What No One Tells You About Popular Posts


November 23, 2014 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

Last week I published the most popular blog post I’ve written to date.

It was not a searingly honest or hauntingly lyrical bit of personal memoir. It was not a deep meditation or nuanced philosophical essay with the power to transform lives. It had no brilliant wit or ROTFLOL humor. It was a how-to post on using hashtag memes on Twitter to increase blog traffic.

The impetus for writing about hashtag days was an online course I was taking on blogging from Patrick Ross through the Loft Literary Center. I wanted to do a how-to post for peer review. While my classmates found it useful, I was actually a little worried the post would fall flat when I posted it. Most of my blog sharing already occurs within these hashtags, so the audience I normally get already knew about them.

However, the post did do well, not just on the hashtags days, but on Twitter generally, and among friends and followers I have who do not normally share my posts. That was a pleasant surprise.

Last week was also the first time I got significant search engine traffic.

I could credit reading up on search engine optimization using key words in blog titles. But the truth is that if I hadn’t been wanting to write a how-to post, I wouldn’t have been able to use those words in the first place. The memoir pieces I write, which are at the heart of what this blog is about, rarely lend themselves to the sort of blog post titles described in Twelveskip’s helpful article, with its pretty infographic.

From Twelveskip

The truth is that your most sharable content is not necessarily going to be your best writing.

Just get used to it.  It’s not the stuff you sweat over for beauty of language or accuracy of detail. Not the Eureka moments of insight. Not what you find most meaningful, necessarily. It’s what others find useful.

This does not mean you should write poorly. It does mean that you may have to bring people to the writing that you are most proud of, that is most important to you, by giving them something they’re actually looking for first.

Meanwhile it’s fun to be Miss Popularity.

Transogram, 1961. Designed by Marvin Glass, creator of Mouse Trap

Transogram, 1961. Designed by Marvin Glass, creator of Mouse Trap

Part of my blogging journey – this year, at least – involves documenting my discovery process:

“To learn what I like and don’t like about blogging, how it differs from the writing I have been doing, how I can integrate it smoothly into the other responsibilities of my life;  how I can make a meaningful contribution to the conversations I find intriguing.”

So expect a followup post or two in next few months on my process for making the most of these hashtags, and some of the inherent difficulties involved in relying on them exclusively. Because let’s face it: figuring out how to use the tools social media gives us is a part of what makes community within social media. We’re all truly making this up as we go along.


As it happens, some aspects of my process are about to change.

As I’ve explained in other posts, for most of 2014 I was juggling two half time nonprofit positions – one in public media, and one in social services. There are an awful lot more people doing this dance now than there were before the Great Recession. But in September of this year, as I was approaching my first anniversary at the social services job, my position in public media was eliminated. I wasn’t really surprised. In truth I had felt more needed at the other organization, where the job clearly should have been full time.

And so I made my case. It took almost two months, but on Monday, November 24, I will again be a full time salaried employee – not just Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday mornings, but five days a week. This means I will not have as much time as I have had recently for social media.


Henry Ford instituted the 5 day work week in 1926. Before it was longer.  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Henry Ford instituted the 5 day work week in 1926. Before it was longer. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Because most of my hashtag interaction is scheduled, I will not have to drop out of #MondayBlogs or #wwwblogs; but I won’t be able to be as active or as immediately responsive as I’ve been in the past. I’ll do my best to reciprocate retweets on the actual hashtag day; if I can’t do so then, you can be sure I will do so later in the week.

This Thursday is the first holiday I will be paid for in six years.

That’s something to be thankful for. As are the good folks I’ve come to know through Twitter hashtags. Whether this is a day you celebrate or not, I will celebrate you.


49 thoughts on “What No One Tells You About Popular Posts

  1. Yeah, the job kinda gets in the way of Tweeting. But that can be a good thing, since it’s so darn addicting! Here’s what I do: schedule posts on Hootsuite and then check in on Twitter during breaks.


  2. lorilschafer says:

    Last year, when I was still on Blogger, I wrote a post entitled “Why Young People in Japan Have Stopped Having Sex” in response to an article of the same title I read in The Guardian. It hypothesized a number of biological (as opposed to sociological) reasons why the birthrate is declining in First World nations. I still maintain my Blogger blog but don’t refer any traffic there, yet I still get hits on that post, mostly from people searching for terms like “young japanese sex.” How disappointed those folks must be when they reach my porn-free post!


  3. This will definitely change my blogging style! :-) Thanks for sharing. Keep writing. Btw, Enjoy your holiday <3


  4. Annecdotist says:

    That’s really interesting, Paula, to note that our most popular posts are likely to be our personal favourites. But I suppose there’s still the question of what kind of traffic we are wanting to attract. I suppose the first step is bringing people in, the next is keeping them – look forward to your next advisory post! Oh, and I do have a How to post in the pipeline (unfortunately nothing to do with sex).


  5. woodbeez48 says:

    Congratulations on your new full-time job, Paula. I know we will still ‘see’ you around and about because that’s the generous kind of blogger and tweeter you are. Sending you best wishes for the holiday too :)


    • Oh, I’ll be here. The type of writing I do in my day job – grant proposals – benefits from the type of writing I do here, and the people I’ve come to know. My whole being does. (BTW, I’ve always wondered about the Twitter handle, Julie – woodbeez?

