I Can Haz Traffic? 3 Reasons Why the Kittens of LOLCats Get More Traffic Than Your Site

I Can Haz Traffic? 3 Reasons Why the Kittens of LOLCats Get More Traffic Than Your Site

(Sorry about the cheesy title. The idea for this post came from my (winning!!!) submission to Glen Allsop’s headline challenge over at ViperChill. If you haven’t already read his post on writing attention-grabbing headlines, open the link in a new browser tab and then go read it as soon as you’re done with my post 🙂 )

======================

So yeah, cheesy tie in to kittens aside, I believe the concept in the title is sound – which is why I decided to turn my hypothetical headline into an actual post…

But first, some background info. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last five years and don’t know what I mean when I say “LOLCats”, I apologize in advance – I’m about to turn you on to one of the biggest time wasters on the web…

Open the following website and read through the first page (and the first page only!) – I Can Haz Cheezburger

At first, it doesn’t look like much – just some funny pictures of cats with goofy captions. But that’s just how it starts…

Before you know it, you start to understand this “foreign” language. You begin to hear it in your mind, and you begin to crave more of those cute kitten pictures. Heck, I’m not so proud that I can’t admit that I’ve wasted damn near a full day’s time reading through the archives of that blasted site…

So it’s clear that any site that has that kind of pull is on to something when it comes to traffic generation. Now, I Can Haz Cheezburger (and the rest of the Memebase sites) has a pretty distinct business model, and it’s not necessarily something that you should try to emulate with an affiliate marketing niche site. But there are some lessons you can pull from this example on how to build a site that attracts tons of excited visitors every day.

======================

Basically, here’s why the kittens of LOLCats get tons more traffic than your site (and how you can reap some of the benefits yourself)…

1. Create a Sense of Community

I Can Haz Cheezburger was one of the first sites on the internet to introduce “LOLCat speak” – the butchered, grammatically-incorrect captions that accompanied each cute kitten picture. At first, it’s difficult to read, but over time, it takes on all the characteristics of being a separate language of its own.

That’s actually pretty powerful stuff right there. Regular LOLCat readers are part of the “inside circle” that understand this language – they feel special and included when they visit the site, as if they’re part of a “members-only” club that not everyone has access to.

N0w, I dizzon’t rec0mmed tryin 2 st@rt ur 0wn language (see why? :)) – but there are other things you can do to make your visitors feel like they’re part of a special community.

Opt-in email lists that offer a good value freebie in exchange for an email address are great way to make people feel included, while benefitting you – the marketer – as well. In addition, forums, private content and membership programs are all easy ways to create this “in crowd” feeling that results in more loyal, excited visitors.

2. Post Frequently Updated Content

Another major contributor to the success of the LOLCats is the fact that the site is updated every day with fresh content. Nothing stinks more than visiting a site that hasn’t been updated in weeks or months.

If you think about it, web surfers are always making a conscious decision on how to spend their time. If a site isn’t updated regularly, it becomes less reliable in visitor’s minds, making it less likely that they’ll risk spending their time visiting a site with no new content.

Now, this isn’t to say that you need to have several new posts each day like the Memebase sites do, but if you aren’t committing to posting to your site at least once or twice a week, you’re probably losing visitors.

Having trouble coming up with all that new content? Writing new content doesn’t have to be difficult, but why not take a page out the Memebase book and have other people do the heavy lifting for you?

Much of the content on the Memebase sites comes from visitors who submit their own content. While this obviously isn’t a great solution for most niche sites – especially those where you’re positioning yourself as an authority – you can still look to things like guest posts or modified PLR to take some of the burden of creating original content for your site off of you.

3. Develop a Clear Purpose

The purposes of the Memebase sites are simple – post funny pictures and get people to look at them. Sure, there are a few other aspects to the sites, like monetizing the sites with products based on site pictures, deploying “build your own LOLCat” tools and encouraging sharing on social networks, but their overall goals for their visitors are pretty simple.

There’s no confusing navigation, no hoops to jump through and no mixed messages that tell you to do different things all at once. The Memebase team knows that when people arrive on their sites, they want to see funny pictures, and they want to see them right away – which is why they’ve structured their sites so that these pictures are immediately visible.

The Memebase sites have a clear path of action for their visitors, but can the same be said of your websites? Setting up a clear purpose for your site and developing your site around this vision requires a little foresight and business planning, but it’s important to do.

