Content that spreads

The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Content That Spreads Like Wildfire

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

When you started writing you were excited. Excited about the flood of traffic you were going to get. Excited about the praises other bloggers were going to give you. Excited about the crowds eagerly discussing your article.

You couldn’t wait to hit “publish”.

Then the moment finally arrived.

You nervously checked everything one last time, took a deep breath, and pushed the button.

Then it hit you.

There is no crowd waiting for you. There is no flood of traffic. There are no praises.

Nothing happened.

You realized that all you had is a piece of content nobody reads and a dream with a serious dent in it.

Disillusioned, you continued writing for the next 2 or 3 weeks, hoping things would get better.

By the 4th week, things started to become difficult. You lost motivation, you had trouble coming up with ideas, you had trouble focusing on your writing.

By the 5th week, you abandoned your blog.

 

Things could have been different

The majority of blogs die a quiet death. They die because they lack something that is crucial to beginning writers.

Feedback.

Feedback can make the difference between giving up and chugging along.

I know. I’ve started 5 other blogs in the past and every single one of them died because I didn’t get any feedback.

I might as well have been talking to a wall.

That changed when I wrote my article about how to create a good landing page. That article got shared about 667 times, and it got some comments too. That’s huge for a beginning blog.

Conversionbase shares

 

It’s not about people telling you you’re doing a great job (although that’s nice). There’s always someone who will like your work. Just like there’s always going to be people who dislike what you are doing no matter how good it is.

It’s about putting something out there and getting a reply back. Good or bad. At least it gives you something to work with.

It keeps you motivated to create more.

I want to teach you how to get your first feedback so you get the initial burst of motivation to keep going.

 

How to create an article that’s worth sharing

Writing an article that’s worth reading is one thing. Writing an article that’s both worth reading AND worth sharing is another. If you want to create an article that does both things, follow these steps:

 

Step 1) Find proven topics

A whole lot of people think they need to come up with something totally new every time. I know, creating something new can be really fun. But when you’re just starting out you need feedback. The best way to get that feedback is to see what’s working and to create something better.

So the first step for creating shareable content is to find topics that have done well in the past.

You can do this in a couple of different ways.

The first possibility is by using Buzzsumo. The tools shows you exactly how many times something got shared.

So let’s go to the website and type in your topic. Let’s try it out with the words ‘pet care’.

Buzzsumo spits out a list of articles ranked by the amount of times it was shared on social media. This is awesome for us because we can see what topics did great.

Buzzsumo Example

 

Buzzsumo gives you a bunch of news articles as well. Let’s ignore those for now. Go down the list and see if you find any articles. In our example, there are two really good candidates for future articles.

If you look at the right side of the image, you’ll see that the articles both have over 10 000 shares. More than enough.

We’ve got one article about caring for older pets and one article on the benefits of pumpkin for pets.

Those are two topics we can use. We know they’re going to work because they got shared a lot.

It’s always a good idea to quickly check out the article to find out what made it so popular. Does it have loads of pictures? Is the article super detailed? Does it give step by step information?

Also check out any comments to see what people think of it or if they have any unanswered question. These are all things we can use to craft our article.

The second way of finding good topics is to check out the competition. You can check out what the most shared articles are by either putting your competitor’s URL into Buzzsumo or Quicksprout.

Let’s say you have a blog about blogging and you want to find out good topics to write about. A really good blog is Boost Blog Traffic by Jon Morrow. In order to see what articles of his got shared the most, put the url in Quicksprout.

Quicksprout gives you a list of the sites top pages

Quicksprout Example

 

Important note: We’re not doing this to copy someone else’s work, that would be pretty lame. The goal of this exercise is to see what topics work so we can give our own opinion or vision about it.

As you can see from the Quicksprout example. Some good topics to write about would be editing tips, how to make money blogging, how to create a newsletter,…

Enough to keep you busy for a little while.

All these topics can be broken down into little segments and turned into multiple blog posts. How to create a newsletter could be broken up into several parts (what technology to use, if it’s a good idea or not, best practices,…).

So 5 ideas can turn into 20+ articles if you want to.

 

Step 2) Write a killer headline

Ahhh, headlines. Nothing deserves so much attention as headlines. They’re crucial to your articles success. if people don’t like your headline they probably won’t read your article. If they don’t read your article you can say goodbye to comments, social shares, or subscribers.

I’m not going to delve too deep into this topic. There are a lot of resources about this topic. Some good ones are:

If you use these resources and practise writing headlines, you should have no trouble coming up with a headline that brings in a steady amount of clicks.

 

Step 3) Write the article

Now that you have a good topic and a killer headline, it’s time to write the post. You can do a couple of things to make your content more share-worthy.

Use “You” and “I” a lot
Nothing is more unpleasant to a reader than the feeling of being treated like a group. Sure, they are part of a group. But you don’t want them feel that way.

Using “you” and “I” will create the feeling of a conversation. That’s the feeling you’re trying to create.

Another great tip I learned is that whenever you talk about something positive, use “you”. This makes people feel like they’re doing something good.

When you’re talking about something negative, use “we” or “I”. People don’t want to feel like they’re doing something wrong. If they are doing something wrong, you can still make it feel like they’re not the only ones by using “we”.

Add at least one type of media
In his Okdork post, Buzzsumo founder Henley Wing talks about what types of posts get the most shares.

By analyzing thousands of articles, they found that articles that had at least one image in them got double the amount of shares on Facebook.

Casey Henry from moz found that adding 3 types of media (images, video, lists,…) gets you even more shares.

Now, don’t start stuffing your posts full of pictures and cat videos. Focus on being useful first. Just keep it in the back of your mind that images get more shares.

Make it as valuable as possible
“Be valuable”, they said.

“They will like you”, they said.

Easier said than done. People use the word “value” as if everybody has a crystal clear idea of what it is. What does it mean to be valuable? What’s valuable to you could be worthless to me.

So what makes an article valuable?

You can create value in a couple of different ways:

  • Provide actionable content – If someone can take your post and put it into practise you’ve created something of value. You helped them create something they couldn’t have created before reading your article.
  • Detailed – Going deep into a topic is a great way to create value. You become a resource for other people when you do that.
  • Inspiring – This one is more difficult to pull off. Writing an inspiring article can be incredibly hit or miss.
  • Change of perspective – If you can show someone another way of thinking, one that will get them further than they are now, you’ve created something of value.
  • And a lot more ways – These a by far the only ways you can create value with your article. Personally, I like to teach in my article because it’s fun and I like reading stuff like that myself. Think about what kind of content you like reading and why you like reading it.

Try to write something that moves people. Either intellectually or emotionally.

Make it long enough
The time that you could get away with writing 500 word articles is long gone. Unless your name is Seth Godin, writing an article that’s 500 words or less isn’t going to do much for you (or other people).

Although research says that content that’s over 1500 words get’s more shares, it’s better to focus on creating good content than just optimizing for shares and rankings.

1500 words is a good target to aim at. With that amount, you can go deep into certain topics and you have enough time to explain things properly. Time you otherwise wouldn’t have when you’re writing 500 word posts.

Readability is another factor to consider. While 1500 words (or more) is good for shares and search, people might stop reading because they think it’s too long.

My first post was over 4000 words long and it got a lot of shares. The average time on the page, however, didn’t match the amount of words. People who came from Twitter, for example, didn’t read most of the article (the average time was about a minute or so).

Unless Twitter users are super fast readers, there’s no way in hell they read all of it.

 

Getting your content out there

This is the part that most people seem to forget. Creating good content is hard and it takes a lot of time, but if you just leave it at that all your hard work is going to be for nothing.

In order to give your content the maximum chance of being successful, you have to promote the hell out of it.

Most people share their post on facebook, put it on Twitter, and that’s pretty much it.

The problem with that kind of promotion is it’s very passive. You’re hoping that people will see your post. IF they ever get to see it, it’s not sure whether or not they are going to click on it.

In order to make your post a success, you’ll have to promote it a little more aggressively.

 

Step 1) Find people who shared related articles

My first article was about how to create a good landing page. In order to find people who shared previous articles I just went to buzzsumo and typed in ‘good landing pages’.

This gives you a list of articles about landing pages that have been shared numerous times. Buzzsumo has the option to show who shared your article on Twitter. We’re going to take these people and send them an email.

Buzzsumo Viewshares

 

The reason we do this is because, if people share articles about our topic, the chance of them sharing our article our really good.

Buzzsumo Average Retweets

 

When you look at who shared the article, buzzsumo gives you a bunch of metrics.Page authority and domain authority are SEO related metrics so we’re not going to focus on those.

We’re going to focus on the reply ratio and retweet ratio. These two metrics show us how engaged this person’s audience is. If they have a 0% retweet ratio it means nobody is paying attention to what they’re saying.

It’s better to target someone with a small engaged audience that someone who has a massive, uninterested following.

 

Step 2) Find their email address

Next we need to find this person email address so we can let them know we’ve created an article that they might like.

The best way to find their email address is to go to their Twitter profile and see of they are promoting their website (most people are). Go to their website and look for a contact page.

If you can find their email address on there then great.

If you can’t, you might need some more trickery.

Rob Ousbey from distilled found a great way to get people’s email address if you know their name.

In short, the google doc he provides makes combinations of your target’s first and last name to come up with a bunch of different email addresses. You copy the email addresses in gmail and use Rapportive to see which email is the correct one.

Your goal is to find a real person’s email address, not just an info@company email.

 

Step 3) Sending the email

Now that you’ve got your piece of content and their email address, all you need is to let them know it exists.

This isn’t too difficult, though. You just need to know how to write a decent email.

Keep the emails short and sweet
If they have a decent size following or if they are an important person, they probably get a ton of emails. The last thing they want is a 3 page long email from someone they don’t know explaining why they should share your article.

Keep it short and sweet. Let them know you created your article but not much more.

A good way to ask is to ask them if you could get their opinion on something. Everybody loves to give their opinion on everything so you’ll have a high chance of getting a reply or a tweet.

Keep track of who opened the email
This isn’t crucial, it’s just good to know. Use a gmail extensions like Yesware to see if people opened your email or clicked your links.

This way you get to see if someone received your message and if they opened or clicked your article.

Thank them
This is more important than you’d initially think. A lot of people ask for tweets, shares, or likes. But when influencers actually do any of these people often forget to thank them.

Your goal is not to kiss their asses. It’s just that a little kindness can go a long way. Really, “thank you” is enough.

 

Conclusion

Do the things I’ve listed in this article and I’m sure you’ll get success. Instead of writing in a vacuum, you’ll be able to bounce ideas off of your readers. You’ll get to see what worked and what didn’t. You’ll get to see the results of your labor.

More importantly, you’ll get the motivation to create more awesome content that teaches and inspires people.

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