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.
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.
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!
Dec 25th at 4:50 pm
Amazing how the last time I opened WordPress, I read that post, and now for the first time in months, I’ve logged on again and found this same article! It truly deserved all those views. In the almost two months since I read it, the message has stuck with me. Not only was it well written, it was incredibly memorable.
Dec 25th at 10:32 pm
A great lesson indeed. 26 million views? That’s an inspiration for us new in the game. Well done!
Dec 27th at 3:00 am
I read Seth’s post the first time it was posted on facebook. At first, I almost did not read it because of the subject line, thinking it was another person hacking the idea of marriage, to death. On second thoughts, I was of the opinion that it might be talking about those having problems getting along in marriage. So, the title made me curious enough to make me want to read. I almost skipped the introduction, but because I am a writer, I was polite enough to be patient to read it until the end. When I was done, I like and shared it with my friends on facebook. The whole article had a beautiful and touching twist, the message was clear and memorable, I have not read it since then, but I remember that Seth’s dad told him that marriage is not for you but for the other person, your spouse, the person you are married to.Thank you for sharing it.
Dec 27th at 4:43 pm
This is beautiful and all the more a real help to many , who have doubt with marriage . Kudos
Dec 29th at 12:42 am
Cool story! Glad that Seth got all that traffic, and fascinating that most of it came from Facebook. Word of mouth is powerful.
Dec 29th at 5:03 pm
I loved the article too. That’s amazing how popular it became. Someone even wrote a female perspective response which was really good- I don’t think it got the same level of attention though!
Dec 30th at 3:03 pm
That is cool! It is wonderful to be able to be yourself and share life with others!
Dec 30th at 8:42 pm
Thats is amazing! I shared his articles with so many friends and family. One of my friends almost fought me cos she though i was advising her not to get married by just reading the title. (she gets married in February.) Then I told her to calm down and read the article… she did and thanked me later..lol good article. made a lot of sense!
Dec 31st at 12:12 am
Excellent article, I thought it was tastefully written and is something that serves the community going viral. Your Muslim Neighbor, I could agree if it had been from a female, I do not think it would have received the same attention. However, it was from a mans perspective and did the job any way. Kudos!
Dec 31st at 12:23 am
Wow. Amazing story. Re blogged on our site.
Dec 31st at 3:07 am
Nicely written, heartfelt and heart touching!
Dec 31st at 3:48 pm
Seth’s success shows the power of an attention-getting headline. But it also shows that the great headline must be followed up with good content. He had both, and I congratulate him and the WordPress team!
Dec 31st at 9:41 pm
Great post, it show how viral an interesting can turn out.
Thanks for the story.
Jan 2nd at 4:12 pm
Hey Seth, Not an ugly mug at all. I always thought you were a cute kid. I saw your post first on facebook. Right away I thought, “Is that the Seth that used to hang out with my son?” Sure enough it’s you. The post was inspiring. It’s a great message for young and old.
Jan 3rd at 2:14 am
Ha! I remember seeing this pop up in my news feed three times before I read it. I had no idea it was such a “thing.” Congrats!
Jan 3rd at 3:28 pm
Congrats! You have clearly struck a chord with many and it’s paid off! Marriage isn’t for me either!
Jan 3rd at 8:18 pm
awesome piece of writing. I love your dad…he sounds amazing.
Jan 4th at 1:12 pm
Wow. I saw it first on Facebook as well. I read it on the other site…glad to know Word Press has this kind of capacity.
Jan 5th at 1:52 am
It’s amazing how hitting that one button can change the lives of so many! All for the love of writing and sharing