An Unlikely First Post: Notes From How To Build A High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself

Don’t write about what your readers tell you to write about. Write about what you’re passionate about. – Mark Cuban

I’ve written over 30,000 words of Ridiculously Extraordinary content thus far and hadn’t planned on launching with a post about Tim Ferriss or anybody else. I had planned on launching with my own content, of course.

Why Post “Rehashed” Content?

I felt compelled to post these notes since I learned a lot from Tim’s presentation that will help launch the Ridiculously Extraordinary brand.

Keep in mind these notes aren’t necessarily comprehensive. While I did take notes regarding most of the things I already knew about (to reiterate them to myself) I may have missed some things that will benefit you.

On the whole, there are a lot of useful nuggets of info synthesized from a 50 minute viewing to a 5 minute read.

With all that out of the way, following are my notes on Tim Ferriss’s How To Build A High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself presentation from WordCamp.

The full 50 minute presentation is available at the end of my notes.

(Timestamps on the left are approximate.)

3:20 – Use blogging for access to people / resources. Not necessarily income.

3:45 – “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain

6:15 – Measure the things that matter. You can spend all day testing and tracking every little thing on your blog but spend most or all of your time tracking what will benefit you the most. This has to be in line with your own goals for your blog.

7:00Best times to post to the blog: 10 am EST and 6 PM EST. (In the video Tim says 7 am PST and 6 PM EST.)

Best days to post: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

8:20 – Changing Category to Topic improved click activity / average page views per visit.

9:20 – Current Hits on his upper right sidebar changes every 30 days. If you put all the focus on All Time Hits then it’s self perpetuating. They will always get clicked, and always have more visitors. Top posts in past 30 days gives you a better shot at spreading the page view love.

10:00 – Removed Twitter link from upper right hand because working hard to get a visitor and then sending them away from your blog isn’t a good idea.

10:40 – 7 Reasons To Subscribe (to RSS) link is on upper right. Tim says RSS subscribers are fickle and not optimal if your blog’s goal is advertising revenue.

11:20 – RSS subscriptions are becoming less relevant with microblogging tools like Twitter. (This confused me a little because on the one hand he’s promoting RSS over Twitter, and on the other he’s saying Twitter is better than RSS. Disclosure: Tim is a Twitter investor.)

12:00 – Clicks on Top Nav: 1) Gear (page is empty, he put it there as a test) 2) Resources and 3) Forum Note: Tim tracks with CrazyEgg.com for heatmaps; Google Analytics and WordPress Stats also

12:15 – The date is missing from the top of old posts. Posts on home page have the date at the top, but single post pages have date at the bottom. Dramatically improved visitor’s time on site.

13:00 – Test against convention. In other words, if everybody else is doing something one way, test doing it a completely different way and see what happens. Completely useless if you’re not using stats programs to actually track.

14:33 – How I Research: Twitter, Slinkset, Evernote

15:40 – Twitter for polling and quick research. That research is then shared for the benefit of followers. Also uses Twitter as a sort of personal diary.

16:00 – Evernote is used for saving thoughts, ideas, drafts. You can copy text / images to Evernote.

17:00 – How I Write

17:40 – Tucker Max (from TuckerMax.com): “Important thing is not being a good writer, but having a voice.” Tim: communicate your personality to the written word. This probably won’t happen right away and Tim says his writing has gone through a few phases before finally settling into his real personality.

18:16 – Passion beats polling and focus groups. Mark Cuban (blogmaverick.com, owner of Dallas Mavs): “Don’t write about what your readers tell you to write about. Write about what you’re passionate about.” Tim says that when he’s followed what people have wanted him to write about the results were always subpar.

19:00 – Po Bronson (author): “When you’re blocked write about what makes you angry.” Tim: “Caveat: don’t attack other people.” Attack the problem, not the person.

19:40 – Biorhythms: measure output. Tim does his best writing from 1 am – 5 am. Collects data during the day and writes at night.

20:30 – For important posts edit by hand. Type, print, edit. Remove 10-20% of post with each revision.

20:45 – Ignore SEO on 1st draft because it stifles writing quality/flow. Then edit by looking up synonyms in Google Keyword Tool. Sort by average monthly volume and use the highest traffic words. Use these words where relevant in your posts.

22:15 – Video/Photos: Time spent does not equal impact. Some of his videos that he spent lots of time on have gotten marginally less traffic than quick spur of the moment videos. His examples: Chocolate tasting vs Egg peeling vids. Egg peeling has ~2.5 million views, his biggest hit and least amount of time spent.

23:00 – No video only posts. Have value added text below the video. Text spreads quickly and sticks around (gets indexed).

23:50 – StumbleUpon: cheapest source of traffic and works well. (I feel like Tim is an investor in SU but he didn’t mention anything about that so I’m probably off base. That said, I’ve heard lots of people say nothing but good things about SU traffic.)

24:30 – Don’t chase news. Write evergreen topics that will stand the test of time.

