Going viral: we all want it, yet it seems impossible to achieve unless you’re already a popular blogger. What about up-and-comers? Do we have any chance of hitting that traffic jackpot with one of our posts?
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Paula Pant about how she writes popular posts. Paula will be speaking about the art of jaw-dropping content at NMX 2014 (get your tickets here). Here’s a little preview of what you can expect at the show:
Allison: What has been your most popular post of all time and why do you think it was?
Paula: My most popular post is one that I think the NMX community would also love: Stop Crying That There Are No Jobs. Create One.
I wrote this post after speaking back-to-back at two conferences: one for journalists, and one for bloggers.
I felt that many of the people I met at the journalism conference were feeling pessimistic about the future. Newsrooms were on hiring freezes, were laying off their reporters, or were shutting down entirely. Major newspapers like the Rocky Mountain News had recently collapsed. There was an undercurrent of “we’re screwed.”
Then I went to a blogger conference. Most of the people there had no formal training in writing or storytelling. But they were ultra-optimistic about the future. They spotted online opportunity everywhere they looked.
I’m a journalist-turned-blogger, and I write about shattering limits, ditching the cubicle, and living life on your own terms. My readers are the type of people who refuse to get confined by limits. If no one will create a job for them, they’ll create one for themselves. That’s the Afford Anything way of life.
You write so many awesome posts – what do you think it was about this one in particular that resonated with so many people?
I’ve intentionally cultivated a readership that loves the idea of entrepreneurship, location independence, freedom, and controlling your destiny. The themes of this post fit my readership perfectly, and I used storytelling as my tool to illustrate that theme.
This isn’t an instructional post — it’s a motivational post — but not in the cliche-drenched, “rah-rah” cheerleader sense of the word. It motivates through telling a true-life story, not through reiterating feel-good slogans. Storytelling is our most primal form of linguistic communication; even young children love hearing stories.
How did you come up with a title for your post? Do you think that the controversial message contributed to the popularity?
Prior to this article, I wrote gentle headlines. The headline of this particular article is far more “in-your-face” than what I usually wrote.
After I saw it’s success, I began writing more controversial and opinionated headlines, such as “Quit Thinking About Consumption. Start Thinking About Creation,” and “The Rebel with a Retirement Plan.”
Popular posts are great, but as we all know, readers’ attention spans are limited. How do you keep people engaged after reading the post instead of bouncing onto the next thing?
I keep a call-to-action at the bottom of each blog post, encouraging readers to join my email list. After all, my goal is list-building, not just pageviews. I also internally link from the article to numerous other articles, use the nRelate plugin and the LinkWithin widget, and keep a list of my most popular posts on the right-hand sidebar site-wide. Lately I’ve also started using Opt In Monster to increase my list sign-ups, as well. I’ve been pleased to see that I consistently have strong metrics in average time-on-site and pages-per-visit.
When you were writing this post, did you have any idea how popular it would be? Or did it surprise you?
I had no idea that this post would become so popular. To be perfectly honest, I feel as though I’ve written plenty of posts that are better than this one. But my readers seem to adopt a different view.
I’ve found, in general, that the posts that become most popular catch me off-guard. I’ve learned to stop making any predictions about which posts will leap to the top of my most popular list. Instead, I focus more on the process — writing top-notch posts — and allow the results to unfold as they will.
Thanks, Paula, for a great interview! Remember, you can grab a ticket to see Paula speak live at NMX 2014. Make sure you’re in the audience to ask her any questions you might have about writing great content that goes viral!