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Duncan Riley of The Inquisitr Shares a Popular Post Case Study

This week I’m featuring a short series of interviews with successful bloggers looking at a popular post on their blog and why they think it went viral. Today Duncan Riley from The Inquisitr has agreed to dissect the popularity of one of his site’s most popular posts.

Screen shot 2009-09-10 at 1.30.40 PM.png What is the post on your blog that has had the most traffic in the last 12 months?

Is American Idol’s Adam Lambert Gay? Is there really any question? (656,254 page views)

Where did the traffic mainly come from?

Approx 85% came from Google. Interestingly after that was AOL and direct (as opposed to Yahoo or a social site)

Did you do anything extra to market or promote this post or did it just happen organically?

Initially it was organic. We’d picked up in the semi-finals of American Idol that there was this great singer, and people were asking whether he was gay or not. We led with the question people were asking, a tactic I know other sites advocate, but we don’t do that often, because it doesn’t always make for a good solid headline.

First day traffic was 611 page views, then 10,164…then it bubbled along: 1,000 one day, 2,000 the next, with a couple of 10,000 days as well.

It wasn’t huge for us on a daily sense for over 2 months, but it kept appearing in our stats. We did follow up posts (none which did the same level of page views, but some around the 50,000 to 100,000 page view mark) and we kept linking back to the original post each time. Two months later, and Adam Lambert was heading towards the final of American Idol, and more people kept asking the question. 2 months and 1 week after the post went up, it did a 107,834 day; we were the top result in Google for “Is Adam Lambert gay.”

The success was a combination of two things: timing and link strategy. We were early, if not the first site of size to write about the topic. After that, we not only linked back ourselves, but the post received a good number of external links as well (being first helped a lot), pushing us to the top of Google

What can we as bloggers learn from the success of this post?

1. Timing isn’t everything, but there is still strong opportunities for first to market. If you can offer a post that contains information (or commentary) that is unique, first (or close to first), and topical, that post can sometimes become a big post for you.

2. Sometimes long term pays A lot of what we do is short term when it comes to news, but some stories can wag not only for days, but weeks and (as in this case) months. Marque content has the ability to provide for you over a longer period; our post here didn’t start that way, but it had longevity.

For example this post I wrote back in June; it’s done just over 55,000 page views as I write this, but every day it gets page views, one day 500, next 1000, then 150 etc, and I have every reason to believe that in 3 months time it will probably still be wagging along and will eventually pass 100,000 pageviews. Not spectacular I know, but likewise if you’ve got a sizeable number of posts doing the same thing, they all add up.

It doesn’t matter what the vertical: both my examples here are entertainment related, but it could be just as easily be applied to a good advice post, or internet marketing post, or more. You need look no further that bloggers who post about WordPress templates and plugins for example to know that a good post can wag for not only months, but sometimes years.

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. Jason Drohn says:

    Duncan – do you do any SEO research before you publish? Or do you just hit submit?

    – Jason

  2. Roschelle says:

    I experienced the same thing recently. My blog is relatively new although I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now. I wrote a post titled “The Death Panel and HR 3200″. Now mind you my blog is not political but as a nurse I was just fed up with the absurdity of such an accusation.

    Just the wording of the title made my little unknown blog the 2nd selection when searched in Google.

    So, indeed, it’s timing, wording and a dose of luck sprinkled down from the blog gods from time to time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Roschelle says:

    **correction** #1 today when I checked!

  4. First of all I would like to say big thanks to Inquisitr because of sharing its big motivational information with the bloggers.
    If you are paying long term post it gives us more credit but long term is not responsible for the entire traffic.It is depend upon what is the content and how it is optimized for the readers as well as search engines.Organic traffic comes through search engines optimization techniques.Even you can get huge amount of the traffic through manual promotion of Post on social network sites and social bookmarking sites like Digg and Del.cio.us etc.
    Anyways,I am really inspired with your case study.

  5. Well, it really depends on what niche you are in to have that kind of traffic for a post. I can see that Duncan Riley’s blog has a lot of topics including sports, news, entertainment, and others.

    These few topics are the top most searches online, so that is why the blog can achieve that. Well of course, this kind of blog will need a lot of writers focusing in different topics, where team management is very essential here.

    Your blog can also have this kind of traffic, where you need to follow the trend of your niche and think what are the topics, people will search online.

