The Anatomy Of A “Viral” Blog Post
It’s been a crazy week here on 101 Books, and I thought I’d share that experience with you.
The main purpose of this blog is obvious: To read through the Time list. That’s my priority. But 101 Books is also a blog about writing, and even blogging in general at times, and that’s where this post falls.
Last Friday through this past Tuesday was just nuts. I’ve experienced abnormally high traffic with one post before, but that traffic usually comes from one or two main sources, like the WordPress Freshly Pressed feature, for instance.
I also have steady traffic from all of you guys who read the blog every day—for which I’m extremely grateful. So I guess you could say I’ve had some success here and there, after many failures too.
But my post on Friday, April 26—My 2-Year-Old Judges Books By Their Covers—was the first time I’ve experienced a legitimately viral post. That is, a post that was picked up by several sources and produced a week-long enormous spike to my blog traffic.
Since I started 101 Books, I’ve become a bit of stats junkie. That’s both a good and a bad thing. I notice trends and develop posting strategies based on those trends, but I also can become too caught up and/or obsessed with my blog traffic.
So with that in mind, and for those of you who are into the science of blogging, like me, I thought I’d share exactly what happened with this post and how it went “viral.”
The post went live Friday April 26 at 7:30 A.M. CT just like any other post. Around 8 that morning, a friend (without my knowledge) posted a link in the Reddit Books section.
In Reddit Books last Friday, it was the most popular post for the day. Reddit sent me a few thousand referrals on Friday, and probably instigated what happened next.
On Saturday morning, I noticed a large spike in traffic from Twitter. So, out of curiousity, I pulled up all the tweets to see who might have tweeted about it.
To my surprise, the Twitter account of Maria Popova was on the list, better known as “brainpicker.” Her verified Twitter account has more than 330,000 followers. I presume she discovered the post through Reddit because she’s never tweeted any of my posts before. To add to the fun, she posted about it on her blog.
Through the weekend, thanks to Reddit and Maria’s tweet/blog posts, my traffic remained steady and about three times as high as it usually is on weekends.
The next hit came on Monday morning. Buzz Feed picked up the post from Maria (brainpicker) and featured it on their site with a link back to my blog. After that, traffic really went nuts. Obviously, Buzz Feed was sending a lot of traffic my way, but so was Twitter and Facebook.
The Buzz Feed post opened it up to all sorts of people who tweeted about it, like Publisher’s Weekly, Random House, Scribner and others. Speaking of design, a popular design blog called Under Consideration even posted about it.
All day Monday morning, traffic was through the roof and at a pace I’ve only seen once before—back when WordPress Freshly Pressed this post about Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules of Writing.
I thought that was about it on the “virality” (is that a word?), but it wasn’t. Thanks to the Buzz Feed post, I presume, Huffington Post Books picked up the post and linked back to my blog.
Once again, traffic spiked up even more on Monday afternoon. By Monday evening, the post was the second most popular single post in the history of 101 Books. That’s a post that went live just four days prior on a blog that has existed for nearly three years with 600 posts.
The takeaway? Patience. Keep at it. Keep plugging away and eventually people will notice, if that’s what you want. Because let’s be honest: Even the most ardent among us who say we don’t care who reads our blog, even those people don’t mind a little attention every now and then.
So to recap: It went a little like this: Reddit–>Brainpicker–>BuzzFeed–>Twitter and Facebook–>Huffington Post–>Mind Blown.
I don’t know exactly how to define the word “viral” in the context of blogging. But, for me, my son’s post was about as viral as a post has ever been on 101 Books.
Ten years from now, I can’t wait to tell my son about the day his lion-focused literary insights made it to the front page of Huffington Post Books and Buzz Feed.
And that’s what was so cool about that post: I really didn’t have much to do with it. The honesty and sincerity of a two year old judging a book cover is just too hard to pass up.
That’s why, if he’s still into it, we’ll be sitting down again soon to get his thoughts on even more book covers. Can’t wait for that.
Anyway, I just thought I’d share with you guys a little bit of the whirlwind this past week has been. It’s amazing how the most simple of posts can connect with people.
Take note of that on your own blogs. There’s nothing wrong with a “simple” post. Give it a try and see what happens.