Viral blog posts provide you with massive spikes in traffic in a short period of time. But, before we look into how to create a viral blog post, let’s take a step back to the early days of the internet.
In the first few years of the 21st century people were starting to realise that they could find the answer to almost anything simply by typing phrases into search engines like Google. This new online search innovation was in its infancy and it was reasonably easy to get onto the front page of Google if you knew what you were doing.
Fast forward a decade later, and now we are drowning in a massive ocean of information, articles and blog posts. Because the barriers of entry are basically free, millions of new blogs (or websites) are created each year in the hope of generating tons of traffic and in most cases – money.
Statistics suggest that at the time of writing there is close to seven billion web pages online. That is a lot of webpages! Out of the seven billion web pages how many of those pages do you think contain highly useful information that solves problems? If all of the low quality junk webpages on the internet got booted off, how many webpages would be left still standing?
The reality is that probably less than 3% of these sites created ever end up amounting to anything out of the ordinary. By out of the ordinary, I mean sites that are getting thousands of page views a day, and are giving their readers exactly what they are looking for.
A large percentage of these sites are started, but never get any more than 2 or 3 blog posts added to them. Some last a few months and fizzle out into nothing. Then there are others that do last the distance, but very few of them could be regarded as being a resource of useful, high quality information.
This abundance of information overload creates a situation where only the outstanding, really high quality posts end up getting noticed. But just creating brilliant content is not the only part of the puzzle that you need. If no one gets to see your stellar content, then it is just wasted effort.
The bar has been raised considerably over the years to stand out from the crowd. In order to get noticed you need a plan to get results.
My personal plan to achieve viral blog posts is as follows:
1. Write long posts and put a lot of effort into them (much better chance of a viral blog post)
To create outstanding content you will generally need to write quite long blog posts that are chocked full of useful information. No longer can you write standard 400 word posts and expect to get noticed.
Obviously it is not just about the length of the post, but also the quality. For people to bother reading a long post it has to keep them interested to keep reading. It is vital to get the right balance between quantity and quality to get the desired effect.
Having said that though, it is almost mandatory to write a long post in order to cover a topic in detail. If you can think up at least five strong arguments for the point of your topic, it is simply a matter of splitting them up into sections and writing a mini essay on each point (similar to what I have done in this article).
How many words should you be writing for a post? Well I don’t think there is a set number of words for an ideal post, but usually between 2,000 and 3,000 words should cover a topic in detail.
Most of you will probably be thinking that 2,000 to 3,000 words is a lot of work, and too much hassle. But, in order to make it into the big time you need to be doing those things that most people consider to be too hard.
Don’t settle for ordinary, because ordinary never gets outstanding results. And 400 word posts are in most cases exactly that – ordinary.
2. Include other forms of content (video, images, audio)
It’s true that just plain text is boring. A top quality blog post always includes at least two different forms of content.
Text is without doubt the most popular way that bloggers communicate with their readers, but the authority bloggers all use a mixture of text, images, infographics, audio and video.
Images are the quickest and easiest way to compliment text, but it is important not to be uploading 10mb high resolution images because all this will achieve is an extremely long page loading time.
Images need to be crisp and clear, but the file size needs to be kept as small as possible. There is an awesome plugin called WP Smush.It, which automatically compresses the images on your server and will help to make your pages load faster.
Infographics are still images, but the difference being that they are just what their name says – information graphics. These are an awesome way to emphasise particular points in your blog post, or to show statistical comparisons.
Video is a great way to keep people on your site for long periods, providing you create good videos that people want to watch. If you are not keen on putting your face on camera, then simply create a PowerPoint or Keynote slideshow and record your screen while speaking about each slide.
There are plenty of cheap screen recording software programs out there, but don’t substitue cheap with poor quality. A poor quality video, whether it is the sound or the picture, will do you more harm than good.
And you can always convert the video into audio, and turn it into a podcast if you wanted to.
The point here is to mix it up a bit and use different forms of content on your site. Surprise your visitors and entertain them at the same time.
