The Cold, Hard Truth About Receiving 16,937 New Visitors In One Day (or Is Viral Traffic Worth It?)
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary.
Posted by Ryan Neal
The Cold, Hard Truth About Receiving 16,937 New Visitors In One Day (or Is Viral Traffic Worth It?)
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal

If you're not interested in the behind-the-scenes of what happens if one of your blog posts goes viral then please skip this article. If you have a blog, or are just interested in this sort of thing, this is for you.

My last article, 21 Reasons To Quit Your Day Job And Travel The World, hit really big on StumbleUpon:

It's the first time this has happened on such a large scale to one of my articles and the funny thing is I almost didn't post that article.

I woke up Monday here in Chiang Mai and didn't realize it was Monday. Since I posted the first Sweet Shit Saturday article on Saturday my blog posting internal clock was a bit off.

I went about my day and got back to my apartment around 3pm. That's 4am EST in the US. I post my articles around 7am EST on posting day. (There's a reason for this which I'll discuss another day.)

I turned on my computer to do some writing and immediately remembered: "It's Monday, I need to post an article!" While it's really no big deal to me if I miss the 7am EST deadline I do like to stick to it to keep that habit going (<-- must read article).

I opened up my Wordpress Drafts (at any given time I have ~20 draft articles in some stage of completion) and picked a draft called 27 Reasons To Quit Your Day Job, which stood out to me.

The problem was this draft was only 60 words and had only 3 reasons. Some of my other drafts were very near completion, so I had some work to do by choosing this one. Over the next few hours I worked on the article, edited it, and finally decided to make it 21 Reasons instead of 27.

Server Crippling Traffic?

3 hours after posting someone with a big StumbleUpon following Thumbed Up (StumbleUpon lingo) my article and traffic started going nuts. ~2k views in 20 minutes. Thankfully, even though I use a shared server on, my site didn't go down. (Although it did slow down and the database crapped out for a minute). I have some safeguards in place to handle huge spikes in traffic which I will write about another time.

Tangent: When I first launched this blog I had some problems with Bluehost. At the time I was receiving less than 100 visitors/day. As my traffic increased, their reliability increased. So if you're looking for a Web host, Bluehost is a good (and very low cost) option.

At about 3,300 views the SU traffic slowed down considerably. I thought to myself, "hmm, well, that was cool!" Then I asked myself "hmm, I wonder if I can keep it going?"

How To Keep The Traffic Going?

I e-mailed some friends, explained what was going on and asked them to Thumb Up the article. As far as I know only 1 person did the Thumbs Up, so I hardly gamed the system. (I'm talking to you StumbleUpon police!)

Then I installed the WP Greetbox Plugin, which greets visitors with a message based on how they come to your site. So new StumbleUpon visitors were greeted with a message similar to: "Greetings fellow Stumbler! If you like this article please give it a Thumbs Up and don't forget to subscribe to the RSS feed."

By this time it was late here in Chiang Mai so I went to sleep.

When I woke up the stats more than quadrupled. More people I don't know were doing the Thumbs Up. According to StumbleUpon itself the article received 14k views that day. But my own internal stats tell me StumbleUpon sent 16,937 unique visitors. I'm not sure why there's the huge disconnect.

The Surprising Truth About Viral Traffic

I always thought traffic from social sites would be worthless. You know, stick around for 5 seconds and move on. I was dead wrong.

As you can see StumbleUpon visitors stayed for an average of 2 minutes 21 seconds. That rocks! That means that StumbleUpon visitors actually read the article or maybe checked out some other stuff on my site.

In addition to that my RSS subscribers increased by 136, which is about 3-4 times any normal day, so I would attribute ~100 RSS subscribers to StumbleUpon. (Thank you if you found this site on StumbleUpon!)

How To Guarantee Viral Visitors

I'm not sure you can. To be honest, I've had tons of articles I thought would do better on StumbleUpon or Digg than 21 Reasons To Quit Your Day Job, but none of them have done much of anything as far as viral traffic goes.

My recommendation is to focus on writing consistently high quality content and don't worry about viral visitors at all. If they come, it's a nice bonus. That said, there are things you can actively do that will guarantee you increase traffic to your blog.

How To Guarantee A Consistent Stream Of New Visitors To Your Blog

The big one is guest posting and another one is gift giving. I'll write about giving gifts another time. It's something I stumbled onto without even realizing I was doing it. It has nothing to do with buying anybody anything. :)

Guest posting is not easy. Even for me. I've had a nice long streak of guest post after guest post being rejected (ignored would be the proper term). Don't worry, I have thick skin, I'll be fine. ;)

Wrap Up

1) Viral visitors from StumbleUpon are actually awesome! 2) Don't focus on trying to get visitors from social networking sites, because you'll lose track of what's really important: your current audience/readership. 3) To guarantee new visitors write an article for somebody else's Web site and submit it as a guest post. You're much more likely to get traffic this way than via social networking sites. 4) Give gifts. (Any guesses to what I mean by this? Comment below...)