Be a Blogger: Lessons Learned From a Traffic Surge

be a bloggerThe following is part of Frugal Dad’s weekly series, “So You Want to Be a Blogger?” which chronicles the development and optimization of a blog’s lifecycle.

One of the keys to being a successful blogger is flexibility. I had a post all planned out for today’s So You Want to Be a Blogger series, but as I mentioned yesterday Frugal Dad had an unexpected boost in traffic thanks to an article appearing on LifeHacker.org, and subsequently on the front page of del.icio.us, a popular social bookmarking site. Instead of pushing ahead with regularly scheduled programming I decided to postpone my planned post for next week, and instead share some lessons learned from yesterday’s boost in traffic.

Prepare for a surge in traffic before the tsunami hits. Quite honestly, yesterday’s surge in traffic came as a complete surprise. The article I wrote about square foot gardening was picked up by a fellow blogger and referenced in one her posts on the same subject. At some point it was identified as being worthy to appear on LifeHacker.com as a featured article, and 14,000 visitors later I’m sitting here in new-blogger shock. Consider only one in six blogs draws more than 500 page views a day! It was a fun ride, and I am thankful for the opportunities to meet several new people, and pickup many new subscribers. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few things I could have done better to capitalize on the traffic.

  • Have a standard “introductory” post ready to go. I scrambled to put together an introduction post welcoming the waves of new visitors, but wasn’t able to publish it until my lunch break, several hours after the initial reference from Life Hacker was published. The purpose of this introductory post is to capture the interest of some of this new traffic and attempt to pull them deeper into your blog. A link to your archives, a “best-of” section, or a popular series post is a good way to attract interest beyond the article the visitor landed on.
  • Create a new campaign on Crazy Egg or Google Analytics to see where users are clicking. 10,000-hit days are uncommon for relatively new bloggers, and they provide an excellent opportunity for you to analyze what’s popular on your blog. Keep in mind that if the majority of this traffic has been referred from a social bookmarking site they may be on a stop-and-go pattern, pausing just long enough to read a few paragraphs from your article and then move on. For this reason, average page views or number of clicks per visitors may be misleading. Still, those that do click on a link on your blog will help you determine which sections of your content are most popular. This could be important down the road in terms of advertising, article promotion, etc.
  • Promote subscriber options within the post. Be sure visitors know how to subscribe to your blog. A highly visible subscriber area near the top of your blog is a good start. If a particular article has drawn some extra attention make it even easier for new visitors to subscribe by placing a line near the end of your article with links to your RSS feed and/or email delivery signup page.
  • Fortunately, my host held up to the traffic and I am not aware of any significant downtime. If you use WordPress to maintain your blog, consider the wp-cache plugin to reduce the database round trips your server has to make to serve new visitors. Basically, this plug-in saves your pages in a static file which is available for a short time for new visitors. This makes your site run much more efficiently versus the normal request, database pull, code compile and display routine.

Normally a post like this would appear near the middle of a “how to become a blogger” series, but I wanted to share my experience with you while the lessons were fresh. Hopefully, if you experience a wave of traffic early in your blogging journey you will now be better prepared to handle it.

Blogging is a rewarding experience. It provides a creative outlet for those with an interest to share their thoughts and ideas with others. It can develop into another income stream which could add to your “snowflakes.” Best of all, you will build relationships with some fantastic people along the way. If you are one of those new subscribers who landed here yesterday, welcome. Thanks for joining us!

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