I recently stumbled upon a Buzzfeed Tasty video about cake hacks on Facebook. After being enthralled for the entire three minutes and giving the video a thumbs up, I immediately shared it with everyone I knew. I wasn’t the only one who engaged with the video—more than 652,000 people shared it, not to mention the other 780,000 who commented on and reacted to it. This is just a fraction of the traffic that flocks to Tasty each month.
Known for their viral content, sites like Buzzfeed generate highly targeted traffic because their content is constantly being forwarded to friends or posted on social sites. Viral content sites can also monetize their content to bring in significant revenue. ViralNova, for example, a viral site that grew to about 100 million monthly readers, began as a one-man startup and then sold for $100 million two years later. Can someone say jackpot?
Going viral can help you meet other business goals as well, such as increasing brand awareness and generating leads. Now that we know some of the benefits, let’s take a closer look at what it would take to create a viral content site of your own.
How to Create Viral Content
The first step in creating viral content is to study what pieces of content are getting the most views and shares. Consider factors such as when the piece was published, what emotions it invoked, how many images it included, which format it took, and how long it was. Then, experiment with these factors and analyze what works best for your target audience.
Let’s take a closer look at two of these factors that contribute to virality below.
Create Viral Content Formats
Different types of content are considered more shareable than others. Consider the following stats:
- Visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared on social media.
- Video GIFs have more potential to go viral than webinars.
- Landing pages with videos are 40 times more likely to be shared.
- Posts with at least one image are more likely to be shared on Facebook and Twitter than posts with no images.
- Infographics and listicles are the most likely formats to get shared.
In sum, content that simplifies information into small, digestible bites and can be shared across multiple channels is more likely to go viral. It makes sense why four out of the five most viewed posts on Buzzfeed in 2018 were listicles, as shown below.
Appeal to Emotions
For content to go viral, it has to strike an emotional chord to persuade visitors to share it. While positive content that invokes awe or laughter tends to perform better, invoking negative emotions like anger or fear can also be effective. For example, when The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” they heard from thousands of readers. While some thanked the editors for publishing it, others denounced them so fiercely that they had to increase security in the newsroom. Due in part to this backlash, the op-ed became the third most-read NYT story in 2018.
Research like this will be instrumental in developing and shaping your content, but the point is, viral content needs to be shared, a lot. As you begin creating content, you’ll want to continuously examine and refine your strategies to sustain the production of high-performing content.
How to Build a Viral Content Site
Now that you know how to create rich content, you’ll need somewhere to put it. The first step in building a viral content site is to register a domain name that’s easy to remember and brandable.
Then, you’ll want to select a website hosting provider that can handle surges of traffic and give you the control and flexibility to manage your site. There are plenty of providers in the market that are affordable and user-friendly.
Once you’ve selected a domain name and provider, it’s time to design your site. No worries if you’re not a developer or UX designer. Plenty of WordPress themes and plugins can provide you the building blocks of a viral content site, including a responsive theme, optimized load time, and share buttons.
Let's discuss some of those tools below.
WordPress Themes for Viral Content Sites
You’re looking for a theme that checks off two major to-do items. The first is providing a clean interface for visitors to read your articles and easily find similar content. The second is having front-end posting functionality so that visitors can submit content to your site. Allowing visitors to become contributors will not only improve their engagement with your site, but it also shares the responsibility of content creation. If you’re lucky, contributors will create viral content of their own that helps drive traffic to your site.
Let’s dive into a few themes that allow you to do that below.
ViralPro is an advanced WordPress theme for building a viral news magazine site, like ViralNova. Think lots of images and click-worthy headlines.
ViralPro is designed to help you carry out two important objectives: drive traffic and make money. One way this theme helps encourage readers to share your content (and generate traffic for you) is by providing large and colorful social sharing buttons at the top and bottom of each post.
To monetize this foot traffic, you can use Viral Pro’s built-in ad widgets and spots for strategically placing ads throughout your site.
You can keep visitors on your site and increase your overall page views by dragging and dropping Viral Pro’s random posts widget in the sidebar or any desired location on the page. Once you drop it, the widget will automatically display random posts. Between the featured images and bold titles, these posts are sure to get a click and keep visitors on your site.
Inspired by Pinterest, Pin provides a clean and responsive design and easy-to-use interface that’s great for portfolios and other image-centric websites.
This theme provides a ton of front-end functionality, allowing visitors to edit, create, view or delete existing posts and submit new content. It also has a live search feature, which helps your visitors find the results they’re looking for even before they finish typing their keyword.
Another great feature for helping visitors explore your site is the flyout navigation menu, which shows three menu items at a time and then expands as they hover or click each item. It’s a much easier option on phones and tablets than the usual drop-down menu, which is crucial considering the majority of web traffic now comes from mobile devices.
