Link Bait?

Unintentional, perhaps, but very effective.

I’m getting ready to upgrade my blog-based Web sites to WordPress 2.1 from WordPress 2.0.4. It’s a big task for some sites and the biggest hurdle I have to jump is the plugin compatibility hurdle. This site and rely on plugins for many of their features. If a plugin were to unexpectedly stop working, the sites could be brought down by PHP errors. This is not something I want to deal with, so I started thinking about the plugin situation. And, as I often do when I’m thinking of something that might benefit other people, I wrote an article about it and published it here.

Does that make the article “linkbait”? I suppose it does. But I’m willing to accept that label if it’s used in the context of “simply compelling content.”

It took me about an hour to write the article. (Those of you who know me and my work know that I can produce original material at often alarming rates.) It was all fresh, out-of-my-brain stuff, inspired by the WordPress upgrade instructions and compatible plugins list, which I linked to in the article. It was better organized that a lot of the posts here — especially the long, rambling ones about flying and the things that go on in my life — and it included headings and lists to make it easier to read.

It hit the site at 7:24 AM MST. Within two hours, it had been linked to by Weblog Tools Collection (thanks!) and the article with the link just happened to appear in the Dashboard for all WordPress users. That’s when all hell broke loose. Visitors swarmed over. The article collected 10 comments and pingbacks in a matter of hours. The pingbacks, in several languages, brought even more visitors. At one point, I had 29 visitors (including bots) online and 19 of them were reading that one article.

Now that might not seem like a big deal to many of you, but it’s a huge deal here. My daily visitor count, which averages about 250 per day, jumped to almost 900. And my page hit count soared to over 1250 from a daily average of 400-500. Whew! And the trend is carrying over to today; at 8 AM, I’ve already reached my daily average counts.

What’s So Special about This Article?

So the question remains: why has this one article been such a boon to the site?

In looking at the article and how it differs from other site content, I’ve come up with the following:

  • The article was 95% original. I based it on my own experience and knowledge rather than material I’d found elsewhere. This was new content — not something I read and regurgitated here. And given the 1/9/90 rule discussed earlier today, only 1% of what’s in blogs is original content.
  • The article was timely. WordPress 2.1 had been out for less than 3 days when I wrote it. (Oddly enough, two commenters said they wished I’d written the article sooner. Sadly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to work with software under development these days, especially when that software is based on a computer language I hardly know.)
  • The article provided valuable information. Anyone who jumps blindly into a major WordPress upgrade deserves all the grief he gets. To me (and apparently others), the plugin issue is serious business. My article explained why it was serious and listed things that should be done for a less troublesome upgrade.
  • The article was well organized and well written. Sure, it’s easy for me to say — I wrote it. But I can look at all of my work objectively and I can say without a doubt that among my blog posts, this article was one of my better efforts. In fact, if this post wasn’t so time-sensitive, I would have submitted it to, which pays me to write for them. (If I had, however, it would not have reached the Web for at least a month. So yes, I gave up a few hundred bucks, but WordPress users need this information now and I didn’t want them to wait.)
  • The article was well presented. I’m talking here about readability, which I discussed in another blog post earlier this month. This post included headings and lists, which help break text into bite sized pieces and make it more scannable.

It’s gratifying that the article was found by a “WordPress authority” who found it worthy to link to. I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t get the support of the folks who linked to it. They brought visitors to the article, pumping up my daily numbers accordingly.

Is it Linkbait?

Does that make the article “linkbait“? I suppose it does. But I’m willing to accept that label if it’s used in the context of “simply compelling content.” After all, I didn’t write it with the goal of getting lots of links and readers. I wrote it because it was on my mind, is a topic my readers claim they’re interested in (33% of those who took the poll said they’re interested in blogging), and is related to a topic I co-authored a book about. The article was forming in my brain — why would I keep it there if others might find it useful?

That said, I’m not one bit sorry that it has attracted all the attention it has. It’s given me a lot to think about — and more to write about here.

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