I’m the gatekeeper (editor) for a business website that gets quite a few visitors, so the job of sorting through guest blog submissions falls to me.

Every so often a wannabe guest blogger writes on the topic of how to create viral content, and it’s not that they don’t occasionally include some good ideas, it’s just that no one can create viral content on demand. (However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Derek Halpern’s article delivers what’s probably the best understanding and advice on the topic.)

Despite the difficulty in creating “viral” content, in the ghostwriting I do for people, I’ve picked up a couple of strategies that will unfailingly create content that pulls in above-average readership. The basic principle is to borrow a little of someone else’s spotlight. There are two main approaches to take to accomplish this.

If you’ve ever worked with pumps, you know that most of them have to be primed before they will work. I think of currently trending topics as pump primers. If you create content that uses a trending topic as a springboard into your own topic, it will be greeted by an audience that is already “primed” to find it interesting.

This morning I checked my three favorite places to find trending topics:

The morning I started this article, all of these were agog over the Ryder Cup. This historic golf competition will be in the news quite a bit over the next few days. The big news this morning is about a heckler who came out of the gallery to sink a putt the European players were having trouble with. The duffer won $100 off Justin Rose.

Almost any blogger could find an angle to hang an article on that would leverage the general interest in the Ryder Cup or this amateur golfer’s big moment:

  • Would you be ready to sink a crucial Ryder Cup putt?
  • What the Ryder Cup teaches us about teamwork
  • Even in fashion, Americans lose the Ryder Cup competition!

Along with the Ryder Cup, there seems to be another major competition afoot featuring a couple of characters called Hillary and Trump. A clever writer could find all kinds of ways to take advantage of their star power right now. (Man, do I wish that I was creating content for Luden’s Cough Drops or Ricola!)

Use the universally renowned

In addition to trending topics, there are some topics and brands that readers always relate to. I’ve written a couple of articles with headlines like these:

  • 5 things we can learn from the success of Disneyland,
  • What Star Wars teaches us about workplace conflicts, or
  • What to do when you get a FedEx from your BedEx

These work because people already have some level of knowledge and interest in the names you’re dropping – the pump has been primed!

When you use tactics like these, you need to know that they come with a warning: You can’t lean too heavily on them. If you start to use these tricks (I admit it) too often, you’ll lose all of your credibility. And along appreciating that danger, make sure that the content that you deliver when you’re using one of these tactics is solid. If the best thing about your article is the headline, shame on you.