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5 Tornado Ingredients that’ll Ensure Your Next Post Turns Viral

This guest post is by Martyn Chamberlin of twohourblogger.com.

You know what it’s like to blunder into an article that seizes your attention?

I do mean seize. Not something that charms your gaze for thirty seconds, then falls apart. I mean something you are absolutely compelled to read. Don’t misunderstand me to mean flicking through the bullets and skimming some juice. I’m talking about the business of being perfectly glued to every word.

Image used with permission

In such a construction, the blog post is a dense nugget of gold that cannot be ignored. It forces you to leave a red-hot comment. It induces you to shout and thank the writer from the bottom of your heart. It literally changes your day. It refuses to be forgotten.

Content that demands such behavior is termed viral. If you ever encountered such content, I need say no more—you know precisely what I’m talking about.

You don’t grudge reading this sort of content. It reads itself to you. You don’t guiltily sense a squandered ten minutes’ precious living. You return to your labors fresher and jubilant.

Have you ever contemplated the fate of viral content? I tell you, it spreads. It gets an unholy amount of likes and retweets. It hogs traffic and steals comments. It snatches email subscriptions and hugs them forever.

In the opening three months of my blog, I experienced the sensation of having more than a thousand people read a single article. It was enough to kill a better man than I.

Traffic is power, and power is addictive. If you resemble the average healthy blogger, you crave to write just one article that spreads like wildfire. If you more resemble the likes of an obsessed writer, you dream of constituting wildfire every single time you hit Publish.

Regardless of how gravely Blogging Syndrome has stricken you, there are five tornado ingredients that ensure your next post turns viral.

1. Steal your first 50-100 subscribers in solid guest posting

If your blog already has subscribers, you can skitter past this step. But the opening prescript to viral content is building an audience. It doesn’t have to be a big one—but it’s important in getting step two right.

Play your cards wisely and you’ll breeze through this step quickly. My brand-new blog had 89 subscribers after I appeared on ProBlogger. Even if you’re a painter or dentist, write a guest post for ProBlogger. You don’t have to be “professional.” If you’re a blogger at all, you’ve some fresh fodder to share with the community. Readers will subscribe to your blog because after all, some of them are painters and dentists too. I know this for a fact!

2. Write what your audience is passionate about

Hands down, this is the single most important component to viral content.

Nobody cares what you’re passionate about. If you write with gusto and expect every one to catch your enthusiasm, you’ll fail. As Sonia Simone likes to say, just because you’re a serial fangirl of broccoli ice cream doesn’t mean you’ll be able to persuade anybody to buy it. Don’t bleed your dreams and enthusiasm on the screen and assume it’ll rub into your readers. It usually doesn’t.

The fundamental key to crafting viral content is to write what your audience needs to read.

Pay close attention to what your subscribers talk about. Read their comments and blog posts. Talk to them through email and Twitter. Tickle their pulse. Learn what keeps them awake at night.

Once you have a sense of their problems, write about it. Confirm their suspicions. Allay their fears. Encourage their beliefs. Support their ambitions. Reveal their mistakes. In a word, be viral.

3. Develop a smashing headline

Ninety percent of bloggers don’t understand the crucial job their headlines play. On social networks and email subscriptions, the headline is the first or only thing people see. It needs to be bang-up for them to click. There’s lots of noise on the Internet and you need to dynamite your way into people’s attention.

Take your time. Do research. Analyze synonyms. Write and rewrite. Sleep on it. Choose nouns, adjectives, and adverbs that are clever, unique, evil, exciting, extraordinary, provocative, or stimulating. Example: it’s not every morning you see “tornado” in a headline. It catches your eye, see?

4. Don’t write for just your audience

In order for your content to spread outside your own network, craft it to suite a large audience. This doesn’t mean you become generic and lose your flavor. Rather, make the article stand alone without a lot of necessary introductions and inside information.

In short, a total stranger needs to be able to understand and benefit from your article without having to read six preceding articles. I visit blogs that don’t make sense because there’s too tight a flow from the last five months. It’s very difficult to get bulky, presumed knowledge off the ground. Viral content must stand alone.

Write with a newbie’s eyes. Those are the ones you need to attract. Once you get a complete stranger to properly relate to your content, your regular readers will relate to it too. If you wordsmith your content correctly, everything falls into place beautifully.

Part of writing for a larger audience means you cannot talk about yourself much. Don’t begin your posts with “Lately I’ve been thinking” or “here’s my opinion.” Cut out the Is and mys. When you refer to yourself, make sure you’re doing it to create value for the reader, not just mumble your diary. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Never forget that.

5. Don’t blog too much

Write your hands off, but don’t blog too much. It’s impossible to offer viral content on a daily basis, so don’t publish often. Instead, spend more time writing each article. Jon Morrow, the associate editor of Copyblogger, spent four hours on a recent headline—just the headline. I spent a good five or six hours on this article.

As you become renowned for publishing viral content, people will eagerly read everything you write. The viral strength of your work will build on itself. Publishing less often requires patience, but the rewards are worth it.

Get with it

Maybe you’re asking yourself, “If it’s this easy, why don’t more bloggers go viral?” In a word, most bloggers are lazy. Being viral isn’t extremely difficult, but you have to know your plan and stick with it. If you’re serious about writing a blog that’s read by thousands of people, I can assure you from experience that you’re only a few weeks away.

Have you had your posts go viral? What are your tips for making viral content?

Martyn Chamberlin is a fiercely passionate blogger who recently wrote an eBook called “Everything You Know About Traffic Is Wrong.” Get your free copy today.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. You did #3 quite well :)

  2. Martyn says:

    Looks like I’ve bashed Darren’s previous article about writing for yourself. Sorry Darren, I guess we’re just coming from different parts of the woods. :)

    • Jakethy says:

      heh, that was pretty funny – I’d just read Darren’s post immediately before yours and it does make for an interesting discussion. The other issue your post raised that’s been on my mind is frequency. The other day, Andrew Sullivan at Big Think said that if you’re not posting at least twice a day, it’s not a blog. Now this may be just a matter of semantics, but it bothered me. I try to post about 3 times a week – mostly ’cause each post takes a while to prepare. I’m not lazy and I’d like to post more often. That led me to think, “what IS my site if it’s not a blog.” So it was reaffirming when you said don’t post too much. After all, one of the first pieces of advice I got was that if you don’t have some quality content, wait until you do before you posting.
      Great write-up. They’re all insightful tips. Thanks for the timely advice.

    • Martyn, as you usually say, “you nailed it.” And I do mean it with certainty. I like your thought of crafting a blog that can possibly turn viral. Just like those YouTube videos that just pop in your Facebook or any social or bookmarking sites begging for you to click and watch. Usually people who jumps into the hype of anything going viral is knowing for a fact that that video has been watched by millions which makes you think, “what is the hype all about.” So you go and see for yourself.

      And I agree that once you publish, it’s the headline that draws attention. The amount of time a blogger invest on crafting a killer content should be the same amount spent on building a headline. Then comes the promoting-your-post part. The content, the headline, and the promotion determine if your post got what it takes to go viral or not.

    • Then again, we can write for ourselves today and write for the audience tomorrow ;-D

      • Martyn says:

        Right, but I can promise you from experience that that’s not a surefire recipe to success. :)

    • Torkona says:

      I think posting for relevant events is a good idea.

      I recently posted the Best of Eurovision 2011 and it so far has been a hit. Viral? no, but im hopefully going to get there..

      - tork

    • Alex says:

      That’s the fun of blogging – everyone has the right to their opinion or has a different spin on things and can express it. Yeah sure there are a many things to look out if you want to attract traffic, what with keywords, getting your title right, SEO, PPC, linking, Adwords and Adsense, its enough to loose your senses (pardon the pun). For some, it is purely sharing an idea, and fair enough, if a few well placed adds pay for your hosting, then good on you. It’s important to understand why you are doing it first of all, and what it is you want your blog to give back. I agree with Darren in the sense that if you do it only with the hope of making big bucks, you will fail. If your blog’s content, or the blog itself, is a reflection of who you are, then you attract like minded people and in turn create a legitimate social network based on similar interests. Sometimes we forget that it is a weblog we are creating not a billboard. In saying that, traffic is very important because obviously we are putting something out there that we want people to read, otherwise we may feel insulted that our knowledge simply amounts to a bunch of lonely words stranded in an digital ghost town. Don’t leave your words lingering about for now one to read and start putting some of Martyn’s points into practice.

  3. Budakboy says:

    “Jon Morrow, the associate editor of Copyblogger, spent four hours on a recent headline—just the headline”

    wow! i can`t imagine how long he take to finnish his article =). Great info! That why i love your blog =)

  4. Raul Sim says:

    Well those ingredients would definitely make a great meal. But, please, don’t forget to make your content delicious, ’cause that’s the core ingredient.

    Martyn – awesome, as always.

    • James Ling says:

      Couldn’t agree more with Raul, content is king. If you don’t have great content it doesn’t matter if you have a fantastic title or big following your post will fail.

      Tip number 5 is one that i can relate too as well. Once one of my articles went viral I attempted to make an article go viral every day, needless to say they where sub standard and it failed, so best to go slowly but steady….Nice Post Martyn

  5. Travis says:

    A fantastic post, Martyn. You definitely have to get into people’s heads and give them what they want. And do it with a gusto and passion.

    It’s for the love of the “game.” With out love, it just means nothing.

  6. Nikole Hahn says:

    Yes…I have blogging syndrome. I blog once daily. My audience began building more when I blogged more. So I’m still learning.

  7. ML says:

    Martyn.
    That was fantastic! Love the “tornado” and the impending explosion! I am confused, though, as some of the “better bloggers’ tell us to post daily- your audience is waiting. Yet, you seem to concentrate on quality. I believe I will shift my focus in that direction and attempt to light the fuse to get the fire going.

    Thank you.
    Mary Louise

  8. Ryan says:

    Very good article. I especially like the “write less often” tip. Currently I am really struggling to find time for writing, and I try really hard to write good articles in less than 2 hours a day. At the moment I try to post 3-4 articles a week, however I think you are right in that if I spent all that time writing just 1-2 articles a week, they would be much better. Thank you!

  9. Daniel says:

    Some good points there, Martyn.

    A number of things I need to put into practice, especially in the area of research.

    What you said about coming up with attention grabbing Headlines, makes a lot of sense.
    Then hopefully(For the reader) the content that follows the headline is just as interesting.

    I think there is quite a lot of content out there with Viral Potential, only the authors(Bloggers, etc) haven’t realized this. Through not having did a little more work(Editing, research,promoting, etc) their post(Article) becomes just another post(Article). It doesn’t stand out in any way.

  10. Daniel says:

    Some good points there, Martyn.

    A number of things I need to put into practice, especially in the area of research.

    What you said about coming up with attention grabbing Headlines, makes a lot of sense.
    Then hopefully(For the reader) the content that follows the headline is just as interesting.

    I think there is quite a lot of content out there with Viral Potential, only the authors(Bloggers, etc) haven’t realized this. Through not having did a little more work(Editing, research,promoting, etc) their post(Article) becomes just another post(Article). It doesn’t stand out in any way.

    Aiming for a larger audience whilst maintaining your (tribe) is a sensible approach.

    If the Blogger becomes to insular, they would lose a lot of potential exposure.

  11. Joseph says:

    I’m a big fan of number 5. People like to blog a lot because it “increases traffic,” but if you take the time to craft quality posts, I’m convinced it pays off with traffic in the long run.

  12. Thanks for the tips! I manage to blog once a week & find this achievable as I tend to plan a lot. It seems from your experience that I have to get rid of the Is and Mys though…I’ll give it a go! :)

  13. Archan Mehta says:

    Martyn,

    Thank you for sharing your ideas. We appreciate your guest post here. It provides food for thought.

    The problem with writing for yourself is that you are only writing for yourself and nobody else. There is nothing wrong with writing for yourself, but what about trying to reach a wider audience? Writing for yourself evokes images of the lone hermit living in a log cabin in the backwood hills of Montana. Or, the starving artist who may one day achieve fame and fortune posthumously, but in his own life-time is condemned to dire straits. Translation: Vincent Van Gogh anyone?

    The point of being a writer is to be able to step out of your own comfort zone and step into the skin of other people. The best writers are those who create characters, products, services which appeal to others. I may not like yoga, but I can always be creative, that is, use my imagination to write about yoga. Or offer to teach classes about yoga. Or contribute deep articles about yoga in journals.

    I remember Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls once say: That’s okay, we don’t need to like each other to play on the same team. We don’t need to agree all the time to be able to score and win games. Just to paraphrase here, by the way. Meaning: you can choose to look at issues/events objectively without allowing for any subjective interpretations: your feelings may have nothing to do with the end result. So, focus on getting results and leave your emotions out of the equation. Of course, this may not work for everybody and I understand it is easier said than done. But it can be done.

    However, a lot of wealthy and successful people have been able to master their emotions or personal feelings. They are able to master a key skill: empathy, which is necessary especially in marketing.
    You are then able to look at any issue/event from another’s point of view and not just your own point of view. That’s how you win over an audience or come out a winner in any argument. Judges also arrive at any judgment call by trying to examine all sides of an issue. Personal opinions can be over-rated.

    Cheers.

    • Martyn says:

      The problem with writing for yourself is that you are only writing for yourself and nobody else.

      I like that. I like it a lot. :D

  14. Virginia says:

    It’s good to hear that other people spend a lot of time writing/tweaking articles. I thought I might be a bit too obsessive.
    I just started writing better headlines a few months ago (instead of funny ones that didn’t tell much about the content) and it has worked wonders.

  15. AD Bane says:

    Great post!

    I quite enjoyed it, because I’ve been trying to learn the fine art. I’m not a born blogger. I want to write fiction, not sit around telling people about stuff that I don’t really care about! But writing anything at all is about knowing how to impact. How to get your point across. How to make your words speak for you so that you can sit quietly and watch the numbers pass the decimal. You want to make people share your enthusiasm. That’s viral!

  16. A. Irvin says:

    You said:
    “Even if you’re a painter or dentist, write a guest post for ProBlogger. You don’t have to be “professional.” If you’re a blogger at all, you’ve some fresh fodder to share with the community. Readers will subscribe to your blog because after all, some of them are painters and dentists too. I know this for a fact!”

    If you were in my presence, you would be witnessing a true “light bulb moment.” I figured that ProBlogger is a blog about blogging – and since I don’t write about blogging, I never considered it! Now that you’ve presented an expanded point of view, I’m hearing the digital voice of my GPS in my head (when I venture from the prescribed path) . . . “Recalculating route.”

    Thanks, Martyn!

    • Martyn says:

      Trust me, I wrote that because I have a dentist friend who needs to do an epic post here so she can get her blog off the ground. You could do the same.

  17. You said to write for problogger….just exactly how does one get to guest post for such a widely-read blog? I’m sure they are most particular about who they let guest blog. It seems they would want someone to write for them who is ALREADY a well-read blogger, not a newbie.

    • Martyn says:

      Heh, naw. I wrote my first Problogger guest post when I had about 17 subscribers. I was a nobody. I wasn’t even that good of a writer.

      Dive in, Janis. If you work hard at it, you’ll do just fine. :)

  18. Ava says:

    I agree! A smashing headline is so important. My most successful posts are the ones where I create curiosity in the title.

    I often study viral posts and try to figure out why they went viral. I try to emulate these great writers by using the same technique in my blog posts.

    Thanks, Martyn!

  19. Chris Kahler says:

    Great blog post! I’ve normally been one to think that posting more often was a better way of keeping your readers engaged but you’ve presented some good arguments against that.

    My guess is that keeping consistent on providing top quality information regularly won’t hurt any one of your posts going viral, the only thing wrong with posting regularly is that YOU may hurt your post going viral by not issuing a quality check on it.

    I think I’m pretty good at writing from my instinct though… sometimes I feel if I take too much time on a post I chop it into a million pieces, whereas if I get out my gut feeling on the idea it comes out more genuine.

    Maybe the magic is in how you plan your posts rather than how much time it takes you to write it? If you outline (maybe using mind maps) a good premise on a subject and get only the golden nuggets of information out into your post, directly from your inner gut, you won’t sacrifice anything. You will be able to quickly write a winning post that goes viral all while keeping a great posting schedule that keeps readers engaged on a daily basis.

    That idea just came to me as I wrote this, it wasn’t a planned response… maybe I’m right, maybe I’m not, guess testing that theory out is the only way to see if it works.

    Great blog post nonetheless, I pulled a lot of good information from it.

    Take care,
    Chris

  20. janwong says:

    It’s interesting to see how you should write what your audience is passionate about and yet not write for your audience. I too, believe that there’s a difference in doing that and you’ve pointed it out very well!
    Great post, Martyn! Thanks for sharing your experience :)

    • Martyn says:

      I’m glad you can see the distinction! It was pretty subtle and I was afraid folks would get confused.

      Thanks Jan.

  21. David Allen says:

    So, we can write a guest post on the Problogger blog, I need a little more information on the process of making quest post. Do I write this post on my blog or Problogger blog and what is the process? Need some steps not really up on how to post on Problogger. Could someone help me out a little?

    Sportsman!

  22. Kent M says:

    Four Hours on just a headline??!!! Wooowww. Time to burn or what? Haha

  23. rosemary says:

    I am getting confused with some saying don’t blog too much and others say blog often!! I used to do posts Mon Wed Fri and weekends then added Tues and Thurs as smaller posts with a photo each day. I think it seems to be working well, my followers like it and comment as well. I like the ideas in the article, I agree you do need to spend time writing good posts. I have a great giveaway on my blog now, a Keurig, which has been giving me many more followers. Thanx for the info.

  24. Jeff Goins says:

    Great post, Martyn. #2 really resonates with me — this is a lesson I’m learning right now: how to serve my readership before asking anything from them.

  25. Harrison Li says:

    Ahh another fantastic post by Martyn, you are the person who knows exactly what to do and I can guarantee you you will be the next ProBlogger or something around that hehe :D

    Harrison

  26. Beth Norman says:

    Loved this article. I did forget to wow my readers with a fabulous headline. You confirmed what my girlfriend said and that was “do not blog every day.”: I’m afraid to loose readers, but you confirmed I won’t. Great article.

  27. Nick Bentley says:

    On whether to post frequently or infrequently: the answer depends entirely on a blog’s subject matter. I have an acquaintance who recently achieved fame with a blog called “Lesbians who look like Justin Beiber”

    The subject matter is so straightforward and breezy that daily posts work fantastically well.

    I on the other hand, I write about climate change, a serious and complicated subject where it’s nearly impossible to say something original/meaningful/useful without serious legwork. I’ve found that infrequent but strenuously composed posts work much better in that case.

  28. Thomas says:

    Martyn,
    Good post. You mentioned several ideas that really get a blogger to examine their own blog.

    1. When to start their first guest post.
    2. Writing for your audience vs. yourself
    3. How often should a blogger write articles.

    Thx for your post and ideas.

    Thomas

  29. Well, this is what we call VIRAL.. lol

    I totally agree with you here. There are just some people who can truly use their words in a way that it makes you want to read more and obviously you are one of those people. I have also my fair share of bloggers that I keep on visiting because their posts are just too good to be ignored.

    I think it’s not that people can actually relate to the post, because not all the time a person has the same experiences as you do (unless your Alanis Morisette, lol). I guess this is because they words they use are so powerful, it just glues you on the screen and makes you think.

  30. Hi Martin,

    I am a big fan of your writing. Look out, Nabokov!

    However, I do not agree with #2. You absolutely HAVE TO blog about what YOU are passionate about. That is how you find your audience in the first place – it’s not the other way around.

    People who research the market before they write anything and try to please a pre-determined segment of the blog reading population are destined to fail to create a sustainable blog. That’s how I see it.

    But again, I love your style and I am going to Tweet this article nonetheless!

    Peter

  31. The Dame says:

    My “How To Be Skinny” post went viral, it was linked to by the famous Gala Darling and syndicated on a high traffic blog called Yes and Yes. It was one of my first posts and has now been shared 244 times to Facebook and had hundreds of thousands views.

    The post itself is not exactly how to be skinny, but how to love yourself. The headline grabs attention and the content makes you feel good.

    I still strive to write such a great post again!

  32. Liz says:

    As a new blogger, this was really timely for me. I too keep reading as others have commented about posting daily to keep things fresh and readers returning. But I prefer quality over quantity.

    I needed this tornado.
    Thank you!

  33. Cristina says:

    Hi Martyn,

    About blog frequency, I don’t think there is any rule. What works fine for you may not work at all for me. Some guys out there say you have to post two or three times a day and others do it once a week.
    Everyone should try different options and choose the frequency that works better for them.

    About writing for yourself of not,
    I choose Sonia Simone’s advice (I bet you know it): describe your ideal reader, gender, age, occupation, etc. and write for him/her. Chat with him or her on your posts.

    Good article by the way.

    Cristina

  34. The day I realised 5,000 subscribers is enough to start a business was a game changer!…

  35. patrick says:

    Thanks for the tips. Those are some very valid points. Having great quality posts is extremely important, even if it takes a little longer to generate content your readers will appreciate the extra effort.

  36. The one problem with writing about what your audience is passionate about is that your audience might be passionate about nonsense.

  37. Natalija says:

    Thanks for the advice, I will consider them. I think I have good content, but the reader does not. I’ll try to seek a problem, maybe you can help?
    Thanks for the post!

  38. darkduck says:

    The most boring article I’ve ever started reading. Dropped it after 2 paragraphs.

  39. Siraj says:

    Thank Martyn,

    I like your headline for the word “Tornado”. Yes! that the word attract me to read this guest post. I am fan of Darren, but do not always look into the guest post on Problogger.net.

    Your ingredients # 3, “Develop a smashing headline” is amazing, I should say WAW! to Jon Morrow of Copyblogger. That was quit a information that he spent four hours on a single headline. WAW!.

    Thanks for the good article.

  40. Powerserve says:

    Thanks for the excellent tips!

    I like to break up our blog posts throughout the week. So although my goal is to post daily, certain days have more collective posts that are less authored and more put together, such as collections of our best Twitter links for the week. It helps to give us some time to tweak and edit our posts for the next day.

  41. Adarsh says:

    “Even if you’re a painter or dentist, write a guest post for ProBlogger.”

    Not sure if I like this idea. If I am a dentist or a painter, I am far better off creating content for related blogs that problogger.

    Agreed that you cant find many places related to dentist services. But your audience is not global. They are local. A person from the UK is not going to come to the US to avail your dentist services just because they have read your article at problogger.