How I got 20,000 hits a day (and lost them all again)

 |  Interwebs

Once upon a time, in a period best described as responsibility-free and with plenty of disposable income (AKA before I had children), I had a “reasonably” popular blog. Yes, this one. As crazy as it sounds to those of you who’re new readers (i.e. started reading within the past few years), it’s true, and you only have to look at the triple-figure comments on some of my old posts to get an inkling of what that meant. This was in a time where Twitter and Facebook were in their infancy, not capable of making a post viral worldwide in the blink of an eye like today, but niche interest posts could pull in 20,000 or more unique hits through StumbleUpon, Digg and the like.

So how did I achieve 20,000 unique hits in one day?

I blogged regularly

I would often blog daily (without having to set myself daft challenges) and sometimes even more than once a day. Not just short pieces either, some of my older entries were thousands of words long. Frequent updates meant people regularly came back to read new posts because they knew I would have updated.

What went wrong: after having Isabel, when time at the keyboard was in short supply, I favoured quick bursts of social media posts over my blog. People stopped checking for new posts, Google’s bot popped in less regularly, and hits slowly dropped.

I was active on StumbleUpon

stumbleupon_logoI would easily spend hours several times a week clicking through page after page on StumbleUpon, leaving thumbs-ups and reviews. Because of this I gained authority and a small following, which meant that when I had something I knew would pique interest to share from my own blog I could easily have it distributed to hundreds of people very quickly. Because StumbleUpon works by finding pages based on user-submitted interests, it was almost guaranteed that the content you submit would end up in front of the audience it was aimed at. Targeted content meant happier visitors.


What went wrong: I stopped using StumbleUpon (again, time was the issue) which meant I lost my following, and this meant that there was no ‘power’ behind my shares when I tried to boost my own content.

I read (and commented on) a lot of blogs

Commenting was the number one way to get a blogger’s attention, and there was a big “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” attitude to commenting. Generally if you left a comment on a blog, that blogger would make an effort to comment back on one of your posts. That’s not to say it was perfect, and when I was receiving 50-100 comments on a post returning all comments was virtually impossible, but you could expect around a 50% return rate for your efforts.

What went wrong: although I’ve never stopped reading blogs, I simply don’t prioritise time for commenting any more. That, combined with a general decrease in blog-commenting as a method of communicating, meant that I wasn’t getting the same click-through from potential new eyes and other bloggers. Hence including commenting in Septemblog

I used multiple online forums

I was active in multiple niches all relevant to the topics I would cover on my blog (I have never, and will never stick to just one topic) which meant that no matter what I posted, I could potentially draw eyes from forums on to my posts with a bit of shameless promo. Of course this privilege came at a cost, having built up a reputation on the boards in question: nobody would have clicked my links if I’d joined, posted twice and then spammed the crap out of the forum with links to my website.


What went wrong: as the growth of Facebook and its groups increased, a lot of forums stopped being relevant or necessary leading to their closure. Although I use several that remain, I don’t do so as actively as I used to and rarely publish something I feel worth sharing on those I do use.

I provided something of use

Because I had free time, and a genuine interest in furthering my knowledge, I invested time in learning new code and creating useful tools and scripts for other bloggers and webmasters. This meant that not only did people visit my blog to find these tools and scripts, but it earned me a reputation for knowing my stuff which enabled me to release trusted tutorials to teach others how to do the same thing, which in turn also got shared and so on and so forth. I have been approached at web conferences by people who used my stuff to get started 10 years ago, and that is incredibly fulfilling.

What went wrong: the Internet and website-creation as a hobby grew and changed, rendering a lot of my early scripts redundant. My primary blog audience also changed, and those that do still read don’t know or care what my scripts do, let alone want to use and share them. I haven’t bothered to invest time in my scripts to increase their relevancy and so their usefulness — and as such the amount of traffic I get for them — decreases day by day.

I wasn’t afraid to have an opinion

jem-turner-logoI’ve always been a gobby know-it-all cow and once upon a time that reflected quite clearly in my blog. My tagline for years — “Ultimately better than you” — which now is, in part, the strapline for my business was a tongue-in-cheek reference to it. I talked about anything and everything that took my fancy, courting controversy and even attracting the odd hate letter and death threat. People love to disagree, and in particular people love to write reaaally long comments telling you exactly how much they disagree.

