5 Blog Posts that Keep Readers Coming Back

One common misconception I find many of my Loft blogging students have is that they believe their blog is like a book written in real time, with each chapter building upon the last. I have to point out to them that unlike a memoir, where you read from beginning to end, with each post you attract new readers who don’t know you or your story.

I also point out that many first-time visitors will not arrive at the front door–your home page or most recent post–but through a back door or side window. Through referrals or links or search engine results, some curious individuals will come across old posts of yours. Your hope is that they like enough of what they see that they stick around and start reading your new posts.

“So how do you write a post that keeps drawing readers years after it’s posted?” When asked that question I’m tempted to respond “Write compellingly on an intriguing topic,” but given that is my recommendation for every post, I actually find myself at a bit of a loss.

It's safe to say that it is not my selection of imagery that is drawing readers to these posts. One of them doesn't even have any images, and the others are only tangentially related. I liked this one from the "subconscious-driven creativity post," however, so I'm repeating it here because my subconscious didn't bother to tell me what image I should use for this post.

It’s safe to say that it is not my selection of imagery that is drawing readers to these posts. One of them doesn’t even have any images, and the others are only tangentially related. I liked this one from the “subconscious-driven creativity post,” however, so I’m repeating it here because my subconscious didn’t bother to tell me what image I should use for this post.

To help educate myself, I conducted a forensic analysis of some of my most “sticky” posts. I ignored the two posts featured on Freshly Pressed, because I know being promoted by WordPress has given them legs. I applied the same standard to a post that was featured on Huffington Post. No, these five posts started out like any other post, drawing the same type of readership and comments. Yet, somehow, they didn’t fade away. Readers kept coming. And they still are.

So what can I learn from each of these posts?

  • Do Women Simply Write Differently than Men? January 31, 2012: I’m pretty sure I understand the appeal of this post. Has there ever been a comedian who didn’t have a riff on the Mars vs. Venus debate? But I’m looking for lessons here for future posts. Should I keep focusing on gender differences? Well, I’d grow weary of a comedian whose only material focused on male/female stereotypes, and I think I’d have the same feeling for a blog with that same narrow focus. That said, should I come across new research on gender differences in creative thinking, I definitely think I’ll blog about it.
  • The Importance of Creativity in Education, February 19, 2013: As someone who has long worked at the intersection of creativity and education, I know this is a subject of great passion for many. What I also know is that there are a great many talented and knowledgeable people writing in this field. When I try to figure out what makes this post stand out, it’s possible that it involves a movement still somewhat under the radar, a focus on STEAM education (adding arts to science, technology, engineering and mathematics), a subject I’ve written about for other publications as well. So perhaps the secret is to find the under-reported angle of a topic and establish yourself in the search world on that topic as its popularity grows.
  • 5 Steps to Subconscious-Driven Creativity, May 25, 2011: It’s worth noting that this is the only one of the five posts that follows the “formula for success” in a blog post, a bullet list of helpful tips. I don’t think this is evidence that the conventional wisdom on the value of that formula is incorrect; it reflects more that for whatever reason, I seem congenitally challenged when it comes to writing in that style. I’m glad this post has legs, however, because it contains advice I want to share with the world, namely how I’ve learned to use my subconscious while I sleep to problem-solve creative projects. (The concept for this blog post emerged to me with this process.)
  • What Defines an Artist? Self-Taught vs. Trained, April 25, 2011: Every creative has reflected on this topic. For years I was a self-taught creative; I read books on writing and creativity and practiced  my craft, but had no formal training. Then, in mid-life, I sought an MFA. On the question of which is better, the good news is the answer is it depends, on who you are and what you are doing in your life. Like the creativity-in-education post above, I think a lot has been written on this subject, but I’m glad this one is in the mix with search engines because it highlights two of the artists I interviewed on my 2010 cross-country road trip, contrasting two great successes who took different paths.
  • Is Creative Genius Inherited or Learned, March 27, 2012: In a way, this post is an amalgam of many of the ones above. Like “What Defines an Artist?” this post hits on a long-standing debate in the creative community, namely to what extent artistic ability is innate. Those of us focused on promoting creativity in education believe we are all inherently creative, and we want to unleash that in children. That focus is on formal education, the “trained” side of creative growth. In my subconscious-driven creativity post, I’m seeking to help those already creatively inclined to tap into that creativity even more. It’s fair to say I want all of us to maximize our creative potential. It’s hard, then, to acknowledge that it’s possible some people’s potential exceeds others in certain fields or endeavors. Thus t’s not surprising that a topic like this would continue to be of interest to readers long after it was written.

