3 Practical Steps to Make Your Content Go Viral

3 Practical Steps to Make Your Content Go Viral

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Viral content. What is it about all those posts that go viral? What do they have that they don’t?

Your ideas are great.

Your content is compelling.

But no one is sharing it.

Let’s be honest: that’s the main problem that we all face when our blog is new.

We create content, no one hears about it, we create more, and so on until we’re tired. That’s why most of the bloggers fail.

Guess what – you CAN get more shares, tweets and comments from your post. (Yes, you!) That’s what this post will show you how to do.

This is a guest post by Ahmed Safwan.

Why aren’t your posts getting traffic?

Your ideas are great.

Your content is compelling.

But no one is sharing it.

Let’s be honest: that’s the main problem that we all face when our blog is new.

We create content, no one hears about it, we create more, and so on until we’re tired. That’s why most of the bloggers fail.

Even if you have a popular blog, your content will be shared but it won’t get you the benefits that you want.

Guess what – you CAN get more shares, tweets and comments from your post. (Yes, you!) That’s what this post will show you how to do.

It’s not about the content you share, it’s about the ingredients you add to it.

Yes, you need compelling content. But the majority of new posts are similar content that is shared again and again and again.

But what makes one post stand out, even with the same content?

It’s the ingredients that you add to your post to make it taste better and resonate more with your audience, so that they share it with their followers to get you more and more traffic.

But you still need compelling content. You need to share techniques and ideas that work. Start with the “what,” then share the “why” and the “how.”

I won’t go into detail about how to create posts, because there are thousands (if not tens of thousands) of posts about how to write better posts.

Instead, let’s talk about some of the ingredients that you could add, how to add them, and some real-life case studies of people who already did it.

1. Tell Stories.

I nearly died while ice climbing a few years ago.how to make a better blog

It was late in the season and the temperatures weren’t quite as cold as necessary for the frozen waterfalls to be solid enough to safely climb. But my friend and I were fearless and stupid—literally a lethal combination—and we wanted to get one last climb in before the frozen pillars fell apart.
We hiked up to the base of the climb and got everything ready. That’s when we heard a horrific crashing and rumbling sound.

We looked up and saw that a car-sized chunk of ice had calved off from the mountain several hundred feet above us. We didn’t have enough time to run away; we could only paste ourselves up against the ice and try to minimize the amount of space we were taking up.

The massive slab of ice hit a ledge about 50 feet above us and broke into hundreds of smaller projectiles. My friend was mostly out of harm’s way under a slight overhanging section of ice, but I was more exposed and got thoroughly pummeled.

I ended up bleeding in several places, had massive bruises on my back, and had to retire a helmet that a particularly fierce chunk of ice had gone after and cracked. Had I not been wearing that helmet, I’d be dead right now.

You’ve probably never been ice climbing. You probably never will go ice climbing. And I’m guessing you do not care in the least about ice climbing. Yet you’re still reading.

Why? Because the story grabbed your attention.

This is one of the most effective ways to make your post stand out from the crowd.

Tristan Higbee in his guest post at Traffic Generation Café

Tell a story that relates to your topic and you’ll be able to capture your audience’s attention.

To prove that stories work, check out James Chartrand on Copyblogger where she (yes, she) shares her story on why he is a she. The post gathered 549 comments. To this day, it remains one of the most popular posts on Copyblogger.

viral content tell stories

You can go and check it out here: Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants.

Another good example that I’d love to share is Jon Morrow’s post on Copyblogger, On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas. It was one of the best posts of 2009, and the post also got 344 comments.

viral content jon morrow story

Jon shared his story with his disease, how his mother fought to keep him alive to now when the doctor said that it was impossible, and how he is now one of the most popular bloggers.

Stories are a great ingredient to add to your posts to make it shine.

You don’t need to make specific posts to share your story, the way Jon and James did it. You can add a story just at the beginning of the post to hook your readers and make them continue reading.

It’s one of the best ways to open your post with a bang. (Thanks to Brian Clark for for the tip!)

Here’s an example for a post that opens with a bang using a story, The Glass Ceiling, the Inner Circle, and the Key to Building a Popular Blog. (Yes, it’s also by the awesome Jon Morrow. I can’t help but mention him everywhere. He is a genius.)

viral content story by jon morrow

In this post, he grabs attention with a story that resonates with most bloggers. It actually grabs our attention and makes us continue reading till the end.

