If you’re frustrated by the lack of engagement, links and shares your content is getting, you’re not alone. A quick look at any marketing or business blog will reveal dozens or even hundreds of articles offering tips for getting traction for your content. Yet despite all this well-intentioned advice, businesses continue to struggle to get their content noticed, shared and linked to. In other words, we — the collective “we” — don’t seem to have a clear idea of which strategies actually work to get visibility for our content — until now.
An analysis by Moz and BuzzSumo offers us important insights into which types of content get the most links and shares. Through analyzing over 1 million articles across 600,000 domains, they were able to pinpoint exactly which types of content get the most shares and links, as well as whether or not content format impacted an article’s traction.
This article will summarize the key findings of this report, and offer business owners and marketers actionable tips for implementing these strategies.
The #1 finding: Most online content gets ignored
Perhaps the key finding from the analysis was this: the vast majority of content published on the web receives little to no links or shares. While looking at averages may give us hope for our own content, it’s important to note that the distribution of links and social shares among all pieces of content (at least those studied in this analysis) is extremely uneven. In other words, there are a very small percentage of posts and videos getting the vast majority of links and shares.
Looking at the graph above, you can see how looking exclusively at averages would skew the results; the vast majority (75%) of articles lie to the far left, meaning they received zero social shares, while a select few posts went viral, capturing many links and shares.
To illustrate this finding, take a look at these stats. Among 100,000 randomly selected posts, researchers found that:
· 50% of posts had 2 or less Twitter shares or Facebook interactions
· 50% had 1 or less Google+ shares and zero shares on LinkedIn
· 75% of posts had zero external links and 1 (or less) domain links
In other words, the vast majority of content that businesses and marketers are churning out is getting very minimal levels of traction and engagement: “Shares and links are not normally distributed around an average. There are high performing outlier posts that get a lot of shares and links but most content is grouped at the low end, with close to zero shares and links. For example, over 75% of articles from our random sample of 100,000 posts had zero external links and just 1 or less referring domain link.”
What types of content get the most links and shares?
The most relevant and actionable findings from this report lie in the “sweet spot” content that had the largest proportion of links and shares. Looking at a subset of almost 50,000 articles from the New York Times and just over 46,000 from the Guardian, researchers wanted to know: which content types resulted in the most links and shares? Their findings: Research-backed content and opinion forming journalism: “Our conclusion is that if you want to create content that achieves a high level of both shares and links then you should concentrate on opinion forming, authoritative content on current topics or well researched and evidenced content”.
So, what exactly is meant by ‘research backed content and opinion forming journalism’? Let’s take a look.
Research-backed content: This is content that provides ‘proof’ by way of data, research, statistics or expert quotes. Research-based content tends to be long form (1,000 words+), although this isn’t always the case. Because of their reliance on recent research or stats, these types of posts will tend to address current or trending topics; for this reason, I would suspect that the majority of pieces that fall into this category are not ‘evergreen’ posts.
Opinion forming journalism: These include editorials or other opinion pieces. According to the report authors, this type of content may entice links and shares largely because they’re addressing current or trending topics: “One thought is that opinion content is typically focused on topical issues that are already engaging an audience. The content is also more likely to take a particular slant or provocative viewpoint. These factors may partly explain why the content performs so much better in terms of shares and referring domain links”.
Which content formats get the most links and shares?
Out of their sample of 757,317 posts, they wanted to know which format types generated the highest numbers of shares and links. The most popular types of content in terms of shares were:
· List posts
· How to posts
· Why posts
The clear front-runners were lists and videos. Infographics came in far behind, with an average of only 268 shares out of the almost 99,000 in the sample: “Whilst the top infographics did well (there were 343 infographics with more than 10,000 shares) the majority of infographics in our sample performed poorly. Over 50% of infographics (53,000 in our sample) had zero external links and 25% had less than 10 shares in total across all networks. This may reflect a recent trend to turn everything into an infographic leading to many poor pieces of content”.
Which performs better: Long or short-form content?
With the rapid increase in mobile device usage, many marketers have had a renewed focus on short-form content that can be more easily accessed and consumed on mobile devices. But what does the research say about the ideal content length for shares and links?
This analysis found that among the 489,128 text-based articles analyzed, over 85% (418,167) had less than 1,000 words. Only 12% of articles contained 1000–2000 words, while 1.7% had 2–3,000 words. Under 1% (0.8%) contained 3,000–10,000 words. In other words, short content is, by far, the most prevalent. But is it the most effective in terms of links and shares?
According to the research, short-form content (<1,000 words) gets the least number of shares and links. As content length increases, so do both average shares and referring domain links — links in particular.
So, what do these findings tell us in terms of next steps? How can the average business owner or marketer use this analysis to increase social shares and links? Following are 7 practical points you should focus on to expand the reach of your content.
1. Focus on list posts for gaining both shares and links. Love them or hate them, list posts outperform all other content types when it comes to both links and shares. Video posts also do well in terms of social shares, and ‘why’ posts also tend to generate a high number of referring links.
2. If you invest in infographic creation and promotion, make sure it’s top-notch. The heyday of infographics may be coming to an end due to an overflow of poor-quality infographics that have flooded publications since they became extremely popular. If you do want to create an infographic, ensure it contains unique, valuable insights, and that you have a solid plan in place for promoting it to your audience.
3. If you’re looking primarily for social shares, use videos, quizzes and entertaining images. If you’re looking to grow your presence on social media or to increase traffic to your site, videos, quizzes and unexpected images should be key parts of your strategy. While social shares may not directly help you in terms of search rankings, they will help you extend the reach of your content; and this can indirectly impact your rankings.
4. Publish more long-form content. Long-form content over 1,000 words is the clear winner in terms of links and shares. Make sure your content strategy incorporates short-form, scannable content for your mobile readers, but also longer, ‘meatier’, and more authoritative content comprised of 1,000 words or more.
5. Build up the authority of your site by regularly adding high-quality content. Content that’s hosted on domains that are seen as authoritative tend to get more links and shares. The more popular your site becomes, the more you will naturally accumulate links and shares. You can build your site’s popularity by publishing consistently great content and building up your social media channels with a strategic social media marketing campaign.
6. Express your opinions, even if they may be controversial. Opinion-based pieces tend to get the most traction, but also require that you take a clear position on a topic. This can sometimes mean sparking controversy or debate. Don’t shy away from these types of pieces, as they can not only increase traction, but can help your readers see the real ‘you’ behind your brand.
7. Incorporate highly-researched pieces into your content strategy. These types of posts tend to attract the most referring domain links, as people like to reference content that reveals new insights. However, keep in mind that creating only these types of posts is not generally sustainable. Be sure to create a variety of other types of content your audience will find entertaining, informative, or otherwise valuable.
While there’s no magic bullet for getting links and social shares for your content, this research highlights some strong, actionable trends. Keep in mind that while getting optimal traction for your content is important, tying engagement in with your business goals is even more important. If your content is getting thousands of links and shares, but isn’t driving conversions, what’s the point? Use the findings above to guide and inform your own content strategy, and then make sure you track whether or not your strategy is helping you meet your goals.
Did any of the findings above surprise you? If so, which ones? Share below!
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