How To Plan And Write A Blog Post To Go Viral

How to write a viral post 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

Case Study

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…

facebook iframes how to design your own landing tab

The Goals

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

The Results

I’m not afraid to say that I was right on the money when I calculated the potential in terms of social distribution.

Google Analytics content traffic report by socialmouths

google results for facebook iframes

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…

Research

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.

Timing

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.

Crowdsourcing

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

Top 10 Social Media Blogs by Social Media Examiner

The Top 10 Social Media Blogs post from @smexaminer gets pretty wild. This is a recognition built as a list with a twist of anticipation and a kick of reciprocity at the end, let me explain…

  • 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:

Headline

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

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

Ask Permission

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 Juice

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

Call-To-Action

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. =)

Shameless Promotion

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

Postrank Post Engagement Analysis

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

bit.ly short url analytics

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.

Final Thought

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.

  • Fantastic post Francisco. Never crossed my mind to make a custom bit.ly URL, but it makes a lot of sense.

    I like the way how you dissected it up to the finest detail here. Loved the part on “The Juice”. Really following up with a kick-ass post that has some well researched content you can learn from is key.

    Something I am gradually learning is the call to action, I am not too good at that yet, but your advice to make it as specific as you can is really important.

    Let me help with my 2 cents to make this post as viral as I can and throw it in my Buffer – twice 🙂

  • This is a good testament on how important it is to create content around the interest of your users while integrating the current trends on the Internet

  • Another epic one, Francisco! 🙂

    Question: getting on the first page of Google for a keyword that has competition over 14M is no easy feat. I remember you said in the past that you are not much into SEO and link building, yet it’s pretty impossible to accomplish this kind of ranking by doing nothing.

    Are you still relying on natural linking only? (I bet not. 🙂

    Would love your refreshed opinion on that.

    Ana

  • Great case study! Viral has a little to do with planning and a lot to do with timing. Sometimes it’s just the timing of one tweet being seen by someone who has the potential to make it viral with their audience. Sometimes it’s content you hoped would be viral, and other times it’s surprise content. Another blog published a post that happened to be tweeted by someone who Tony Robbins follows, and when he tweeted it to his almost 2 million followers – boom – instant viral success.

  • really needful post, and you prove Content is king as you got top3 ranking…and It’s a complete long post but no doubt really profitable for serious reader and specially for newbies….

  • Anonymous

    Dude.

    Also, great new look for the site.

    But, really. Dude.

  • Don’t get me wrong, I do pay attention to how I say things. I also understand the importance of SEO and keyword research but I honestly just base my homework on common sense.

    I try to think how people will conduct a search, if they search in the form of a question or stuff like that. I highlight a couple of phrases that I think are important, sometimes I go back and rephrase stuff here and there…

    So I do pay attention to what I do in the content, I just don’t do the research and I don’t worry about link building at all. It’s not that I don’t believe in it, I’m sure I could improve.

  • Come on Leo, I’ve seen your posts around and the one you did for SocialMouths and you get people engaged and your posts are getting spread pretty nice all the time.

    Now it’s just a matter of throwing in your CTA.

    Good stuff man, thanks for your comment!

  • Francisco, this is really a great one. I had trouble from time to time with FBML even though I was even creating landing pages for others. All that until I ran into your FBML post. With the image mapping it was so much easier. Not to mention that my own landing page is still the old FBML I created after your post.

    I have jumped into iframes and found them really easy to work with but can’t seem to find the time to re-do my own page, I guess.

    OK, that was related to the Facebook posts and now the part about this one 🙂

    I love how you explain “the intention to create viral content” in so many details. Most people will just say that the post/infographic/whatever goes viral or doesn’t. Which you obviously don’t agree with and I don’t agree with it. You can create viral content and there are certain things that need to be included in it, and all of them are listed here of course.

    Although not every how to and list post go viral, you explained it in a simple way what to pay attention to. As long as we have our readers in mind, I think we are on a good track.

    Great work – again!!! 🙂

  • I hear ‘ya! I’m also still on FBML and even tough I have some of the work done to switch to iFrames I can’t seem to be able to finish… As long as they still support it we have time.

    Thank you for the kind words, I agree with you about keeping the reader in mind, which turns out is not always easy!

  • I agree with Kristi, timing is the most important, but planning won’t hurt!

  • Haha, absolutely! Lets get that CTA sorted and it will be great, thanks 🙂

  •  Dude, plain and simple why I always come here. Super Super Value. Makes me want to aim high. Thanks for this.

  •  Good stuff. Theres some really good social media info in there. Thanks for sharing.

  •  I got lots of valuable information here. Thank you so much for this post. Surely, nobody would want to have a lame and lousy blogs or websites. Going viral is the cool thing and this post was really very helpful. Look how viral your posts are becoming. So awesome! Two thumbs up!

  • Wow, that means a lot to me Brian. Thank you! 

  • Yes, timing is huge not just for publishing the post but also for the promotion segment of. When to tweet, when to share it on Facebook or on LinkedIn. Everything has to be done right.

    Also important is what @kikolani:twitter said about big influencers finding and retweeting your post, I have admitted before that a simple tweet from @guykawasaki:twitter my traffic was doubled in one day. My iFrames post was retweeted by some cool people with huge reach like @marismith:twitter for example.

    Thanks for your comment! 

  • LOL. Thank you dude! 

