Must read tips for writing a post that attracts 15,000 readers

My most-visited post of the year had more than 15,000 readers and 100 comments. Here are some lessons learned:

[OK, regular readers of this blog, I am writing this mostly off-topic post in hopes of winning a blog post writing contest — but my ulterior motive is to bring in some new readers, who might make an insightful comment that changes your life, so bear with me!]

1. Put “must read” in the headline — it pulled you into this post, didn’t it? More seriously, the point is to be clear and blunt (and if you say, “must read” it better be a must read, else no one will come back). The full post headline was “Must read from Hansen: Stop the madness about the tiny revision in NASA’s temperature data!” Long accurate headlines are more compelling than short cryptic ones. I learned this tip from my Dad, who was a newspaper editor for 30 years.

2. Offer a strong, informed opinion on a topical subject. Obvious, I know, but important to mention nonetheless. The blogosphere was just erupting over NASA’s data revision (see, for instance, these posts by Realclimate and Planet Gore). I was able to weigh in with a position supported by the nation’s top climate scientist.

3. Use a compelling graphic your readers haven’t seen. Hansen had two terrific figures showing how insignificant the data revision really was — especially to global temperatures (see below). But he put them in PDF form so they weren’t very accessible. It took me a while to figure out how, but I cut and paste them into Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo, turned them into JPEGs, and reposted them. A number of other websites, like ThinkProgress, could then easily copy them and write their own posts, usually linking back here.

The figure underscores the main message of the post — in Hansen’s words, “the corrected and uncorrected curves are indistinguishable”:


The end result was that the post was picked up by Slashdot and also attracted some Stumbleupon traffic, which led to all the readers and comments. And not only was this the most comments I’ve ever received, but they were of very high quality, which no doubt brought some return traffic.

If anyone has more reasons why this post was successful, I’d love to hear them. The reason I am visiting sites like Daily Blog Tips is to put out the best blog I can.

If you are new to this blog and want a good introduction to it, try “The Best Posts of 2006.”

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