.)

    The traffic and linking was crazy, but a good sort of crazy. I found great blogs and they found us (and I know a lot of people are now ProBlogger and Perceptive Travel converts.) To heck with stats on your Google ranking and the minor distraction of such a project from your main mission — the GWP puts you on the map in a huge way.

    It also lets people read your stuff and get to know you and your incredibly generous and helpful attitude. That’s worth a gazillion Googly bits of data any day. :)

  31. Roberta says:

    I really liked participating the in the group writing project, but I was left with one question: How do you get people to comment on your blog, instead of just linking to it? I got a few comments on my post, but the majority was links. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the link love and feel my post was something that gave people some laughs, but I really would’ve liked to see more comments on it. I don’t know if my post was very comment-worthy, but what makes that determination? Any thoughts?

    Thanks again for hosting such a fun event. I definitely look forward to participating in future projects.

  32. I enjoyed the GWP immensely and gained some new readers and commenters from it, but one thing I also noticed that was bad was the amount of ‘link love’ posts afterwards.

    People are posting the whole list to their blogs and I don’t see it as any kind of love, but an underhanded spam tactic. All 800 or so bloggers then get a track back in their post which in turn links back to this ‘link-loving’ bloggers.

  33. @Brangelina – I don’t think there was anything unethical about posting the full list of entries on another blog. That content was not really content – it was just links and headings. Most bloggers WANT people to post links to their content. Nobody claimed the list belonged to them or that the contest was their idea. If they think posting the list is a service to their readers (and the contest) then good luck to them.

  34. That was very good behind the scenes look at the Top 5 GWP, which I really really enjoyed BTW. I learned so much during that time and stretched my writing skills. I observed high traffic days, had numerous comments, gained several readers, discovered several new blogs… just about all of the above mentioned benefits. I appreciate the way you make your blog an open book to help the little people learn. Keep it up!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] only problem was that I could not participate in Problogger’s Group Writing Project, a promotion that would give 2 links for everyone that wrote a blog entry about a Top 5 (any Top [...]

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