This week I had a fairly fascinating internet experience, in that a post of mine went viral. I cannot be certain of how the post spread through the web, but I believe it started with Twitter. I run a book-related website (www.selfpublishingreview.com) and was recently contacted by the last wife of science fiction author, Philip K. Dick, to do an interview. Obviously this is an interesting story for outlets to pick up – which is tip one for going viral. The basis for the post going viral was not my supremely awesome site, as much as I’d like to believe that, but her connection to one of the most famous American writers – science fiction or otherwise.
But first the post needed to take root. The site’s only two months old and not yet well-entrenched. I posted the interview to Twitter. I’m followed by the L.A. Times book blog page, which soon blogged about the interview – no guarantee Twitter was the source, but it’s possible. It was then picked up by the Guardian in the U.K., the New York Times, blogs everywhere, and so on. Irritating, I might add, that the Guardian didn’t link to the source interview, so while it was great to be mentioned in print, this didn’t do much for SEO, at least from the Guardian site. Seems like bad internet form for a major site. That article did lead to a whole bunch of other mentions of people who were kind enough to link to the site, so I can’t complain too much.
The moral of this story is that you can’t just rely on writing interesting resource posts and hope for those posts to go viral. Why – because everyone’s doing that. Unless you’re Mashable, or other highly-trafficked site, your post about the best WordPress plugins is not going to get the kind of large scale attention that is necessary to quickly increase page rank.
Of course, you can get few links to these types of blog posts – and maybe even several – and over the long haul you will build up increased authority in your niche. But to expect true viral traction, you need to be blogging about something that hasn’t been blogged before. And WordPress plugins (or similar topics) have most certainly been blogged, regardless of how informative your post might be. There are just so many people trying their hand at writing list-based information that it can be very difficult to gain traction unless you come from a position of significant authority. In other words, authority isn’t just a matter of Google judging your site, but your actual resume. Basically it helps to be well-known.
That was what I took away from this experience. I’d written posts that have been decently-linked in the past, but if you run a blog that gets a couple of hundreds hits a day – not stellar, but not to bad – it’s very difficult to crack that ceiling and start spreading quickly and have a post take on a life of its own. If at all possible, it’s recommended to have a guest post with a well-known personality because this is the best way to get people’s attention. In short, fame sells.
If you’re wondering, the traffic from the New York Times was good, but nothing mind-blowing. The real benefits from this is the organic link from a high page rank site and the ability to tell people I’ve been written up in the Times. But the traffic? Low. Even when you crack through, it can be difficult in such a crowded internet.