One million is sort of a magical number, one that has both a literal meaning and a symbolic one. A million might not buy as much as it used to, but “not for a million dollars” hangs in there as shorthand for “no way” (which is actually shorter, so go figure). An unlikely outcome is “a million to one shot,” which is pretty much what a parent has when telling a child “for the millionth time” to clean up his mess. There must be a million examples of using “one million” as slang for “a lot,” and it is a lot. Don’t believe me? Start at one and count to one million. I’ll wait here.
So I understand why “one million views” might be your blog goal. Imagine that–one million people laying eyes on those articles, essays, and stories upon which you worked so hard. Granted, if you’re a celebrity, big media business, or large website you may expect to break the million barrier with a single post, but never mind those guys. We’re talking about Joe Blogger here, and I’m pleased to report that you, too, can hit your one million goal. Getting there takes time and work, but you can do it. Here’s how:
Settle in for the long haul. The average blog only survives about three months: One hundred days and the thrill is gone. Writing takes a lot of effort, after all, and building an audience takes time. I racked up 372 views in my first three months–not 372 views per month, but total. That can feel a bit like throwing a party and nobody shows up. No wonder people give up after a couple of months. But hang in there. Readers will find you eventually. It just takes time.
Write about something that interests you other than you. Sure, you can write about yourself. I do it all the time. See? I just did it. But the vast majority of your views are going to come from search engines, and unless your name is “Scarlett Johansson Naked” nobody is Googling you.
That being said, your blog is your space and you can do whatever the heck you want with it. I post short stories, poems, memoir, writing tips, and opinion pieces, but it’s music-related content that generates most of my traffic. For example, my all-time most viewed post is a history of Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction album cover. My most popular non-music piece is a rant about Apple stores, and its all-time views are a tiny fraction of the Gunners’ article. I like both of them, but if I’m looking for the magic sauce that got me to one million views, without question it’s essays about music and records.
Both of those pieces are several years old, by the way, which brings us to–
Post “evergreen” content. Evergreens never lose their leaves, and neither do pieces that aren’t topical. Apple stores will always suck, which means that people will always Google “Why do Apple stores suck so hard,” and that means views for me. Note that this was no evil scheme. I didn’t plan on writing an evergreen piece about Apple stores, I just lucked into it. Regardless, that post will continue to attract readers for years (assuming Apple doesn’t close their stores) because it isn’t topical. On the other hand, an op-ed about that thing that happened in the news today is good for a few days, maybe a week.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write topical stuff, just that if your goal is a million views you probably shouldn’t write exclusively about current events. You can do both, because you will need to–
Write a lot, and post consistently. This is just basic math. More posts on your blog means more potential views, especially for those evergreens we just talked about. As for posting consistently, not only does that keep your regular readers from assuming you’ve abandoned your blog, but it does the same for the search engines. Regular activity breeds traffic.
I put a little something out there every day, but I once worked for a website that posted something ever hour. That website’s social media followers were barraged hourly with new post hype, which brings us to–
Promote yourself, but don’t be a jerk about it. Go ahead and link your social media friends to that awesome piece you wrote, but remember that social media is social. When you try to turn it into nothing but a self-promotion machine, you burn your friends out. Given that most of your traffic comes from search engines this won’t have much impact on your million view goal, but it may mean negative consequences for your friendships.
That’s really it. If you want to pay for promotion have at it, but it isn’t necessary. If you want to hire a consultant to babble about search engine optimization that’s cool, too, but again it isn’t necessary. Getting to a million blog views is just a matter of time, effort, and a little forethought. Write about topics in which people are interested, post regularly, and don’t give up after a few months. That’s all the magic sauce you need.
But before you go, consider this: Why do you want a million views? Unless your site is monetized, your blog stats are nothing more than a novelty. You can’t eat a million views, nor can you spend them. Watching the numbers increase feels good, though, and maybe that’s enough.
The important thing here is that you fired up a blog and took a crack at becoming the writer you always wanted to be. That makes you one in a million, and I wouldn’t trade you for a million bucks.
Categories: on writing