Close
Close

Leo Babauta from Zen Habits Shares a Popular Post Case Study

Leo-Babauta-Case-StudyThis 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 Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has agreed to dissect the popularity of one of his site’s most popular posts.

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

I would never have guessed this until I looked it up in Analytics, but the top post in the last year is “10 Tasty, Easy and Healthy Breakfast Ideas“.

2. Where did the traffic mainly come from?

The page had nearly 500K pageviews in the last year, almost all from Google searches. A small amount came from Yahoo (#2), direct traffic, MSN, and other search engines.

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

No, I didn’t promote this post any more than other posts. It did well in delicious.com the first day, without my help, and quickly found its way to the #1 spot in Google searches for “healthy breakfasts” and related search terms. I don’t do SEO at all (I don’t believe in it), so this happened totally organically.

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

Google can bring tons of traffic, but the way to get there is not through SEO or overly promotional techniques. It’s by creating useful content that people will want to bookmark, link to, and find in searches, solving problems that many people have.

So:

  1. Figure out what problems a lot of people have.
  2. Create really useful content to solve those problems.
  3. Write a good headline to help the post get spread more widely.
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.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. This reminds me of my recent post about blogging with purpose. I wrote that it doesn’t have to be complicated or even well thought out as long as your are writing something that people are looking for people will find it.

    Apparently there are a lot of people looking for good breakfast ideas.

  2. Headlines can make a huge difference.

    I have written several articles about customer service experience, but one in particular ( http://www.observingcasually.com/why-i-hate-hsbc/ ) draws a lot more traffic than the others. I suspect that it’s because of a headline that is search engine friendly (purely by accident).

    I look back over some of the other customer service articles and notice how lousy some of the titles are. It’s not surprising that people are finding them when they search Google :)

    I an SEO minimalist. I do the basics, but not much more. I prefer to spend my time creating the content.

  3. Headlines can be very important.

    I have written several articles about bad customer service experiences. Most of them get lackluster traffic. One of them – http://www.observingcasually.com/why-i-hate-hsbc/ – probably gets more traffic than the rest of them combined.

    That article, of course, has a title that is very search friendly – “Why I hate HSBC”. The other articles have lousy titles, in comparison.

    Live and learn.

  4. I apologize for the duplicate post (triplicate if you count this one). I got an error after submitting and the comment wasn’t showing up – so I assumed that the connection died before the comment was submitted.

  5. Content is still the King, SEO works well if you have a good content to back it up.

    Quality Content will keep your blog alive for years, Good SEO with bad content wont last long.

    SEO will not exist without Content

    Content can exist without SEO.

    Peace..

  6. JoshuaElliot says:

    I agree that content will make one want to bookmark or even link to the blog post.

    I have an interesting title post that was talking about a guru where I had an interesting encounter, and it continue to draw readers even it has been more than 6 months.

  7. Pascal says:

    A Short interview but amazing foundation idea for blogging! I remember, I still receiving lots of traffic in my small blog ( Really not updated later after i made that post before 4 years) due to its content. I wrote about online scams in that post. I Strongly recommend any one to make blog if they have a most passionate thing in their life.

  8. MoneyEnergy says:

    Great to hear about the success without a lot of active SEO. Keeps the focus on being useful. But I think it might be easier to go viral in this way once the blog has been established for a while – I think that in itself must have a big SEO effect.

  9. I think the huge factor here was how well it did in delicious. Social bookmarking can bring in TONS of traffic.

    That’s how sites like mashable get so much of theirs. They got hundreds of diggs for nearly every article that they post.

    This just goes to show how powerful social bookmarking can be. It can send you straight to the top in google and get you a lot of traffic.

    When a huge community give your article a thumbs up, that’s like candy to the search engines because all of the people have done the work of a google algorithm for free. Google can just look at the fact that everyone is liking it and factor that in.

    Thanks for the case study post!

  10. I think the huge factor here was how well it did in delicious. Social bookmarking can bring in TONS of traffic.

    That’s how sites like mashable get so much of theirs. They got hundreds of diggs for nearly every article that they post.

    This just goes to show how powerful social bookmarking can be. It can send you straight to the top in google and get you a lot of traffic.

    When a huge community give your article a thumbs up, that’s like candy to the search engines because all of the people have done the work of a google algorithm for free. Google can just look at the fact that everyone is liking it and factor that in.

    Thanks for the case study post!

