Today I’m going to show you how one entrepreneur used viral marketing to generate 17,584 unique visitors to a brand new website.
In one day.
And he accomplished this despite having:
Zero Twitter followers.
Zero marketing budget.
In this case study I’ll walk you through the exact step-by-step process that he used.
Exclusive Blog Post Bonus: Click here to get access to a free bonus area that will show you how to get create your own viral marketing campaign from scratch.
What Is Viral Marketing?
There’s no one definition of viral marketing that everyone agrees on.
But here’s the one that I think fits best:
“Viral marketing is an approach designed to get others to share your product for you.”
In other words, traditional marketing is where you blast your marketing messages to a group (like with TV commercials).
But viral marketing is where you encourage the “word of mouth” spread of your product or service.
That’s nice in theory. But in the real world most products don’t have a realistic chance of going viral.
And if you’re in that spot, you need to create a piece of viral content instead.
How The Skyscraper Technique Generates Links, Traffic and Social Shares
Let me break this down for you:
The Skyscraper Technique is about publishing content based on a proven framework.
In other words:
Find old content that did well…and crush it with something even better.
(It doesn’t matter if you want to create a viral video, blog post or a podcast. The principles are the same)
But I’m getting ahead of myself 🙂
For now, here’s an overview of the 3-step process:
1. Find content that’s performed well in your industry
2. Identify gaps in that content…and make something that fills in those gaps (today’s post has A LOT of detail on how to do this)
3. Promote your content like a madman
The best part?
This works even if you’re in a super-competitive industry.
Just ask Chris Gimmer…
How Chris Gimmer Generated 17,584 Visitors (In One Day)
Chris Gimmer is the founder of BootstrapBay, a new marketplace for themes built using the popular web development framework called Bootstrap.
Make no mistake:
The Bootstrap theme niche is REALLY competitive with dozens of entrenched competitors.
We’re talking keywords with search volumes like this:
It gets worse:
Chris wasn’t some hotshot startup founder with years of experience under his belt.
In fact, Chris recently left his 9-5 gig in the finance world to start BootstrapBay.
But he did have one thing going for him:
Chris realized that his competitors were sleeping on content marketing and SEO.
In Chris’s words:
That’s when he decided to try The Skyscraper Technique
Here’s what happened…
Now, Let’s See The Results…
Before I reveal the step-by-step process Chris used, I want to show you his results.
Because it went viral, Chris’s piece of content has been shared over 240,000 times on social media:
That content also brought in 17,584 visitors in one day (more on that later):
Chris’s Skyscraper content has generated over 204,000 total visitors over the last 4-months.
This is one of the often-overlooked principles of viral marketing:
Huge traffic spikes don’t usually fully die down.
To give you some examples:
Sites like Blendtec, GoPro and Dollar Shave Club all created viral videos that have generated millions of views.
Thanks to their videos going viral, brand awareness and sales shot up like a rocket…
…and never went back to square one.
And it was a similar story with Chris’s campaign.
Before the massive traffic surge, BootstrapBay was averaging around 150 visitors per day.
Now they average over 2000 visits per day.
Here are the traffic numbers from last month:
Bottom line: A single viral marketing campaign can make a huge long-term difference in your site’s traffic.
IF you have a system in place to turn that traffic spike into evergreen traffic.
It can even turn a past spike (something went viral months ago) into more traffic today and the future.
You’re probably wondering:
“OK, so how do I do that?”
It’s a little thing called SEO…
It Gets Better…Here’s How SEO Kept the Party Going
Because Chris’s content generated so much buzz, he inevitability generated backlinks to it.
Here’s a graph of the links pointing to Chris’s Skyscraper Content:
As you can probably guess, these were grade-A contextual backlinks, like this:
These contextual links bumped up BootstrapBay’s domain authority….
…which boosted the rankings for every page on Chris’s site.
