How to make your content go viral without cats and babies

Written by
Yulia Deda
Jan 04, 2023
18 min read

Almost all content creators will do whatever it takes to write articles that capture people’s undivided attention. I’m referring to posts with hundreds of likes, comments, shares… Actually, scratch that, I mean with thousands and thousands of them. That’s what viral content looks like. 

If you think you have to be Will Smith or Kylie Jenner to create viral content or to teach your cat how to make pancakes (to be fair, I’d pay good money to see that), let me stop you there. I’d like to share some other, simpler hacks with you in this article.

So, get ready to find out who’s hitting that share button, the content they’re sharing, and why they’re sharing it. 

Spoiler alert: an article’s length or image count isn’t as important as the emotions people feel when reading it.

Who shares content 

The answer to this question is pretty obvious. 

People, who else? 🙂 

According to Statista, over 4.5 billion people were using social media in 2022, which accounted for approximately 58% of the global population. Another study by NYT went a step further by researching and analyzing the profiles of content sharers. Here’s what they found out.

If we could divide all content sharers into groups, there’d be six of them – altruists, careerists, hipsters, boomerangs, connectors, and selectives. Each of these profile personas has different reasons for sharing content and uses different channels to do so. 

who share content - types of people

It’s likely that some, if not all, of these personas represent a subset of your target audience. This begs the question: have you ever thought about who your target audience is on a personal level? What do they like to read? Do they prefer football or tennis? Do they use public transportation, etc? 

Only when you know as much as possible about your intended readers can you add insights to your content. An insight, in this context, is the hidden truth about a group of people that is revealed in a piece of content. Insights make people want to share your content on their preffered channels. 

You’re probably aware of ‘awkward moment’ memes, like “That awkward moment when you’re looking at yourself in a window of a car only to realize there’s someone inside” or “That awkward moment when someone waves and you wave back, but they’re actually waving to the person behind you.” 

meme with awkward seal

People love and share these memes because they recognize themselves in them. They also feel a connection with the message and want to share it because it expresses exactly what they’ve experienced themselves. That is why we can laugh our heads off when an insight is said in a funny way or feel goosebumps if it inspires us to our core. Find genuine insights for your content and your readers will become an army of distributors ready to spread the word about you to the entire world.

How to find insights for your content

Watch, listen, investigate and try to put yourself in your readers’ shoes. You’ll notice some nuances and patterns in people’s behavior, which can be awkward, strange and even bizarre at times. Still, getting a good feel for how your audience behaves will help you establish an emotional connection with them. 

Below is a list of questions that you should ask yourself to get to know your audience better and to find content ideas relevant to your niche. Once you find answers to these questions, you’ll get dozens of ideas at the very least:

  1. Who are your readers? What do you know about them?
  2. What are people in your niche talking about? What are they interested in?
  3. Can you add something new to the conversation? If so, what?
  4. Can you add value to the content that your readers are consuming? How will you go about it?
  5. How can you inspire and challenge your readers? 
  6. What problems does your audience have? How can you help them solve these problems? 

Not every article, not even the ones with great insights, gets thousands of shares, so let’s look at why people feel the need to share content and why some content goes viral while others don’t. 

In SE Ranking Academy’s Content SEO Course, we dive deep into the art of creating compelling content. Discover the secrets to crafting engaging articles, blog posts, infographics, and more that resonate with your target audience and drive impressive SEO results.

Why we share

Most of us are sharing things on social media, like comprehensive infographics, funny memes, inspiring stories or unbelievable news. But why do we have this urge to share stuff? What drives us to share content with others every day? 

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans evolved to become social animals. We share content because it’s our way of expressing ourselves, meaning it’s our way of communicating with others in today’s world. 

A study by Orbit Media Studios researched why people engage in certain social media activities. In particular, this study found out what people want to express when they share information online. Here are the three primary reasons why they share content:

1. To share practical information. People typically share content when they want to help others address issues that they care about. They might share with their friends an article about healthy nutritious meals or their fav brand’s new skincare line. The bottom line is, helping others to improve their quality of life is the main reason why internet users share information online.

2. To show their agreement with a group or idea. The next reason why people share content online is to send signals about their identity and ideology. It makes them feel like they’re a part of a bigger world. Their goal, in this case, is always about doing good, like signing a petition to protect circus animals, or teaching others to use less plastic to save the planet.

post about less plastic use

3. To stay visible and foster relationships. People want to connect with others who share their interests or might have been in similar life situations. For instance, they might share a post about someone’s first job at McDonald’s, or another’s decision to downshift to Bali. It’s all about building a community of people with similar thoughts and views.

Let’s take a look at several examples of online content that goes viral. The “Sweden decides against recommending COVID vaccines for kids aged 5-11” news article received over 250K social media shares.

covid article social shares

Covid-19 has changed people’s lives all over the world. Articles like these usually go viral because people feel compelled to spread awareness about changes in the healthcare field. This means that any major news about this topic will most likely be discussed and shared on the Internet. 

As evidenced by the screenshot above, this post was shared primarily on Facebook and Twitter. This article also received nearly 4K reposts on Reddit, which is reasonable given that people use this platform to stay up to date on the latest news, trends, and more.

Now you understand why people share content and why they’re feeling what they’re feeling the very moment they share it. But what about the content itself? Does its structure, type and topic make a difference? Let’s look into how and why the type of content affects people’s behavior.

What type of content goes (and stays) viral

Viral content is material that rapidly spreads across the internet and gets tons of shares via social media and website links. But have you ever thought about what types of content gets the most shares? A word of caution though: your guess is probably wrong. 

what content gets the most shares

People are the most keen on sharing pictures that explain complicated things (Infographics) and clearly structured content with a certain number of points (Lists). Followed by that are articles that explain stuff, which usually start with a why in the title (Why), news and generally informative articles (What), posts that explain how to do things (How To), and videos. 

Let’s look at a few examples of viral blog posts to see why they got so many shares. 

The “how-to” article below, on how to grow roses, got almost 100K social shares on Facebook.

how-to article social shares

This post covers a notoriously popular topic by explaining how to grow beautiful roses in 10 simple steps. It offers a short explanation and a list of the most effective tips with clear illustrations. That’s it! Readers spend just five minutes looking at this post’s pictures and then reading its brief explanations of how to care for roses. Readers, through this post, can quickly understand where, how, and when to grow these flowering plants. People will share it to help others. Brilliant! 

This next article about home decor ideas got almost 80K shares on Pinterest. 

home decor article pinterest shares

In this article, people shared their recommendations for awesome decor that has improved their homes. Each of the tips in this post comes with a before-and-after picture that shows how to transform dull living spaces into Insta-worthy settings. No matter which style of decor you prefer, you can find something for yourself in this article. This post’s variety of options is most likely why it got so many shares on Pinterest.

As you can see, going viral is not a matter of luck, but of the right combination of a catchy message, emotional triggers, and the right type of content. If you analyze viral content in general, however, you may notice that it often loses its buzz as quickly as it gets it.

No matter which type of blog post you want to write, you surely need to be able to craft an attention-grabbing intro. Check out our article on how to write a blog post intro to hook and keep people reading so that they’ll want more.

Why viral content is short-lived and what can you do about it

The main reason why content dies out quickly is that many modern internet users are fickle and have short attention spans. One way to ensure that your content is consistently shared and linked to over time is to make it evergreen. This kind of content is, ideally, always of interest to readers, so regardless of the weather, current president, or Facebook status, it stays relevant to readers all year round. 

Use the following points to boost your content’s chances of becoming evergreen:

  • Answer questions that are interesting for your target audience: How to Get an Airport Tax Refund, How to Write a Good Resume in 7 Easy Steps, etc. 
  • Provide tips and advice: Top 10 Tips For Raising Your New Puppy, My 25 Best Travel Tips After 10 Years of Traveling the World.
  • Explain complicated stuff in a simple way: What is WiFi and How Does it Work, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Black Holes.
  • Regularly update content: How to Build Backlinks: The Definitive Guide [2022 Update], How to Make Quick Money in ONE day [2022 Update]. 

Now that we’ve covered insights, reader sentiments and the nature of virality, let’s look at what your content actually needs to get thousands of shares.

Must-have components of viral content

You’ve probably heard this a million times: even the brightest ideas fail due to poor execution. The same goes for your content. An awesome topic, an interesting insight, or compelling copy are not always enough to cause a viral effect. 

To ensure your blog post is primed for likes and shares, generate content that appeals to both your audience and search engines. This is where SEO content writing tools come into play.

For instance, with SE Ranking’s Content Marketing Module, you can go through the entire content creation journey—from generating content ideas to writing and editing original SEO-backed pieces—all in one place. This module currently consists of two main tools: Content Idea Finder and Content Editor.

Content Idea Finder analyzes specific keywords and clusters related terms around them. Even if you have no idea what to write about to get likes and shares, this tool will help you come up with a variety of interesting ideas.

The Content Editor tool lets you create content briefs, write SEO-optimized texts, and evaluate the quality of produced content in real time. It is supported by advanced AI algorithms that analyze top-ranking pages so that you can receive niche-specific tips on how to write content that can attract an engaged audience.

Whether you’re using writing tools or producing content on your own, make sure to fill it with the components listed below:

1. Catchy and relevant title – It should be clear, sparking your reader’s interest and accurately representing the content. Also, readers shouldn’t have any doubts about where the page title is, so make sure it’s big and bold.

Writing headlines is a special skill that’s like a form of art. Consider how many employees large companies have solely for this purpose. Also, you may benefit from familiarizing yourself with CoSchedule formulas. These guys analyzed 4,302,684 blog titles in their database to define the most successful ones, as in those with the most social shares. Here they are: 

– How To [Do Something] That Will [Help You Experience Desired Results]

– [#] Ways To [Do Something] To [Produce Desired Results]

– What Is The Best [Topic] That Will [Do Something Desirable]?

