I want to share with you a blogging fairy-tale.
But first, the prelude…
Last week, a reader wrote to me asking this question.
Esther has just published her third post. But so far she has no email subscribers and no network of followers.
No one is reading.
So she asked my advice on how to give her blog some viral momentum.
I referred her to my post from May 2011: Did Anyone Read Your Last Blog Post?
All I’ve been doing since I wrote that post is repeating those 5 simple steps and this blog has grown and grown (4,957 visits this month!)
Out of 70 posts I’ve published in the past 3 years, maybe 6 or 7 went viral. (When I say “viral,” I mean that I got a massive spike of traffic, primarily from hundreds of people sharing my posts on Facebook and because popular sites linked to my posts.)
These traffic waves expand awareness of my blog to a much wider audience and boost my subscriber base.
This formula seems to work but I don’t generally give it too much thought.
Then something happened yesterday that really rocked my blogging world.
19 Million Readers on a No-Name Blog
Yesterday I was feeling curious about which were the top sites on the web. I checked Quantcast’s top 100 list and mostly there were no surprises. Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, etc.
I rapidly scanned down the list of household-name content hubs and multinational corporations, until I reached #68.
Then I screeched to a halt.
Sandwiched between Merriam Webster and MySpace, was a site by the name of sethadamsmith.com. This was the only personally branded website in the top 100.
Now I’ve heard of some famous bloggers: I’ve heard of Michele Malkin; I’ve heard of Seth Godin; I’ve heard of Penelope Trunk. None of them were in the top 100.
So who on earth is Seth Adam Smith? And what’s he doing beating out CNN?
I bet you can guess I what I did next.
I went to check out SethAdamSmith.com for myself.
And what I found was a very ordinary, average-looking blog. I build WordPress websites for a living so I know all the signs of pro blog. And this one has none of them.
- It’s hosted with WordPress.com – that means he’s using free hosting and he is extremely limited in the features and functions he can add to his blog
- He’s using a free WordPress theme
- He doesn’t have a logo or any custom graphics on his site.
- He hasn’t even turned off the annoying WordPress.com banner ads plastered all over his site (that costs $30)
- This is purely a personal blog, where he posts just 2-3 times a month
- He doesn’t have social media share buttons on his post – did you even know it was possible to go viral without those?
- In fact, there are no signs of marketing tactics employed to boost traffic
- He is not famous in anyone’s world. His “about” page reveals that he is a faithful Mormon who hopes to publish his first novel one of these days.
In other words, the guy’s an amateur and Quantcast’s algorithm is on the blink, right?
Sethadamsmith.com did, in fact, get over 19.5 million visits over the past month. That’s because a single clever and thought-provoking 698-word post that Seth Adam Smith wrote, with the awesome title of “Marriage Isn’t for You.”
Last week it went phenomenally viral.
As a result of that one post, he was catapulted from obscurity to getting more traffic msnbc.com, a corporate giant that invests millions in content, optimization and marketing.
The response he received has been mind-blowing.
As he wrote in a follow-up post:
Despite being someone who loves to write, I’m at a loss to describe what I was feeling. I certainly never intended my post to be read by 2.2 million people—much less 24 million people (and perhaps much more with all of the reprints on various sites). Honestly, I thought that 5,000-10,000 clicks would have been a monumental accomplishment. So to see a number like 24 million is staggering, inspiring, overwhelming, and more than a little intimidating.
As of today, “Marriage Isn’t For You” has been prominently featured on The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, MailOnline,Cosmopolitan, MSN.com, Yahoo.com, The Matt Walsh Blog, Deseret News, Today.com (and apparently the Today SHOW), KSL News, TheBlaze, and Fox & Friends, with a few more interviews scheduled.
Thank You, Seth Adam Smith
Your post was cute, but the mainly I want to thank you for helping us realize anew the power of blogging.
Even if you’re an amateur.
Even if no one’s heard of you.
Even if no one subscribes to your list or follows you on Facebook.
Even if you don’t meet my snobby standards of a “professional blog.”
If you have something to write… write it.
You many not get 19 million reads next week. Or even next year. Or ever.
You may not even want 19 million readers and a spot on the “Today” show. (I know I don’t.)
But magical things do happen to bloggers who make the time to blog.
That’s one thing I’ve noticed.
If you enjoyed this post, you should also read:
- Did Anyone Read Your Last Blog Post?
- The Rebbetzin’s Guide to Starting Your Own Blog
- How Much Money Do I Make from Blogging?