Scribble CaseStudy – Can a Amateur Like Me Learn to Write a Viral Blog Post?

Is it really possible to learn how to create viral content or is it sheer luck? Does is need a magic gift that only few possess or is true craftsmanship ? I wrote this blog post for all those amateur bloggers like myself. My goal is to have a proven methodology, a validated process, the right tools and all the key ingredients in one place. So whenever I set out to write my next “viral” content I do not have to put all the relevant bits and pieces of advice from various resources together. I have come across a number of very good research and case studies lately. These insights also confirmed to me to incorporate the experiences of Leonardo Da Vinci. He followed a very systematic approach in order to create the most famous paintings. For Leonardo Da Vinci patience is the first key ingredients to mastery. Most painters he observed where rushing to complete their paintings instead of having the patience to focus on the quality of their drawing. The second key ingredients is science. He measured intensively all the objects and human beings to find out about their  proportions. He studied people until he identified the key face muscles involved in their emotions. Up until a few days ago though I believed that viral content is either created by magician with a divine gift or pure luck. Then I came across a blog post with the title “Case Study: How to Increase Your Traffic by 226% in Just 60 Days” by  on (350 Total Shares – Buzzsumo) . Guy Kawasaki had shared this case study on Linkedin. The title itself  isn’t really attractive, yet the content is. It changed my view and got me exited to dig deeper into the subject.  on shared his research insights on what makes a blog post become viral. In summary it is: – Length of content:  2000-2500 words – A Case study performs better than author advice – Number of Images: 15+ and they need to be relevant – Lists perform better than feature articles – Titles should be long and descriptive – The author should have credibility in his domain At least I am very credible. I have never a written a blog post in my entire blogger life of seven years that went viral. I didn’t even write one blog post that was shared by anyone except myself. I was intrigued. Can someone like me learn to write a viral blog post at all or am I a lost case? The article is full of practical and extremely useful advice, but I was lacking answers still to a number of questions. What is the effort required to write such a long and sharable article? What additional research tools do I need to create the content for this article? Where do I find all these relevant pictures for my post? What is the threshold when a blog post is considered to be a viral one? What are all the process steps from beginning to end? Well, I started to dig deeper into the subject and found this article “Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us” by Noah Kagan at OkDork. 7200 Shares on social media (buzzsumo) It is a research done by Buzzsumo. Their conclusion is:

  1. Inspire awe, laughter, or amusement.
  2. Appeal to people’s narcissistic side (think BuzzFeed quizzes)
  3. Long-form content has less competition, and more shares on average. 2000 words+
  4. List posts and infographics are more likely to be shared.
  5. Make sure your article inspires trust. Have a byline, and bio. Make sure you have a professional logo and design as well.
  6. Mix text with visually appealing elements.
  7. Implement social metadata such as the Facebook preview image
  8. Reach out to influencers before you write your content.
  9. Promote your articles after it’s been published for a week
  10. Tuesday is the best day to publish and promote content

In the next step I look even further into the research. There is one researcher that stands out – Jonah Berger. Include a short description of his research and his book. Contagious… written by Jonah Berger + Kary Milkman and their research “What Makes Online Content Go Viral?” link to PDF Research Also John Doherty What Kind of Content Gets Links in 2012 showed that long posts over 2000 words receive more links. Lot’s of more great findings what the characteristics of a viral blog posts are. But still again what is the best way to put those into practice? I decided first of all to work on a concrete example. This is the best way for me to learn new concepts and methods. At the end of this journey I want to have a blog post that has all the potential to turn into a viral one. For my project I chose the topic of Learning To Read Chinese. Oh, wow how attractive is that? Noop. Definitely there needs to be some more magic sauce to this title. But this is something left to the end of the journey towards the viral blog post. What is viral ? How do you measure it ? Before I set out on the journey I need to understand what are the key performance indicators that make a blog post to be considered as viral? Look at the most shared content – what is the maximum? Share the suggestion of one blogger to benchmark against own content and then multiply by 10, or use tools like buzzsumo and see how related content performed, what is possible with the topic. It is about number of sharing, number of links not views (could be through Web searches), not number of comments. If you want more comments usually shorter posts perform better) 3 Secrets To Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral by Bryan Hutchinson at WriteToDone suggests a viral post has an extremely high number of shares compared to the number of shares for your average post. Example if you had a total shares of 10  in average for your blog post and you receive 10-20 times more shares for your blog post you can considered this as a viral post. How to write quality content ? Link to the MOOC on effective writing, mention the Harvard article on the phases of effective writing and link to the most shared article on effective writing. Mary Jacksch 200 000 Shares(?) How to create viral content ? “Even if nine out of 10 read the first few paragraphs and leave, the 10th person would be enough to begin building a loyal following.” Time Urban/Andrew Finn founder of Wait but Why. Ezine Article – How To Create A Viral Blog Post – Advise improve on what went viral already – and here how the process looks like Noah Robertson Fastcompany: Buzzfeed, PlayBuzz, ViroaNova, Upworthy Example: Wait but Why has 63 articles with over 2000 words, average of 300 000 to 600 000 shares , Comments in the 1000s Wait but Why Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy   2000 000 shares Tim Urbans advice: you need to be exited about your content. Content needs to be in easy digestible chunks separated by images. Maximum eight big paragraphes per chunk. Effort: About 50-100 hrs research and disuccion, about 80 hrs to write and edit it.