    This way you will be ahead of the market and at the same time generate traffic to your blog.

  6. Dena says:

    Great advice. Once again this take me back to my old theory – quality over quantity. And of course it’s all about timing and relevancy. Some really great insight here. Thank you for sharing.

    Cheers!

    -Dena
    Evolution

  7. Dan says:

    You know, that’s a good question Jason. I’d like the answer to that as well.

    I’d also like to know about those of us in niche markets. How can we get better ranking on Google if our audience is smaller by default? Or is this the way to go about it no matter the size of audience? Part of me already thinks yes, but I’d love some feedback.

  8. Amazing tips Darren. Good thing I checked your site today.

    what i learned from this post is that: never underestimate a post in your site on the first day or week of posting Coz at the end of the day we will never know it will pick up someday.

  9. If an article is getting a lot of play, is it worth updating that page as new facts come out, or is it better to put that in a new post?

  10. Duncan and I have become good friends and he does an excellent job with The Inquisitr. Great post, Duncan.

  11. Seth W says:

    A very nice explanation of two very important traffic elements. I seem to think that timing played a big role, but your initial ranking and previous traffic are what definitely turned your article into something popular. For instance you were getting enough traffic already to link and use social media which then helps spiral the post into more and more traffic.

  12. It’s all about providing an answer or solution for your reader. :D

  13. I really like this kind of post. It’s great to hear what happens behind the scenes of a popular post with a popular blogger, and how they promote the article. Great post, and great insights.

  14. Hesham says:

    i have reached the same results from a first to market article, i remimber one article about hacking facebook password by government and it’s not a tech post at all, it’s kind of political news post, and I am still getting daily traffic to this post from social network and google!

    I belive I was lucky on that one, and since that time i am seeking more of this kind of post by!

    I just want to mention that I posted this post at the end of March 2009, and it has 14,271 views now!

  15. Joshua says:

    hesman is that article on articlebase because i have read it before it that is you

    http://dailycashsaver.blogspot.com/

  16. Dave Doolin says:

    I’m sure I can apply this technique to the technical topics I cover. Don’t really have the skill or the eye yet for breaking news, but that’s just a matter of practice.

    Excellent article, inspiring!

  17. jodi says:

    di darren just want to ask about seo? did you bought an seo for your site Values Reviews, Business

  18. IF I WERE TO BE CHOSEN FOR A PROBLOGGER.NET POST: =)

    What is the post on your blog that has had the most traffic in the last 12 months?
    MB’s TOP 30 Female (drama) Monologues (156, 845 pageviews in 2009…247, 988 pageviews since 2008)

    Where did the traffic mainly come from?
    Traffic has mainly come from Google, I would say in the ballpark of about %80. The rest of my traffic has come from the visitors who faithfully come to the site for new monologue material.

    Did you do anything extra to market or promote this post or did it just happen organically?
    I would say that this post happened organically. Based on the search taking place within Monologue Blogger’s site, I noticed there was an abundance of attention given to my female monologue content. At that point of realization, I had hundreds of monologues previously written on the site and decided it may serve my female and male visitors well by compiling a list of MOST POPULAR monologue posts within the site.

    This would essentially provide two things:
    1-It would give me the opportunity to provide for my readers what they felt was useful monologue content.
    2-It would give my new visitors an easier time of finding popular monologues right away without sifting through the thousands currently available.
    I guess you can say I gave my most viral monologues as lists within my most viral posts. This knowledge all stemming from the publics perspective.

    What can we as bloggers learn from the success of this post?
    I believe that the true nature of your blog will tell you things. Meaning, if you pay attention to your audience and what their needs are, you can help them more by providing additional posts in regards to those needs. Every blog is its own entity, which functions its own way and has its own unique visitors coming to the site. What may work for me may not necessarily work for someone else. In general, it’s important to continually explore and evolve and try things out.

    My advice is to understand your audience. The best way to do that is by communicating with them through social media and building relationships with your visitors. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for feedback every now and then because you will always find value in that.

  19. We’ve seen similar results (although admittedly much less traffic as a result) in terms of having an occasional post that provides early commentary on an issue, which does great in the search engines. As Darren said, the keys are quality, timing, and a bit of good luck to go with it.

    Nice case study!

  20. Joshua says:

    What is the post on your blog that has had the most traffic in the last 12 months?

