First of all, let me tell you what likely no SEO expert will: There are no formulas for why one blog post will go viral and along the way pick up links from brandname media and one will wither with about six page views. The business is an art, not a science, and it relies heavily on intuition.
Here is my blog post which originally appeared on my syndicated legal blog http://lawandmore.typepad.com. For days it has been receiving non-stop traffic as well as links from influential media such as the Business Insider, Abovethelaw, American Bar Association, and Legal Blog Watch.
That process that will culminate in a digital item's going viral starts out with an alert eye for what's offbeat in a certain sector or niche. In this case it was law. Craigslist Help Wanted is often a good source of that kind of material. The insane, desperate, grandiose, and next Bernie Madoffs all use that platform for whatever. You bet, I surf at least six states of Craigslist listings about three times a day.
On that particular day my eyes popped. A law firm in the Stratford, Connecticut area, about a 20-minute drive from my home office, actually placed an ad informing newbie lawyers that for a fee paid to the firm they could shadow the experienced lawyers and learn how to practice law. Three things immediately hit me.
- After probably running up six figure student loan and the cost of studying for and taking the CT bar exam why would any lawyers invest even more to pay another lawyer to learn procedures. There are ads all the time in that same section of Craigslist about pay of about $10 to $15 an hour for newbies to pitch in at a local law firm doing mundane tasks such as filing motions, interviewing prospects, and creating material for the website. Most of us roll our eyes when we come across that outrageously low compensation. However, paying the law firm to hang out there is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.
- What in the world possessed this law firm, which turns out to be Beck & Beck with offices in CT and New York, to view itself as high quality enough to be positioned as the model for newbies to learn and emulate? Beck & Beck isn't exactly Jones Day.
- Why would any law firm, which has to be aware of ethics and brand, risk putting such an ad in a public forum? Some might consider the behavior entrepreneurial. Others like myself might view it as unethical and consider reporting it to the CT bar. Abovethelaw.com's writer Staci Zaretsky answered the ad, which she explains here, which is how we all found out it was Kenneth Beck who posted it.
When I realized the potential of this material, I created a short post, with a link to the ad. Minimalism goes a long way to viral.
Immediately things began to happen. A major legal discovery engine linked to it. Then I have to assume word of mouth took over next. Soon enough came the links from the heavy hitters in media properties. Now, my own brandname is golden in legal circles.
What lessons should you learn from this? Here they are:
Be always on the lookout. Blunders like this are everywhere.
Develop a reputation for posting provocative content. Remember that the web is a mature platform. To be noticed you have to create what's unique.
Don't overstate. Just put it out there.
Enjoy the attention, thank those who helped make it happen. We really are a community and communities thrive on respect.
Return to prowling around for oddball material. Craigslist never disappoints.