Here’s what I mean:
Not only does the Skyscraper content rank #7 for the keyword, “free stock images” (18,000 monthly searches)…
Thanks to its ramped up domain authority, the BootstrapBay homepage is ranking #9 for “bootstrap themes” (12,100 monthly searches)
(The site also ranks for dozens of long tail keywords, like “best stock photo sites”)
All of these first page rankings led to a 457% organic traffic increase in only 30-days:
Now that you’ve seen Chris’s amazing results first-hand, it’s time to walk you through the 3-step process that he used to spread the word about his new company.
Step#1: Find Content With a Proven Track Record of Success
The secret to publishing content that people want to share is this:
Base your content on something that’s already proven to work.
That may sound intuitive. But I see lots of people publish content that they THINK will do well.
Sometimes it does…
…but more often than not, content that’s not based on a framework proven falls flat.
Fortunately, Chris had already read about the Skyscraper Technique before starting BootstrapBay.
And when he stumbled upon a post on Medium.com called, “Stock photos that don’t suck…”
…he knew he just struck gold.
Despite being a bland list of links to stock photo sites, that Medium.com post racked up an impressive number of social shares.
It also received more than 290 upvotes on Reddit (r/graphic_design):
Chris knew that his target audience of graphic designers, web designers and bloggers hang out on that subreddit.
And they were freaking out about the Medium.com post:
After reading that Medium.com post, Chris thought to himself:
“If that list of links got people that excited, what if I made something way better?”
And that’s exactly what he did…
My 3-Step Workflow for Finding Proven Viral Content Ideas Every Time
You may be thinking: “How can I find content that’s already done well in my niche?”
Here’s the exact 3-step workflow that I use. And it works like a charm.
1. First, I head to BuzzSumo and enter a VERY broad keyword.
Let’s say you had a fitness blog. You’d want to use a general keyword like “weight loss”, “burn fat” or “dieting”.
Then I look for content that’s racked up a lot of social shares.
I add those to my list.
2. Next, I find the words and phrases in the results that people might use in a Google search.
For example, here are some potential keywords in the BuzzSumo list:
Then I mash those words up into Google searches.
I add any promising results from Google onto my list.
3. Finally, I enter a few of my competitor’s homepage URLs into OpenSiteExplorer.
And click on the “top pages” tab (this shows you their most linked-to content):
And I throw those pages onto my list.
Now you have a long list of proven content ideas.
Nice! Give yourself a high-five (and move onto step #2).
Step 2: Improve On The Content That You Find
This is important:
The idea behind the Skyscraper Technique is to make strategic improvements to the content you found in Step #1.
It’s the same approach that pioneers like Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc and Henry Ford used to build their empires:
Take something good…and make it great.
But the question is:
HOW do you make good content great?
Here are the 6 techniques Chris used to dramatically improve the base content he found:
1. He turned the content into a full blog post with an introduction, body and conclusion
The Medium.com article lacked the meat that makes a blog post great.
In fact, it was really just a list of links:
Chris rounded out his content with a strong intro and conclusion that made his blog post feel more like, well, a blog post.
Here’s what he did next:
2. He outlined the different types of licenses (in plain English)
Because Chris works with a lot of graphic designers, he knew that the same question about free images popped up over and over again:
“What do all the different licenses — like creative commons and copyright restriction — actually mean?”
This isn’t trivial stuff. If you’re going to use a free image on your site you’ll want to know what license it falls under.
That’s why Chris added a section that outlined the different licenses in words anyone could understand.
3. He indicated which license each website used
I’m going to tell you a little secret about link building:
Forget link bait.
The fact is, people love to share insanely useful stuff.
Believe it or not, but creating something super-useful isn’t that hard.
You just need to give your content that extra umph that most people are too lazy to add.
Case in point: Chris’s post.
Chris told people the exact license each free stock photo site had:
That way you don’t have to hunt around to find that info.
It only took Chris an hour to figure out which license each site used. And it made his content 10x more useful.
