Bloggers dream of writing a viral post. The kind of post that gets shared hundreds or thousands of time. The kind of post that instantly takes your blog traffic from blah to boom.
But getting people to share your content can be hit or miss. All too often you write your heart out but it feels like no one really cares and, far from being shared, your posts are largely being ignored.
I've written thousands of posts over the last six years, most of them for my own blogs but many for other websites. It's obvious that blogs like the Huffington Post with a huge audience get more shares on their blog posts. But even blogs with a small audience can enjoy a major traffic boost if one blog posts suddenly gets shared more than usual.
So what can you do to get more people to share your content? How can you make people not only care about what your content but share it too?
1. Hone your headlines
Having a great headline gives your content a huge advantage because people will share a post with a good headline even if they haven't read it.
Not convinced? You'll have seen how important headlines are if you've ever gone to watch a YouTube video someone shared on Facebook because it sounded good.
Let's say the headline "Top 10 Funniest Snowboarding Fails Ever" sounds fun. So you click on the link and notice the video has had 55,000 views. You know the video must be good if that many people have viewed it.
So you hit play and sit back to watch. You're looking forward to two minutes of hilarity but the first snowboarding fail isn't very funny. Nor is the second one. By the time the third snowboarding fail comes along, just 30 seconds into the video you give up. You stop watching and go back to Facebook looking for something more entertaining.
But you can't stop wondering why your friend shared a bad video and why so many people have viewed it. Is there something wrong with them or is it you?
The answer is that you both got sucked in by a great headline. It probably sounded so good that your friend shared it without even watching the video. Maybe she's hoping to come back to watch it later. But, whatever the reason, she and thousands of other people probably shared that video without watching it because of the headline.
Even bad content can go viral if the headline's good enough.
That's why your blog post headline is the most important part of your post and you should pay as much attention to your headline as you do to writing your blog post.
There are certain classic headline styles that always get shared more. Numbered lists or anything that makes people curious about a topic they're obsessed with are a good starting point. If you're not confident about writing headlines download Jon Morrow's 52 Headline Hacks (http://boostblogtraffic.com/headline-hacks/) ebook. It's packed with concrete examples to get you started.
2. Follow through with compelling content
A great headline might get some people to share your post without even reading it. But if you can follow through and deliver the content you promised in your headline your blog post shares will increase dramatically.
Once you've chosen a headline that sums up what your post is about and makes clicking the link to it irresistible, you must give people what they're looking for. To do that you have to know your audience and give them content they want to read.
Most blog posts are either informative or entertaining. If you can give people useful information and also entertain them, your readers will love you for it. And if they love your content they're more likely to share it.
So make sure your blog posts are useful, positive and personal. You want to write content that resonates with people and makes them feel as if you wrote it especially for them.
3. Write long posts
Although we read constantly that people have short attention spans therefore short blog posts are better longer posts get shared more.
If your content strategy is about quantity then you need to publish more post and keep them short. But, if your content strategy focuses on quality, and you want your quality content to get shared, the more you write the better.
It makes sense because you can't give people the information they need in a few words. If they don't feel that they've got a good understanding of the topic from your blog post they'll end up feeling dissatisfied, which means they're not likely to share.
Research by Buffer and Medium shows that the optimum blog post length is about 1,600 words. That's how many words you need to write to keep people engaged. Not surprisingly, the more engaged people are in a blog post the more likely they are to share it.
But bear in mind that the longer your blog posts the better. Buffer found that posts with 2,500 words or more tend to do get more social shares than any other posts.
4. Curate content
If you don't have time to write long posts yourself then curating your own blog posts, other peoples or creating crowd-sourced posts can help.
Curating content is about spending time finding and listing the best or most useful content on a topic. For example, if you're a landscape designer you could curate a post with a headline such as "20 Most Inspiring Coastal Gardens" or "15 City Rooftop Gardens You'll Love". Then you simply have to spend time finding the content and linking to other articles or images on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.
Crowd-sourced posts are about creating a long, detailed post based around content collected from a number of different experts. For example, you could ask financial experts to provide their top tip on a specific problem like saving money for a house deposit.
If you'd like to save time and curate a series of posts at the same time you could email a 5 to 10 question interview to a number of experts then compile their answers into 5 to 10 blog posts.
5. Get the word out
The simplest way to get people to share your content is to ask them.
Ask people to share your content at the end of a blog post and make it easy by offering sharing buttons.
Let your mastermind group, friends or most loyal readers know that you've created a particularly great post and you'd apprciate if they share it.
Email anyone who is mentioned, involved or might be interested. Rather than asking them directly to share it say something like "I hope you enjoy it. If you do I'd love if you share it on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else." Recently I blogged about challenging myself (http://www.getinthehotspot.com/challenge-yourself/) doing parkruns and emailed the parkrun director to let him know. I was surprised and thrilled when he shared my post in the parkrun email newsletter resulting in hundreds of new readers and a big spike in traffic.
Just remember that one share by the right person can be way more valuable than hundreds of random shares. Don't feel despondent if all your content doesn't get shared as much as you'd like.
Not every post will get shared hundreds of times. Not every piece of content will go viral. But if you follow these suggestions your content shares will increase. As will the chance of your content being seen and shared by the people you most want to share it.