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Success on the Internet: Article & Guide Popularity

Posted by David, 14 May 2012 · 5,101 views

As the site ages and becomes more established, trends in user activity begin to become more apparent. Certain content can be highlighted as exceptional or below par based on hits and user involvement. So far, 11 of the guides submitted by our community have been published to the beta version of our main page.

The software that runs our guide and article database, IP. Content, has basic stat tracking system built into it. This feature can be used to observe the number of hits the guides have gotten from those searching for related answers (often from search engines such as Google, Bing, etc.).

To date, this is what our hits have looked like (sorted by date published from newest to oldest)...

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Article hits not counting forum/thread views.


It's important to note these "hit" statistics don't account for views that happen on a thread-level, and many of the guides listed above have hundreds, if not thousands of views on their forum thread. With that said, a few things stand out and can be inferred from the number of hits each article has received. For one, this all-important number certainly does not always have a strong correlation with age. The others? Well...

1. Competition from other sites directly impacts your success.
  • One of the oldest guides, How to Cure/Become a Vampire in Skyrim, has relatively few hits despite being relatively in-depth and involving a commonly requested subject. Low results from such an article can likely be attributed to a high level of competition from competing sites and related search queries. Searching for an answer such as, "How to Cure Vampirism in Skyrim" yields thousands of results from long-established sites such as UESP, IGN, Gamespot, Yahoo Answers, and others.
2. Unique content is king.
  • Blexun's Boosting Armor, Weapon, and Item Stats has achieved success solely due to the nature of the topic. There isn't much out there on boosting item materials that's as in-depth as this guide, and this makes up for other weak areas. Namely, I did a horrifically poor job of naming the article and providing good meta descriptions, which probably hindered its search engine growth. My bad, Blex.
2. Content with well thought-out or unique names can capture its own niche of search traffic, despite superior(?) competition from more established sites.
  • Marriable Characters in Skyrim, features content that is not unique, nor is it limited to a small number of sites. This particular guide features a table filled with information that's widely available on hundreds of other sites throughout the internet. However, the unique title of the guide captures a common Google search query that many other more established sites didn't use. As a result, it receives an oddly high number of hits.
3. Search engines matter. A lot.
  • Our two newest guides, Enchantment Effects and Alchemy Ingredients by Unknown ProbLem have the fewest number of hits, as expected (they're the newest). New content can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to be indexed by search engines, and as a result will initially have slow growth. In the first few days of publication, neither of these guides eclipsed 30 inbound views. However, as the pages have begun to be indexed by search engines, the number of inbound visitors to these two pages has increased quickly.
  • Blexun's guide, Dragon Priest Mask Locations, was for a long time the most popular article on this site as far as search engine traffic is concerned. The guide had unique phrases that were captured by Google thanks to its "different" format. Competing guides on other sites often used nothing more than brief descriptions and a map.
4. The best articles and guides have content that users will return for.
  • My last guide, The Fastest Ways to Level in Skyrim, features neither an easily searchable name, nor something that isn't offered elsewhere. However, the sheer size and amount of content the guide contains makes it highly unlikely that any user will sit and read everything in one sitting, much less absorb all of the information. People often find the guide by searching for one specific skill, read the related section, and then leave. If they believe the information they saw was good, they will return for more later either by bookmarking the page or searching for it next time specifically. This particular article has relatively little "search juice," and instead gets most of its traffic from returning visitors.
5. Building links on related sites will improve the number of hits a guide receives both directly through in-bound traffic, and indirectly through an improved search ranking on search engines.
  • One of our most popular guides, Master Conjuration, Smithing, and Enchanting is the beneficiary of a rather prolific attempt by me to build a following from other sites. I posted numerous links to it on other Skyrim forums, as well as dozens on questions related to the subject on Yahoo Answers. As a result, the guide had a lot of traffic despite having a horribly generic name, poorly organized (although substantial) content, and a low search engine ranking.
6. Timing matters! Write your guides when the subject is popular.
  • The How to Get Married in Skyrim guide explored a pretty self-explanatory subject. Not many people legitimately had problems, nor needed help, with marriage in Skyrim. However, due to the popularity of the game the guide still had very high returns initially. Though the hits have waned with the popularity of Skyrim, it was still well worth it to write.

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"Skyrim" as a trending search query on Google.


The above graph features Google searches involving the term "Skyrim." As you can see, there's clearly a peak time where content related to that search query is going to be more popular. Timing your articles to match up with peaks in the popularity of an issue is one of the most important steps you can take. You want your articles to be indexed in search engines before there's a surge in traffic; being a day late and a dollar short will yield little in terms of results, even if the quality is there in other areas.

Summary
  • Choose a unique or controversial subject.
  • Title your article what you feel you would do a Google search for in-order to find such content.
  • Build your article with unique content that people won't be able to find elsewhere.
  • You can't have success with articles if you don't write articles!





Informative, but I was hoping for another funny search thing again.
Yeah, but I wanted to do an update so people who submitted guides can see how well they're doing alongside some explanation.

There are a few new funny searches, but honestly it's getting harder to write 1,000+ words about different iterations of the word boob.
I really liked this one. They don't all have to be funny, just entertaining/interesting.

So if I write a guide on Skyrim Abortions, is it sure to get a lot of hits?

I really liked this one. They don't all have to be funny, just entertaining/interesting.
So if I write a guide on Skyrim Abortions, is it sure to get a lot of hits?


I'm glad someone appreciated it, I was getting nervous when it was up for 4 hours without a single comment.

Also, yeah, you're definitely on the right track with Skyrim abortions. I suggested the following example to Unknown already, but a Skyrim example would be writing an article that sets Ulfric up to be a Thalmor spy based on numerous in-game things that could be interpreted different ways. If someone wanted to do that a decent amount of the information is already in that one thread from a few weeks back.

Did any of the article stats above surprise you?
Yeah I remember that topic. I might try that guide out, except I'll just use the information I wrote down to argue against it.

I guess if anything, I suspected my Words of Power guide to have more hits, but after reading your blog, I guess there are lots of other sites on that. I also really need to clean that guide up, which I vow to do one day.

By the way, what does com. mean?
Com. is just the number of comments.

The Words of Power guide does have a lot of competition, but it's been coming into its own recently. Some things take longer to move up search rankings than others (this could be due to competition as well). It's also relatively new, so it's likely just now coming into its prime and the growth should be faster from here on out. A few of the guides (last time I checked I think the WoP guide was one) also have the forum topic URL ranked higher in search engines than the one that links to the actual guide page, so that also has a bit to do with it.

One thing I didn't add is that my first three guides (the ones before the Marriable characters table) all had pretty significant exposure on Yahoo Answers when I was keeping up with that, so it isn't really fair to compare them with the others (which are mainly search engine traffic).
I actually enjoyed reading this, and I did actually read the entire Leveling guide, and I agree, that just basically everything is incredibly detailed and is a small enigma to make unique things that places like IGN and friends haven't already published.
Is their anyway to see the most viewed topic that isn't a guide?
TRR's Joining topic has 3k right now, and on the old site was like 15k+. I'm 99% sure that that Skyrim Water topic is leading right now with over 5k+ views, which was actually the topic of the blog I literally just finished.
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