So, you want a high-traffic blog… (Photo: Bill Gracey)
The following post can be considered Part II in a series on how I blog. Part I, which covers mostly everything not below, is titled “How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself.”
Beginning at the Beginning
My very first blog post of all time was December 31, 2006 (scroll down here). One comment! Ah, success…
Who the hell designed that atrocity? Oh, it was me…
For many months, I “blogged” by imitation, putting out a lot of boring stuff. I felt, and still feel, that this imitate-before-you-create phase was critical to finding my own voice. But, as one then DoubleClick manager put it to me over wine, after reviewing my posts:
“A mediocre blog is more of a liability than no blog at all.”
Taking this to heart, I upgraded, both in terms of design and writing. I started publishing more original long-form content and organizing around a few central themes. I invested $1,500 and launched the blog you now see. Well, it was close…
The very first post was March 7, 2007. It scored six comments (a 500% increase!)… and I was ecstatic.
This work was done in preparation for April 27, 2007, the launch date for The 4-Hour Workweek. I viewed the blog primarily as a marketing tool. This changed when lightning struck with “How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise.”
This post, my tenth out of nearly 400, remains my most popular post of all-time: 5,000+ comments and counting!
Here are some stats as of this writing:
Total spam deleted 1,170,822
These days, this odd blog often gets more than 1,000,000 unique visitors per month. It’s hard to believe.
How Do I Manage Things?
This blog is run by me and one assistant based in Canada. I don’t have an editorial calendar, nor a set frequency of posting. I have a few criteria for posts, and I try and write only when I can satisfy them. If that’s once every 3-4 weeks, so be it. If the spirit moves me three times in one week, that’s fine, too.
How I manage the tech, the trolls, the spam, etc. is perhaps best reflected in my tools.
Below is the shortlist that keeps me sane.
Used by millions, Akismet is quite possibly the best way in the world to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. It keeps your site protected from spam even while you sleep.
Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog. WordPress is excellent for Google juice to start with, and this makes it even better.
Audio Player is a highly configurable but simple mp3 player for all your audio needs. You can customise the player’s color scheme to match your blog theme, have it automatically show track information from the encoded ID3 tags and more.
This is my first plug-in! Well, kind of. While we drank vodka at the Word Championships of BBQ in Memphis, Matt Mullenweg and his team helped create this plug-in on the spot (Thanks Nacin, Otto, and Scott!). It solves an important problem for many bloggers. In WordPress comment moderation settings, you can typically choose between a) let everything through with no moderation (bad idea), allow comments to appear automatically for commenters who have previously approved comments, or moderate every single comment (hugely time-consuming). So what do you do if you get a smart but kinda snarky comment, one that makes you wonder if this guy is going to be a pain in the ass? If you approve him, he’ll have free reign to go nuts in your comments. If you have 20 comments a day, perhaps you can watch it all, but not at 100 or 1,000 comments a day. This plugin solves the issue: it allows you to put a comment author “on probation,” approving one comment, but not automatically approving future comments. Sweet!
Forwards all feed traffic to Feedburner while letting through some important User-Agents.
Allows you to integrate the photos from a Flickr RSS feed into your site.
Prevents WordPress 2.1+ from adding a more link to your website’s feed.
Bring the power of the WordPress.com cloud to your self-hosted WordPress. Jetpack enables you to connect your blog to a WordPress.com account to use the powerful features normally only available to WordPress.com users.
Limit rate of login attempts, including by way of cookies, for each IP. I view this as a must-have, as people try to brute-force WP passwords all the time.
How do you let someone moderate comments for you without giving them the ability to change posts or accidentally cause other trouble? Use this plug-in, that’s how. It creates a custom role that enables only Comment Moderation actions and pages.
Allows you to point WordPress pages or posts to a URL of your choosing. Good for setting up navigational links to non-WP sections of your site or to off-site resources. Since my content is scattered all over the place, this is very helpful.
Does nothing by itself but supplies common code for the Similar Posts, Recent Posts, Random Posts, and Recent Comments plugins. Make sure you have the latest version of this plugin.
Displays a highly configurable list of related posts. Similarity can be based on any combination of word usage in the content, title, or tags. Don’t be disturbed if it takes a few moments to complete the installation — the plugin is indexing your posts. Instructions and help online. Requires the latest version of the Post-Plugin Library to be installed.
Allows readers to receive notifications of new comments that are posted to an entry. Based on version 1 from Scriptygoddess.
A complete integration between your WordPress blog and Twitter. Bring your tweets into your blog and pass your blog posts to Twitter. Show your tweets in your sidebar, and post tweets from your WordPress admin.
Protect your content, themes, plugins, and settings with real-time backup and automated security scanning from VaultPress. Activate, enter your registration key, and never worry again. (Note: I pay for this one.)
On-demand backup of your WordPress database.
Generate footnotes for posts.
Enables a user to control the visibility of items on the blog by making posts and pages selectively hidden in different views throughout the blog, such as on the front page, category pages, search results, etc… The hidden item remains otherwise accessible directly using permalinks, and also visible to search engines as part of the sitemap (at least). This plugin enables new SEO possibilities for authors since it enables them to create new posts and pages without being forced to display them on their front and in feeds.
Very fast caching plugin for WordPress. This is the only thing that could save the blog from crashing when I hit the front pages of Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.
And… that’s it!
What are your favorite must-have plug-ins? Also, did you like this post? Would you like to hear more about how I blog, or anything related to writing?
Thanks for letting me know in the comments.
Odds and Ends:
Here’s an update from my birthday challenge, which started one week ago, sent from Kushal, the CEO of Vittana.org:
Just thought you might enjoy a first-week update:
* You and the extended 4-hour family have raised over $81,000 in the first week! (This includes your match + $10,000 to kick things off.)
* 4-hour family from 23+ different countries including faraway places like Germany, Israel & Kenya have joined your Give-Back Birthday.
* On average, 100 people join your Give-Back Birthday every day. That’s one person every 3.6 minutes. More than 700 people have participated already.
* In total, you and the extended 4-hour family have already changed the lives of 152 Vittana youth studying 47 different livelihoods, everything from nurses to teachers to mechanics.
* The country your fans care most about? Bolivia is now #1, coming out of nowhere, with 38 helped youth. Paraguay and Philippines are close behind with 35 and 32 helped youth each.
* Your total impact already? More than $12 million in new lifetime income to fight youth poverty!
Want to know how your team has already made $12 million in “total impact”? Total Impact = the estimate of new lifetime income generated by your Vittana Loan.
Say, for example, you helped 25-year-old Ana Lizbeth increase her income from $5 to $9 a day by funding half of her loan. In that case, half of her $58,400 of additional lifetime income would get credited to your Total Impact score.
Why $58,400? She’ll earn $4 more per day, which works out to $1,460 more per year or $58,400 more in her working life.
How do we know it’s accurate? Our local partner gets current income, estimates 3-year earning power and we do annual follow-ups to make sure it’s tracking according to the original estimate.
Thank your readers, Tim — for EVERYTHING they do in this world! 🙂
To raise the full $100,000, we need to rally about 300 more people to join in the next 72 hours. I think we can do it, but it’d be a shame to fall short. Please keep it up!
Could you be one of those 300 people?