If you’re still having trouble coming up with content ideas, you can use SE Ranking’s Content Editor. Its AI rewrite feature lets you paraphrase whole paragraphs at once, as well as short theses or headlines.

SE Ranking's AI rewrite feature

2. Simple language without any grammar or spelling mistakes that sounds natural and engages readers. 

Proofread your content before publishing it on your blog. Don’t forget to check for misspelled words, awkward sentences, grammar errors, and wrong punctuation within the body of your content. To do this, use SE Ranking’s Content Module with its built-in quality evaluator that shows both grammatical and punctuation mistakes.

grammatical and punctuation issues

There are also other editing options available, like Grammarly and the Hemingway app. Ask your editor or friends for feedback on these platforms. 

Also, here’s a blog post with a list of more than 20 grammar and spelling checkers to fix English writing errors, which you can use to improve the quality of your writing.

3. Use clear visual appeal to help readers easily scan your content.

Readers will naturally choose the shorter reading path by following headlines and structural blocks. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, lists, and appealing subheadings to keep it light for your readers. Always choose a font that’s easy to read. The more easy your content is to scan, the higher chance it has of getting shared.

how scannable content looks like

To assess your content’s readability and ensure that the texts you produce are easily understood by your audience, you can also use SE Ranking’s Content Editor.

readability score

4. Pictures, screenshots, infographics, video – All of these visual type help people understand your content better. Use numbers, data, statistics, and quotes from other sources to make your content more trustworthy. Use templates to create professional visuals and designs for different types of content. Platforms like Canva and Crello have free and paid design options for this. By the way, SE Ranking’s Content Editor provides tips on how many images to include in your text to make it more SEO-friendly.

images block on content module

Check out our in-depth guide on visual content creation to learn why it is important and how to create a winning content marketing strategy.

5. Sharing buttons that will encourage people to repost your content on all major social networks.Place icons that your readers can click on to share the content on their favorite social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc. Also, use social network features or plugins for your CMS, such as social share plugins for WordPress.

share button on blog posts

6. Comments allow your readers to tell you what they think about your blog post. This is a great way to get feedback and create a discussion panel that has the potential to go viral online. Also, if your article is lucky enough to get comments from celebs, their popularity will help spread your content across the web. In another case, let’s say your article is funny but the comments below it are even funnier. You’ll then have user-generated content to thank for all of your post’s shares. 

There are also many WordPress plugins that you can use for this purpose. To avoid spam, enable commenting with authorization Plus, ensure you answer every comment and nurture the discussion.

7. Open Graph Using this protocol will make your blog post look more attractive to users and more “clickable” on social media. 

To turn your web pages into graphic objects, add basic metadata to the <head> of your web page. The four required properties for every page are: 

  • og:title (the title of your blog post). 
  • og:type (depends on the type of your content). 
  • og:image (the image that readers will see as the cover of your blog post). 
  • og:url (the canonical link of your blog post).
SE Ranking's Facebook post

8. SEO approach – Never forget that your content should be highly valued by both readers and search engines. And by SEO, I definitely don’t mean keyword stuffing.

Here you can find a complete guide on how to enhance your blog’s SEO, as well as many other technical tips. To create SEO-driven content that ranks, you can also use SE Ranking’s Content Marketing Module. It provides a variety of useful tips for streamlining the content creation process, including:

  • Recommended number of words/characters, headings, paragraphs, and images to use in your text.
  • NLP terms suggestions.
  • Recommendations on the number of keywords to target, as well as all relevant SEO and PPC data.
  • Content structure tips.

Keep this in mind. SEO can transform articles with potential, but it is no holy grail. It can’t save every article. Your content, therefore, should always be authentic, engaging, and of high quality. On top of that, it should answer a specific question or solve a problem that the target reader has.

Who are your closest rivals and how do they position themselves in search? It's time to find out.

Now it’s your turn

Think about it this way. Would you be more likely to share your blog post if you came across it naturally? Would you share it immediately? Would you click the post title if you saw it in an email? What would you feel after reading it? 

If you want others to share your article, first be ready to share it yourself. A viral blog post is not about writing 1500-word posts with 10 images in each section or placing “How to” in the heading, nor is it a matter of luck. 

To make viral content,t find the right insights and create powerful emotional experiences around them. 

Here’s my recipe for going viral:

  1. Find out who your audience is and do research on their interests.
  2. After that, identify an insight and use it to create content that evokes emotion. Be creative.
  3. Check that you haven’t forgotten about the other side of the coin, meaning the title, structure, language, visuals, sharing buttons, open graph and, its majesty, SEO.
  4. Only then should you hit “Publish”.

Give this recipe a go! I would love to hear your thoughts and see what viral content has impressed you recently. Share your examples and together we’ll discuss why it got so many views.

Also, please share this article if you found it helpful. 😉

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