    My tops post are

    http://dailycashsaver.blogspot.com/2009/09/what-would-you-do-with-100.html

    http://dailycashsaver.blogspot.com/2009/09/economic-recovery-think-again.html

    My Greatest post everhttp://dailycashsaver.blogspot.com/2009/08/way-to-finacial-independence.html

    Where did the traffic mainly come from?

    This one is really trick Why? Because i started blogging about 3 months ago and when i first started I was using twitter and i was getting little traffic. 5 visitors lol. Today i say 50-60% come from Social Networks. 15% come from articles. The rest come from google and other. But now I’m listed under the keyword Daily Cash Saver a that has 1million results so I’m happy. Hopefully i get listed under CashSaver Cash Saver and Daily Saver soon those keywords I’m hoping to target. I get 50-60 Visitors a day and couple AdSense clicks so I’m happy.

    Did you do anything extra to market or promote this post or did it just happen organically?

    Well Originally I started out on twitter i got to 2700 visitors then i got banned. after that i tried forum marketing then i tried some social marketing. Today i am focusing on 2 things. Every day i get up and say happy birthday to everybody at sitepoint then say visit my blog. Then i go on facebook and talk to my friend tell them to check out my new blog post. Write 10 Articles and 10 Comments on blogs.
    One my goals in the future is to buy some peoples forum signatures and start getting backlinks and more traffic.

    What can we as bloggers learn from the success of this post?

    Be in it for the long haul 3 months in I’m getting ok traffic but don’t think your going to be the next problogger anytime soon. I personally believe it takes 1 year to fully understand and get blogging and social networking and SEO. By that time you will have opened doors that will change your life.

    Also Read alot of books on SEO every day i learn alot.
    A great Quote i remember a while back.

    “God gave you 2 ears and 1 mouth that means you should listen twice as much as you talk”

    Tell what you know and nothing more when you try to act like the number one SEO expert people will call you out. Add good content and say things people are not blogging about.

    Then you will be bring in good traffic and making good stream of income. Just keep working at it.

    http://dailycashsaver.blogspot.com/

  21. Jonny says:

    Great study, thanks for sharing this case.

  22. Duncan Riley says:

    First, and in lite jest, 2007 called and it wants Darren to have threaded comments :-)

    Per question/ comment
    @Jason Drohn: nothing serious SEO wise, and certainly the post itself wasn’t focused on SEO. We did however detect through Twitter trends and other places that people were asking about Adam Lambert being gay, so in that regard there probably was some SEO at play. Nothing though to a serious level that others my advocate.

    @Surender Sharma: pleasure is all mine. It’s a mix: you can’t run a blog on long term alone, end of story. But if you can mix some marque content with short term news/ topical stuff, it in theory mixes well so you’ve got traffic coming in on both fronts.

    @Joshua Elliot look, agreed, we do a broad topic area, but we’re really a serious exception compared to most blogs, indeed Darren will tell you, and I will tell you that you should specialize…because that’s how it’s done. When we started the site (there was 4 on the team including myself as editor and publisher when we launched, there’s now 8), I wanted to do something a bit crazy, something I thought I’d enjoy doing as opposed to what might naturally work the best following the rule book. It could have failed, indeed at times I actually thought it would, but we managed to build something that’s currently siting in Technorati between 70 and 80. Not quite at Problogger levels, but Darren has a serious head start :-)

    On the “top searches” part though; you may have missed my point. Sure, we managed to hit a topical search, but the same ideas apply to all long term content, and you need look no further than some of the stuff here at Problogger, or sites such as Smashing Apps. I know every time I do WordPress research for example how many times I hit 1-2 year old posts on other sites. You can make posts wag if they hit a niche well, and people collectively search for it over time.

    @Dena thx

    @Dan see above. But to extend on that: the key is to hit a target niche, no matter what the size. It might be people looking for a WordPress solution for example, or it might be about Adam Lambert. Most things have an audience, be it small or big. If you provide a post that hits the search query better than the next guy, you stand a great chance of breaking out. I can say a lot more, but this comment is already way too long. I’m about to travel for 5 days, but send me an email if you want to discuss further, happy to.