1.  Scribble – Empty Your Head The first step I usually take is to scribble like the baby in the picture. This is the phase of the “right” brain. The right brain is used for creative and meta thinking while our left brain is our judge, our analytic side. The key is to be wildly creative. If you start researching and start reading other posts you will frame your mind. It will already focus you in one direction. Become the madman (see Harvard Business Review). I write down everything I already know about the topic and the questions I still have. In this phase I do no worry about structure, grammar, spelling, format and design and of course not about the main title. In my concrete example I wrote down that it took me below 32 hours to learn to read my first book, that it can be done faster, the first book I read, how amazed I was and the question: how to teach others, has someone else written about the subject, where do people talk about this subject, who are the expert in this field? If you are unsure if this topic is really in demand you can go to step 3 research. There are number of tools to find out about the current interest into your topic. Before you finally decide you might go back and think if there is a different way / perspective to look at the subject and if there is a link to a subject that is currently trending. 2. Outcome You might also at this point start to think about the outcome. What do you expect out of your post? leads, subscribers, page ranking, income, learning, new contacts, networking, pleasure, …. see Buzzfeed’s guide to viral content on 10 Brilliant Strategies to Writing Viral Content outcomes (Deborah Jian Lee) are: form of readers, subscribers, advertisers, raising awareness for an important issue, brand recognition and financial success. In my case I would like to help people to learn to read Chinese more effectively, draw attention to my mission and if possible create an extra income. I would also like to see how my viral blog post process works out and how much effort it required. Especially in my case I have a full-time job and a family. Blogging just needs to happen on the side line. Also I am interested on the macro economical impact. A lot of people do all this work for free, yet they have indirectly an impact on the GDP. But we do not account for it in our statistics. Blog posts can lead to other people become more effective and efficient in their work. 2. Mind mapping

3. Research I collected  advise from the Top 50 Blogs to Learn Blogging – The Ultimate List of Blogging Blogs by Joseph Adediji at I was looking for advice on research tools and how to create viral content. Yet most their advice is focused on traffic. The Must-have Blog Post Topic Generation Tool by Eric Siu of Evergreen Search Weekend Project: Research the Audience You Want … but Don’t Have by Logan Marshall of the Free Life Project Buffer Social: 39 Blogging Tools To Help You Work Faster Write Better , And Land More Readers by Kevan Lee Where is the topic discussed and what is the challenge? Quora Yahoo Answers Amazon Reviews – look specifically for the negative ones Reddit LinkedIn Pulse Ezine Articles Research Tools: I am using the following research process.

First I would do a search via a Google. In my example I use learn to read Chinese, read Chinese book, learn Chinese. I enter the search term and all the urls into an excel file. In this phase I also highlight words that I think could become part of my title. For example I noticed a lot of people look for free resources on Chinese.

Second for each of the search result I would write down the unique urls found in the search results. I usually take the first 20 Google search results.

In the third step I go to Alexa and determine for each url their global ranking in their best country ranking.

Fourth I look at the top 5 keywords that drive traffic to their side.

And in the fifth step I look which side the visitor came from immediately before?

And sixth I note down the top 5 sites that link to this site. In the last step on Alexa I look at what sites are related to this one. Next I would take all these urls from the google search and run  each through Buzzsumo. Buzzsumo will tell me what was top most content shared from this website.