  11. Tracy says:

    While I agree with Leo that putting too much emphasis on SEO rather than concentrating on great content is a mistake, I have to say that having an established site that ranks highly with the search engines is a huge help. I’m 100% positive that the posts that I’m getting decent search traffic for today wouldn’t have been somewhere on page 87 in Google when I first started out.

    While I don’t write for the search engines, for posts that I think people might search for like recipes or list posts, I do take a second to think “How would somebody search for this?” It’s good SEO and it’s being useful.

    Now I have to go get that easy breakfast ideas list! That sounds like a helpful article.

  12. That’s how sites like mashable get so much of theirs. They got hundreds of diggs for nearly every article that they post.

    This just goes to show how powerful social bookmarking can be. It can send you straight to the top in google and get you a lot of traffic.

  13. This takes the complexity out of everything ;) It’s true, simple is best. Think of something that would be useful to people and they will find you. You don’t have to reach them; they’ll find you.

  14. Interesting to see that he do not believe in SEO.

    Main reason behind his success is his brand and reputation which his website earned. Google now a days really believe in reputation and faith.

    Once you got that one you will be able to get good traffic and rankings as well.

  15. Dave Doolin says:

    My experience is similar: Write good content with good headlines.

    There’s no way of knowing -with certainty, in advance – which articles will take off.

    As a newbie, I do try to make sure all my SEO “bases” are covered. It seems to help in the short term, and surely can’t hurt in the long term. It’s a bit of work up front, but once it’s done, it’s done. Fire and forget.

  16. I am so at a loss as to why delicious seems to be the absolute trophy. What happens when you are bookmarked? How does in expand exposure of a blog? What’s happening on the technical side?

  17. Matt Blick says:

    “I don’t do SEO at all (I don’t believe in it)”

    please Leo do a post on this topic. I would be great to have other reasons for ignoring it other than my apathy!

  18. Timothy says:

    She doesn’t believe in SEO but she’s contributing to a blog about SEO?

  19. I’m confused to why Leo doesn’t believe in SEO. I can understand not wanting to game search engines, but to me search engine optimisation is just making it easy for search engine spiders to understand what your website and pages are about. And by the very fact that he used perma-links on his blog suggests otherwise.

    But anyways: good, simple advice. Back to writing I guess.

  20. It’s a lot of hit and miss. Posts I thought would have received the most traffic don’t perform yet random posts you didn’t expect get a lot of traffic.

  21. I think the most important now is in what niche you are? If you are in very specific niche than you’re able to be in number 1 of SERP without doing SEO.. however if you are in high competitive niche than you must do an SEO..

  22. Ronblogger says:

    Creating a useful content is really a powerful way to market your site

  23. jennifer888 says:

    Content is what matter’s most, but I agree that SEO IS NOT WRONG!

  24. jennifer888 says:

    Content is what matter’s most, but I agree that SEO IS NOT WRONG!

    It is okay to help the engines find your great content.

  25. Diabetis says:

    Right now my blog is just 4 months old so I have nothing to share about it.

  26. SeoNext says:

    Thanks for sharing these great points with us.Thanks for this case study post.

  27. Yeah, but to create useful content that people will want to bookmark, link to, and find in searches, solving problems that many people have took very long, overdone social bookmarking is easier. ^-^

    Yeah, but this is a great case study. Although, it’s hard to predict what post gonna be popular and what post won’t. I guess you just have to write the best posts all the time.

  28. Jeff says:

    Saying you don’t believe in SEO is a sort of naieve statement… You can ignore it all you want, but it’s always there, really works, and who knows what kind of opportunities you are missing out on.

  29. I agree that content will make one want to bookmark or even link to the blog post. Gr8 blog. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Thank you Leo/Darren, I really appreciate your case study and its really wonderful. I will try to implement it…

  31. Jonny says:

    Content is the king, you give reader what they want and then google give u traffic.

  32. jeux wii says:

    If the internet’s the new gold rush, allow me to draw a parallel. Those miners with shivering knees, knee deep in the river could only hope to gather so much gold, no matter the size of their claim. The real fortunes were found when people got together, using each of their talents to tap deeper in the mines. Land surveyors, demolition experts, and so on. Now is no different. Sure, a blogger can be successful on their own; they may even find the mother lode, but there is no way they could ever extract the gold all on their own.

  33. BLOGERCISE says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Google cares about presenting good content to it’s users and they will continue to refine and reform their process to do just that.

