Viral content and long term lift - an example

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France
47° 34' 54.6528" N, 2° 39' 31.2876" E

The adage that ‘Content is king’ is not only true, but works in surprising ways. This post is about the intended consequences of good content which, when they come, surprise us. That apparent contradiction is deliberate, so read on.

But what is good content?

‘Good content’, I keep explaining to clients, is not always content that you’d like to have on your website. It is content that people are looking for - and maybe can’t find easily elsewhere. By definition, good content is useful, maybe even authoritative.

When ‘good’ becomes ‘viral’

At some point, enough clicks that end up on your site’s content will make it ‘good’. At some point beyond that, sufficient clicks will make that content go viral.

Your site’s analytics system will tell you where these clicks come from and there’ll be a mix of search engines and referrals from other sites. Whichever, the word gets passed and the visits come in.

No smoke and no mirrors - the example

One of my clients has an insurance agency selling French insurance to English residents (or second-home owners here in France). Over the years, I have become the content creator for their website. Their site gets modest traffic but ranks very well. The new monthly business it pulls it keeps on accumulating, sufficient to employ a small team of full-time staff.

In keeping with France’s legendary administrative complexity, new regulations came into force in March of this year which obliged people to install smoke detectors. Various sites explained the ins and outs of this; most were in French; many were conflicting or ambiguous. I proposed that a clear article be written about this on their website’s blog. The post was published in June 2014.

Initially, interest was minimal. Visits to the post started at 40 - 50 from September, then jumped to 160 - 200. In January of this year those numbers climbed to 557, then 1,385, then 1,302 in April. At the time of writing, that particular page is dropping back down to just below 300 monthly unique views. We expect that decline to continue as the world moves on. Here’s the classic bell curve of those hits:

Visitors statistics for blog post

The long-tail lift

Where the fun comes is that that traffic didn’t just view that page on the site. These new visitors stuck around and looked at other pages on the site. Here’s the bell curve for the whole site:

Visitors statistics for whole site

Here are the two trends combined:

Combined post and site statistics

The fun here is that the ‘new normal’ for the whole site is - thanks to this one post - higher than the ‘old normal’. In the business, we call this the long term lift. Sometimes it’s called the long tail lift or simply the long tail.

Of course, this isn’t just fun. This is business because with these increased visitor numbers come more potential clients who make contact with you by filling in your site’s contact form or picking up the phone, both of which actually accompanied the trend in the above example.

So what’s the lesson here?

Finding time to write content for your website that is useful, authoritative and timely can boost business. I’d distill this down to some key points, as follows:

  • write simply but make it interesting
  • use page titles, h1 and h2 headings that say it straight and organise your thinking neatly
  • try to come across as being knowledgeable but approachable
  • give good advice freely because doing that on top of being paid for what you do makes you stand out from the crowd
  • be relevant and timely
  • provide links where people can get more information

Put like that, really there’s no magic in this, just hard work!

You can read more about this particular phenomenon over at the Moz site here: https://moz.com/blog/linkbait-bump-viral-content-lifts-organic-traffic-w….