Is it possible to plan and write a blog post to reach a precise amount of exposure, engagement or traffic?
Without Jennifer Aniston?
Of course it is possible, if you pay close attention to your blog performance, the industry, and how the blogosphere behaves, you can actually anticipate what kind of exposure each blog will get. If you promote all your content the same way, you will still know based purely on the type of content you’re about to drop.
If you have been blogging for a while, I bet you can tell the different kinds of posts you publish and which ones perform better without even looking at the stats. Do the exercise.
But this post is not just about that, this is about how to prepare a post to spread like crazy or as the interwebz citizens like to call it, go viral.
Here is what I want to deliver with this post
- I want to reveal the little process I went through when I wrote one of my recent (and successful) posts
- I’ll share with you my goals and the results I had so far with that post
- The goal is for you to walk away with some guidance on how to set your next post on fire
The post I’m talking about is of course the one about how to create Landing Tabs for you Facebook Page using iFrames. I wanted to use a real case in order to provide something juicy, I made the commitment to not bullshit my readers some time ago so I better put my money where my mouths is…
The goals I set for this post were pretty specific, I wanted to test how close I could get by doing this type of thing consciously:
- The post should get a good rank on Google, be on the first page to be specific
- Hit 1,000 tweets over time (My previous post about FBML Landing Pages got 786)
- Get 500 Facebook Likes
- And I wanted to do good on other sites like Delicious
That’s in terms of exposure through social media distribution but more importantly:
- Get new readers to visit the blog
- Establish new relationships online
- I wanted to get comments of people sharing their pages so others can see (that will mean success on the tutorial aspect)
- Generate a little business
But what will it take to reach those goals?
I thought also about what would need to happen to get those results, what do I need to deliver so I came up with a quick list of requirements for the post:
- More than a post it will need to become a guide
- It needs to drop an epic amount of value
- It needs to be possible for non-geek people to actually see their Facebook tab come to life
- It needs to be massive (it ended up being 3,526 words and 25 screenshots) and present very detailed step-by-step action
- I will need to actually help people with questions and comments of all kinds
I’m not afraid to say that I was right on the money when I calculated the potential in terms of social distribution.
Of course I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the post was viral enough for you, maybe you have different expectations. Let’s look at the results so far and consider that the post was published a little over a month and a half ago:
- The post is on the first page of Google for several different search queries
- On a couple of them it actually has the top position (beating a little blog called Mashable, maybe you’ve seen it…)
- But I love the one on the image above where I have the 3rd position only after Facebook itself (oh believe me, I’m grabbing a beer for this one)
- Pageviews: 26,917
- Average Time Spent on Page: 6 minutes and 19 seconds
- Comments: 211
- Tweets: 780
- Facebook Likes: 528
- LinkedIn Shares: 617
- Delicious Bookmarks: 150
- StumbleUpon: 377
Besides the exposure it got so far, I met a ton of people that are trying to take their Facebook pages to the next level and some that added value to the post by dropping their 2 cents, a lot of people have share with me their final product already live, I actually ended up building a couple of iFrames Tabs and landed a couple of very interesting projects.
Alright then, let’s now move to the process of planning and putting this together…
Your Own Experience
Like I said before, if you have been blogging for a while and you look at your analytics every now and then, you probably already have an idea of what kind of posts and what topics have had the best performance in the past. Part of researching your own content should include engagement on individual posts, in other words, look for the posts that have generated the most Tweets, Likes, social bookmarks and comments. The perfect tool to get this kind of analysis is PostRank.
Case Study: The posts with best traffic and engagement performance in SocialMouths have been on the topic of Facebook, specially the one post about creating Facebook Landing Pages on FBML.
What Has Been Said About A Topic
The chances of finding a topic that has never been discussed on blogs are pretty low. Don’t waste your time. Instead, look at how you can add value to a discussion, how you can add your perspective and your personality.
Don’t be intimidated by other posts. Chances are you have your own audience and those people have their own. People will consume content from their favorite blogger.
Case Study: I’ll be honest and say that I only take a quick look on Google’s best results. I really don’t care if the topic at hand has already been approached by a few bloggers. I rather focus on how I wanna approach it and how I wanna express my thoughts.
How relevant is your post today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. Today. Don’t care about been the first to write about something or if you see 10 posts on the matter already ranking on Google. Focus on the timing of your publication. Can you make an impact by publishing something that can solve a problem now.
Case Study: My post wasn’t the first. I had the chance to publish before March 11 when the switch from FBML to iFrame was going to take effect or also right after but I waited a few days, which I think gave me the chance to publish when most people had realized about the change. Most of us are late adopters.
What better way to find out what your readers want or need that to ask them directly. Since this is just a post, not your next product launch, you could use your existing social venues to ask questions, jumpstart conversations or even monitor opinions on the topic.
Case Study: I used both Twitter and Facebook to discuss the topic since it was a popular one at the moment. The change between FBML and iFrames was happening right there. I actually asked “What questions do you have about iFrames?”
Different Types Of Posts
The posts that are easier and faster to spread are How To’s and Lists. Of course some people are going to say that’s too obvious but do me a favor and browse around to see how many posts of this kind fail everyday. It’s not that easy.
