About Me

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Facebook says I live in the Bay Area. Twitter boasts that I like puns and bad jokes (@The_PUNisher_SF), and then Reddit upvotes and says I LOVE puns and bad jokes. And this blog tells you about my experiences using social media sites and learning to fit them all together into my life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Preparing your blog for increased traffic: Part 1

This past Monday was an unbelievable day for me, when I watched my newly written blog post reach 150,000 views in 24 hours.  If there's one thing I learned, it's that at any given time your blog is just one good post away from reaching the masses.

I didn't expect it to ever explode so quickly, so there were some setup options that I overlooked when creating my blog.  Looking back on it, I realize how lucky I was that I had at least the navigation and site structure figured out, because once it exploded it would have been too late to make any structural changes.

In analyzing this, I also realized there are several factors that led to the success of the post.  I thought I'd write a summary of them, in case anyone wants to benefit from my experience.  I'm not claiming to be an expert on the subject, but I can say what did work for me.  Best of luck!

The 8 reasons why my blog post succeeded
  1. Simple page design – It was very important to me to create a layout design that was clean and easy to navigate.  In fact, Blogspot is the third site that I tried hosting the blog on.  Previously I tried Tumblr and then Wordpress, but neither one allowed me to customize it to the way I wanted.  I liked the aesthetic of Blogspot, so last week I happily moved all my content over.  If I hadn't switched over to this site, I don't think I would have been prepared for the traffic I was about to get.  If you want to see the failed designs, check out my inactive pages on Tumblr or Wordpress.
  2. Non-personalized blog name – When I made the first version of my blog through Tumblr, I didn’t spend enough time thinking of a good account name.  It’s the first thing you do when creating a blog, but probably the last thing on your mind.  At that point I hadn’t decided what my blog was going to focus on, and gave it a name that ultimately didn’t work.  When I moved over to Blogspot I was able to rename it to “The Big Social Picture”, and I am so glad I did because I think it gave it legitimacy to have a succinct and non-personalized name.
  3. Topic relevant to my social network – When I shared my blog post on Facebook, it got re-posted and shared more times than I ever could have imagined.  Several of my friends are in the VFX/film industry so my article appealed to them, and they ended up being the platform that drove the link out to the Internet.  If I had written this about a topic that wasn’t relevant to my network, I’m not sure it would have picked up the same momentum.  I didn’t aim for this kind of chain reaction when I shared my post, but I am incredibly grateful for it.
  4. Standalone content –  I made the realization a few days ago that every blog post should be inclusive to new readers.  Between your author bio and your first paragraph of your blog, the reader should be up-to-speed enough for the post to make sense.  When I wrote the post, I toned down the references to my social media project, and kept it related to the topic I was writing about.  I think it helps the post come across as more genuine and direct.
  5. Interesting title of post – I changed the title about 4 times before settling on “The Oscar protest that you didn’t know happened”.  I thought it was too long (I don’t like that it takes up two lines on the Blog Archive sidebar), but over the last day I’ve realized it actually is catchy and is something that could appeal to anyone, not just people in the VFX industry.  
  6. Unbiased article – A few friends have mentioned to me that they appreciate the unbiased perspective in the article.  I think it helped in this case but doesn’t mean it’s necessary for a successful blog.  Usually the whole point of a blog is giving your own biased, subjective opinion.  In this case though, I wanted to look at all sides and consider that it could be a blameless situation.  The article is more about presenting the facts and documenting the social reaction to the issue.
  7. Research and thoroughness – The post took me about 4 hours to research, write, and clean up images in Photoshop.  A few times I told myself to stop working on it and go to bed, but luckily I tend to ignore that voice.  Once the site started gaining viewers, I proofread it with a fresh perspective and edited anything that wasn’t smooth (since I didn’t want to show up on foraquarter.com).  
  8. Access to previous posts I am really glad that I already had 12 other posts written before this one.  If this had happened earlier in my blog's life, I would have missed out on engaging all those people to my other content.  Once the site started peaking, I saw more hits go to my other posts, which they never could have gotten to on their own.  It's cool to see how all of my posts benefited from the surge in viewers:

