A couple of years ago I talked about the concept of “Big Posts” — posts that draw in more than the usual number of readers to a blog — and what they mean for growing the readership of a blog over time. If you’ve not read that post, click that link and check it out, because it’s on point to what follows (Note: if you’re not a huge blog stats geek, don’t feel you have to bother, or to bother continuing to read this post, because it’s all blog stat geekery from here on out).
Caught up? Okay. I note this because this month I had a “Big Post” with the Michelle Obama/Fox News thing, and it resulted in a fairly instructive example of how a Big Post works for a site, in terms of building readership.
First, a graphic:
This graph charts the number of unique visits the site has gotten daily (so far) here in June. I’ve broken up the data into three sets. In yellow are the data representing daily uniques prior to the Big Post readership spike (11 days); in red are the data representing the Big Post spike (2 days); in green are the data post-spike (12 days). For reference, the day of the actual Big Post was 6/12; anecdotally I’ve noticed that readership spikes for Big Posts are spread out over two days rather than one, so this two-day spike period is actually pretty typical.
For the first 11 days of June, before the Obama/Fox News post, the average daily unique visits is 32,890; interestingly this average includes one minor readership spike (on 6/7) when a group of folks newly discovered, and linked in to, my “Being Poor” entry (lesson: some Big Posts continue to draw even years after their original appearance). For the 12 days after the Obama/Fox News post, the average daily unique visits is 35,773, with no noticeable additional readership spikes. This is an average gain of 2,883 unique visits, or a gain of about 8.7% in daily unique visits since the first part of the month.
What’s interesting (to me, anyway) is that the usual upper bound of daily uniques (40,000) has stayed the same; what’s changed is that the lower bound seems to have hiked up. Prior to the big post, the lower bound was around 25k unique visits (lower bound days are typically on Sundays, which are generally my lowest readership day of the week); afterward the lower bound looks like 30k. And, of course, daily unique visitorship is up in general on a day-to-day basis.
Now, whether this average boost in uniques persists over time is another issue, although experience teaches me that typically speaking readership here has trended up rather than going down. For example, I’d note that the high point of “Being Poor” readership spike back in September of 2005 was about 25,000 unique visits, which today represents the lower bound of daily visits for the month. Basically, if you’re updating daily (and being at least marginally interesting), I don’t think you decline in readership. Of course, it’s the constant updating that’s the catch, isn’t it.
You ask, well, if you know how to bring in more folks, why don’t you do it on a regular basis? But that’s the thing about Big Posts, as I noted a couple of years ago: It’s not up to you to decide what’s a Big Post. In the case of the Obama/Fox News post, I benefited from having Daily Kos, John Cole and Andrew Sullivan linking in unsolicited, which each funneled thousands of probably new folks into the site, some of whom, presumably, have since stuck around. Now, I’m not stupid: I’m aware that when I write about politics here, there’s a good chance it’ll generate discussion and some links. But you never know what’s going to work for people more than usual and what’s not. I don’t typically solicit links these days (and didn’t for the Obama/Fox piece), so essentially I never know who is going to link in or why. It’s a crap shoot, and besides, I’m aware that the single most successful post I ever did, visitor-wise, was of me taping bacon to my cat. You can’t know what’s going to work, in point of fact, and trying to game all the time it will drive you nuts.
What you do is what you should be doing anyway: writing interesting stuff on a regular basis. That way, when lightning does strike, and the curious new reader looks around to see what else you’ve got, you have stuff that will make them realize the Big Post that got their attention wasn’t just a one-time fluke. The Big Posts bring them in, and that’s their value; it’s everything else you’ve got that keeps them coming back, and that’s the value of the blog as a whole. Jot that down, folks.
And hey, if you’re one of the new folks around here: Thanks for coming by, and welcome.