How to Write Your Most Popular Blog Post

  • April 26, 2010 by Corbett Barr
  • 38 Comments

Write Your Most Popular Blog Post

Wouldn’t you like your next blog post to become your most popular post ever? If you’re trying to build a big audience, that’s something you should always be shooting for. Keep striving to outdo yourself with each post, and you’ll maintain a level of quality that will keep readers coming back.

Just how do you go about writing your most popular post ever? Think back to your best posts. What was special about them? Why did they attract so many readers?

There’s a formula that has helped me consistently create my most popular posts. That formula can be broken down into 5 steps.

Here are the 5 steps to write your most popular post:

  1. Research posts that have done well for other blogs.

    Much of building a popular blog is about learning from other bloggers who have already grown big audiences. When trying to write your most popular post ever, you can learn a lot by researching the most popular posts from some of your favorite blogs.

    Take a look around. Many blogs have a list of most popular posts right in the sidebar or footer.

    Study the top 2 or 3 from a few different blogs. What about each of those posts do you think made them so popular? Notice any similarities?

    When I look around at the most popular posts from my favorite blogs, I notice a few common elements. I repeatedly see these elements: passion, controversy, saying something that everyone is thinking but afraid to say, taking an opposite stance on a popular topic, providing a rich list of resources, inspiring people and praising (or dissing) other people.

    Those type of posts get people talking. They generate comments and compel people to share the posts on social media.

    One of the keys to writing a really popular post is that it spreads like wildfire across social networks. Notice how many tweets or other shares the popular posts from your favorite blog attract.

  2. Choose a proven structure.

    There’s a reason you might have noticed so many posts with similar formats across the web. Some types of posts consistently do better than others. If you’re trying to write your most popular post ever, it will help to use one of these formats:

    • How to (like this post)
    • Lists (“10 Reasons…” or “101 Resources For…”)
    • Inspiration (helping people get past fears or common sticking points)
    • “Why” posts (explaining something)

    That’s not to say you absolutely have to use one of those (or any other) proven post format. But it is more likely that a post will become more popular if you write a post using a proven format. Creating easy-to-read, scan-able content also helps.

  3. Invest above-average time and energy.

    I’ve noticed something about the posts I’ve written over the past year that have become the most popular. Most of them took much more time and effort to create.

    Readers are looking for value on the web. They want the time they spend reading your post to provide them with something meaningful. Usually that means to provide that level of value in your post, you’ll have to spend more time creating it than the average post out there.

    By far, the two most popular posts here at Think Traffic so far have been 17 Traffic Building Tips from Some of the World’s Most Popular Bloggers and 101 Essential Traffic-Building Resources. In addition to being modeled on other popular posts, using structures I thought would work and having solid headlines, more than anything those two posts took much more time to craft than average. I wasn’t surprised either of them became so popular.

  4. Develop a killer headline.

    The headline can make or break a potentially great post. Your headline absolutely has to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read the article. If you don’t get the headline right, everything else you wrote may as well not even exist to most readers.

    A great headline will get people to read and will also make it more likely a reader will share the post with their online posse.

    If you’re trying to write a popular post, you should spend extra time working on the headline. Study other headlines that have worked for you and other bloggers. Keep working and refining the headline until you have something especially compelling.

  5. Give people a reason to share the post.

    I mentioned before that getting readers to share your post across social media is one of the keys to writing your most popular post. If you follow the first four steps, you’ll be in good shape when it comes to sharing.

    But there is one other thing you should do to push your chances even further. Give people a reason to share the post. Build into your post some benefit that the reader will claim by spreading the news on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc.

