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How to Grow Your Blog with Viral Content

How to Grow Your Blog with Viral Content

Photo by Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash

Recently, I’ve been exploring five strategies that I’d employ to promote my blog if I were starting all over again.

I said earlier in the series that I’m assuming ‘great content’ is being added to the hypothetical new blog that we’re promoting. However when it comes to blogging not all ‘great’ content is equal when it comes to drawing attention to your blog.

Take a look around your niche at any given time and there will be posts appearing on blogs that are of a high standard that are largely ignored – and posts appearing that are spreading like wildfire throughout the niche as everyone links up to it.

This type of ‘Viral’ content can be an elusive thing for bloggers and I’m fully aware that it’s something that most bloggers attempt to do but something that many don’t achieve.

Sometimes the key to viral content is luck – the right person reading it at the right time and linking up can send it to the top of every social bookmarking site there is – but many times it’s the result of good research, creative thinking, clever writing and getting the right people to promote it.

I can’t teach you how to create content that will go viral because there are so many ways that it happens – however I will give you one tip that helps me a lot every time that I do it.

Spend Time Analyzing the Success of Others

I’d encourage you to take some time out to analyze the types of posts that are going viral in your niche (and other niches) at present. The simplest way to do this is to look at what’s ‘hot’ on social media sites like Digg, Medium, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Techmeme etc

I regularly spend time on these sites and find myself learning a lot from looking at what’s most popular on them.

  • What is it about them that seems to be key to them doing so well?
  • What can you learn from them?
  • How can you put some of these principles into action in your own writing.

Pay particular attention to the titles used on the social media sites themselves but click through to visit the content itself. Look at how it’s presented, written, the topics covered, post length, intended audience etc.

The key to this is not to do this analysis to simply copy it – but to come away inspired to apply some of the principles that others are using in your own writing.

Further Reading

A term that is being used less these days that applies to this topic is ‘link bait’. While it’s not really a term that is used as much as it was this time last year many of the principles of good link bait apply to this topic. I’d suggest you check out my previous series on link bait – particularly my post analyzing 20 Link baiting Techniques.

Share Your Examples

Lastly – I’d like to open things up to you to share your own examples of ‘viral content’ – whether they be posts that you’ve had success with on your own blog or posts you’ve seen others do well with. Tell us about these posts and hopefully we’ll all come away from them a little inspired.

If you’re serious about building an audience for your blog and want to supercharge your traffic ProBlogger’s Find Readers Course will give you the roadmap and guide you through 6 clear steps to find readers.

How I'd Promote My Blog If I Were Starting Out Again

This article was first published on March 16, 2008 and updated March 3, 2022


About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Darren

    excellent series of posts.

    the what’s ‘hot’ suggestion is one that i have just started to look at. there can definitely be a lot to learn from the success of others – especially in headline writing.

    so far, nothing has made the viral category from my site; yet.

  2. Great post.

    I’m having fun creating post titles that I would want to click on if somebody else wrote them.

    I notice that Yahoo’s homepage offers a constant stream of must-click headline titles. You can’t click fast enough to read the article.

    This, combined with a unique idea, or something outrageous, and a little luck, are probably the reasons blog posts go viral. But I’m a new blogger, so I’m learning as I go. ;)

  3. Well, one technique I use to produce viral content is posting about burning issues. Yeap, that means I post about stuff that every blogger goes through. Most of the time, that means working on building traffic and so forth.

    Posting about something that lot of people go through makes them relate to it and in turn, they develop a liking to read about that content in hoping an answer to getting over what they are going through.

    Well, I know that since I built my blog on going viral like posting articles which says “What you can do to [do something about] this [burning issue]”

  4. Finally have to say that you had given a great series teaching and this post “20 Linkbaiting Techniques.” was a good read too.

    I keep checking digg and see how stories go popular and what kinda stuff is liked by people.

    Thanks for a beautiful series Darren!

  5. Easier to ride the wheel others have perfected sometimes. Good ideas..thanks Darren.

  6. I have learned a lot from the “Promote Blog” posts. I certainly plan on putting some of them into practice.

    Darren you always come through with excellent information.

    The Masked Millionaire

  7. Good series of posts Darren, looks like sniper posts are better than machine gun posts.

  8. Very true. Viral content is like wild fire. In addition to quality of the content, external factors like timing, being the first to bring out the content matters.

  9. My most successful viral copy was a post I wrote about the world’s best pick-up artists:

    25 World’s Greatest Pick Up Artists

    I remember I spent a whole week working on this one post, everyday after work. It never got many diggs but the amount of Stumbleupon traffic and traffic from dating and seduction based blog links was astounding. I still get tons of traffic from this one post. Here’s some of the reasons why I think it went viral:

    It was list based with a nice big number in the title
    The VH1 reality show “The Pick Up Artist” was airing at the same time, so I got a lot of people search for pick up artist
    I did a lot of research, spent weeks figuring out who all the best pick up artists in the world were.
    It looked good. The copy was clean with good H2 headers, carefully sized pics and carefully summarized content for each pickup artist.

