Exactly How I Got a Stampede of Web Traffic
Dean here from www.deanhunt.com – Today I will show you exactly how I milked an article to get a stampede of web traffic.
Today I am going to show you a step by step guide on exactly how I got a random story onto the Digg.com main page LAST WEEK.
Here is the back story: My biz partner bet me $1000 that I couldn’t get a random article onto the Digg.com main page.
He found 3 random articles:
1) A self help article
2) A gadget review article
3) A religious article
He game me a time limit of 3 weeks to transform one of these articles and get the new version on the Digg.com main page. I could modify the article, but couldn’t do a complete re-write:
Spoiler Alert: I got the self help article onto the Digg.com main page 48 hours later. I didn’t even need to use articles 2 and 3.
I took a few screenshots, and I am going to show you the EXACT tricks and techniques I used to do this.
Here is the article that I had to transform into viral gold: http://www.procrastinationhelp.com/humor/procrastinators-creed
Here is my version of the story: http://retiredat21.com/10-step-guide-to-thinking-like-a-loser/
Here is my version at Digg.com: http://digg.com/offbeat_news/10_Step_Guide_To_Thinking_Like_A_Loser
I thought that the original article was pretty good, but there was no way it was going to get on the Digg main page. So I knew I had a lot of work to do to create some viral content.
Many people contact me and say “Dean, I would love to get some viral success for my site, but I don’t have your creativity”. My answer is that ANYONE can get millions of visitors for ANY article. But 99.99% of marketing experts prefer to talk the talk instead of walking the walk, so the only way I could prove just how easy it can be, is to use an EXISTING article and transform it.
My dilemma was that I was technically using someone else’s content. This was a catch22 for me. If I create an article from scratch, people will just say it was my creativity that did it, if I use someone else’s article, then it is not morally correct.
However, this case study should help thousands of webmasters achieve viral and buzz marketing success.
To be honest, the content in the original article is nothing new, but I have credited the original article anyway.
Below are nine of the main techniques and tricks I used to transform the article into a buzz article. Remember, this mini-series is not just about Digg.com, if you create buzz with your article then you will be mentioned on authority sites and powerful blogs.
Trick 1: A Global Appeal
This trick is based on the law of averages. I am sure you are all familiar with the term “niche”, well here is the trick… niche-focused articles often aren’t as successful with viral content as content with a global appeal.
Here is an example: Let’s presume that 100 people see the original procrastinator’s article. Of that 100, 40 of them have never heard the term “procrastination”, so they are not going to enjoy it. Let’s also assume that another 20 are not going to fully understand or appreciate the humor in the article. Finally, let’s presume that a further 10 people don’t understand the word creed.
Note: Don’t make the mistake of presuming all your readers speak fluent English.
So from this example we have alienated 70% of all the readers.
An article simply cannot go viral with ease if 70% of all readers are not going to understand it.
So clearly I had to make it have a more global appeal.
Step one was to change the focus from procrastination to not being a loser. What % of people are familiar with the term loser? I am guessing close to 100%.
In one simple step I have increased the probability of this article being a success by 70%, simply by changing the focus/topic.
Trick 2: The Negativity Slant
This is an area I have studied a lot over the past few years. Here is how it works:
Content with a negative slant will get discussed more than a positive slant.
“Bad news travels faster than good news”, and we can use this knowledge to our advantage. Have you noticed what % of the news is bad news? It is a HUGE %.
Look at the buzz stories of the past month and here are some of the articles you will see:
- iPhone disappointments
- George Bush (almost always negative)
- Paris Hilton prison stories (mostly negative)
Did you know that Paris Hilton created an official petition to prevent her from going to prison?
Did you know that there was also a petition at http://jailparishilton.com/ by some entrepreneur that claims: “She did the crime, she should serve the time, no special treatment!”
The “Jail Paris Hilton” petition got more than three times as many names as the official one, and the site has had millions of hits.
Trust me, a negative slant will ALWAYS have more chance of going viral.
I personally saw the effects of this phenomenon with the “Bizzare Google request” blog post that was described as the “viral marketing success of 2006”: http://deanhunt.com/bizzare-google-request/
So here is what I did to the original article… instead of saying something positive like “How to procrastinate less” or “How to succeed with procrastination”, I made it negative with my title “10 Step Guide to Thinking Like a Loser”, you can see my version here: http://retiredat21.com/10-step-guide-to-thinking-like-a-loser/
Trick 3: The Killer Headline
Unlike the other two tricks, this one is common knowledge…
You can have a great piece of content, but if your headline sucks, your content will NOT get seen.
ORIGINAL HEADLINE: “Procrastinator’s Creed”
Do you think this is a good headline?
