Mistakes you’re making with your content by trying to make it go ‘viral’

If you have a website for your small business one of the most reliable ways to get extra traffic and links is to start a blog.

We almost always recommend clients add a blog to their website, regardless of their niche. At their best blogs provide users with clear and easy to digest information on a specialised topic. If you tap into your business expertise and share it, you can turn your website into an online destination for your niche and the added attention will help you climb Google rankings.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the online content market is enormous. Unless you produce the right type of content, your posts will sit there unvisited and you might as well not have a blog at all.

And this fact has led to a whole genre of blog posts for ways to make your content go “viral”.

The problem with trying to “go viral”

Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of good information on how to get your writing to reach a wider audience. Of course there is

But there is also a lot of nonsense.

‘Viral make-over’ strategies are not a silver bullet for online success. They should only ever be used to enhance the visibility of great content, not as an end in themselves. Because of their overuse, online readers have become weary of aggressive “viral” content with no substance.

Below is a list of four common problems that come from “viral-optimised” strategies and how to avoid them on your blog.

Your headline massively over promises:

Writers have known headlines are important for a long time.

There are blogs, books, university courses and careers all based around the idea of constructing a headline that works.

And when a headline is good, there is no disputing how effective it is. Good headlines can be traffic magnets, so you should always spend a considerable portion of your time crafting a compelling headline.  Check out Neil Patel’s article on headlines for a crash course on how to get started.

There is a problem with optimised headlines though, and it is growing more and more common online.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You read a headline on a popular blog and it sounds incredible.

6 Tips That Will Make Your Content Close More Sales Today

Wow! That sounds like something you’ve just got to read, right?

But then you open the blog and the author immediately starts hedging their promise. They lead in with telling you that to sell a product you need proof, and then proceeds to list 6 types of way to show proof in your copy eg:

  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • 3rd Party Mentions
  • Social Shares
  • Studies
  • Endorsements

Not a bad list. But not exactly groundbreaking either, and it isn’t what the headline promised.

The problem here is too much time has gone into creating a stellar headline but the same effort hasn’t been put into the actual content.

This works in the world of click-bait articles because the main drive for those websites is page-views for ad revenue. But if you want to build a tribe around your blog or want people to link to you as a valuable resource, you’re messing up big time.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t write headlines that are bold and provocative. Just make sure your content backs it up.

Brian Dean is the king of this. Few people write better promise-rich, exciting headlines in the digital space, but it works for him because his content also delivers. You may have spent 80 cents of your dollar when you’ve written your headline, but on the internet that 80 cents is not where the majority of your return is going to come from.

You’ve spread your content too thin

There is a certain ‘viral-content’ strain of thinking that goes along the lines of “The more content you pump out there, the more likely it is that something will catch”.

The problem is, in the quest for a more consistent content schedule, websites will often put out plenty of blog posts that cover more or less the same topic. Each one will no doubt have some unique idea inside it, but in the end none of them are very forceful when taken as a single post.

There are two major problems with this, which completely counteract any benefit you get from sending high volumes of content out into the world.

  1. Your regular readers will notice what you’re doing and get sick of it. No one wants to read something they’ve heard before 6 or 7 times from a slightly different perspective. It will make you sound like you don’t have much to say and your expertise will be rightly questioned
  2. Any new readers will not be impressed. If you don’t make your post as rich as possible on the topic you write about, it won’t matter that all the information is on your website somewhere. It isn’t up there on the screen, which is where it needs to be.

It might make you feel a bit uneasy to have a blog that doesn’t tick over regularly with content, but this is what you should really be doing to get the most out of the content you post:

  • Have a single post on every topic that it makes sense for you to write about.
  • Pitch each topic as some sort of “comprehensive” or “ultimate” guide to whatever subject matter you are tackling.
  • Update this post with new information rather than writing new blog posts. Make note of the updates within the post.
  • Promote these pages as useful, evergreen content.

You do not have to do this with everything you write about, but it is a good plan for any topic that is part of the core fundamentals of what you do.

This way anyone who comes to your website can read the post and know they have got the full picture of your take on the subject, and anyone who thinks to share your content will find it easy to track down that one thing you have to say about {INSERT TOPIC HERE} on your website.

The post doesn’t actually tell you what to do

There is nothing more frustrating than content that tells you where you want to be, but not how to get there.

This is a side effect of the “Post Promise”.

Research shows that when you promise some type of result in an article, it will get more clicks and shares.

Think of headlines like “Use this simple strategy to double your leads in 30 days” or “The 15 habits that are stopping you losing weight”. It is easy to see how they are so effective.

But in many cases the article will be long on promise and short on practice. It might dance around and seem like they say a lot but when you boil down the actual advice you’ll find very little that is original or actionable.

When people see articles like this they want to be told what to do. They want examples. They want step-by-step instructions or at the very least something tangible

Here are three strategies to make your blog posts give the reader more useful advice:

  • Narrow the scope of what you are writing about. You’re better off writing a step by step guide to something specific than something general in an attempt to be relevant to a broader audience.
  • Break up your post into steps using screenshots and video capture where appropriate. If you are answering a genuine question with your post, this is the sort of thing that will get you bookmarked.
  • Include links to the programs and websites you use plus any other useful resources that help to achieve what you are writing about. As above make your post a comprehensive point of call for what you are writing about and the links will grow naturally.

It doesn’t sound like you

Never make the mistake of thinking that making a blog post that ‘stands out’, is down to how you write it.

This is the secret that a lot of ‘viral’ marketers don’t want you to know:

It really isn’t that hard to write a ‘Buzzfeed-style’ headline.

That isn’t said to denigrate Buzzfeed, but the reason there content model is so successful isn’t because their headlines happen to have some secret formula that work for every industry.

It is because they have refined what they do to suit the type of content they produce and the type of audience they target.

And in the end this is the real danger of following the lead of “10 tips to make your content go viral” too blindly. If you sell power tools you could go with the headline:

“12 Drill Accessories That Will Blow Your Mind! (You Won’t Believe Number 6)”

But will it serve your purposes?

For a much better plan to create content that will appeal to the audience you want to build for your business’s blog try these steps:

  1. Get a piece of paper
  2. Write down a basic subject (say from the example above “Drills”)
  3. Using your expert knowledge write down the most useful things to know about that subject
  4. Using your experience running your business, write down the most common questions you get on that subject
  5. If it is a product write down the most reliable brands
  6. If it is a service write down the most common mistakes people make
  7. And so on and so on

From this process you will draw out blog ideas that are based on what you know and they will be framed in a way that appeals to the user. For example (from the above):

  • 10 things to know before buying a drill
  • Buy it for Life – 10 most reliable drill brands
  • 10 mistakes most people make when caring for their drill

You will be surprised how a little bit of structure will help you create rich and informative blogs that sound like you