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How I Turned a Guest Post into 3 Million Visitors and Over 150,000 Social Media Shares

Yesterday, I shared a practical exercise for diving deeper into your blog’s analytics to discover how you can use the last month of blog action to plan for the future.

Today, I’d like to show you an example of just how powerful this discipline can be when it comes to building traffic to your site. In fact, this simple exercise led to a series of events that generated:

  • 3 million unique visitors
  • 131,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest
  • 25,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook
  • 19,000 RT’s on Twitter

It all started with a Guest Post Submission

This story all began in March of 2012 when I received an email through the contact form on dPS, outlining an idea for a guest post. The author wanted to write a post with some examples pictures of how to pose women for portraits.

I liked the idea and agreed that the author could write the post. He submitted it a couple of weeks later and I scheduled it to go live late on the 28th.

The post was titled Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You started with Photographing Women (note: on the blog it says ‘Part 1′ but at the time of publishing it was a stand alone post).

Screen Shot 2013 06 04 at 1 20 59 PM

Initial Results

I thought the post would do well as it was on a topic we’ve had good responses to in the past i.e. posing techniques. It was also an image based post, which we’ve had quite a bit of success with.

Four days later (on the first of April), when I was doing my ‘deep dive’ into Google Analytics, I was excited to see that the post had done very well indeed.

The day it was published the post had over 17,000 visitors, which was higher than an average post on its first day. Around 30% of that traffic was coming in from Facebook, which was surprising as I didn’t promote it on our own Facebook page until the day after.

The second day after publishing, the post saw around 8,000 visitors but day 3 saw it reach over 42,000 visitors.

This spike was partly due to the post being featured in our newsletter, which normally spikes traffic to the site, but that day also saw some great traffic from social media including StumbleUpon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the following few days it continued to do really well so by the time I did my analyse it had already received around 150,000 visitors – considerably higher than other posts on the site in their first week.

Other than the raw traffic numbers I was interested to see that:

  1. The number of sharing events the post was getting on Facebook, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. The post had some great visuals that seemed to stimulate this.
  2. The number of comments and emails we were getting from readers asking how to pose men and kids.

Building Momentum

I saw an opportunity and immediately emailed the author to see if he’d be interested in similar followup posts on posing men and children.

He had also noticed a spike in traffic to his own site as a result of the post, was keen to do more and immediately began work.

Within a week we published Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men.

This second post did about 75% of the traffic of the first post but the patterns were very similar. The difference was that we didn’t see traffic from StumbleUpon but instead saw it from Reddit.com

10 days later we published a Posing Guide for Photographing Children with very similar results.

While traffic wasn’t quite as spectacular on posts #2 and #3 they were still well and truly out performing most other posts on the site. Naturally, I commissioned the author to write more!

Post #4 was a Posing Guide for Photographing Couples is an interesting case study in and of itself because while it spiked in traffic over the first week it didn’t drive as much initial traffic. However, since publishing it last May it has gone on to become our most popular post ever on Pinterest and continues to drive great traffic to the site ever since.

Screen Shot 2013 05 27 at 2 47 16 PM

To this day, that post has over 83,000 ‘pins’ and has been visited just under half a million times in the last 12 months!

Over the coming months we published more followups in this series:

Each post has not only gone on to drive its own traffic but every time we post another addition to the series we see a surge of traffic to previous posts (as we interlink them all). So now, because we’ve published six followup posts in the series, our original post has received around 850,000 visitors and they’ve had over 2.5 million visits between them all.

Take Home Lessons

The take home lesson for me is it’s not only important to create useful content, you need to take note of what works. You also need to attempt to find ways to build momentum on your site and followup with more of the same!

While the traffic levels may not be the same as what we do on dPS (we have the benefit of having build decent traffic to the site since 2006) the same principles can apply for a blog at any level.

The success of this series of posts has generated a lot of future ideas for dPS. We’ve commissioned the author to create another series of posts (the first of which went live on the blog in the last hour) which will also include ‘real photos’ based upon the poses previously covered. This was something we had requests for in the previous series of posts so I’m hoping it goes well.

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. Cyberquill says:

    What a wasted opportunity! The post would have generated 15 times as much traffic had the author added the word “naked” to the headline.

