How to write a viral blog post (Guide with examples and tools)
There’s a fine line between a good blog post and a great one.
What kind of writer are you? Do the words flow out of you like water? Or do you find yourself staring at a blank page and wishing you were somewhere – anywhere – else?
Whichever one you are, at some point, you’re gonna have to write and writing gets hard.
Pro content marketers know the strategies and tricks that not only make writing online easier, but make it more effective, faster and more valuable to the reader.
In this content marketing guide we’ll look at some examples of some top blog posts and show you exactly how to write a blog post that gets clicks, shares and conversions.
Then, at the end of the guide, we’ll also give you the chance to download our article editing checklist. Use it to be doubly sure your posts have the coveted Hubbub Labs Seal of Approval. Sound good? Okay, here goes.
Before you write
Zeroing in on your audience
The internet is a big, scary place. And if you’re not sure who you are writing for, your blog post or piece of content is not going to appeal to anyone.
Think of it like this. Imagine you’re writing a email about your business to the internet. What would you say and how would you say it? What would the internet want to know?
Impossible, isn’t it? The internet isn’t a person, with thoughts and feelings. You don’t know how old it is, what language it is used to, what it wants to know, or what makes it happy…
That’s why it’s essential that you have a strong idea of who your ideal reader is and what they need before your write.
To get you started, think about the following questions:
- How old is your reader?
- What level of education do they have?
- What does the reader want to know?
- What problems do they need to solve?
- What value can you give them?
- How can you make their lives easier, better or more productive?
- What sort of things do they enjoy reading?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What do they do in their free time?
- Where do they live?
- What’s their job? Or do they study?
Do you just guess this information?
If you’re a business blogger, content marketer, or busy freelancer, your audience is likely to be your current or potential customer. So, you can get some really accurate answers to the above questions by interviewing them in person or over the phone, or surveying them. But before you do this, mind map some more questions and really drill down into who your audience is.
Of course, this takes a lot of time and effort. You might not want to think about this in depth every time you write a blog post. And you certainly won’t want to be calling people up every time you want to write something…
So it’s a good idea to build an selection of audience profiles. This will help you define who you are writing to each time and make your job of writing that much easier. What’s more, each profile, or customer avatar, will eventually become so familiar to you that it will be like you are writing to a friend.
You can check out our previous article on this: Build Better Content Marketing Strategy with Buyer Personas in 2018.
Defining your argument or value proposition
Before you even begin writing an article, you need to ask yourself why anyone would want to read it.
If you’re thinking about writing your fifteenth post on why your Chrome Extension is going to change everyone’s lives, stop and consider whether this is the best use of your time. There’s a LOT of noise on the internet. It’s our job, as responsible writers, to try to produce stuff of value. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
If you fulfil one or more of the following criteria, you’re good to go.
I believe my article/guide/piece of content:
- ✅ Explains how to do something that will improve the reader’s life
- ✅ Gives a list of tools, resources, or actionable pieces of advice
- ✅ Opens debate on an interesting industry topic or furthers a trending conversation
- ✅ Highlights an issue or industry trend and offers a solution or opinion
- ✅ Adds comment to a news story, event
- ✅ Showcases a new development in a company
- ✅ Tells a compelling story with real human interest
- ✅ Interviews an interesting person or expert in their field
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should highlight that each post you write should offer some kind of value to the reader. Check out the linked posts to see good examples of each.
Keeping it real
Strong articles tend to include research or provide examples to support what they are arguing. Once you have a topic in mind, it’s a good idea to spend a good amount of time reading around it.
Look for reputable studies from universities, reports and surveys from independent market researchers and avoid industry funded research as this tends to be horribly biased.
Do this and you’ll also find out if anyone else has already written the same article – this way you can avoid sounding unoriginal and you can refine your stance. You can also cite the articles you find and argue for or against their positions. And better yet, you’ll learn more about your topic and find real research that either supports or refutes your initial ideas.
On that note: it’s important to let the research you find guide your writing. It will stop you from making claims you can’t back up, will keep your writing honest, and you may also even change your mind – so it’s a win-win-win situation.
Sketch it out
Writing can be a slow process. It’s even slower if you’re thinking about what to say next and how. A major tip is to plan your article and sketch out your headlines well before you start writing.
Do so in a logical way that sets out your problem, solution and conclusion (or your value proposition, action points, and call to action).
Then add in your research notes and links, and write in the order you have decided on. This will dramatically reduce your thinking time and make the whole writing process smoother and quicker.
Then, when it comes to editing later on, you’ll know your article is presented in a logical order and should be understandable and easy to follow for the reader.
When you write
Your headline is probably most important thing you’ll write. Its job is to take your reader from the wilds of the internet and social media and on to your blog. Which is no mean feat.
So don’t rush it.
Your headline must:
- Signal what the article or content piece is going to be about
- Be so eye catching and intriguing or offer so much value that it makes your reader stop scrolling and click
- Be short and social media friendly
- Be accurate and deliver what was promised
News articles give good headline examples. Often compelling and always clear and brief, they are designed to give readers a basic idea of what happened and make them want to click. You can scan a news site headlines and generally know what’s going on in the world.
Clickbait articles, on the other hand, are written solely with clicks in mind. This can be very damaging, as readers get frustrated and bounce (leave immediately) when they land on an article, video, image or other content that fails to deliver what was promised. This is bad for your brand reputation and your Page Rank / SEO (as search engines tend to punish pages with high bounce rate).