    They know as well as we do that a “good post” isn’t just about the domain name, heading tags, etc. It’s about providing good content and as they get better at picking out good content “SEO” will become increasingly insignificant.

    I’m looking forward to the day they stop weighting domain name exact matches so heavily. There are so many rubbish sites that get ranked highly on that basis alone – I can’t believe Google have let that go on for so long!

  34. Posts with a list of 10 best, 10 top, or something similar tend to do better than if it weren’t in a list format. It catches a readers attention, and makes it easier to read. I’ll see what kind of response I get on my post today: 10 Must have Free iPhon Apps for Moms!

  35. BN Softs says:

    Content is the main thing to get high SERP.
    Other factors are also necessary but Content is the important and NO.1 factor.

  36. Leo’s post points out some fundamentally-sound blogging tips which some bloggers tend to forget sometimes.

    SEO is important BUT content is much more important especially with Google’s move towards placing more emphasis on reputation and branding.

    And a post’s headline deserves as much attention as the post itself. You could have one of the greatest posts ever written but if your headline is bleh then it won’t matter.

    Wesley Craig Green
    The Geek Entrepreneur

  37. Satya Media says:

    Love this story. My only contention is:

    If 500K pageviews in 2009 came predominantly from Google, due mainly to your site’s status and Google pagerank, how can you say you don’t believe in SEO…?

    Once you dive into the problems people have – especially your particular audience – then you can have a hand at how to solve them. One way to figure that out is to do some basic keyword research, and come to an understanding of what people are searching for, in relation to the problems they need solved. Once you understand what they’re searching for, and what words they’re using, then you’re in a much better position to provide the content people will really be looking for.

    That’s what SEO’s all about, and much of the same rules would cross over to apply in optimizing for social media and blog comments, would they not?

  38. I like what is the most traffic a post of yours had gotten in the past 12 months. It goes along with the whole link to previous posts. I like doing this cause you never know which post will do the best and you want to spread traffic across your blogs better. See my posts about massive traffic tactics.

  39. abrablog says:

    Agree. Create content that really can help people. In other means, we solve others people problem. Then, traffic will come.

  40. Seth W says:

    Quality content is the most important element in blogging and it is nice to hear that from people that are successful throughout the blogging world.

  41. Paul Hassing says:

    I loved Leo’s quote about SEO. It made my morning. Many thanks, Darren. P. :)

  42. Joanne Maly says:

    Darren and Leo, you just made my evening … reading two of my regular bloggers in one blog post.

    You’ve just made five minutes of my long work day ‘simplified’, ‘minimalized’, ‘zen-ized.’ (Ok, so I don’t know if those are all ‘real’ words… but you get my meaning I am sure.

    And, thank you, Leo – for reaffirming my conviction that it isn’t quantity and SEO that we bloggers and business persons should be about — rather, it is sharing good content.

    Joanne Maly
    Lincoln Maly Marketing
    http://www.lincolnmalymarketing.com
    http://www.lincolnmalymarketing.com/blog/simply-said
    Joanne Maly

  43. Gin says:

    I 100th that e-motion! :) it’s very true. Solve a problem even if it seems out of the ordinary and people do find you. Thank you for sharing, Darren :)

  44. brigid says:

    Thanks you for this info
    Being a new blogger this post has reinforced the concept of natural writing and just following my readers lead (as long as I am enjoying)
    Brigid

  45. David Salo says:

    I’m agrre with the main Idea of that: Content is the King.

  46. Simple but powerful , I like the number 1 tips. Yeah, I’m sure I must create blog with another niche that easy to beat, not just creating a “make money online” talking blog.

  47. (5) Have a PR6 site on which you are posting your non-SEOed contents :).

  48. Duff says:

    It also helps if you already have a PR6 blog. If you just get that handled, you never need to think about SEO again. Oh wait…

  49. I don’t think it’s necessarily an either/or proposition between SEO and content. I think it’s both. My “day job” stresses SEO to the point of practically making it a religion, and sure enough, my company’s content gets ranked very highly, but a lot of it is simply re-posted press releases and relatively little original content.

    When I started my blog about a week ago, I simply decided that I would write about issues that interest me, and that I thought might be interesting to others. Honestly, making a full-time living from it right now is secondary to building up the content base and recognition.

  50. hokya says:

    creating post about hot news is good idea too