How to Write a Viral Blog Post (and what to do when it happens!)

Over the course of the last ten years, I’ve had quite a few blog posts go viral. But before we get into what that looks like and how to write a viral blog post, I want to go over the definition of a viral blog post.

For me, a viral blog post is not something that gets 85 million shares on Facebook or something ridiculous like that.

In the world of Story & Strategy, ‘viral’ means that your post continues to serve your current audience, new audience and your pocketbook long after you’ve written it.

The other key characteristic of a viral post is that it happens organically – you don’t pay for something to go viral. It usually happens because you’ve created something that is incredibly timely, well-strategized and structured and you’ve promoted it well. 

(Check out this post about how to grow your organic blog traffic).

It has more to do with usefulness and intention than it does shares and FB/IG metrics.

Something to be aware of is that there are different types of viral posts! Let’s go through the different types so that you can target the one(s) you might want.

How to write a viral blog post and what to do when it happens; optimizing posts;  monetizing posts

Viral because it was shared by ‘someone big’

This is always a one-off and potentially a total fluke. But the possibility of this happening is reason enough to always write a solid blog post that will generate at least a bit of income (or hit your other business objectives) if it gets shared. 

For example, two summers ago, I posted a really simple project that was fun and quite visual and it was shared by a GIANT blogger on her Pinterest and FB feeds. That post? It’s still seasonally viral to this day. Good thing I had optimized it for Pinterest, Facebook sharing and for affiliate and digital sales!

Seasonally viral posts

Which brings up the idea of writing ‘seasonally viral’ posts. I had a client who’s traffic QUINTUPLED every November and December. Why? Because she had so much seasonal content that just kept giving back. She focused all her energy on that particular season in her client and audience’s lives and it showed. The problem with this type of viral content is that it creates a huge gap for the rest of the year. It’s nice to have that uptick, but make sure you are writing enough content that appeals throughout the rest of the year OR that you have a plan to capture those readers in some other way.

Viral for a Day or a Week

This is the hardest type of virality to understand, but sometimes a blog post will spike (like massively) if you are shared by a niche site with an engaged readership. Consider that online magazine editions will often share blogger or content. But those ‘magazines’ will publish on certain days to a reader base that is expecting to read new content ON THAT DAY.

What that will look like is a gigantic spike on your Google Analytics reports, but the traffic rarely lasts. It usually comes when your link ends up in their email newsletter and peters out after a week or so. 

However, these types of viral posts are great for long term growth because anytime a website larger than yours links to you, you are establishing authority with the Google Gods. 

(PS. One of the incredible bonuses in Stories for a Year is a masterclass set on Pitching You and Your Content to publications and media! Adding this into your organic traffic strategy is so key to boosting your visibility. You can check out the entire Stories for a Year program and I’ve got more information about it below).

Viral because something takes off on social media

This is few and far between these days as Facebook is really not a great traffic driver anymore (at least for new accounts). Sometimes a Youtube video will take off if it’s properly keyworded and shared and sometimes a Pin will take off like wildfire. In my opinion, you should always expect that your post will do well on at least ONE social network. So really, this isn’t virality, but just good solid promotion and knowing your audience.

How do you prepare a post to go viral?

Write it to answer a question

No one will share a post that doesn’t teach them things. Even if your post is personal, emotional and introspective, make sure your post either asks a question of your reader (something for them to reconsider in their lives) or answers a question they might have. Then? Answer the next logical question they might ask.

For example, if your post is about saving money while on maternity leave, you might answer that specific question (how do you save money on mat leave?) and then end the post with a paragraph about ‘how to save money on day care and child care costs’.

Link to your other assets

If you’re just starting your blog, you likely won’t have a lot of other content to link to within your blogs, but you need to find SOMEWHERE else to link your readers. Link to your social profiles or email list. Link to your About Page! And if you have a solid body of content, use natural language to link out to other posts that relate. The aim? Keep your reader engaged and on your site.

Draft an idea for a follow-up post

I might be in the minority here, but I never write a blog post without considering a related post I can write to bolster it. I always try to write a related post within two weeks of the original post JUST IN CASE the first post goes viral. Having another post in the wings is a signal to your readers that you are invested in the topic and to Google that you are an authority on that subject matter.

Add affiliate links

The easiest affiliate program to use and link to is Amazon. If you have opportunity within your posts, you should be linking out to affiliate products and using proper sales disclosure.

Add your optin or a link to a digital product

If you sell something, you should be taking every opportunity to invite people into that sale. When you write a post, ask if you can organically link to your sales content (like I did above with Stories for a Year), but also use extra formatting to consistently add blocks and images that will pique a readers’ interest in your paid offers. 

Create multiple Pinnable Images

We’ve already talk about how you need to assume your reader is going to Pin your content. You should have at least ONE pin image in your post, but if your post starts to take off, you’ll want another pin you can start using to do some A/B split testing. Not necessary, but I’ve seen major wins playing this strategy.

Start tracking your numbers

Dig into your Google Analytics. When you first notice a post take off, create a separate report just for that post and study the c**p out of it. The thing with the Internet is that it’s definitely the Wild West in some regards, but it’s also a bit of a one-trick pony in others. If you can study your viral posts, you will be able to tease out the elements that gave it fuel and try it again. Most times you’ll see great results.

Create an email capture

This is a given on any blog these days. You love your readers, but the best way to turn them into returning readers and fans is to get into their inboxes. Use a program like Mailchimp or Convertkit to create a subscription field where your readers can sign up.

Just like I’m doing here below as I invite you to download 77 Story Prompts that you can use to draft blog posts, social media posts and more!

Get some display ads running

If you don’t have many page views to start, ads can feel like a tough slog. Google AdSense is likely where you’ll begin, but once you see page view exceeding 10K/month, you’ll be able to apply to other ad networks that will give you better return on your display advertising. If you are on WordPress, consider using a light weight plug-in like Ad Inserter to create a pleasing User Experience and control your blog’s look and feel.

Mystified by the notion of display ads? Check out this post I wrote about How to Monetize your Blog. 

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