Going Viral on WordPress.com: 26 Million Views and Counting — Seth’s Story

On November 2, 2013, Seth Smith hit publish on an article entitled Marriage Isn’t For You. Within a few hours, his self-hosted WordPress site couldn’t handle the tens of thousands of visitors reading the post. He moved his article and then his entire site over to WordPress.com, where the WordPress.com team did some additional tweaks to keep his site up and ready for the ten million visitors who would end up visiting his site in a single day. The article has since received 26 million total views. We talked to Seth about going viral on WordPress.com.

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Q: Did you anticipate that your post would get that many readers?

A: Not at all! In my wildest dreams I thought that maybe, just maybe, that post would have received 3,000 to 5,000 views. To me, that would have been wonderful. So the fact that it’s had over 26 million views has been quite the shock!

Q: How did you first notice that it was getting attention?

A: Well, I noticed something was up when my brother-in-law posted it on Facebook. I thought to myself: Now that’s odd. I only published it a couple of hours ago and I haven’t even tried to promote it. Why is my brother-in-law posting it? Then I looked at the stats and started to see all of the traffic.

Q: Was there a single source of all the traffic?

Most of my traffic has come through Facebook — from users posting it on their profiles and telling their friends to read it. I’d like to apologize to all of the people that had to see my ugly mug so many times in their newsfeed. I can see that getting really annoying really fast.

Q: Would you have written the post any differently if you had known how many people would read it?

You know, I’m not sure. Most of the people that got offended by the article (or those who tried to twist it into a “controversial” piece), were those who dug too deeply and missed the mark. They mined for ulterior motives and “hidden” political or social statements. I can assure everyone that I had no hidden agenda. It was an article about a pivotal moment in my life, nothing more.

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Q: Can you describe what happened when your site crashed and how you fixed it?

I originally published it on ForwardWalking.com, a self-hosted site. We didn’t have enough capacity for traffic beyond ten thousand hits, let alone a million! Since we couldn’t figure things out fast enough, I just posted the article on my website and had my friends redirect the link from FowardWalking to there. WordPress took care of the rest.

Q: Were there problems once you moved to WordPress.com hosting?

I had ZERO problems with WordPress.com. In fact, the people at WordPress.com were some of the most helpful and encouraging people during this whole process. They were among the first people to reach out to me and would immediately answer all of my questions and concerns. They were even so helpful as to quickly correct things that were slowing down my website as it was getting all of the traffic. The team even sent me a WordPress swag package!

Q: How did you end up publishing on Huffington Post? Was that a good idea?

I was contacted by Huffington Post about 24 hours after the article had been published on WordPress. They offered to reprint the article on their site and make me a contributor. I was flattered and humbled by the opportunity to become a contributor for Huffington Post and immediately said yes. It’s been a great experience and I really think it helped increase traffic to the original article.

Q: You’re a part of the WordAds program (exclusive ad program for WordPress.com sites) — how easy was it to set up? Were you happy with the results?

A: The WordPress.com WordAds team set it up for me in a few minutes so it was really easy, and I was really pleased to make some additional money by just doing something I already love — publishing my content!

Visit Seth’s site and read Marriage Isn’t For You for yourself!


Posted by WordPress Guru