    Here are some of the reasons people might share a post on social media:

    • Vanity / returning the favor: if you write about someone in a post they are 469% more likely to share that post (ok, I don’t really know it’s 469%, but in my experience there is a much higher chance). Haven’t you noticed that about yourself? If someone links to your blog or writes about you in an article, how likely are you to Tweet about that post?
    • Potential tastemaker status: people like to share things that they think will become popular and things that help them become known for sharing good stuff. It’s a viral cycle. That’s part of the reason why your most popular post is probably 5 times (or more) more popular than your average post.
    • Awesome content: really useful content gives people a reason to share it on its own. Produce something valuable and people will want to tell their friends about it.
    • Requiring a share: build a contest or produce a special report that people get access to only if they share the blog post with other people.
    • Asking for a share: sometimes all you have to do is ask. Just make it a special occasion for special content.
  6. Bonus step: prime the pump.

    If you think you’ve written a post that’s especially worthy of sharing, you can prime the pump by sending a special email out to friends and fellow bloggers about it. If your post truly is of special value, people will be happy to hear about it and will help you get things going by sharing the post. Don’t be obnoxious about it or overuse this technique though, or it will lose its effectiveness and it can affect your reputation.

Which step do you think is most important?

What do you think is the most important step in writing your most popular blog post ever? Is it one of these? Maybe you have another tip to share. Let’s discuss in the comments!

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photo by [Filhi][bahthi] photography ( with great hopes )

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Blogetize April 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Giving people a reason to share your post is very often underestimated and underused.

You’d be surprised what even a tiny little contest can do in terms of spreading your post / blog around the blogosphere.

I try to keep running contests going where I award a random retweeter or linker an award like ad-space on my site or a website review, although I don’t currently have one running.

Great post! Your posts are very well-written and have genuinely helped me an immense amount, I’ll have to take a day-off from work sometime and just read your blog all day.

Corbett Barr April 27, 2010 at 9:05 am

Awesome, thanks for the examples. I’m glad the posts here have been helpful.

David Damron April 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Another nail on the coffin Corbett.

I will spread this to my fellow tweeters.

Also, I am going to work on a post strictly by these guidelines and see how it goes and report back. Wish me luck

David Damron
The Minimalist Path

Corbett Barr April 27, 2010 at 9:07 am

Great! Looking forward to your report.Write me if you have any specific questions.

Carmen April 26, 2010 at 10:10 pm

You catch me at a good time trying to figure out what the heck I’m writing next. I’ll try to put some of these points into action.

Simon - 529IronMan April 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Hi Corbett,

Loved the post. Definitely recognized points 1, 2, a bit of 3, a massive 4 and some 5 in this article.

Keep up the great work and thanks for the advice!

Best, Simon

Diggy April 26, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Hey Corbett!

Very nice post that sums up how to create great posts. In my experience however, I have found that when I set out to create an awesome post and have it go viral, it does not do that. But when I just write about something that I really want to share and my energy and passion about it shines through then sometimes it just goes viral without me having ever thought that the post was going to do that.

Creating a killer headline is a good one, I’d suggest studying Copybloggers older posts and tutorial series on writing. That’s what Ive been doing the last few weeks!

Cheers
Diggy

Corbett Barr April 27, 2010 at 9:20 am

Hey Diggy, thanks for pointing out your experience. I think that’s true for most people (I know I have written posts that I thought would be much more popular than they were). There are a lot of factors out of your control, and also when you focus too much on the result you want and not enough on the process, you will definitely come up short. Did your most popular posts follow any of the steps here?

Dev | Technshare April 26, 2010 at 11:38 pm

heyy..corbett..
I strongly agree with your point 2 and 5, I always try to write ’99 ways or 12ways’ and it works awesome. Thanks for this great post dude…:)
Cheers,
Dev

Andy @ FirstFound April 27, 2010 at 1:49 am

Brian Clark at Copyblogger does a great line in headlines, for anyone looking for inspiration, and Lisa Barone over at Outspoken Media has rantbait down to a tee.

Anyone looking to study what makes a really great post could do much worse than checking those two out.

Your post’s pretty good too – “How to” title and lots of informative comment. Nice to see someone practising what they preach!

Corbett Barr April 27, 2010 at 9:08 am

“Rantbait” — hadn’t heard that one. Love it. And yes, I totally agree with your recommendations. Brian and Lisa are two of the best.

Thursday Bram April 27, 2010 at 7:23 am

Including names and links are crucial to getting attention: I’ve actually been in an old-school newsroom where the editors pushed for writers to include more mentions, especially of local folks, in a (successful) bid to sell more newspapers.

Corbett Barr April 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

There’s a lot we could all learn from old-school newspaper techniques, I’m sure. Great example, Thursday.

Melinda April 27, 2010 at 1:03 pm

A great list, definitely worth tweeting (thanks for asking!)

A lot of people who write blogs regularly probably do these things subconsciously but it’s great to see them all laid out together.

Corbett Barr April 27, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Yeah, the more habitual the better for most of these steps.

Hear Mum Roar April 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Tweeted:)

I agree about shouting out others in your posts, it often does result in more tweets and general buzz. It’s also great in building community

Everett Bogue April 28, 2010 at 5:31 am

This is such an amazing resource, thanks for creating it Corbett.

“Awesome content: really useful content gives people a reason to share it on its own. Produce something valuable and people will want to tell their friends about it.”

I think this is the single most important aspect of blogging. It’s also the hardest, because there’s no formula.

The interesting thing is, if you use all of the other techniques, which are fairly easy to learn, all you need is a little value to really blow up your blog post.

Corbett Barr April 29, 2010 at 12:21 pm

You’re right, creating content is the hardest (creatively), whereas the promotional tactics are easier creatively, but sometimes require lots of time and effort. I think some of the most successful bloggers just work harder than everyone else and focus on what’s important (great content + effective promotion).

Moon Hussain April 28, 2010 at 6:53 am

Corbett, great post there! I think all the factors you listed are pretty important but if you must, then start by creating a killer title for your post (something I struggle with from time to time) and creating in-depth articles.

Corbett Barr April 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Yeah, the headline is key. Although sometimes it’s best to write the headline after you write the article. Try it both ways and see which results in consistently better headlines.

Robert April 30, 2010 at 7:14 am

Great advice, looking forward to implementing as my site continues to evolve. It’s pretty much built around “How to” of “Why” content, but now I see I need to change around my titles.

Once I get a bit more settled I like the idea of brewing up a give away or something to bolster readers as well. Great content Corbett.

Gideon Klein May 19, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Excellent post about writing a great post. Lots of great ideas about reaching out to and engaging an audience. The list of proven structures is great place to start. I am just getting started as a blogger and I plan to absorb as much as I can and let the creative juices flow from there. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight.

Corbett Barr June 14, 2010 at 9:40 am

Cool Gideon, cheers. Let me know how it goes for you.

ron June 14, 2010 at 9:35 am

this is great, i am going to start up blogging again next week, and ill post my “most popular post ever” when i have time to put in to it!

Corbett Barr June 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

Can’t wait to read it!

Murlu June 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I’ve noticed that talking about others and linking to their posts does generally get them involved. It’s a great way to network.

I think that we should all take away from this is each new blog post should be created in a sense that you’re trying your best. Even if it falls a little short, if you try to create your next popular post, you’ll deliver great content regardless.

Corbett Barr June 20, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Yeah, great point, Murlu. Trying to constantly outdo yourself is a sure way to write some stellar content.

mk akan July 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

really true..popular posts are usually very resourceful posts..and some involving popular people are usually popular too..this is why interviews with popular figures usually get lots of views…

Lucas, Miami Web Design July 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm

This is a great article and it will educate many of my customers. Now a day a blog is a must specially if you want to speed up the search engine rankings. A blog will give you control and the ability to build a community of related interests.

Corbett Barr July 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I agree, of course, that a blog is a must-have marketing tool for businesses these days. Thanks for the comment, Lucas.

Mike Williams September 3, 2010 at 5:46 am

I try to write articles pertaining to my diy renovations, as clear and concise as possible…doing exactly what you have stated. Great article!

wilson usman January 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I love it when I find gold in the vault, great post!

I’ve heard some of these tips before but I like the way this one sounds better. Thanks I think I’m to bookmark it NOW, and use some new shiznit I learned…

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