To get started, identify the one, single action you want visitors to take when they arrive on your website. It might be opting in to an email list, reading a featured article or even clicking away from the site via an Adsense ad – or something else entirely depending on your goals.

Now, try to construct your site (or modify an existing site) so that this desired path of action is immediately apparent to new visitors. To confirm whether or not you’re on the right track, ask a non-internet marketer friend or family member check out your website and tell you exactly what they’d do upon arriving. Adjust according to the feedback you receive.

Keep in mind that this process takes time and may require several revisions to get right. The important thing isn’t that you get everything 100% right from the get-go – it’s that you invest the time to consistently evaluate and improve upon your site.

Before you know it, you’ll be reaping the traffic benefits that these LOLCat lessons have to offer 🙂

Can you think of any other lessons that we can learn from the LOLCats when it comes to traffic generation and successful websites? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Image: alexnoguera

21 Responses to I Can Haz Traffic? 3 Reasons Why the Kittens of LOLCats Get More Traffic Than Your Site

  1. Jon says:

    Sarah,

    Ha! I’m glad you wrote this article so soon after the headline win. Great job and a pleasant surprise seeing you tweaked it.

    Nothing beats the sense of fitting in and inclusion you have within a community, eh? Now, establishing a new language is taking it to a whole new level. Go LOLcats (I’m jealous).

    Clear purpose: this is something that will likely take continuous effort. As our projects evolve and we add more content (and new visitors) our priorities and needs of our audience may slightly shift. But our message has to be clear and the call to action has to be obvious.

    You also make great points about updating your site. I don’t mind if a business (large or small) doesn’t update for a week or two but when I see months of lapse I’m gone. If I ever buy something from them, will they just disappear with my money?

    Ican.. and theoatmeal are two sites I can easily burn an entire weekend day scrolling.

    Thanks!

    Jon

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for reading, Jon 🙂

      This week, I’m doing “inspired by” posts based on ideas that have come from other posters here or from other sites that I comment on frequently. Coming up on Friday, I’ve got a post that goes more into my issue with positive thinking and why I hate the Four Hour Work Week.

      Should be good stuff 🙂

  2. Hi Sarah,

    #1, if I have to do it like the LOLCats, is gonna take me a year! LOL! What a language – cheesy!

    Developing a purpose is certainly a vital thing to do. And, as feedback comes in we should shape things in a better way, towards pleasing to the masses. That’s how it goes.

    Great message. And, congratulations for your headline winning!

    Cheers,
    Jane.

    • Sarah says:

      Jane – Thanks so much, and thanks for reading!

      I agree that adjusting to feedback is an ongoing thing. I’m usually guilty of assuming that any site I create is 100% perfect right off the bat, so I have to remind myself all the time that it doesn’t matter what I think – it’s about what the visitor thinks 🙂

  3. Ben says:

    Congrats on winning the contest!

    If I may, another reason is that LOLCats entertains.

    Blogs that teach, sell, etc and entertain often acquire visitors at a rapid pace.

    Of course, I’m not particularly good at melding entertainment and information (I’ve got a professional and social mode and rarely do they meet) but I’ve noticed a lot of blog that do this right acquire more visitors more quickly.

    On the other hand, if your goal is to monetize you have to wonder whether many of these visitors that are visiting LOLCats are worth it. If you’re seeking 30 seconds of entertainment on your lunch break, you’re probably not the most profitable visitor.

    Question: where is the line between having Ze Frank inside jokes or LOLCats community building language and jargon or technical language? Or is there no difference?

    • Sarah says:

      Ben – That’s a great point. LOLCats (and their related sites) are definitely entertaining, although I can’t say that I’ve ever spent any money on their sites.

      Obviously, their monetization model – primarily advertising, with some product sales as well – is different from mine. To make advertising work on their site, they don’t necessarily need targeted, committed visitors, just a lot of eyeballs.

      I think that for affiliate marketing, the entertainment factor comes from telling a story as part of your content – not from having content that’s entirely entertaining in purpose.

      Think about the personal finance articles I wrote last week. I could have written them as dry advice (“you should do this”, “don’t spend money”, etc), but instead decided to add my own personal story to help make the content more engaging.

