Have you been hit by a punch-in-gut moment when you were attempting to write a viral article? Did it strangely help you succeed? It happened to me last year.
I was trying to write when the call came through announcing my dear friend’s death.
Sorrow’s edge sharpens normal memories to make them look like cherished treasures.
One such memory was of me & my friend foolishly applying for a Cambridge program. We were rejected for not graduating from India’s best college. The memory stuck so I had to write about it. I even attached a snapshot of the rejection mail we got from Cambridge.
The article got more than a million eyeballs on LinkedIn because it struck a chord. I didn’t write keeping SEO principles in mind, but I wrote from the heart. My readers could relate because they had all lived through losing someone or something precious. Many of them had similarly been rejected by Ivy League colleges.
my new obsession
My experience proved that a story that scores high on emotional quotient captures the interest of search engines and gets eyeballs.
The incident got me studying hundreds of awe-inspiring viral articles like I was possessed. I wanted to search for common writing patterns that birthed their magic. These are my observations of what their writers do to become incredibly successful:
A love affair with Words
Those who talk about SEO techniques never talk about having a passion for writing. But doesn’t it make complete sense? I observed that most writers who frequently write a viral articles are allured by words. Two reasons probably why their guilty pleasure works in their favor:
They tend to write great content without being focused on analytics.
They stay in the game & increase their chances of success. Like the SEO-focused blog churning robots say “It boils down to being consistent.”
It’s like this. When you write only to earn, your writing will stink because your neediness shows. When you write to tell stories, you can make stoics weep by weaving emotions into your masterpieces.
They write to help
These writers I noticed have an end goal of helping their readers solve specific problems. Stands to reason their readers are more likely to share their articles with their friends, increasing their chance of hitting the jackpot!
They use the share button liberally
Those who write a viral article typically urge their readers to share the article. I’ve seen some of them make YouTube shorts to promote their writing. Rather than rely solely on a platform they choose to push their article themselves.
How many times have you passed by a fancy restaurant & been enticed to walk in? It’s the entrance that captivates you, isn’t it? It makes you think the ambiance inside will be terrific.
Think of the article as the restaurant & its title as the entrance. I’ve observed that viral writers use the title to entice. They write titles that beckon their readers to read the rest of the article.
A few tricks of the trade they use:
- Writing short headlines that pack a punch with powerful words.
- Sparking curiosity while making the subject matter clear.
- Keeping it simple but emotional.
They blow your mind away at the start & stay with you long after the end
Writers who write a viral article seem to hook readers with introductions that tease & conclusions that intoxicate them. These writers know how to build curiosity. But they avoid rambling introductions & jump quickly to the main point of the article.
Stands to reason.
As writers we need to keep the flighty attention span of a reader who is spoilt for choices.
A juicy introduction makes them want to read on.
Simplicity is their charm for a viral article
Strangely I’ve noticed that those who write viral articles don’t use the fancy new words they learn. Now that I think about it writers who use fancy words seem like they are talking down to a reader. Viral writers keep it simple so everyone can relate.
The tone of a viral article surprised me
Remember Hermione from Harry Potter? We actively disliked her in Book 1 for being a know-it. Those who write a viral article seem to tap into this human dislike.
They don’t piss off their readers by thrusting facts down their throats.
They choose to be vulnerable & make their readers look clever by asking for their opinion.
I see them qualify their beliefs with words like ‘maybe’ or ‘probably’.
Beauty may be skin deep
Fashion claims to champion inner beauty but we know why it sells. It makes us look goddamn good! Viral writers seem to know this mania for beauty. They make their article look pretty with formatting.
They know how to vary sentence structure & capture readers’ interest, rather than stick to short sentences.
When writers use words that are an ode to the memories of fleeting childhood, of long summer days, of the tantalizing smell of first rain’s honey drops on a thirsty earth, readers sit up to read.
Long sentences like the one above hold their attention.
Short sentences like this one are like a burst of spring.
Their writing is clever. Would you rather read “5 Secrets Of Business Success You Need To Know” or “Elon Musk’s 5 Secrets Of Business Success You Need To Know”?
Top writer Tim Denning name-drops liberally in his writing.
To conclude I don’t think the writer of a viral article dislikes search engines. They just don’t obsess over SEO.
You guessed it right. Writing that gets read has a human element the bots are yet to replicate.
I have one thing left to say. Please pay it forward. Help more of your writer friends go viral by sharing this article.