How Viral Content Supports Organic Growth (Case Study)


By Tracy Rosecrans, SVP of Marketing and Product, Healthline

Over the past two years, has grown from 2M monthly sessions to well over 62M monthly sessions in large part by focusing on developing high quality evergreen content and creating a subset of ‘social content’ intended to go viral. While the majority of traffic is search-referred, our efforts to grow traffic via social accelerate our success in search.

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This content addresses everything ranging from the humorous side of dealing with an illness to practical tips for living with a disease. Some examples include “29 Things Only A Pregnant Woman Would Understand” and “13 Life Hacks for Rheumatoid Arthritis.”  Because these articles target niche audience and evoke high arousal, users shared them with their friends and followers.

To promote these articles, we shared them with our condition-specific Facebook communities (we manage over 20) and, typically with on a small amount of paid promotion, ranging between $10-$50, we saw several of these articles “go viral.” One particular article, 29 Things Only Someone with ADHD Would Understand reached well over 1M people within a few days, and achieved 372,508 social engagements.

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More importantly, shortly after the article went viral, we started to see a sustained lift in organic traffic and within two months, that sustained lift translated into 3X growth in that condition area. The rest of the site saw a 1% lift, but interestingly enough, the majority of the sustained growth we saw was within ADHD content. Indicating that search engines, especially Google, are particularly good at identifying trustworthy sites by category.

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We replicated this model across several other condition areas and saw similar results, high number of social shares and engagements leads to sustained lift in organic (SEO) traffic.

It is worth noting that there is quite a bit of debate in the SEO community around whether social actually helps with ranking. This particular article pulled in links from only 13 unique domains, demonstrating that social mentions and links do likely have some impact on traffic and ranking.

About the Author: As Healthline’s SVP of Marketing & Product, Tracy Rosecrans transformed into the fastest growing health information site in the United States. In addition to increasing monthly sessions from 2M to 56M, she developed a suite of “socially-inspired ad products” that served as a key differentiator in the marketplace and allowed pharma brands to engage in social media and patient conversations in an unprecedented way. 



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