December 8, 2015

What Are Our Readers’ “Must Click” Topics?

Fishing lure with text: What Topics Lure Readers?

If we spend any time online or on social media, we’re likely to come across sites that use “click bait” headlines:

“This celebrity walked into a bar, and you’ll never believe what he did next!”
“Find out how you’ve been eating apples wrong your whole life!”
“Wait ’til you see how this puppy reacts to a new baby!”

No doubt sites use click-bait headlines because they work. They generate traffic, which in turn leads to ad-viewing clicks. I mean, I want to see that puppy video…even though I completely made up those headlines. *grin*

Both click-bait sites and marketing professionals have learned what creates a compulsion to click. There’s a reason lists and how-to articles are popular.

The examples above center on curiosity, but another aspect that creates click-worthy ideas is simply the topic itself. Those headlines would be less likely to work if we didn’t care about that celebrity, never ate apples, or hated puppies and babies.

With any content, whether we’re talking about blog posts or books, we’re more likely to appeal to those interested in our topic. And in the other direction, we can learn about our readers by analyzing what they find interesting about our content.

What’s Popular? Learning about Our Readers

Every so often, I check out the list of my most popular blog posts. Like most bloggers, I’m sometimes (often?) surprised by which posts go viral and which don’t. But we can learn about our readers by paying attention.

  • Do posts about a certain topic always get a great response? Maybe we should include more of that topic.
  • Do other topics always have a muted response? Maybe we should scale back those types of posts.
  • Do some topics take a while to gain traction? Maybe a few readers champion that topic, but it takes time to hit critical mass. Can we discover who those champions are?
  • Do some topics have high traffic but low sharing numbers? Maybe that means they’re getting traffic from search engines, and the topic is underrepresented on the internet. Or maybe it means the headline is great, but the content doesn’t deliver.
  • Do some topics have lots of shares but not much traffic? Maybe our headline doesn’t grab attention, but those who click through anyway love the content.
  • Do some topics tend to explode on Facebook? And others go viral on Pinterest? Maybe our readership varies across social platforms.

What Are the Most Popular Topics Here?

Regular readers won’t be surprised, but many of my most popular posts revolve around the worksheets and writing tools I’ve created. A quick look at my Most Popular Posts widget in the sidebar shows 5 out of the 10 posts currently listed fall into this category.

Other popular posts cover writing techniques, both for learning the basics and for advanced tips after the basics. 4 of the remaining posts currently in that popular posts widget fall under this category.

Still other popular posts here touch on controversies or insights in the writing and publishing industry. The last post in the current top ten list of my widget qualifies for this label.

Does “Favorite Topics” Equal “Favorite Blog”?

We might have several types of favorite blogs. Maybe we love the blogger and want to support them. Maybe we love their voice and visiting feels like talking to a friend. Or maybe we love the topics they cover.

Lists like the Write to Done Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest tend to focus on the latter style of favorite blogs. Their picks come from blogs focused on writing topics.

They’ve had to reiterate that focus for their contest this year, as they’ve tweaked the rules. This year, they want nominations not for a blog as a whole, but for specific blog posts only.

I’ve been asked which blog posts from 2015 might be good to nominate (what a lovely question! *smile*), so that got me started down this whole investigation into what topics tend to get the most clicks and shares. I discovered that my most popular new-in-2015 posts could be broken out into those same topics I mentioned above for my site overall.

Want to Nominate a Writing Blog?

If you haven’t stopped by Write to Done’s instructions, here’s how to nominate a post for this year’s contest:

  1. Go to Write to Done’s official nomination post.
  2. Nominate only one blog post from your favorite writing blog. If you nominate more than one blog post, even in different comments, only your first vote will be counted. Nominated posts must have first been published in 2015.
  3. Specify the correct web address of the blog post you’ve nominated.
  4. Give reasons why you believe the blog post you’ve nominated should win this year’s award.