I have already shown you why around 70% of Internet users will NOT like this title. So let’s look at my headline again:
VIRAL GOLD HEADLINE: “10 Step Guide to Thinking Like a Loser”
Which do you think will grab people’s attention?
Below I am going to show you in detail why this headline is an absolute killer headline.
Trick 4: 10 Steps to Viral Heaven
Ok, here is the trick… people love lists! There have been many discussions about why lists are so powerful in Digg.com, but we can save that for another time… all you need to know is that Internet readers LOVE lists. Anything in list format is a surefire winner with the Digg crowd.
Note: Apparently “top 7” is the magic number: http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2007/05/22/top-7-lists-lead-the-pack-on-digg
This was another killer mistake that the original author made. He ALREADY had the content in list format, he just messed up the headline by not including a top 10.
So to improve the original article I simple added a number to the headline. Easy!
Trick 5: Stand out from the crowd
This trick applies to both your headline and your content. The Internet is a VERY crowded place, and there are millions of webmasters who are trying to grab some attention. So if you want to get noticed then you MUST stand out from the crowd.
Seth Godin uses this as the focus of his “Purple Cow” book http://www.sethgodin.com/purple/
There are hundreds of thousands of articles on procrastination, and I knew that I had to stand out from the crowd with my version, so I created a headline that would achieve that.
I guarantee that my headline really stood out from the crowd at Digg.com
If you are struggling to think of ways to be creative with your content, then grab a pen and paper and just start writing as many wacky ideas as possible. Be creative, controversial, edgy, wacky, unique… try it all.
You can never be too creative!
Trick 6: Curiosity Killed The Cat
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but with buzz marketing it is a killer technique.
The key to this is to create a headline that raises people’s interest. You can do this by giving a teaser in your headline.
Looking at the current Digg.com frontpage content, there are some articles that attract curiosity:
Wouldn’t you want to read those stories?
Note: The gas consumption article breaks my “Global Appeal” rule, but they get away with it because the vast majority of Digg readers are American, and a decent % are America Haters (ouch).
Trick 7: Image Is Everything
This is one of the easiest tricks. All you have to do is simply add an interesting photo/image to your story. It is that simple!
I don’t know the exact reason for why this is so effective. Personally I feel it helps with the packaging (See trick 8), and it helps present the content in a superior manner. I actually did an article recently that got on StumbleUpon simply because the image I added was so amusing.
So here is what I did for the procrastination article: I added the following image to the article:
Trick 8: Perfect Packaging
Packaging = website template.
If your site looks crappy then you are reducing your chances of going viral. There are some exceptions (Craigslist), but generally you will get more attention if your site looks great.
I recently posted part one of this buzz marketing study on my personal blog: http://deanhunt.com/my-buzz-marketing-101/
Then I was asked to guest blog for a major web development portal. So I published the same article here: http://fadtastic.net/2007/07/10/a-buzz-and-viral-marketing-case-study/
Guess which article was featured by Darren Rowse at the hugely popular Problogger.net?
You guessed it, the awesome web template at fadtastic meant that the case study was packaged much better there.
Tip: Ensure your site looks great, also try and make it look like an authority site (add a feed, contact-us, disclaimer etc…)
Trick 9: Shifting the Focus
This is a powerful trick that I used to great effect on the procrastination article. What I did was shift the focus of the article from first person “me/I” to second person “you”.
In the original article the tips were in this format:
ORIGINAL: “1. I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.”
I simply switched this tip to second person:
VIRAL GOLD: “Learn that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.”
So why is this trick so powerful?
There is a reason that Internet Marketing experts talk in second person in their sales letters… example: “Do you want to know how you can make $1000 per day?”
By focusing on the reader you make them seem more involved in the story. It also helps keep their attention.
Have you ever been chatting with someone who is talking constantly about themselves? Boring isn’t it!
I re-did the article and switched the focus on the reader. This was very powerful, and helped ensure that people left loads of comments both at the blog and at Digg.com.
Above are 9 of the tricks I used to transform a decent niche article, into a global viral success.
I don’t know how many visitors the original article got, but mine has had over 65,000 unique visitors thus far.
Please note that these tricks will require some practice and patience. But with time you will be able to master them.
Personally I have used these techniques to get over 2 million unique visitors to my articles for FREE.
I hope you have enjoyed this chapter, as always I welcome your questions and feedback.
The next chapter will expose some of the myths about viral marketing.
Note: I was recently asked to compile more of my tactics and tricks. So I am busy working on that right now. If you would like to be kept informed of any updates and tips from me, then send me a blank email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to read more from Dean then see his straight talking business advice and the non profit young entrepreneurs portal for more tips and tricks.