This guest post is by Martyn Chamberlin of twohourblogger.com.
You know what it’s like to blunder into an article that seizes your attention?
I do mean seize. Not something that charms your gaze for thirty seconds, then falls apart. I mean something you are absolutely compelled to read. Don’t misunderstand me to mean flicking through the bullets and skimming some juice. I’m talking about the business of being perfectly glued to every word.
In such a construction, the blog post is a dense nugget of gold that cannot be ignored. It forces you to leave a red-hot comment. It induces you to shout and thank the writer from the bottom of your heart. It literally changes your day. It refuses to be forgotten.
Content that demands such behavior is termed viral. If you ever encountered such content, I need say no more—you know precisely what I’m talking about.
You don’t grudge reading this sort of content. It reads itself to you. You don’t guiltily sense a squandered ten minutes’ precious living. You return to your labors fresher and jubilant.
Have you ever contemplated the fate of viral content? I tell you, it spreads. It gets an unholy amount of likes and retweets. It hogs traffic and steals comments. It snatches email subscriptions and hugs them forever.
In the opening three months of my blog, I experienced the sensation of having more than a thousand people read a single article. It was enough to kill a better man than I.
Traffic is power, and power is addictive. If you resemble the average healthy blogger, you crave to write just one article that spreads like wildfire. If you more resemble the likes of an obsessed writer, you dream of constituting wildfire every single time you hit Publish.
Regardless of how gravely Blogging Syndrome has stricken you, there are five tornado ingredients that ensure your next post turns viral.
1. Steal your first 50-100 subscribers in solid guest posting
If your blog already has subscribers, you can skitter past this step. But the opening prescript to viral content is building an audience. It doesn’t have to be a big one—but it’s important in getting step two right.
Play your cards wisely and you’ll breeze through this step quickly. My brand-new blog had 89 subscribers after I appeared on ProBlogger. Even if you’re a painter or dentist, write a guest post for ProBlogger. You don’t have to be “professional.” If you’re a blogger at all, you’ve some fresh fodder to share with the community. Readers will subscribe to your blog because after all, some of them are painters and dentists too. I know this for a fact!
2. Write what your audience is passionate about
Hands down, this is the single most important component to viral content.
Nobody cares what you’re passionate about. If you write with gusto and expect every one to catch your enthusiasm, you’ll fail. As Sonia Simone likes to say, just because you’re a serial fangirl of broccoli ice cream doesn’t mean you’ll be able to persuade anybody to buy it. Don’t bleed your dreams and enthusiasm on the screen and assume it’ll rub into your readers. It usually doesn’t.
The fundamental key to crafting viral content is to write what your audience needs to read.
Pay close attention to what your subscribers talk about. Read their comments and blog posts. Talk to them through email and Twitter. Tickle their pulse. Learn what keeps them awake at night.
Once you have a sense of their problems, write about it. Confirm their suspicions. Allay their fears. Encourage their beliefs. Support their ambitions. Reveal their mistakes. In a word, be viral.
3. Develop a smashing headline
Ninety percent of bloggers don’t understand the crucial job their headlines play. On social networks and email subscriptions, the headline is the first or only thing people see. It needs to be bang-up for them to click. There’s lots of noise on the Internet and you need to dynamite your way into people’s attention.
Take your time. Do research. Analyze synonyms. Write and rewrite. Sleep on it. Choose nouns, adjectives, and adverbs that are clever, unique, evil, exciting, extraordinary, provocative, or stimulating. Example: it’s not every morning you see “tornado” in a headline. It catches your eye, see?
4. Don’t write for just your audience
In order for your content to spread outside your own network, craft it to suite a large audience. This doesn’t mean you become generic and lose your flavor. Rather, make the article stand alone without a lot of necessary introductions and inside information.
In short, a total stranger needs to be able to understand and benefit from your article without having to read six preceding articles. I visit blogs that don’t make sense because there’s too tight a flow from the last five months. It’s very difficult to get bulky, presumed knowledge off the ground. Viral content must stand alone.
Write with a newbie’s eyes. Those are the ones you need to attract. Once you get a complete stranger to properly relate to your content, your regular readers will relate to it too. If you wordsmith your content correctly, everything falls into place beautifully.
Part of writing for a larger audience means you cannot talk about yourself much. Don’t begin your posts with “Lately I’ve been thinking” or “here’s my opinion.” Cut out the Is and mys. When you refer to yourself, make sure you’re doing it to create value for the reader, not just mumble your diary. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Never forget that.
5. Don’t blog too much
Write your hands off, but don’t blog too much. It’s impossible to offer viral content on a daily basis, so don’t publish often. Instead, spend more time writing each article. Jon Morrow, the associate editor of Copyblogger, spent four hours on a recent headline—just the headline. I spent a good five or six hours on this article.
As you become renowned for publishing viral content, people will eagerly read everything you write. The viral strength of your work will build on itself. Publishing less often requires patience, but the rewards are worth it.
Get with it
Maybe you’re asking yourself, “If it’s this easy, why don’t more bloggers go viral?” In a word, most bloggers are lazy. Being viral isn’t extremely difficult, but you have to know your plan and stick with it. If you’re serious about writing a blog that’s read by thousands of people, I can assure you from experience that you’re only a few weeks away.
Have you had your posts go viral? What are your tips for making viral content?
Martyn Chamberlin is a fiercely passionate blogger who recently wrote an eBook called “Everything You Know About Traffic Is Wrong.”.