List-Worthy Approaches to Viral Content for SEO

This is the second part in a series on different kinds of content you can write for your website to attract social media links. There are no guarantees that your content will go viral, of course, but if it’s well-written and appeals to your visitors’ passions, you have a better shot at it.

In the previous part, I talked about some of the reasons you might want to add content to your site that might go viral. I noted that it can help you rank better in the search engines. If you add content regularly, search engine spiders will find it when they crawl the web. And if you make a point of staying focused on your site’s topic, it will grow more and more relevant in relation to your keywords. That can only help your standing on the search engine results pages.

I also stressed that you’ll need to work to make sure your content is very good, regardless of which approach you use. I listed four out of 21 ideas suggested by Jordan Kasteler in his post for Search Engine Land. I dug into each idea in some detail to help you think about ways they might apply to your particular niche. I’m going to pick up where I left off, so let’s get started.

These next few ideas for great content are variations of lists. What really differs about them is the approach and purpose of each list. We’ll start with the one that probably begs for the most work: “The Epic.” You might say the Internet at large ripped this off from other industries. Magazines were doing this long before computers came along, and you’ll find The Epic in magazines of all sorts even today. Why stop at the top 10 things when you can go to 50 or 100 or even 300?

One very cool aspect of “The Epic” is that you can easily adapt it to fit just about any industry. Try “50 Tools For Fixing Just About Anything” for a local hardware store website, or “75 Legal Terms Every Layman Should Know” for a lawyer’s site. Whether your visitors want to lose weight, increase their productivity, enjoy some truly wonderful travel experiences, or what have you, you can come up with an epic list to suit the topic.

Creating such a literal epic will, of course, take a lot of work, but the results can be worth it. You might even be able to turn it into an e-book. That’s not nearly as strange as it sounds; there are plenty of dead tree editions of books that are nothing more than big lists. Too much to bite off all at once? Consider doing it as a series of posts, then compile the full list and include a permanent link when you’re done. (Be sure to consult with your SEO about potential duplicate content issues).

To really do the job, a good execution of “The Epic” should justify every item on the list. Don’t just tell me that I should drink lots of water to lose weight; give me the science behind it. Don’t simply translate the legal term “voir dire;” explain what it means in context. Tell me why and under what circumstances it would matter to me. This explains why such a list, done well, is a lot of work – but it also helps make it viral. It’s useful information, all collected in one place. You’ve done all the work for your readers; how can they resist?

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Let’s look at a shorter but more controversial list – “The Ranked List.” Kasteler notes’s fondness for releasing a huge “Top 10 of Everything” series each year. Obviously, you needn’t be so compulsive. But if you create a ranked list that covers topics that are near and dear to your readers, you’ll get lots of visitors, lots of links – and probably quite a few comments.

I noted in my previous article that I personally tend to avoid conflict, but with a ranked list, a bit of arguing can be a good thing. Expect some disagreement among your readers as to whether each item on the list deserved the standing you gave it, and even comments of “How could X make the list when Y didn’t?!” Think of it as a potential learning experience.

If you’re feeling really ambitious about your ranked list, you could collect the comments, take a poll, and do a follow-up article a few months later. Interactivity helps when you’re trying to attract an audience and keep it coming back. By doing this, you’re letting your readers know that you’re listening and taking them seriously. Respect and value them, and they’ll keep coming back.

Let’s move on to a close relative of the Epic: “The Directory.” Putting one together involves sifting through lots of data, culling out the gems, and presenting them to your readers. You can just provide a list of links with maybe a sentence that explains what the item is about; ideally, the title of each link should inform your reader what they’ll get out of it. What should you include in a directory? “Gather the best advice for your niche, the top news stories, the leading Twitter accounts in your field, or a simple collection of interesting information,” Kasteler advises. Check out this collection of 50 More of Wikipedia’s Most Interesting Articles; it’s a follow-up to an earlier list that combed through the huge website for fascinating information.

Finally, we come to the list that contains just one item. Time has been doing this forever with its “Man of the Year,” and you can do the same. Kasteler advises you to “Take a stand with your own niche.” Your Man of the Year doesn’t even need to be a man, and it doesn’t need to be the best of the year; a “best plug-in of the month” can also attract your readers – to say nothing of attracting links and discussion. So go ahead and talk about the Blog of the Quarter, the Month’s Most Useful App, or whatever fits your website and interests your audience.

That’s all I have for today. Stay tuned for more ideas!

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