  10. Examples…since I’m new to blogging, I have to say that I got lucky with these:

    This did well on StumbleUpon
    10 Ways to Be A Good Husband

    I’ve noticed that SU users like lists a lot for some reason, and the fact that it was stumbled by a power user (thanks Wendy at eMoms) got it off to a dramatic start.

    In case anyone didn’t notice it when Darren (and Skellie) said it, make sure your blog is sticky before you try to do anything viral. I benefitted from the Stumbles, but I felt it could have done a lot better if only my blog had been formatted a little better at the time. Of course, I’m still working on it since I only blog a few hours a week.

  11. Generally lists and shocking titles go viral for almost any niche.

  12. Darren, I’ve always loved your posts. You do one thing that some bloggers forget to do: write in a language anyone can comprehend.

    SiteHoppers, I’m a little new to blogging…what’s the difference between sniper posts and machine gun posts?

    Very helpful feedback from the rest of the group!

  13. My coworker Jason had a crazy idea to make a gallery of shopping cart buttons last year and made the del.icio.us home page on May 16, 2007.


    We received 4,389 visits that day, and that post still sends us around 150 unique visits a day and has been bookmarked through del.icio.us 365 times. It’s also been covered by Smashing Magazine (9 months later) and that sent us a whack of new subscribers. There’s also about 70 backlinks to the post.

    I never thought it would be this popular, but the links and bookmarks didn’t stop in May, we keep getting benefits long after it was posted.

    If I could do it over, I would have tried to seed it better in design related social networks like Design Float, a site I was unaware of at the time.

    Another example is of a post that a reader of ours passed on to an influential blogger through a comment. The influential blogger (Guy Kawasaki) ended up blogging about our post and up went subscribers almost doubled within a week or so.


  14. Creating viral content is not easy. It has helped me to connect with other people’s concepts and take them a step deeper. This takes quite a bit of time. The blogger must take the time to just be with his thoughts to see how he really feels. Then get those thoughts down as quick as you can. Hopefully it manifests into something good, but you’ll never know if that post is worthy of going viral until you publish it and the key is to let your friends know it exists. If it’s good enough it will spread if not then just try again.

  15. This whole series was so helpful. Thank you for the pointers, Darren

  16. I’ve noticed that Stumble Upon is the easiest to get on as any post that is Stumbled Upon is guaranteed to at least get some traffic as opposed to digg where 1 digg isn’t where anything.

    Like the poster above me I’ve noticed that lists including “Top 30 blablabla” or “10 things that Your Doing Wrong” tend to hit Delicious and Stumble Upon quite often.

    I think it’s because they show that the post is a hub of information rather than just one article. And many of them have a call to action like the second one I posted above.

    I had fairly decent success with this post on Stumble Upon:
    SEO Through Site Organization

  17. This is very good advice and I think in combination of this and https://problogger.com/20-linkbaiting-techniqes/ I think that everyone can do a lot of with site promotion.

  18. This is pretty interesting … I’ll take the advice. Thanks, much!

  19. I’ve had occasional luck with viral content, but I haven’t quite figured out how to make it a constant thing. I tend to find posts that do well on social media are posts I didn’t expect to do well.

  20. I think you used “allusive” when you meant “elusive” :)

  21. I recently had PR Web press release on my new blog. We will see how this works.

    Thanks for your help on this topic.

    Jessica Bond
    Medical Careerist

  22. This article here called 11 Ways to Fix Workplace Depression went crazy on Stumble. Brought about 10,000 visitors in three days.

    People love articles that add value to their lives with tips and hints.

  23. Darren,you always give me helpfull advices.thanks

  24. :) Alright well on my site, this post http://www.inmyheels.com/how-to-discover-your-talents/ didn’t get the most comments but definitely got the most views in one day.

    I am constantly trying to figure out the right “formula” for getting my posts to go viral. So far, I am finding my readership is growing and those interested in my niche are beginning to get very involved

    Thanks for the tips on this post Darren

  25. I did a post a while back called Top 10 Advantages of ADD in a High Tech Career


    got the top spot on digg and delicious, 30k uniques in 3 days and a lot of links and comments.

    One advantage of getting a good blog “hit” is not just the immediate traffic burst, but the long term traffic from the links it generates. After the home page of my blog it’s been consistently the #2 most popular page on my ADD blog.

  26. I noticed that the contest over at WTW is going crazy viral. I expected more traffic considering all the high profile mentions and social media interaction. But visitors are interacting.


