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Published May 27th 2014

How To Create A Viral Quiz: A 4 Step Recipe

Did you know the #1 article on the New York Times for 2013 was not an article at all….but a quiz? What is even more remarkable is that this quiz launched on December 21st. In just 11 days, it got more traffic than any other article launched the entire year. That’s just bonkers.

We’re just getting started. How about this – did you know that 8 out of the 10 most shared articles in the last 8 months are actually quizzes? We’ve already mentioned one of them above. The others were scattered across sites like BuzzFeed and Zimbio. This “What state do you actually belong in?” quiz tops the list and is still humming along averaging somewhere between 20-50x social lift.

What’s going on here? Why are quizzes so popular? What is it about these quizzes that makes them so sharable? More importantly, can anyone get in on this action or is it just a game for large publishers that have the time, budget, and team to build their own proprietary tools?

Let’s answer those questions, shall we?

Here at Qzzr, we’ve helped launch thousands of quizzes over the last couple months.  We’ve also studied the most popular quizzes on the web to find the common threads of what made them work.

We’re going to boil this down to a simple recipe:

This is the recipe we’ve seen behind every successful quiz out there. Just like any recipe, if you take out an ingredient, it just doesn’t taste right and therefore doesn’t get eaten. On the other hand, when you get it right, watch out.

Let’s break it down.

1 lb. Content

It all starts with a great concept.  Great concepts don’t just fall out of the sky. If you obsess anywhere, it should be nailing the concept. A great way to find inspiration would be to search BuzzSumo for ideas of what topics are getting traction. Search for the most shared topics. Look for recent topics that are timely and newsworthy, but don’t forget about timeless classics that could serve as great evergreen content.

Here are three aspects we’ve found in every great concept:

1. They allow the people to take a little sip of the “me” drug.

Yes, behind every great product is a sin. With quizzes, we’re talking about narcissism. A great quiz is like a mirror – it’s hard to walk by one without taking a look. “Stop telling me interesting things about me,” said no one who has ever lived.

But is this narcissism always a bad thing? We say no. Well written quizzes serve a great purpose to help people learn more about themselves. It doesn’t always have to be about Disney characters. It could be about knowing if you would be a fit for a job at a cool tech company or learning if you’re a candidate for lasik surgery. A great quiz simply feeds the person taking it – helping them discover, learn, or just find out how dead sexy they really are.


2. They are super relevant to the channel in which they are launched.

“What spirit animal are you” might be a great concept for BuzzFeed, but I’ll tell you this concept is going to flop on your financial management blog. Why? It’s a different job to be done. On BuzzFeed, people are trying to entertain themselves and pass time with fluffy content. On your financial management blog, people are trying to get better at managing their finances.

Write your quiz to help them do that job and you’re more likely to get traction. This “What marketing superhero are you?” quiz is a great example of a fun twist on a very relevant concept for the channel.


3. They appeal to our fundamental need of belonging.

Seth Godin has written about this in his book Tribes, but one of the most powerful human needs is the need to belong. It is why we root for sports teams, form clicks, join forums, and argue for our favorite brands. All of the top quizzes help us represent how we belong.

Now that you have a great concept, craft a sticky title. If you have time, you should read this article from Buffer. It will help you title anything as long as you live. The key takeaways are that a great title seeks to pique the reader’s curiosity, plays on some emotional factor, makes a bold claim, and calls the reader to action. If you can bake those things into a title, you’re well on your way to a tasty treat.

Now let’s talk a little about the questions and content. With Qzzr, you can create a graded quiz which results in a score (ex. “Can you pass the U.S. Citizenship test?”) or an outcome quiz that results in a predefined outcome (ex. “What dysfunctional TV family do you belong to?). Although it would seem that the outcome quiz would be the most viral, we’ve seen well-written graded quizzes perform toe to toe with outcome quizzes because they play on our desire to compete. They give us a number to compare and measure against others.

Regardless of what type of quiz you choose, the questions need to support the great concept and title you’ve created.  They should feed the person taking your quiz by either challenging them, educating them, or entertaining them.  If every question can do one of these three things, you’ll carry them to the end. You can expect a well-written quiz to have a 90+% completion rate and hold your visitor’s attention for several minutes. In fact, this simple geography quiz posted on a local news site in Utah held reader’s attention for a combined 168,300 minutes. It turns out engagement is easy when you work with people and give them more of what they want.

2 Cups Context

Context is the environment in which you interact with the content. Luckily Qzzr takes care of this for you. We’ve worked hard to build a simple product that helps you look great. It’s engaging, snappy, highly sharable, and works on any device.

It’s up to you to plug in your great content and images. And yes, we highly recommend using some compelling images as our research shows that engagement increases with use of quality images. Qzzr supports any image type, including animated GIF’s. In fact, you can learn about Qzzr and check out the context by taking this little quiz right here:

3 tbsp. Channel

This one is up to you. You don’t need a big channel to create a successful result, you just have to work it. Hopefully you’ve obsessed over the concept and made it relevant to the channel. We recommend embedding the quiz on your site or blog, then sharing it on every outlet you have – your email list, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. We’ve made all of that as easy as clicking a button.

This quiz about BYU football is a great example of a well-crafted quiz in a great channel. This quiz got a decent amount of traffic, but what is even more exciting is the ongoing chatter and competition about the scores in the Cougarboard forum.

A Pinch of Luck

Like any great recipe, that extra little pinch could be left out, but sometimes when it’s included it makes the whole dish take off. We saw this recently with this “Which Connecticut town is your true home?” quiz launched by an individual on his personal Facebook page.

Fun facts:

  • The original post got 0 likes and only 6 comments.

  • In the first 24 hours only 93 people took this quiz.

  • Over the next few days this quiz took off and was taken over 60,000 times.

  • If we consider those seed views (which we think are actually much lower) this quiz got an unheard of 516 X social lift. And it’s still growing.

This is an example of great content and context with a weak channel. Add a pinch of luck (and the parochial nature of Connecticut) and you achieve magic.

This is the actual initial post. No promotion. Not posted anywhere else.

Let’s taste some other recipes where it all came together.

Let’s get back to KSL.com, the local news site in Utah. They launched a great quiz titled “Can you pass the US citizenship test?” which was the #1 article for the entire day it was launched. This is a quiz with broad appeal that challenges anyone at the “are you smarter than a fifth grader” level. I’m not going to share why my grade was, but let’s just say I’m embarrassed given that at one point in my life I taught American history.


Fit Marketing made the “What marketing superhero are you?” quiz as a guest post for the Kissmetrics Blog. While this quiz didn’t go insanely viral, over 60% of the people who completed it shared it. This ended up with a great result for both Kissmetrics and Fit Marketing.

Can anyone play?

We created Qzzr because we wanted to build a tool that enables the long tail of marketers and publishers to get the same results as the elite few large ones that can afford to build their own proprietary tools.

Most people don’t need a bajillion views on a quiz to have a successful result. A quiz is an excellent recruiter of new fans and followers. How many new visitors do you need to make a difference in your business? What increase of traffic would you consider a success? For most people, this would be measured in the hundreds or thousands.

What we’re most excited about is helping people convert all of that frothy engagement from their quiz into real business action by enabling marketers or publishers to capture qualified leads or present targeted offers. While it might be great for a small software company to get 100,000 responses on a quiz, it would be even better to get 5 qualified leads. This is where our entire team is focused and where we feel the medium is headed…but that’s a post for another day. In the mean time, go check out Qzzr and make your own version of this recipe.

Happy quizzing!

Josh Little, Chief Qwizard at Qzzr

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