An idea that seems both logical and straight forward, the viral element and its impact on ranking is thought to be easily understandable- rank worthy content builds links, which in turn drives rank and authority, which then again bring in links and traffic. While this may come across as a simple idea, better performance and content leading to higher ranking and authority, one simply needs to look at content and overall keyword performance to realize this isn’t quite the case.
While there are always special cases where content or pages can become a unicorn (a constant source of traffic and high rank), most viral content has little to no benefit when considering domain-wide search engine rankings. While viral is always good, it does not mean your content will be well ranked or a good source of traffic over a longer period of time- viral content tends to have a high interaction rate, but a shorter relevant life span.
Now this is not to degrade viral content, the exposure is perfect and will always drive traffic to your site…however, is it relevant? While you may get a sharp increase in traffic to your site, and even rank organically for your chosen campaign keyword, research has shown that the rise in numbers usually come from keywords unrelated to your service, but rather only related to your viral campaign. What this means is that these visitors are only on your site for that specific content rather than to engage with your brand and service in a meaningful way. As the keywords are not relevant to your product, usually, this will not rank you higher as an authority regarding your service, but instead link you the campaign aimed keyword. So while this kind of content drive will bring you traffic and exposure, there is little guarantee that it will translate into profits or an increased customer base.
What has been found with this shift in keyword focus, interestingly enough, is that often the increase in traffic for the campaign can decrease the importance of your money making keywords, which in turn can impact your relevant visibility on Google- as your main attention is now drawn from another, fairly unrelated keyword. While it may draw traffic to that page, the rest of the website will be unaffected in most cases, not benefiting from this new traffic pull in an SEO sense.
So in the end, is viral content good? Yes, without a doubt. But is it relevant? Usually not. This type of content is purely for immediate and effective exposure to the general public rather than to chase down business leads. While it has it’s pros, it can in no way be the reason to sideline SEO efforts, as these are the efforts that will turn a profit.