How I Got My First Viral Article With No Paid Marketing: 6 Real Steps

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If you've been reading my site and somehow got here by way of an article or a share---thank you! This blogging life is definitely not for everyone so I am thankful for every single pair of eyes on my words. Since launching my blog last year, I've seen some relatively successful moments with analytics on my posts but nothing tops the article that gave me my biggest numbers on the internet to date:

It's important to point out that the article that brings you the most views may not be your favorite at all but it is a way for others to get familiar with your voice and your site---which is the ultimate goal. With the above post, I brought over 300K new visitors to my site, upped my subscribers by over 300% and sold out of my first inventory of books which, in turn, has made it easier to promote the posts I've written since then. Despite having written it almost 6 months ago, it still brings over 2k new readers to my site daily. So how did I do this? 

Let's talk about it. 

Titles Matter

In the case of this article, I used a title that I knew would immediately draw interest. I'd had success prior here and here by doing this. Titles are the first thing that your reader sees and whether they end up loving what you have to say or not, it's what gets them onto your site. Because I love to read in general, I sometimes click on articles that don't immediately draw me in with their titles but the vast majority of people do not and will not. You have to create something that will catch people's eyes amongst the other millions of things they see on a daily basis. Chances are you clicked on this article simply because it told you there was something you could use for your own brand inside of it. If this article was titled "My First Viral Article--Yay Me!", you probably wouldn't be reading this right now. Spend time mastering the art of the title and I promise you the results will be...fiscal. 

Find A New Angle

I didn't write about Ciara and Russell at the height of the social media craze surrounding their marriage. There were just far too many articles about them at the time and what could I say that wasn't already being said? Not much, probably. Now, some people may say it doesn't matter if everyone is talking about a thing---your voice may be different or your audience may want to hear your take on it---and I hear that. But it's not how I roll. What I have been most successful at is finding a new angle on popular topics. In my article about abortion, I didn't simply come to my readers with numbers and my general support of a woman's right to choose...I instead chronicled, in detail, my personal experience with the topic. My angle was specific and even in the writing of it, I wanted it to feel undeniably like me---the response I received helped me to know that this was a successful approach. Even as a reader, these are the articles I'm more likely to share across social media platforms and in private convos/group chats. Which brings me to...

Establish Your Voice

This is big for me. We all have blogs/bloggers whose sites we frequent and it can be tempting to emulate what we think is working for them but please, please do your own thing. Not only will it make your readers happier (chances are they're fans of that popular blog you read too) because they're not reading a carbon copy of someone else but it will also make your blogging life easier. Coming up with subjects to write about, inviting titles and interesting angles is hard enough without also trying to copy someone else's voice. Not to mention, bloggers talk---we know who is original and who simply sits back and steals what they see working for others, it's not a good look. Plus, it's better to have an honest approval (or disapproval) of your work so that you know where to improve rather than hiding behind the mask of someone else's internet persona. My readers know that when they come to my site they're going to be engaged on serious topics with my air of humor, some perfectly placed gifs and probably specific things they can use in their everyday lives/careers. That's my niche. And because it's true to who I am, working inside of that niche is not very hard. It's easier to be you. 

Write About Things You Care About

Now this is something I see not happening on the internet enough. I understand the desire to get the analytics, the adsense coin, the partnerships, etc...but dearsweetbabyjesuspuffdaddyoprahwinfrey---nothing is worse than reading a post that clearly was written by a blogger who was only writing for the purposes written above. I don't care how much they're paying you---if it's not your cup of tea, pass on it. I recently watched a special with Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq has built an almost billion-dollar investment portfolio since his exit from the NBA) and one of his key investment rules was that he doesn't endorse or invest in any product that he hasn't used or doesn't like. I generally think blogging should be the same way. Yes, it would be easier to write the 9,990,456,789th article on the duplicity of Black women who are Coretta and Cardi B (word to creator of this movement, Maura Chanz) but it's far more interesting to write an article about the history of dreadlocks in the Atlanta rap game using artists like Migos and 2 Chainz if that's what actually makes your heart flutter. Don't write about what's popular just because...and if you find that you are interested in this week's trending topic, see #2 on this list.

Use Social Media As A Cheat Code

What was the last FB post you just couldn't scroll past without hopping on and lending your opinion? What about the last IG meme you felt compared to share with a friend? Did you click into an interesting thread on Twitter that inspired you to think about something in a different light? Well, that's 3 ideas that you can potentially turn into a blog post. You've already seen that those topics could possibly strike up a conversation (hello comments!), are shareable and could make readers consider coming back to see your take on other subjects. We all spend a significant enough amount of time on social media that we should be using it, as much as possible, to our advantage. More on that...

Create A Social Media Posting Strategy

Once your blog is up and moving it will become increasingly clear (via your analytics) where the bulk of your readers come from: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc... You can use this information to figure out where your focus should be when a new post is published. Analytics are great because they can show you everything from when the most traffic is on your site (down to the minute via Squarespace and to the second via Google's "Users Currently On Site" tool!) to where in the WORLD people are reading from. Create a strategy based on these numbers and BOOM, you're maximizing your potential reach. There is a specific time of day that most people tend to sign on to each social media site (regularly promoted as 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm)---you can start there and then become more specific as you start to establish an audience for your blog. I know that my blogs do better on Facebook; therefore, FB gets them first. I also take the time to share a nice chunk of the article on those posts 1) because Facebook doesn't have a character limit and 2) because I've found that when people share my snippets, a conversation ensues that usually leads to someone saying: "have you read the article? You should."---and this generates? You guessed it: views! Also---don't be afraid to bring a post back. With algorithms constantly changing what people see on social media---there's a chance that some of your network may have never even engaged with one of your posts no matter how popular it was. Plus, new friends equals new eyes---show em what you got!

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These are the tried and true things that I've done to increase my blog's traffic. The only other thing I can think to add is consistency----I admit I'm still working on that one---because people like to know they have something to look forward to from you regularly. You can also employ the help of newsletters that update people when you have a new blog post or that give people a monthly rundown of all the posts they may have missed. 

Have questions about anything that I didn't cover here? Comment below!

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Iman Milner1 Comment