What went wrong: after Isabel I didn’t really have time to deal with the throwback from my more controversial pieces, and after Oliver I had to focus on my professional presence online which meant toning down the more er… outrageous opinion pieces. I still have opinions of course, I just keep them to myself unless otherwise asked!

Nowadays 20,000 hits in one day should be easier to achieve: you have a greater number of people online, a much bigger pool of bloggers to collaborate and communciate with, and a huuuuuuge array of social networking sites to create a following and gain authority on. What’s stopping you?

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

13 comments so far

  1. Rhys said:

    You know, when I first found you (through Han), I was convinced that you would hate me reading your controversial posts. Remember the old days when we used to chase Alexa Rankings? :D

    • Jem said:

      I think everyone thought that I would hate them. The reality was I can only think of one person I’ve ever dealt with online who I would gladly punch in the face.

      Ahh, Alexa. How is that even still in existence?!

  2. Katy said:

    It’s interesting to consider how much “blogging” (and generally interacting online – the decline of forums is a great example) has changed over the last 5 years though.
    Social media means you can instantly publish a photo, or an opinion. No need to put effort in expanding things until they become a ‘proper’ blog post. Great if you’re lazy or have a short attention span! I’m certainly guilty of this.

    Is Stumbleupon still as much of a thing? I’d imagine it’s lost out quite a lot because it’s so easy to share things on twitter/fb. I am so out of touch with everything now…

    • Jem said:

      I think blogging has changed massively. All this images and social shit, I can’t keep up with it.

      I logged in to stumbleupon after drafting this post and it looks all fancy and modern. Not sure how much it’s used compared to back then though.

  3. Raisa said:

    The tears your Pants Awards brought gave me so much life. I honestly learned a lot from those posts. I remember when validation was a big thing that you gotta pass. Do people still do that? Because I don’t anymore. Please don’t give me a Pants Award. :(

    • Jem said:

      I think validation started to die off when HTML5 because a thing – partly because of the reintroduction of deprecated tags (perhaps?) and because it’s less strict. I occasionally see ‘valid xhtml’ links and chuckle to myself :’)

  4. Chantelle said:

    Those were the days… ^^
    I wonder how valuable 20k hits are to you now, though. If you really wanted that many, I’m sure you could get them. I don’t think “things went wrong” so much as your priorities changed.

    • Jem said:

      I probably could regain my old “status” with a couple of months work, but you hit the nail on the head with the fact that my priorities have changed. It’s not worth investing that time only to lose it all again when my kids get sick, or I have too much work on to blog for a while (etc etc).

  5. adastra said:

    I miss those good old days! Nowadays blogging somehow comes with a huge mental barrier; it just seems like so much effort compared to just writing a quick tweet.

    What also frustrates me quite a lot is the lack of feedback. If people interact at all these days, it’s usually just a like/star on Facebook or Twitter, and even if they comment, it’s often on Facebook, not the blog. People (including me) have become to incredibly lethargic…

  6. Georgie said:

    Yep… I used to get a lot of visitors for the same reasons you did. I think a lot of people attribute loss of visitors to a change in the ‘blogging community’ as well. A lot of people I used to chat to are no longer active online. It’s not just that they don’t have a blog I can visit and comment on regularly, but they don’t have a blog so they don’t visit mine anymore, because that used to be the thing that linked us.

    I had a lot of tutorials that people used. I look back and laugh at them but they helped people at the time. Then I removed them. :( Haha. I think that visiting blogs and leaving comments is still one of the best ways to get more hits – but I stopped caring too much because I noticed that the people who like to visit are the ‘loyal’ visitors who have always enjoyed reading regardless.

    Recently I have written more posts about web development which has gotten some feedback from people more involved in the industry, which is great. I have noticed that the type of content I write can gain more visitors too. Writing about decluttering and learning things in life seems to engage a lot of people. I noticed this because I still blog as regularly as I did back then, so I couldn’t attribute the decrease in visitors to blogging less regularly.

  7. Michelle said:

    Thank you for your advice. My sister and I started blogging regularly 4 months ago starting with a 40 day challenge and now we post 3x a week. What I haven’t been doing though is going on an commenting on other blogs as much. I’m going to try some of your tips.