Increased traffic. Greater and higher quality conversions. A top-ranked search result. Whatever your goal is regarding your website, you are not alone in your pursuits. In fact, it is very likely that the exact same thing you’re looking to do, someone else has already tried or is attempting to do it right now.

Today, many businesses look to go viral in order to break through the clutter. The premise of viral marketing seems too good to be true: empower YOUR customers to spread YOUR message to their friends via social media, email, etc. In addition, adding the capability to share content is easy to do and costs little to nothing to implement…right?

When this seemingly low-hanging fruit runs its course, however, businesses are often disappointed with the results: customers weren’t interested, exposure was low, or, the worst case scenario, social media feedback to the content was negative. It’s true – the web is social. More products are being purchased through referrals by friends, news is spreading on social networks faster than the major networks can post it, and people are spending time interacting on social media sites more than anywhere else.

How can businesses hope to utilize this shift to social and get their content shared? Going viral begins with creating great content. What Is Great Content?
“Great content” is a term that means something different to everyone. Because of its relativity, what might be a great strategy to reach one audience may be a terrible strategy to reach another. I have, however, created general guidelines to follow when looking to create content that will not only attract attention, but get shared.

1.    What and Why
What and why the two strongest question words to ask yourself when creating content that you’re looking to get shared. Obviously your post or page needs to have content, but creating content that is focused and has an obvious topic to the reader will help your reader decide whether or not it’s worth looking at. For the “why,” start by asking yourself what benefit others will receive by looking at what you write. Why is it worth their time? Why should they read the whole article, and afterwards, why should they share it with others they know?

2.    Passion
If you’re not excited about writing the content or don’t think it’s interesting, it won’t be read or paid attention to by those you’re trying to reach. Your mission in creating this content is to empower the user with newfound knowledge that will make their life better – so much so that they will want to improve the lives of others by sharing it with them.

3.    The Three E’s
Expertise – if you’re an expert, share your knowledge! Great content is what it is because you’ve taken the time to glean this knowledge and are willing to share your wisdom.

Experience – Everyone has a story to tell, and no one knows your story better than you do. Reflecting on a recent undertaking, an area you understand but feel others have a hard time grasping, or even a mistake that you’ve made, are all great starting points for content creation.

Exceptional – Circumventing the norm and attempting something different is essential to catching eyeballs. “But Ryan, my industry is not exciting or exceptional in any way, shape, or form!” GREAT! By being in a relatively unexceptional industry, creating content that is different and that stands out will stand out even more.

4.    Write to Your Audience
Focus on those with a deep interest in your industry and your topic. If those people find it interesting enough, they will serve as your biggest viral advocates. By focusing your content and writing for a specific audience you avoid creating broad, boring content. Appealing to everyone often means appealing to no one.

5.    The Topic is the Key(word)!
No one should EVER write a blog focused around getting as many keywords into their entry as possible. However, as was mentioned in #4, staying focused on a specific topic will not only help increase your content’s appeal, but will also make you search-engine friendly. Google and others pick up on consistent usage of related terms, in addition to other things, and rewards  your content by  ranking higher on the topic.

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