      Clearly, I’m not as entertaining as the LOLCats, but I think there’s definitely a place for making your personal story a part of your blog’s entertainment factor 🙂

  4. Adrienne says:

    First I want to congratulate you for winning the contest. This is a very weak area for me so I can probably learn a lot from you.

    Second, I’ve visited LOLCats but only to grab funny photos. Let’s face it, they are so ridiculous that they are funny. Or maybe I just have a warped sense of humor. Anyway….

    You definitely made a lot of very good points in this post. I love the sense of community and am enjoying it now more than ever. I won’t continue to be a return visitor if it looks like they have abandoned their site. Heck, if they don’t care, why should we! People also have to have a clear call to action. In the past I always just assumed people knew what they were suppose to do but now I know better.

    Thanks for this post and will be sure to read your winning one as well.

    Adrienne

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks, Adrienne!!! I agree – I dropped a lot of websites that, in retrospect, could have been good if I’d taken the time to learn how to add a clear call to action… 🙂

      Good luck with your headlines!

  5. Sarah, aloha. Congratulations on winning the contest. Though I think I will pass on the LOLCats, I look forward to reading Glen’s post.

    Your three tips are right on target. To me one of the greatest challenges is developing that sense of community.

    On second thought, I think I will visit LOLCats because it sounds like they have lessons to teach me.

    Thx so much, Sarah, for the education and entertainment. Aloha. Janet

    • Sarah says:

      Janet – Thanks for stopping by!

      Visit LOLCats with caution… They’re weirdly addictive once you spend any amount of time there 🙂

  6. Congratulation for creating the winning headline.

    What I have learnt over the last few months of blogging is to be consistent with your blog.

    Build your brand, create something different and unique. Something that will create a buzz and get you notice.

    If not you will have a blog that is making so many notice but not getting the attention it needs.

    • Sarah says:

      Consistent, good content is key. I made a commitment at the beginning of the year to post here at least twice a week. Some weeks it sucks, but without having that kind of public commitment, I’m sure I’d abandon the project!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. Hi Sarah,

    Posting frequently updated content, to me, is probably the most important thing we can do as bloggers. It just makes sense that, if we’re serious about it, we’ll make it a priority.

    Awesome post. Thanks for sharing!

    Gregory

    • Sarah says:

      Gregory – Absolutely agree, 100% 🙂

      If you aren’t going to commit yourself fully to a project (which, in the case of blogging, requires publishing content regularly), why bother getting started in the first place?

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Hi Sarah,

    thanks for sharing your insights. I second you on these three pieces of advice: Sense of community, regularly updated content and a clear purpose.

    To me, sense of community includes networking with other people on other sites than our own.

    Take care

    Oliver

    • Sarah says:

      Oliver – You’re right, there are so many great things happening online right now that it’s important to get out and connect with other people in your niche.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Stuart says:

    You mean there’s a website that has pictures of cats doing funny things, with altered-English captions underneath? Strange place the internet is 😉

    Seriously, great read! This is my first time over here, and when I first saw I CAN HAZ CHEESEBURGER? I was a little confused. But I’m glad I clicked through!

    Everyone needs a successful business model to focus their efforts around, to help them grow and expand. No-one else has created a website about cats and altered-English, so it works a treat!

    Great read Sarah 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Stuart – Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your kind words!

      God help me, I wish I’d never found out about sites like I Can Haz Cheeseburger… Do you know how much freaking work I could get done if the internet wasn’t such a fun place to goof off?!? 🙂

  10. Stacy says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Congratulations on winning the contest! Very unique and clever title! You did a great job of turning it into a real post.

    A title makes a big difference, I’ve discovered that from my own blogging experience. A great post with a less than interesting title won’t bring in many readers while any type of post with a really catchy title will bring a lot of people in (though that doesn’t mean that they will stay!)

    I think too that keeping the blog updated regularly is important. That’s why I brought on guest bloggers when I took an extended break last year.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Stacy

    • Sarah says:

      Stacy – You’re right, you’ve got to get them in the door before you can show them how awesome you are. And it just so happens that the way we do that with websites is through headlines.

      I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always put a ton of time or effort into mine, but it’s one area where the work I put in always pays off.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Marcus says:

    I think you should ask for a back-link. Your headline is already listed on his blog and I had to copy and Google the text to find this blog post. Also… great post.

Leave a Reply