We are using my “How To” post as an example but let’s also take a look at a “List” post:
Social Media Examiner Top 10 Social Media Blogs
- All social media bloggers no matter what they say, want to wear the badge to prove to the reader that they are in fact, the bees knees. That’s why everybody promotes it
- The whole thing runs for about a month until the final 10 are announced but not before they publish the list of finalists. This keeps it alive and when it finally comes out it spreads like I can’t believe it’s not butter
- While all this is happening, there is a storm of comments on the post where users nominate their favorite bloggers and bloggers reply with thank you notes
- After the winners are announced the reciprocity kicks in, everybody gets a nice extra load of traffic for being in the top 10
Think about all the elements in and outside your blog that you can leverage from. What you can do with the comments or on Twitter to make it fun, increase exposure and engagement for your piece of content.
Elements Of The Post
Here is the anatomy of the post:
Your hook. A smart headline will bring the audience in. Sometimes there is also room for smart ass or a kick of funny. Your keywords in it will help you with search results. This requires of some serious thinking until the words make absolute sense.
Copyblogger has tons of advice on how to write magnetic headlines.
Images are also very important even tough most people don’t talk about it. There are a few things I focus on when dealing with post images:
- The main post image (then turned into a thumbnail) to has to make perfect sense with the headline, the piece of content and even the design of the blog (maybe I’m a little psycho about this). That thumbnail will probably get on many profiles and bookmarking sites along with the headline
- In the case of a “How To” post is very important to be very visual, use screenshots
- An infographic also has a lot of potential to spread nicely
What better way to get somebody’s attention than laying down the information they’re about to get. In the iFrames post, I follow the intro by telling people what the desired outcome was, I listed the goals and I explained the benefits Facebook has provided by moving from FBML to iFrames and the differences between the 2 technologies.
I basically wanted to put the reader at ease in front of something that could be overwhelming due to the technical difficulty. I also gave the reader the decision to invest a few minutes to read the whole piece now that they knew what their in for.
The body of your post is obviously what ultimately give it exposure, you don’t want a kick-ass catchy headline and then have a post that doesn’t measure up. You are setting expectations and the content is the time to meet them.
This doesn’t mean your post needs to be huge. It means that you have to over deliver your promise. In my case I planned to:
- Write over 2,500 to be able to go step-by-step in detail
- Also decided to use one image for each step to make super visual
- And wanted to be a light read considering the length and the technical aspect
- But mostly, I kept my reader in mind at all times
What do you people to do? If you don’t call them to action everything you did goes straight to the trash. Do you want people to help you spread? do you want them to subscribe to your list or maybe contact you?
I wanted to go the extra mile with this and encourage people to share the post so I ran a quick contest in which readers could participate by tweeting or sharing on Facebook to win a copy of Guy Kawasaki’s book. I made specific rules and included the instructions in the post. I also made easy for people to share by giving them the tweet exactly as I wanted it to copy and paste.
Then at the end I had a second call-to-action, which was to contact me via email if you wanted to hire me to design your Facebook Landing Tab. Yes, after I told you how to do it yourself. =)
Other than giving away the book I conducted my usual self-promotion:
- 2 to 3 Tweets during the day. When you only tweet in the morning the afternoon crowd will miss your post. This is a whole different post but you need to consider things like this, or the different timezones. In my experience, posts gets some love in the morning after a nice 9am tweet but then get on fire after the 3pm replica. Remember, we’re going for exposure.
- I submit posts to site like StumbleUpon or Digg. Why? Because it is easier for somebody to give you a “Like” on Stumble or a Digg instead of having to “Submit”. Once you submit, your readers can share with one simple click.
- I created some anticipation for the blog by initiating related conversations on the SocialMouths Facebook Page and I actually promised to deliver the post.
Establishing Metrics And Tracking Results
Then it’s time to sit down, observe and measure your impact. It’s a lot more fun when you have established goals.
But we should take a step back, we need to establish the metrics that are important for this particular case before hand. What are you going to measure? You probably want look at traffic, social media distribution, but you might also have other goals such as lead generation. Be ready to track everything.
Once you have decided what metrics are relevant to your objectives, you should have the necessary tools to track the results. As I said at the beginning, PostRank is a great tool to look at individual post performance.
Custom Short Links
One of the things I did to make this a lot easier (this is the kind of stuff you learn from Kikolani’s Blog Post Promotion eBook) was to create bit.ly custom links, that way everything gets tracked in the same place and you get the visibility you need.
If I had to leave you with only one concept today, it’ll be the point that made the difference for me. I had posts with very good exposure before, some of them I didn’t expect and some of them I had a vague idea of the potential but, planning and setting goals ahead helped me understood what was needed. The actual crafting of the post was not even that hard after that.
If you think your blog has to be famous to get exposure like that you’re dead wrong, change that thought for this one: “Making a post go viral will get everybody’s attention in my niche and will put my blog on the map”.
Over to you baby!
I hope the post was useful but that was just my 2 cents, why don’t you share your thoughts, plans or experiences taking a piece of content viral. We can all learn from you.
Quick disclaimer: the link to Kikolani’s eBook is an affiliate link.