First things first: If you haven't had a blog post go viral yet then…congratulations!!! (I bet that's not what you were expecting me to say?!) That's actually a good thing, because it means you're in the perfect position to set yourself up for success as soon as it happens. Trust me — every second you're not taking action on a viral post means less money in your pocket. So, if you're wondering what to do when a blog post goes viral, these are the steps you should take.
PS: I included a section at the end for when your video goes viral on YouTube, too!
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What Constitutes a Viral Post or Video?
That's highly subjective. For some people it might mean thousands of page views in a single day, for others…millions. A site like nbc.com might not consider a post viral unless the views reach well into the millions since their everyday traffic is so high. However, a typical blogger may consider views of 100k, 50k, or even 10k in one day as “viral”.
If your stats are significantly higher than normal, if they make your eyes pop and your jaw drop, or if you start doing the happy dance around your house when you see your Google Analytics dashboard…go ahead and classify that as viral.
What To Do BEFORE Your Blog Post Goes Viral
Set Up Notifications
Unless you stay glued to your computer all day, you may not be aware that a post is even going viral. You need to have notifications set up properly to stay on top of your site's traffic — even when you're out and about. Here's how to view notifications on WordPress.org (the most commonly used professional blogging platform):
To view notifications on your WordPress dashboard on an iPhone:
- Go to the app store.
- Download the WordPress.org app for free.
- Log in to your WordPress.org account.
From there, you'll be able to access your dashboard. There's a “notifications” tab on the bottom menu. Click on that to see your latest notifications. Anytime your traffic is significantly higher than usual, you'll see a message that reads: “Your stats are booming! (YourSiteName) is getting lots of traffic.” It looks like this:
To receive push notifications (alerts that will pop up on your phone's home/lock screen):
- Go to settings.
- Scroll down to notifications and click on it.
- Scroll down to the WordPress app and click on it.
- Next to “Allow Notifications”, push the slider button to the right so it appears green.
Congratulations on that easy setup! Now you'll receive a notification as soon as a blog post begins bringing in abnormally high levels of traffic.
What To Do When A Blog Post Goes Viral
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I'm going to direct you to the exact eBook I used when I learned how to best manage our viral posts. It's written by Ruth Soukup, the creator of Elite Blog Academy, and she's currently offering it free for a limited time. (Anytime you can soak up Ruth's knowledge for free, I always suggest jumping on the opportunity!)
Download your free eBook here: 10 Steps to Take When A Blog Post Goes Viral
These are the steps she covers (although much more in-depth) in her free guide, and I've embellished with a few of the things I've learned by taking her advice:
Contact Your Host:
Your server may quickly become overwhelmed with a viral post and your host will need to increase your site's bandwith to handle the surge. You'll also need to prepare yourself mentally, because a viral post sometimes stirs up controversial opinions and comments.
Check and triple check your grammar on the post. Make sure the links are working properly. Decide if the post is even something you want representing your brand (then delete or heavily revise it if the answer is no).
One of the reasons bloggers love viral posts is because it offers the ability to earn significant amounts of money in a short period of time. Ruth discusses this more in her guide, but there are multiple ways to do this. Affiliate links are the most common option. We don't normally use ads on our site, because we prefer a cleaner look, but we keep a media.net account active strictly for the sake of monetizing viral posts.
If you don't like the look of ads on your site, only use them on a viral post during the time when it is generating massive levels of traffic — then take the ads down.
This section of the ebook was particularly handy for us! Ruth advises protecting your content with a clearly visible copyright notice and watermarking your photos. We've had our photos used without permission in multiple YouTube videos that have views in the multi-millions. It would've been so nice if they'd at least linked back to Daisy's channel so she could've possibly gained new subscribers from their actions. Don't be afraid to file a DMCA takedown complaint if (and when) misuse occurs.
Take advantage of the traffic boost by funneling visitors to related content on your site. Make sure you include links to relative posts to keep people on your site as long as possible. Don't go overboard with links, but definitely incorporate a few to your most relevant posts.
Since you're here reading this post, you may also be interested in the top free resources I recommend for beginning (and advanced!) bloggers. (How subtle was that?! wink, wink)
You never know when a reader who obviously connected with your post may develop into long-term fan of your site. But that won't happen unless you have a way to reconnect with him or her. Make sure you include links to your social media channels so you can interact with new readers on your favorite platform. You also want to be sure to capture their email address. That's why I include an email opt-in form like this one on each page of our site:
Since you know your post's topic is popular, consider advertising it on Facebook or Pinterest. You can also contact local or national media outlets in the hopes that they'll pick up the story. (You never know! It's always worth a shot.)
Viral posts are temporary, so enjoy the boost as it happens. Your blog will go back to normal (or a new normal — hopefully with increased daily traffic) eventually, so enjoy connecting with new readers while they're on your site.
A post that has gone viral once has the potential to do it again. Learn from your mistakes and create a solid plan of action in case you're able to recreate your success.
Once you've had a post go viral, dissect it to determine what caused such mass popularity. Then, create a new post on a similar topic and try to duplicate the feelings and touchpoints that made the original post go viral.
Don't forget to download your free copy of 10 Steps to Take When Your Blog Post Goes Viral. It goes so much more in-depth than I did in the short little snippets above.
A Few Additional Tips for a Viral Post
In addition to the incredible in-depth suggestions Ruth included above, I'd also include a few of my own…
Make It Shareable:
Does your post have a pinnable graphic? If not, create one in Canva as soon as possible and include it after the introductory paragraph of your post. Include this sentence, or something similar, in your closing paragraph as an additional reminder: “If you found this post helpful, please share it on Pinterest!”. Make sure you have a “Pin It” button on your photos that makes images simple to share, even for tech-challenged readers. (Download a plugin like Social Warfare for easy sharing. ) Finally, create multiple pinnable images so readers can share the one the like best.
Consider Hiring a VA:
If you're running a one man (or woman) show on your blog, you may need additional help for an hour or two when a post goes viral. A virtual assistant, or VA, can respond to blog and social media comments, set up ads, proofread posts, and more. Expect to pay anywhere from $15 – $40 an hour (even less on Fiverr, but the quality is always as good there). Rate depends on the VA's experience level. Try the Horkey Handbook website for quality VAs.
Steps to Take When a Video Goes Viral
Videos differ slightly from blog posts, because videos earn money based on their number of views. (That only happens with blog posts when you're a member of a PPV ad network.) That means the money can add up very quickly on YouTube, and is probably why so many people are willing to sell their soul for a shot at a viral video.
Get Approved for AdSense:
YouTube may contact you to implement advertising once a video starts to take off, but it's best to be proactive. Try to get approved for Google Adsense as soon as you meet the minimum requirements for your YouTube account, so you can begin monetizing all of your videos.
Increase the Number of Ads:
Ads are annoying, so you don't want to include them too often on your channel. An opening ad and one or two overlay ads is common on most YouTube channels. Once a video goes viral, go into your YouTube dashboard (in the Creator Studio under “Monetization”) and increase the number of ads on that particular video. For a longer video, consider 5 or more overlay ads. They're unobtrusive, and people can always “x” out if they don't want to see them. If YouTube is suggesting other videos of yours, you may want to increase the number of ads on all your videos during the viral phase.
I always create pinnable images for Daisy's YouTube videos so I can share them on Pinterest, and I suggest you do the same. If one of your videos goes viral, you'll already have the image available and can promote it on Pinterest to gain even more traction.
I hope this post was helpful! If so, please share it on Pinterest so others can benefit. If you have additional tips to add, I'd love to hear them. And if you have a post that's gone viral, please share that in the comments below so others can try to duplicate your success. Daisy's most viral video is her Fake Freckles Tutorial with over 400k views and 1 million minutes watched, and my most shared blog post is The Ultimate Guide to River Street in Savannah, GA.