#1 Secret to Writing a Viral Blog Post…or to Any Success

Do you know the #1 secret to writing a crazy viral blog post? It’s also the #1 secret to being successful at anything. But most people don’t want to talk about it. You won’t find it in many how-to guides. It’s not fun or sexy or “no one ever told me about that before” amazing. In fact, it’s downright boring.

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First a story…my story.

I recently had my first truly viral post. It was this one: How to Properly End a Meeting, Regardless of Your Role.

Take a look at that post. There is nothing special about it. It was one of the least commented upon posts I wrote all of last year.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought it was good or I wouldn’t have shared it with you. (Trust me, I write a lot of crap that you never see)

But nothing about this post screams that this is going to happen:

Viral Blog Post in Google Analytics

That is my traffic during a three-week stretch last year. If you were to look at it for a longer period of time, you would notice that the right side of the bounce is consistently higher than the left. That’s what happens when you have a post go crazy viral…some of the people stick around.

So what was the secret of that post?

Nothing, except one thing:

Before that post, I had written approximately 300 posts.

I wrote that post in October of 2013 and it didn’t go viral until December 5th. Those first 300 posts had an average readership of 194 readers. Since then, more than 300 people read the average post. To date, more than 5000 people have read that one post. At this point, that is a large number.

Did you catch the secret, though?

The secret was that I wrote a lot. That’s it.

In fact, I had written more than 170,000 words before that one post. That’s nearly three times the average length of a book.

My only secret to writing a viral post is the same secret of anyone who has achieved success at anything:

Persistence.

When no one was reading, I didn’t quit.

When no one was sharing, I didn’t whine or throw in the towel.

And then…overnight some would say, my readership grew by more than 50%.

But it wasn’t overnight. It was the result of 300 posts. It was the result of writing before 300 sunrises. It was the result of intentionally honing a craft even if no one was watching, so that when someone was watching, they liked what they saw.

Whatever it is you are doing in life, you hopefully want to be the best. You want to blow up today. That’s great. Dream big, think big, and continue to visualize what success looks like.

But, remember that you never know when you’ll get a big break.

Put in the hours when no one is watching.

Do the things that no one else is doing.

Experiment and fail in front of a small audience.

And don’t ever, ever, ever give up on your dreams just because you don’t see success today.

You have a dream because the world needs what only you can give it. So don’t ever quit on your dreams.

Question: What are your dreams? What are you working towards right now but not seeing the results? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  • Let’s Grow Leaders

    Amen.

  • Dan Erickson

    I agree with you about persistence. Although I’m trying to take my focus off of traffic and numbers, I know persistence pays off and I keep going. I had an interesting post last fall, too. It didn’t go viral, but it kept getting hits for several months after the post. I’ve noticed that the average post has a day or two of hits than fades into obscurity. This post was different and I think I know why: the headline. The post is called “Crushed: My Cult Survivor Story.” It comes up high on a Google search. It still gets hits whereas other, newer posts don’t. If we can get a few posts that generate repeat traffic like this it can really help build an online presence.

    • I just Googled “cult survivor stories” and sure enough, it’s #3. Nice.

      I’ve got quite a few that still get 10+ visits per day and even this month, half of my top 20 posts are older than 2 months. Love that!

    • Really appreciated your blog, as I grew up in an abusive environment. I have shared the link to your blog on my Facebook. Congratulations for making the choice to forgive! :)

      • Dan Erickson

        Thank you, Kari. My hope is that my story will lead others to find forgiveness.

  • Kim in Oregon

    Thank you for the reminder that sometimes success takes a long time Matt. I will keep pushing!

  • Geoff Franklin

    “Experiment and fail in front of a small audience.”

    What a great reminder that a small audience is not a bad thing. I need to remember that often.

  • Paige Gordon II

    Matt, why do always have to give me a kick in the pants at the absolute perfect time? I swear you have a indicator that goes off every time I’m about to give up on the whole writing/blogging thing and you go and put something like this out there! Then I get all motivated again and decide not to give up just yet… lol :) thanks so much man!!

    • It’s a gift Paige :)

      Don’t give up. If there is one thing you will regret years from now, it’s that.

  • Stacy

    Well, that was just plain awesome! Totally what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing and doing all that you do! It’s days like today where I start to question myself and then I stumble on your post. Clarity…to keep moving in the direction that I am in. Many thanks!

  • Great post Matt. I wish there was a silver bullet:) You are so right it is consistency over time. Small steps of faith when no evidence is there.

  • David Mike

    This was my biggest week ever. I had almost 500 views in one day. I only post once a week, but consistently.

