How To Count Cards in Black Jack and Eliminate The Gamble In Your Viral Content Marketing

In honor of Affiliate Summit West ’14 in Las Vegas (#ASW14), and in the spirit of teaching you how to make money, even at the Black Jack table, Here is a post that will not only teach you how to count cards, but also how to apply that same technique to your content marketing.

(Disclaimer: I never went to MIT, I am not Matt Damon in Rounders, and I think marketing is much more lucrative than gambling.)


The secret of counting cards to win at Blackjack is not to manipulate the odds in your favor. If it were possible to do that, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing a blog post.

Rather, the secret to counting cards and winning in Black Jack is recognizing when the odds are naturally in your favor, so you can bet more. The odds in BlackJack are pretty even (the house has a slight edge), so all you need to do is adjust your bets properly and you take back the edge. The simple theory is that if there are more higher cards in the deck, the odds are in the your favor, and if there are more lower cards in the deck, the odds are in the houses favor. The reason this works is the dealer has to hit on 12-16, so a high card will lead to a bust, also high cards give the player a better shot at hitting a blackjack, pulling a twenty, or successfully doubling down or splitting cards.

Counting cards is simply a way to keep track of whether the deck has more high cards or more low cards left. Every card that comes out gets assigned a value of either 1, 0, or -1. If a 2,3,4,5, or 6 comes out, you add 1 to your tally. If a 10, Jack, King, Queen, or Ace come out, you subtract one from your tally. If a 7,8, or 9 come out you don’t add or subtract anything. What you do with this tally and information is up to you and there are several formulas for it, but it is usually a good idea to raise your bets when you have a high tally, and lower your bets when you have a low tally.

In essence, winning at black jack is about betting big when you have a good chance of winning, and holding back when you will likely lose. The odds are so close as it is in Black Jack that just fluctuating your bets could tilt them in your favor.

Now that we know how to count cards, lets see how that same technique can guide our viral marketing strategy.

I was sitting in a session on Sunday at Affiliate Summit West, where top six figure  bloggers spilled their secrets, and John Rampton of Search Engine Journal fame shared that one of his clients had a picture get repinned on pinterest 1,800,000 times and that post drives $400 a day consistently in revenue. Going viral is always fun, but it’s nice to know it is monetizable as well. (I should note that the social sharing and link juice alone should justify the investment in doing it right, but actually taking that content and it’s traffic to the bank is awesome.)

Now, let’s talk about going viral for a minute. While there has been much science and data analysis about all the factors that can push a blog post or piece of content viral, ranging from the time of day its posted, to the amount of letters in the headline, all that data is basically correlation data that has no scientific basis for taking credit for a piece going viral. If you are interested in better understanding the science and emotion that drives sharing online, this is an excellent write up. You can also always try John Chow’s strategy of writing about high tech urinals, which he claimed was one of his most trafficked blog posts ever. While these tactics can certainly influence best practices, pretty much everyone who ever went viral (besides Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber) will agree that going viral is a product of luck more than anything else… just like gambling.

Sure, you need chips to play the game. You need good enough content to go viral, but for every great piece of content that goes viral there are probably thousands that never get noticed. Just like in Black Jack, for every gambler that takes the house, there are thousands losing all their money.bunny

So, how can you count cards when it comes to content? How can you know when to double down on aggressively pushing your content out there?

You have to look for the signals. What I like to do is some simple and basic promotion of every piece of content like emailing it to my list of subscribers, tweeting it a few times, sharing it in relevant LinkedIn Groups, and sharing it on Google+ communities. (Hint: When self sharing on social sites, especially Google+, you will see much more success when you summarize your content in your Google+ post.) Sometimes I’ll run a small StumbleUpon paid discovery campaign or Sponsor the story on Facebook. This basic promotion gives me more than enough data about how well my content is being received, and how likely it is to go viral if I give it a serious push.

The key is to see how well your posts do relative to each other

I wrote a blog post recently about how long it takes for SEO to work. It generated 1212 shares from basic promotion. It garnered more than a handful of comments in a LinkedIn group discussion, which got shared via email to all group members. This is quite a bit more sharing than many of my other posts generate.

There are lots of indicators from readers about how “Share-able” a piece of content is, and you need to pay attention to these signals to know which content you should promote more heavily and perhaps advertise aggressively.

This is your counting cards. Let’s use your small audience and early distribution to identify which posts are more likely to be winners, and which ones you should let fall to the archives.

Now, once you identify which hand to double down on, you can start pushing it out aggressively to see if it can get more traction when you get it in front of a larger audience.

The dirty little secret viral marketers never spill is that they spend a pretty penny advertising and promoting their content after they create it.

In fact, many of them spend ten times more on promotion than on content development. Those that don’t buy paid traffic will likely invest time in blogger outreach and networking.

Once you know a piece of content has legs… You should push it out for all it’s worth!

Advertise it on Stumbleupon, share it in Facebook groups, Linkedin groups, and Google+ communities (especially Google+ Communities.) Tweet it out and pay to sponsor your tweets, pay Facebook for sponsored stories, find every possible content distribution channel you can leverage, every curated email lists; Work your outreach magic. Advertise it through Outbrain, Nrelate and other native ad networks for content. If you have big budgets, you can even use One Spot, which basically turns your content into optimized ads and plugs into over 20 ad exchanges to promote it like crazy.

But wait, There’s More…

During the six figure blogger session at AWS14 , Syed Balkhi, of WpBeginner and List25, who knows more than most marketers and bloggers about going viral, said that they grew their Youtube following to over 700,000 subscribers simply by re-purposing their viral content into video slideshows with a voice over reading it.

Going Viral is usually a visual game, and while text can go far, once you have a winner, you should turn it into a video, a pic slideshow, an interactive graphic, anything you can think of. You have a winner, now it’s time to double down! Remember, different content works better in different networks, and if you want your content to go as far as possible, make sure to re-purpose it into multiple pieces of content that work across multiple platforms and network. (Hint: If your video goes viral make sure you maximize its value. For example, you can easily add an opt in form to your video with tools like Viewbix.)

Last but not least I will leave you with a nugget of gold from six figure blogger Zac Johnson

“The best traffic I get is from recommendations from my readers.” – Zac Johnson

I cannot reiterate that point more…The content you create needs to build relationships with your readers. The best traffic you will ever get is traffic that comes from a readers recommendation. Social sharing and going viral are the pinnacle of success in your efforts. So, focus on connecting with your readers, and don’t let them down with poor quality content, and they will grow your brand for you. Bottom line, do right by your readers or customers, and they will refer everyone they know.

Remember, a good piece of content is forever. That means, if its evergreen, and always relevant you can use it for the next ten years to get exposure, find new people, and build out from that audience. You will find lots of opportunities to distribute and share your content, but if you aren’t counting cards, how do you know when to double down and when to fold?


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