The only Internet writer I know really well is…me. Still, I thought I knew about hot topics.
I was wrong.
For nearly six years, I wrote and published articles (called Hubs) at HubPages. At HP, it was pretty clear which of my topics were hot and which topics were not. Of 1,576 published Hubs, no more than 100 or so got steady views, with just three garnering 25 or more views per day on a year in, year out basis. All of those top three were “How To” pieces: How To Build a Survival Cabin on a Shoestring Budget, How To Dig a Hand Dug Well, and How To Find a Job in the North Dakota Oil Patch (due to the Bakken oil field drilling boom).
Expanding that out to the top 25 saw more “How To” pages plus a smattering of Product Reviews…and nothing else.
That’s right. Nothing else whatsoever. Just those two categories. Even expanding one’s overview to include the top 100 Hubs didn’t change that by much. Except for a rare “blip”, a short term burst of viewing activity, most categories of my extremely eclectic writing produced a sizeable batch of nothing. A page of short story fiction seldom reached 100 total views before going dead in the water, received with rave reviews by a small cadre of rabid fans but never reaching a wider audience. During election campaign seasons, a political piece might do a bit better than that, racking up a couple hundred views, but with the exceptions of one local Fire Board article, nothing related to politics had any shelf life worth mentioning.
For the longest time, I rather sadly accepted that as the “search engine norm”. I’ll never be a commercial writer; it just isn’t in me. I write what I write, damn the financial torpedoes and full speed ahead. The creative outlet was important (meaning crucial), but 90% to 95% of my total pages were doomed to languish in the dustbin of nothingness throughout literary eternity.
Or so I thought.
During the early days of October 2013, I finished migrating away from HubPages, flushing 1,150 or so “unimportant” Hubs down the drain and bringing the cream of the crop over here to Ghost32 writer where I had complete creative freedom and control. Today, on the 26th of November–call it 45 days after the move–the post count on this site is climbing steadily back up, one new publication per night. This page will boost the count to 469 published pages, not counting the About Me, Contact, and Index items.
And guess what?
Here, on this site, where Google, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, and the others have free access without the interfering filter or mask that existed at HubPages, the top posts are not limited to just two categories. Oh, it’s not all good. The former top producer, How To Build a Survival Cabin on a Shoestring Budget, took a major hit. For weeks, instead of being right up there near the top on page 1 Google results for “survival cabin” searches, it disappeared completely. It could still be found down around page 6 or 7, but only with a longer search entry, “how to build a survival cabin”.
But that made sense. I’d had to leave more than 800 comments behind when moving the basic article, and hundreds of newer survival cabin pieces had begun competing for placement since my heavy hitter had first been published in January of 2008.
Not only that, but a number of the currently ranking articles borrowed my “shoestring budget” term to use in their own titles.
Good for them. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and yeah, I’m flattered.
Fortunately, other posts quickly got hot in the new location, posts that never saw the light of day over at HubPages. For example, “Why I Quit Stealing Stuff” was sitting there, dead as a doornail, at HP. It had pulled barely 30 views and then just…died. In a burst of inspiration received while moving the page to Ghost32writer, I lengthened the title. It now read, “Why I Quit Stealing Stuff: Karma (aka Spiritual Psychology). Nothing too remarkable happened for the first three or four weeks after the shift was made…but then it took off like a rocket.
My hunch is that the Google bots took a while to realize there was something different about the page, but then the race was on. I spotted it coming up through the top 100 ranks, surging up like the Beatles with a bullet on the 60’s song charts. It blew the doors off every other post along the way, slammed into the number one spot here, and has been pulling an average of 300 or more views per day ever since.
Wow. A spiritual discussion, the one post above all that seemed truly important, doornail dead at HubPages, stellar rock star at Ghost32writer. There, I concluded, is some food for thought.
Just how eclectic is the new ranking of hot topics on this site? Let’s take a look at the above photo and break it down.
1. How To………………….7 posts
2. Critters…………………..7 posts
3. Changing your life………1 post
4. Medical…………………..1 post
5. Science explanations…..2 posts
6. Political…………………..1 post
7. Spiritual (karma)………..1 post (and the hottest topic to date by a huge margin)
8. Product reviews…………3 posts
9. Science fiction…………..1 post
10. Western fiction…………1 post
Ten topic categories in the top 25 posts on the site. Not only that, but fiction topics, long considered anathema over at HubPages, are hanging right in there. The “How To” and “Product Review” categories are definitely continuing to perform well, but no longer to the complete exclusion of other topics.
So, one wonders, what can we learn from this little survey? Clearly, you as an Internet writer (the only sort likely to be reading this) will need to draw your own conclusions. For me, though, it looks like this:
I. Given a good title and decent content, a writer can produce “hot articles” on just about any topic that he or she chooses to tackle.
II. That is, the choice of topic is not a limiting factor if you have your own website. If you write on someone else’s site–HubPages, Squidoo, Examiner, etc.–that may not be the case at all. “Over there” it may be necessary to figure out which topics will draw a steady supply of viewers and which won’t, at least if viewership is your goal. (For some writers, that’s not the primary goal; they just want to say what they want to say. I’m like that to a large degree.)
III. Surprisingly, fiction–often considered a bad luck charm of the vilest sort for Internet writers–can do well on the “open market”, i.e. away from those sites that officially detest the stuff.
Closing note: When I started writing this piece a couple of hours ago, Why I Quit Stealing Stuff stood at 9885 views (see header photo). I just checked, and the count at this moment is 9966, a jump of 81 views in the last 120 minutes or so. Clearly, that post will top 10,000 views tonight, the first Ghost32writer entry to do so. After all, it’s suddenly running at a rate that could add up to 9600 views in a single 24 hour period!
That sort of gigantic increase in viewing activity only happens when a post has suddenly become dramatically visible on Google. To confirm that, we’ll run a search–not for the full title, which no one would be typing into a search box, but a slightly shorter, more realistic version: “Why I Quit Stealing Stuff”. And…here’s the result: #1 on page #1 of 126,000,000 Google results.
Now, that is a hot topic.