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How I Made it onto Freshly Pressed 3 Times in 6 Months

This guest post is by Hassan Osman of TheCouchManager.com.

Less than a month after I launched my blog, one of my posts got featured on Freshly Pressed—Wordpress.com’s homepage where each weekday, ten posts are selected from around 450,000 new blog posts.

I didn’t even know what Freshly Pressed meant until I saw an email from one of the WordPress editors congratulating me on being featured.

As you might imagine, the traffic results were huge. In the following day or so, I received over 12,000 hits, 150 comments, and 200 new subscribers. I almost fell out of my chair as my inbox filled up with hundreds of “Please moderate” and “New subscriber” messages.

In the six months that followed, my blog was featured again, and again—a total of three times for only eight posts that I had written since I started the blog. It seemed like I was doing something right.

Freshly Pressed

Featured on Freshly Pressed

Before sharing the reasons why my posts got selected for Freshly Pressed, there are a couple of things to note.

First, I am still relatively new to blogging and don’t have any “connections” in the blogosphere. I never asked for a favor, had my tweets endorsed by a celebrity, paid a single dime for marketing my blog, or even guest blogged (in fact, this post you’re reading right now is the first guest post I’ve ever written).

Second, the title of this post should really say why I think I made it on Freshly Pressed. I didn’t solicit nor receive any feedback from the WordPress editors explaining why they selected my posts, so the following reasons are only my own assumptions.

Why my posts were featured

I chose quality over quantity

I write an average of one blog post a month, partly because I have a really busy schedule but mainly because I don’t want to publish something on my blog that doesn’t add value. You’re probably sick of reading “content is king,” but I took that advice seriously.  Given that I’m a slow writer, it takes me a good ten to 18 hours to research and write a single post. I could certainly publish a lot more frequently, but the quality of my content would definitely suffer.  Had I flooded my blog with low-quality posts, the good-quality ones would have been lost in the crowd, and I might have fallen off the WordPress editors’ radars.  If you’re a part-time blogger like me, then you’ll most likely have to choose between either quality or quantity—and my vote always goes to quality.

I used list posts

Here are the titles of the three posts that made it on Freshly Pressed:

The one thing that’s common to all of them is that they’re list posts (posts that have a number of list items in them). I think people love reading those types of posts because they have a lot more structure than free-form ones. They’re also much simpler to scan through for readers who don’t have a lot of time to read. If you look at the top viral articles on sites like Digg, Reddit, and Delicious, you’ll most probably find several list posts on their front pages, so they do get shared more frequently among readers.

It is worth noting that not all of the Freshly Pressed selections have been list posts (in fact, the majority of the ones that were selected along with mine were not), so this is not really a rule of thumb, but it certainly worked for me.

I created custom images

I’m a highly visual person, and I love using images to illustrate my ideas. Most bloggers (including A-listers) use stock image photographs in their posts to break up text and to support content. While using stock pictures is definitely more appealing than using no pictures at all, I think that you need to differentiate yourself from the masses by using customized images.

For my blog, I use either an illustration or a picture that I create myself—and I don’t need to use any sophisticated software to do so. For the illustrations in these posts, I hand-sketched them using plain paper and colored pens, and then scanned them into my PC. For the pictures, I use plain old Microsoft Paint to tweak and type some text on them. Of course, it takes a bit more time and effort to create customized images, but that, apparently, pays off.

I focused on a niche, but targeted a mass audience

This sounds counterintuitive, so let me explain. My blog is about increasing productivity and saving time while working from home, so I focused on a niche that targets professionals who work remotely.

However, for the posts that got selected for Freshly Pressed, I didn’t focus purely on that niche alone. Instead, I allowed for some flexibility by targeting a broader audience. For example, my post about building a productive home office primarily helps business owners and managers who telecommute, but it also helps a greater demographic, including regular office workers and college students, in organizing their workspaces. By targeting a mass audience while keeping my niche in mind, I increased my chances of being selected.

Not just for Freshly Pressed

As an added benefit, those four reasons also helped increase my subscriber base because they made my blog more “sticky.” When I analyzed the site statistics after every surge in traffic, I noticed that there was a relatively high click-through rate for my other posts. This meant that visitors were not directly leaving after reading one post, but they were sticking around to read other posts and eventually subscribed. So even if you don’t get featured on Freshly Pressed, following those tips should help your blog grow!

Hassan Osman is a Senior Program Manager at Cisco Systems and a graduate student at Harvard. He runs large and complex projects while working from home, and blogs about increasing productivity and effectively managing virtual teams on www.thecouchmanager.com (views here are his own).

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Comments

  1. I love the fact that you only publish one article a month. I started out trying to publish every other day or so and I’ve scaled way back because most of my content was pretty much filler. Cutting back has really freed me up to write only when I have something to say. Thanks for the great information here.

  2. Thanks David – In fact, my one or so article a month (and my communication style in general) has been inspired by Plato’s quote: “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”!

  3. Harrison Li says:

    Wow, content is king, we always hear that, but does anyone take any real actions? You’re one of the few I know actually do! Congratulations on getting featured!!!! Really happy to see you become successful, and easily get so much interactions in the blogosphere!

  4. Congratulations! Your example is very inspiring. It’s really amazing what you can get by providing good information.

    I read your article about the 8 interpretations of silence. It’s really fantastic! You are an excellent writer.

    Thank you also for showing me that Freshly Pressed—Wordpress.com exists. This information is very interesting.

  5. Thanks for this good post. I will try more often to use numbered points. I also appreciate speaking or blogging when one has something significant to say.

  6. Hey Thanks Hossam,

    This is amazing…I love the fact that you are new to blogging and already you’ve gained incredible ground. I do like 3 of these (maybe 3 and a half) but I guess I have to promote more.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. IT Rush says:

    Congrats, I really think the title and the content makes you included in the freshly pressed lists.. keep it up and more power.

  8. Pratap Reddy says:

    Let me congratulate you first for the achievement. After reading your post i am now in dilemma about quality and quantity. I publish two posts in a week. With this schedule, some times i lost the quality also. Plato’s quotation made me to check the frequency.

  9. Chris Moon says:

    It’s interesting that you only post once a month. It seems like more often than not, articles on ProBlogger advocate posting more frequently lest readership forget you exist.

    Do you think that part of the reason that you can post infrequently is because you got all the fabulous subscribers on your first Fresh Pressed listing? Or do you think you would still have the readership that you do even if you not been selected for Fresh Pressed promotion?

    All the best – Chris

    • That’s a good question, Chris. The reason I chose quality over quantity is because I’m a part-time blogger. However, if you can do both, then certainly go for it. What you want to avoid is choosing quantity over quality – even if it’s at the expense of losing readership (which I doubt would happen, but that’s another argument!)

  10. Brad says:

    Dig the pic of your office space. I’m looking to revamp my own since it currently doubles as my kid’s play room which I’m sure you know is never organized.

    I’m going to try and use list posts more often. The one I did write seemed to get more comments than normal.

    Thanks for the good read.

  11. Congrats on the achievement. I totally agree that quality posts are much better than quantity. I have watched some of my colleagues and read their blogs and often wondered how they received such a huge following when their posts were written bad. I realized that often people just like having something to share and don’t always read the posts, so in that instance quantity posting works for them… that is not the type of following I want. I feel that in order to be respected as a leader in your industry you have to know what you are talking about by posting well written and well researched posts. You are a good model of how it should be done the right way.

  12. Well done mate. One of the key ingredients of your success was that you targeted a certain section of people and wrote high quality posts focussed on one particular niche. A lot of people make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin and end up being frustrated on getting mixed results. In order to get the best results, you have to become the best in your niche. Period.

  13. I also think that the publishing once a month approach is fabulous – it’s too easy to shortchange yourself and your readers otherwise, so better to make sure it’s worth the read!

  14. Torkona says:

    thanks for this and well done on getting your recognition! I myself will probably look more into using custom images than stock ones. However, instead of using Paint, i like GIMP (soungs weird huh) but it is a free program and much more crisper quality images are produced. I’ve done a few already at my dad blog but now I will probably do a few more :-)

    - tork

  15. great points Hassan – strategically targeting a group of audience with overlapping collateral benefits into another is an excellent strategy to “spread your wings”. many friends doubted when i decided to target 4 verticals on my blog, but i always believed these verticals were / are interrelated. i have amassed just under 5,000 rss subscribers in under a year which has further reinforced my belief. continue providing quality content tends to be the bottom line in most cases.

  16. Hassan , Nice points and thanks for sharing the article.. Manickam

  17. James Greg says:

    Its great to know you chose quality over quantity. This is one thing many people would say about but not act on it. Great work and a very well written post. Quality can be truly observed.

  18. Quality always beats out quantity, Thanks for sharing

  19. That’s so awesome! You know what, I think I found those featured posts! You’re right. I love reading them because they were all made using lists. It’s really cool that you did this! I hope to read more of your featured posts!

    - Jack Leak

  20. I actually appreciate bloggers who post once a week, unless they are a huge resource of all things blogging. This way I get to enjoy many voices and perspectives. So thank you bloggers for not clogging up my inbox. I always eagerly open your emails because I do look forward to them.

  21. Mikalee says:

    Finally: Someone has said it, and said it proudly!

    Thank you for acknowledging that hourly/daily/weekly blogging is not essential to success. I have always maintained that I’m a writer first, then a blogger — which means I give my posts more time to evolve. Quality over quantity has never been the blogging mantra … but I hope times are a-changin’!

    Sadly, I swear too much to ever be Freshly Pressed. But I am grateful for your advice, which as you noted, goes beyond the holy grail of WordPress prizes…

  22. Carrie Smith says:

    Wow! This is a fantastic post, and congratulations on your success! I completely agree with your view of quality over quantity, and your personal experience and tips are priceless. You have inspired me to be more creative with my writing, and to use personal photos for my articles.

    I am in love with your site, TheCouchManager, and have now become a loyal stalker…errr I mean subscriber. Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts.

  23. Anne says:

    You beat my record: my blog was featured 3 times on Freshly Pressed in my first 10 months of blogging. It probably helped that they were all very visual (with my own pictures), I pay a lot of attention to quality and do some research before writing so my readers learn something out of my posts. The first one was on 1930es fashion, the second on the Louvre and the 3rd on New York museums.

  24. ah Freedom says:

    Inspirational Hassan! Well done and thanks for providing quality content :)