Don’t underestimate your opening line
They’ve clicked, they’re interested. All you can do is lose them now. The sole purpose of your opening line is to get your reader stuck into your article. Do that, and you have succeeded. So how can you do this?
- Be funny:
“How many bees is too many bees? I am not 100 percent sure, but there sure were a lot of bees on this hot dog stand in Times Square.” – Mashable
- Set up the next line:
- Unseat them with a crazy fact or stat:
“Fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John…” – New York Times
- Ask a question they’ll say yes to or will want to know the answer to:
“In 2018, what is left to explore in the world?” – The Verge
- Shock them into reading more
“Tweets, lies and threats. It’s morning in America!” – AdAge
Charm them in your introduction
If your opening line is the hook, your introduction will seal the deal. It needs to be short, sweet and set out why your reader wants to read the article.
- Do include interesting facts and allude to the value the reader will get
- Don’t write it like a high school essay (in this article we will examine…)
- Do keep it to 150-180 words
- Don’t assume knowledge of the reader or allude to things you don’t explore in the article
- Do talk to them at their level
- Don’t condescend
- Do keep them interested by asking questions
- Don’t ask questions they can say no to
Subheadings have a special trick
Once your reader has opened up your content and read your introduction, you want them to stay exactly where they are and then perhaps click through to your website, or other content.
So it’s essential that they are not faced with an impenetrable wall of text.
Keep your paragraphs short and break it up, every few hundred words with a strong subheading.
These subheadings are designed to organise your writing and make people read on. And while they should be accurate, they should not give everything away.
If, for example, you write an article on mountain climbing with “The 7 secret keys to scaling Everest without dying”, you’ll want to give clever hints at what those steps are – or intrigue them into reading more (there’s the special trick!).
However, if your subheadings explicitly outline those steps, then the reader will have no reason to read your content: they’ll be able to scan it and get everything they need without reading in detail and without staying on your site for very long.
Images are your secret weapon
A post with an image is also ten times more likely to be shared on social media than a post without, according to the Social Media Examiner.
Perhaps that’s not surprising: our brains can identify images in as little as 13 milliseconds – that’s pretty damn fast and shows just how important visual information is to us hoomans.
Images also break up the text, give the eyes a break from all that (ugh) wriiiiiiting, and in many cases can illustrate what you are explaining more clearly.
Strong visuals may also make your content more memorable. According to research by NYT best seller of Brain Rules John Medina, if you tell a person some complex information, on average they’ll only remember ten percent of it three days later. But if you couple that same information with a relevant picture they’ll retain 65 percent of that information in the same period of time.
If you are using images of people, choose happy, smiling, positive people who are similar in age and appearance to your ideal reader/customer avatar. If you are aiming at young mothers, include images of young mothers. If you’re targeting retirees, choose retirees. You get the picture, so to speak.
This will help your reader identify with the content more – and they are more likely to read on if they feel they are right place.
Think about word economy
The quicker you get your message across, the less chance your reader will get bored or distracted. This is called word economy. Good writers aim to get their message across in as few words as possible. Like that.
Getting your reading level right
And don’t try to sound clever for the sake of it. It turns people off – seriously. George Orwell once wrote “Never use a long word where a short one will do”. And he was right. It’s far better to write how you speak, because it’s a lot more engaging and easier to follow.
Proofread and edit
Cast a critical eye over your text. Look for repetition, spelling mistakes (especially correctly typed words spell checkers will miss), writing ticks, typos, and so on. Poorly proofread articles can annoy readers and make them judge your writing harshly, even when the content is good.
Then download the Hubbub Labs editing checklist to help you run through your own work, check that the content works, and flows logically (Don’t worry, it’s free with no signup).
Some other free tools that you might find helpful:
Google Docs – almost everything we write happens on Google. Not only do we securely store our content on Google Drive, but we can access our work if our computers break down. More to the point, it allows us to collaborate in real time, work offline when the internet is down, and share with clients instantly. With tracked changes and comments, it’s also very easy to work with an editor – and creating new versions is as easy as “File / make a copy”.
Find it here – Google docs
Grammarly – this can be a helpful tool for people who are occasionally unsure of the correct spelling or grammar structure. It works as a browser extension and so highlights all your mistakes, whether you’re writing a novel or an email to your friend.
Find it here – Grammarly.com
Yoast – a freemium WordPress plugin, Yoast allows you to check for readability and how well optimised your copy is for search engines.
Find it here: Yoast.com
BuzzSumo – find out where different topics and articles are resonating with BuzzSumo. This freemium tool lets you see the most popular articles on any given topic and where they are being shared online.
FInd it here: BuzzSumo.com
Hubspot Topic Generator – good for when you are truly stuck for what to write. Put in some keywords and it will spew out some content ideas. Okay, you’re not going to get a Pulitzer, but it might spark a new title for you!
Find it here: Hubspot topic generator
Hemingway App – okay, we like this one. It’s a clever little machine that highlights when you’re getting verbose. Use it to simplify your writing and make it “bold and clear”.
Find it here: Hemingway App
Co-schedule’s Headline analyzer – paste in your headline and see how it rates. The higher your score, the better it is for SEO. We’re not in love with this tool, but it gets you thinking about different ways to write your titles.
Find it here: Headline analyzer