50,811 people have read the blog post on Bunsen Burner Day at our lab site, FreshPlans. 21,725 have read the post on Jack and the Beanstalk lesson plans, and 16,729 have read the post on rock’n’roll classroom theme ideas.
Only 587 people have visited our excellent Retrofuture Lesson Plans post and a mere 148 have read our post on teaching musical pitch. Check your analytics and you’ll probably see some low-traffic blog posts, too.
Why do you have lonely blog posts like these?
- Your blog is new. It takes a while to get traffic to a new blog, or to a new post on a blog. Give yourself some time, even if you feel as though you’re talking only to yourself.
- Your topic is specialized. I know that some of the topics I post about at FreshPlans are a bit recherche, but I really think that combinatorics and Delta blues are worth studying. Even if I’m right, topics like that will be less popular than topics which are, well, more popular.
- Your post is not competitive. As it happens, my post on combinatorics is high on the search results — there just aren’t very many people looking for that topic. But if you have posts on popular topics which can’t compete with other, more established posts, they may end up so far back in the search results that few people see them.
Before we discuss ways to increase the readership of those posts, consider whether or not you need to do so.
The (hidden) value of blog posts
Blog posts that bring traffic to your website and lead to conversions are obviously valuable. For most websites, there are a dozen or so great posts that bring traffic regularly. It makes sense to connect these posts with a strong call to action.
But the posts that are less popular have value, too.
Blog posts, whether anyone reads them or not, increase the original content on your website, leading to better search rankings overall. They allow you to rank for more keywords, which can bring visitors with those long tail searches that tend to convert better. And they may surprise you in the future. When you’re a bit ahead of the curve, your post may not be popular when it first goes live — but since it has been indexed early, it can win out against those who hop on the bandwagon after a subject gets more popular.
Your less popular blog posts may convert better than the popular ones people are more likely to read — but less likely to respond to.
These are things that matter in the long run. What if you’d like your blog to bring in some traffic in the short run?
Writing popular blog posts
Blog posts have many strategic purposes. Being popular isn’t always a key goal and popularity isn’t always a central metric. But there are ways to write posts that are more likely to bring visitors to your website.
- Catch the wave. When you’re surfing, it does no good to catch the end of the wave. You have to see it coming and get it before it becomes a big deal. We like to use Google Trends and watch the news for topics that are just about to become popular. The song “Despacito” turned out to be relevant to one of our clients as it was being streamed billions of times, and we seized the opportunity to write about something newsy.
- Be a little bit different. While having the best post on something not many people look for can be terrific if the people looking for that thing happen to be your customers, unpopular topics don’t lead to popular blog posts. However, a slightly different slant can make your posts popular and findable.
- Be good enough to compete. If you choose a topic that few people write about, then you’re likely to come up in the search results whether your post is excellent or not. If there are lots of things written on the subject, though, search engines will try hard to offer the best options. While a strong domain will win out, give yourself the best possible chance by posting the best possible post.
You can update your unpopular blog posts with these guidelines in mind and republish them, hoping to bring those wallflowers into the light. In fact, if you have blog posts you wrote to benefit from a trend in the past, they may need to be updated. “Despacito” is a great song, but ten years from now it may not be on anyone’s mind.
If you’re concerned about lonely blog posts, ask your web content manager what value they currently provide. If they make your website show up in the organic search right under your highly specific online ad or have a 45% conversion rate for the small group of visitors who find them, then they’re doing their job.