Successful Blogging: Don’t Appeal to Readers, but…

…other, larger bloggers. At least, that’s what my site statistics tell me. I suppose my original response to a Bayblab post about the moral perfidy of ScienceBloggers wasn’t serious enough, although, in light of the revelations that the Bayblab post was an experiment (in what, I’m not exactly sure), I gave the Bayblab post exactly the response it deserved.
Nonetheless, the whole affair de Bayblab did lead me to ask what posts actually received the most hits over the last year.

After looking at the top ten posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), one common thread emerged: every one of these posts received links from other, much larger, bloggers. The number one post, far and away, got hit by AOL and Boing Boing, and was recommended repeatedly on blog aggregators. The ridiculous thing is that this was what I consider a ‘throwaway’ post: I needed to put something in the Bloggerator 9000 cue while I was away on vacation, and this was quick and easy. For Intelligent Designer’s sake, read the post. Other than a goofy headline and a silly concluding sentence, I didn’t actually do anything.
Then there was this post about tea drinking and urbanization that was picked up by Andrew Sullivan (and then other blogs), and gave me lots of hits. Granted, it’s not a bad post, but I’ve written much better posts about microbiology. A couple of other posts were picked up by widely read health and microbiology sites–people like to use the internets to find out about MRSA if they don’t know any microbiology.
Also, Amanda and Melissa (aka Madame Wev/Shakes) are also good for spikes in visits. Interestingly, when I’ve been invited to crosspost at Majikthise, I haven’t received a lot of traffic back to the site even when the post appears to be heavily read over there (“What happens in Majikthise, stays in Majikthise?”).
The point is that, if I were truly a money-grubbing, science-hating douchebag, I would try to write posts that other bloggers with larger audiences would link. Not read, but link. I once asked Shakes (and perhaps Amanda too–I can’t remember) if she read the science posts. She did, along with many readers when I asked them the same thing. But, as generations of philosophers have asked, if you write a post, and no one links to it, does it have a broad readership? Answer: no.
Now, I don’t say this with bitterness. The reason I raise the science topics (microbial evolution; public health microbiology, focused on bacteria; antibiotic resistance) that I do is because few others do (one exception is ScienceBlogling Tara–and if you do, and you’re not on my blogroll, email me). I don’t really expect political blogs to discuss these things, although I was amused that a couple of weeks ago, Kevin Drum breathlessly discovered the health and economic burden of hospital-acquired infections. Bravo.
But what this means is that a lot of my science posts, especially those that focus on a scientific subspeciality, will never get lots of links, and, consequently, relatively few hits.
Now, I’m going to get back to disemboweling the science internets…

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10 Responses to Successful Blogging: Don’t Appeal to Readers, but…

  1. I’d rather have my work read by ten interested readers than ten thousand lookie-lous. If I really wanted to be *popular*, I’d post funny pictures of cats, not philosophy and progressive apocalyptic political rants.

  2. JimD says:

    My most popular post, over time, based on continued search engine hits has been: ‘Chris Matthews Sucks Big Fat Elephant Dick’…sadly though, people are actually looking for pics of elephant dicks and not my political rants on Chris Matthews.

  3. IanR says:

    My #2 search term is “naked ladies”, which comes from a post about the Bare Naked Ladies. I rather doubt those people stick around. My #5 is “food decoration”, which again is likely to attract people looking for the opposite of my post, since it complains about the wastefulness of using food (pumpkins, primarily) as ornaments. My #1 term, on the other hand, is one I’m pretty happy with: Tahina spectabilis

  4. PhysioProf says:

    The two most popular posts on PhysioProf are “Hey, Barack: FUCK YOU!!” and “Megan McArdle is a Clueless Fuckwit”. “Mika Brzezinski Kicks Morning Joes Lame Wingnut Ass” is in the top five.
    People like to read profane, but totally on-point, criticism of famous and/or powerful assholes.

  5. My all-time most popular post was “The Photon Has Two Faces.” It was about science, specifically, a new version of the classic double-slit experiment but the secret to its appeal was the fact that I used Paris Hilton as a fictional experimenter — and her head eventually explodes when confronted with the quantum conundrum. 🙂

  6. My most popular post by far was one I wrote about Florida Tomato market and UglyTomatoes. Number two was about a Burger King commercial I thought was funny but crass.
    JimD, I would also like to nominate Chris Wallace for the honorific you mention.

  7. Joshua says:

    My most-viewed post was the one where I linked to the Livejournal community “ihasatardis” that has LOLed screencaps from Doctor Who. The second most-viewed is the one with the lyrics to “Re: Your Brains” by Jonathan Coulton.
    So, yeah, clearly writing about actual stuff is not the way to be pulling in the hits.

  8. Joel says:

    I for one, seek out your posts. So, you should see even your less popular posts grow by at least one hit in the future. I’ll some times read them more than once.
    Keep up the good work.

  9. Joel,

  10. ScienceWoman says:

    My most popular google search term for a long time lead people to a post where I mis-spelled wikipedia. Apparently there are a lot of other terrible spellers out there.

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