POPULARITY – Marilyn Armstrong

We bloggers are endlessly in search of answers. All kinds of answers. I am, in particular, forever seeking an answer to the ultimate blogger query.

What makes people follow me? Why are some posts popular while others — which I think are better — are not?

I think I’ve got it part of the answer. Not the whole one. There are just some posts that, for reasons I cannot fathom, become wildly popular and I never figure out why.

The more typical answer became obvious while I was reading someone else’s post titled “Excellent Demo.” It was about a software presentation to a prospective client that goes horribly wrong. The WiFi connection doesn’t work. The hot spot tool doesn’t help.

It’s humiliating and the kind of experience we have all had. It’s painfully universal. I can remember at least two horrible professional moments, both involving cameras. After more than 30 years, they remain cringe-worthy and painful to the touch.

His company got the contract anyhow. He wondered why?

I realized the answer was probably simple. Everyone in that room — at some time or another — had a similar experience. That the demo went badly generated a visceral empathy with the audience. The disaster didn’t sell the product, but it didn’t unsell it, either.

Back on Serendipity, I noticed the two posts that did better than usual were both about the kind of stuff that happens to everyone. What was the common thread? I looked at other popular posts.

I looked at the list of my all-time most popular posts. Not including camera, movie, television, and technology reviews which have an evergreen cycle, all Serendipity’s most popular posts have a universal theme, something to which anyone and everyone can relate.

I don’t write this way on purpose. I’m betting most of you don’t design your style. It comes out of you. It is you. I can control my subject matter, but I have little control over my style. When anyone asks about my “process,” I come up blank. What’s a process?

I don’t have a process. I get an idea. I write about it. It may leap out of a conversation with Garry, a comment I make on someone else’s blog, a book I’m reading, a TV show I’ve watched. A dream I had or what the dogs did. Many are anecdotes … things that happened here and elsewhere. Often, the interesting part of the story isn’t the event, but how it affected me or others.

There are blogs that deal with issues. Some special interest web sites which talk about current events, news, politics, religion, archaeology, history, the power structure, education. Some are all about history or literature. Or talk only about movies. They have their audiences, people who are interested in the things these bloggers write about. I and many of you reading this have special interests too, but mostly, we are interested in life.

That’s what we write about it. Sometimes, it’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Nice and tidy. As often as not, it’s a memory, a string of thoughts wrapped around something that happened. A wish, a wisp, a wistful moment. And strangely, other people enjoy reading it.

Go figure, right?

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

32 thoughts on “POPULARITY – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I really think the whims of search engines have more to do with the popularity (or unpopularity) of certain posts rather than its actual content. Sometimes Google picks up something on your blog and starts directing everyone searching for that your way via a high search result. And usually it only lasts for a certain length of time and the influx of hits goes away as fast as it came. I think the most popular series I ever did on my blog was the comics… almost everyone who followed me loved them. Yet you’ll find those posts all buried way down near the bottom of my all time hits list because there’s nothing in those posts for Google to latch onto. They’re just images. It always irritated me that WordPress tried to beat into new bloggers that you could direct more traffic to your blog by writing about the things that got you the most hits… no, I think it’s mostly just random. At least for those of us who aren’t trying to intentionally (and professionally) manipulate the SEO of our posts…


  2. You’re right. Posts that other bloggers can relate to get the most views. My two most viewed posts this year were about the whole Tygpress situation that affected a lot of WordPress bloggers. It was an issue that many of us could relate to.


  3. I guess that’s the difference between a niche blog and a general blog. When you write on a certain subject you know who is going to read it but everyone is interested in real-life events because we relate them to our own experiences. We like to read about the funny antics of pets, household dramas and so on because we all have them. We laugh, we cry, we get mad, we offer advice or sympathy or share our own thoughts and ideas. We are entertained by a well-written post about everyday life and we know that we’re not the only ones that these things happen to.


  4. great post; I never thought about what makes a post popular, but when I look back on my own posts, I seem to have the same experience that you have had. thanks for putting it into words!


  5. Reading your posts is like sitting across the kitchen table, chatting and sipping coffee. Just friends enjoying time together, and sometimes commiserating with each other. That’s why we all love your blog.


  6. I’ve noticed recently that some of my posts really attract a lot of attention. In (almost) every case it’s something I wrote, off the cuff, which is humorous (usually), but which asks some question other people seem to also ask themselves. Is there a formula? I liked your answer to that one! 🙂


    1. I think that is the “trick” that works for most of us — IF we can write that way and not everyone can. But people like to feel included in posts, so when you write something that everyone feels they are somehow “part of,” I think people like it, read it, and pass it along. It took me a long time to notice it. It’s been one of those long, unanswered questions about blogging. Why do some posts get a lot of attention when what I think are better posts, don’t?

      More entertaining is why does a post that I’m rewriting and posting again get LOTS more attention than it did the first time!


    2. I don’t think it’s a formula. It’s more like a style. The only reason I don’t read more of your stuff is that it tends to be too long and I don’t have the time to read that much material. I’m already ridiculously overloaded with material I ought to read and don’t have the time. Yesterday I deleted almost 300 posts I’d been planning to read and it was obvious it would never happen, so I feel a bit trapped. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just time.


  7. For the most part, I’m with you. I write on occasion about something interesting I’ve come across on the youtube, the news, a tv show, or as I have done lately, Sheryl’s daily word. I seem to be coming up dry on writing and I haven’t broken the cycle for weeks. It may be very simply that I have a thousand ideas running through my head and can’t decide which to write about. In any case, I thoroughly enjoy your blog and read it daily (mostly daily) there are one or two occasions I haven’t. I agree though, that sometimes the ones I don’t think will grab any attention are the most well-received, and the ones I thought would generate some interest, simply don’t.


    1. “Flight of the Phoenix” (’68/Fox/Dir: Robert Aldrich)) James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, George Kennedy, Dan Duryea, Ian Bannen, Ernest Borgnine, Hardy Kruger and Barrie Chase.


    1. I try to do more than post pictures and respond to “challenges” which are often not especially challenging and occasionally, not even interesting. Maybe if you look at them as puzzles. Every now and then, an interesting subject comes up, but as often as not, it’s just a word … so I finally decided that if they don’t interest me, just don’t DO them. That has worked MUCH better.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The thing is, it’s not an approach. This is basically how I talk. If we sat down for a cuppa coffee, this is pretty much how I chat. I used to tell “would be” writers that if you write the way you talk — assuming you know how to talk! — you can’t go wrong.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Like many things in life, I think diversity is the strength of SERENDIPITY. We all have insterests in a variety of things and there are many topics here. I can relate to this one as I just write what pops into my head. Sometimes it takes some research and ends up a totally different piece than I had in mind. I never thought of writing these travel posts and reviews of places and events I have been to until you suggested it. Now it just seems logical. Another review that ended up a research project as well is coming up

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Missy, you have an impressive following because your stuff is topical, balanced and thought-provoking.


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