What makes a blog post popular? Drama or the hope of redneck jokes?

Laura Vanderkam had a post last week that inspired a lot of interesting comments.  One of the commenters noted that hir most popular blog posts were always the sad/drama-filled ones and more cheerful posts weren’t so popular.

So, I was curious to see if that held true for us.  (On that day last week, our own posting was a lengthy gripe about the lawn, which did not get so many comments as say, our more positive posts about things like getting tenure or having a baby…)

So here’s what our wordpress history has said:

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.

From 2011:

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1.  How the used car market is like health insurance September 2010 25 comments
2.    About July 2010
3.  Mortgage Update and a worry December 2010 34 comments
4.  Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire September 2010 18 comments
5.  Searches that find our blog amuse us September 2010 5 comments

Many of our most popular pieces are pf posts about how we don’t need to go to extremes in money matters (or parenting or, you know, life).  We even have a post contemplating why they’re so popular!

In terms of most comments:
1.  Delurk for us today!
2.  Musings on why weight targets bother me
3.  Homeschooling: A deliberately controversial post
4.  Do the holidays stress you out?
5.  ******* creationists!

IIRC, the weight one and the creationist one resulted in some nutty commenter going crazy in the comments section.  But none of the above posts are about truly terrible things happening to us, except maybe me complaining about how hard it is to learn about evolution when you live in the Bible Belt.

So… I think we must have either pretty amazing readers who aren’t attracted to us for Schadenfreude reasons or we must be filling some kind of SEO niche that isn’t predicated on misery, but instead on redneck jokes, Mr. Money Moustache, and the love of a happy medium.  (Also, man, we must have been on fire back in 2011!)

If you have a blog, what are your most popular posts like?  Is your readership misery-seeking?  If you don’t have a blog, what are your favorite kinds of posts and what kinds of posts do you keep coming back to check on?

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47 Responses to “What makes a blog post popular? Drama or the hope of redneck jokes?”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Surprisingly one of my more popular posts was on how to build a junk mail yurt. It was a guest post from Mike and Molly’s blog. I haven’t even checked my stats for months but the popular ones were always the ones picked up by big news websites or big blogs. “You can always save more money” and “don’t save for retirement” were my two all time most popular. My sad childhood stories got me my most loyal visitors who came back regularly but weren’t the articles that were linked to most often. I guess the people who like that drama stuff are the kind of people who watch reality tv and I think your audience is probably more than pbs/discovery channel type.

  2. plantingourpennies Says:

    Our most viewed ones tend to be the ones that are the most action oriented – how to de-ugly your fluorescent lights, what to do when someone filed unemployment benefits in your name (this one sadly gets A TON of search hits), how to refinish linoleum flooring. You know, super exciting stuff that has very little to do with our lives.
    But the ones that tend to get the most comments are our He Said/She Said posts where we’re (playfully) arguing over something that’s actually in our lives. We end up with pretty civil, reasoned support for one side or another since that’s what most of our regular readers tend to be. Civil and reasonable. Able to disagree amicably. We don’t consider ourselves to be extremists in much of anything, so it makes sense that the readers who stick around are on the same wavelength.

  3. OMDG Says:

    If you’re counting raw clicks,my record comes from a post on teratomas because of a link that was embedded in it. I can’t remember you ever posting anything unhappy about yourself or your life. This isn’t that kind of blog. That’s probably why you haven’t witnessed this.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have. Currently some of those posts are private. You just haven’t been reading us long enough.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Now, if you mean that we don’t create our own drama and when we do encounter drama and tragedy we try to be solutions oriented or hopeful, that is true. But we have had our share of work drama, living in a small town in the south angst, and we’ve been touched by family tragedy, etc.

      • OMDG Says:

        Well, I read you primarily for your financial advice. Perhaps those other posts haven’t been sufficiently interesting for people to comment or click.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hahaha, man, you really like to try to start drama, eh?

        It’s ok, you’ll probably leave us in a huff in a year or so… most of our snarky commenters do, or else they stop trying to stir things up on our blog. I’m sure we’d encourage it if we were monetized, but given this is a hobby, we don’t have to.

        If all you want is financial advice, you only have to stop by on Mondays and the occasional Friday. There, made it easy for you to avoid our boring posts.

