My 5 Most Popular Posts (and Why)

First, let me show you my Top Five Most Popular Posts of the last 6 months or so, defined as follows : When these blog titles went up on Twitter, the most people clicked on them. They are:

  1. Shakespeare’s New Year’s Resolutions (Guest Post)
  2. Harry Potter is Shakespeare
  3. Shakespearean Collective Nouns (A Guest Post by Bardfilm)
  4. The Seven Least-Controversial Disclosures on WikiLeaks
  5. 10 Reasons We Love Sir Ian McKellen

(This is the order, by the way – top down. So the resolutions one is my most popular post in a long time.)

I like the “How many clicks did each tweeted link get” metric for a couple of reasons. Mostly because it tracks initial reaction – people see it, and then either they decide to click, or not. “Retweets”, where person A decides that the link is so good they want to share it with person B, would also show up in this list. However, if I tried to recycle it and post the same link under a few different headlines, it would not — the link would change and be counted separately.

This is very different from the organic/SEO world where how much Google traffic you get has less to do with what you wrote, and more to do with the particular keyword density that caused you to float up the page into the #1 spot. “How old is Romeo?” is not my #1 blog post because that’s what the most people are interested in, it’s the #1 post because I happen to have the best google spot for that, so it gets the most traffic.

So anyway, what patterns do you see in the above list?

First of all, 3 out of the 5 were written by my guest blogger Bardfilm. Thanks very much for the content, KJ! Looks like our partnership can be called a success, no?

Two of those are called out as guest posts, the third is not (the Wikileaks one is his, if you’re curious). So maybe there’s something to be said for the idea that guest posts bring traffic. Followers like to hear a fresh point of view now and then, it’s good variety.

But do you see the other, more obvious pattern? 4 out of 5 of those posts are very clearly lists. Seven of this, ten of that. Resolutions. Nouns. People like to click on lists. Lists promise a short, well organize burst of content.

The outlier is Mr. Harry Potter, and it’s probably obvious why he made the list – it’s Harry Potter. 🙂 Tweeting about celebrities will almost always get you some clicks, doubly so if you find a way to link that celebrity to your niche instead of just broadcasting generic news headlines about him. Being trendy is important – I was surprised that my Ian McKellen post did not get more traffic. But quality doesn’t really enter into it, in that particular battle – comparing a Harry Potter headline and an Ian McKellen headline is like comparing a Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones story to a Lady Gaga one. The audiences are just different.

Of course, timeliness is pretty important as well. The Resolutions one obviously wouldn’t work at any time other than maybe a week before and after the new year, when everybody’s in the mood for lists like that. Likewise with the Wikileaks one – if you tried to put out a Wikileaks story now I think you’ll find that most folks are bored of the topic. Even Harry Potter, I’m pretty sure I tried to put that post up right around the time of the last movie. I think that was one of the problems with poor Sir Ian – he’s always good. I didn’t have a current event to link him to. Maybe when The Hobbit comes out I’ll bring that post out of mothballs and try it again :).

7 thoughts on “My 5 Most Popular Posts (and Why)

  1. Note that the content of these popular posts is also top-notch—otherwise, it wouldn't matter how many people click on them.

    And I'm not just saying that because I started the lists (please note that Shakespeare Geek himself contributed to two of the three lists, making them much funnier and more relevant).

    Thanks for the good content! They'll always be a place for that, even if the many-headed don't always click to find it!


  2. True–for Tweets. But is this just me? When I'm Googling for content–say a search for "Best Shakespeare Blogs"–I pay much more attention to the three or four lines underneath the title than the title itself. Does that make sense?


  3. Duane, Not that I'd know a "tweeted metric" if it walked up and introduced itself, maybe the answer to this question is obvious to others and not to me.
    Just curious about categorization.

    Could you or would you substitute the word "successful" for the word "popular" in your title?

  4. The relationship between blogs and "tweets" is an interesting one, JM. Blogs are lots of content, infrequently posted. Tweets are the opposite – conversational, short, frequent. It was only logical that people would connect the two, and push out their blog headlines as tweets. So I felt that a metric of, "When I put out headline X, how many people clicked on it?" made for an interesting test. There are many folks that believe the title is everything, and will go out of their way to always structure titles according to a set of rules – "Top Ten Secrets to Fast Money Making!" While it's proven to work, unfortunately, I can't help but think that's a scam – it says nothing about the quality of the post and everything about tricking the user into clicking. All flash, no substance guaranteed.

    As for your second question, that one is much deeper. Success can only be defined in terms of a mission of some sort, no? So, then, what's my mission? I know that some of the Shakespeare bloggers out there have a more educational / academic mission than I do. For me, popularity and success are linked. Not because my goal is just to be popular – my goal is to make *Shakespeare* popular. Know what I mean? I have over 1000 followers on Twitter, and I consider that a win. Not because it's a race, but because that means around a thousand people (I'm well aware that not every follower is actually listening) showed enough interest in the subject – as I present it – to say "I want more."

    I continue to present what makes Shakespeare interesting to me. Daily I see a dozen stories that I could jump on the bandwagon and post, and choose not to (unless I'm bored or feel that I'm lacking content). I'd like to think that the people following this site are following me, and my own spin on the topic, as much as they are just general Shakespeare fans. I'm sure there are Shakespeare fans out there who hate how we approach the topic.

    Does that make sense? If I have to pick a mission it's something like "Make Shakespeare appealing and accessible to everyone." The popularity of this blog, therefore, is directly related to the success of that mission.

    That may not be true for everyone. If I was more directly trying to make money I'd care less about "hits" and more about "conversions" – for every 100 people who hit my site, how many buy something? Of course, conversion can mean a number of things – maybe you want them to sign a petition, or leave a comment. The idea's the same – it only costs the reader a tiny bit of effort to click a link, and it costs them more to do whatever the next event is in the lifecycle. I'd like people to hang out, comment, ask questions, browse around. Absolutely. If they click on the ads or buy my book, all the better. I'm constantly looking to improve people's experience.

  5. While I'd like to agree re: content, KJ, I think it's a separate issue. The vast majority of people who see a tweeted link will not know the content underneath, and will judge it entirely based on the headline. True, some people will click it, read it, and then decide to forward it to others – so a good headline will potentially see a larger audience. But as a general rule, the question of whether to click a headline has entirely to do with the headline.

  6. Perhaps, but how much can you get from a couple of lines? I know what you're saying, you take into consideration all information that's given to you. But consider the google rule – namely, that first page is everything, and position on that page is about 99% of everything. The content that is perfect for what you're looking for may actually be on page 3, and you'll never find it. You're weighing the extra lines of content, but probably only in about the first 5 google results, no?

  7. Hmmm. I'm not sure! I think it depends on what I'm searching for.

    For example, if I'm trying to find out how to convert .flv to .mov files (let's see if just stating that here gets this post some traffic), I can tell from those first three lines which sites don't actually know what I'm talking about–the ones that just have that somewhere to get people to come there. I may click through three pages of search results to get what I want. Often, I open a bunch of pages in tabs behind the search result page, and then I can glance at them at my leisure, closing them when they fail to give me what I want.


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