3. Make sure your information is factual
One of the worst things that you can do is create a blog post on a topic that you are not knowledgeable about (or have not done your research properly). It is OK if you don’t know everything about your topic, but it is not OK to publish blog posts that have information that is incorrect or not factual.
It is no good thinking that you know what you are talking about, you MUST be 100% sure that your information is correct.
Opinions on topics are different to facts. It is perfectly OK to have a personal opinion about anything, but make sure you understand the difference between talking about facts and opinions.
If you are providing false information to your readers (even without meaning to), some of them will see that you are talking rubbish and will let you know about it in the comments section. This can be very embarrassing, particularly if a lot of your readers become aware of it.
People are looking for experts that can provide them with solutions to their problems, and if they can see that you are not the real deal they will quickly look elsewhere for a more reliable source.
4. Make your posts as helpful as possible
You should really care about your readers, because in reality your site is about them and not about you. Without your readers your blog would be a lonely place and would mean that you are wasting you time creating content.
So, with this in mind we need to be creating viral blog posts that are aimed at solving specific problems, or producing information that people are interested in reading. Writing blog posts about what is happening in your life is pointless, unless you are a famous celebrity.
Usually the idea of a blog is to build a community and receive interaction from the readers (as well as monetizing the blog in some way), so it is important to be encouraging feedback, comments and questions from people.
Provide as much detail in your posts as possible to really blow people away with powerful information that they can use themselves. “How To” articles are excellent to provide value to your readers, especially if you can provide solutions for common problems that people are searching for every day.
You should always reply to every comment on your blog, even if it is a negative comment abusing you. Most people will appreciate you taking the time to reply to their comments, and you will even find that sometimes the most value in a post is in the comments section.
5. Design your site to look clean, and make sure it is properly coded
Content might be king, but if that is the case then web design is queen.
If your site looks like a grade 2 student has designed it, then most people are going to click away in the first 10 seconds of landing there.
A lot of people say that the design of the site is not that important if you publish outstanding content. Well, personally I don’t agree with this and the way that I look at it is that a poorly designed site looks unprofessional, and does nothing but bad things for your brand.
Unless you are professional web designer or are experienced at designing websites, you should really outsource this part. Don’t try to do it yourself, because more than likely you will spend many hours trying to work it out, and it will result in a lot of frustration and wasted time.
Search engines prefer websites that are coded properly and easy for them to understand, and they will penalise you if the coding is poor. The main reason for this is that a poorly coded website usually takes a long time to load and this causes a high bounce rate.
A high bounce rate also tells the search engines that your website is not the type of site that the searcher was searching for in the first place. A website with a high bounce rate is unlikely to rank highly in the search engines, and proper coding does have a lot to do with this.
Web design does not have to expensive either, it is just a matter of looking around and finding someone that has an impressive portfolio to show off, and doesn’t charge like a wounded bull.
6. Include social sharing buttons
If you want your content to go viral, then it obviously a good idea to make it as easy as possible for the readers to share it with their social connections.
The easiest way to do this is simply to install a plugin that provides social media icons for people to click on and share. In my opinion DiggDigg is the best plugin to use for this, but there are a variety to choose from if you do a search. Ms. Ileane uses DiggDigg here on Basic Blog Tips, but she is also using the AddThis plugin to get alerts when she has a viral blog post.
Plus, if you are getting your content shared a lot people will instantly see the number of shares and will be more likely to bother to read the content. This can also have the reverse effect though, if the numbers are low. People are funny in that they will usually ignore something if it is not popular, but will be drawn to other things if the masses are hanging around and voting for it.
One thing I do recommend though is to only show the major social network buttons, because the more buttons that you show the slower it will be for your page to load.
At one stage I had about six or seven of the leading social networks on my DiggDigg floating widget, but after seeing how long it took to load I dropped it down to the big three – Google +, Facebook & Twitter.
You will find that around 80 – 90% of your traffic from social media will come from these three anyway, so I don’t bother with the rest. You can always manually submit your content to some of the others if necessary.
As well as share buttons, it is always a great idea to show related posts at the bottom of the blog post, and also the most popular posts for your blog on your sidebar.
