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 enticing or “no one ever told me about that before” amazing. In fact, it’s downright boring.

Success secret

This is part of a year-end countdown of my top 5 posts of 2014. This was my 4th most popular post of the year and one of my favorites. I hope that you find value in it if you are new or just needed a reminder. Don’t worry…not all of my content for the rest of the year is “Best of.” Stay tuned for some other great posts and offers.

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:


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.

What are your dreams? What are you working towards right now but not seeing the results?

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18 thoughts on “The #1 Secret to a Viral Blog Post…Or Any Success

  1. David Mike says:

    First, I want to say, your podcast is awesome!
    Second, my blog views have been very consistent. I average about 120 views a day. My biggest was 945 views in one day. The post was about my father’s testimony in my court-martial. He was was on active duty in the Air Force at the time, he risked everything including his reputation to try and save his son. It was an intense post. You are right, people keep coming back to my blog because I am consistent. I post every Tuesday and everyone that reads it knows it, so they know when to expect it. If you want to read the “viral” post, I will link it here. You don’t have to have read any of the others to understand what is going on in this part of my saga.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I remember that post David. I can see why that one went viral. Granted, there is an element of luck (like the one that I wrote that had more than 10,000 views and was shared by PGA Tour players, golf coaches, etc…the dad of the guy I wrote it about stumbled on it and shared it).

      BUT, good content naturally stands a better chance 🙂

      Keep it up man!

  2. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    I’m totally with you. People keep saying I don’t see how you can write so much, which also includes a subtle “Why in the world would you write so much.” First of all doing anything a lot makes you stronger. Look at any bloggers first fee posts versus their 300th post, it’s always a fun exercise. Sending, doing anything a lot, as long as you’re good (which you are) increases the chances that more people will start paying attention.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good points! Unless someone is incredibly narcissistic or just doing it for a fun hobby, it’s hard to write 1,000 posts (approx. 800,000 words) and not improve the craft and get some traction.

  3. Isaac Dorrel says:

    I remember this post Matt. It DOES work. I know because I used it.
    You are spot on in saying that persistance is the only key to true long term success. Thanks for being THE world changer!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That’s awesome Isaac! Keep it up.

  4. Joshua Rivers says:

    Thanks for sharing this awesome “secret”! Reminds me of Dave Ramsey’s Momentum Theorum: Focused intensity over time multiplied by God equals unstoppable momentum!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      We have a coin in our house that says that. Dave game them to everyone after working there a year (Tara worked there for five) 🙂

      1. Joshua Rivers says:

        That’s cool, Matt.

  5. Dustin M. Dauenhauer says:

    Great article Matt! Thanks for the great reminder that it’s not about the one thing everybody see but about staying consistant when nobody is looking. A lot of time we chase trying to get in the headlines and miss out because out motives are wrong. It’s in the day to day activities that help things go viral or make a greater impact not trying to swing for the fences. Thanks for being a great example!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I get caught in that trap too Dustin. I just keep reminding myself of the true purpose though.

  6. Pam Haddix says:

    This is encouraging, Matt. Pumping out the posts week after week after…can get draining when the results SEEM so miniscule. (Hey, but one life changed is one life changed!) Thanks for the encouragement to just keep after it – just keep getting better. One thing’s for sure – it won’t work if we give up. Thanks for your example and encouragement! 🙂

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Every time I get discouraged, I seem to get an email or voicemail saying that such-and-such post changed someone’s life. That makes it worth it.

      1. Pam Haddix says:

        I know what you mean! I had a young man 30 years younger than me write me about how much one of my posts helped him. I would’ve written it just for him! And God’s been giving me some much needed encouragement lately, with my book, “Worship and the Word”, being chosen by Worship Leader Magazine as one of the “Best of 2014” and now they’re going to offer a free eBook of it to all 20,000 of their subscribers in 19 countries in January! I’m just blown away (and humbled) by all of this. It came at a good time for my mental outlook. That’s for sure! So I’ll keep plugging away and trust that there’s a lot more going on that I won’t ever know about – and that’s ok! I just need to stay faithful! 🙂

  7. Mary Kathryn Johnson says:

    Go Matt! Yes, keep on writing, and keep providing great value to everyone you meet! The motto is “Keep walking like you know where you’re going, and you will certainly get there!” Thanks for sharing such amazing content, my friend!

  8. Dan Erickson says:

    I write a lot. I’m waiting for the “boom.” By the way, the thing to the right. It’s true. Each time I have a post get more traffic (sometimes due to a good RT), my overall traffic goes up just a little. A little more to the right.

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