Pin also has a thumbs rating and review system that produces rich snippets for better search engine results. You can also place your own ads on these review pages to boost revenue.
MagXP is a magazine theme valued for its flexibility and readability. It works for content-rich sites on any browser or device.
MagXP theme comes with four homepage designs that you can easily customize with a drag-and-drop builder. It has a wide variety of layout options, including Default, Shop, Health, Entertainment, Technology, News, Relationship, Social, and Sports, that you can choose for different sections of your site. From there, you can further customize your site by choosing from a variety of performance options, pagination types, font icons, advanced type settings, and management options.
Using the theme’s built-in review support, you can easily add reviews for affiliate products, movies, recipes, you name it, to your site. These are highlighted in search results, which will attract more visitors. The best part is that you don’t need to spend extra money or time on a premium review plugin.
SocialMe is a minimalist design from MyThemeShop that works best for sites that rely heavily on building community via social media.
It comes with four predefined layouts that have tons of color options, background options, font icons, and Google Fonts so that you can quickly get your site up and customize as you go.
Lightweight and SEO friendly, SocialMe is a good design choice if you want your site to be easy to discover, load, and navigate.
In addition to its 16 preloaded widgets, SocialMe is also compatible with many third-party plugins, including the BuddyPress, bbPress, and WooCommerce. These plugins make it easy to extend the functionality of your site so you can attract all types of visitors, including readers, shoppers, and more, to your site.
Bimber is a best-selling WordPress theme that’s specifically built for viral content. Its features are aimed at easing design pain points and delighting your visitors.
This theme enables you to filter posts on the homepage, build responsive video playlists, add a product carousel to a post, include related posts at the bottom of pages, and more to keep your visitors engaged and on your site.
The theme also gives visitors the power to submit links, text posts, and images and embed content from YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook. They can even create memes with a meme generator. To ensure visitors are engaging with others’ content as well, the theme allows them to upvote and downvote content and share it across their social media platforms.
It’s no wonder why Bimber has been the best selling viral theme for the past three years.
TruePixel is a fully responsive and customizable WordPress Theme. In addition to being well-designed, it’s speedy, easy-to-navigate, and mobile-friendly.
TruePixel has many features that help create seamless user experiences. It displays related posts for visitors to easily find more content they’ll love on your site, automatically adjusts and optimizes its display for any screen or device, and fixes navigation so that your reader doesn’t have to scroll to the top every time they want to move around your site.
With extensive documentation, 24/7 support, and a library of video tutorials, TruePixel is a good choice for beginners. Plus, you can install (and update) TruePixel in one click. One click. Insanity.
Cube is an entertainment theme designed to support various media formats, including video, audio, and images.
To empower visitors to share their content, this theme comes with front-end login and submission forms. That means visitors can create an account and immediately begin posting, without going through the WordPress admin interface. Once a visitor shares a new piece of content via the front-end publishing form, their contribution is saved as a draft for your review. That means you get final say over content that’s published on your site.
Cube includes Slider Revolution, a premium plugin that allows you to promote your priority content or brands you’ve partnered with in an interactive slideshow. A feature like this helps you provide frictionless and engaging experiences for your visitors on any page.
Viral WordPress Plugins
After you’ve purchased a WordPress theme, you may still be looking for ways to extend the functionality of your site to meet your needs. That’s where plugins come in. Let’s look at two bigwigs in the market.
Because social sharing is essential for the success of viral content sites, you want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to share your content.
Monarch is one of the most popular social media sharing plugins on WordPress. It allows you to choose from more than 20 social sharing networks to create a custom collection of sharing options for your visitors. It also offers many different options for the placement and design of your social sharing buttons.
With a diverse set of display types, such as floating sidebars, inline buttons, and automatic pop-ups and fly-ins, you can perfectly time calls-to-action to improve engagement and conversion rate.
To manage everything related to your plugin and check up on statistics around your shares, follows, and likes, Monarch has a custom panel in the WordPress dashboard that’s intuitive and easy to access.
Easy Social Share Buttons is another great option for optimizing social sharing on your site.
As one of the most extensive social plugins in WordPress, Easy Social Share Buttons provides you the flexibility to share on more than 50 of the major social networks and choose from over 55 templates, 30 automatic design positions, and 30 animations. It also includes social live chat functionality in addition to providing unique social share buttons and subscribe-to-mail list forms.
One advanced feature is its “After Share Actions,” which lets you display an email opt-in or a custom message after a user shares your content. The plugin also has analytics and A/B testing, which lets you view detailed data about your buttons’ performance and run A/B tests to try and boost your shares.
There are so many tools that can help you build a viral content site on WordPress. Deciding on the goals, budget, and desired functionality of your site will help you narrow down this list to pick the right tool for your business.