  2. Ehsan says:

    Wow Darren, seems that posing guide series brought huge success for dPS. Thanks for sharing the case study.

    It’s good to take notes of what works, and which topic gets more attention on a blog, than run a series on those topics.

    Now I know this case study posts here at Problogger is gonna turn into a big success as well.

  3. Also, Brian Clark did something similar to this. He found that his post about headlines got him a lot of traffic, maybe because Darren linked to it, then he created a series of posts about headlines.

    It’s all about finding what works and doing more of it.

    Thanks Darren for this tip.

    Best,
    Ahmed

    • Kalen says:

      It is great information, but we will need to remember who accomplished this. The rest of us can’t expect to gain the kind of traction Darren and Brian have because we don’t have the awesome reputations they do. However, you are definitely right that we need to find what works and go for it.

      • Darren Rowse says:

        Kalen – it certainly helps to have an established reputation but the same principle applies even in the early days of a blog. As I responded to Hamlet in another comment here – Brian did this in the early days of his blog. I gave an example of my own from early days too. May write a followup post on this in the coming few days with more examples.

  4. Yeah, I usually get 19,000 RTs on Twitter too (not). LOL

    Wow! Impressive use of deep digging, first to find out that the post was so popular and then to work out work how to capitalise on it.

    Of course, having a very popular blog helps the numbers! But the principles will be the same for anyone.

    Inspiring.

  5. Vineet Gupta says:

    You are a ROCKSTAR Darren!!!! I am your fan :D

  6. Sweet, now my blog can get 3 million hits. JK, even a million would be fine.

  7. Thoughtful post. I’m now thinking how I can take advantage of this tips. A few more traffic doesn’t hurt.

    Thanks for sharing

  8. Hamlet says:

    Great! Its possible for you to get 3 million traffic. But not for me. My blog is not so popular. You are a brand. Everything is possible for you about traffic. Look from my perspective. A new blogger struggling to get only 1000 traffic daily.

    Your post is like day dream to me.

    Btw, it’s great success for you. Keep it up.

    • Darren Rowse says:

      I do understand Hamlet – however I think the same principles apply on a small blog.

      A quick example:

      when I first started ProBlogger I had small traffic but did this same analysis of what posts were connecting with readers. The numbers were not high but I still saw opportunities.

      One example was when I used to do ‘group writing challenges’ with readers. I’d name a type of post and readers would go away and write that type of post and then come back. The first time I did that type of post it got around 40% more traffic than a normal post for me (ie instead of 500 readers it got 700). I saw the trend and replicated the type of post – in fact that type of post became a monthly activity for me for a couple of years and helped grow this blog.

      Another example is as Ahmed suggests in another comment here – Brian from Copy Blogger who wrote a post with ‘headline formulas’ for bloggers that got a lot of traffic/comments. He went on to make it into a series of posts. At the time CopyBlogger wasn’t huge (it was in his first year or so) but it was an important part of his growth.

      Hope that helps translate this into a ‘smaller’ blog’s situation.

  9. Ashley says:

    Amazing, now if only I had a website of my own. I love reading articles like this because once I get my own website up I can have loads of techniques ready to go.

  10. I,m new to the blogging….and always following

  11. Steve Eason says:

    This is amazing. I love how you were able to quickly ascertain that this was a great subject and that you were getting very good results and then to turn that into a series of posts that overall drastically drove lots of traffic over time. Plus it will likely serve to continue draw traffic for years to come. And best of all, I’m sure that the author of those articles, likely got plenty of traffic and recognition too. Great application and example of this technique.

  12. Adam Smith says:

    Thanks for this reminder, Darren. It’s been awhile since I went through analytics…

  13. Very nice sharing…I will be always follow.tq DR

  14. Julie P. says:

    Hey there,

    The traffic numbers you are reporting, I am only dreaming about. I have a feeling that even if i do create a kick-butt post, it is unlikely to be viewed or re-shared that much because initial readership is low. However, the guest posting to a larger blog seems like the way to go.

    Thanks for the tip! :)

  15. Minh Nguyen says:

    3 million unique visitors
    131,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest
    25,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook
    19,000 RT’s on Twitter
    That is a great result and the dream of many bloggers
    But the problem arises with a new blog post is how to reach that number

  16. Mike says:

    I wonder does this work in every niche? I always have hard time to brainstorm content ideas for a new niche ! Anyway, Great post btw and the results are amazing !

  17. Neha says:

    wow Darren, this is the wonderful traffic strategy you used and i think now i also open guest post to my sites.

  18. Darren there is no doubt that this is a wonderful traffic strategy idea. Now I am thinking about guest posting into my own blogging site. I need some excellent article about keyword ranking for word press site. If I get this it will be highly appreciated and delighted for me.

  19. Elena says:

    Although I am not doing photography I found that post very interesting and useful for myself. I think this is one of the reasons why it did so well, it’s useful not only for photographers but for regular people too. I want to look good on photos so I would definitely take a notice of something like this and share it too.

  20. Joe McCord says:

    If only I could share this with every blogger I outreach too.

    Oh wait. I can.

    Thanks mate :)

  21. bobby says:

    A lot if thanks for share a good idea.
    webcam voyante

  22. Andreea Leau says:

    Wow that’s a real case study! Actually I was expecting to be so many visitors because of the title. The title is very catchy and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to know how to take pictures to a women. Especially that many people now are trying to get more photo skills. As someone says above, if it was the “naked” word in title, maybe it was an explosion of visitors.

  23. jerrylewis says:

    The bottom line of creating traffic is making relevant posts and stories that people can relate with and at the same time uploading the written article to social media and bookmarking sites to have a wider perspective.

    nice post

  24. Arbaz Khan says:

    That’s a big achievement you got there with a single guest post. Of course with a post that is aimed at solving people’s problems and at the same time teaches them something new, will get a great response. That’s what happened with this guest post at DPS.
    Superb :)

  25. Mark says:

    analyse >> analysis

    out performing >> outperforming

    build >> built

  26. Keshav Yadav says:

    That is truly amazing!

  27. Okto says:

    Hi Darren,
    I’m so amaze on how the post work for dPS. I think it has given us valuable lesson about outstanding blog post. The example post (given above) is one crucial element which consist high quality content that enlightens, engages, entertains or educates. Far too often, blog posts are whipped off for the sake of having a blog post each and every day. As a result, there’s little of substance being offered other than perhaps a tidbit of information. The post fills a void but it is not adding much to the conversation. Thanks for keeping us remind it.

  28. Thanks for sharing this Darren.

    I guess you could have followed it up with a post listing the most common mistakes people make while posing. That would relate well with the initial post.

    But I absolutely agree that writers need to be much more involved in the traffic trends of their blogs to get the real picture of where the blog is actually headed.

    Btw, I love your new posting schedule :)

    Cheers

  29. máy nén says:

    Your article is very good. It is very useful for work and my life. Thank you for sharing this article.

  30. So this post is basically a case study proving what we mostly know to be true, creating multiple articles on a topic will help generate more traffic. The real takeaway here is knowing what content to do it with based on analytics, as it is not worth your time and effort to create multiple blog posts for every topic.

  31. soman says:

    Hi,

    Also you are getting more than 3 million visitors by making article “how i turned ————” :D

  32. Wow. Great job. Now if I could figure out my own angle to do the same I’d be set. Thanks for the tips.

  33. Louis says:

    That’s amazing, Darren! Shows that blogging about what we are passionate about and really getting into it do can support our living. I’m sure there are lots of rewards coming from those numbers :)

  34. Great success Story that shows that Content is the most important thing. But a little bit of luck is useful too.

  35. Kayla says:

    Thank you for all of the advice!
    I’ll read your ebook series and I hope I will become a successful blogger too.
    Right now nobody wants to guest post yet but it will come in time.

  36. Daniel says:

    Amazing results, Darren…

    I did not know your Photography site was doing so well!

    Though, I need to keep in perspective that the site has been up since 2006….so that fact, and your association with this site(your online rep) would have been quite helpful in a kind of direct / indirect manner….

  37. noel says:

    Well this is a very interesting case study since my blogging also covers photography and travel combined even though I do some freelance work covering events and portraiture. If you are in need of someone who can give you great photography lessons in other areas including nature and landscapes, travel photography and lifestyle, portraiture and event photography, macro studies or still still lifes. I would be more than happy to do any projects like this and customize it for your requirements.

  38. Matthew says:

    Awesome Darren! A real inspiration to us all.