A Guest Post by Neal Rodriguez.
With the release of the new Digg on August 25th, anybody with the ability to understand how a story, which is promoted to the popular section, is composed, has an edge in attaining viral exposure ranging from tens of thousands to millions of pageviews. Digg’s users constitute a large proportion of bloggers. Thus stories promoted to their popular section, which was previously their homepage and now the Top News page, can attain anywhere from less than 10 to hundreds of links pointing to their websites. Digg also has millions of users; many of whom visit websites that reach the popular section at a rapid rate. My blog went down when I promoted my interview with Ben Huh The Most Popular SFW & NSFW Failblog Pics of the Decade to the popular section and more than 1,000 visitors loaded the page in the first few minutes after reaching the front page.
No matter how much of an efficient promotor of content you are, you will not get your blog’s pageview count passed the two people who made you nine months ago without writing content that people are willing to share among their online friends and acquaintances. There are just some stories that people are willing to pass on to their fellow digital networkers through email, Facebook Like action, retweet, pigeon carrier, or Greek messenger. What are some of the elements that increase the chance that a story will spread virally?
1. A Picture is Worth a Hundred Thousand Pageviews
I was surprised to hear that my friend had launched his photo blog and had grown his traffic level to 100,000 monthly pageviews in 3 months. Now together with Digg he is behind one of the biggest viral campaigns on the web in the past few weeks: the dry erase girl. Photos on the web appear to have the hypnotic ability of making people share them upon first encounter. Ben Huh reportedly did nothing but post photos of people failing at everyday tasks on his blog. Last time I spoke with him he was driving 1 billion pageviews to his blog network every 4 months.
On the blog post to which I alluded in the first paragraph, I aggregated the most popular photos posted on Ben’s blog in the last decade and performed some social outreach on the news aggregators. The post made the front page of Digg and drove 26,690 pageviews in the first few hours. It received 36,019 pageviews the following day. The post has received over 77,000 pageviews in total.
You should add photos to every blog post you write. The funnier the picture the better. Even the most serious topics work great with a offbeat picture that can also represent the post’s topic. Stunning pictures such as those posted on PDN Photo of the Day Aftermath (6 photographs) show the story of a woman’s breast cancer treatment in a series of self-portraits. I drove over 200,000 pageviews to this story on the first day of publication. It went popular on Stumbleupon and made the front page of Reddit, a social news aggregator, to drive over 90,000 views over the weekend when traffic is typically slowest. The only reason I didn’t put it on Digg is because nudity was not allowed at the time. I have found I have been able to drive the most traffic when I aim to tell a story through pictures.
2. Opinionated Stories
My first blog post on the Huffington Post briefly outlined reasons why I thought we as consumers brought the U.S. financial crisis upon ourselves. In short, my argument contended that increases in foreclosures were the product of people buying homes that they could not afford. Whether you think I was wrong or not, this post made the front page of Digg in 2007 and incited a huge response. If any of you have attempted to promote content on Digg, you know that solely stories that receive the most response and support from the community get promoted to its popular page.
I got insulted on this post for my lack of substantiating my arguments with 3rd party facts. However, I did help people close no-paper A loans as a credit repair specialist back in ’03; so, considering the amount of people for which I secured $300,000 loans without showing income documentation, I had a pretty good idea from which to draw an opinion. No excuse, nonetheless, in your iteration, ensure that you back up your content with solid facts, statistics, and other expert opinions to make your argument as credible as possible.
My opinionated piece that called for the arrest of a Bart police officer who shot an unarmed man in 2009 also made the front page of Digg. My thoughts on why the Bart police officer who shot Oscar Grant should be held without bail was the most popular story on the Huffington Post on its day of publication with over 40,000 views through my outreach efforts.
What also made this post popular stand out, is that mainstream media wasn’t giving it the attention that the American people thought it should. Now touching on the subject of race, I received a hundreds of racist insults. Expect to get verbally abused when taking a strong stance on many subjects; especially touchy subjects that cover sensitive issues such as race. Just log out of Foursquare and Facebook Places before hitting the check-in button while you watch your 3-year old impersonate a Oreos commercial eating cookies in your house. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
Infographics are visual representations of an outline of information. The graphic typically constitutes a skyscraper and rectangular image that is 500 pixels or wider. Inside the infographic, you can see factoids represented by smaller images. The smaller images can constitute pictures, graphs, and/or any other imagery associated with the information its representing.
Infographics can get tough to do if you don’t have a graphic designer. However, beyond the sparkling quality of the color and resolution of the images, the information conveyed in the infographic is what will determine its viral success. I put up a simple infographic on what other items could be bought with the money put into a Super Bowl ad and drove over 50,000 views to the Adfreak blog in a few hours.
When creating a infographic keep in mind the following best practices:
- Research your topic from at least 10 resources.
- Try timelines and abstract ways to display diagrams, graphs, and charts; a popular way to graph data is by using rows or columns of images associated with the data – e.g. stick figures like those used to identify public mens and womens rooms when providing information on people.
- Post key information that surprises or intensely interests people upon disclosing it; little-known historical facts and processes work well.
- Use colors for the fonts, background, and images that relate to the topic being discussed. In this case we used colors in relation to football. We used the two team colors that were playing: the Colts and Saints.
- The font size should poke readers’ eyes into their throats. Make them big, bold and colorful. Emphasize the words that are most important and experiment with different font sizes and styles.
Add several facts that constitute the ‘WOW factor;’ that your audience can relate to. So in the Super Bowl infographic, we related the factoids to popular memes on Digg since that was the initial channel of promotion. And again, although the graphic quality is important, put more focus on the information you will be embedding in the infographic. Visualize the image and draw a rough sketch outlining how you want it to look on paper or digitally.
4. Rewriting Headlines
The new Digg allows you to edit a headline before submitting it to the community. Your headline is the first thing a user sees when the story is posted on his feed. You should incite the need to click and read what loads upon clicking the title.
Top # Lists
When content is already listed or outlined but the title doesn’t read so, you may increase the chance of promoting a story to popularity using a numbered list title. A Forbes story once listed the most expensive private jets in the world. I rewrote the headline to “The 10 Most Expensive Private Jets on the Planet.” I successfully promoted the story and drove thousands of pageviews to it in a few hours. A good way to structure a list is by using the Cracked.com forumula
“The” + (Number) + “Most” + (Over the top adjective) + (Subject) + Of All Time (Synonyms like “in History” or “Ever” will also be accepted) = Popularity
Some stories generally cover an event or developing topic. At times you will find a something that is dear to the heart of Digg users. I promoted a story for PBS that was covering a political convention, which had a tent catered for bloggers. Digg was mentioned once as a the sponsor. You probably know what I did better than me. I stated how Digg was sponsoring the event as the title. I successfully promoted the story to the front page and exposed it to its million-person user base.
I also take the most important percentage that proves the key fact in the story and have made it as a headline. A story explained how betting pools were operating for the upcoming Super Bowl. The story’s key finding reported that 80% of bets were for the underdog, my NY Giants. I used this stat as the headline – “80% of Super Bowl Bets are on the Giants” – and successfully promoted the story to the front page.
How have you composed posts to drive the most traffic to your blogs?
Neal Rodriguez is a social media marketing operator ready to jog in blizzards this winter to get ripped for the summer in New York City.