Chris Brecheen was right. I’m not saying this in the sense that he was right and I was wrong. I’ve actually agreed with Chris for quite some time. It’s just that I’ve never experienced on any scale to truly understand why he is right. I suppose I ought to give some back story for this to make any kind of sense.
A while ago Chris had a post go viral. It was a wonderful post and deserved to go viral. He told a great little story about how he helped a person who couldn’t possibly repay him. The post was well worded and the story flowed beautifully. It was honest and pure. If any post deserves to go viral, it was that post. Long before that post he wrote about the importance of developing “tributaries” through good content. His point was that if you want to have a successful writing career, or blog, or whatever, you needed to consistently produce good content. He was adamant that building readership required regular disciplined writing.
After his Creepy Guy article went viral the rest of his blog, Writing About Writing, got a pretty good boost (for a while). Chris also does a monthly post where he responds to emails. In September somebody inquired as to whether or not he still thought developing tributaries was important, now that Creepy Guy had garnered him a sizable jump in readership. He reiterated that it was more important than ever to continue building consistently good content.
Now we get to the part about why I think he is right. Chris made a couple of excellent points. 1. You never know what is going to go viral. To go viral you have to get lucky. Many writers (way more talented than me or Chris) have written their entire lives and never had a post go viral. To go viral you have to get a lot of shares very quickly, and you can’t get a lot of shares if you don’t already have dedicated readers through the good content you previously developed. 2. People stay when you have content. Chris points out that he got 300,000 page views because of Creepy Guy. About 12 % of those hits came from people just looking for related articles or the main blog itself. That doesn’t happen without having established quality content. It also turned into about 200 new regular readers. They wouldn’t have become regular readers if he didn’t have some very good content already there. When people visit a blog post they like they typically poke around at other posts. That’s why it’s so important to have consistent content. If he had no other posts, he wouldn’t have netted anywhere near that many new readers. They would have seen he had nothing else to offer and left.
My blog is nowhere near as popular as Mr. Brecheen’s. However on a much smaller scale I got reminded of exactly why he is right about producing consistently good content. My posts have been getting about 10-20 views per post. Each post gets me an average of one new follower. I was on The Matt Walsh Blog the other day reading his post “You’re a stay at home mom? What do you do all day?” It was an extremely good post about how Matt’s wife is often derided by people for being a stay at home mom. This post immediately reminded me of my “Fatherhood or something like it” post. Now Matt is a very successful blogger and writer, especially compared to me. But since his post reminded me so much of my own, I shared the link in his comments section. I noted how much I appreciated his work and how I thought he might be interested in my similar post. I didn’t expect him to actually read it (I don’t think he did), nor did I expect anyone else to pay attention to my comment. But if he did I thought he might appreciate it. Within the hour I had over 200 hits on my blog. By the end of the day it received over 300 hits. Not exactly the definition of viral, but for my small blog this was huge. Until then my best day garnered 52 views. I now had increased that by six fold.
The next day and next post my hits went back to normal. But here’s the funny thing. I got some new readers out of it. Not because of the “viral” post I had, but because of the good content I was already producing. The comments I received were not on the post that “made it”, but on the other posts that people poked around at. Yes my comment on Matt’s blog drove people to read my stuff, but it was the other stuff that kept them around. I now have about 45 followers (up from the 30 or so I had before). I truly believe that is because of the content that was already there.
For a guy who started a blog as a creative outlet and as a tool to discipline himself into writing enough to do a book, this experience reaffirms what I already knew. Chris Brecheen was right. Good content and consistent practice are what makes writers worth reading. Now as a side note, Chris Brecheen also does a weekly post with a guest blogger. In an attempt to shamelessly plug myself, if Chris ever wants me to be a guest blogger I think I would piss myself with excitement. After I cleaned myself up from such joy I would be more than happy to pen something for him.
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