  27. By far my most popular post is: http://healpain.blogspot.com/2008/02/do-i-have-to-stay-positive-all-time-for.html
    It didn’t get a lot of comments but I did have many people email me to tell me they enjoyed it. Thanks for all your useful tips — I will definitely be putting them into action! Gratefully, Jenny

  28. Great Article Darren, worth the read.

  29. Darren is it just me but where is the Social Media part?

    On the “recently at the blog” it jumps from advertising post to the viral post.

  30. These posts are going into my “keepers” folder for further study and reference. Thanks!

    I’d like to offer a book recommendation for anyone who is trying to learn more about how to create “sticky” content. “Made to Stick” by Dan and Chip Heath is a fun read and I am learning a lot about how to write more effectively by applying the principles they’ve identified.


  31. I totally agree on Darren’s first “to do” list. I got some visit’s by guess posting on a certain blogging community…

  32. My best post to date has, by far, been an article about common Internet writing mistakes. I received over 11,000 stumbles on that post, which is at least ten times more than any other post on any of my blogs.

    What made this one different? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I have some ideas. I think it was a Divine Moment, a fateful conflux of several factors:

    The post met a felt need – writers want to know how to avoid mistakes, especially the big ones.
    The post was in list format – this made it easily digestible and stumble-friendly.
    A StumbleUpon power-user (not sure who) stumbled me.
    I included a couple of interesting pictures and personal examples in the post. This seems to be especially appealing.
    Of course, I’ve not been able to repeat this success, so I can’t guarantee that the above points are accurate at all :)

  33. nice advice.

    Thank you.

    Having a great title always gives the good first impression.

  34. Thanks for the great advice. First impression always count.

    Thanks again great advice

  35. Viral content is great due to the long term results it can bring in.

    It is very hard to get something that goes viral though. Work is required.

  36. This has been an excellent series of posts. I’ve already enacted stumbleupon advertising which very quickly started to produce some natural traffic and a high amount of positive reaction. It was great to get concrete data on how many visitors actually read and responded to the material.

    Viral content is definitely the holy grail of launching a blog and this post contains some strong ideas to make this work. I recently relaunched my blog having redefined the niche I wanted to write in (previously it was too broad, so I splintered off into three blogs). This has meant starting from scratch in finding a regular audience so your series coul;dn’t have come at a better time.

  37. I think the hardest part about doing this is that my readers aren’t the type of people who use Digg, Stumbleupon, etc. So I can focus on creating good content for our customers or I can focus on getting picked up in these sites in hopes of getting backlinks. Lately, I’ve just tried to write useful content. I get paid to blog and at least owe that to our customers.

  38. I’d definately have to say that going viral is 90% luck. There are millions of funny videos, column, etc. online but only a few ever truly go viral.

    When considering how best to make your stuff viral I have to agree that studying already successful sites is the best way to go. Great series of posts Darren. There’s a reason you’re one of the top bloggers on the net.

  39. Yes, I agree, it is good to study other sites to get inspiration. But yes, make sure to study quite a few, otherwise you will subcounsciously copy it. The more, the better.

  40. We found that we works quite will when it come to blogs. Getting the best results from your blog is what it is all about.

  41. It was wonderful series of articles and who ever goes through it will certainly find them directed in a proper way,but for a very much new comer to this great island of blogging some of the ideas showed seems to be easy than done.My request here for you is why don’t you go for a series of how to’s by taking thro us by hand and help. Thanx for the great article.

  42. I agree with what P.B.Eswar said. This series was packed full of great information, but a how-to series would be a tremendous help, especially for a new blogger like myself.

  43. Good post! I like viral ebooks, personally. I’ll write up a 5-10 page report giving out some good content, and slap a disclaimer at the beginning of the report saying how the reader now has either ‘Master Resale Rights’ or ‘Giveaway Rights’. They might use it to build their own list, or to satisfy their own readers/subscribers.

    And in the viral ebook, I have links to my blog all in them, so I can snag some cheap viral traffic.

    One of my books, actually isn’t all that viral…yet I sell it for cheap and let others promote it for 100% of the sale. One of my reports was all about Ebay, and I gave out 75% per sale with Clickbank for it.

    I gained 1500 new customerers as a result, and out of those 1500, 180 of them became blog subscribers. The other 1320 simply opted for my email newsletter since they weren’t into blogs as much as I am.

  44. stumbleupon looks a good choise to start, i got some hits whith them like

    but to get hits from digg…. it is…another history

  45. Great article. I’m still learning a lot and want to see our numbers to up for http://www.CrystalClearMarket.com.

    Also, do you recommend any services?


  46. This is a great resource. I enjoyed reading all the series.
    I liked the way you listed them and were easy to understand and follow. This will be one of my favorite resource center.
    Keep up the excellent service!

  47. Video is the best example of Viral content, if you have a good video, it can go viral asap.

  48. Haven’t had any luck yet, but you have some great ideas that I’m going to try out.

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