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August 2, 2013

How To Write A Viral Blog Post

It has become quite difficult to find someone who hasn’t dabbled in the blogging world. With the majority of the world typing away, and publishing their two cents online, how does anyone succeed in getting their point of view to go viral? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how up-to-date you are with current events, and it certainly doesn’t matter that you follow Kim Kardashian, Barack Obama, and Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai on Twitter. Unless you follow some concrete steps, you will have quite a hard time having that latest blog post go viral. Luck does play a factor in having your latest blog post become an overnight online sensation, but sadly luck is something that only a fair few are born with. So for the rest of us chumps who were not born at the end of a rainbow next to the leprechaun with the pot of gold, here is a breakdown of how you can steer your next post on a viral course.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, it is important to note that virality is seldom achieved on the first try. In my blogging career, I am not ashamed to admit that I struggled through a grueling trial-and-error period. You follow current events, you keep your points succinct, and you produce paragraph after paragraph of well-written text, only to publish it and get the blogging equivalent of a bad date. No one comments on your post, you get one like, from your mother, and that newly uploaded post is a total flop. Many of my personal lessons learned come from a specific blogging fail, in which my would-be viral post turned into a complete online miss.

My Viral Fail

The year was 2010, and I was traveling through Vietnam with some friends. The trip, which started in the northern part of the country, quickly led us onto a boat in the middle of Vietnam’s infamous Halong Bay. As would any carefree traveler struggling with the intense humidity, I did as everyone else on the boat did and dove head first off the boat into the immense body of water. A few sips of Saigon Beer, and laps around the boat later, I found myself in the water with a jellyfish the size of a four-year-old wrapped around my body. The adrenaline kicked-in, along with the Michael Phelps in me, and I managed to release myself from the grip of the tentacles and swim back to the boat. Once I got myself onto the deck of the boat, the adrenaline and Michael Phelps quickly vanished. I was left with unbearable pain, two Vietnamese sailors whose best medical remedy was to scrub me down with lime, and salt, and four friends frantically trying to find ways to help me. Have you ever heard that peeing on a jellyfish sting helps to ease the pain? Yeah, that doesn’t work. Lime, salt, and pee later there I was lying on a boat, helpless. To make a long story short, after the jellyfish sting healed, and my unforgettable travel experience came to an end, I knew that I needed to start writing. I worked long and hard on a blog post that I was sure was going to become so successful that the editor of the New York Times would be the next person calling my phone.

The editor never called, and the post that I was so sure was going to see me some serious international recognition, got me nowhere. So there I was, head-in-hand with a failed blog post on the screen, and my mother telling me how great my story was. After wallowing in self pity for a day or two, I decided that my fight to publish a viral blog post was not over. After long hours spent investigating the topic of “viral blog posts” I found the errors in my blogging ways.

What To Consider Before You Blog

So what went wrong? The post was well-written, and the text was certainly relatable, but why didn’t the post get the recognition I was hoping for? While it is important to keep yourself in mind while you are blogging, it is even more important to keep your audience in mind. The bottom line is that seven out of 10 users who visit your site will make the decision as to whether they are going to stay or leave based on what they see in the first 10 seconds. So while well-written content is important, high-quality photos to match the content is a necessity. As time consuming as it may be to find quality images to suit your posts, this task is worth every second spent. The good news is, with the recent shift in emphasis on high-quality images, there is no shortage of online services, which can help you find the right photos to fit your pages.

Before you get too ahead of yourself, keep in mind that in order to publish a viral blog post, you need to write one first. Perhaps the most valuable tip I can give any online author would be to plan ahead. One of the major reasons why my jellyfish sting story didn’t fly, was I didn’t map out my post before I started writing. Instead of organizing my thoughts in an outline, or researching the topic I was about to write an “expert” post on, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just start writing. That, my friends, was an extremely uncalculated move. So, here’s a clue, before you start typing, grab a pen and paper and ask yourself, “what do I want to write about?” Jot down a few topics that interest you and then start researching. The good news is there are a lot of tools that can help you be sure that what you want to write about is going to appeal to the masses. Google Trends is a great example of an easily accessible tool that anyone hoping to produce a viral blog post should be familiar with. This service provides some very useful information on what is hot, and what is not, so you can be confident when you start typing out the pages of your post. If you want that post to go viral, it is important to make sure that the masses want to read what you have to say. As much as you might find the hairball in the shape of Jesus that your cat just coughed up fascinating, it stands to reason that the entirety of the Internet community may not agree with you on that one. So think twice before you leap, because a well-planned post will almost always see more recognition than a spontaneous rant.