    @Jonathan Frei depends. We’ve had a lot of success on occasion (that’s contradictory I know, but let me explain) on constantly updating posts. I live blogged a riot in LA maybe 4-5 mths back. It didn’t start as a live blog, but I had a raw feed from a news helicopter, and word had gotten out about a riot…but the main outlets weren’t offering much coverage. I just kept going and going for hours, and it was a great post, maybe 100kish, but nice hunting for a 4-5 hour period on a story which was only ever going to have a very short span.

    The key though is time. If it’s a breaking story update the original post. If it’s a story with a longer time frame (say days or weeks) write new posts and link back to the original in context.

    If anyone wants to email me with questions specifically, happy to respond, although you’ll have to bare with me on a response time, because it can be up to a week, but happy to help where I can.

    If you can’t find my email address though, you’re not trying hard enough ;-)

    best
    duncan.

  23. WOW! Great post, I really appreciate the way Duncan Riley has given the answers for the given question and I completely agree with him…

  24. This post is inspiring. One of the best blog I read. Those are good pieces of advice. I wanna keep this post as one of my good references.

  25. Rajput says:

    I think this is post of the month @ Pro blogger.net ! I am taken a print out of this article for future reference.

    Last month I have written an article on Samsung Mobile which got me some 75,000 pages view in 30 days.

  26. ITrush says:

    Thanks for the tips, hope someday we’ll be able to reach that kind of hits :)

  27. Interesting post.

    So, I’ve noticed something interesting about a lot of the top ranked sites. They’re all news sites that blog about the latest hot thing. American Idol, political elections, war in the middle east, etc.

    How do these sites compare to niche sites? From what I’ve seen, these big news sites tend to do a lot better in terms of traffic. More traffic = more money, if I’m not mistaken.

    So why is there so much emphasis on making niche sites? It seems to me, that if someone wanted to create a site that was virtually guaranteed to get mad visitors, they should just go check google trends and write posts about whatever the most searched topics are.

    The one problem I could see with this is that there’s probably a million other people doing the exact same thing. They’ve probably got 5 bloggers that just sit there all day and write stories about the next hot thing. I don’t know about you guys, but rewriting articles about Kanye west etc all day would bore the crap out of me. As it is I can’t bring myself to regularly update any site other than the main one, which is basically my blog about being a new internet marketing. Problem is, it doesn’t make any money, but for now I just want to get traffic and THEN I’ll worry about ad placement.

    Anyway, I’m kind of rambling now, but here’s my main question:

    How realistic is it for bloggers to create sites like this and get anything from it. Also, how would one go about marketing sites like this? Frankly, I don’t see my site making page 1 of Digg or Reddit unless I discover the cure for cancer. Seems like these news sites would be better suited for this.

    /rant

  28. Jas says:

    Thanks Darren for the analysis. I’ve wondered why some of my old posts get the most hits.

  29. The strangest thing about MY way of doing business is that things just happen. It’s not that I’m not doing things to make that happen, but rather, that I’m not exactly steering an end state. Instead, I’m just sharing who I am, what I know, and asking repeatedly if I can help out.

  30. Kelly says:

    Man. Do I know this. I wrote 2 posts: one for my personal blog 18 months ago about Showtime’s Californication that mentioned “should I stay or should I rock the casbah?” in the title. It is STILL the #1 term that draws traffic to my personal blog and is responsible for 50% of the traffic since that post.

    So, on my business blog I tried an experiment to use a similar phrase in a title to see if I could generate more traffic. I haven’t….

    SEO is weird (which is why I wrote the biz post).

  31. Steven says:

    I have a similar phenomenon with a post called Snooze Proof Your Power Point presentation. I’ve even retweeted it weeks later and it still takes hold slightly. Not really sure why this post and not others but trying to use it for more traction…

  32. jennifer888 says:

    A controversial subject helps, as in Duncan Riley’s popular post, but I also agree that good quality information is key.

    Positioning yourself in the minds of your readers as an expert on the subject, or offering a different point of view, gives them incentive to keep coming back to and be loyal to your blog.

  33. keyboards says:

    I think the youngest of those links is nearly 12 months old now, which is why I’m surprised to see it come up again today. I don’t think I’ve so much as written about Techmeme, let alone read it since then, and although naturally Gabe and I will likely never eye to eye, I’ve well and truly moved on. We can’t always change others, and I can only influence what I do myself in my actions. Despite his bitterness, I do wish Gabe all the best.