big-whale

One of the reasons why public writing is so addicting is because there’s a chance somebody important out there might read what you’re writing and highlight it to somebody else important.  Your traffic starts to surge and your site might even crash due to server overload.  If this happens, congratulations!  You have found your Whale Post!

The Whale Post is elusive.  You think you’re writing interesting stuff, but most of the time nobody really cares, as reflected by the lack of comments.  You can have a site with thousands of subscribers with only 10 people motivated enough to leave some thoughts.  How demoralizing is that?  It’s only demoralizing if you think you’ve written something good.

Whale Post definition: A post which contains over 100 comments or 5X your average number of comments and accounts for at least 25% of your monthly traffic.  This is a new term that I’d like to introduce to the online writing community.

Here’s a case study of how the post, “How Much Do The Top Income Earners Make By Percentage” became a Whale Post on Financial Samurai.  If you search the term “top income earners“, you’ll see this post come up at the top of all major search engines.  Because of this, the post has received over 60,000 page views a month for the past couple of months.  Meanwhile, there are more than 700 hundred comments, hundreds of which could be stand alone 800-word articles themselves!

THE BASICS OF CREATING THE WHALE POST

* Provide an opinion.  The difference between blogs and major media publications is that we have the freedom to interject as much personality and opinion in our writing as much as possible.  Blog posts are the exact opposite of articles written by The Economist magazine!  If you are getting no comments and have at least 100 subscribers, you are not writing anything new or interesting.

* Provide an answer to a burning question.  The primary reason why people search online is to provide an answer to their question.  The more difficult or widespread the question, the more someone will search, bringing in more traffic all things being equal.  “How Much Do The Top Income Earners Make By Percentage” started appearing on every single political forum thread around and was debated over and over again.

* Be a good moderator.  Your Whale Post will likely get a lot of folks coming out of nowhere trying to discredit what you write.  On my Whale Post, there are a number of commenters who want to tax the rich 100% of their income for example!  I love this extreme type of thinking, and you want to encourage the crazies to expound on their opinion in a professional manner.  Most of the time they just want attention.  If you address one of their extreme notions, there might by 25 comments that ensue.  If you’re never responding to anybody, well then that’s a crying shame.

* Title your post the way you would search online.  This is very basic, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this.  I recommend combining an SEO friendly title + a spicier sub-title afterward eg How To Write The Whale Post And Harpoon Moby Dick In The Eye.

* Write in a clear and coherent manner.  The basic tip of having a intro/thesis, body to support your thesis, and a conclusion still holds true.  Tell a story as much as possible to prove your point.  Due to rising ADD, write in small paragraphs, and create blocks in your writing to help readers skim.  Use bullet points or lists like you see here as well.  You know when you’ve written something good.  Conversely, you know when your post sucks.  Just be honest with yourself.

* Guest post on a similar topic with pertinent anchor text.  As a blogger, you have the ability to create a movement.  The Yakezie Network helped create a movement to focus on mozRank as a good alternative to Google Pagerank given PR hadn’t updated for over a year at that time.  As a guest poster, you usually get 1-3 link backs to your posts, so you might as well use the pertinent anchor text that links back to your growing Whale Post.  In my case, I’m posting here on mozRank 6.2 Yakezie.com using the anchor text: “how much money do people make“.

* Understand your audience’s power.  What’s better?  Writing on a site with 10,000 subscribers who have very little presence on the web?  Or, writing on a site with 500 subscribers, all of whom have the best blogs in their niche with thousands of readers of their own?  I choose the latter every single time as it’s not the quantity of readers that counts, it’s the importance of the reader.

* Anticipate the future.  During the spring of 2011, I surmised social unrest will return given the sluggish labor market, stories of CEOs still making multi-millions despite company underperformance, stock markets swooning, Europe imploding, and President Obama’s continuing to practice class warfare instead of bringing people together.  I figured a lot of people would start wondering what other people make.  And then the 99% movement took off, and then the 53% movement to counter the 99% movement.  Of course I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen in the future.  It was just a hunch.

* Let your post breathe.  If you publish a well-written post, and then publish another one the very next day, you aren’t giving readers a chance to participate in the conversation or share.  Sure, the post is just one below the newly highlighted one, but you all know that commenting and sharing activity drops when the post drops out of the featured spot.  For those posts you really are proud of, give it at least two days in the featured section if not more, depending on the amount of your traffic.  When the post starts gaining traction down the road, you can re-sticky the post to the first page.

CONCLUSION

You can go ahead and spend your time on Google’s Keyword Toolbar figuring out which keywords are highly searched and come up with a game plan for you to rank better.  You can install plug-ins and SEO software to help optimize your posts.  But, if you are like me, and all you want to do is write, and hate all this technical stuff, then do little of that and just follow the steps above.

Spending a minute thinking up a title and using your free All-In-One SEO plug-in is more than enough time to prepare your post.  The Whale Post is an elusive being and it won’t last forever.  I’ve written over 450 posts, but only three have ever become Whale Posts (around 15 have come close, but no go).  Despite it all, that’s what makes writing so much fun.  So long as you put opinion into your writing, and not simply rehash the morning news, you’ll gain a lot of traction.  You’ll never know when you’ll catch that Whale Post, but when you do, you’ll love it!

Writers, what are some of the tips you have for creating that Whale Post?  How many Whale Posts have you had, if any before?

What’s the most amount of comments you’ve had before on a post?  Why do you think it happened?

How important do you think good writing is?  Why don’t we just write better?

Updated: 7/14/14. Google continues to favor Whale Posts and niche sites are continuously getting discounted in search.

Best,

Sam