This guest post was prepared specifically for our readers by Kas Szatylowicz, Content Marketing Manager at Digital Olympus.
Viral content, huh? Nothing gets us as excited as a piece of content that catches fire and pops up all over the internet. It means more traffic, more potential customers – and it also means we’re doing something right. People love our content!
Thing is, creating a piece that truly has a chance of going viral is a lot of hard work. 4.4 million blog posts are published every day, with 43% of readers merely skimming most content. This means that your content has to be of a high standard to even stand out – let alone be shared.
And while going viral is sometimes down to luck and timing, putting in place a strategy will increase your chances hugely. There is no guarantee that your content will go viral, but knowing the anatomy of creating content that gets people’s attention and makes them click that “share” button increases your chances a whole lot.
In this article, we will define and explore the key elements that are the foundation for creating shareable (written) content in 2020.
Let’s dive in.
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Master SEO (for long-term success)
Whether you’re looking to go viral or get more eyeballs on your content over the long-term, SEO is your best friend. Yes, it sounds a bit boring when all we want to do is ‘break the internet’ but SEO is a strong digital marketing strategy that never fails.
If exciting viral content is the Ferrari, SEO is the engine underneath that might not look pretty, but which is essential.
See, without SEO, your content might go viral for a day … before traffic quickly dies down. In fact, tech entrepreneur Rand Fishkin even invented a term for this: the “spike of hope.”
We at Digital Olympus know all about this, and had a good number of posts that had been showing similar performance:
Our story proves that your content might go viral within minutes, before people soon realise it’s not worth caring about.
If – like us – you don’t want to face having hundreds of content pages that generated traffic only once, your goal should be to focus on producing evergreen content. When I say “evergreen” I mean, first of all, SEO optimized content that people would not only want to share but also refer (or link) to in their articles.
So, where to start?
Intent-based keyword research
The bottom line here is that keyword research is just so powerful in helping you understand what you should be writing about.
With Google rewarding you for choosing long-tail keywords and focusing on the users’ intent, you simply cannot create an interesting and sought-after piece of content without performing keyword research first.
You can use a tool such as SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool or Ahrefs to discover the opportunities for creating content that has healthy search volume and keyword difficulty.
Let’s say you run a paper writing service like Bid4Papers and you create content related to essay writing. Some time ago they reconsidered their keyword strategy by targeting search queries that aren’t too competitive but still have some decent traffic. In fact, this allowed them to grow from 10k to 90k organic visitors in less than one year:
For instance, here’s a good number of keywords that they’re currently ranking at the top Google results and which have quite low competition:
As you can see, leveraging the power of solid keyword research allows you to find opportunities to produce content that’s not only engaging but which also has a chance of becoming popular and widely shared or linked to. Ideally, your content is evergreen, meaning that the information provided does not “expire” and might only need regular, but minor updates.
In other words, it offers long-lasting, almost timeless value.
Viral content is often a direct result of perfect timing. Writing about topics that are currently trending in your niche is a sure-fire way of securing your chances of getting shared across the internet.
How to find the latest top trends in your niche?
Here’s where tools like Google Trends and BuzzSumo step in. With the latter, you can choose your category, for example, “marketing” and check out the articles that are currently getting some attention.
These are articles that people are currently reading, and which therefore have a good chance of going viral if you can produce similar content that’s even better (in other words, offers more value).
But there are other features that can come in handy, too. For example, having done your keyword research, you should have a pretty good idea of what you are going to write about. But with BuzzSumo, you can also get detailed information on how similar pieces performed online and what platforms they were shared on.
Take a look at the topic related to “chatbots”.
The posts that recently gained traction are those related to the newest developments in the chatbot niche and their utility for businesses. This information indicates that it might be a good idea to write an article exploring the possible future of chatbots development and how this would affect businesses.
Observing trends is great for creating content around popular topics that might easily get attention and get shared.
Another good way to check what kind of content got traction in the past is to spy on your competitors.
Yep, that’s right – it’s time to go undercover!
Conducting a thorough analysis of your competitors’ content can spark some new inspiration and help you come up with ideas on what direction you should be heading in with your content.
Here you can again use an SEO tool such as Ahrefs, or the irreplaceable BuzzSumo to discover the most popular (and shared) content produced by your competitors. Let’s say you market a live chat software such as Tidio and you want to check the best performing content for your competitor – Intercom. All you have to do is insert the URL and BuzzSumo will show content that got the most engagement.
This should give you a pretty good idea of what kind of content is sought after and popular. You don’t have to create the exact same piece to compete for a certain keyword but perhaps it’s a good idea to perform a content gap analysis to take advantage of your competitors.
For example, take a closer look at the current content produced by your rivals to see what weaknesses it has. Is it missing vital data, statistics or case studies? Things like this generate attention and can increase an article’s shareability.
Essentially, it is all about evaluating the existing content around a particular topic and looking for the “gaps” that your content could fill by providing more in-depth information.
Analyzing what works and what doesn’t for your competition is crucial in assessing the potential of your own article to become highly shareable.
Implement topic clustering
Once you’ve got your keywords sorted and your masterpiece in progress, you cannot forget about building the right internal structure.
Creating topic clusters that consist of the main pillar page and supporting articles is your best shot at ensuring that search engines will be in favor of your content (therefore help to rank it higher).
Having the right internal structure is crucial if you want your on-page SEO to work to your advantage. Interlinking your content shows Google that certain pieces are all interrelated. By doing this, you’re not only nailing your internal structure (which helps Google crawl your website), but you’re also showing Google that you’re covering a specific topic with depth. You’re answering the main user query, but you’re also answering numerous related queries.
In other words, you’re covering all bases and providing a huge amount of value to the end-user.
Leverage the power of storytelling
Stories are everywhere – and it’s time you started using them.
Storytelling is a great way to make an emotional connection with your readers. People respond to stories because they’ve become ingrained in our DNA.
And when they see themselves in stories – or, at least, an aspirational version of themselves (which guy hasn’t watched a James Bond movie and wished they were him?!) – they’re more likely to share your content.
Just think back to a time a snippet of text on a Facebook post captured your interest. Perhaps it read something like, “Once upon a time, I was completely broke. I wanted to end it all …”
This is a hook that tells the reader a story is coming. We can’t help but be intrigued.
It’s important to make your themes as universal and timeless as possible. Why universal? Because it increases the chances that your readers will see themselves in your stories.
It’s also key that you give your story structure (beginning, middle, and end) and sustain and pique the reader’s interest so that they keep reading until the end … before taking action.
But, look, you’re not writing a novel here. So how do you inject storytelling into content writing?
Here are some tips:
- Write a story about how your products/services has impacted people
- Write a story that is original and which is connected to your brand
- Use metaphors. Metaphors are great ways to simplify complex topics and make them relatable and easy to understand
- Talk about your experiences but make them relatable. For example, you could talk about how hard it was get your business started
- Flaunt your personality. Make sure your content is very “you”
- Create images in the reader’s mind. Use phrases like “picture the scene”
Take a look at how our very own Alex Tachalova from Digital Olympus mastered the art of storytelling and used it skillfully in her recent article for MOZ.
Include shareable and interactive media elements
Writing is fun – but it can also be impossible to sustain a reader’s attention with just text.
Why? Because our attention span in the digital era is shorter than ever. To grab people’s attention, you need to inject a bit of – shall we say – visual flair into your content in the form of infographics, videos and GIFs. These are easy to consume and they help to break up all that text.
Plus, they’re damn easy for people to share and therefore increase your chances of crafting viral content.
As you can see, it’s no secret that we are slowly moving away from static content towards content that’s more interactive and easier to digest. It can take many forms – from presenting interactive data, through interactive landing pages to even interactive chatbots-like surveys, such as the one on the Tidio’s blog:
This is a great way of keeping your content engaging and distinguished from your competitors. It’s also yet another component that increases your chances of having your content talked about and shared.
Oh, and don’t forget about adding the option to create tweets straight from your content. There are tools, such as Click to Tweet, and plugins that make it really easy to implement on your blog.
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, you should check out this post by Tim Soulo from Ahrefs, who also uses this trick on his blog:
Last but not least, introducing interactive content, videos or infographics also supports your SEO efforts.
You might not only be able to go viral or rank higher with your written content, but you can also step into the Youtube SEO or Google Image SEO arenas. And once again — the better your SEO, the better chance you have for avoiding a mere spike of hope after the article is published. Instead, you can build up your strategy for creating shareable content from the ground up.
Use expert quotes
Expert quotes work well on a few levels. For one thing, you’re injecting more expertise into your content, which in turn boosts its authority. Look at it like this: While some readers may trust your voice, many more will trust the voice of an expert. It gives the piece more credibility.
Secondly, the expert will share the published content with their audience. This means more traffic and more potential shares!
And here’s the thing: Experts love to be included in articles because it boosts their profile, too (provided the article is of a high quality, of course).
Not sure how to find and reach out to experts you want to feature in your piece?
Here’s a quick guide to making it happen:
- Find experts in your industry
An easy way to do this is to google your topic. For example, if you’re looking to write an article about lead generation, you could google something like “lead generation experts.”
This is what I just did, and I came across this article: B2B Lead Generation:
From this article, I could put together a list of experts to reach out to.
- Make a List
Once you know who could add value to your article, it’s time to make a list. You could take a look at each expert’s social media profiles to see who has a solid influence in terms of engagement.
You should also check their previous articles to see how they interact in the comments section (more interaction typically indicates that the expert is willing to communicate, share ideas and be involved in things like this). You can use Google spreadsheets to keep track of all the names.
- Get in touch
Once you know who you should be reaching out to, it’s time to get in touch and build a relationship with the experts you’ve shortlisted. You can do it via LinkedIn or by finding out their email address using an email finder tool.
First impressions matter, so it’s crucial that you craft a compelling outreach email and not ruin this opportunity.
Here’s an example of how you can approach an expert or an influencer to ask them for their contribution:
- Ask the right questions
Depending on the topic of your article or your roundup, you need to make sure you ask the questions that will elicit the kind of answers that will not only fit into your piece but which will add value to the reader.
For example, if I’m writing a post about SEO tools, I might ask an expert what their favourite tool is, as well as which ones they use the most (and for what purposes), and what their results are like.
- Publish and distribute
Having finished the article, it’s time to get the ball rolling and click the magic “publish button”. In order to get the most out of the article distribution, the experts you have featured should be informed beforehand about the date and time of publication. This ensures that they share your content as soon as it goes live and helps it to get immediate traction.
It’s especially important when you try to go viral on LinkedIn where the popularity of your post depends on how fast it gets engagement from the audience.
Here you can take a look at the successful article launch using LinkedIn which included insights from several experts:
And here’s one final tip: Instead of writing numerous articles that each contain a single expert, consider writing a longer piece that includes multiple experts. For example, an article about SEO tools gives you the chance to cram lots of experts into one post, thus increasing its shareability whilst saving you a heck load of time.
Use social listening
Social listening is a powerful weapon because you’re literally listening into the conversations people are having about your brand and niche. In these conversations, you can learn what problems people have and what content they’d like to see more of. This will help you provide more content that’s actually useful for them.
And when people find content useful, they’ll be more inclined to share it.
You can do more with social listening: You can join in the conversations people are having and interact with them. Doing this shows people that you care, and it allows you to spread goodwill by adding more value to people’s lives.
Before you know it, you’ll become known as the brand that ‘gets involved’. When you combine this sort of image with top-notch content, the chances of your articles getting shared increases.
To make social listening useful in terms of helping you create viral content, you need to search for relevant keywords on social media. These can include:
- Your brand name
- Industry keywords (or buzzwords)
- Campaign names
- Product names
- Branded hashtags
Make sure to also check on a few misspellings, especially if any of your branded keywords are a bit unusual.
Find the conversations, uncover what people are saying – and create content that people want to see.
Optimize for omnichannel distribution
Your customers aren’t just on one channel – they’re on numerous. This is why it’s important to optimise your content for omnichannel distribution so that you reach more people and bring in traffic from different sources. This tactic also includes creating a strategy for distribution before you’ve decided to publish your piece.
Here are the things you should consider before your article goes live:
I won’t go into details explaining the complex structure of an excellent outreach strategy, but I’d like to give you a few tips on why it is important and how to approach it. Let’s call it the pre-outreach strategy.
Essentially it is all about securing social shares and links before your content goes live. This can be a real game-changer if a successful content promotion is what you want to achieve. Pre-outreach can be done in several ways, but here’s a simple recipe you can follow to start with:
- Connect with people in your circle
If you’ve run your business long enough, there is a chance you’ve already created a network of people who could help you out. You can simply create a list of people that have come across your business and expressed their interest.
It can be your social media followers, subscribers, business partners or any other people you’ve previously collaborated with.
Once your list is ready, you can segment it and decide who you will reach out to when looking for folks to help share your content. Then, you can use tools such as Pitchbox or Respona to prepare your campaign and send out your emails.
- Reach out to micro-influencers in your niche
Another good idea is to build relationships with micro-influencers in your niche. This is something that ideally should be done way before your content goes live, as it allows you to get to know them better and strengthen your relationship.
Some of them will be happy to share your content just because they like and trust you, but more often than not, you might need to offer something in return. A good idea to make this work is simply something I’ve already mentioned – including their insights in your piece or asking them for a relevant resource to link to. In time, you’ll become traffic sources for each other’s content.
Otherwise, your other option is to trade something such as you sharing their articles or promoting them and their services to your audience.
- Secure links from other guest authors
We’ve mentioned social shares, but to make your content avoid the spike of hope and to actually generate regular traffic, you have to build backlinks. A good way to do this is to research people who regularly publish articles on other websites. Here again, you can use a tool like BuzzSumo to find top authors in your niche, this is a list of top contributors for “content marketing”.
Once you have a list of popular guest authors, you can go ahead and contact them to start a collaboration. Perhaps you could offer them to link back to the relevant resources that they promote and ask for help in securing links to your article once it’s live. In this way, after publishing your content you can inform them about it and suggest referring to your piece in their future guest posts for external websites. Here again, the terms of such collaborations highly depend on the deal you both agree to.
Last but not least, it’s important to optimise your content for sharing on social media.
Why? Because social media is literally where your customers are, and it’s the easiest way for them to pass your content around so that more people see it.
However, there are occasions when a customer needs to be given a bit of encouragement to share your content. Besides adding shareable tweets that we mentioned earlier, here’s what we mean:
- Add share buttons for various social media channels
- Add a call to action, too, that says ‘don’t forget to give our post a share!’
- Optimize for publishing your content at the right time (yes, there are right and wrong times to publish content. Publishing it at ‘peak times’ when your customers are typically online will help to generate more shares
- Use lots of engaging visuals (even just adding a photo link to your tweet can boost retweets by a whopping 35%)
- Write a post that can be made into Slideshare presentation
- Ask for social media shout-outs (shout-outs are fantastic ways to get your content seen by more people. You’ll need to work hard at building your network in order to get people to give you a shout-out on the regular, but here’s a post that will help you improve this strategy)
- Use social media tools to help you (social media tools do half the job for you, helping you schedule and promote your content on all your channels
Sharing is caring, and your customers will share your content if you care enough about them to produce top-notch content that’s optimised to go viral.
Naturally, everything starts with valuable, well-written content that answers your end-users problems better than the competition. Once your content is prepared, use the tips in this article to tweak it and promote it so that more people see it – and conversions go up.