We all want to create content that “goes viral.” You know, that article you spent hours crafting or the infographic that was meticulously researched and designed that gets shared thousands, or even tens of thousands— nay hundreds of thousands! —of times on social media and becomes curated or referenced on other sites throughout the web.
But “going viral” is a lot harder than you might think. Getting even a nominal number of people to read and share your content can be difficult. Here are five reasons your content might be overlooked.
1. It wasn’t shared
There are two types of sharing that can help your content get read: sharing by you and sharing by others.
First, you need to promote your content no matter how self-aggrandi/bzing it might feel. Have confidence in what you say and share it on a variety of social media channels. Social media offers a platform for both promoting your content and participating in conversations that might follow.
Don’t just share it on your business page. Consider leveraging your personal network as well (hopefully your friends and family like you enough to help out with a share or other engagement which could contribute to virility and reach).
Try promoting your new content in your email signature. Consider how many emails you send each day and the number of times people see your signature. It’s a great opportunity to include a discrete marketing message.
Finally, try sending a short message about the content and a link to people you think might be interested in the particular subject matter. This act is right in line with the helpful nature of content and inbound marketing.
Getting other people to share is more difficult.
This is where the quality of the content plays an important role. Is the content worth sharing? If it weren’t something you wrote, would you share it with your network? If the answer is no, then you might want to rethink the subject or how you can make it more compelling, interesting and relevant to your readers.
With the number of articles shared on social media, it’s hard to compete for people’s attention. Once you have created your shareworthy content, make sure it is easy to share. Include sharing links on your website and make sure you have included meta data and open graph data on your pages to assist users in creating their posts.
Unfortunately, people often share content without actually reading the article. So even if your content was shared, it doesn’t mean your website received any visitors
2. The blah headline.
Your headline, which appears in search results or when your content is shared, is the first thing people see. It needs to grab their attention and encourage them to click. But don’t resort to clickbait. Clickbait encourages internet users to click on an article using eye-catching headlines that play on our emotions or the brain’s desire to learn more. However, it often leads to an unrelated article or an article that under-delivers on the headline’s promise. And it’s annoying.
Instead, focus on crafting click-worthy headlines that focus on the benefits your content and align with your readers’ interests. A/B test your headline to see how different words affect a reader’s response. Larry Kim recently posted an article on Medium which discusses the top words and headline phrases that get clicks. “Will make you” will apparently get you the most engagement.
3. It can’t be found in search
Social media isn’t the only way someone might stumble upon your content.
It’s estimated that at least 2 trillion searches are performed per year worldwide, or 63,000 searches per second to find answers to questions buried on the billions of web pages online.
You need search engines to find and return your content when a user performs one of these queries. With so many pages and so many searches, it’s no wonder search engine optimization is hard. However, there are steps you can take to improve your content’s ranking ability.
First, make sure your site can be “crawled” by the search engines. Many times, during development, sites are hidden from search engines to prevent incomplete data from being indexed. Unfortunately, some people forget to make their sites visible to the search engines once they go live.
Second, optimize for keywords and for humans. Research what readers are searching for and build content around those keywords and keyword phrases. Be sure to include them in your post and page titles as well as headers, content and URLs. It can’t hurt to also use keywords in your image names and descriptions.
You can also write content that answers specific questions supported by your keyword research. Answering a specific question can improve your chances of showing up at the top of a search results page or in Google’s Quick Answer box. You can also use Google’s “People also ask” box to discover what else people are searching and tailor your content to those questions.
Put the user first. People have become more sophisticated in their searches and search engines have gotten better at interpreting intent. Make sure your keywords, on-page SEO and your content are focused on people and written for people, not search engines.
4. It loads too slowly
Slow page-load times discourage Google from ranking a page and displaying it to users. Google is focused on user experience and providing the best results to the people searching for answers. If people are likely to bounce off your page because it takes too long to load, Google isn’t going to show it as an answer to their question.
Users want instant gratification, instant information, instant page display. Research shows that mobile web users will wait 6 to 10 seconds before abandoning a page and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load on desktop.
5. It’s hard to read
Web pages that are poorly designed, cluttered, or hard to read are less likely to keep a visitor reading until the end of your article or post. (Let’s not even get into what a user thinks of your business if your site is poorly designed.)
This can affect both user experience and, ultimately, search ranking. While Google doesn’t necessarily look at readability, per se, to rank a page, visitor behavior (such as time on the page and bounce rates) provides signals to Google which could contribute to search rank and the ability to appear in search results in the future (see “It can’t be found in search” above).
There are a number of ways to improve readability.
Make sure the text is easy to read and understand. Don’t fill your content with a bunch of industry-specific jargon and acronyms that someone needs to look up. Write for the level of education of your audience along with their level of familiarity with the subject matter, and for the type of reading they are doing.
For WordPress sites, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin which will evaluate your content’s readability based on sentence length, voice, subheadings, paragraph length and sentence transitions.
Choose typefaces and font sizes that are easy to read. Script fonts are fine for short headlines but they can be very difficult to read when used for complete paragraphs of text.
Increase line-spacing and include space between paragraph. Also consider the length of each paragraph. Long blocks of type can be difficult to read and reduce scannability. Use headlines with appropriate margins to divide text into digestible chunks.
Bonus tip: Link to articles by notable people or brands and refer to them in your content. As Ann Smarty writes in this SocialMedia Examiner article, Google pays attention to entities. And those entities can in turn help the sharability of your article.
So we didn’t break all the rules with this article and we hope it will be read…or at least scanned for nuggets of information worthy of sharing. Content marketing is a complex endeavor and getting people to read what you write is difficult. We hope this information helps you develop content that is easy for people to find, read and share.