If you want a ton of traffic – you have to make your content “contagious”.
By saying “contagious”, I mean the kind of article that makes the reader want to share it with someone else.
If the article is “contagious”, it will naturally amplify any initial traffic that you bring to it:
As you can see from the graph, contagious article generated a few viral loops and so it reached a lot of extra people.
The other article didn’t urge readers to share it and so the hype faded almost instantly.
Thanks to it’s amplified reach, contagious article gets a better chance of being accidentally exposed to some influencer, who might share it with his huge audience.
And this will relaunch the whole viral cycle all over again.
So the question is: how to write a contagious article?
Step #1. Find a proven idea
I bet you’ve heard the Ghostbusters theme song, which landed an Oscar nomination to Ray Parker, Jr.
Well, did you know that it sounds almost exactly the same as the song by Huey Lewis called “I Want a New Drug” that was released earlier that same year?
I’m just trying to say that a lot of “great ideas” were built on top of someone else’s “good ideas”.
- Bill Gates did it;
- Steve Jobs did it;
- Mark Zuckerberg did it;
- What are You waiting for?
Find a contagious article and build your own piece on top of it.
Here’s how you do it:
a) Search Buzzsumo
This tool is golden. Back in the days when I didn’t know it exists, I’ve spent a few hundred dollars to develop my own tool – Strip The Blog.
But my tool is just a baby toy compared to what Buzzsumo can do.
Type any keywords into the search field and the tool will show you the most shared articles based on these keywords:
As I was writing this guide I did a search for “content marketing” and found two pieces of content that inspired me:
- “The Research and Science Behind a Perfect Blog Post” – this awesome article got shared almost 9k times, which tells me people are really hungry for a more scientific and result-oriented approach to content marketing. That’s why I decided to fill my guide with a lot of examples and case studies;
- “Introducing The Periodic Table of Content Marketing” – this infographic by Chris Lake is quite simple and yet it got over 12k shares. This motivated me to support my guide with a fancy checklist that you see above.
By the way, Chris actually stole the idea of his infograhic from The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors. And I see nothing wrong with it, since his work is original and unique.
b) Browse “community sites”
Another great way to find contagious ideas is to browse sites where your target audience is hanging out.
Walter Chen wrote an article on productivity which was read by over 30,000 people in less than an hour. Can you guess where the idea for this article came from?
He browsed most popular productivity articles on HackerNews and found a great idea that he turned into a massively contagious blog post.
You can read the full story here.
If you’re blogging in the internet marketing niche, I suggest you to dig into Inbound.org and GrowthHackers.com. These are nothing but a goldmine of great ideas.
And in case your niche is different, I’m pretty sure there’s at least a single community forum where people openly discuss what bothers them.
c) Look for content curators
Why even spend time with Buzzsumo or browse community sites to find great articles when someone has already done all the heavy lifting for you?
Just Google for things like:
- best posts 2014 “keyword”;
- best of “keyword”;
- top posts “keyword”.
And you’ll find a ton of curated content where other bloggers have already cherry-picked the most epic articles for you.
Step #2: Improve that idea
Stealing articles word for word won’t take you very far. Sooner or later your readers will discover that you’re just a copycat and your credibility will be ruined forever.
So your job is to improve the article to the point when people no longer see the resemblance with the original.
As a side-effect, by improving the article you will be able to pour some extra “social currency” in it, making it even more contagious.
How does this apply to your article?
- Your article should be smart, thus making smart anyone who shares it;
- It should contain original ideas, making people who share it seem like insiders, who are always on top of things;
- It should have practical value, so that people who share it will get some credit for helping others.
In other words, you should create the kind of content that people would love to be associated with.
And here’s exactly how you do that:
a) Do a thorough research
Read every single article that ranks on the first page of Google for any keywords related to your topic.
Then go to Buzzsumo and find all relevant articles that performed well on Social Media.
You job is to write a piece that would contain more value than any of the articles that already exist.
A good research may really seal the deal. Trust me.
Five years ago I decided to write my first ever guest article and get it published at Moz blog.
I was so terrified of getting rejected or look dumb in front of world’s greatest SEO community that I’ve literally spent a month on research alone.
At the end of my research I was pretty sure that there wasn’t a single tip or tactic that I didn’t know about.
So I wrote my piece and submitted it to Moz.
I was a total noob and that was my first ever guest article, so I naturally prepared myself for the worst.
But what happened next was totally unexpected…
b) Back up your claims
Most bloggers won’t go beyond generic tips like “engage with your community” or “write quality content” – and that’s where you can stand out!
Peep Laja from ConversionXL has an editorial policy that requires every claim to be backed up with a research, case study or a specific example.
And that’s one of the main reasons he was able to grow his blog to 100.000 visitors in less than a year.
I don’t think there’s a case study or a research to everything that you may write about, but if you’re giving your readers a piece of advice it would be great to back it up with at least one example.
Step #3: Make your article visual
People love visuals. An article with a few images in it looks a lot more enticing than the one without.
But anyone can throw a relevant image in-between the paragraphs of text. So how do you differentiate?
You should create your own custom images to illustrate the points you’re talking about!
Here’s a list of “visual assets” that Rand is talking about:
- Photos of relevant/interesting people, places, things, events, concepts;
- Charts and graphs to illustrate/explain the numbers behind a story or phenomenon;
- Visuals, representing concepts, processes or elements that enable faster/better understanding;
- Comics, illustrations, or storyboards that tell a narrative visually;
- Screenshots with notes/explanations/examples of what to do / how to use / what it means, etc.
And these should be YOUR OWN photos, charts and visuals!
If you just take them from someone else, you’ll add value to their work, not yours.
And now onto examples and how to’s:
Meet Ryan Biddulph. His blog is called Blogging From Paradise and I can’t imagine him publishing an article that doesn’t have at least a single picture of him at some insanely beautiful spot.
Ryan uses “photos from Paradise” to show his readers the lifestyle he’s living and inspire them to do the same.
You can easily do this on your blog. Just grab a camera and shoot something that’s related to your article.
b) Charts & Graphs
Have you heard of Dan Zarrella? He’s a “social media scientist” at Hubspot and his graphs on Social Media Marketing are all around internet:
Dan obviously has some mad skills in data mining and analysis that would seem like rocket science to most of us.
So what are our options then?
Well, first of all, there’s a very convenient tool called Import.io which can turn web pages into data (check how Nate Desmond used it to scrape data from Noah Kagan’s blog).
And secondly, you can always hire someone at Odesk and pay him to collect the data for you.
Did you notice my visual called “Contagious Article VS Regular Article”?
I did a raw sketch and my friend designed it for me for just $15.
If you don’t have friends who are good with designing things, you can post your job at Odesk and easily find a perfect candidate.
Have you heard of James Clear by any chance? I love how he takes concepts that he learned from different books and turns them into cool visuals.
Here’s one based on the book called “The Power of Habit”:
Such visuals are absolutely great when something is too complex to explain with words alone.
That’s why other bloggers would gladly swipe your visuals and use them in their own articles (linking back to you).
Step #4: Use copywriting techniques
The same story might sound totally different depending on who’s telling it.
Some people have an extraordinary talent of talking about the most boring things in the most engaging way.
But if you’re not one of these talented guys – don’t worry. Most of their tricks were thoroughly studied and condensed into practice called Copywriting.
Here are just a few core techniques that you should apply to your articles to make them shine:
a) Write viral headlines
A poor headline can easily kill even the greatest article in the world.
Just think about it.
You found a great article and shared it on Twitter. Which part of that article gets exposed to your followers?
And if it’s boring – none of your followers will click it and visit the actual article.
There are tons of tricks on writing magnetic headlines and I’m afraid I won’t be able to distill them into a just few paragraphs.
So instead I will share how I do it.
I have a spreadsheet with my personal collection of cool headline formulas and some attractive headline examples:
And whenever I need to brainstorm a headline for my new article I just open this document and try to apply these formulas and examples till I come up with at least five headlines that I enjoy.
Then I may show these five to my friends and ask for opinions or just settle with the one I like the most.
So here are the five best headlines I’ve brainstormed for this guide:
– How To Write Content Strategically: Proven Strategies To Get Traffic, Subscribers & Sales With Your Articles
– How I Learned To Stop Writing Pointless Articles And Got Tons of Traffic, Subscribers & Sales
– How To Write Content That Drives Traffic, Subscribers & Sales (Even If You’re Just Starting Out)
– The Missing Guide To Writing Articles For Traffic, Subscribers & Sales (with examples & case studies)
– The Art Of Writing for ROI: How To Write Articles That Drive Traffic, Subscribers & Sales
Can you please click on the one you like the most and tweet it?
It would be really interesting to see which one of them is actually the most attractive.
b) Tell Stories
Emotion is one of the core things that makes people share.
I’ve learned this from that awesome book called “Contagious” by Jonah Berger.
And how do you make someone experience an emotion?
You tell him a story.
Stories allow the reader to empathise, which creates a connection between you and your audience.
A classic example of storytelling that sparks emotion is an incredible article by Jon Morrow “On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas”. That post got shared well over 3000 times on Facebook alone.
And it’s not the idea behind it, which made people click on social sharing buttons. It’s the emotion.
It’s how Jon made you feel by telling his story.
I’m sure you have lots of stories that you can share with your readers! We tell stories to our friends and family members every day.
So think if there’s a good story that is relevant to what you’re writing about and use it in your article.
By the way, there are quite a few of my own stories in this guide. Did you notice them?
c) Ask your readers for a share
You won’t believe how many people will share your article just because you’ve asked them to.
According to a research by Dan Zarrella, saying “please share” on Facebook positively affects the amount of shares you get.
Well guess what. It works exactly the same way with your blog articles too.
So use the last few sentences of your article to ask your readers for a share and they will do it for you!
Want to go a step further and use human psychology to amplify your request?
Try these tactics:
The principle of reciprocity.
Remind your readers that you’ve just shared a ton of useful stuff with them absolutely for free, and the only thing you’re asking in return is a click on the share button.
The power of giving a reason.
There was an amusing experiment in that same book where a girl tried to cut in line to use the Xerox machine.
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?
– this basic request worked in 60% of the cases.
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?
– 94% of people said “ok” to this one, which clearly illustrates the power of giving a reason.
And now onto the most amusing part:
Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?
– 93% of people were “ok” with that, even though there was no actual reason to do that.
Keep this in mind when asking your readers to spread the word about your article.
d) Create share-able “sound bites”
Why do we love quotes by famous people so much?
That’s because they will often compress big ideas into short, insightful prose.
A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish / Unknown
And you don’t have to read a big book about goal setting just to understand that you need to have a plan for each of your goals.
People love sharing these little nuggets of wisdom on social networks.
But quotes by famous people is not the only thing you can use in your article to boost your shares.
Have you heard of “sound bites”?
You can get even better results if you put a call-to-action next to your “sound bite” and allow people to tweet it with a single click.
So here are the action-steps:
- Come up with a sound bite that would sum up the main idea of your article in a short sentence;
- Make your sound bite big and bold, so that it would stand out in your article and catch the eye of a reader;
- Place a call-to-action next to your sound bite and make people tweet it with just one click.
Step #5: Optimize for Google
Google can be a solid source of traffic if you know how to pick the right keywords and optimize your articles for these keywords.
I won’t go into much detail about SEO here, because this will make my guide twice as long.
So instead I’m going to show you my exact process of writing Google-optimized articles.
a) Pick relevant keywords
Once I decide to cover a certain topic on my blog I go to Google Keyword Planner and brainstorm possible keywords that people may search for.
Last year my focus was “twitter marketing” and here are some of the keywords that I’ve found:
As you can see, I generally pick keywords that get 100 to 1000 searches a month and don’t have much competition.
They are the easiest to rank for, even if you don’t have a ton of sites linking to your content.
b) Optimize the article
Then I use Yoast SEO plugin to make sure that my article is perfectly optimized for that keyword
I really don’t do anything beyond that and still I get some nice rankings here and there:
By the way, I use Rank Tracker to keep an eye on my Google Rankings and I love it!
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