4. He wrote a brief description of each free photo site
Chris added a brief description of each stock photo site, like this:
Obviously, all this meaty content helps with on-page SEO.
But it also saves people precious time.
Chris’s to-the-point descriptions tell you whether or not a stock photo site is right for you QUICKLY.
Don’t want nature photos? Then you should skip SuperfamousStudios.com.
On the hunt for vintage pictures of people doing old-timey things? NewOldStock.com is right up your alley.
This is a super-helpful feature that the Medium.com post didn’t have.
5. He added sample pictures from each resource
A text description is nice and all, but nothing beats seeing the images in action.
That’s why Chris included a sample image from each stock photo site.
Adding images seems like a no-brainer. But a fair share of “here’s a list of free stock photo sites” articles don’t feature images (including the Medium.com post).
6. He curated a better list of resources
Chris realized that bells and whistles — like descriptions and images — weren’t going to put him over the top.
So what did he do?
He put the stock photo sites listed in the Medium.com post to the test.
Then he weeded out any that weren’t up to par.
He also added a bunch that weren’t on the original list…including a few left by people that commented on the post:
The result? 12 Amazing Sites With Breathtaking Free Stock Photos.
At this point, you’re probably wondering:
How long did all these improvements take?
Chris must have handcuffed himself to his laptop and worked non-stop for 87 days.
Actually…it took Chris a grand total of 6-hours to create his epic resource.
Here’s the breakdown of those 6-hours:
- 1.5 hours to search the web for additional resources
- 1 hour to determine which license each site falls under
- 1.5 hour to gather all the pictures
- 2 hours to write the post and put it all together
So at this point Chris had an epic piece of content live on his site.
But with no following and no connections, how could he possibly go viral?
Well that’s where step #3 of this process comes into play.
Step #3: Promote Your Content
I’ve written about this before:
If you want your content to get results, you can’t rely on the ol’ “Publish and Pray” approach.
The fact is: there are 2 million blogs posts published everyday.
And NO ONE will see your content unless you get off your butt and promote it.
That’s why experts on viral marketing (like Jonah Berger and Karen Nelson-Field) all emphasize the importance of promotion.
How did Chris promote his content?
I’m glad you asked…
First, Chris submitted his post to a place that his target audience hangs out
Web designers make up a huge chunk of Chris’s target audience.
And where do they hang out?
The web design sub-reddit on Reddit. So he decided to share his content there.
As you can see, his Reddit thread quickly racked up 180 upvotes:
Upvotes are great and all…but what about TRAFFIC?
That single Reddit thread drove 2,168 visitors to Chris’s content overnight:
It also generated some early buzz and traffic from social media:
Next, Chris shared a link to his post on StumbleUpon.
This is where his content started to go viral.
AStumbleUpon community went absolutely nuts over Chris’s post.
To date his StumbleUpon post has over 242,000 views and 16,000 likes:
StumbleUpon is largely responsible for the 17k traffic spike I talked about earlier.
And get this:
Even though that spike was over 3-months ago, StumbleUpon STILL sends over 22,000 monthly visitors to BootstrapBay:
I should point out that StumbleUpon traffic isn’t super duper high-quality traffic.
For example, Chris’s StumbleUpon traffic has a bounce rate of 95.61%.
And time on site is what you’d expect from a bowl of goldfish:
What’s the point of all this traffic if no ones buys anything…or even reads the article?
Because a good chunk of those people will share your content on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
And that spreads the word about you and your company.
(And if they write for a blog, they may link to your article too)
Chris’s StumbleUpon traffic started a wave of social shares and links from platforms that DO convert, like Twitter.
Including two tweets from people with over 100k followers…each.
Finally, Chris submitted his content to a bunch of web designer communities
Chris realized that the web design subreddit was just one of MANY places that his target audience hung out.
