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!


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Sara Rosso

36 Comments

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  1. Deli Lanoux, Ed.D.

    Wow. Talk about building community! Impressive. Kudos!

    Like

  2. boxofficecritique

    It’s great to see someone who’s really passionate about their work get recognition from peers and from the community. Great article.

    Like

  3. Kay Wilson

    What a great post, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your heart. Merry Christmas ;)

    Like

  4. narami

    Someone from my facebook timeline shared this a few days ago. I’m in Puerto Rico and reading how it all went down now really blows my mind. Kudos to the WordPress team!

    Like

  5. helenscribe

    I think the post got a lot of mileage from the ambiguity of the headline. On first reading it sounds like a directive, whereas it’s really saying Marriage isn’t About You, but About the Other.

    Like

  6. citasvisasmatamoros

    It shows that we need more humanistic writers and topics. Kinda sick of tech, fashion and social posts.
    Congratulations.

    Like

  7. katharinetrauger

    I have loved Seth’s article for some times, now, and can only say I am glad so many have read and loved it.
    Good job, WordPress, for reaching out and helping Seth’s amazing content stay up and available! :)

    Like

  8. ravenjanedoh

    I would be floored if 3 or 4 people read a post of mine LOL! Congrats on doing so well, and keep writing; obviously this is where you belong.

    Like

  9. Tom

    26 million views! That’s some achievement. Well done Seth!

    Like

  10. Mormon Soprano

    I loved Seth’s article and was an early reader when it first published. This was cool to read the ‘behind the scenes’ of how WP came to the rescue! A blogger “Cinderella story” of epic proportions!

    Like

  11. James Langston

    Pretty Impressive. 26 million views!!

    Like

  12. Madhu

    WOW!!! He owes his dad big time…..and not just for those unbelievable stats :-)

    Like

  13. sue marquis bishop

    Amazing how quickly an intriguing idea can catch fire. Thankfully wordpress to the rescue.

    Like

  14. jamiebtwentythirteen

    When I get 26 veiws, I celebrate ;-) – Great work on 26 million and now I am going to add to that by reading the post! Cheers J

    Like

  15. aliveatnight

    Wow, what an amazing story! Congratulations! Definitely continue writing, seems like this is your home.

    Like

  16. beetleypete

    Amazing story; and I was happy with 12,000 views! (Wondering why I bother now.) Great inspirational stuff.
    Regards and Merry Christmas from England, Pete.

    Like

  17. Adelaide Martin

    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.

    Like

  18. Livhuwani

    A great lesson indeed. 26 million views? That’s an inspiration for us new in the game. Well done!

    Like

  19. donaisabella

    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.

    Like

  20. passimpressionon

    This is beautiful and all the more a real help to many , who have doubt with marriage . Kudos

    Like

  21. Christopher

    Cool story! Glad that Seth got all that traffic, and fascinating that most of it came from Facebook. Word of mouth is powerful.

    Like

  22. Your Muslim neighbor

    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!

    Like

  23. porezi

    That is cool! It is wonderful to be able to be yourself and share life with others!

    Like

  24. Cannime

    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!

    Like

  25. Sean Spruiells

    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!

    Like

  26. The Dread of Dating

    Wow. Amazing story. Re blogged on our site.

    Like

  27. Unizen 001

    Nicely written, heartfelt and heart touching!

    Like

  28. askcarolynwarren

    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!

    Like

  29. angie21k

    Great post, it show how viral an interesting can turn out.
    Thanks for the story.

    Like

  30. Vickie Snow

    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.

    Like

  31. Alex

    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!

    Like

  32. elizabethrhodes87

    Congrats! You have clearly struck a chord with many and it’s paid off! Marriage isn’t for me either!

    Like

  33. memsandbeingmum

    awesome piece of writing. I love your dad…he sounds amazing.

    Like

  34. sowingmercy

    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.

    Like

  35. JulianeAshley

    It’s amazing how hitting that one button can change the lives of so many! All for the love of writing and sharing :)
    (journeythrul.com)

    Like

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