Wednesday was the biggest day of traffic that I’ve seen to any of my blogs for a very long time (perhaps ever). I mentioned this on twitter yesterday and had a few followers request that I write up how it happened – so here’s a quick recap/timeline on the 24 hours that saw around a quarter of a million visitors to Digital Photography School.
- It all started with the publishing of this post – Long Exposure Photography: 15 Stunning Examples. The post is simply a collection of 15 amazing images all illustrating the same technique (long exposure photography). The images are all creative commons images from Flickr (meaning they are all available for republishing).
- The post went live on DPS and was quickly submitted to Digg and StumbleUpon. I added a ‘Digg this’ button to the top of the post (now removed).
- I had a feeling that the post would do well on StumbleUpon so was on the lookout for traffic from there so when I noticed the traffic coming in from StumbleUpon I tweeted about the post – noting that it was doing well on SU. This was the only ‘help’ I gave the post – a viral like thing began to happen.
- Momentum from SU began to build as more and more people began to organically come from the StumbleUpon toolbar. As they did I noticed that Digg numbers began to rise also. People saw the Digg button and were clicking it naturally.
- 4 hours after it was submitted to Digg it hit the front page of Digg. It did so with around 110 Diggs. I was quite surprised by the relatively low number of Diggs that it took and the speed that it went to the front page.
- The first hour after the post hit the front page of Digg the traffic was around 28,000 unique visitors. This surprised me a little as it was midnight on the West Coast of the US and the early hours of the morning on the East Coast (not usually the best time to hit the front page).
- The diggs continued to come in. StumbleUpon traffic also continued to gain momentum. The post hit the ‘popular page’ on Delicious (where it remained for at least 15 hours… again an unusually long time – you can see the page for it here).
- Traffic from Digg tapered off after the first hour on the front page. From memory it was around 8000 visitors the 2nd hour and tapered further to around 4000 the next few hours.
- I went to bed around this time and expected things to continue to taper down and return to ‘normal’ sorts of levels while I slept.
- I woke up the next morning to find that DPS had had another big spike of traffic just after I went to bed. Most of the traffic came from Digg. Getting a 2nd big spike of traffic from Digg wasn’t something I’d experienced before but it had definitely happened. It came around 7 hours after hitting the front page of Digg and send around 25,000 visitors in an hour (and quite a few more in the hours that followed). It turns out that the post had gained so many Diggs that it hit the ‘Top in All Topics’ list which sent it a second wave of traffic.
- Over the next 6-7 hours Digg traffic again tapered off (but was still significant). StumbleUpon continued to send good traffic and I began to see a lot of secondary social media sites sending traffic (sites like popurls (it was the #1 story there for quite a while), Wykop, Jimmyr and plime) and also quite a few other blogs and websites (big and small) like The Agitator, Monitor and Naver. Interestingly many of the links were from non english sites. I have included a screen shot (right) of the top 15 sources of traffic to the post over the last 36 hours.
- Today things are somewhat quieter in terms of traffic – but they are still around double a normal days traffic. Most of the traffic now is coming from StumbleUpon and secondary links from blogs and websites. From past experience this will continue for a while. StumbleUpon has the potential to send decent traffic to a post for weeks (and months). In the long run I expect StumbleUpon will probably send more traffic to the post than Digg (although Digg has currently sent triple what SU has).
- What will generally happen next is that a little search traffic will come in because the post has been linked to from quite a few sources (Yahoo currently sees a couple of hundred incoming links – Google sees quite a few more).
So what impact does a rush of traffic have on a site?
Beyond getting a rush of adrenaline and perhaps a bit of an ego boost – what impact does a day like yesterday have on a blog?
- Ad Revenue – traffic to the site yesterday was around 5-6 times normal levels. Conversion in terms of ad revenue was not that high – but did see a good bump. For example AdSense earnings were almost three times higher than normal.
- New Loyal Readers – it is too early to tell how many of the 250k readers subscribed to my RSS feed yesterday (it is at least over 1000 new subscribers) but I can see that newsletter subscriber numbers were considerably up on normal levels. On an average day we get around 450 confirmed new newsletter subscribers to DPS – yesterday it was around 1000 (and there will be more as some take a while to verify). Today it’s over 800 (and will probably hit 1000 again). While a 1-2% conversion rate doesn’t sound like much it can actually be quite significant. 2000 new daily readers over a year or more really adds up to a lot of new page views on a site.
- SEO – one of the best parts about a day like yesterday is the extra links that point at your blog once everything dies down. As mentioned above – there are around 200 links pointing at the post mentioned – some of which also point to the front page of DPS. There’s no real way to tell what impact this has on a blog but it is a significant number of links and will add to the authority of the page and site in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
- Buzz – another benefit that is difficult to measure is that of ‘buzz’. There’s something very uplifting to an online community when they get noticed by other parts of the web. I’ll highlight what happened in the weekly newsletter that I send our regular members tonight and I find that doing so helps lift the morale around the community. It’ll also send a fresh wave of traffic to the post as people go to see what caused all the traffic.
All in all it was a good day. I’m most happy about the conversion to new readers than happened and about the SEO boost (I’m also happy that the servers didn’t skip a beat) – however I’m very aware that the extra traffic is relatively fleeting and today it is back to work.
Social Media Traffic Tsunamis are exciting events but the real challenge is to keep growing your loyal reader base by providing quality content day in day out. Speaking of which…. it’s time to get back to work.