Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My Blog Post Went Viral and I Freaked Out

A few weeks ago, I published a sponsored post for Great Lakes Gelatin collagen protein. Sponsored posts don't often get a lot of traffic. Most blog readers recognize sponsored posts for what they are, advertising. I don't do sponsored posts very often but when I do, I try to make the posts about a relevant topic that ties into the product. At least that's the kind of sponsored posts I like to read.

I didn't name the product in the title, again, hoping to prevent people from not reading the post. Instead, I came up with what I thought was a clever title, In Pursuit of Happy Joints. After all, the product is supposed to reduce inflammation and I have rheumatoid arthritis.

After publication, I shared the post on all my social media accounts, as I do with all my blog posts. I participate in a couple of blogging groups and shared it there as well. I would have been happy with 500 views. A few days after I posted, I got those 500 views.

Then something extraordinary happened. The post went viral.



Yes, I did freak out. This kind of thing doesn't happen on a little blog like mine.

Last December, I shared my annual blog stats. My most popular post last year got 1039 views on one day. I thought that was crazy! However, nothing could have prepared me for what I discovered when I opened Google Analytics a few weeks after I published In Pursuit of Happy Joints.

My mouth hit the keyboard as I saw a huge jump in my page views. I kind of started to sweat. What had I done? I texted Marcia, my running and blogging guru, who told me to look at my visitor log for any kind of bot. When I reviewed the urls of the hits I got on the blog, there were no obvious patterns that would indicate a bot. None from Russia to speak of either. After I saw that, I felt somewhat better but I posted my concern about the growth of this particular post in one of my blogging groups. The big bloggers reassured me that this was nothing to worry about and told me to enjoy it.

Ok, then!

Now for those of you who have big blogs, this is probably no big deal. But my blog, while small yet with a respectable readership, has never experienced anything remotely close to this. So I did a little investigating, via Stat Counter and Google Analytics.

Here are my page views from Google Analytics for that particular post up until Saturday, March 2:

Last 30 days, page views:


Here's what StatCounter shows me for the blog overall in the first 2 months of 2018: (green is page views, blue is unique visits, orange is returning visitors)


Where did all these visitors come from? According to GA, 85% of these visitors came from Google via organic search and most are due to that one post. Which means that somehow they are finding my post while searching for something else on Google. This makes sense to me, because if you look at the bounce rate, it's quite high, especially for this particular post. My usual bounce rate before this was somewhere around 65%.

I also looked for "keywords" to see what people were searching for when they found my post. Unfortunately, Google does not provide keywords in an effort to protect the searcher's privacy. What's a blogger to do? According to one article I read, the author suggested that the blogger consider the "landing page" to see what the searcher is looking for.

In Pursuit of Happy Joints. Hmm. Let me think what people might be searching for when they found my post.

When I wrote the post, I did intentionally choose a provocative title. Marcia tells me that one of her all-time most popular posts is "Tale of a Slutty Brownie". A Google search of the term "slutty brownie" brings up quite a few recipes. So I googled "happy joints" and boom! there was my post on Google Search, page 3, sandwiched between dog joint supplements and low voltage jointing systems. I guess Google never knows exactly what people are looking for.

Still, not bad for a little blog with no SEO to speak of. For this hobby blogger, it was a dream come true.

I actually thought maybe people were searching for joints. You know, as in weed? Well, I searched that too and my post never showed up in search results there.

So what did I learn from this experience? 
-Choose your titles wisely. Try to reel the reader in. Keep in mind that the reader should know what you're writing about--don't sacrifice discoverability for cleverness. Sometimes just spelling it out in the title--like I did for another popular post, 7 Things More Painful than Running a Marathon, is all you need.

-Never underestimate what post is going to go viral. I am always surprised what posts are my most popular. It's not always the post that I expect. Posts with numbers in the title, like lists, are always popular. People love lists. A post I wrote about meeting Kathrine Switzer? While I thought everyone would be clambering to the blog to read that post, it wasn't a hit. I'm pretty sure the post you're reading write now won't fly off the charts. Or will it?

-Look at your stats. I realize that most of these page views for In Pursuit of Happy Joints are click and leave. They scan it and find that the post doesn't have what they're looking for, so they click through. But they are clicking on the link and going to my blog. Who knows, maybe I'll get some new readers from this. Of course, I would love it if everyone would stop and read every word I write. But the reality is that if you are interested in growing your blog, you need to think about your stats, which means actually reading the post doesn't always matter. No matter what, for me, quality posts are still my priority. It really was a win to have a well-written post go viral.

-Fame is fleeting. Yep, while that one post continues to fly high and boost my blog stats, posts I've written since have my normal readership. I'd love to have those page views for every post but that's not how things work. I got lucky. Based on this experience, I'm not going to change what I do. I still plan to write what's in my heart and stay true to my mission, which is to share my passion for running with my readers.

The little blog that could, right? What a fun experience! Have you ever had a post go viral? One that blew your stats out of the water? I'd love to hear what you learned from that. 

I'm linking this post with Tuesdays on the Run aka Marcia, Erika, and Patti as well as Running Coaches' Corner aka Debbie, Rachel, and Lora.









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69 comments :

  1. I always enjoy reading about your blogging experiences. My blog is very small that I never get stats like yours. Have a great week!

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    1. I never thought I'd see those numbers! It was fun while it lasted!

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  2. Truthfully I never check my stats. I guess I write for myself.

    Enjoy your blog. Keep up what you’re doing

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    1. I do write for myself but I love reaching new readers. I enjoy the interaction!

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  3. This is so interesting! And congratulations!! I'm with you on the provocative titles. A very few of my book reviews that have gone viral have all been either 1) spoiler discussions or 2) really popular books that I didn't like...and I put that I didn't like them in the title (ex: "On Appreciating, But Not Loving A Gentleman in Moscow", "Am I the Only One Who Didn't Like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?".
    And I loved your joint post too - I have some inflammation in my SI joints and hip. Have been considering trying that product for a bit!

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    1. I don't know how much GLG is helping my joint pain but I am feeling really good these days!

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  4. Because we are coming from the same point of view, I was like WOW . .I wish my GLG post went viral ... but now I just got it . . in pursuit of happy JOINTS . . joints to SMOKE . . . bwahahaha . . .I bet those peeps were bummed.

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    1. Haha! I thought it was interesting that I was sandwiched between dog joints and electrical joints!

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  5. How funny, I would have thought people were coming to read something about Mary Jane with a title like that!

    I am not a numbers person - stats make my head swim, so while I get the Google Analytics report each month, I pretty much open it up, become overwhelmed, and delete it. That said, when new people comment on my blog, I will respond to them and also go read their blog, if it's linked.

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    1. I love numbers and data but GA does make my head swim too. But this was so extraordinary, I had to figure out what had happened. It was a little unnerving at first!

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  6. While I've had one go viral, and I didn't think much of your title at the time, I can now see why that would garner page views. I am generally surprised at the posts that get a lot of views -- and just as surprised at the ones I think are great and . . . crickets.

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  7. I SOOOO appreciate your sponsored posts, Wendy, because they don't read like a sponsored post. Thanks for not making me feel like a gullible consumer LOL ;-) I'm always amazed, like you, at the posts that get so much attention and the ones that bonk. Law of averages, I guess. I had a lot of traffic last summer when I was sidelined and whining about not running in the heat LOL I guess people either liked the doom and gloom or appreciated my realness. ha!

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    1. I know exactly what you are talking about because my RA posts usually do quite well.

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    2. I'll tell you my theory... injured runners with too much time on their hands. This is exactly what happened to me: I got injured, couldn't run for weeks, and had alllll this extra time on my hands. I started googling stuff about injured runners to commiserate and fill my hours, and lo and behold, that's how I first started reading running blogs.

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    3. I hope you're right and that all those runners stick around for more posts!

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  8. I think I told you that my handful of viral posts usually boil down to a couple of things: Weightloss and those ever-popular Slutty Brownies. ;)

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    1. Yep, slutty brownies was the perfect example I needed! Thank you!

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  9. WOW!! you really looked into where the readers came from!! You have a lot of investigative skills!

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    1. I don't know about that but I was a little nervous about all that traffic!

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  10. Wendy, that is super fun- I would be so validated in my blogging journey if that many eyes ever saw a post of mine...I think you are so right to point out that it is fleeting and that keeping to what you want to write about is the key- When I get away from that I am totally bored. Good for you!

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    1. I'm happy it happened! I can't imagine having those kind of views every day. Wouldn't that be something?

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  11. ...that's because you're awesome! Congrats!!

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  12. Hey, even if I had your worst traffic I'd consider it viral! Ha! Still trying to understand all the mumbo jumbo of Google Analytics. This post helps! I look at mine at least once a week, really just to learn how to interpret all of it. I'm like you--a numbers gal.

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    1. Check out StatCounter--it's a little easier to interpret than GA. For me it was the gateway drug to all my blog statistics!

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    2. Thanks--I will check it out. Do you also have GA, or does it mess things up to have both?

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    3. I have both and they work independently.

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  13. Congrats on your post going viral! How exiting! It is fun to look up your stats and see the difference between what were the popular posts opposed to ones that may not be.

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    1. Those stats never fail to surprise me!

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  14. That's interesting! It makes sense that the post would come up when people are googling for things to make their joints feel better. I don't think I've looked at my google analytics in a while, and I definitely don't fully understand it. I have to get better about that.

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    1. I can't say that I even partially understand it!

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  15. This is so awesome and congratulations! I'm glad the post has bought more people to your great blog. I've never had a post go viral but at least now I know what to look for!

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    1. This was my first time! I wouldn't have expected this to be "the one" but hey, I'm not going to complain.

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  16. I once posted a few thoughts on the Chicago Marathon going to a lottery system and I think it's my most popular post, however not nearly as popular as your "joint" post!

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    1. I don't know what happened to make my joint post so popular!

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  17. I freaked the first time I saw my blog on Google. I don't write for a large number of views, but when I do happen to look at stats, and see a post with a higher number, it's fun, but also, as you said, kind of confusing. I do think why did that post get those numbers?

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    1. This was so big that I was really worried about a hacker or something!

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  18. How much fun! I always think it's exciting when something happens like that... I can usually trace it back to a brand boosting the post or Pinterest. But WOW- that was a huge jump in traffic for that post. Congrats!

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    1. I've had big boosts from Pinterest, but like you said, nothing like that. Crazy.

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  19. Im not sure exactly what is considered "viral" but I had some posts with really high page views last year from Pinterest. It was really interesting to see how some posts would just take off. I would also notice an increase in pinterest followers, but everything on pinterest has seemed to plateau since then. I wish that google analytics could show us the search terms! I think that would be so interesting.

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    1. I wasn't sure what was considered viral, but I think this post qualifies! I agree that Pinterest is my best social media referrer.

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  20. ha ha I must be the most boring person because I never even thought that people would think it was about pot! Too funny. It is really interesting to see how posts can just take off like that! Thanks for sharing your story

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    1. It was fun and I'll ride the wave as long as I can!

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  21. That's a great story, Wendy, congrats! I would have guessed the hits were for the other kind of joints. Speaking of which, I wonder if you'll get a bunch of hits leading up to April 20th?

    My only blog post that went sort of viral was "What It's Really Like To Be A Hokie" which I posted onto Hokie Bird's FB page on April 16, a few years ago on the anniversary of the school shooting. It got 1784 views that day - BY FAR the most ever in a single day for me.

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    1. Now, I hadn't even considered 4/20.....stay tuned for that!

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  22. I had that happen when I used to write "Friday Finds" and the CBS show (like the VIew - can't remember the name) did a Friday Finds and they were selling deals. I normally got 300 views on those posts and wound up with 5000 or more on that one day. Then lots of people started emailing me on where to get a watch! lol. The stats were pumped for the month and then back to normal!

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    1. I figure that's what will happen with this post as well. I wish some of these views would convert to followers but it doesn't look like that's happening.

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  23. HOLY MOLY that is quite the spike - congrats!!! Definitely worth getting excited about :) I used to check my stats daily but now I only do it when I remember...sometimes I find a happy surprise like my posts has been shared on larger sites like Yahoo, Prevention Mag, whatever. Although temporary, it's always a cool feeling :)

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    1. I don't regularly check my stats either. I get a weekly report from Add This and when I saw what was happening, I had to check it out!

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  24. How fun! I love it when that happens. I have one post that I wrote over a year ago than continues to get pretty huge traffic, mostly because they advertise on Facebook. Almost all that traffic is from Google search. I'm already worried what will happen when they stop advertising. I still get a couple hundred hits a day after 15 months.

    Of course, I tell myself that these aren't really "my readers." They don't engage, they don't read other posts. They just follow their search and then move on. It's still kind of fun though. :-)

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    1. Exactly! It's always nice to be validated!

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  25. That's so crazy! I had one a few years ago that blew up like that too- it's never the ones you expect!

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    1. Even when I read about viral posts, all the "experts" said sponsored post never do well. Ha!

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  26. Oh my gosh, you are so right about "never underestimate what might go viral". My current most popular post is the one I wrote about my hernia surgery, LOL!

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    1. I will say that my most popular posts seem to be about running with RA.

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  27. Congrats on your viral post! I'm sure you will have many more to come. And any time you need to be talked off the ledge, you send me a message ;-)

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    1. I hope there are more and I'll be glad to consult with you anytime!

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  28. I'm so excited for you! I hope I can recreate your magic someday. :)

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  29. Wow! Wendy, that is so awesome!! I really love that you shared your experience and what you learned from it too. I'm going to use some of your tips for my next post!!

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    1. I'm flattered--you don't seem like you need any help! Tell me how you get all those sponsored posts!

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  30. I am glad it turned out to be legit and not a bot!
    I am not one to really check my stats, but it is fun to see when they get above average views!
    I hope the post was able to help some people

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  31. Very interesting, Wendy! And what a great experience for you. I've never had a post go viral. I'm trying to be better about checking my stats, but my blog is even smaller than yours. :D

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    1. It's so odd--the viral post continues to get tons of hits. I'm not clear on how what happened! Stay tuned...

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  32. Well, congrats on the traffic uptick. I've had spikes in traffic around certain posts, but don't pay as much attention as I should. Maybe because I have to pay attention to all of that for my day (and side) jobs, it makes me less inclined to do it on my personal hobby blog. But maybe I should get a little better at that!

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    1. I couldn't help but notice this one. My page views have quadrupled based on this one post.

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