When you are starting out with a new blog or website (powered by WordPress of course!) it is incredibly difficult to build any sort of traffic at the start - Google doesn't like you, people don't want to subscribe to a ghost town and they certainly don't want to link to your content. The best way I found to kick start things and build the momentum required to build a successful blog is by using the power of virality. That is the effect of people sharing your content on social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and so on and other people re-sharing your content which builds on itself. It is called "Viral" because it spreads like an infection - the effect can be incredible with hundreds of thousands of people viewing your content in the space of a few days.
A few years ago I build a successful blog by tailoring content to a specific niche and submitting it to Digg - I managed to hit the homepage many times which sent a huge boost of traffic followed by more traffic as people submitted it to other sites like delicious.com. Those days are over but we now have many big social media sites and even more niche sites that you can use to help spread your content and build your profiles if you put a little thought in to your strategy.
In this post we will be taking a look at some tactics and tools you can use to utilize the power of viral marketing and WordPress to help your blog or business grow.
Before you think about what content you will be creating, you will need to identify the sites you will use to spread it initially. Almost everyone will need to create profiles on Twitter and Facebook and start building your accounts by adding relevant event people from your industry. I won't go into huge detail here about how to use Twitter and Facebook effectively as there is huge amounts online about this. Decide what other sites you will use - for example Reddit has loads of Sub-reddits on various subjects you could submit content to - just dont go mad and spam them with yours all the time. Linkedin is a good site now where you can share business related content. Pinterest is good if your site is visual in nature. There are many design sites that accept user-submitted links. Hacker News is a great way to share your content if its tech / startup related.
Once you have decided on where you will submit content - your "seed" sites if you will, you can move on to planning your content.
Its rare for content that is successful on social media to not have had some form of planning behind it - occasionally the odd piece does go viral but the vast majority of content that does well is intended to from the start. Certain types of content you will see doing well over and over again and some people even groan when they see it but you can't deny the effectiveness of it. For example list posts - these have been amazing for WPLift and other blogs I have run simply because they are helpful, easy to read and easy to share. Here are some of the best types of content you can create for going viral.
The good old List Post - this is popular with readers so you should definately use them in your strategy. They are basically a list of a number of things on a certain theme. People like them because lists are easy to digest, they are highly bookmark-able and they are fairly easy to put together for the writer.
Interviews are a great way to get content for your blog, pick someone relevent in your niche that you look up to or find interesting and email them asking for an interview. It could be a famous blogger or a celebrity related top your site – people will more often than not be happy to answer your questions as it massages their ego and gives them a chance to further their brand. You will also receive free high quality content to post on your blog and also have the possibility that they will link to your article from their site or at the very least push it out through their social media accounts.
These posts are simple – tell your reader how to accomplish something - you are reading one now, I have found that to be sucessfull these posts need to go into detail and cover the subject indepth.
It might be a tutorial on how to change the oil in your car, how to weed you garden, how to use a certain function in a piece of software. The options are endless and these types of posts work great in the search engines as Google is normally the first place you turn to when you need to find out how to do something and they are highly share-able within niche groups.
Styling The Post
Getting into the habit of using certain writing and layout techniques can also help your content when it comes to sharing. No one wants to share a huge wall of text in 11px text with no paragraphs! Make sure your WordPress theme is well laid out for reading your content and the article itself is easy to read and this will improve your chances.
WordPress Theme Details
The default body font should be big enough and there should be a line-height set so that reading is easy - if your theme is responsive even better so people can enjoy your content on mobile devices also ( without having to tap and pinch to get the article to display correctly ). Make sure there are no annoying distractions - blinking banner ads at the top of the content will not encourage sharing.
Paragraphs and Bullets
Use correct paragraph lengths and break the article up with headings - look at this article for an example, I'm using larger red headings for the title of each section and then breaking each section up further with smaller black headings. Which tags you use will depend on your preference and what is built-in to your theme.
Do not forget to include a number images relating to the article - they can illustrate your points better and serve as another way to break up the article.
Timing is Everything
You have identified where you will submit your content and made sure it is all formatted and styled correctly. The next step to maximize your chances of success by deciding the best time to unleash it on the world. Good times to release new content is first thing in the morning or around lunch time as those are the times when people will be taking a break from work and browsing - looking for new content to read and share. What exact time you release will also depend on where your target readers live - if you are in the USA or Europe your times will vary. Doing some experiments and looking at your Google Analytics will help with this.
I find that publishing the post and then submitting to your social media accounts manually is the best way to release a new post but if your best time to post happens when you are unable - for example if its the middle of the night in your time zone then you can schedule the post for a specific time and then use various plugins to submit it for you.
Make Social Connections
Another important aspect of helping your content get shared is simply being more social yourself. Making real connections with people by talking to them on Twitter and Facebook and sharing their content and re-tweeting etc will help when you would like them to return the favour. By following people relevant to your interests and your niche you can start building a rapport with them. You can go ahead and directly ask people for a re-tweet or a link etc but personally I find this annoying - simply be talking to people and making genuine friendships you will find that people want to do this anyway.
Make it Easy to Share
Remove any friction so that people can easily share your content once they have finished reading it. You should include clearly visible buttons for the networks you want people to share your content on. Common ones like Facebook and Twitter are a must - then you can add in more niche ones like I have here on WPLift - I now include LinkedIn and Pinterest. There are a few options for positioning the buttons - you can have them at the top like I do here or another good place is at the foot of the content so the reader seems them immediately after finish reading the content.
Digg Digg Plugin
Another option is to use a plugin like Digg Digg which will place a static block just outside your content so they are always visible - this was how I used to do it but I found it looked a little spammy - especially when a site choose to use every single button!
This article is an introduction to helping content spread virally but there are people who have written huge amounts on the subject, take a look at the following sites if you want to delve into the subject deeper.
Written by an entrepreneur called Neil Patel who has had great success in viral marketing for his various companies and for Quick Sprout itself. Delve back into the archives and you will find loads of good advice and case studies.
Copy Blogger is the authority on using compelling copy and headlines to help your content spread and boost conversions for your business.
Glen Allsop is the man behind the Viper Chill blog and he writes amazing detailed posts about marketing and SEO which generates insane amounts of comments on each one.
Finally Matthew Inman is behind the Oatmeal and he probably has a better grasp on what it takes to make content go viral than anyone else on the internet. He single-handedly built a dating website and got it to number one on Google for the highly competition search phrase "Free Online Dating" using viral comics and quizzes. The Oatmeal is his latest project where he publishes similar content - Comics, Quizzes and Blog posts which all receive crazy traffic from social media.
Hopefully this guide has given you an insight into helping your content spread - the more people see your content on social media, the more people will link to and talk about you which in turn helps you gain more traditional traffic from the search engines. So you can see it is all connected and you should be employing these techniques whatever your business or blogging niche.
Any questions or comments ? Let me know in the comments and if you found this post helpful - consider sharing it ;)