      • OMDG Says:

        I’m really confused about what I’ve done to ruffle your feathers so. Who is being snarky? This entire post was directed at the comment I left on LV’s blog, for goodness sakes. What’s your problem, anyway? I will probably leave in about a month when I start intern year because I doubt I will have as much time. If you choose to interpret that as “leaving in a huff” then that is your issue.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Saying that our posts about tragedy probably aren’t interesting (and that’s why they don’t get any hits, which we didn’t say, btw, we just said they weren’t as popular as the posts listed) and you’re only here for the personal finance (on a day that isn’t personal finance)… that doesn’t come across as rude to you? Really?

        And no, when our (former) readers leave in a huff, they tend to leave in an actual huff complete with dramatic, “I am never reading this blog again because you are horrible people.” Which, maybe we are. None of those posts made it to our top posts either (except the crazy lady with the weight thing, but she wasn’t a regular, just a one time one-issue person). Our regular readership just doesn’t seem to be into the dramaz.

      • OMDG Says:

        I can see how that comment could come across as insensitive. Let me try again: I suspect that you have a way of writing about your personal tragedies in a way that doesn’t suck in the readers/comments as much as other blogs that may be more “dramatic.” It probably has to do with how they are written — and the content of your blog/your blog persona in general. This is not a value judgement. I like both kinds of blogs (and both kinds of people IRL).

        For what it’s worth, just the other day I was talking to someone about how helpful many of your posts have been. I don’t love every single one of them, or agree with your perspective on everything (both of us can be very opinionated!), but heck, I’m sure my baby posts bored my readers who liked hearing about my dog, and that my grad school posts bored my readers who preferred medical school anecdotes. That’s just how it is.

        While we’re talking about it, can I say? It’s hard for me to read this post and NOT feel like it’s in some way a personal attack out of nowhere. I do apologize if I’ve offended you, however you should own your side of it too.

        I don’t think I’ve ever stopped reading a blog in a huff.

  4. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    That Nesting Place post did turn out to be pretty popular. Some other ones that have been popular include my Dear Mrs. Patton one, and also my review of Lean In. They’re always moms/work/women’s life choices posts, which I’m trying to figure out what to do about. I enjoy writing such posts, but I want to cover a wide variety of topics. It’s just always tempting to write something I know will get a lot of comments!

  5. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    The most viewed posts I have ever written are ones where I hit the SEO jackpot somehow. Sadly, they are posts I have written about things like juicing vegetables and the Allstate Drivewise program.

  6. Flavia Says:

    I have little ability to predict which posts will get a lot of comments (though there are certain posts I know *won’t* get comments, and I’m usually right!). Lately I’ve noticed that some of my posts–esp. things that involve advice about the job market–will get shared a lot, and I get tons and tons of hits (and retweets and Facebook links, etc), but no comments. I don’t totally understand that phenomenon.

    As for my own reading/commenting habits. . . I actually find certain kinds of drama-filled posts a turn-off. Raw, undigested emotion (someone writing in furious rage or certain kinds of sorrow, and with little regard for audience) are things I DO NOT want to engage with. There’s a trainwreck attraction-repulsion thing going on. If I feel a strong connection with the blogger, I might leave a brief note of sympathy. But that’s it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve been getting a little bit of that too on the academic posts– there seem to be academic twitter aggregators that tweet them. Plus sometimes we’re in insidehighered.

  7. becca Says:

    I am here for the drama. Or cordial grumpiness. That’ll do in a pinch. Not that redneck jokes are generally amiss, assuming they are kyriarchically aware.

  8. delagar Says:

    My top three posts — the ones that generate the most hits have been (1) a post on gay cow sex [spoilers: it's not really about gay cow sex; but it has those three words in it]; (2) a post from way back in 2005 about Dennis Prager [yeah, I know, who?] getting divorced again and (3) a recent post about women who say they’re not feminists, BUT, the one with the title “I’m No Feminist, I Just Think Women Should Have Equal Right.” <– I have no idea why that one is so popular, but it gets like a gazillion hits a day.

    The gay cow sex one, I know why that's so popular. I wish I didn't!

