Web Marketing Tips to Optimize Your Site for Viral Sharing
Going viral is every marketer’s dream. It means hundreds, if not thousands, of people are sharing your content on social media. Viral content allows brands to reach audiences far beyond what they normally would using organic efforts alone. This is why social media optimization (SMO) and search engine optimization (SEO) now go hand-in-hand. The main goal today is to reach larger audiences and drive more traffic from across various social media platforms. So if you want your content to explode online, our web marketing experts have put together a few helpful tips to help set you up for viral success.
Create High-Quality Content
We’re taking compelling, credible content that is valuable to readers and worthy of sharing. This includes well-written, brand-relevant blog posts with engaging calls to action. And don’t forget your author! Articles with a byline at the beginning of the post and a bio at the end appear more professional, credible, and trustworthy. You’ve also got to make sure your content is diverse. Mix up what content you’re producing to appeal to a wider audience. Surprisingly, long-form content gets more shares than short-form. It flies in the face of all the evidence that people have short attention spans, but it’s true. Well-researched, informative articles offer more value to readers than short fluff pieces, after all.
That being said, don’t dismiss short-form content – and expand your definition of content beyond “the written word.” Tweets, images, infographics… they’re all easy-to-digest and typically light on text. They’re also incredibly easy for your audience to digest and share. More on this in the next section. Other types of content you should create include:
- Listicles (i.e., Top 10 lists) full of photos – 10 is the magic number for list articles, with 23, 24, and 16 also being popular;
- As mentioned above, infographics and compelling graphic design;
- Short videos – i.e., explainer videos.
You should ALWAYS, always include visual content alongside written, preferably images that make users stop dead in their scrolling. We can go on for days about optimizing posts, captions, and more, but if you’re aiming to go viral, you’re specifically looking for shares. If you’ve got the great content ready to go, then you need some eye candy to draw people in. Written content is twice as likely to get shared on Facebook if there is at least one image in the post, so make sure you use Facebook preview image meta tags. Think of it this way: as users are scrolling through a news feed, what’s going to stand out for them and break their pattern?
Human brains respond to human faces, to strong colours, and to movement. Focus on graphics and imagery that include these themes and are going to stand out from the crowd to pull that click. Need more control over how your posts are viewed on social media? Define open graph tags. They give you total control of what shows up when you share your site to your social accounts. You can adjust tags to:
- Add images
- Describe content with SEO keywords
- Simplify a URL, and
- Tell the platform about you and your content.
Once you’re set up for flexibility, you can control exactly what sort of image will catch your users’ eyes. So stop people in their tracks as they’re scrolling! Disrupt their pattern by taking a risk and going off the beaten path.
Write Powerful Headlines
A powerful headline is catchy, compelling, direct, and arouses emotions. Unleash your inner Hemingway! Cut to the chase and get a reaction right off the bat. A quick note on “clickbait:” Okay. Here’s the thing: a headline is meant to capture interest. So capture interest! Provoke a response, but don’t deceive your audience. If you’re promising something in a headline, you’d better be able to deliver. Shorter headlines make content easier to share on Twitter due to the character limit. It’s also important to make headlines stand out from the rest. You may be talking about a well-covered topic, but you can still evoke interest with a unique and catchy headline. Use impactful words like awesome, massive, free, successful, and the like. In fact, words like cash and best also go a long way in headlines. Let’s run a little test.
What would you be more likely to click on?
“10 Reliable Ways to Save Money”
“The 10 Best Ways to Save Cash”
It’s “The 10 Best Ways to Save Cash,” right? We’re not saying there’s no audience for for reliable money-saving tips, but it’s a more focused approach that lacks the broad appeal of the the other option.
Consider questions, too. Headlines with questions create curiosity because they encourage users to seek answers and learn more about a topic they don’t know much about.
“How To” headlines also encourage people to click on an article because they want to learn something.
Include Share Buttons
Also known as social media widgets or shareable widgets, these icons encourage shares and help increase backlinks to your site. Social media icons should be relevant to your site and the platforms you use. As social proof of your content’s popularity and your social presence, display the share count on these widgets. Share counts are basically free client endorsements. Users are more likely to share content they think is popular. In terms of size and placement, widgets should big enough to notice, but tailored to your brand and page design. Place them at the top and bottom of the page, and consider using scrollable widgets that follow users as they move through a page. And what’s more, MEASURE YOUR SHARES! These metrics allow you to see your content’s performance—what’s performing well and what isn’t in your marketing campaigns. For example, Insights on Facebook allows you to track likes, check-ins, and the number of people talking about your post. Referral Insights allows you to analyze your referral traffic from Facebook.
Encourage Audience to Leave Comments
End blog posts with a question to readers. Ask for their opinions on the topic. This encourages them to engage with your site, giving them a voice. A comments section provides them with a social forum.
Better yet, incorporate Facebook Comments on your page! This allows users to see if friends comment, and increases the likelihood they’ll take part in the discussion.
Evoke Emotion in Audience
The top emotions inspired by viral content include awe, laughter, amusement, and joy. People share content to:
- Bring value and entertainment to others
- Evoke reactions and starts conversations
- Define themselves to others—show others who they are, that they have good taste
- Develop and maintain connections (relationships) with others
- Be self-fulfilled—to feel more involved in the world, and
- Spread the word about causes they care about.
Users also like to share opinion-focused content and their personal results from quizzes to show people who they are. You can also get influencers to share your content for you. Search for content similar to what you want to create, and see how many influencers shared it. Create a list of influencers and build a relationship with them before publishing your articles. Be friendly and honest about what you’re doing! Ask them:
- For quotes to use in your articles
- Questions for feedback on an idea, and
- If you can link to something they wrote that is relevant to your topic.
These influencers will likely want to share any content they were involved in. Interviews are another great way to get influencers involved in an article. So interview 20 influencers for one article, and watch your content go viral.
When to Post and When to Promote
Mondays and Tuesdays tend to see more shares in content across social media platforms than the other days of the week. Aim to post content on Tuesdays to increase shares, and create a schedule to backup and support your efforts. If you can invest in a post, do so! Even a few dollars to boost a post can go a long way. And whatever you do, don’t throw content into the wild and leave it to fend for itself! Re-promote content about a week after posting it. Shares tend to drop three days after posting, so reposting and mentioning it again helps keep things moving forward. Evergreen content is easiest to re-promote – this is the stuff that’s good year after year, and stuff you can refresh quickly and effectively. If you don’t have much evergreen content, re-post older material for an upcoming relevant event or holiday. The more shares you get, the closer you’ll be to going viral. So aim for the stars!
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