So he submitted his content to web design communities, like LayerVault.com (basically GrowthHackers.com for web designers):
That single LayerVault submission has brought in 1,915 visitors:
Not bad for a 11-second submission to one community.
You Can Tap Into Viral Marketing Too…
…but you need to take action on what you’ve just read.
Fortunately, I’ve got just the thing for you.
A Skyscraper Technique bonus area.
In this bonus area you’ll get instant access to 3 awesome resources:
1. 9 “plug and play” strategies that make your content stand out from the competition.
2. A comprehensive checklist that walks you through the critical points from this post.
3. The exact email outreach template I use to give my content that viral “push” that it often needs.
Click the link below and enter your email for instant access:
Now I want to hear what you have to say:
What’s the #1 takeaway point you got from today’s post?
Leave a comment below right now.
Sounds like a dream, doesn't it?
Pushing the "publish" button and immediately seeing hundreds of people sharing your content across the web.
Traffic stats growing every time you refresh the page. People applauding your blog on social media.
All while you do the happy dance...
In a matter of hours, you blog has gone from unknown to popular.
Now you might be thinking:
"Things like that only happen in fairy tales. My blog would never go viral."
"Every time I hit the "publish" button my blog is about as lively as a nightclub at breakfast."
"Only experts and people with influential connections create viral content."
Well, let me tell you this...
Not every blog post you publish will go viral (we're being honest here, right?). But, with the right process, you can make it happen, and more often.
I'm not making this claim lightly.
In this viral marketing case study I'm going to reveal a repeatable 3-step process you can use in ANY niche to generate a tidal wave of social engagement and traffic.
It's the exact process I used to create 10 viral blog posts that brought in over 20,000 social shares, and landed dozens of new customers for my clients.
Again, not all your content will go viral, but if you follow the simple process outlined in this case study, every blog post you publish will receive...
More social shares.
And, you'll generate bring in more leads and customers for your business.
Ready? Let's get started.
The FAR Method: How A Single Blog Post Generated 9,353 Social Shares
On November 5 of 2015, I published "The Growth Hacker's Guide to Twitter Marketing."
After implementing "The FAR Method," the number of social shares went through the roof:
Bringing in loads of social media referral traffic:
Over half of which came from Twitter:
The post has also landed quality backlinks from 26 different domains:
This traffic has generated dozens of free trial sign ups for my client's software.
Want to know the best part?
I accomplished this despite having:
Without having connections.
Without spending a penny on advertising.
Without being a renowned expert.
Just me, and the FAR method :)
And now I'm going to show you the exact process I used to get the job done.
First and foremost, I want you to understand something vital:
Before you start implementing the FAR method, you need to make sure your content is worth talking about. It's the most important step in the process.
If your content sucks, no one will share it. Period.
I'm not going to explain how to create great content here, though.
1) It's a broad topic
2) There's lots of great information on content creation already out there. Regurgitating that information here would be useless.
Instead, I recommend you read at least one of the following guides:
The Repeatable 3-Step Process That Will Make Your Content Go Viral (in Any Niche)
Most bloggers focus on promoting contentafter it's published.
If you want your content to go viral, you need to start the promotion process before your content is live.
Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't promote your content once it's live, but if you're not promoting the content before the publish date, you're leaving a lot of traffic on the table.
Content promotion is like building a skyscraper. The stronger the foundation, the stronger the building will be.
Here's where the FAR method comes in very handy.
FAR stands for Feedback, Advocates, Resource-Bait List:
- Ask for Feedback
- Find Advocates
- Use a Resource-Bait List
As long as you complete the steps above, every piece of content you publish will get more traffic.
Let's break down each element.
#1. Ask for Feedback
Many bloggers are hesitant to approach industry influencers out of fear of rejection.
This is a HUGE waste.
Leveraging the large audience of influencers in your industry is THE critical ingredient to going "viral" once you have written a quality piece of content.
After reaching out to thousands of influencers across countless industries I've learned that most of them are willing to help you out if you come across as honest and genuine in your outreach efforts.