    • Dude. Well done brother.

      • David Mike

        Thanks Matt!

    • Your blog is so powerful David. It’s hard NOT to have 500 views on it!

      • David Mike

        I’m humbled by your comment. I appreciate your support.

    • That’s great!

      • David Mike

        Thank you!

  • How do you know it isn’t the magical “How to” beginning to the title? That’s what all the blog doctors would say, because that is the sort of headline they prescribe.

    I agree with you – persistence and practice and perseverance are essential. There are no magic recipes; as soon as a formula becomes common, it becomes boring.

    You work harder and produce more great stuff than any other blogger I read (except maybe Michael Hyatt, but I think he has lots of People.) Congratulations on your growth!

    Dreams? My book of drawings of a cabin community is now ready for a consultation with The Book Designer after 3 years of work. I would be THRILLED to be able to draw and publish books for cabin communities across the state and even the country. (Might require some monetary success so I can replace my hubby’s 1986 Toyota pickup with 312,000 miles on it first. . . I WANT to do this for him after he has supported my dreams for so many years!)

  • Great advice, Matt! I had a post go crazy November 2012 on Election Day. I wasn’t even in town when the post went live. The post titled, How To Handle The Election Results, obviously hit a timely nerve with people searching for results and analysis on the Presidential election. I had also been blogging for several years before this post went crazy.

  • This is awesome! It’s been a while since I looked at Google Analytics for my organist blog. I just checked. No viral posts yet! I will keep on writing :) Thanks for the encouragement.

    • I love that attitude. It reminds me of my morning quote to myself:

      “Just checked the Forbes 400. Nope, not on there. Time to get to work.”

    • How does one look at “Google Analytics” for their blog? Here is my blog: http://toulouse21.wordpress.com/

      • http://www.google.com/analytics/

        If you have a Gmail account, it’s simple. If not, just create one. Then they will guide you from there.

        • Oh, I believe that is Google Analytics for Mobile Apps. I don’t have a smartphone. Maybe next month…I’m due for an upgrade March 24.

          • No that’s just the online version. I use it on my PC.

          • OK. I got to the point where it asks me to cut and page the code onto every page that I want to track. I have no idea how to do that. Sorry.

          • Shoot me an email at matt -at- mattmcwilliams.com and tell me what kind of platform you use (i.e. WordPress) and I can probably help.

          • I tried that. mattmcwilliams.com is a website, not an email address. I tried to use the “contact” on your website, but it does not allow me to send the message anywhere. I can’t post to your Twitter account. Sorry.

          • matt -at- mattmcwilliams.com

            replace the -at- with an @

            I don’t post my email because it easily gets scraped by bots and I get mounds of spam :)

  • Small progress day in and day out leads to huge results. The key is to keep producing and taking action. Love your secret!

  • Nancy Heidger Benavides

    Thanks for the encouragement, Matt! I don’t always read your blog or other blogs the day it is posted. However, when I do get ‘around’ to reading them the timing is usually perfect for what I need to hear! I have to remember that when it comes to others reading my posts…my desired timing may not be their time of ‘need’ when they are ready, willing and able to get what I have for them.

  • Dreams? That the Lord will use me in the way He’s created me for. I have been teaching the Bible to school age children for 13 years. I’ve applied for a position to be a Women’s Ministry Leader. If this is where God wants me, He’ll make it so. Before I surrendered to teaching children, God brought me through many things…an abusive childhood, a divorce, a successful second marriage, being a stepmother, being fired, seeing my younger brother survive a head trauma, having a child, being promoted, death of a parent, cancer, marathons and more.
    When I look back at these challenges, I’ve never given up that God can use me in a big way.

    • What an AWESOME story Kari. Thank you for sharing it here.

      I see the same thing in my life. It all adds up and makes sense now.

  • Congratulations on your growth, Matt. And your consistency. It makes a difference!

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  • Matt, I really appreciate your message here. As someone just getting started (just 45 posts in) and still trying to find my voice, it’s certainly a struggle at times and I’ve been praying a lot about direction.

    One thing I do know is that I was meant to write and create. I’ve always loved both and that’s what just feels natural for me. I liken it to Eric Liddel’s quote about running. For me, it’s “…but He also made me a writer. And when I write I feel God’s pleasure.”

    Working around the house this weekend, I digested my first two or three of your podcasts and am looking forward to more. Thanks for using your gifts and creating a great community here. Thanks to my friend (and yours) Jon Stolpe for directing me your way.

    • The best way to find your voice is to write, write, write. Keep it up Shawn!

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