  • Love this post…I love how you broke it down very easy to follow…thank you.  I have not read the Facebook post yet, but I definitely will next!  @alfredalanoix you would love this!

  • Thank you Michelle, I hope you read the post and come to tell me what you think.

    Have a nice week =) 

  • Shaundamien

    Thank you for ur thoughts.I think it’s true with the choosing the right image/picture for post because I have this one post, posted by my friend, about generosity and apparently it drove and still is driving viewers to my blog. We use the simple, come-together with blogspot tracker and found out that ppl do google for images of generosity and stuffs like that. thanks for ur 2 cents!

  • Glynis

    Love your blog – thank you so much.  However, find these social media badges that follow one up and down the page interefere with the reading experience.  Is it just my computer? 

  • Very good study.  I’ve changed the way I name my images and I’ve noticed that people are now finding my blog through the images.  They’re mainly there to download the image but I don’t mind!  I like being a good resource.

  •  I love this post. It’s so true that by making images it really affects the traffic of your blog. Tweets and likes will increase and it’s a good thing. Good job.

  • Peter Zmijewski

    To get more good in social media it is important to have a very strong social network on this. Get our social media related updates at http://www.how-i-made-my-first-million.com/

  • Damn!!!

    That’s bad ass to see you getting results like this! 

    Strategy is oh so important but oh so neglected in many a business. And what’s great about this strategy you’ve laid out here is that it’s narrowed down.

    I was watching Joan River’s documentary yesterday and one of her talent managers was recounting a story of him telling Richard Pryor about this big broad picture of all the things they were gonna do years down the road to explode his career. After he finished, Richard told him, “That’s all nice, but what the fuck are we gonna do on Monday.” He said Joan is the same way.

    This post is awesome in that way too. It gives you an outline you can focus on for a post you’re gonna roll out on Monday instead of someday. Sometimes you read stuff and it’s so jammed with theory that it’s hard for an action oriented person to fully appreciate it.

    Thank you Francisco for making this simple but not easy to implement!

  •  No Glynis, is not just you, it’s a plugin called Digg Digg.

  • Anonymous

    Exceptional, detailed and well-researched study, Francisco! To make a blog go viral is a tough task, and I am thankful that I was able to find this. Keep it up! Looking forward to more helpful tips.

  • Thank you for ur thoughts.I think it’s true with the choosing the right image/picture for post because I have this one post, posted by my friend, about generosity and apparently it drove and still is driving viewers to my blog.

  • Anonymous
  • Joni Kovarik

    great read and i actually attempted to build by own landing page with your help – unfortunately – I am stuck – everything seems to be correct – but alas – still an error on my page 🙁 know anyone who could help?

  • Anonymous

    Fransisco, could you tell us what service you are using in that image under your subheader called “Establishing Metrics And Tracking Results”?

    It looks like a great program! (sorry if you already mentioned it elsewhere)

  • Love your blog – thank you so much.  However, find these social media badges that follow one up and down the page interefere with the reading experience. 

  • Very nice post !! Thanks for your kind tips in this post. These are some excellent tips and I hope others will put this article to good use.

  • Thank you so much for this post. Surely, nobody would want to have a lame and lousy blogs or websites. Going viral is the cool thing and this post was really very helpful. 

  • Nice post!! This is a recognition built as a list with a twist of anticipation and a kick of reciprocity at the end..

  • I actually ended up building a couple of iFrames Tabs and landed a couple of very interesting projects…

  • Thank you Fransico for all the very informative, friendly, & relative contect.  You have helped me take bigger steps in my online goals!  As said before, If ever in Tulsa, OK you have some beers on me 🙂

  • A simple guide on how to plan, write and promote a blog post to spread like crazy and go viral. The post include my own case study.

  • Sometimes you read stuff and it’s so jammed with theory that it’s hard for an action oriented person to fully appreciate it. 

  • Sometimes you read stuff and it’s so jammed with theory that it’s hard for an action oriented person to fully appreciate it. 

  • Sometimes you read stuff and it’s so jammed with theory that it’s hard for an action oriented person to fully appreciate it. 

  • A simple guide on how to plan, write and promote a blog post to spread like crazy and go viral. The post include my own case study.

  • Thank you so much for this post, Exceptional, detailed and well-researched study.

  • Well I really like the research and conclusion of the blog very much…This is very big blog and has lot of contents in it which is worth to read…….

  • Gbcherry

    What a helpful and informative post.  I am re-tweeting this as I write. 

  • It happened to me with a post I wrote about 75 Inspiring Quotes – it got stumbled and had over 130K views bringing 90K+ unique visitors to my site. I knew it would get some good traction with 1000+ likes and a couple hundred tweets, but the stumble just put it across the line! The way to do it is to do it without expecting it to strike gold, I reckon.

  • Attractive title is a solid weapon to make your blog-post going viral, I especially keep this thing in mind.

  • I have jumped into iframes and found them really easy to work with but can’t seem to find the time to re-do my own page…Pretty good post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts.Nice content..

  • DonnaL

    Absolutely Love this post, very helpful, such a pity I didnt know about social mouths earlier!
    tweet, fb,+1 and the rest immediately!

  • Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

  • If you have been blogging for a while, 

  • 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.
     

  • 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:

  • 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.
     

  • This is about how to prepare a post to spread like crazy or as the interwebz citizens like to call it, go viral.

  • Michael Bian

    Excellent study. Big thanks again for the information.