Viral Marketing Case Study: How a Brand New Blog Generated 17,584 Visitors In One Day

viral marketing blog post bannerToday I’m going to show you how one entrepreneur used viral marketing to generate 17,584 unique visitors to a brand new website.

In one day.

And he accomplished this despite having:

Zero connections.

Zero Twitter followers.

Zero marketing budget.

In this case study I’ll walk you through the exact step-by-step process that he used.

Exclusive Blog Post Bonus: Click here to get access to a free bonus area that will show you how to get create your own viral marketing campaign from scratch.

What Is Viral Marketing?

There’s no one definition of viral marketing that everyone agrees on.

But here’s the one that I think fits best:

“Viral marketing is an approach designed to get others to share your product for you.”

In other words, traditional marketing is where you blast your marketing messages to a group (like with TV commercials).

But viral marketing is where you encourage the “word of mouth” spread of your product or service.

That’s nice in theory. But in the real world most products don’t have a realistic chance of going viral.

And if you’re in that spot, you need to create a piece of viral content instead.


Keep reading.

How The Skyscraper Technique Generates Links, Traffic and Social Shares

Let me break this down for you:

The Skyscraper Technique is about publishing content based on a proven framework.

In other words:

Find old content that did well…and crush it with something even better.

(It doesn’t matter if you want to create a viral video, blog post or product launch. The principles are the same)

If you want more examples of how I generated traffic with The Skyscraper Technique, check out my post,”Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days“.

skyscraper technique post

As a quick recap, here’s the 3-step process:

1. Find content that’s performed well in your industry

2. Identify gaps in that content…and make something that fills in those gaps (today’s post has A LOT of detail on how to do this)

3. Promote your content like a madman

The best part?

This works even if you’re in a super-competitive industry.

Just ask Chris Gimmer…

How Chris Gimmer Generated 17,584 Visitors (In One Day)

Chris Gimmer is the founder of BootstrapBay, a new marketplace for themes built using the popular web development framework called Bootstrap.

bootstrap bay homepage

Make no mistake:

The Bootstrap theme niche is REALLY competitive with dozens of entrenched competitors.

We’re talking keywords with search volumes like this:

keyword search volume

And this:

keyword search volume 2

It gets worse:

Chris wasn’t some hotshot startup founder with years of experience under his belt.

In fact, Chris recently left his 9-5 gig in the finance world to start BootstrapBay.

But he did have one thing going for him:

Chris realized that his competitors were sleeping on content marketing and SEO.

In Chris’s words:

Chris Gimmer

Even though our competitors had huge user-bases, they weren’t actively marketing their sites with SEO or content. I saw this as a golden opportunity for BootstrapBay to quickly grab some market share.

Chris Gimmer
Chris Gimmer

That’s when he decided to try The Skyscraper Technique

Here’s what happened…

Now, Let’s See The Results…

Before I reveal the step-by-step process Chris used, I want to show you his results.

Because it went viral, Chris’s piece of content has been shared over 240,000 times on social media:

social share count

That content also brought in 17,584 visitors in one day (more on that later):

traffic spike

Chris’s Skyscraper content has generated over 204,000 total visitors over the last 4-months.

total traffic to a landing page

This is one of the often-overlooked principles of viral marketing:

Huge traffic spikes don’t usually fully die down.

To give you some examples:

Sites like Blendtec, GoPro and Dollar Shave Club all created viral videos that have generated millions of views.

Thanks to their videos going viral, brand awareness and sales shot up like a rocket…

…and never went back to square one.

And it was a similar story with Chris’s campaign.

Before the massive traffic surge, BootstrapBay was averaging around 150 visitors per day.

Now they average over 2000 visits per day.

Here are the traffic numbers from last month:

monthly traffic stats

Bottom line: A single viral marketing campaign can make a huge long-term difference in your site’s traffic.

IF you have a system in place to turn that traffic spike into evergreen traffic.

It can even turn a past spike (something went viral months ago) into more traffic today and the future.

You’re probably wondering:

“OK, so how do I do that?”

It’s a little thing called SEO…

It Gets Better…Here’s How SEO Kept the Party Going

Because Chris’s content generated so much buzz, he inevitability generated backlinks to it.

Here’s a graph of the links pointing to Chris’s Skyscraper Content:

backlink graph

As you can probably guess, these were grade-A contextual backlinks, like this:

image of a backlink

And this:

contextual backlink screenshot

These contextual links bumped up BootstrapBay’s domain authority….

…which boosted the rankings for every page on Chris’s site.

Here’s what I mean:

Not only does the Skyscraper content rank #7 for the keyword, “free stock images” (18,000 monthly searches)…

google search results 2

Thanks to its ramped up domain authority, the BootstrapBay homepage is ranking #9 for “bootstrap themes” (12,100 monthly searches)

google search results

(The site also ranks for dozens of long tail keywords, like “best stock photo sites”)

All of these first page rankings led to a 457% organic traffic increase in only 30-days:

organic traffic increase

Now that you’ve seen Chris’s amazing results first-hand, it’s time to walk you through the 3-step process that he used to spread the word about his new company.

Step#1: Find Content With a Proven Track Record of Success

The secret to publishing content that people want to share is this:

Base your content on something that’s already proven to work.

That may sound intuitive. But I see lots of people publish content that they THINK will do well.

Sometimes it does…

…but more often than not, content that’s not based on a framework proven falls flat.

Fortunately, Chris had already read about the Skyscraper Technique before starting BootstrapBay.

And when he stumbled upon a post on called, “Stock photos that don’t suck…

medium dot com post

…he knew he just struck gold.

Despite being a bland list of links to stock photo sites, that post racked up an impressive number of social shares.

social shares

It also received more than 290 upvotes on Reddit (r/graphic_design):

reddit thread

Chris knew that his target audience of graphic designers, web designers and bloggers hang out on that subreddit.

And they were freaking out about the post:

reddit comments

After reading that post, Chris thought to himself:

“If that list of links got people that excited, what if I made something way better?”

And that’s exactly what he did…

My 3-Step Workflow for Finding Proven Viral Content Ideas Every Time

You may be thinking: “How can I find content that’s already done well in my niche?”

Here’s the exact 3-step workflow that I use. And it works like a charm.

1. First, I head to BuzzSumo and enter a VERY broad keyword.

Let’s say you had a fitness blog. You’d want to use a general keyword like “weight loss”, “burn fat” or “dieting”.

buzzsumo search

Then I look for content that’s racked up a lot of social shares.

social shares in buzzsumo

I add those to my list.

2. Next, I find the words and phrases in the results that people might use in a Google search.

For example, here are some potential keywords in the BuzzSumo list:

keyword list

Then I mash those words up into Google searches.

google research

I add any promising results from Google onto my list.

3. Finally, I enter a few of my competitor’s homepage URLs into OpenSiteExplorer.

Open Site Explorer

And click on the “top pages” tab (this shows you their most linked-to content):
top pages

And I throw those pages onto my list.

Now you have a long list of proven content ideas.

Nice! Give yourself a high-five (and move onto step #2).

Step 2: Improve On The Content That You Find

This is important:

The idea behind the Skyscraper Technique is to make strategic improvements to the content you found in Step #1.

It’s the same approach that pioneers like Steve Jobs, Ray Kroc and Henry Ford used to build their empires:

Take something good…and make it great.

But the question is:

HOW do you make good content great?

Here are the 6 techniques Chris used to dramatically improve the base content he found:

1. He turned the content into a full blog post with an introduction, body and conclusion

The article lacked the meat that makes a blog post great.

In fact, it was really just a list of links:

Medium Blog Post

Chris rounded out his content with a strong intro and conclusion that made his blog post feel more like, well, a blog post.

Blog Post Intro

Here’s what he did next:

2. He outlined the different types of licenses (in plain English)

Because Chris works with a lot of graphic designers, he knew that the same question about free images popped up over and over again:

“What do all the different licenses — like creative commons and copyright restriction — actually mean?”

This isn’t trivial stuff. If you’re going to use a free image on your site you’ll want to know what license it falls under.

That’s why Chris added a section that outlined the different licenses in words anyone could understand.

Blog Post Section

3. He indicated which license each website used

I’m going to tell you a little secret about link building:

Forget link bait.

The fact is, people love to share insanely useful stuff.

Believe it or not, but creating something super-useful isn’t that hard.

You just need to give your content that extra umph that most people are too lazy to add.

Case in point: Chris’s post.

Chris told people the exact license each free stock photo site had:

liscence info

That way you don’t have to hunt around to find that info.

It only took Chris an hour to figure out which license each site used. And it made his content 10x more useful.

4. He wrote a brief description of each free photo site

Chris added a brief description of each stock photo site, like this:

Blog Post Descriptions

Obviously, all this meaty content helps with on-page SEO.

But it also saves people precious time.