      Liked by 1 person

      • woodbeez48 says:

        I’m glad to hear that :)

        My Twitter handle is the name of a song I love by a band called ‘Scritti Politti’ and as I’m a would-be author, it seemed fitting. The number may or may not have had something to do with my age when I opened my Twitter account ;)


  6. Terry Tyler says:

    Re the above, I’ve noticed how the word ‘sex’ in a title get the hits – two of my most popular posts have it. I wrote a short piece called ‘Free Money and Sex here’, about two and a half years ago when I knew very little about all this stuff – you might like to look at it! http://terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/free-sex-and-money-here.html

    Google searches apart, I can’t believe I’m still telling people who complain about lack of Twitter followers, blog views, book sales, etc, that no-one is going to click on a link to a tweet that just says the title of a book, the author and the link. Or some obscurely titled blog post that doesn’t mean anything until you read the piece. Should be common sense, really!


    • Recently I’ve seen a lot of people tweeting their posts with no titles at all, just the links. Sometimes the link is coded, so you can’t even figure out the title from there. One lady was using 5-7 hashtags instead of titles, and I thought perhaps someone had been giving that sort of advice, but when I asked her about it, she just *blushed* and no, it was her idea, and she’d go back to the old way. Occasionally when it is someone new I will go to the link and find out the title and insert it to see if they get the point. But it’s unlikely I’ll have time for that kind of philanthropy now…


  7. Norah says:

    Best wishes for your change in role! :)


  8. pinkmenotmom says:

    Congratulations on the new gig & happy, happy Turkey Day! I look forward to reading your new blog entries, whenever you end up posting them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Paula, I love the honesty and authenticity in yoru posts as much as the thoughtful, interesting information. Fodder for my own blogging. Thanks!


  10. authorsam2014 says:

    And I should proofread before I hit the button! lol


  11. ejfrostuk says:

    Excellent and insightful post, Paula. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Janice Wald says:

    You’re my muse Paula! Thanks for the great tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. jan says:

    Very interesting post, especially the list of 74 of title templates!


  14. jan says:

    I forgot – thanks for posting this information!


  15. I remember that post on hashtags. I think I retweeted it. It was quite useful. Congrats on your popular post and your new job!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Gene'O says:

    I read this early this morning, thanks to @MondayBlogs, but only just now got over here to comment.

    1. You are absolutely right about what makes a popular post.

    2. Congratulations on your first big search engine day! I stumbled into it, too (bit of a story), but I will tell you. Learn search engine tricks if you want a bigger blog than the one you already have.

    3. Congratulations, also, on the job. When I started planning my blogging thing, I was working a half-time hourly job with no benefits, and I had been doing that for a couple of years. I got a full-time job right before we kicked them off. It was weird, but I will never forget that feeling of relief when I landed the job.

    4. Documenting my discovery process is something I do, too. Or at least try to do. We learn by trial and error, research, and luck. We also learn from each other. Any time I can share a good trick and save another blogger the three months it took me to learn it, I am happy to do that. And always looking to learn new tricks from other bloggers. That’s why I love your social media posts so much.

    We don’t talk that often, but I feel like we are fellow-travellers. :-)


    • Gene: Thanks for taking the time to stop by with such a thoughtful comment, and sorry I left a hiccup in the conversation. I can’t say it was a “big” search engine day. Just significantly more than I’d ever had before. And yes, it does sound like we are fellow travelers. I hope we both stay in the full time lane together for awhile…and still have time for discovery.


  17. Ruebi says:

    Congrats on the job situation! :D I got my first wage from my new job this week, and I danced when I saw the payslip. Not because my salary is awesome (it’s good…won’t get me a Porsche though) but because it means financially I don’t need to panic.

    (I dance like a right idiot so have made a note not to do that in the office again).

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Gene'O says:

    Well, you know. “Big” is relative. I don’t actually have big days, but they are big to me :-) And yes, I hope so, too!


  19. I think it’s GREAT that you got so much traffic on that post. I think as bloggers the important thing is to find that balance of “what do readers want?” and “who am I as a writer and blogger?” If we can figure out a way to merge the two, then I think we can really hit our strides as bloggers. Anyway, congrats on the new job and good luck with your blog in the future:)


  20. […] I am still waking up from anxiety dreams. The ones I figured would go away when I finally got the full time job that started last Monday. You know the kind of dreams I mean. The flight you missed. The class you […]


  21. Anjali says:

    Congratulations on your new position Paula and thanks a ton for the tips. But how i can put my poetry into any of these ‘How to…’ mode is the most difficult thing I would have tackled! lol! And I still don’t know how to schedule stuff, hence I had to drop out of the wwwblogs hashtag :(

    Liked by 2 people

  22. […] the most popular posts, necessarily, as I have explained before. Nor are they always the ideal blog length. But in the writing of these pieces I have gleaned […]

    Liked by 2 people

  23. whatvaleriewrites says:

    Really interesting, Paula. I feel some resistance to it so that means it’s a good thing for me to consider. I think I find the “How to” posts useful as a reader (which explains the SEO value) but am hesitant to offer them up to readers of my blog. Maybe it has to do with not being sure I am expert enough on any one topic (yet)!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. ifrahrao says:



  25. […] found these on Paula Reed Nancarrow’s excellent blog, which I highly recommend, here: https://paulareednancarrow.com/2014/11/23/what-no-one-tells-you-about-popular-posts/, and her source is quoted at the bottom of the […]


  26. inc says:

    Very interesting and informative.


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