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):
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.
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.
This one measures the number of posts in the blogosphere over the last two months with ‘problogger.net’ in them (incoming links) – via blogpulse.
This one graphs mentions of ‘problogger’ over the last 90 days – tracked by 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.
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.
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.