Before I publish a new blog post, I reach out to influencers and ask if they can provide feedback.
And, many oblige:
This type of outreach works well for two reasons:
1) It improves your content – influencers know their stuff. If they tell me to change or modify some sections of the content, I'll do it.
2) It builds relationships – once you have incorporated the feedback and published the content, reach out to each of the influencers that helped you and let them know the content is live. Since they technically "contributed" to your post, theyy'll be much more likely to share it.
This way, every time you publish a new blog post, you will have people "waiting" for it.
Here's how to do it:
First, head over to BuzzSumo and create an account.
To complete this step, you'll need to take advantage of some of the Pro features, so you need to upgrade your account. But don't worry, they offer a free 14-day trial so you can start immediately.
Once you have created a Pro account, click the "Amplification" tab in the top navigation:
Type in a broad keyword related to your content.
For example, if your post is about "How to lose belly fat", you could type in keywords like "Nutrition," Weight Loss," or "Healthy Food."
BuzzSumo will generate a list of the most influential people for that topic (based on their number of followers).
You can filter the list of influencers using a number of top-level metrics, including follower count, retweet ratio and more.
You can save the influencer to a list and export to CSV or excel file. Aim for at least 25.
Finally, follow the steps in this guide to find your influencers' contact information. Once you find it, reach out to each of them with the following script:
You're genuinely reaching out and asking for help. A lot of influencers will gladly take a moment of their time to respond.
This is how I've gotten people like Rand Fishkin, Ian Lurie, Sam Hurley, Calvin Lee, and Lilach Bullock to share my content.
Some of these people have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers:
Remember, when you're reaching out to influencers asking for feedback, the post shouldn't be published yet.
Here's what you need to do:
First, head over to your site and create a new page.
Second, copy the content from your post and paste it into your new page.
Now, set the page up as "No index" using the Yoast SEO plugin, and hit publish.
The "Noindex" setting will prevent search spiders from crawling and indexing the post.
You will send influencers to this page. Use it temporarily while influencers reply and give you feedback. Once the feedback has been incorporated into the post, set the tag back to "index".
And, that's it.
Now, it's to step it up a gear.
2) Find advocates
When someone shares a post on social media you know two things:
1. The person is really interested in that topic
2. The person is likely to share content on that topic
What does this all mean?
These are the people that will likely share your content.
I refer to these people as "Content Advocates."
As a content marketer, your job is to create a list of these advocates– every time you create new content, reach out and let them know about it.
Soon, when you publish a post you'll have an army of people ready to read it and share it.
Sounds good, right?
Here's how to do it:
Head back over to Buzzsumo.
Click on the "Content Research" tab in the top navigation and type in a keyword related to your content.
For example, if your post is about "How to optimize a site for better search rankings", you might type in keywords like "SEO" or "Search Engine Optimization":
Note: The more recent the post, the more effective this method will be.
Make sure to select a date range between one to six months. This will return only the most recent content:
Click "Search" and you will see a list of content related to the keyword that has received a lot of social engagement of the chosen date range:
This feature makes finding content advocates a breeze.
Next, select a related post from the list and click "View Sharers":
You'll see all the people who shared the blog post:
These people have demonstrated an interest in your topic, and have a proven track record for actually sharing the content.
These are the people most likely to share your content.
Collect their contact information and reach out using the script below:
Sit back and wait for the replies to roll in:
Once you get the green light, send over the link.
But, don't stop there.
Create a list of all the advocates that reply positively and ask them if they'd like to receive updates every time you publish a new blog post.
In time, you'll have a list of content advocates ready to share your content with a HUGE audience.
3) Use a Resource-Bait List
One of the most effective ways to get people sharing your content is to mention their content.
Think about all those posts you see with sections called "dig deeper" or "further reading".
Those aren't in there just to because the author is a nice person. There is a strategy involved.