And that’s what you need to do in your posts. You’re amazing, Jon.

2. Make your content practically useful

Another ingredient to add to your post to make it spread more is to make it practically useful.

viral content practical content example

From Promote Your Blog: 10 Steps to Ultimate Blog Promotion [My Personal Cheat Sheet]

It’s the easiest ingredient, yet many bloggers overlook it and don’t use it.

When I say “practically useful,” I’m talking about the how of your post. The implementation of your solution.

So, if you tell people they need to put more email signup forms to get more subscribers, then tell them exactly where to do it and how to add it.

Make it as detailed and actionable as possible.

This is one of the ingredients that Ana always adds to her post. That’s why I love her posts and maybe you’ll love them too, because of this simple technique.

So, here’s what to do to apply this tip:

  1. Think about the actions your readers need to make.
  2. Try to plan it in a set of step-by-step actionable points.
  3. Show them what to do next, and add the tips at the end of the post.
  4. That’s it.

Yes, this is an example of how to make posts actionable. It’s that simple, but really effective. Just try it.

3. Craft a magnetic headline

If you come away with only one thing from this post, then take the following tip and apply it.

I know that you’re annoyed by the idea of writing better headlines, but…

…did you know that you can multiply your traffic 50 times over just by having a better headline?

Want proof? Well, listen to this:

A few years ago, John Wesley from Pick the Brain wrote a post and he got only 100 visits from it. The content was great, and he was sure that it deserved more traffic.

He thought that the problem may be in the headline. He changed it and then published the post again with the same content, nothing changed. Guess what: he got over 5,000 visits. You can check out the entire case study here.

Think about this for a second. If a good headline could get you 5,000 visits when you normally get 100 visits from your posts, then it would save you the time needed to write an additional 50 posts. Amazing, right?

That’s why Jon Morrow says that if you write your post in 3 hours, write your content in half an hour and write your headline in the remaining 2.5 hours.

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and come up with something original.

You can simply steal and save yourself more time.

Here’s what I mean by “steal”: find the headline formula that worked for others and try to use it in your next post.

Jon Morrow created a list of 52 headline hacks (formulas) that always work when used right. Peter Sandeen also collected a list of 101 headline formulas.

Check them before you choose your headline to come up with the right formula, then try to fill the blanks with the right words.

But here are some tips to make your headline better:

  • Make it specific.
  • Try to make it something that grabs the attention even at 2 AM.
  • Use power words to make it better and astonishing.

This is actually what people see on Twitter, their RSS feed and everywhere else. People decide whether or not they’ll read the post from your headline. That’s why you need to take your time to come up with an irresistible headline.

Last Words

Compelling content is essential to make your content go viral, but it’s not enough. You need to add some ingredients.

Here are 3 ingredients you can add today and see what happens:

  • Tell a story.
  • Make your content practically useful.
  • Craft a magnetic headline.

You might be amazed with the results.

What do you think could be other ingredients to add to make the post spread like wildfire? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

You could also read this report to learn more about how to make your post go viral.


Ahmed Safwan

Ahmed Safwan is a blogger and marketer that teaches how you can get your posts shared, tweeted, and talked about. If you want more people to read and interact with your content, check out his free Blogger’s Handbook for Writing Viral Posts!

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16 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. Hi Ahmed,

    Starting with a bang

    Open your post with a bang. This is interesting. It means to try to capture the attention of the visitors from the beginning and make them want to read the entire post.
    Telling stories is a good thing, if you can do it. Not anybody can write a good story. It involves a little bit of literary talent.

    Well, I saw many bloggers trying to do this and with little success. Why? Because the bang must be followed by quality content. If the bang is the only thing valuable in your posts, your reputation will be destroyed on a long term.

    Starting with a bang is a way of saying that millions of people are bored by the ocean of posts available in the blogosphere and they need something powerful to attract their attention: the entertaining factor. Yes, they need entertainment, they need to hear about not so common things like men in women’s underpants or powerful emotional stories with dying mothers or sick babies that cheated death.