  9. Ana Says:

    My most popular post, far and away, was called “Pink Pullups”—it was about gender and little boys, but I think people were looking for Pink Pullups. I changed the name to “Pink”. Other popular ones in terms of page views tend to be ones bigger bloggers have linked to (often Stirrup Queens). I haven’t gone to check, but my gut feeling is that the most comments, and the most thoughtful comments, are about issues in my life and my plans for dealing with said issues—so not really drama, more “self-improvement” and sometimes “advice column”; some are about work, marriage, kids, even exercise. I have no real drama in my life, and have no desire to stir any up! My “we had a great weekend!” posts…well, there isn’t much to talk about. I get a handful of “good for you!” type comments, but no back & forth.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Maybe those folks looking for pink pullups could stand to learn something about gender and little boys…

      I don’t think we’ve been linked to from Stirrup Queens (yet). We’re still in the little leagues (Not on Putin’s radar). Which is fine with us. :)

      I like reading self-improvement stuff and home-improvement stuff and general advicy stuff when the advice is good and someone actually wants to move forward and not just complain. (I was thinking about writing a post on the topic, but then realized we already have two or three posts that are really about the same kind of thing, including a couple linked on this page! Though there’s a lot to be said for recycling popular topics…)

  10. chacha1 Says:

    My blog is so little-read that basically the only time I get a big spike is if you or Dan (at Casual Kitchen) link to me. :-)

  11. Linda Says:

    I originally found your blog because I was reading GRS and followed from a comment. Even though I don’t regularly read as many blogs as I used to (including GRS) I keep up with your blog because I like that you (both) are reasonable and respectful. I don’t read all the posts that relate to child-rearing or that are extremely academic focused (I didn’t read the post about grading papers this week, for example), though, because I don’t really relate to them, but that’s OK; your blog isn’t here just for my amusement. ;-)

    I haven’t been writing much lately on my blog, but my all time most popular page/post continues to be about my city chickens. I get lots of traffic from it, and lots of spam comments!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Huh, I wonder if that’s just a random SEO jackpot thing like Club Thrifty (you fill a niche for which there’s not much else written) or if City Chickens are super popular.

      Reasonable and respectful huh… sometimes… We still totally disrespect the patriarchy!

      • Linda Says:

        Your disrespect for the patriarchy is one of the reasons I visit! :-) I didn’t mean reasonable and respectful to apply to the horrible patriarchy.

        City chickens have been super popular. I understand ducks are the next big thing, though. ;-)

  12. Cloud Says:

    As I mentioned over on Laura’s post, my top hit posts are the one about my husband not being a unicorn- i.e., a man who does his share of housework exists and is not a mythical creature, and the sort of follow up about men, women, and chores. The idea that I might be known across the internet for having housework not be an issue is deeply amusing to me, and would probably make my mom (who remembers my extremely messy room as a kid) laugh out loud.

    In terms of spam comments, the post about turning an academic CV into a resume is getting lots of attention from the spammers right now. My spam folder is full of attempted comments on that post, and one or two get through every day or so, and I have to go clean them up.

    I’m not sure if I have any posts that would qualify as trainwrecks. My first year or so of motherhood was difficult for me, so there might be some there. But my readership was low then.

    I like to write rants, but for me the purpose of writing a rant is to work through my raw emotion and wrangle it into something more rational and reasoned, so that I can understand the emotion and use it to make my life better.

    I like reading thoughtful posts about issues, personal or global, and don’t mind debate as long as it isn’t ugly.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      I like to write rants, but for me the purpose of writing a rant is to work through my raw emotion and wrangle it into something more rational and reasoned, so that I can understand the emotion and use it to make my life better.

      This comment made me smile.
      I don’t think you have ever written a real rant (or a real whiny post, for that matter), for as long as I have followed your blog (which would be since circa 2010) — I cannot think of any post of yours that wasn’t well-thought out and very balanced. Maybe some feel ranty or whiny to you, but they really don’t come across as such at all.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I dunno, I think Cloud can rant at the patriarchy with the best of them, though often in twitter sized bites. But ranting at the patriarchy is always well reasoned and justified.

        Xyk– we’ve been wondering if you’ve noticed a difference in what kinds of posts are popular between your old and new blogs.

