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  • Writer's pictureMordy Oberstein

Why Looking to Go Viral is Bad Marketing Strategy

Amanda Milligan joins the podcast to share why trying to go viral with your marketing can actually hurt your business goals:

  • Why viral marketing doesn't work anymore

  • What caused the demise of viral marketing

  • What you should be doing instead of trying to go viral

Viral marketing used to be a cornerstone of the digital space. However, despite it being obvious that viral marketing is not what it was, clients will still ask to "go viral." Looking to go viral is a really unhealthy marketing strategy. It's more than ineffective, actively seeking to go viral can be detrimental to your brand presence overall.

In this episode Amanda goes through why looking to go viral is unhealthy and what your brand should be doing instead.

Amanda Milligan on the SEO Rant Podcast


Why The Marketing Landscape Has Shifted Away From Viral Marketing

Back in the day, a marketing agency's bread and butter used to be viral marketing. But as Amanda mentions in the podcast, that has slowly changed. Today agencies are referencing viral marketing less and less frequently. While it still is a part of what agencies may discuss on their sites as part of their offering, viral marketing is really not a part of what they fundamentally do anymore.

When you notice a hard shift that abandons an old trend it's very much worth taking note of. Leaving aside a once-popular tactic often represents a change in the fundamentals of an ecosystem. In this case, it means that online marketing has evolved.

How then has the digital space evolved such that viral marketing is less effective?

Why Is Viral Marketing Less Effective Nowadays?

While clients may request "viral marketing practices" be implemented, they are not as effective as they once were. Which is exactly why you see agencies discussing the topic with less frequency!

But why is viral marketing less effective than it once was?

It comes down to three things:

  1. The amount of content available

  2. The amount of content being consumed

  3. Advancements in search algorithms

For starters, there's just so much more volume of content out there today. Whereas in the past you had fewer content creators with less content being produced today you have a glut of content. Today's digital space is just far more competitive. The content is more specific and targeted and there is a wide variety available.

As a result, the average person today is consuming more digital content than ever before. (Which only makes sense as there's more content available, etc.) That means getting eyeballs in front of the same piece of content is that much harder. It's harder to go viral because it's harder to get everyone's attention on one specific piece of content.

Lastly, Google has gotten more sophisticated. The algorithm has made it so that users get very specific pieces of content placed before them on the SERP. In the past, it was easier to get something in front of users via search. Keywords were less competitive as there was less content and as Google was less sophisticated in how it parsed queries. Today, that is not the case. The organic environment on the SERP is not conducive to going viral.

For the record, the same applies to social media as the algorithms being implemented by the various platforms have become increasingly complex.

Why Trying to Go Viral Is the Wrong Strategy

In marketing, you're looking for consistent growth. If going viral is more difficult than in the past it means that it is no longer a constant. You might go viral once or twice and get that "bump" (which is great) but as a strategy, it can no longer be thought of as consistent.

If viral marketing can't be as consistent as it was it means that targeting the tactic is not a genuine growth strategy.

The idea is to have maintained long-term growth. So while going viral can increase brand awareness it doesn't have a long shelf life unless it can be replicated. Which it can't.

Rather, your focus should be on creating consistent moments that present your brand in a positive manner.

Going viral is great but it's not targeted. It's wonderful to get a lot of attention but it can be far more effective to get the right kind of attention. There needs to be a strategic component that revolves around consistently targeting an audience that is interested in what you have to offer.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, the only way to build a brand is to consistently offer value to a relevant audience.

Getting a million eyeballs on your content is great but it doesn't build a brand. Real growth requires a multi-layered approach that presents your brand as offering value to all of the various subsets of your target audience and at the various stages of their awareness.

A linear approach, which is what viral marketing is, doesn't work when the web and its users are more mature and complex than they once were.

For more of the SEO Rant Podcast check out our previous episode on why one size fits all SEO doesn't work.


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