In 2017, LinkedIn and Buzzsumo partnered up to do a comprehensive research, trying to find the DNA behind successful content by analyzing over 400.000 pieces of the most shared and backlinked content across the internet across ten different industries.
We asked Jaime Pham, Content Marketing Evangelist on LinkedIn to share some of the most important findings. And to extract what marketers should learn from this.
Because even though there might be some trends and best practices, it won’t necessarily make you successful to apply those to your content.
If you can write in a way that is natural to that industry, you are going to generally see better success.
Each industry has its own language
"Industry-specific content is important to keep in mind. Because if you think about each industry that you might be targeting, each industry has its own jargon, its own language, the way that they speak. And if you can write in a way that is natural to that industry, you are going to generally see better success.
The research showed that for marketing, titles like ‘how to’ and guides and tips, and listicles - 10 ways and 5 reasons - tended to perform better from a shares perspective whereas in healthcare and legal that wasn’t the case. Because the language that’s used in those industries are quite different.
So the key takeaway here is simply to write in the language of your audience and that can be industry specific for B2B."
Headline writing is really important. It can make a massive difference in the engagement that you get with a piece of content.
"Headline writing is really important. It can make a massive difference in the engagement that you get with a piece of content. When the Buzzsumo and LinkedIn research looked at headline formulas for the most shared content, there were some themes that emerged.
In B2B there were some keywords that tended to appear over and over again in the most shared pieces of content. Things like ‘leader’, and ‘success’ and ‘future’ and ‘trends’.
If you just started writing your headlines accordingly you might get some lightweight engagement on the frontend. But the problem is that there is just an awful lot of headlines that look like that now. So it’s not exactly going to be breakthrough content.
We still use these keywords sometimes in our marketing efforts because they still “work”. But they are not necessarily going to stand out or demonstrate the unique tone of voice that your company’s content has. So that’s where I caution against using formulaic headlines."
It’s all about telling a story in a way that’s memorable.
Find the inherent drama
One way to make a headline that does stand out is to take the advice of some of the great copywriters of the early advertising days. One being the Leo Burnett quote: ‘Find the inherent drama’.
Finding the inherent drama is simply what’s dramatic, compelling or different about your article or the story you’re telling. Sometimes it could be some breakthrough stats that you position in a way that is really interesting.
As an example, there was this post from GE a long time ago on social media that said that if you remove ‘the empty space’ from atoms, the world’s population could fit in the volume of sugarcube.
Now they could have just said that 99.9% of all cells are empty space and that wouldn’t have been very interesting or dramatic. But they painted a picture to say that if you actually remove the empty space from atoms, the world’s population would fit into a sugarcube. That’s finding the inherent drama. It’s all about telling a story in a way that’s memorable."
And A/B testing is one thing that the vast majority of marketers that I talk to are not doing.
A/B testing is crucial
"The most important thing a marketer can do with their content is to test different headlines or test different pieces of promotional copy or different images. Doing that can exponentially increase the amount of engagement that you are getting on a piece of content and therefore, the results that you can drive from it.
Of all the research that I look at, all the findings that I come through, and all the examples that I scour from the LinkedIn feed and across the Internet, nothing will make a bigger impact than changing a title or changing an image in terms of actually getting that topline engagement rate.
And A/B testing is one thing that the vast majority of marketers that I talk to are not doing. They are spending all this time on maybe strategy, certainly on creative, maybe on distribution. But they are not doing testing in terms of the tone of messaging that actually resonates with the audience.
So I feel like A/B testing the number one most missed opportunity for marketers when it comes to content distribution."
If you can aim at being helpful, inspiring and entertaining -- if you’re going to have a formula for content I feel that that would be it.
Don’t just copy and paste
"If you took the key trends and themes that emerged in the research and you apply them to your own content, that would be a nice foundation for starting to improve your success. But ultimately each company and each audience is different and how it speaks and what it produces and how the audience engages.
It doesn’t matter what research study I look at or how many examples of top performing content I actually come through, every single piece of content that resonates is helpful, and or it’s inspiring and/or it’s entertaining.
So as a storyteller if you can aim at being helpful, inspiring and entertaining -- if you’re going to have a formula for content I feel that that would be it."