      • xykademiqz Says:

        The difference between the two, eh? That’s a good question. I had to go log into Academic Jungle after a long while. It’s very dusty over there…

        Well, I have only been blogging at the new place for a little over 4 months, but nearly 4 years at the old place.
        I made a conscious choice to be less ranty and try to sound more respectable and reserved at the new place. Anyway, it seems like people are leaving me alone for the most part at the new place. i.e. the comments don’t get quite as heated as they used to, which is fine by me. But I definitely do filter more regarding what I do and don’t write. The new blog is less personal and more purely academic. Also, there are cartoons at the new place.

        At the old place (academic-jungle at blogspot) the all-time highest number of hits, by far, has the post “Industry Job after a PhD” (about 15k hits). The second one is “Book review: “Lean In,” by Sheryl Sandberg” with about 3.5k hits, followed by “Underachiever” (this is a very bare-emotion rant and one of my favorite even if TMI posts ever), “None and We’re Done”, “Never a Dull Moment in Student Advising Land”, “What’s Your STEM?”, “Pushing Out Papers While a Pushover”, “Survival Tips for Young Women in STEM” (this one appeared first in Inside Higher Ed, I did write 2-3 columns for them way back when). Many of these posts with a lot of hits are about student advising and people coming to tell me how I am an evil or otherwise misguided advisor who doesn’t know how to do her job. That was a lot of annoyance I don’t miss.

        At the new place (xykademiqz at wordpress), the posts with most hits are those that get tweeted or facebooked or picked up by a higher-profile blogger or a tweep with a large following. My “all time” highest number of hits at the new place are “The 7-Year-PhD Itch,” “Writing Papers with Graduate Students Who Don’t Want to Write Papers,Take Seven Gajillion,” and “Feelers” (all quite recent). The next three are all cartoons (Double Bind, Eggucated, Tenure Denial), although many hits on cartoons are probably registered as just clicks on the homepage since so many people read on the phone and cartoons don’t require clicking on the post.

        Thanks for making me take a trip down the (stats) memory lane! :-)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We <3 the comics!

        It doesn't sound like even at the old place like the most popular post is particularly negative or tragic, nor the second.

  13. oil_garlic Says:

    My most read post is tip-oriented ( How Not To Be That Bitter Old Person In The Corner Cubicle ). The other 5 are recipes or advice oriented. Two of my chore-related posts are tops in comments, probably because division of labor is a popular topic.

    P.S. I already said farewell in my blog but I feel sort of obligated to post because I get hits from others linking to my older posts…

  14. Debbie M Says:

    I don’t look at page views, but my most commented posts are usually about things that I think are extremely boring but turn out also to be about universal themes.

  15. LR Says:

    Your LV versus MMM drew me into your blog a few months ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since, stalking your blog for Parts II, IIII, etc. of that post. I thought I was the only person in the world who reads both of those blogs faithfully, agrees with certain aspects of what each writer espouses, and simply cannot adopt either one of their world views 100%. I think I will forever keep an eye on my grocery spending, use my AC in the hot, humid South, and enjoy certain aspects of manual labor/chores while being able to demand a very respectable salary in my field. LV had a recent post that included a line about what it takes to live “reasonably well.” By this math, the vast majority of Americans do not live well. I went bonkers and spent the next 30 minutes on MMM to calm myself down. The next day when I realized I will never, ever want to spend time fixing broken appliances, I was back on LV. Also, the fact that the two of you have jobs and do this as a hobby makes the blog all the more appealing.

  16. Leigh Says:

    My most commented post ever had 44 comments and was my first year check-in on homeownership and the second most commented post was on me talking about how much fun filing my taxes is. That second one confuses me!

    My most popular post stats wise is my post on Ting. I actually haven’t paid a Ting bill out of pocket since switching to them last February because of the links on my blog! That’s pretty cool.

  17. Revanche Says:

    I never know what post is going to be popular. I’m really confused about the ones that continue to get hits after years (the random ones about Costco GCs, or weatherproofing my boots); they weren’t popular at the time of the posting and don’t get comments.
    The ones that have gotten the most comments that I can recall are the one on the scam calls, getting a new job, and that one on Charity and why to give.
    I once in while write angst-filled posts about family as I work through stuff, they’re moderately well-read I guess. Some random one-time commenter said she read for the Drama; perhaps that’s what she was talking about :) That’s one reason I will remain forever anonymous!


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