I highly recommend that you download both the nrelate Most Popular plugin and also the nrelate Related Content plugin to show off related posts and also your most popular posts. You will find that people will click on these and stay on your site for longer. These two plugins are both free and in my opinion are brilliant.
7. Optimize your pages for the search engines (but don’t over optimize)
As well as social media, you should also be maximising your rankings on search engines to bring in more traffic over a long period. If your blog posts do happen to go viral, or at least get a lot of shares and comments, then naturally you will rank on the search engines without trying.
But either way, you may as well optimize your blog posts for your main keyword phrases to give you the best possible chance of getting free traffic from the search engines. Basic SEO skills are all you really need for on page optimization, and there is no need to worry if you are not an SEO expert.
A free plugin that I highly recommend for beginners is All in One SEO Pack which pretty much provides everything that you need to optimize your pages for the main aspects of on page SEO.
The basic on page elements that you need to include are as follows:
a) Meta Title (including your keyword, preferably at the beginning of the title)
b) Meta Description (include your keyword in here, but only once)
d) Include your keyword phrase in the first sentence of the post, and then once or twice in the rest of the body – but make sure the text is readable and makes sense.
e) Include your keyword phrase in the image alt section of your images
For your primary keyword phrases, you should be using keywords that people are actually searching for on the search engines. This is fairly obvious, but still a lot of people just choose keywords without doing any research.
But, with the new algorithm’s that Google has released over the last of couple years, such as Penguin and Panda, it is vital that you do not go over board with your optimising. Google says that any attempt to manipulate or trick the search engines is regarded as spam, so it is important to play by the rules.
In years gone by SEO’s were able to use dodgy black hat tactics to get prime rankings on the search engines, but those days are now over. It is simply not worth risking getting penalised or banned by attempting to use black hat SEO.
8. Connect with as many people in your niche as possible
This is one area that I ignored for a long time, until I realised how powerful it was to connect with other people that are doing similar things to what you are doing. You will find that some of these friendships are invaluable and make a huge difference to your business, over both the long term and the short term.
On top of the benefits of making friends, you will also have opportunities to mastermind with some of these people and learn things that you never would have thought about yourself. Some of these friendships may blossom into partnerships and even new companies.
Most bloggers are very approachable, and will answer your emails and direct messages, providing you are not pitching some dodgy MLM business to them. You want to become part of the blogosphere and actually participate in it.
Think of it this way, the worse thing that can happen is that your email does not get a reply. Don’t be shy and just sit behind the computer.
The other thing you can do is go to blogging events and seminars and introduce yourself to people and exchange phone numbers.
9. Share other peoples content if it is worthy
You also want to be sharing and voting for content of other people, providing it is worthy. In my opinion you should only share content if you truly believe that it is worth posting. You don’t want to be sending people to articles that are poorly written or completely off topic from the title.
Always read an article before you share it, and only share it if you think it is valuable information that would benefit your readers. By sharing your fellow bloggers content, most of them will reciprocate and share your stuff as well. It is like saying that if you scratch my back, then I will scratch yours.
Some people will notice if you continue to share their posts, and some of them will share your stuff in return. It is all about getting maximum exposure for your posts, and introducing as many people as possible to your content in order for it to become a viral blog post.
If you have created outstanding content, then obviously your chances are much higher of getting a lot of Likes, Shares, Retweets, Plus 1?s etc.
10. Always reply to comments and answer reader questions
It is absolutely vital that you treat every person that bothers to comment on your blog like gold. A successful blog is a blog that has a lot of interaction, and your comment section is where the interaction happens.
If a person leaves a comment, then you should always reply and answer any questions that they have asked. The main reason for this is that if you do go to the trouble of acknowledging their comment (or answering their question), then they are much more likely to visit your blog again and eventually start sharing your content.
A large following of loyal readers that regularly leave comments go a long way towards influencing a viral blog post. It is all about planting seeds for future growth and building a thriving community on your blog.
Once you have gained the trust of your readers and you have won them over, then getting hundreds of comments and shares is well within reach, including the possibility of a viral blog post.