So what have I learned from this exercise that I can apply to future posts? I’ve learned it’s okay that I don’t always write posts featuring bulleted how-to lists. I’ve learned that there’s merit to finding a new angle into a long-standing debate. What I’ve learned most of all, perhaps, is that I should write about topics about which I am passionate. Each of these posts addresses subjects I have thought long and hard about. They are topics in which I didn’t have all of the answers; by the way, I still don’t have them now.

So if something keeps nagging you, and you’ve formulated some theories or notions around that pestering thought, articulate them in a blog post and share them with the world. I’d love to join you in the discussion.

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

24 Responses to “5 Blog Posts that Keep Readers Coming Back”

  1. I believe when we write from the heart and write what we feel passionate about, as you say, that those posts are exactly what can draw in new readers. You are right, it is a nebulous thing to put into words for students. I like reading up on recommended guidelines to draw in readership but I also only use them when I feel it’s in line with my content. I don’t develop my content for those guidelines, for better or worse! Thanks Patrick!

  2. Good topic, Patrick (as usual). I agonize over every blog post I write, not so much to write a post that will have legs, but to write a post that anyone will read past the first paragraph. I need to write at least three drafts before I can get excited about my own writing. That happens when I’ve lead into it in a way that hits a universal nerve. For instance, my next post is about my mother’s 100th birthday. But I’m setting it up as a post about her “secret life.” Who doesn’t have a secret life? And if you don’t, my post will suggest it’s time to get one. Saludos, amigo.

    • Thanks, PJ! I admire the time you put into your posts. Most of my students do that in my class, but they know their post will be workshopped by the students and me. I’m not sure bloggers put as much effort into the posts they go live with. For me, I carry it around in my head for about a week, and then dictate it to myself with a first draft (not unlike the process I describe in the subconscious writing post). I usually do three more rounds of editing, but that tends to be for tightening, because my first drafts always run long.🙂

      Your next post sounds intriguing? And I see you’re reflecting on it, as I do, before writing.

  3. I want to thank you for your thoughts concerning blogging and creativity. It helps me to understand the direction my biblical research should take. Nobody is perfect, but we strive in each of our blogs to meet the needs of the reader.

  4. Patrick, because you posts are ALways intriguing and ALways written compellingly, I can’t help but be compelled to chime in!😀

    Actually, Patrick, I think your “Write compellingly on an intriguing topic” hits the nail on the head, but doing your analysis helps you pinpoint moreso what OTHERS find intriguing. That’s, obviously, the key to more hits, but it is in trying to do it regularly that keeps them coming back, of course, and compelling writing is relatively hard to find, I think.

    I would think that timely topics will get hits for as long as they’re timely, probably with a few stragglers here and there as it dwindles out of the mainstream, but it’s the topics that tend to be universal and timeless that will get hits far down the road.

    It’s easy to see why the 5 top blog posts you have here were at the top. I’m not really into too many “gender-different” topics since I think most people, by now, hopefully accept the fact that the genders are, generally speaking, different. Lots of people are hooked on stuff about gender, though, which is obvious from what you said here. And though that blog post was more about gender than writing, it was still about writing which is—CREATIVE! But the other four are focused on creativity, where it comes from and how can it be taught.

    All of us here are drawn to creativity, writing and the exploration of all of it, which is what you write—so compellingly—about! It’s why we’re here and keep coming back. It’s also why I’m feeling encouraged because I have two blogs (hopefully launching in the near future): one is about writing and all things related, and the other is about all kinds of creativity. No, my posts will not be of the length, quality and subject matter you have here, but I’m hoping they’ll still be intriguing and compelling🙂

    Thanks for another GREAT, compellingly written post on another intriguing topic, Patrick😀

    • Thank you again for your positive reinforcement!

      It’s important to understand what your readers want; that’s why I did a survey at the end of last year on this blog. As I posted after the survey, the results basically were “more of what you’re already doing.” But it’s important to stretch yourself sometimes, to bring in a wider audience, as long as what you’ve written still has value for your loyal readers (like yourself for me).

      So exciting you have blogs in the works! Please post links to them when they’re live, in whatever post I happen to have up top at the time.

      As to timely topics, because I noodle on posts for awhile (see my response to PJ), I can’t jump on them the way Twitter fanatics do with trending hashtags. I’m more like the Sunday talk show that looks back on the recent news and tries to add new perspective.

      • LOL…I like your simile about the news instead of the trendy hashtags🙂 Actually, when I say timely, I’m thinking slightly longer trends rather than the “hot item” for the moment. A good example would be “bullying.” Now, obviously, bullying has been around as long as humankind, but we all see the extreme consequences that have grown over the years. It’s become an even more timely subject. So, that’s what I mean🙂

        And thank you for so enthusiastically encouraging me to post my links here. I most definitely will🙂

  5. I agree with Carrie Brummer, write from the heart. Decent grammar, punctuation and interesting topics help, but the connection that seems to really draw comments is writing from the heart.

    • Yes to decent grammar! Bless the hearts of the junior high kids I had recently in a workshop on blogging; their posts were original and heartfelt, but their grammar and spelling errors were certainly distracting. I didn’t dwell on that, but it’s so important to be taken seriously and to hold the reader.

  6. I think you’re right that writing about topics you’re passionate about is the most important factor. But there are also some other factors that can affect a post’s staying power:

    When other blogs and websites link to your post it can not only send traffic from those sites, but also affect the Google rank, sending more traffic. Keywords that appear in your post can do the same.

    Also there is the positive feedback loop that occurs when a post gets into the top 5, it will then tend to stay there and get more and more views because it is now featured in the “Top Posts & Pages” list that’s on every page of your site. And also, when Google sees the links on every page of your site, it assumes they are more important than your other posts, again sending more traffic.

    If you were to add “Recent Posts” and possibly also “Random Posts” or “Recommended Posts” to the sidebar it might help your other posts in competing with the top 5.

    • Wow, James, you’ve got that down pat🙂 I’ve read about all of it, but only some stuff sticks and I’m sure I’ll glaze over with too many stats! lol Thanks for the info!

    • James, this is very helpful. I was aware of the linkage aspect of Google, but hadn’t thought about the fact that my “Top Posts & Pages” might be placing the thumb on the scale. For now I’ve decided to swap it out for “Recent Posts.” To be honest, I’ve got a sidebar that is too cluttered, but that is a project for another day.

  7. Oh Patrick, thank you thank you thank you – for NOT making this post sound like all those “here’s how to write a Blog that will get you MILLIONS of followers and make you MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, one hundred percent GUARANTEED[blatant overuse of exclamation marks]” Those kind of articles always make me feel so inadequate I want to punch my screen (but don’t, because I punch like a kitten so that would just make me feel even MORE inadequate..)

    You are right in every aspect of what you say; while there are certainly things that come from within yourself to create a blog post that will inspire and interest people, there IS no fail-safe, five-point formula that guarantees success every time. Being passionate about your subject is key, and that always shines through in your posts. We come to your site because we’re curious little monkeys who love to read the words of a fellow creative – and we stay because those words are always engaging and make us think.🙂

  8. A great discussion all the way through. The topic that particularly piqued my interest tonight, though, was your “5 Steps to Subconscious-Driven Creativity.” So of course I went back and read that post.

    This week my sister and I have been talking about the role of the subconscious in dieting. And next week I have a post coming out in which I claim that my subconscious was a big factor in my being able to overcome jet lag on my last trip. So I was more than ready to look at your five steps. It looks like a good practice, but I imagine it will take some time to get the hang of it. I’ve never kept a dream journal, so for me, the big challenge will be to wake up and remember anything. But I think I’ll give it a try.

    • You definitely are in the right frame of mind to experiment with it. As I believe I mentioned in the post (it’s been awhile since I wrote it) one key is to focus on a problem that needs solving but not be too literal in your “ask.”

      Glad you were able to overcome jet lag. That’s a huge win! Feel free to post a link of that post here when it’s live.

  9. Hello, Patrick! Coincidentally enough, I’m a reader who came in through a side window – or rather, a post on copyblogger.com from 2011 which left your back door carelessly unlatched (that metaphor ran away from me a bit). This is a lovely post and particularly inspiring to the likes of little me – a long-time wannabe writer and relatively new, lost little blogger looking to make connections in the big wide world and figure out how to make my writing engaging to an audience of potentially millions… or possibly no-one. (Currently it’s the latter, but I can work on that!)

    Thanks for this. I’m definitely going to stick around and read some of your other posts, so your methods clearly work😉

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