The Practicing Catholic 2012 Year-End Review

Our Top 10 Posts of 2012 and Takeaways for 2013

Image courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy New Year! Looking back on 2012, a highlight for us was attending and presenting at the Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas, Texas. We were humbled by the invitation to share our blogging experiences and learned a lot from others’ presentations.

During our talk we shared lessons learned from our first years of blogging. We’ve benefitted greatly from the experience and advice from others, notably social media expert Michael Hyatt. In a recent post at MichaelHyatt.com, he encouraged bloggers to review their top posts for the year and identify trends — what worked and what didn’t — incorporating their findings into a blogging strategy for 2013 (click here to read it).

Sounds good. Let’s take a swing at it. Here are our posts that received the most traffic in 2012.  

  1. Planting the Modesty Seed in Our Children
  2. St. Andrew Christmas Novena
  3. The Freedom of God’s Amazing Grace
  4. Aaron Rodgers on Tebow and Faith
  5. Visit Taizé this Advent
  6. I Am My Daughter’s Protector
  7. 3 Elements of The New Evangelization
  8. The Smoke of Satan in Steubenville
  9. Special Delivery: A Mother’s Story of Pain, Prayer & Peace
  10. What Catholic Women Think: Faith, Conscience, and Contraception

Wow! That’s a very interesting cross-section of our writing. As we analyze them, here are a few takeaways that we’re incorporating into a 2013 blogging strategy.

It’s good to have friends in high places.

Influential sites that largely serve as aggregators picked up six of our top ten posts. Think of these as virtual “shout-outs.” We were linked up to sites such as Big Pulpit, National Catholic Register, New Advent, Creative Minority Report, LifeSiteNews, and LifeNews. An angry atheist board at Reddit even gave us a “shout-down,” but that still resulted in high traffic. A note of encouragement to fellow bloggers: you know when you write something inspired. Don’t be afraid to submit those posts to aggregators who exist to promote good writing.

Posts with good content can become evergreen.

Five of our top ten posts were written in previous years. Each of these largely has a seasonality associated with them, be it spiritual or secular — Advent, Christmas, football, etc. Not only is this a good reminder to optimize posts for search engines, but also to be mindful of freshening up and/or promoting older posts as they come back into season. Herein also lies a challenge — be careful not to write the same thing over and over. 

A picture can be worth a few thousand page views … or more!

How you use, name, and caption images in posts can really drive search engine results. For example, the image used in The Freedom of God’s Amazing Grace, our third most viewed post in 2012, is a simple cross we found from a subscription-based Christian graphics site. It was titled “Gospel Cross Worship Background.” Thankfully it never occurred to us to rename it, and now that post ranks #3 when using those terms in a Google image search. Bottom line: don’t forget to optimize pictures for search engines, too.

Affirm goodness where you find it.

You never know what’s going to resonate with readers or search engines. Case in point: our post about Aaron Rodgers, Tim Tebow, and St. Francis of Assisi is as popular today as the day it was published in 2011. Rodgers was asked to comment on Tebow and invoked a “quote” by St. Francis of Assisi in his response. Neither Rodgers nor Tebow is Catholic, and St. Francis most likely didn’t say what A-Rod quoted, but we still felt the story was prime for our pages. It turns out we were right. And the search engines L-O-V-E it! It’s a first page result for the Google search “Is Aaron Rodgers Catholic?” There was no strategy in that post whatsoever. Who knew people even searched for that? Thank you #12. Go Pack Go!

Take occasional risks with your writing.

At least half of our top ten posts addressed some element of controversy. However each one of these was born in the experience of practicing, living, and discussing the faith. We think if these topics are those being discussed during Lisa’s playgroups or Joel’s men’s groups, they would likely be of interest to our readers. Unfortunately we’ve lost some readers by writing about them, but we’ve always attempted to stand in the truth of Catholic teaching while doing so. As a result, we’ve actually gained many more readers. A good reminder: never miss an opportunity to evangelize, but keep in mind that difficult messages must delivered with a healthy dose of charity.

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So there’s a glance at our top ten posts and a few takeaways we will incorporate into our 2013 blogging strategy. Questions: readers, what’s your advice for us? What resonates with you? Fellow bloggers, have you taken a similar inventory? What are you learning from your 2012 analysis?

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Comments

  1. says

    Neat idea! With my own content, I also noticed the bit about evergreen posts. My highest blog hits are still from 2011, and they were for items that seem to be search a lot: one was asking about iCloud and Blackberries, which is now moot since I got an iPhone, and the other was about the Roman Missal. I don’t get a whole lot of shout outs from other blogs, though I have had a few retweets from people with a lot of followers – thanks to all of you!

    And among my most popular posts were those that included audio or video – so I definitely agree with the sentiment about including photos / more than just text!

    And I’ve been trying to take some risks (the video production is a big one for me). It’s been slowly paying off so far. :-)

    Thanks so much for your blog & for the food for thought!

    Blessings,
    Fr. Darryl

    • says

      Hey Fr. Darryl! How encouraging that your multi-media posts are ranking high. I’d say that’s confirmation from the Holy Spirit to keep at it! It’s certainly not for everyone, so I’m glad it’s working well for you. You are using media very well as an evangelization tool. Thanks for your dedication.

  2. says

    What a great idea! Your post made me look through our 2012 posts on
    Of Sound Mind and Spirit
    . I was a bit surprised about the top 10 from 2012, in a good way. One of our most popular new posts for the year was a very personal one about Prayer from Shelly. But 2 of the top were guest posts by our Dad, so I’m sure he’ll be thrilled when I tell him. Thanks for the great idea. I think I’ll go blog about it. :-)

    • says

      You have a great list, Lisa! What great insight about how the posts centered on faith have done well even though you’ve been more comfortable and apt to write about politics. Nudge from the Holy Spirit, eh? I neglected to mention that 3 of our top 10 were also guest posts. Thanks for pointing that out about your dad’s posts (Go Dads Go!). Thanks for linking up, too.

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