    The point is: do we really need those millions of bored visitors? If all we need is social proof, then, yes. We need those bored visitors. If you really want to help people, those millions of bored visitors are just a powerful roadblock on your path.

    Choosing the right niche can help you avoid those millions of bored visitors that want entertainment. It can help you avoid all those sensational things like underpants, or people who are not sure about their sexual identity or I don’t know what other sick ingredient that people like so much.

    Less traffic is better when it is more targeted. So, the first thing you must do is find the right niche for you. Then, yes, you could try to start your post with a bang or with a story and see how it works. Enough with stories and bangs. Let’s go on to the second ingredient.

    Practically, useful content

    Yes !!! This is what you really must do. Practical, actionable tips that help people solve a problem. The most important thing is to make your tips as detailed as possible. It must be simple, easy, detailed, step by step and with no gaps.
    Thumb up and congratulations for this second ingredient.

    Valuable, useful or “magnetic”?

    When browsing through thousands of blogs in the blogosphere, I’ve noticed that most bloggers provide generic tips, usually in the form of lists. Even when they try to explain how to do something or how to solve a problem, they leave countless gaps, usually at the most important steps.

    This makes their posts practically useless. And they try to compensate this defect with beautiful pictures, magnetic headlines or cool videos with fancy introductions.

    Why? Because they know it works. They have no teaching abilities but create “how to” and practical guides that cannot help you much but are beautiful crafted and with killer titles that attract attention.

    You manage to attract people’s attention, indeed. However, at the end of the day people leave there, from your blog, empty handed. You wasn’t able to help them solve their problems and they still don’t know : how to drive traffic, how to increase conversions, how to make money etc.
    This strategy is very good for short term success. On the long run, it kills you.

    A good post must be:
    – practical
    – useful
    – easy to follow
    – step by step
    – detailed
    – with no gaps.

    Magnetic headlines
    This is a tool especially designed for attracting people’s attention. A good headline must be:

    – relevant
    – specific
    – include a benefit (What do I get, if I red your post?).

    If all you want is to attract attention, then by all means, craft a killer title, write a magnetic headline. It will destroy your reputation on a long term.

    When you meet a magnetic headline, you can “smell” even from the first glance, that the title was especially designed to attract attention. At that moment, you feel, with all your heart and soul that post is low quality (90% of cases). I always avoid magnetic headlines.


    It all depends on what you want. If you want to attract attention, hunt a big game that will ensure a comfortable and pleasant life for many years to come, then be my guest. Create a magnetic headline, start with a bang and do everything to attract attention.

    I wonder, do you really think those millions of bored visitors who will laugh or cry or have a good time reading your posts, will give you their money? If your niche is entertainment … maybe. If your niche is different form entertainment, I doubt.

    Have a wonderful day

  2. Nice article On the “next action” tip… I remember reading that a similar strategy was one of the reasons Tim Ferriss did so well with the 4-hour workweek. He offers very clear next steps at the end of the chapter on where to go to implement the content he shared on the previous pages.

    If you think about it, most books don’t offer a very clear list of resources for you to put the content into action. He spoon-fed the next steps to the reader and it helped the books fly off shelves.

    Of course, there is a lot more to his story, but it definitely helped.

  3. Hey Ahmed,

    Your post gave me some new ideas to create viral posts. I was worried about my blog as my content was not getting much shares. I’m going to implement your tips, i hope that i will succeed in getting good hits for my posts. Thanks!

  4. What an entertaining (and informative) read… lovely… actually, think I might go and read it again…

    Such great detail and lots of common sense approach to getting noticed.


  5. Hey Ahmed, thanks for enlightening us with your amazing post. We all go about our blogs and hope for shares but it is of course far better to “know” that you have done enough to make things viral-worthy. Never any guarantees of course. I have just signed up for those two headlines guides – awsesome stuff. I should only be crafting great headlines from now on.
    The story aspect is something else to work on I think. I used it once for a comments related post and it worked well, but I have headed more into the how-to lately. Time for some changes!!
    thanks again, ashley

  6. Thanks for this post. I’ll definitely check out the headline hacks. I think another reason posts go viral is because of who the writer is. I’ve seen similar posts around the Internet. Posts by ‘popular’ bloggers have more shares than posts by newer bloggers – even though they’re sometimes saying exactly the same thing.