A short remark at this point. In your research it can happen that you come across a topic that is even more exiting. In this case you would just restart the whole process again or merge the two topics. This happened to me. I came across the artificial language Toki Pona that can be learned in just one day and mastered to fluency in two days. I immediately started a scribble for this new topic.

You have done all the research around the main domains related to your topic. Now you can check Buzzsumo again directly with your search words from your google search. I was surprised to find sites that were totally unrelated to the topic but achieved extremely high shares around a post on their site. In my case it is “Market Research”:

How popular is the content ? Google+ Trending Twitter YouTube

Social Media Shares: Buzzsumo SocialMention Google Trends  and Social Mention

Twitter trends: Topsy, Twittorati

Facebook or use the Content Strategy Generator Tool  from Daniel Butler SEOGadget. It will search through Twitter, Goolgle Search Trends, YouTube Trends, Reddit, Google News,  Rad URLs, All Things Now, LinkedIn Pulse, Digg and some other sources in one go and display the result in a google spreadsheet. Audience of a specific blog and top posts: Alexa showed me the global rank and how the site ranks in the US. Also what are the key search words and which are the key sites that drive traffic to it. Quantcast If the publisher hasn’t implemented Quantcast Measurement it won’t show of course any results. Semrush Gives you the most detail about the website 4. Influencer & Experts Reach out to all the people you mention in your blog post or you link to. Also reach out to all the photographers. Influencers: Guy Kawasaki, Elon Musk, Richard Branson People who produced viral content: see Jack Shepherd, editorial director Buzzfeed, Huffington Post also Tim Urban at Wait but Why. Neetzan Zimmermann most popular blogger posts 10 to 15 times per day 5. Write Don’t go for quantity go for quality. No need to write 2000 words or more if you can explain the problem you want to solve for the reader in less words. See Structure: Summary at the beginning who, what, where, when, why Guy Kawasaki/Peg Fitzpatrick The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users explain what happened, explain what something means, explain how to do something and surprise the reader see According to Nielson users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average web page visit Make sure your first point is as strong as your last. Under promise and over deliver. 6. Emotions What emotion do you evoke with your post? Emotion that arouse (high-arousal) the reader awe, anger, anxiety see Jonah Berger What is awe? See definition Jonah Berger Book and Blogpost Ian Lurie on how to write emotionally 7. Design Content is King ? The Content is King Myth Debunked – Research by Elizabeth Silence: 94% cited design problems Check your design vs. content shared in your niche and try to outperform if possible Also considered the user-experience Formatting: see Marketing Tip: How to Write the Article that Will Go “Viral” Read an F Pattern Top and and left of page then Z Pattern Zoom to charts ?. Include Pictures Buffer Social: 39 Blogging Tools To Help You Work Faster Write Better , And Land More Readers by Kevan Lee ?. Keyword Suggestion Tool Ubersuggest Google AdWords Keyword Planner Keyword Tool ?. Title 100+ Blog Post Title Templates That Grab Attention : How to Write The Perfect Headline: The Top Words Used in Viral Headlines by Kevan Lee at buffersocial Ripenn analysis 62 characters average length of a viral headline Portent Title Maker HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator Emotional Marketing Value Headliner Analysis ?. Quality Check Hemingway Grammarly ?. Check Outcome Define next minimal action the user should take and the maximum next step. Next minimal step could be share the post, leave a comment or maximum step give me business.

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, from C2RMF retouched

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, from C2RMF retouched

?. Publishing ?. Distribution see Kawasaki/Fitzpatrick: two or three sentences on Google+ and Facebook and 100 characters on Twitter Neetzan Zimmermann repetition, repost on twitter Buffer Social: 39 Blogging Tools To Help You Work Faster Write Better , And Land More Readers by Kevan Lee Timing: 9 am and noon EST best time for posts , Tuesday, LinkedIn Monday EST X. Follow Up Neetzan: Thank and favourite or retweet those that have shared your content – follow them back. Offer thoughtful comments Storify  How-To: Write Articles That Go Viral On Social Media (10 Tips) by Daniel Zeevi at Effort: I am now at 712 words. So far I spent 6 hours on research and 2 hrs on writing this article. This is a scribble. Therefore it is work in progress. What would you think how much time it will take to write a viral blog post? What key steps to take to get there? What viral content have you created? Do you want join the quest? Do you plan to create your first viral content? Plus 5 hours Plus 2 hours Writing Services: see How to make content go viral Bio: Peter Palme – Change & Development Manager. My passion and ambition is to help companies harness the power of the internet for learning. contact:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: