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Butterflies in Your Stomach: One Secret to Writing a Popular Blog Post

(NOTE: the Link Roundup is beneath this post.)

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Butterflies in Your Stomach: One Secret to Writing a Popular Blog PostThe difference between a popular blog post (one that drives traffic, social shares and comments) and an unpopular blog post (one that does not drive traffic, social shares and comments) can often be a mystery.

That’s right, many bloggers couldn’t tell you why some of their posts are extremely popular while others are not, a fact that holds true even for some of the most successful folks writing online.

Does This Sound Familiar?

This mystery is the foundation of one of the most common stories I hear told by both clients and fellow bloggers, “The Little Post that Could”. Here’s how it goes:

So I wrote this post on “xxx” topic. It was nothing unusual – just my usual type of post on my usual topic.

From the moment it went live, that post was popular. It got tons of traffic and comments and people were sharing it all over social media.

In fact, even though I wrote this post a year ago, it’s still the most viewed post on my site today!

Man, I wish I could write another one like that…

Has this happened to you? It has certainly happened to me.

In fact, it  just happened over at my small business blog, www.mattaboutbusiness.com.

You see, last week, I wrote a blog post called, “Is This the Beginning of the End for LinkedIn Groups?“. Within an hour of the post going live, it was pulling traffic like crazy.

I found myself wondering, “Why this post? What made it so popular?”.

Not only that, people started sharing the post on social media and, even better, many folks left lengthy comments on the blog post’s page.

I found myself wondering, “Why this post? What made it so popular?”.

So I decided to figure it out.

Uncovering The Secret

I started by coming up with two questions:

  1. What made this post so popular?
  2. How could I repeat that success again and again?

Questions in hand, I was off to study last week’s post. Here’s what I figured out:

The post was both personal and confrontational and that made it hard for me to write.

First off, the post was a personal one and that made it hard for me to write. I’ve always tried to keep my posts friendly, informational and usable while avoiding posts that lean more on my feelings and opinions. It’s just the way I roll.

The LinkedIn post however, was full of my passion, angst and concern. I have always loved LinkedIn, but they betrayed me – heavy stuff.

Second, the post was fairly confrontational. No matter how I softened my argument, this post was a barb aimed straight at LinkedIn.

Now, I’m no softie and confrontation suits me just fine, but I usually keep it off the web and out of the public eye.

This post definitely had me out of my comfort zone – I had butterflies in my stomach.

This post definitely had me out of my comfort zone. I mean, I was so nervous that I kept adding supporting evidence up to moment I published it to the world.

I had butterflies in my stomach.

As I mentioned above, this post went popular very soon after it went live. I was both pleased and grateful for the amount of support and positive comments that I received both in the comments section and on LinkedIn.

Let’s go to the questions:

  • What made this post so popular?
My readers were able to relate and empathize with my experience and that engaged them with the post and made them feel invested.

I believe this post became popular because I left my comfort zone.

First, I opened up and let my personal opinions and feelings come through. My readers were able to relate and empathize with my experience. They were able to put themselves in my shoes and that engaged them with the post and made them feel invested.

When a fight happens, people like to come and watch.

Second, I was confrontational. When a fight happens, people like to come and watch. I believe that was the case here.

  • How can I repeat this success again and again?
I’ve concluded that one of the secrets to creating a popular post is to include your own feelings and personal opinions in the content.

Based on the answer to the first question, I’ve concluded that one of the secrets to creating a popular post is to include your own feelings and personal opinions in the content. Popularity will only come when you engage your readers with your true self.

Looking back at other popular posts on my site, I found that each and every one of them followed the same pattern.

I need to get more comfortable with putting my real self out there. I mean, I’m out there in spades, but not my inner self, my feelings and opinions. Don’t worry, I won’t get mushy on you, I’m just going to say what I’m really thinking more often.

As for the confrontational element, I think I’m going to work that one in more often as well. I’m not talking about going all out on the attack, but I believe that some tension adds to the popularity of a post.

One way I’m thinking of doing this is by challenging established online business practices and beliefs – a great way to both heat people up and increase the popularity of my posts. It’s time to mix things up a bit.

The butterflies are still there and probably will be for a while.

The butterflies are still there and I’m sure that they’ll still be there each time I hit that publish button, at least for a while.

But I feel good about my conclusion. I like to push my limits, so challenging myself to open up more and to throw in some tension when writing will hopefully make popular posts like last week’s more of a regular occurrence.

How About You?

Have you ever hesitated before hitting the “Publish” button with butterflies in your stomach?

If you have, what happened next?

  • Did you publish the post or not?
    • If you did, what was the reaction from your readers?
    • If you didn’t, do you have any regrets? Do you think you’ll hit the “Publish” button on that post someday in the future?

Please share your stories with us in the comments section below!

Link Roundup

Link RoundupEach time I write a post, I collect the 10 best reads from around the web and share them with you here.

These posts focus on content marketing strategies, tactics, ideas, tips and tricks for small businesses.

Enjoy!

Marketo vs Eloqua vs Pardot: A Massive Review: Excellent in-depth review of these three marketing automation platforms!

Marketing Content Media Guide For Small Businesses [Infographic]: Love this all-in-one visual guide to online content!

12 Content Marketing Lessons That I Learned From MarieForleo.com: Short and simple tips to improve your content marketing.

