Elance Blog

Thirteen Ways to Make Your Blog ‘Go Viral’

We asked Chris Bennett, a Search Engine Optimization expert, and someone we seek advice from when it comes to the Elance website, to write a few tips on how to help your blog ‘go viral’.



People tend to think of blogs today the way that websites were thought of ten years ago: “All I have to do is get a site up and I’ll instantly get tons of traffic and my business will take off.” That was the case for a brief time with websites, but it’s no longer the case with blogs.

Here are 13 practical ways you can grow the readership of your blog to help it go viral:

1. First determine why you’re blogging. Who is your audience? What are your goals? What are your readers interested in? If you create compelling content for readers, readers will naturally come back to your blog to read more.

2. Do basic research. Go to Technorati and search for keywords related to your target audience and the topics you want to focus on. While there, try to answer these questions: Who are the influential bloggers in your space? Who is successful at getting in front of the readers you want to get in front of?

Technorati is a great resource for this because it ranks recent blog posts based on their "authority," or how many people link to that blog. High-ranking blogs are the ones you'll want to check out. See what they write about, what people comment about… and while you're at it, also note any posts you particularly like, because later you can link posts you write to those posts, which might generate return traffic through track backs.

3. Avoid sub domains. Never set up a blog under a sub-domain. Install your blog on your own domain as a sub-page, or if you don’t have a domain, get one.

If you’re using Blogger as your blog platform, I recommend switching to WordPress. The reason is that while Blogger is free, your blog will be a sub-domain of Blogger (like myblogwentviral.blogspot.com), and people that visit your blog may never find your website.

4. Create a content schedule. Determine a steady schedule for how you’ll post, and plan ahead to create structure around your workload. If you plan to post on Tuesdays and Fridays, for example, put it on your calendar. While you’re at it, take the time to determine what topics you’ll cover on those days.

Whether you start with a schedule of one, two, or a dozen blog posts a week, stay on that schedule. The more scheduled and consistent your blog postings are, the better. You can also start out with occasional posts, but only if those posts are extremely thought-provoking – make sure each of those posts is a home run.

If you plan on blogging frequently, stick to that plan. If you post regularly and then drift away for a few weeks, your readers will also quickly drift away. Your posting schedule in effect creates an expectation on the part of your readers (“Hey, it’s Tuesday, let’s see what she has to say today”) so make sure you meet that expectation. Don’t disappoint your audience.

5. Be personal. Post a photo of yourself and/or your team, and write good bios to enhance your credibility and demonstrate that you’re a real person to your readers. This engages your audience.

At the same time, if you have a business blog, don’t blog about your family or the new restaurant you tried unless somehow you quickly tie that into a business topic.

6. Be first. Being the first one to post breaking news is a relatively easy way to go viral.

To make the process a little simpler for yourself, create news alerts from Yahoo News!, Google News, and RSS feeds. Then just link to the news source, but don’t forget to put your spin on it.

You’ll get your opinion out there before others do and over time readers will come to rely on your blog to find out what’s new – and for what you think about what’s new.

You can also create resources like how-to articles or lists of helpful sites, such as “100 Tools to Help You be More Organized Online,” “Home Staging Tips to Raise Your Home’s Sale Price by $5,000,” or my favorite and yours, “Thirteen Ways to Make Your Blog Go Viral.”

If you find sources that the average visitor doesn’t know about, you can draw in folks who can’t find – or don’t have the time to find – those sources themselves. Visitors love blogs that provide useful information while saving them time.

7. Stay on top of what other bloggers are saying. If an influential blogger posts about a topic and you disagree with their viewpoint, link to their post and state your position. Don’t worry about taking a different position or even being negative, as long as you’re not insulting. Disagreement creates interaction and interaction builds a community. If you say the same thing everyone else does, why should people read your blog?

8. Pay attention to social networking sites. Take the time to study the social sites to see what people like. An article that goes “popular” on Digg can generate tens of thousands of visitors to your site. The same is true for StumbleUpon or del.icio.us.

To get a feel for the kinds of posts that can be popular on social networking sites, do searches on social networking websites for keywords to identify content that works well.

On Digg: do a search and change the search criteria to only show stories that have gone popular and you’ll see articles that reached the first page in your subject area.

On del.icio.us you can search for a keyword and see what articles have been “tagged” – the more people that saved those articles, the more popular they were.

StumbleUpon works the same way.

9. Stay in control of your blog. Real time statistics from your blog are important, so keep up with your live stats so you can see what works and what doesn’t.

The reason real time stats are important is because new blog postings have a “hot” shelf life of about 24 hours, and if you wait until the next day to find out what’s happening, you can’t take steps to add to the popularity of your posting. For example, if your article gets picked up by a social networking site, you can grab a button off Digg and post a vote count for the article on your site, which will entice readers to check you out, hopefully vote for you, be more interactive with your blog, and help your blog grow.

Google Analytics is a free tool that takes about five minutes to sign up for. I use and recommend this tool, but the downside is you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get a report on today’s traffic.

Mint, which is available for $30 per site on haveamint.com, gives you live, real-time statistics. You can post to your blog and almost instantly watch the traffic that goes to your site.

10. Make it easy for your readers: Put your RSS feed in a prominent place. RSS feeds let users display the content from multiple blogs through one program so they can easily see the latest posts from all their favorite blogs. Many visitors prefer to use RSS feeds to subscribe to your content so they don’t have to visit your blog through a browser.

Also, use FeedBurner, a free, analytical tool that lets you see how many people subscribe to your blog. Google Analytics and Mint won’t give you statistics for your RSS readership, so without FeedBurner you’ll miss critical information about your blog’s readership.

For more information about RSS feeds and FeedBurner, check out Patrick Bennett’s article “8 Must Do’s to Start a Successful WordPress Blog”.

11. Rinse and repeat. Watch your blog carefully to see what works. And know that some blogs do better on StumbleUpon, some blogs do really well on Digg, and others seem to perform better on del.icio.us.

To figure our what works for your blog, first determine where your traffic comes from and which resources bring the most visitors or comments. If three articles are failures and one is a home run, don’t rehash the same content used in the home run but use it as a blueprint for other posts.

If news works well for you, spend time finding ways to get news alerts more quickly so you can grow that audience. If how-to articles are popular, make sure your blog contains a healthy dose of how-to information.

The bottom line is that you should experiment and pay attention to the results so you can see who your audience is and what that audience wants. Find out what works – and then stick with it.

12. Don’t try to please everyone. Have opinions and stand by them. Even if everyone doesn’t love what you do, that’s okay. Some of my favorite blogs are ones I frequently disagree with. Even though I have a different opinion their posts make me think … which makes me come back for more.

13. Finally, don’t get discouraged. Many bloggers write a couple of posts, don’t see much traffic, and give up. Building a readership and going viral takes time and experience. It takes effort to find ways to get your particular audience to visit, comment on your posts, and recommend you to others – but it’s worth it.

About
Chris Bennett is the President and Founder of 97th Floor, a leading edge SEO Firm specializing in Search Engine Optimization, Reputation Management, Social Media Marketing and Blog Optimization. Chris has been involved with the Internet “since the days of Alta Vistas reign, the good ol’ days when you could change your meta tags, submit your site through Inktomi, and see your rankings improve by dinner.”

Comments

great tips - thanks

feedburner sounds like something i should have on my site

i'll put it on my 'to do' list!

kathryn
http://www.homereporter.co.uk

It is not true that a Blogger blog is a sub-domain of Blogger's Blogspot domain. This is a common misaprehension. Blogger can serve your blog to any domain using FTP or re-directs. My web site at http://www.grahamjones.co.uk is actually four Blogger blogs stitched together to make it look like one web site.

I have tested Blogger against WordPress and discovered that to achieve similar results it was faster and easier with Blogger.

To find out how to use Blogger, just like WordPress, you need to watch the two videos I've produced at http://www.changingblogger.com

Hey Chris,

This is GREAT stuff. It is concise, instructional, and very valuable. Thank you for sharing

Steve
www.championsuccess.com

Nice post Chris,

I am an old timer like yourself, my first emarketing effort was with Prodigy in 1993, and I've never looked back since adding a couple IPO's and some major acquisitions to my cirriculum vitea...

I have to offer my 2 cents with respect to your 3rd point on subdomains.

I specialize in social media marketing optimization, and experience has shaped the advice i recommend to clients that their blog should always be under its own URL and preferrably on a different server than your main news or e-commerce site. The blog should prominently link to your main site, and this assign greater page rank value to the strength of the link improving your main site SEO.

Further, like you, I am very partial to Wordpress (our firm is readying a special "social media optimized" version that is very exciting)... however, if a client is committed to their blogger blog, there is a way to set up blogger to publish the site onto a different server via FTP. It was fairly easy and simple to get started and bloggers own instructions and help were a great resource for setting this up.

Since the post is about making a blog "go viral" I would have to add a 14th point...

14. Use Audio and Video Media. Leverage some of your blog post content by creating a short teaser video and posting it on sites like YouTube (tagged with your keywords, and linked to your blog and main site) This media format offers you the ability to reach a whole new crowd of people who are not big readers while also increasing the link values improving SEO. Make sure your video / audio has lots of valuable content with a strong call to action with directions as to where / how a viewer can get more.

Allan Sabo, President
Alti Success Strategies
-- Social Media and Internet Marketing Optimization Experts --
www.altisocialmedia.com

I would also add these tips: Leave comments, participate on other blogs, and link to other blogs and sites. Bloggers know when you link to them and will remember you better for it.

What an excellent article on blogging. No jargon and in simple steps that I can understand. I have been discouraged by lack of response and given up.

However i will follow the suggestion of a plan and useful links: it is good to know that it can be slow for many people

Keep up the great posts!

There's no magic powder here, but it's just good common sense. Particularly liked the use of Technorati to check out the competitive environment for your blog. It's not a bad lesson to emulate your stronger competitors, but of course make sure you have your own unique slant on things. If you follow these steps, then you'll make it in the end. Congrats.

A lot of cargo culting going on here. You say do this, don't do that, but back it up with nothing. People should understand the why and the how, and you leave out the why.

Onto #3. Total bunk, back it up. Why is it bad? Some of the biggest blogs in my arena are based on a subdomain url, it hasn't hurt them in any way. Google recognizes combinations of sub, domain, and top levels as unique urls, and everything is page by page, not by site, so the argument is double moot.

Hey everyone thanks for the comments. I want to reply to some of them.

Graham Jones,
You are 100% correct that was meant to say that most people don't know and default to the blogger subdomain, just as wordpress does if you don't install it on your server. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

Allan Sabo,

Thanks for the 14th tip very Good.
As for the Blog being on it's own domain in my experience I rarely see a case where it is justifiable to have the blog on a separate domain. In my opinion Getting links from the separate blog domain does not out way the extra trust from the added content and the links coming into that content when the blog is shared with the main domain. We have found that it confuses customers and creates extra steps in finding information as they are jumping back and forth between domains.

I am not saying that you are not seeing benefits and there are examples where it may be better as in a blog that has different goals then the parent company or website. I have looked at rankings and analytics before and after moving a blog from a separate domain to the main domain and every time the results in rankings, traffic and overall trust in Google are better when it is off the main domain.

Jaki,

Leaving comments is huge I did not remember to put that in there specifically thanks. I always try to make the url of my comment go back to my blog as well to help the people clicking through get straight to my content.

Everyone else thanks for the feedback

Excellent tips. Very concise and relevant information to our needs.. FranchiseMoneyMaker.com

Thanks Chris! This is a great resource. I am going to use most of your tips in my work and personal blogs. My only comment would be that a link back from a quality blog, even though it's a subdomain, is still a quality link, so I wouldn't discourage completly the use of subdomain blogs like blogger. Plus setting up your own WordPress as easy as they make it these days, still requires some technical knowledge. I originally planned to use wordpress to set up my latest blog (www.politicalblog.us), but I run into too many limitations, so I ended up using ColdFusion and my own design.
Anyway, thanks again. Big help!

Chris - great article.

In a blog filled internet these are some great tips to help stand out from the crowd. I'm going to check out using your point in number 8 for my website http://www.telescopeworld.co.uk

Thanks again
John

This is one of the best post I have read in a long time.
I find myself so unknowlegeable and on the other side, I find myself as a person who lies on the knowledge and does nothing with it. I read something about having a regular schedule and I haven't implemented it but this is my wake up call

Regarding social networking sites, I 100% agree that they are useful avenues to marketing

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the very informative post. My comment is about point 3 - Avoid sub domains. I am just a month old in blogging business and like many started my rendezvous with blogger. I keep hearing about the advantages of migrating to wordpress, but the issues of loosing google SE advantage and having to redirect all the feeds, bookmarks and backlinks keeps me from taking the plunge. Maybe I am too hesitant too soon. However, I found another article about a rather seemless transition from blogger to wordpress. Here is the link http://www.labnol.org/internet/blogging/moving-blog-from-blogger-to-word... I am a bit technically challenged to follow some of the suggestions, but some others might find it useful. Thanks again for your post.

cheers

Amit
http://bizarrebooks.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Chris.
This tips will certainly be very useful for everyone who wants to improve his / her blogging skills.
The last one is very important: don't get discouraged. Keep going!
mmbsim

This is a fantastic post. I learned more than weeks of reading about "blogging" support for my new site. I am going to put these reccomendations in action ASAP.

Thanks again.

Clearly you have struck a chord with people here Chris! Thanks so much for all of the accessible information that could have taken hours to understand otherwise. It is exciting to see people coming together and having to 'put themselves out there' on the web today via blogs, social networking and video posts. It's great to have have some pointers on doing it right. I would love to see something from you on Social Networking Optimization in the future.

Matt Sheils
MattMadeMedia.com

Chris,

Thanks for the concise article. Could not agree more on point #3. I've been using WordPress with this intent in mind and love it (www.jdsavelli.com/blog). jd

Thanks, Chris, for the tips. Thirteen! How brave of you to have chosen this number - i hope it proves lucky for bloggers. I don't know why experts want people to avoid Blogger like the plague. Somebody had suggested to blog on eBay and it worked wonders for some keyphrases on Google. Psychologically for me, Blogger gives a "closed" look while Wordpress gives an "open" look!

Home Based Business With Free Resources

I never thought of adding Feedburner to my blog earlier, thanks for reminding about it.

Hi,

Can anyone help me as to what it means to Chris Bennet meant by " Then just link to the news source" in his article -

"Be first. Being the first one to post breaking news is a relatively easy way to go viral.

To make the process a little simpler for yourself, create news alerts from Yahoo News!, Google News, and RSS feeds. Then just link to the news source, but don’t forget to put your spin on it."

Does he mean put a URL link of the news source to your blog? Is that legal?

Regards,
Jennifer

Great info. We're preparing to launch our first blog about moving and your information is very helpful.

Thanks, Chris. I am a newby but plan to be one of the best (read ... valuable and pertinent) real estate blogs in Austin, TX by year-end. I just hired my first elance writer to help supply valuable content. This is good stuff ... thanks.

Great stuff. I'd say the number one thing is regular posting!

Great tips, thank you. I have a Blogger blog that I want to add to weekly with product updates, reviews and other news. Do you think a blog is enough for readership, or should I also send out a newsletter brief inviting customers to the blog for more details about my upcoming site? Thanks! Andy
http://www.mymoliso.com

Thank you Chris. I am new to blogging and I am sure I'll find your tips extremely helpful.

:) sounds great, very important things are being pointed-out and in a good detail-oriented manner, I think this should help a lot of bloggers in getting new visitors and readers to their blogs.

thanks
iQ

Thanks for the pointers. My blog got big fast and I started it with blogspot but now I'm freaking about the transition. Great pointers.

I've tried most of the advice mentioned here in my 18 - day old blog and the results are less than encouraging. Traffic seems to be coming in from the social networking sites mostly , and I'm still waiting on Google, although I've reached no.7 in Yahoo already. Thank you for the advice though, perhaps, the most significant one for me here is no.13 "Don't get discouraged." Could it be because I'm using a subdomain that I'm not making any headway with Google on my main key phrase? Surprisingly, I'm reaching no.1 in Google for some keywords I never thought of optimizing for. Thank you and looking forward to more great posts from you.

Emmanuel70

VERY helpful information, I appriciate it! I was one of those that had become a tad discouraged as of late due to the lack of big traffic coming to my little blog. I've hopefully breathed a bit of new life into my passion for writing and finding ways to earn money on the web, so, here's to trying to go viral, thanks!

http://freelegitcash.blogspot.com

Thats my current work in progress blog if anyone is interested. I'd LOVE any tips or suggestions to make it more appealing to a larger crowd.

Nice post with lots of useful info for beginners like me. I would recommend Google Adwords Keyword Tool to do a search on approximate search volumes for keywords and phrases before deciding on the post -title and subject.

mmm, I wonder why you advice against sub-domains, I usually have blogs in the main domain, but I also have 2 in sub-domains and I experience no difficulties what's ever ...

I'm guessing it's because it's considered to be a new domain, but that's sometimes an advantages just as well.

so ... I wonder ...

great tips - thanks

feedburner sounds like something i should have on my site

i'll put it on my 'to do' list!

Surely great tips needs to be done

and not only to be discussed!

Merchant Services

Great Blog.Get in touch with me please.

http://www.youdate.biz

The best way to rise your blog is have super links from High PR sites, have some articles about your site include stories. well I also working on my blog Glow Movies to rise it and I will consider your tips and experience.

Great tips, at first it takes a while to organize things but when you make blogging a habbit and your hobby thing are getting better.
And great content is king as always.
http://www.babyontrip.com/