The 4 things I wish I had done ahead of time
  1. Added Page counter – BP (before post), I didn’t have a page counter on the site, because it seemed like a way of flaunting my failure.  With less than 50 views, I thought it would detract people from reading my posts.  But when the post took off, I was at work and didn’t have time to study the page for what could be improved.  I added the counter about halfway through the day, but I wish I had it sooner because it gives a certain validity to the post.  Plus, I think my friends enjoyed being able to refresh it and watch the counter update.
  2. Set up Google Analytics (GA) to track statistics – Blogspot comes with pretty handy built-in stat tracking, but as the viewership grew my sister and I realized we wanted to see the realtime data, the comprehensive list of referring websites, and the customizable charts/graphs that GA provides.  By the time we got it set up, the blog was already a few hours into its climb.  Since GA can’t gather data retroactively, we missed out on the chance to track statistics on the first 3 hours when the post took off.  It still caught the major spikes, but the rest would have been interesting to see too.
    Note: Want to set up GA on your blog but don't know how?  Leave a message in the comments and we can discuss!
  3. Added "Follow me" button  - Again, I should have known to do this ahead of time, but it just seemed unnecessary when my post was being so quiet.  I finally set this up midway through the day on Monday, but again I probably lost a good amount of potential followers in the first hours.
  4. Considered monetizing blog with ads - Google offers a program called AdSense, which puts relevant ads into your blog and pays profits for each click you bring them.  You have to apply for approval with them, which took about 4 hours for me.  In those hours, I imagined I was losing out on the rare opportunity to actually make money from a blog (although I was adding it with the intention of donating the proceeds towards the VFX cause).  I ended up being declined anyway (not sure why), but it would have been nice to have that established ahead of time.
That's everything, please let me know if you agree/disagree with anything.  I'd love to hear other experiences or feedback!

UPDATE: Check out the follow-up post called Preparing your blog for increased traffic (Part 2) 


  1. hey just a simple comment... the last two bullet points (3 and 4) are in signs and i'm assuming they're not intended so i wanted to give you a heads up! :)

    1. Thanks so much Syma, it's fixed (not sure what happened).
      Tip #9 for a successful blog post: Don't write it in hieroglyphics :)

  2. Congrats on your success! The internet is crazy!

    Here's my tip... post some half naked pics of yourself, that's how my blog picked up some serious momentum lately (aka before and after pics from a healthy eating challenge)! Most of my views come from Facebook, so posting each entry on my FB wall is definitely critical. I'm trying to transition to a separate page for my blog, but I know people are creeping from my personal FB posts that haven't liked the page yet, so I'm in a weird spot where I don't want to double post my entries to my friends that have liked the page.

    I also spread my blog around on the internet by commenting on other blogs with similar themes and interests. Everybody loves comments!

    1. Great advice Amber. I am just now creating a separate Facebook page for the blog, and I agree it's a really good idea. I also think that it's tricky to know when to post as yourself and as your blog, but I'm thinking the occasional double-post is ok, especially if you save it for the blog posts you're really proud of.

  3. I think there's one more factor here. People don't like to be left out, especially when it's something big that could impact our society as a whole (or our social circles/friends), and especially when they may have gone to sleep (for East Coasters) or forgotten to DVR the Oscars on Sunday. The interesting post title (and it's grab-biness) was a big part of it, but also the fact that a lot of people likely already felt that they had 'missed' something (because many of us had- I went to sleep after the best supporting role awards were given) and when we saw your post, we felt there was something that MORE people had missed that we could each be aware of and a part of- who wouldn't want that?! It was sort of scandalous and amazing that something like that could be happening without our knowledge (and also made a few of the awkward moments that we DID see during the Oscars make sense). When something makes us go 'Ah-ha!', we tend to want to share it more, so that our loved ones can share in that enlightenment. Does that make sense?

  4. PS Thanks for the shout out- hurray, foraquarter.com!

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