It's one of the easiest ways to mention influencers in your post, and provide additional value to your readers.
Here's an example:
Adding additional resources will help your readers understand a topic better you might not be the best at explaining.
Here's what you need to do:
Every time you feel you're deviating from the main topic, add a list of helpful resources so people can explore a topic further if they want to.
You might have noticed that I implemented the technique early in this post:
I knew trying to explain how to "create great content" would steer people away from the main topic (content promotion), so I added a list of helpful resources instead of explaining how to do it.
If you're writing a long blog post, break down the main topic into chapters. Add a "further reading" section at the end of each chapter.
I did this in "The Growth Hacker's Guide to Twitter Marketing":
Reach out and let each person know you have linked to their content.
Use the following script:
This one is almost irresistible.
Most people will be interested in anything mentioning their content or brand.
And, will almost always share it.
Are You Ready to Use the FAR Method?
There you have it.
The repeatable three step process I used to generate 9,356 social shares with a single blog post.
The FAR method can be used in any niche to consistently drive more social engagement, traffic, leads and sales.
Creating viral blog posts doesn't mean reinventing the wheel every time you hit the publish button.
You can get viral results without having a large audience or spending any money at all.
It requires a proven process that leverages the audiences of industry influencers to amplify your content to new audiences.
Now you have that process :)
What did you think about the case study? Are you going to use the FAR method to increase your traffic and social engagement?Let us know in the comments below.
This is a guest post by Josue Valles. He is an entrepreneur, storyteller, content marketing expert, and founder of EngageBit media. Josue has written for some of the biggest brands on the planet, including KISSmetrics, HubSpot and KlientBoost. If you want Josue to help you with content marketing or copywriting, click here.
Note: This case study was inspired by one of the many actionable strategies covered in Brian Dean's SEO That Works course.
Subject: NAME, can you help me?
I know you're busy, so I'll keep this short.
I'm publishing a post about [whatever your post is about] next week. More specifically, I'm covering [subtopic 1], [subtopic 2], and [subtopic 3].
Anyways, I know you're all about [your topic], so I would love to get your quick feedback on it.
Mind if I send you the link?
BONUS VIDEO: How to Scale Outreach with the Buzzsumo/ BuzzStream Hack
In this short video tutorial, Robbie will show you how to build massive outreach lists directly from within the Buzzsumo web app using a handy BuzzStream extension.
I noticed that you tweeted out one of my favorite TOPIC articles last week: TITLE.
It’s funny: I actually have an article on TOPIC coming out next week.
Let me know if you want a heads up when it comes out :)
BONUS TIP: How to Scale with Tailored Audiences
If you do have some marketing budget to work with, you can use Twitter Tailored Audiences to get your content in front of a large "interested" audience.
Similar to facebook custom audiences, tailored audiences allow you to target ads to website visitors.
It gets better.
Because now you can build tailored audiences using the Twitter IDs you can export from within Buzzsumo.
How it works:
Open Buzzsumo and enter a keyword related to your content:
There are dozens of articles with thousands of social media shares.
Select an article, click the "View Sharers" button and export the list:
Rinse and repeat for the top 5-10 most shared posts.
Next, head over to the Twitter Ads platform and select "Audience Manager" from the "Tools" dropdown:
Choose "Twitter IDs" as the data type and upload the CSV file you downloaded from Buzzsumo:
Now you have a massive list of Twitter users with a proven interest in the topic you wrote about.
The final step is to target the tailored audience with a Twitter ad promoting your new blog post.
Subject: NAME, I featured your work
Hello NAME,I know you're busy so I'll keep this short.
We are mentioning [brand] in a coming blog post and I thought you might want to know. It's a pretty epic guide about [your topic].
Let me know if you want a heads up once the blog post goes live :)
Looking for more content promotion strategies?
These posts cover the tactics Robbie used to generate almost 400,000 pageviews with just 20 blog posts: