I rarely talk about blogging, perhaps because there’s so little that hasn’t been said. But in the time I’ve been working on this blog I’ve noticed a few trends in our traffic, and over this time developed a few rules that I follow for both producing content and analyzing content. Today I am going to share with you a few of the stories, trends and observations I’ve made while managing the VKI blog.
Watch your numbers and don’t discount anything
We love to assume. But don’t.
When I came into the company, the post that received the most traffic wasFacebook Privacy Loophole – Who’s looking at your pictures? Darcy, being the SEO that he was, had chosen a title that matched a massively searched phrase: “who is looking at my facebook pictures”. To this date, the post still serves as one of our highest traffic landing pages.
But who cares, right? I mean, that’s all garbage traffic that won’t be interested in the rest of the site and won’t keep reading. It’s a bunch of people who have no interest in analytics, SEO, usability, etc.
Actually, over the last year that one post has made up 8% of our RSS subscribes. It beats our site average RSS conversion rate by 1%. It’s our third most shared page, with a 20% higher conversion rate for sharing than most of our site.
In comparison, the best performing “Analytics Tips, Tricks and Traps” post, a really great post filled with detailed knowledge of what “direct” traffic really is, (and a really important thing to understand) makes up 1% of our RSS subscribes and 1% of our social network shares (of course it has a much higher conversion rate for both).
Give people something they can use immediately
As a general class of post, the best traffic we’ve had comes from posts that give visitors something they can fiddle with right away. These kinds of posts are adoptable, easy to pick up, and best of all: often really easy to write.
People love how-to’s
Tying in with the above, people love how-to’s. Walking people through a complex problem using simple language is difficult and time consuming, but such posts attract more links, and more visitors, than almost any other.
Specify (It’s not just for insects!)
One of the first things I was taught when I hit university writing classes was to take a topic, then specify. If you want to talk about the effects of masculine gaze on the female subject, write instead of on the effects of masculine gaze on the female subject in comedy, or compare the effects of masculine gaze on the female subject in silent and modern film. (no, I didn’t take film studies)
How do we apply that in the world of blogging? Well, if our analytics tells me anything, its that people love when you get specific. It’s much the same as when in school:
Combine topics: If you write “another great analytics report” and target it at analysts, they won’t be too impressed (unless it’s really, really good). On the other hand “Using Google Analytics to enhance your usability” or “Great Analytics Reports for SEO” will cross your audience, both expanding potential readers and allowing you to target a group that may not know their, say, analytics reports as well as the analysts.
Compare: SEO best practices might be played out, but how about SEO best practices for CMS’s versus Rolling Your Own.
Just be really really specific:
People LOVE the power user guide
I predict the reason for this has to do with the value of recycling posts. Writing a giant guide in one day, or even one week, is impossible. However, it’s quite easy to produce lots of smaller posts that talk about different aspects of the same topic, then at a later time compile them and release them with a lot of promotion. This (comparatively) huge tome then becomes a super star post and ends up in the CDs of popular books on the subject.
Bounce rate rocks
People often talk about bounce rate as if it’s a bad thing. But on a blog it is an opportunity. It is perfectly reasonable for people to bounce from a post. After all, they came from a link to a particular post, they read it, then they leave. Perfectly understandable.
However, this leaves quite an opportunity for finding topics to write about. Find content with a high bounce rate and lots of visitors, then write another post about a similar topic and link them.
Insult some one
Well, don’t be a jerk. However, people love to talk (and read) about thing’s that they hate. We’re wired that way. It’s like some primal instinct from our savanna days when communicating about things that were causing us problems was an evolutionary necessity. Capitalizing on this can bring in like minded people or, even better, get the attention of who you are complaining about and become involved in producing the solution.
Don’t forget the power of something different
If you focus too muchon a couple of topics I think people get bored. There’s really only so much you can say about SEO, or PPC, or Analytics, or Usability, and there are a lot of peopleout there saying exactly that. Tossing something strange or different in now and again not only widens your potential traffic sources and audience, but it gives loyal readers something to think about.