    • Ana Hoffman

      That’s definitely very true, Anne – reputation and number of fans do make a HUGE difference.

  7. Sandipan Mukherjee

    I have experienced this problem – even after writing a good and quality articles, I did not receive traffic in my blog. Later I realized the fact that headlines are very important for an article. Even if you add a story or write something which is useful to the readers, no one will read it. Headlines makes or breaks an article.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Great post Ahmed.

    I haven’t had any posts go viral yet, but maybe with the help of this post I can make one go viral.

    I love the shout outs to headline hacks and Peter Sandeen’s headline formulas. Both of those resources are amazing. I love how Peter breaks down why the formulas work as well.

    I read the James Chartrand post a long time ago. It’s an amazing story if you check out her site.

    Thanks for the information Ahmed.

    Do you have any examples from your blog that went viral?

  9. Hi Ahmed,
    Thank you for the great detail. So much to study! But let me zero in on one item and ask your advice.

    Regarding magnetic headlines…(I’m about to disclose my newbieness)…I have a few posts that are truly awe inspiring (if I say so myself), epic content in every sense of the word. But when it comes to the headlines I have been writing for SEO and keywords which don’t necessarily make for a magnetic headline.

    For example one of my greatest posts (I’m really laying it on thick here) is titled Franchises by a Franchisee…you’re snoring right?

    When you are just starting out shouldn’t you strive for SEO to build traffic? How much would it take away from SEO to craft headlines for attention rather than SEO? Isn’t it a catch 22 situation? You need to attract attention but you need to create the traffic first that will read your stuff and pass it on. What brings in new traffic to a new website? SEO or viral content??

    Thanks again for your great post. And thanks Ana for a great blog.

    • Glad that you asked that question…

      What if you ranked no.1 in google and your headline isn’t capturing attention? You’ll get nearly no visits.

      Trying to chase google when your blog is still new is very hard, that’s why you shouldn’t care that much about google.

      Google isn’t focusing a lot about keywords in headlines, it actually may hurt your rankings.

      To get better rankings, have a better coded design, create long content, optimize that content using tools like scribe, and then try to get links.

      Getting social shares and links, which viral posts do, is what you need to rank higher on search engines.

      Try the above tips and you’ll get better results.

      Thanks for this great question and comment Sylvia.

      • Well, you certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. Thank you! I plan to revisit my headlines and start thinking “magnetic” rather than SEO.

        • Ana Hoffman

          If I may step in, Ahmed and Sylvia – here’s my take on the headlines (coming from someone who’d not very good at writing headlines, yet managed to draw in plenty of attention with “practical” headlines).

          Let’s take these type of headlines:

          • How to Make Your Analytics Reports More Beautiful than a Double Rainbow … and Know What it Means!
          • Why You Don’t Need to Be A Grumpy Cat When Working on Your Link Building
          • How to Make Your Infographics Stand Out Like Honey-Boo-Boo in A Bikini
          • What Dance Moms Can Teach You About Dealing with Crazy Clients

          Are they “magnetic”? In my opinion, they are somewhat silly and would never make me want to click on them – I simply don’t see the benefit I’ll get if I do.

          On the other hand,

          • Link Building Strategies That Won’t Make you Crazy
          • How to Make Sure your Infographics Go Viral
          • Strategies For Dealing with Difficult Clients

          …definitely hit the chord with me – they are practical, tell me what I’ll learn upfront, which absolutely makes me want to click on them.

          What I am trying to say is this: there needs to be a good balance between “magnetic” and common-sense.

          Another example: the title of this post. It’s getting a lot of attention, yet the headline is quite simple and to the point.

          I am not saying you shouldn’t try to change your headlines, Sylvia. Just don’t get carried away with trying to be too creative.

          • Common sense is my middle name! Thank you Ana for reminding me of that and keeping me from swaying too far in the wrong direction.

            I was considering going the silly route to draw attention, but you are right that it could backfire and push readers away. Especially in my field I need to be taken seriously (without coming off too dry and stodgy).

            Your examples perfectly demonstrate the right balance.

            Thank you Ana and Ahmed for your well thought out advice. We newbies are grateful for all your input!

            • Ana Hoffman

              You are very welcome, Sylvia; always happy to help and have fun brainstorming your headlines!