If you’d like to nominate one of my posts (or if you just want to make sure you haven’t missed anything this past year *smile*), here are the top posts (measured by a combination of traffic and shares) from this year to give you ideas:

Posts about Writing Tools and Story Structure

  • Romance Writers: New Scrivener Template!
    This post introduced my new, free template for Scrivener to go along with my Romance Beat Sheet. My Romance Beat Sheet from a few years ago has been downloaded over 25,000 times, so it’s no surprise that the matching Scrivener template is my most popular new post of the year. *smile*
  • Developing Our Story: From Beat Sheet to Scene List
    This post walks through five steps for how to develop a scene list from one of my beat sheets (and includes reasons why we might not want to create one).
  • How to Place Turning Points on a Beat Sheet
    This post explains how to translate the events of our story to any beat sheet by giving examples for how it’s not the event that matters but the effect of the event on the story.
  • Story Climax: Forcing Characters to Move Forward
    This post explores the Climax/Showdown beat and how to make our characters recommit to the story goal after they’ve given up in the face of obstacles.
  • Using Examples to Learn Beat Sheets
    This post points to tons of resources for examples that we can use to see how beats work in a story, and hopefully we’ll learn how they apply to our own stories too.
  • Tangents and Subplots: When Do They Work?
    This post details how to tell when a subplot will help a story or when it would drag down the pace. Exploring an idea isn’t enough to justify including a tangent to our story. It needs more.

Posts about Writing Techniques

  • Character Likability and Subtext
    This post shares tips for using subtext to add layers to our characters and create the reader impression we want, even when they don’t get point-of-view scenes.
  • How to Create Characters Worth Reading
    This post explores elements that go into a compelling character that readers will want to read about—not everything is about likability.
  • 3 1/2 Tips for Fixing an Unlikable Character
    This post gives several options for how to make readers like (or at least sympathize) with characters, even when they do something unlikable.
  • What Is an Alpha Heroine?
    This post shares 18 ways we can make a heroine strong. There’s nothing wrong with Alien‘s Ripley-type characters in the world, but it’s nice to have a broader idea of what makes for a “strong female character.”
  • Balancing Conflict in Romance Stories
    This post covers 3 techniques for balancing the twin problems of too-much or not-enough conflict in a romance story, all while making it obvious that their relationship works.

Posts about the Publishing Process

Posts about Writing and Publishing Issues

  • Subjectivity and Reader Shaming
    This post explores how there are many types of subjectivity and how shaming readers for the books they enjoy is never a good idea.
  • Can We Learn from Reading “Bad” Writing?
    This post examine whether we should read bad writing to learn from it or if we should shut the book because we don’t owe bad writing anything. Our place on the learning curve might determine our answer.

I encourage everyone to nominate their favorite writing blog post (whether from my blog or another blog) by December 24, 2015, as these Top-whatever lists are often the first stops for new writers. So if you have a favorite, you can help other writers benefit from them too. *smile*

What writing topics are “must click” for you? Have you ever nominated a blog for one of the Top-whatever lists? Have you ever explored those lists for new blogs to check out? If you blog, do you keep an eye on your popular posts for insights into your readers? Have you learned anything from that analysis?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins)

Your blog has helped me a lot the past few years, Jami, especially in reminding me I’m really not alone in my struggles as an author. A big part of why is that you put a human face on issues that are too often treated with “Drill Sargent Cavalier” stoicism I’ve seen on other writing/publishing blogs that leave more laid back, less pragmatic folks like me out in the cold.  I may be rigid and prone to black and white thinking (something my autism makes worse) even outside the context of writing, that doesn’t mean I’m an uptight monster about everything, either.  It’s just that when it comes to writing, I get so hyper-aware how important first impressions are, and learning about publishing has made me respect and appreciate books and their authors (and illustrators, cover designers, editors we either hire or at our publisher, etc.) even more than I already did as a lay reader. That also meant I have a rough time compromising, not because I want unattainable “Perfection” but that I don’t want to perceived as a sloppy hack, and in that respect, I think lay readers can take for granted how much it takes to create ONE book from start to finish. Especially since we live in an era where backlist is king, it’s important for us as writers to remember that quantity without quality is a dangerous road to walk.  Now when I look at an author’s oeuvre of titles, I realize on an even deeper level the tenacity behind them, and I respect them far more, both as a reader and…  — Read More »


Jami: I posted but it looks like you are going to get swamped by a picture book writing blog.

Serena Yung
Serena Yung

Ooh pretty interesting looking at which posts are most popular, and distinguishing between those with many shares and those with many clicks.

Gosh, I can’t choose between Tangents and Subplots and all of the character ones, haha.

Evolet Yvaine

You’re welcome. LOL. Do you think you would’ve made that Romantic template for Scrivener eventually, without my suggestion?

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