9 Tips To Enhance Your Content Marketing: Basic but solid and actionable content marketing tips.

Worth Doing Lebanon: Dewar’s content marketing strategy: Very creative and out-of-the-box use of content to promote a brand – reminds me of my days on the Crown Royal Kinetic Contraption Competition campaign…

Why PR and Content Marketing Are the Same Thing: Compelling statistics on using content marketing elements within your press releases.

How to Use SlideShare to Generate Leads: SlideShare continues to be one of the most underutilized social networks on the web. Check out this guide and go use it!

15 Tools For Generating Killer Content: A handy list of online tools to use for generating content ideas.

Which Content Marketing Tactics Get the Best ROI?: Lots of interesting statistics in this survey’s results.

5 Facts Prove Visual Content Is A Guaranteed Winner!: Love that these facts are each followed by an actionable tip on how to make use of them.

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Comments

  1. Hey Matt, thanks for including my post (Why PR & Content Marketing Are The Same) in the Link RoundUp!

    I have to agree that opinions are the way to drive traffic. It’s kind of funny, because a lot of businesses end up having vanilla voices on their blogs, because they don’t want to stir any kind of controversy. But controversy actually shows your passion (and expertise) about subjects. People want to read the author’s thoughts, not General Person’s thoughts.

    Something important we all have to keep in mind!

    Best,
    Blaise

    • Blaise,

      You’re welcome – always happy to share posts with great information!

      I like your comment about the, “Vanilla voices” that businesses tend to use when blogging. Thanks to years of schooling, college and career (especially writing press releases when I was a PR exec), my voice was so vanilla you could have sold it as a flavor at Baskin Robbins! :b

      I do try to let my own personality and speaking style come out in my content and I believe that’s the only thing that has saved me until this point (I’m too much of a wise-a** to keep my mouth shut completely), but now that I’ve felt the butterflies, I’m going to try to inject even more of me from here on out.

      -Matt

  2. Excellent points, Matt, however I’d like to add something else for you to consider that might also have led to the popularity of this particular post.

    LinkedIn is turning people on and off equally right now. If you’re *thought leader* (their latest thing) and you’re splashed all over everyone’s feed every day of the week, you’re loving it. If you’re not, you’re feeling a little perturbed, thinking “Who the hell made these people thought leaders? And what happened to LinkedIn Answers? Boy, am I pissed!

    So I have a feeling that your post relating to what’s currently a hot topic might have also led to this great post popularity.

    For instance, on my own site an article I wrote a few years ago Why Don’t We Comment on Blogs is still the most read and most commented. It actually had 80+ comments before I moved it off another blogging platform and lost some in the transfer. That’s a question bloggers will forever be asking and as you likely have discovered, once you’ve got a few good comments, the rest just keep coming. It’s as if no one wants to be the first to eat in that empty restaurant.

    So now I really am wondering if you’ll attempt to do this again in your next article now that you’ve got one of the secrets you discovered? What better test that to try to duplicate the results.

    I do agree that it’s also the emotional aspect as well. People relate to *people*, not just facts and figures, no matter how important stats are. So I suggest you up the ante – in your next post, include a YouTube video and shed a few tears. That’ll be sure to get ‘em!

    Really good article. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Cordially,
    Patricia Nixon
    Nixon Virtual Strategies

    The Power of Delegation
    recognized by Forbes

    • Patricia,

      The “anointing” of the thought leader title is always going to be based on a mix of subjective and objective elements:

      * Subjective – a lot of people like a person’s opinions, thoughts and theories and share them with many others or a person is very successful at what they set out to do and attract a lot of attention that way. That person grows a large community of followers, fans, etc. who want to hear what they have to say.
      * Objective – A person grows a large community (big numbers) based on their one or both of the subjective factors above so they are selected as a “thought leader” by various groups such as LinkedIn.

      No matter how original or exciting your opinions, thoughts and theories, no matter how successful you are, one cannot become a thought leader if they do not draw the community as well.

      It’s a lot of work to achieve “thought leader” status, but it’s a goal worth working towards.

      I will definitely be applying what I learned here in pursuit of my goals – watch out! ;)

      -Matt

      • Yeah, but I’m asking, seriously, if you’ll be testing your findings on any specific posts coming up soon? Because if it’s easy to duplicate that kind of success, why would one *not* want to boost traffic and readership to his blog endlessly?

        Cordially,
        Patricia Nixon
        Nixon Virtual Strategies

        The Power of Delegation
        recognized by Forbes

  3. Awesome post man! I’m glad that I landed here using bizsugar. And, yeah I’m already doing something near to what you mentioned which is why I often get viral. BTW, the width of your post hurts while reading.

    • Saqib,

      Thanks for your kind words and glad you found me using the awesome BizSugar community!

      You often go viral? That’s quite the feat – congrats!

      Sorry if the width of the posts bothers you, but it seems as if the posts on your site are similar? Care to expand on your comment (I always appreciate feedback!)?

      -Matt

  4. There have been some interesting points raised here. I’ve added a few that you will find interesting.

    http://www.exeid.com/news/uncategorized/the-secret-to-writing-an-amazing-blog-post/

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    Butterflies in Your Stomach: One Secret to Writing a Popular Blog Post…

    The difference between a popular and unpopular blog post can often be a mystery but after digging into one of my most popular posts, I uncovered one of the secrets….

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