Educational Viral Content

You don’t need to stick to funny videos or oddball lists or even play off of current memes to create viral content. You can dazzle your readers with something that’s genuinely useful. Keep reading for a few ideas on how to write content that will educate your readers and make them link as well as think.

This short piece wraps up the ideas I’ve culled and expanded upon from Jordan Kasteler’s article on Search Engine Land. I’ve tried to explain how you can use these different ideas for content and customize them to your own situation. Done well, any of these ideas can attract links from tons of readers. When posted to social sites, these links will likely attract even more visitors to your site, and be noticed by the search engines. They may even improve your site’s standing on the search engine results pages.

Let’s start with the most visually appealing of the remaining three approaches: “The Visual Aid.” It can be really hard to understand something unless we actually see it, which is where this type of content comes in. Infographics fall into this category; Kasteler uses one on world food consumption as an illustration of a good visual aid.

There are two nice things about this infographic. First, it’s very simple, so the idea it’s trying to get across is easy to understand. Second, it’s interactive. You can click the two prominent tabs to access the two starkly different bar graphs; you can also hover over any country identified in the bar graphs (the bars are numbered, and so are the respective countries) to get specific information for that geographical region.

As you can probably tell from my description, there’s a real art to making a good infographic. Done right, it presents a large amount of information in an easy-to-digest format. Ideally, it should make your reader stop and think. (Infographics can be entertaining and just for fun, too, but I’m focusing on educational content in this article). Flow charts, informational videos, interactive maps, well-constructed graphs – these are all examples of visual aids, and all can attract an audience and links if done well. If you’re in real estate, for instance, why not consider doing an interactive map of the local neighborhoods that shows users important information about each one when they hover over it?

Let’s move on from visual aids to what might be the epitome of educational content: “The Tutorial.” You’ll find a lot of those here at SEO Chat and throughout the Developer Shed family of websites. Everyone loves articles that tell them how to do things, even if it’s something they don’t think they’ll ever do. I don’t ever plan to try lion taming or swinging from a trapeze, but I’d definitely read an article on  how to do it!

The best aspect of this type of content is that you can get as simple or comprehensive as you want. Write a basic piece, or create a complete beginner’s guide to whatever it is you’re writing about. Ideally, of course, you want it to be on topic for your site – as Scarves.net did with its piece on 37 ways to tie a scarf. You may find that once you’ve written one, you have more to say; you can write a whole series of tutorials that explain different aspects of a related topic, as on this juggling site.

The final type of content I’m going to discuss here covers more than just educational ground. Kasteler calls it “The Hybrid.” It involves combining two or more different approaches in the same piece. For example, if you make a list of 50 things that belong in every medicine cabinet and organize it in order of importance, you have both a Ranked List and an Epic. Use an element of urgency, such as “50 Must-Have Items for Your Medicine Cabinet,” and you’re adding the power of the Urgent Attention-Grabber. Invite your readers to comment on what they’ve found most useful in their own medicine cabinets, and you’re tapping into the Collaboration approach. Mix and match to come up with your own powerful viral combination!

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