Chris’s to-the-point descriptions tell you whether or not a stock photo site is right for you QUICKLY.

Don’t want nature photos? Then you should skip

On the hunt for vintage pictures of people doing old-timey things? is right up your alley.

This is a super-helpful feature that the post didn’t have.

5. He added sample pictures from each resource

A text description is nice and all, but nothing beats seeing the images in action.

That’s why Chris included a sample image from each stock photo site.

Sample Image

Adding images seems like a no-brainer. But a fair share of “here’s a list of free stock photo sites” articles don’t feature images (including the post).

6. He curated a better list of resources

Chris realized that bells and whistles — like descriptions and images — weren’t going to put him over the top.

So what did he do?

He put the stock photo sites listed in the post to the test.

Then he weeded out any that weren’t up to par.

He also added a bunch that weren’t on the original list…including a few left by people that commented on the post:

Blog Comments

The result? 12 Amazing Sites With Breathtaking Free Stock Photos.

post screenshot

At this point, you’re probably wondering:

How long did all these improvements take?

Chris must have handcuffed himself to his laptop and worked non-stop for 87 days.

Actually…it took Chris a grand total of 6-hours to create his epic resource.

Here’s the breakdown of those 6-hours:

  • 1.5 hours to search the web for additional resources
  • 1 hour to determine which license each site falls under
  • 1.5 hour to gather all the pictures
  • 2 hours to write the post and put it all together

So at this point Chris had an epic piece of content live on his site.

But with no following and no connections, how could he possibly go viral?

Well that’s where step #3 of this process comes into play.

Step #3: Promote Your Content

I’ve written about this before:

If you want your content to get results, you can’t rely on the ol’ “Publish and Pray” approach.

The fact is: there are 2 million blogs posts published everyday.

And NO ONE will see your content unless you get off your butt and promote it.

That’s why experts on viral marketing (like Jonah Berger and Karen Nelson-Field) all emphasize the importance of promotion.


How did Chris promote his content?

I’m glad you asked…

First, Chris submitted his post to a place that his target audience hangs out

Web designers make up a huge chunk of Chris’s target audience.

And where do they hang out?

The web design sub-reddit on Reddit. So he decided to share his content there.

As you can see, his Reddit thread quickly racked up 180 upvotes:

subreddit screenshot

Upvotes are great and all…but what about TRAFFIC?

That single Reddit thread drove 2,168 visitors to Chris’s content overnight:

reddit traffic

It also generated some early buzz and traffic from social media:

Social Media Traffic

Next, Chris shared a link to his post on StumbleUpon.

This is where his content started to go viral.

AStumbleUpon community went absolutely nuts over Chris’s post.

To date his StumbleUpon post has over 242,000 views and 16,000 likes:

stumbleupon screenshot

StumbleUpon is largely responsible for the 17k traffic spike I talked about earlier.

And get this:

Even though that spike was over 3-months ago, StumbleUpon STILL sends over 22,000 monthly visitors to BootstrapBay:

stumbleupon referral traffic

I should point out that StumbleUpon traffic isn’t super duper high-quality traffic.

For example, Chris’s StumbleUpon traffic has a bounce rate of 95.61%.

And time on site is what you’d expect from a bowl of goldfish:

Average Session Duration


What’s the point of all this traffic if no ones buys anything…or even reads the article?

Because a good chunk of those people will share your content on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

And that spreads the word about you and your company.

(And if they write for a blog, they may to your article too)

Chris’s StumbleUpon traffic started a wave of social shares and links from platforms that DO convert, like Twitter.

Including two tweets from people with over 100k followers…each.

Twitter tweet Twitter tweet 2

Finally, Chris submitted his content to a bunch of web designer communities

Chris realized that the web design subreddit was just one of MANY places that his target audience hung out.

So he submitted his content to web design communities, like (basically for web designers):

LayerVault Screenshot

That single LayerVault submission has brought in 1,915 visitors:

sessions in google analytics

Not bad for a 11-second submission to one community.

You Can Tap Into Viral Marketing Too…

…but you need to take action on what you’ve just read.

Fortunately, I’ve got just the thing for you.

A Skyscraper Technique bonus area.

In this bonus area you’ll get instant access to 3 awesome resources:

1. 9 “plug and play” strategies that make your content stand out from the competition.

2. A comprehensive checklist that walks you through the critical points from this post.

3. The exact email outreach template I use to give my content that viral “push” that it often needs.

Click the link below and enter your email for instant access:

skyscraper bonus area

Now I want to hear what you have to say:

What’s the #1 takeaway point you got from today’s post?

Leave a comment below right now.

    1. Good question, James.

      I try to find out where my target audience hangs out. In Christopher’s case, his audience was super active on Reddit and StumbleUpon (and a few niche platforms). For a super B2C space like weight loss, it’d be Facebook. And if you were in the fashion world, you’d want to rock out on Pinterest.

      1. So say if Facebook was your main distribution platform, would you contact individual users asking them to share?

        Platforms like Reddit and Stumbleupon don’t have any inherent bias against new content, but Facebook can be tricky to start to get the ball rolling. Ads maybe?

        1. You could definitely do that. I’d work on creating a huge FB presence, with an active page (and of course) ads to get started.

        2. Chances are there are Facebook communities focused on your target niche. Many communities encourage people share valuable resources. Same goes for LinkedIn.

          In my experience, just asking “friends” on Facebook to share out doesn’t gain you much traction. Try a community of your peers or target audience. Join first, and make sure you see what their rules and expectations are.

    2. Originally he discovered that the medium post generated buzz on reddit, so it would only be natural to go back and put it there. I’m learning that you can go to comments section like these and see that there will always be questions that the original post didn’t answer. Like Brian said though, you gotta put in that work, and I even be like forget it sometimes..also, you can use direct searches to find your targets… a forum search…….

    3. Hi James,
      My answer to your question is this, by looking through your analytics. You can see where the most traffic came from by looking on referring domains. Thats all.

  1. Hey Brian,

    Awesome, epic case study. As usual, my friend!

    Getting your content is the goal of every blogger. I know it’s a goal of mine! Thank you for this information. I can’t wait to try it!

    Hope you have an awesome day, Brian. I’ll be Tweeting this shortly…

    – Kevin

      1. Due to the euphoria I was feeling after reading your great post, I left out three important words in my comment above! I meant to say:

        “Getting your content TO GO VIRAL is the goal of every blogger.”

        Phew. I hate typos. I feel much better now. 🙂

        I’ll definitely do that, Brian. Have a good one!

        – Kevin

  2. Hey Brian,
    Epic Article as usual.
    This case study is about to blow my mind.
    I will surely try and put this strategy into use for my new blog.
    Thank you for releasing this.
    I have to share this on twitter.
    Oloyede Jamiu

  3. I think this case study sums up all your techniques we’ve be getting in your newsletter recently. Like a Cherry on the top!

    Great insight again Brian, it’s amazing; I’m getting some ideas as I have some stuff ready to go viral. :))

  4. Using this methodology, I was able to significantly increase traffic and got a ton of shares on social media. D&B actually tweeted our article on 101 Small Business SEO Tips. Thanks for the great content ideas!

  5. Awesome results and this is exactly how SEO should be done in 2014. Hats off to Chris (particularly as I’ve seen that post before myself and thought nothing of it!) for an awesome implementation and of course to yourself for the original case study.

    1. I concur David!! I did not see the post, but I love the Skyscraper technique and I know so do you 🙂 Great job Chris, and thanks for sharing Brian.

  6. Brian,

    I’m sure you’ve shared this answer before, but somehow I missed it. Who developed,vor how did you develop, the template for the graphical look of your posts, the color and design? May seem like a minor point, but it makes them very appealing to read, especially with the longer content. I Don’t usually see these kinds is styling options on most themes.

    1. Thanks Scott. The short answer: LOTS of tweaking. I actually spent 2-months on Backlinko’s original design. And I’d
      estimate we’ve made 250 changes since then. Most of then tiny (like the spacing between words). But they add up.

    2. I would also love to see a tutorial how to design and/or outsource such an amazing design like you have on your ultimate guides.

      Anyway great case study, so thanks for sharing. I already tweeted it 🙂

      1. Thanks for the suggestion, Philip. It’s a bit complicated so it might have to be part of a series. Also, thanks for the share!

  7. Hey Brian,

    This strategy is absolutely superb. The concept of writing a killer content based on a proven framework is so powerful, and more powerful to attract subscribers when combined with the content upgrade strategy you teach. I think they go and in hand.

    I’m much more willing to test this out with my next content.

    The tools you described will definitely make it easy to identify the proven frameworks.

    You did well to bring this to my notice. Thanks man.

    1. They Godwin, thanks man. That’s a good point: The Skyscraper Technique will boost the bottom line A LOT
      more when you put that traffic to good use (namely, capturing emails).

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