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

Viral Marketing Case Study

Today 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.

How?

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 a podcast. The principles are the same)

But I’m getting ahead of myself 🙂

For now, here’s an overview of 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 Medium.com 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 Medium.com 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 Medium.com post:

reddit comments

After reading that Medium.com 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 Medium.com 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 SuperfamousStudios.com.

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

This is a super-helpful feature that the Medium.com 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 Medium.com 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 Medium.com 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.

So…

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

So…

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 link 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 LayerVault.com (basically GrowthHackers.com 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.

341 Comments

  1. This is the same concept that has been around for months if not years now. The same principles are true throughout all industries. For example, when the current generation of sports car come out, it’s a hot item, an absolute head turner. You then drive it for a few years and some signs of wear and tear start showing. Inevitably, not as many people look at you driving by anymore. Now if you spend some time modifying your car, perhaps a fresh paint job, some new rims and a loud exhaust system, you now drive the coolest car on the block again. My analogy is referring to the car as an old piece of viral material, that gets modified and has now “skyscraped” to the top of the car scene again.

    You’re thinking… “cool, what’s the point” The one main thing that really clicked reading this article is how important the location of your promoting is. Bare with me, I’ll try and come full circle on my analogy.

    Driving your new suped up car through a retirement neighborhood will get no response, or may even be seen as a nuisance. However, cruise down the strip in South Beach, Miami, and you’re basically a celebrity.

    This hit me when I saw the huge “celebrity-like” response from the StumbleUpon users going mad over the stock photography resource. StumbleUpon people absolutely eat up anything to do with photography, music, or the like.

    Sounds similar to the virality of AirBnB when integrating with Craigslist. They had a great platform, but lacked the user base.

    Now I just have to find where my user base is….

    Great post Brian!

    1. Thanks for your insights, Aaron.

      I’m with you on that. Content perception is relative. If you show a “5 tips for SEO” post to me, I’m going to gag.
      But if you show it to my dry cleaner down the street that just built his first site, he’ll go nuts over it.

      Anyway, glad you liked the post 🙂

  2. Hey Brian – question – for a newbie, how do I go find out how many monthly searches are being conducted on certain search terms I’m curious about?

    That info/tool would be very helpful to me as I consider a new launch. Thank you!

  3. Brian – Thank you for the ideas today. I’ve had my sight up for a couple of months and work very hard daily on it. It’s easy to get discourages when I hover around 50 views on a good day. I have had as many as 200 on a day. I’m on Facebook, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, etc. It’s SLOW going. I will study your post. It has given me hope. I think my field of dog/animals is just really covered up with sites that have a staff. Your stuff is always good. Very much appreciate you sharing it.

    1. You’re welcome, Rebecca 😀

      There’s nothing wrong with having a presence on those platforms (as you saw, they can bring in some traffic).
      But in my experience, the key is to have a beacon resource that people naturally share on social media. That way you
      get traffic from the platforms whether you’re active on them or not.
      or not.

  4. Brian,
    This looks great and I am probably going to have to read it more than once to get everything. One thing I keep having to remind myself: you can pick a topic that is not directly related to your product/service but interesting to your audience. Prior success is the most important part, not how closely a particular article topic might relate to what you do. So, bootstrap themes –> finding free stock photos. Or, building backlinks –> google ranking factors. Anyways, thanks for writing. This is great stuff!!

    1. Definitely, Gordie.

      That’s one of the #1 questions I get: “How can I write content for my niche if it’s not interesting”.
      As you pointed out, the answer it: “Don’t”. There are plenty of related niches ripe for the taking.

  5. hi! BRIAN great post again, i have read your previous skscraper post.
    my niche is top 10 lists, for me step 1 is easy but issue is step 2(step 3 is based on step 2)
    can you please guide me how can i make good content best in my niche,with an example
    looking for your reply

  6. Hi Brian,

    The Sky Scraper technique seems to work great! How would you suggest someone uses it on a website people don’t generally like linking to? In my niche other sites that deal with the product we make won;t link back to us. It doesn’t matter how good the content is or what we cover.

    So how would a website that covers a product or service that people don’t want to link to get as much traffic?

    Thanks

    1. Hey Denise,

      Yes it does 🙂

      Good question. In that case you’d want to hide the commercial intent on your content pages (for example, in blog posts). Create
      an awesome video game blog, and honestly, people won’t care so much what’s on the rest of your site…as long as it’s G-rated.

      1. I think it is really important to hide your commercial intent, and it applies to affiliate site of CPS.

        The blog post is a great place to attract natural links as long as you put up some niche-related awesome content there, and don’t forget to mask the sidebar if there are any product-related items there, as it could sell your commercial intent in no time and stop people from linking to you.

        The other thing to consider when running an affiliate site is to avoid a keyword-rich domain like “best + product name”, a brand name will make people be more likely to link to you.

        1. Solid points all around, Mike. I’ve also found that the best affiliate sites don’t “look” like affiliate sites.

  7. Hey Brian,
    Thank you so much for sharing my story. The write-up was absolutely epic!
    I hope this will help out all of your readers, especially those (who like me) were just starting out and had zero audience. I’ll keep my eyes on the comments for any reader questions that may be directed at me.
    I’m happy to be one of your many loyal subscribers. I’ve learned a ton!
    Cheers,
    Christopher

    1. Hey Christopher, Thank you for being awesome and executing The Skyscraper Technique flawlessly. You
      deserve all the success you’ve had since the post went viral.

  8. Hey Brian,
    Awesome post, as always. Thx!

    I just checked google for ‘free stock images’ and they rank #3 for me.

    Also, did you mean to spell bootstrap as boostrap in the first paragraph where you introduce bootstrap?

  9. Hi Brian,
    I thought to add-on something. Another way to get viral content is to use already viral infographic in your niche and have a better one for your post. To find it either use pinterest or same technique as above. This works for most of the niche. Even if you do not have enough money to spend on a new infographic you can use that have base content. At least you can eat free pastries then you can order a huge cake later.
    I would like to know what is your take on this?

    1. Ashu, it depends on how close your infographic is to the original. The idea behind The Skyscraper Technique isn’t to plagiarize or steal. So as long as you’re putting out something original, you’re good to go 🙂

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341 Comments