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Don’t Let Your Blog Get Caught with its Pants Down

This guest post is by Joseph of Blog Tweaks.

I know a guy who went on a backpacking trip in Ghana.

One leg of his trip stood out—a five hour bus ride from Kumasi to Cape Coast. This particular ride started at 4:30 a.m.

Yes, that’s crazy early, but it wasn’t the worst part of the trip.

The worst part was the rolling bowel cramps that started from mile one and wouldn’t go away. They came back every ten minutes. One minute on, nine minutes off.

The blackness of the West African countryside lulled most of the passengers to sleep as the bus continued down the pock marked semblance of a highway, but not so for this guy. He could think of only one thing—this bus had to stop.

But where?

Looking out the window, all he saw were the pale outlines of mud huts and thatched roofs. Where would the bus stop? Did they have rest stops here?

Regardless, the bus had to stop. And it had to stop now.

Suddenly, out of the morning blackness, a small town appeared. As the bus rolled to a stop at an, my friend made his way to the front of the bus, explained the situation to the driver, and asked if he could get off to take care of the pain.

The driver obliged, pointing helpfully to the backside of a shed that was off the road and in front of a village home. It would have to do. It was the only option.

He quickly made his way behind the structure and … went about his business. Yes, out in the open, in the pre-dawn still of a beautiful African morning.

And then it happened.

As he was awkwardly crouched trying to get through the most surreal bathroom break of his life, the door of the home 25 feet directly in front of him opened. Out stepped a local Ghanaian who found himself face to face with my friend.

What a sight to behold—this man woke up in the home he had lived in for who knows how long, walked outside expecting to see the sunrise, and instead finds a white guy fifteen feet away with his pants around his ankles squatting down behind his shed.

As my friend helplessly looked up, the owner of the house began to yell, “What are you doing! What are you doing!”

How do you respond?

All he could say was, “My bad.” Over and over again.

As the owner continued to yell in disbelief, the helpless traveller finally finished, buttoned up, mumbled “my bad” a couple more times, and then quickly walked back to the bus which couldn’t leave fast enough.

To this day, I’m not sure who has the better story. The one I’m telling here or the one told in the village later that day: “It was 5:30 a.m., and there was an obroni (white man) squatting behind my shed saying, ‘my bad’…” He’s probably still getting mileage from the tale.

Hopefully you’ve been entertained by this story, but what does it have to do with blogging?

The answer is everything.

You don’t ever want your blog to get caught with its pants down.

Here’s what I mean.

The blogging equivalent

For your blog to get caught with its pants down is for you to not be ready for traffic before it arrives.

If Darren Rowse at ProBlogger tweeted one of your posts today, would your blog be ready? Is there enough quality content on your site to convert visitors into subscribers? Does your site have a professional design, or does it look more like kindergartner art than a digital storefront? Do you have any way to make money from the traffic?

If not, you might get caught with your pants down.

The day my blog was caught

It happened to my first blog—www.JosephWesley.Wordpress.com.

It was an ordinary Saturday morning, and as I finished reading an interview with Warren Buffett in Forbes magazine, I typed up the most salient quotes, which I then published as a post titled “7 Priceless Business Quotes from Warren Buffett.”

Little did I know what would happen next.

I expected this post to be the same as all of my other posts, meaning nobody would notice, so I left the house and went about my ordinary day.

Unknown to me, my blog was not having an ordinary day. Somehow, Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, found and tweeted the post. Let me repeat—Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, read and tweeted the post.

He also has 564,454 followers.

I had no idea.

Later that night, I came home and checked the stats. Then I did a double take. I thought my stat counter was broken.

There had been 3,000 visitors to a WordPress.com blog that I started three months earlier as an experiment. Until that time, the most visitors I’d in one day was twenty.

I had no idea what had happened, so I searched until I discovered Mr. Cuban’s tweet.

The end result was 7,000 people reading the post over the next month with over 400 re-tweeting. It’s still my most popular post of all time.

So what was the problem? Why wasn’t this an awesome day? How did my blog get caught with its pants down?

The problem was this—I wasn’t ready. I was as helpless the guy behind the shed.

Of the 7,000 people that visited, somewhere around ten subscribed by e-mail. I also didn’t have any kind of service or advertising, so there was no way to make money.

Yes, it was the biggest day in my blogging experience, but, unfortunately, I didn’t capitalize on the traffic.

What do do about it

So how do you get ready for traffic like that? How do you make sure your blog doesn’t get caught with its pants down?

Here’s how:

  1. Write quality content: If you write high quality content, people are more likely to subscribe for future posts. Nobody wants average posts taking up space in their inbox.
  2. Pick one topic: Focusing on one topic will convert more readers into subscribers. A marketing guy won’t subscribe to a blog about ten different topics; he’ll subscribe to a blog about marketing. Write for one topic and you’ll automatically convince more readers to subscribe.
  3. Focus on subscribers: There are a lot of things you can focus on for conversions, but until you have a better reason not to focus on subscribers, don’t. Those are the people that will consistently come back to read and will eventually buy. Make subscribing insanely easy by putting the opt-in box at the top of the sidebar. Don’t make people search for the subscription box underneath calendar and archive. Do yourself a favor: put it at the top.
  4. Improve your design: Appearance matters. In a job interview, you dress for success; with a blog, you design for it. The good news is that premium themes from sites like Studiopress make getting a great design easy and affordable. It’s the best blog investment you’ll ever make.
  5. Make an offer: One of the best ways to make money from a blog is to offer something for sale. If you don’t give visitors something to purchase, you have zero chance of making a sale. People can’t buy what you don’t offer to sell them. So what you can offer to sell your blog readers? An ebook? Consulting? Design services? Whatever you decide, make sure to make a clear offer on your site. (An example of this can be seen on the “Hire Me” page at Blog Tweaks.)

So there you have it: a story from Ghana, reasons why you don’t want your blog to get caught with its pants down, and five ways to get prepared so it won’t happen to you.

What do you think? Are you ready to cinch up your blog so it doesn’t get caught with its pants down?

Joseph has a marketing degree from UT Austin. He’s currently looking for a select number of companies interested in hiring a paid blogger to write their posts. If you’re interested, visit Blog Tweaks to find out more.

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Comments

  1. Mitja says:

    This post was really really fun and very good read. I love these kind of posts because these topics are the ones, that no one actualy talks about and when you hear or read something like this it just clicks in your head in you go, he’s gota point there.

    I had a similar experience one day, not so many visits though but still, I wasn’t prepared. Thanks again for the post and good luck.

  2. Harrison Li says:

    Wow Joseph, that’s an interesting story, ahah getting caught pants down, well that’s something new, the native must have been mad to get rid of the business!

    Your advice is great, I reckon having a subscribing form with some attractive design and a nice bribe is the most important of all! Thanks for sharing your friend’s story :D

    • Gregory C. says:

      True, you have to be ready.

      I half-expected this to be an article about StumbleUpon, as that has been the major “surprise” for my blogs: and article I write gets added and voted on a few times, and then out of nowhere picks up steam and drives thousands of visits.

      Speaking of which, my current project needs some tweaking as we speak, sometimes I get too caught up in writing posts and don’t spend enough time optimizing layout.

  3. Thanks Harrison. I also thought this was a really funny story and couldn’t wait to tell it somewhere.

    • Harrison Li says:

      It made me giggle a little haha, glad you can tell the story here to like few hundred thousand people, and I wonder what would happen if your friend saw this, hehe

  4. It also happend to me once. To be ready for this scenario is still subjective. It depends on the subscribers or new readers on what they are looking for. If it happend to be the images or pictures from your blog that have been googled the most, so concentrate on providing the best images and pictures that will satisfy your readers in future.

  5. fanqie says:

    Your friend’s story is wonderful oh.

  6. Martyn says:

    Well Joseph? Are we going to reveal the *real* identity of this “guy you know”? You know too much about that story. :P

  7. Sebastian says:

    Great post but you will never really know if you are ready until that day, right? ;)

  8. Joseph, im willing to bet “your friend” will be better prepared on his next trip to Ghana :) however the takeaway from all this is to always plan for success.

    When fortune knocks, not only will i invite her in; i’ll ply her with booze, and invite her to stay the night!

  9. Josh McNary says:

    This is great advice for someone just starting out looking to make their blog into a marketing powerhouse. Usually it is what we don’t plan for that ends up hurting us the most. Always be prepared!

  10. Himanshu says:

    I had a similar experience with my wordpress.com. I got 1000 visitors in 22 hrs and the blog was only 5 days old. it couldn’t do much as i was a newbie but it taught me lesson which remember till now

  11. Carolyn says:

    Another thing to consider is whether your hosting plan can even handle a huge traffic spike. On one hand, you don’t want to upgrade before you have to, but then . . .

    I didn’t have quite as big of a spike, but a definite spike nonetheless, with people downloading a PDF I had posted. Yes, I had posted the PDF hoping for traffic . . . but never dreamed that my very basic hosting account couldn’t handle it. Actually, I had no idea what traffic level it could handle.

    I learned when I couldn’t even get in to my own site!

    • Wow, that’s a serious problem.

      How many people were trying to download the PDF? And what did you do to upgrade your hosting?

    • Wow, that’s a serious problem.

      How many people were trying to download the PDF? And what did you do to upgrade your hosting?

    • I never thought much about the hosting account being able to handle large amounts of traffic until I watched that Facebook movie, The Social Network. Mark Zuckerberg said he needed a couple thousand dollars just for servers, and I was scratching my head at the time wonder why he needed such expensive hosting.

      But yea, If the traffic explodes suddenly, then your website could possible go offline or crash and that’s bad for business.

    • Michael says:

      I made a point of contacting my host about this to make sure I was covered. It’s a beast of a server that doesn’t see much traffic. With caching I should be ok with a huge spike in traffic. Can’t cache PDFs, though. I’d probably upgrade if I were planning to launch something resource intensive like an ebook.

  12. Tom Ewer says:

    Great advice Joseph – whilst a huge surge of traffic is all well and good, what is the point if you do not capitalise? Of course, an experience like yours would be a happy incident for most, but it would be most unfortunate if weren’t set up for it. You can never prepare too well…

    • Hi Tom, that’s totally the point.

      It was an awesome experience, but since I wasn’t able to convert in any way, it ended up being nearly pointless. Sure there was some benefit, but it’s important to know how you will convert traffic and to get ready for when that traffic does come.

  13. Angie says:

    Very interesting. There are a lot of things to consider here. I just started a personal blog a couple weeks ago and the idea of “getting caught with my pants down” is a bit nerve-wracking to say the very least. I did have a vision for this blog before I started it, but every day it seems something happens that makes me wonder if I’m going in the right direction. (I’m probably not lol.)

  14. Jeff Goins says:

    Great story, Joseph. And dead-on parallel. Thanks for sharing! Preparing to go big is so important.

  15. Samanth says:

    Inspiring story Joseph, and wow that’s some traffic spike. thanks for sharing the tips too.

    • You’re welcome Samantha. And yes, it definitely was a huge traffic spike. When I first saw it, I thought the stat counter was broken. It took me a little while to figure out that it wasn’t an error.

  16. Watershedd says:

    Good post, but there are several assumptions. The first is that the reader actually wants to make money out of the content. for me, and I know some others, the point of the blog is to express the inexpressible, a vent if you like. It’s the place we go to clear the thoughts from our minds and say what we otherwise may not be able to say. In my case, I’ve used it as a place to try to develop my writing skills, particularly my poetry (most of which I’ve taken until I can find a better way of managing copyright).

    My own blog is dormant at present. there’s just so much else to do. But I assist with another blog and the focus is very different to either the venting or the financial enterprise. This blog is about Indigenous human rights in Australia and most readers do not wish to subscribe because of the risk of their identity being tracked by frowning authorities. And offering a giveaway or putting up advertising would diminish the credibility of the product we put out. We’ve talked to an advertising group about running community adverts for fundraising (e.g. flood appeals) which would purely be to support the charity with no income for the blog, but it seems the content of this little blog is simply too controversial. That’s the only reason we have to explain the dead silence since that conversation.

    I’m learning to admin on the fly; my own blog was the test piece really and that’s part of the reason it’s currently dormant. I’ve ben caught with my pants down when technical issues have had us offline for 24 hours or favicons have failed to work after upgrades. That to us is stress!

  17. Zia says:

    Excellent writing Joseph. Nifty way to remind us basics of blogging.

  18. Catherine says:

    Boy, does that image light a fire under the heels! I moved my subscribe box, to start, but it’s also a push to focus on headlining content right from the get-go.

  19. Kathy says:

    I loved this post. Your friend’s story is hilarious (though I’m sure he didn’t feel that way in progress). These are great tips. I took some time to tidy up my a couple days before I had an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered. I expected and got a lot of traffic. I made my Contact page prominent, made it easy to find and use, removed a bunch of junk on the sidebars and created newer, better-looking buttons for Facebook and Twitter and also for subscribing. I wrote a piece ahead of time that invited all the new readers to my blog and thanked them for coming.

    I realize not everyone (like you) has the benefit of advance warning, but this post is the reason people should do it anyway. You never know who will find you and promote you. WTG on the Mark Cuban share. What a lucky stroke!

    • Hi Kathy,

      That’s a great example. It definitely helps if you know the traffic is coming ahead of time, but like you said, it pays to be ready no matter what.

  20. That’s fantastic post, Joseph. You know, we had a somewhat similar story with Garious blog.
    We were ready with quality content that our “target readers” love but when one of our articles was featured in AllTop.com HollyKaw, we received massive “untargeted traffic”! That’s why, the traffic was high and so was the bounce rate.
    Where did we go wrong? Nothing! Suddenly, we became visible in a high-traffic spot the virtually everyone checks. That’s the Garious version of your story I guess :).
    I love all your tips and the one thing I would add is offering a clear call-to-action related to your offer in every page. It could be horizontal banner on top of your posts or any strategic location that your readers can easily spot.
    Also, cleaning up your blog from past “mediocre” content is a great thing to do especially if you have enough quality posts to showcase. (Google Panda has a zero-tolerance policy with “partially” crappy content!)
    Thanks a lot for this great post, Joseph. I enjoyed reading it immensely.

  21. Yeah, I never had this experience yet with my blog. It would be cool to get 1000′s of visitors in one day.

  22. Ray says:

    Although nobody wants to get caught with there pants down who would have thought a blog that normally sees 20 visitors would get thousands from one simple post. I mean it’s good to have a game plan, but that was totally unexpected. Just proves that it does happen and can happen to even a smaller site or blog.

  23. Sanjeev says:

    Nice Story, Though it is always good to be prepare, I would assume experiences like this is priceless, as they make us to improve…..:)

  24. I enjoyed the story, we’ve all been in situations where we hoped and prayed no one would walk up and catch us with our pants down.

    I’m in the process of bringing an old blog back to life and, truthfully, I would be caught with my blog’s pants around it’s ankles right now. I’ve found myself feeling a sense of urgency lately to get my ducks in a roll. Starting a new blog is a pretty big project, when done right, and it’s important to get everything in line as quickly as possible. You’re post has helped my understand that sense of urgency and, more importantly, the why behind it. Thank you for that.

  25. Janett Brown says:

    I think that the worst thing that may happen is to find a treasure without being able to take some from it. And this what happened to you. You found a treasure and you could not take anything from it. So, I am going to follow your tips so that I will be always prepared.

  26. Haha that is one kool story! I love blog posts that use a good story to demonstrate a point, which you did really well. Thanks man. That was an entertaining read :)

    • Awesome. I’m really glad that you liked it. My main point here was to make it fun to learn some lessons about blogging. Hopefully that’s something I was able to do.

  27. Funnily enough, the first two times I clicked on the link in the email I received from Problogger – in order to leave a comment, I got this message:

    “Oops! Google Chrome could not find http://www.problogger.net
    Suggestions:
    Access a cached copy of http://www.­problogger.­net/­archives/­2011/­08/­21/­don’t-­let-­your-­blog-­get-­caught-­with-­its-­pants-­down/­
    Search on Google:”

    Guess the pants were down for a second!

    But I tried a third time, and here I am.

    Read Aloud Dad

  28. Natalie says:

    I got caught when I was not checking the bandwidth on my hosting account. Ping – the server put the sign up. Hot sweat and swear words were the order of the day

  29. Craig_Os says:

    How do you define “Quality Content”? Great, funny and memorable story by the way!

    • Joseph says:

      Quality content is anything that provides value to readers and gives them a reason to come back for similar content. Non-quality content are any half-baked ideas that are poorly written but still expected to resonate with readers. It’s best if the quality content is unique and offers a new perspective on an interesting subject.

  30. man you really got caught naked. just read the original post – i can see the “viralibility” of it. naked or not, anyone of us would be lucky to get that kind of “indecent” exposure ;)

  31. Ruth Zive says:

    First of all, who couldn’t relate to that fabulous story! We’ve all been there (perhaps not in Africa)…literally and figuratively. This was a good wake-up call. I’m only about 2 months in with my blog (though I’ve been freelancing for over a year), and I figured I would focus first on optimizing/designing/improving the site before I monetized. I’m only averaging about 50 – 100 visits a day (pathetic…and I’m guessing half of them are my friends and family)…but hey, chances are if I add something to sell, my Dad will buy at least $100′s worth.

    • Joseph says:

      Hi Ruth, 50-100 visitors per day is pretty good. That’s a great start for being two months in.

  32. Brilliant story that literally had me in stitches! Can just imagine the guy telling all his mates about the white guy later that night! Am surprised they let him leave on the bus so easily!! Very funny

    • Niall, I’m glad you liked the story. I’m sure the Ghanaian had quite a story to tell. And I think they were too shocked to do anything about it.

