Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve pulled up my WordPress dashboard in the middle of the day and nearly fallen out of my chair. The dashboard displays statistics on blog and page visits, traffic sources and comments, among many other things. This surprising experience first happened a few hours after I published a post about fried green tomatoes on my Grabbing the Gusto blog and again last week after I published a post about copyright on this blog.

My dashboard revealed I was getting an unusually high amount of visitors mostly from the home page for WordPress. Why? My posts were showcased in the daily Freshly Pressed feature. Both posts set records for visitors and comments.

The WordPress editor soon emailed me to tell me my post was featured in Freshly Pressed, but by then I already knew. I asked, “why me?” She told me to read a post on the editors’ blog explaining their criteria for selecting ten posts for inclusion each day. In short, she said, “It’s our way of saying we like you. We really like you.” Sally Fields, I now know how you feel!

The WordPress tips are good general blogging guidelines. The editor said the existing popularity of a blog (i.e., its page views) or the time a post was published doesn’t matter.

Write unique timely, yet evergreen, content.

Always focus on the content, not keywords. Create content that’s valuable, interesting and timely. In my winning post, I introduced the copyright issue by discussing the recent Cooks Source magazine incident. The magazine printed a writer’s online article without her permission and received a lot of negative attention from both social and traditional media. It was a teachable moment, and the inspiration for that timely post, since many bloggers don’t understand how copyright works.

My other post? If you grew tomatoes this summer, you probably ended the season with several green tomatoes still hanging on your plants. I didn’t want mine to go to waste so I fried them up and wrote about it. My recipe post hit the blogosphere just when many people were wondering what to do with those surplus green tomatoes.

WordPress recommends avoiding plagiarized content, improperly used content and images (copyright!) or self-promotional content.

blogging guidelines

photo by flickr:beckayork

Use alluring images.

I always include at least one image that I find using the Creative Commons search on Flickr. WordPress says, beating the copyright drum again, to “be sure you properly credit the original source.”

I’m convinced my fried green tomatoes post was picked up because the photo by Becky York was so stunning, particularly the contrast between the kiwi green of the tomato flesh and the toasty tan cornmeal coating. I aim for visually appealing photos that have some connection, even if tenuous, to my content. I spend some time finding these. I want the image to add to the reading experience – either a laugh, an illustration of what I’m writing about, or something that’s just cool to look at.

Start with a compelling headline.

It will either get someone to read that first sentence, or it won’t. Make sure your content delivers what your headline is promising. Avoid profanity and punctuation. WordPress says they like clever headlines. I’m puzzled as to why they chose my posts because neither headline was compelling, although they were straightforward.

Add tags.

WordPress finds the Freshly Pressed posts by browsing the tag pages for common ones, like recipe.  Tags are keywords and will also help your SEO or Google indexing. Don’t forget to use keywords in your file name and alternate text on your photo.

Avoid typos.

That’s a no-brainer. Write your post. Set it aside a while. Go back and read it carefully out loud (whisper if you must), word by word. Read it again for grammar and flow. Use your spell-check, but don’t rely on it or allow it to auto-correct. I’ll never forget an email to a member, Sherm. Well, you can guess how that went.

Now you know the secrets. My blog traffic isn’t at the same record-setting levels of those two days, but it’s definitely trending higher than it was before I was Freshly Pressed.

blogging basics guidelines freshly pressed

After the party's over - flickr photo by Daniel Mohr