How to Write Viral Content – Without Actually Writing It

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how to write viral contentOne of the biggest problems facing new bloggers is a lack of traffic.

You pour your heart and soul (and hours of your time) into creating great content, and no one sees it.

Maybe you obsessively check your Analytics to see if anyone found your site. Hmm … nobody … maybe I didn’t install the tracking code correctly?

I know the feeling.

I blogged in relative obscurity for years. And while I loved the practice of writing and everything I learned during those years, if you want to accelerate your growth curve you might want to apply the technique I’ll share today.

This content marketing strategy allows you to quickly create viral content — without having to write “epic shit” every time yourself.

Names, Names, Names!

But first a story about why this works.

In Made To Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath profiled a local North Carolina newspaper that increased readership 112% by focusing on one easy mantra: “names, names, names!” Simply put, the more local people they could include in their stories by name, the more papers they sold.

People were more likely to read, subscribe, and share the paper when they found stories about their friends, neighbors, and sometimes even themselves.

The same tactic works online.

The more names you can include in your posts, the more potential built-in “virality” you’ve got.

Irony alert: For this post, I should have reached out to 50 experts for their #1 tip in creating viral content. Next time.

I can’t claim to have invented this method, or even to be the best at executing it, but it’s definitely an important weapon to include in your content marketing arsenal.

In fact, I used it earlier this month in a post on whether young professionals should get an MBA or start a business. The post had over 250 social shares in its first week:

mba post social shares

How it Works

Here’s how it works:

  • Ask a bunch of people to answer the same question.
  • Compile and curate the best responses.
  • Format it so it doesn’t look like you just barfed words on the page.
  • Add pictures and links to everyone who contributed.*
  • Let everyone you cited know you included them in your article and invite them to share.

*”Old school” SEO might have advised against this kind of rampant outbound linking. After all, you want to keep all your “link juice” flowing to your own internal pages, right? Nowadays, not so much. In fact, linking to sites that are more authoritative than yours may even send positive ranking signals to Google so spread the link love around.

3 Well-Executed Examples

Here are some well-executed examples of this style of post.

Navid Moazzez credits this post for “bursting him onto the scene,” and for good reason. He got 37 experts to share their personal branding insights and the post has generated over 1600 social shares so far.

navid personal branding round-up

Rich Brooks from The Marketing Agents and the annual Agents of Change conference rocked it with this post on podcasting. He asked 13 experts for their insights, and the post has generated over 1200 social shares. (Most of those from Pinterest.)

podcasting tips from the experts

And Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents crushed it with this post featuring 68 experts on their best investments ever. Who wouldn’t want to click on that?

The post has over 800 shares:

jeff rose roundup example

4 Ways to Curate Expert Content

OK, so how do you actually get this done? Here are some of the most popular methods.

HelpAReporter

My favorite method for sourcing experts is HelpAReporter.com (HARO). We’ve talked about HARO a few times on the site before, mostly as a way of generating press mentions for your side hustle, but in this case, I’m using it as a journalist.

To use HARO as a journalist, your site must have an Alexa rank in the top million worldwide. It’s not exactly “a gimme” but it’s not unattainable for relatively new sites either.

(To check your Alexa rank, just head over to Alexa.com and use the search bar in the top right.)

alexa global rank

If you haven’t quite cracked the top 1,000,000 yet, there are a few more methods below that work equally well. You may even be able to join some of the HARO alternatives like SourceBottle or MuckRack and use those as a journalist.

After you’re registered for HARO (or these other sites), you’ll create your query. Basically this is a brief description of what question you need answered and your source requirements.

For example, here’s the query I wrote for my recent post whether people should get an MBA or start a business:

haro sample query

If you’re asking a broad question like I did, you’ll get a LOT of responses. More than 50 hit my inbox the day my question hit HARO subscribers’ emails.

Pro Tip: If you let HARO know about your published article, they might tweet it out to their 107,000 followers:

haro tweet

Facebook / LinkedIn groups

Another great place to go hunting for sources is in Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups, or Google+ Communities you may belong to. Just be sure to get permission from the participants to post their comments (with link attribution, if they want).

Here’s an example of someone sourcing comments for an article in the FinCon community:

FinCon roundup example

DIY method

It’s a little more labor-intensive, but if you don’t belong to any groups relevant to your niche (why not??), you can do this outreach one-on-one to the people you’d like to include in your post.

Here’s an email I received asking for a quick quote for an article.

blogging roundup 5 words

Five words in exchange for a backlink?

Easiest SEO I’ve ever done.

Some people I’ve seen doing this now link to a Google Form where I can input my answer to the question, my preferred attribution link, my twitter profile, and even a link to a headshot. It makes life easier for the person compiling the post.

Outsource it

If you’re pressed for time, you can actually outsource this strategy as well. Even though this type of content doesn’t require a ton of your own writing input, it still is time-intensive from the curation, editing, and formatting standpoint.

If you don’t want to be bothered with it, my friend Codrut Turcanu actually has set up a done-for-you-service to compile these viral round-up posts.

Your Turn

Have you ever implemented this strategy? Think you can give it a shot?

how to write viral content pin

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8 thoughts on “How to Write Viral Content – Without Actually Writing It

  1. Holy sh*t, Nick! This is so friggin’ simple. I guess I was expecting a wildly intense analysis of viral marketing with a spreadsheet or two thrown in.

    Nope — just the simple idea with screenshots of what’s worked for you personally. Will put this to the test, man! Thanks!

  2. It’s been awhile since the last comment but I appreciate this. I have been looking for ways to boost traffic to my site. Between this and the pinterest ideas, I have things to work on!

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