How To Choose A Viral Blog Topic

When choosing a topic to blog about there is a catch, which tends to derail many on the path to writing a viral blog post. The topic you choose to write about, must interest you. For anyone reading, I am aware that I just completely contradicted myself, so allow me to explain. Choosing a blog post topic, is like choosing a bottle of wine to bring to a dinner party. You want to bring something that everyone will enjoy, but if you don’t appreciate the subtle notes of vanilla, how will you take pride in the bottle everyone is drinking from? The key to writing a viral blog post is to make a list of a few topics that you enjoy writing about, and from that list choose the topic that is most likely to appeal to everyone else. In order not to get in over your head, choose topics that you enjoy, and know enough about that you can write a detailed post.

Once you have decided on your topic, and you have drawn-up your outline it is time to get to it, and start writing your viral blog post. As an avid writer, I know that not everyone has the same writing rituals, and routines. Be aware of yourself while you blog. If you are the type of person who produces the best papers in a quiet space with some good lighting, then be sure to choose your time wisely. Write when no one is home, or go to a library. If you are like me, and your creative juices only start flowing in the wee hours of the night, be sure to stock up on the coffee, and find yourself a comfortable spot on the couch. Ultimately, as the writer, you know what environment will allow you to produce your best work. Until you find yourself in a comfortable spot, don’t prematurely force your creative process to happen.

How To Choose A Viral Blog Title

A good viral blog post always begins with a good viral blog title. The key here is not to let yourself get caught up in the details. If you don’t have a good title in mind before you start writing, don’t worry — it will come to you. I can guarantee that somewhere in the writing mix you will have your “Ah-Ha” moment when your viral blog title will magically come to mind. An important part of blogging is allowing yourself to go with the flow. Worry about correcting your grammar, and spelling mistakes in the editing phase, and simply allow your thoughts to freely flow onto the pages.

One of the most important aspects to writing a viral blog post, may also be the most challenging. While you write, be sure to give your audience a reason to keep reading.

Make Your Best Offer

Never forget that in today’s online world, readers typically have the attention span of a three year old, and unless you promise them candy, or the online equivalent to candy, for reading the post to the very end, most readers tend to tune out somewhere in the middle. Nowadays, any viral blog post comes equipped with a good incentive for the reader who gets to the very end. If you are blogging about tech tips, be sure to leave your best advice for the very end of the page. By ensuring your readers from the very beginning of your post that there is something to look forward to at the end, you are giving them a reason to want to continue to read. More importantly, if you have made a promise to your readers at the beginning of your post that there is something great waiting for them at the end, be sure to deliver.

SEO Matters

Good SEO will ultimately determine whether that post goes viral or not. Once you have your blog post written, be sure to optimize it in every way possible. Add enough high quality images to suit the size of your text. One good image won’t be enough to make that 1000-plus word post looking its best. Similarly be mindful of your key words. You want Google, and other major search engines to be able to recognize your post when someone searches your topic. When blogging about starvation in Africa, make sure Homer Simpson is not the most commonly used word in the text. Although, if you can somehow fit him in as part of a related anecdote then kudos! Another easy tool that will help boost your SEO is to add hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are a truly simple way to help enhance your posts popularity, so there is really no excuse why not to add some in. By adding the hyperlinks, which you can access from automated services such as Infolinks, not only are you doing yourself a favor by increasing the chances that your post get recognized, but you are also giving your readers a more enjoyable experience. The hyperlinks will allow your readers to get more connected to your post, by giving them an option to link to exactly what you are referring to.

Becoming the author of a viral blog post won’t happen overnight. Typically posts that go viral are written by a well-known author. Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to become the next winner of American Idol in order to have your blog post go viral, but you do need to come to terms with the fact that in the blogging world, all authors start out small. Ultimately, the key is not to get discouraged. Keep your head up and keep on writing, even if your last posts saw abysmal reviews, and you only got “likes” from family members. By following the guidelines, and writing from the heart, sooner or later your posts will start to become the talk of the town. Writing a viral blog post is hard work, but once you get the ball rolling on your online writing career there is no telling where you may end up.


Leytal Ross is a professional writer, and editor. With an expertise in content-marketing, Leytal enjoys sharing her tips and tricks with the online community. When Leytal isn’t at her computer writing, you may often find her exploring new, exotic locations around the globe.

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