Getting a fanfic to rise to the top in site-specific searches often has less to do with story quality and more to do with social engineering. This is not to say that authors who do these things don’t write enjoyable stories, but to show how site programming and psychological tendencies work both for and against different personalities of writers. Don’t let the appearance of popularity fool you into missing some good stories.
Here are some ways people have been observed to game the system:
*Draw the story out for as many chapters as possible. The more chapters = the more page views comments people will leave for each chapter. 64 chapters? That means a single reader will get you 64 page views, vs just 1 view for one-shot stories.
*Make fans wait a long while between each chapter so people beg for updates. Begging = more comments.
*End chapters on cliffhangers and that will accelerate and amplify the comments begging for continuation. This is seen more in chapter-by-chapter fanfics than on printed books.
*Comment and kudos/like on other peoples’ stuff and they will likely feel obligated to comment and kudos back on yours, through the law of reciprocity.
*Ask other readers to beta your work. Betas feel creatively invested in the story and will feel the need to comment and praise the story and give recs.
*Gift work to commenters. Recipients will feel obligated to comment and give praise and recs.
*Do collabs with other writers, including crossovers, to pull in more commenters from other audiences.
*Write the most popular pairing, which, in the Wraith fandom is John x Todd. That pulls in Lantean fans and Wraith fans. If you must write an OC, pair them with an on-screen character, as those are searchable. If you bother with OC x OC, make sure they are with Team Shep or a part of Todd’s hive so you can add those on-screen characters as searchable tags.
*Go tag happy. Tag every character in your story, even if they only say one line. Swipe ideas for tags from other writers. Tags = more appearances in search results and more page views.
*Ask for kudoses/likes and comments, directly in the story comments or through emails. Ask friends and family to join, even if they never read the works.
*Join clubs or groups. Get your works added their lists.
*Reply to readers and converse. Those are more comments. Agree or semi-agree even with trollish comments. To heck with self-esteem, because… comments!
*Allow off-topic fights and drama in the comment section, so visitors will keep coming back to read and/or chime in. Those are more comments and page views.
*See who is in a commenting clique and try to join it, if you are not precluded by nationality or length of time visibly in the fandom. (Yes, these are real things.) Just don’t tick off the group’s unofficial leader, lest you get yourself comment shunned by the group. You might have to give up your unique writing voice, your sovereignty, and, sometimes, your ethics, to make that clique feel comfortable to get more comments. (See my previous post about prejudices going unchallenged and piling up.)
*Some sites allow guests to kudos/like and raise the hit count. Kudos yourself, using multiple browsers as “guests.” Wait a few days for your IP address to change, then give yourself more kudoses. Keep on doing this weekly.
*Kudos yourself while at the library, coffee shop, or elsewhere. It’s a new IP address.
*Privately email others to kudos one each other’s works as “guests” with an international underground kudosing ring.
*Programming savvy? Have your computer automate “guest” kudosing.
*Some sites allow anonymous, guest commenting too. Use the above system to comment on your own stuff. You can even make alt guest accounts. You can even have “conversations” with the sockpuppets that way. Fictional character comments on works of fiction. How about that?
*Speed to market is paramount. The more time that lapses between your story being posted and the fandom’s peak popularity, the worse the page view collecting. The more years go by, the more page views. So, hurry up and post that first chapter and try to make readers beg for more.
All this stuff makes stories rise to the top in search results, as ranking programming tallies page views, comments, kudoses, etc. Which are ethical? Authentic? Fair game within programming parameters?
See how this is played out on various writing sites and look for it. Some of these games work for art sites and original fiction and nonfiction, too, even on popular book selling sites, pre-planned long before books’ launches! Heck, even providers of goods and services pay sites such as reputation.com to bury negative reviews while offering bloggers and customers discounts or small free gifts for leaving positive reviews on social media or even just following them. Over the years, I have seen and heard some stuff, both online and in workshops and lectures. It’s a game, more serious if money is on the line.
People whose stories tend to get buried away are authors who: write short or complete stories, write OCs, are newer to a fandom, are introverted, or don’t have the desire or time to spend to increase their rankings and consequential likelihood of being noticed.
A lot of articles will tell writers how to do the ethical networking stuff, but leave out the clandestine stuff. I say this all as someone who doesn’t currently have works on those sites and have nothing to gain… and also nothing to lose for fear of retaliation through comment shunning.
Now that you know some of the tricks, give some of other writers and works a chance on ff.net and AO3. Gems are everywhere and they don’t always have dozens of comments on them.