  33. Justin Dupre says:

    Funny intro! It made me laugh. Anyone who has a blog should read this so they won’t get caught with their pants down.

  34. Shay says:

    Great way to capture attention to an article! Opportunities are all around and we need to be ready for them.

  35. Tech84 says:

    Surely that wasn’t the “early morning fresh air” the poor guy was expecting as he rose from his hut into the morning sun.. lol!

  36. What a great story to pull readers in! And a great story for sharing a lesson. Loved it! Awesome about your traffic day! I had a similar situation when I was still on wordpress, non-hosted. I got picked up for Freshly Pressed which goes out to hundreds of thousands of WP users. My blog was only 2 months old and I definitely wasn’t ready!
    Thanks so much for sharing your “friend’s” story!
    Bernice
    Taking care of unfinished business

  37. Thanks Joseph on insight to importance of being ready and prepared for future traffic and how to handle. Great story to get attention!

  38. This is a FANTASTIC post! SO very very true. When I wrote my first post for Digital Photography School, I was over the moon by the amount of traffic I got. When I wrote my second post – I started to realize that I wasn’t taking advantage of that increase in traffic. So I spent two months beefing up my blog, answering the questions in the design and layout that I got from all my new visitors.

    When I wrote my third post for Digital Photography School, I was ready for the traffic and I’m grateful. I had a mailing list ready, videos, a My Gear page, a PR page. I also timed this post with increased traffic thanks to B&H Photo and a Giveaway week to celebrate 1000 FB followers. I’m astounded that something so simple didn’t come to me the first time around, but I’m glad that it finally did.

    I needed this article 6 months ago!!! Thanks :)

  39. ah Freedom says:

    I just moved all the heavy resources on my site over to Amazon S3 Joseph. That’ll help lessen the strain on my site for when Darren recommends me time and time again ;)

  40. Joseph, this is a very interesting article. I like the story telling analogy and then linking it to exactly what your message is about. Very good approach! I will definitely take on board this piece of advice. I have been blogging actively for the past couple of months and have not actually thought about the issue of making sure you are properly set up so you don’t get caught out unaware. Thank you very much for this valuable advice. I’ll tweet about.

  41. Lori Lowe says:

    I can relate to your situation though yours makes a better story! When my blog was “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress last fall and went viral, I received about 45,000 visits within a few short days. I was in the middle of meetings and getting hundreds of comments. Only in the midst of this did I realize how weak my “About” page was and how I didn’t have my most popular links there for people to see. I immediately started revising things to try to capture as many subscribers as I could. I’ve continued to get mileage out of the same post, and I did capture regular readers after that. So it’s not a terrible ending, but an admonition to be prepared. Here’s the post if anyone’s interested in reading: We all married the wrong person at http://lifegems4marriage.com/2010/09/10/we-all-married-the-wrong-person/

    Lori Lowe
    http://www.LifeGems4Marriage.com

  42. Dougy Hunt says:

    Excellent post, I have listed what you have said and going to work on trying to pull my ‘pants’ up lol!

    Thanks again.

    http://www.politicalguerrilla.co.uk/
    http://www.cullensclearances.co.uk/

  43. Hi Joseph!
    Great title, great post, great story, great list of how to be ready! I’m working on getting our novel up for sale. When it is, I hope not to be caught with our pants down, thanks to you! lol! Thanks for this entertaining and useful post!

  44. you should always make your blog presentable so the readers will keep coming back to it. sometimes it is not enough to have an interesting post to let the readers stay.

    - Jack Leak

  45. Ayo Oyedotun says:

    Great post Joseph.

    I live in Nigeria, West Africa. That was unfortunate for your friend. It’s just common sense for most of us to empty our bowels before embarking on a journey no matter how short.

    Moreover, I love your post – a serious blogger has to be ready at all times.

  46. Ayo Oyedotun says:

    Great post Joseph.

    I live in Nigeria, West Africa. That was unfortunate for your friend. It’s just common sense for most of us to empty our bowels before embarking on a journey no matter how short.

    ’bout blogging, I love your post – a serious blogger has to be ready at all times.

  47. The same happened to me Joseph :( I wrote a post about ’5 Sizzling hot female writers’ and got 2000 visitors on the same night (thanks to the tweets by the writers mentioned in the post). I had enough good quality content but it’s silly I didn’t offer an option for the readers to subscribe :(

    We both learned it the hard way!