24:50 – Where to get good photos. Flickr > advanced search > select creative commons > sort by most interesting

25:05 – Comments: The Living Room Method

26:15 – Your blog is like your house/living room. Keep it clean. Poor etiquette? You’re out. Tim utilized a zero-tolerance policy against negativity and attacks.

26:45 – Save good blog comments in Evernote. ~10% of comments should be good enough for future posts in their own right.

27:07 – Comment rules at top (end of post, before comments) and bottom (after comments) to encourage quality comments. Also to discourage using keywords and URLs in posts which looks like spam and will get deleted.

30:08 – Thing Big But Play Often. Take Fun Seriously!

30:40 – Listen to people who’ve done it. That is, if you want a successful blog take advice from people who have successful blogs.

Q&A section of presentation

34:52 – How Tim Manages Twitter

- Doesn’t use desktop app

- 10-15 minutes on @replies

- Follows a minimum of people. Currently ~140.

- Uses Greasemonkey script to view multiple pages at the same time. i.e. no need to click at the bottom of twitter to get more posts.

- Open each link in a new window because when you click home Twitter takes you back to the top of the home.

- Go into Twitter with a specific purpose.

- If you’re wasting time but you’re having fun you’re not wasting time. That doesn’t mean you’re being productive though.

39:00 – Brand blog in broad terms so you can write about multiple topics. Tim’s blog isn’t just about the Four Hour Workweek even though that’s the domain. He branded it as Experiments in Lifestyle Design.

Watch the full presentation:

Check out Tim’s blog post about this presentation here.

What Did I Miss?

I think I got all the good stuff out of the presentation above, but if I missed anything let me know.

And if you’ve built a high traffic blog of your own has Tim missed anything you feel is important?

Photo Credit

{ 11 comments }

Paula

Hi Karol,
This is an awesome example of committment to quality content for your readers –really appreciate it as a newbie — have learned a lot from this article and will refer back often as I reach different stages in the development of my parenting blog.
One comment and one question:
Totally agree with editing the printed version…surprisingly totally different perspective on what’s written if holding a copy in your hands.
Q: I noticed you still have Tw in your top right corner — removing it not right for you? Just curious!

Karol

Hi Paula,

Thanks for commenting on my first post. hehe (First comment on my first post, only 6 months after posting it!)

Great to know the article is useful to you.

As far as your question: I don’t know what Tw in the top right corner means.

Thanks again!
Karol

Allie

Hi Karol,

I really enjoy your blog, and your packing list has been immensely helpful in planning for our upcoming 3-month trip to SE Asia. I was wondering if you had any tips on setting up a travel blog – I think you’re using wordpress? I want to set it up on our own domain, versus a “.typepad” or the like. Any recommendations for a blogger newbie?

Karol

Thank you Allie.

It’s actually fairly straightforward setting up a wordpress blog.

Find hosting (I use BlueHost.com) that has 1 click install for Wordpress and you’re almost there. I think BlueHost will also give you a free domain name, but I’m not sure about that. If not, it’s about $10/year for a .com. There are tons of tutorials out there if you just search “how to set up a wordpress blog” or other similar keywords.

I know that sounds basic, but it really isn’t difficult. Just take it 1 step at a time. :)

Karol

usman

Awesome post buddy. You’re definitely going to be a blogger-saver (lifesaver in the blogosphere). I like it that you are helping out the newbies. I will be watching the video tomorrow morning. Time to hit the sac.

Glenn Dixon

Now that was a VERY interesting video! I copied and pasted your notes into a text document and went through them as Tim spoke. I added very few things! You were quite comprehensive.

Karol

Whoa, you’re going back into the archives! :) Thanks Glenn. Yeah, Tim rules.

Nick D

I’ve been scouring the “internets” (As W would say) for a years now sucking up whatever info I can on any subject relating to getting out of the old 9 to 5. I wanted to comment on this, your first post, just to say how much I enjoyed the form. In a weird way, it reminded me of reading Dracula and it’s journal format. (My mind just goes sometimes, sorry) I knew if I kept reading your posts, I’d find Tim Ferriss in here some place. TFHWW is a great book and an awesome blog.

Just wanted to let you know, I’m here to stay. I’ve grown to love reading both books and blogs. Especially those who practice what they preach and seem genuine in their effort to help others. I like your tone and straightforward approach. Keep up the good work.

Karol

Thank you Nick! It means a lot that you’d take the time to write that out. :)

Also, stay tuned tomorrow … I actually mention this first post. :)

Todd Caraway

Another great post Karol! Loved it and got a lot of information from Tim. The more I read your’s (and some other’s) blogs, the more I want to make some much needed changes in my life…soon. I’m slowly trying to figure out ways of ways I can make my life less stressful, more minimalist and hopefully travel more. I’ll keep you updated and I’m sure I will ask some questions. Keep it up buddy!
And like @Nick D stated, I’m here to stay too. :)

Karol

:) Thank you Todd!

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