When you sit down to write an article on content marketing do you dream about it being one of the most shared posts this month? Maybe a top ten post or at least in the top ten percent?
Our analysis of the most shared articles on content marketing, using data from BuzzSumo, shows that competition is increasing and your task is getting harder. The average shares per post is actually falling and to make the top 12 posts in September you would have needed at least 2,000 shares. We take a detailed look at the sharing of content marketing articles this year and what practical steps you can take to increase your chances of having a most-shared article.
Competition intensifies: "content marketing" articles rise by 50%
Using data from BuzzSumo we found and analyzed 28,911 articles on "content marketing" published between Jan 1st 2014 to Sept 29th 2014. The number of content marketing articles has been increasing steadily from 2,823 in January to 4,406 in September, a 50% increase.
This is consistent with the growing interest in content marketing which can be seen in many ways from attendance at content marketing conferences to the volume of Google searches for "content marketing" shown below.
Content marketing is increasingly a top priority for digital marketing professionals and hence it is not a surprise to see more content in this area. However, more content means more competition for readers and shares. Your competition appears to have increased by over 50% in the last year. Thus your next 'content marketing' post may compete with over 4,000 other posts published in the same month.
Average shares of "content marketing"articles declines
The BuzzSumo data shows there there has been a significant decline in the average shares per "content marketing" article published over the last 6 months.
We have to be careful about causation and correlation. This does not mean there is less interest in content marketing. It may simply be that shares are being spread over a larger volume of content. More content articles being published does not mean people increase the number of articles they share. They may selectively share only a limited number of posts which they consider high quality, hence, you need to work harder to be a post they share.
Competition means few articles go viral
Increased competition means it is tougher for any individual article to go viral. It is more likely that the average individual article will get relatively few shares. For example, 64% of all articles on content marketing in September received less than 20 shares across all networks.Number of "Content Marketing" Articles by Number of Shares, September 2014
1% of Content Marketing articles get 30% of all shares
In September there were a few articles that performed exceptionally well compared to the average, for example 12 articles received more than 2,000 shares. The top 49 articles received more than 1,000 shares each and accounted for 85,599 of all shares this month. Thus 1% of posts received 30% of all shares.
It will be a tough ask to get your article in the top 1%. However, the skewed profile of shares (with almost two thirds receiving less than 20 shares) means that only 86 shares would be required to put an article in the top 10% of the most shared articles on content marketing.
Thus currently if you want to be in the top ten most shared posts on content marketing you probably need 2,000 shares and to be in the top ten percent you need 86 shares.
What can we learn from this analysis?
Why did 12 articles receive more than 30 times the number of shares of the average content marketing post? Why did those articles get shared so much? Our analysis shows four key factors.
1. Published on the right platform
If we look at the 12 most shared content marketing articles in September we can see they were all published on big sites with large followings, for example:
- Social Media Examiner
- Financial Times
- Harvard Business Review
- Search Engine Watch
- Fast Company
- Marketing Profs
Three of the top 12 articles were published on Social Media Examiner and two were published on Moz (number 13 was also published on Moz). This suggests no matter how good your post you will need it published on the right platform to maximise your chances of success.
2. Amplified by influencers
The most shared articles were all amplified by influencer sharing. If we look at the article on blogging tools by Cindy King on Social Media Examiner which is number two on the list, we can see that it has been amplified by being shared by influencers with both reach and engagement. For example, the article was shared by influencers that get high average retweets including:
- Kamal Bennani 8.4 average retweets
- Juan Pittau 7.7 average retweets
- Kim Garst 5.1 average retweets
- Michael Stelzner 3.8 average retweets
Shares by just those 4 influencers can lead to 25 retweets on average and lots more for a good article. The article was also shared by people with a lot of followers who may read and share separately, rather than retweet directly. For example:
- Jean-Luc Raymond 540,000 followers
- Aaron Lee 469,000 followers
- Sarah-Jayne Gratton 320,000 followers
Influencer outreach is a critical task if you want your posts to be amongst the most shared.
3. Shared on the right networks
If we look at the shares by network we can see the top 12 posts were shared on Twitter 19,472 times, on Facebook 11,000 times, on LinkedIn 5,851 times and on Google Plus just 2,474 times.
It would appear that Twitter and Facebook are the strongest networks for 'content marketing' articles in terms of promotion and sharing.
4. Quality content that promised and delivered value
When we look at the most shared 12 posts on content marketing in September, the majority of posts clearly promise the reader they will learn something of value which they can apply. Here are some of the article titles:
- Why the Written Word Is Your Marketing Advantage
- Daily Habits in Successful Content Marketing
- How to Overcome the 'No Time to Create Content' Challenge
The main exception is a Financial Times article which doesn't promise value in the title "The Invasion of Corporate News" but in reality it is a very helpful long form post with detailed analysis, insights, and a review of market trends. Thus you need a great headline that promises value but more importantly you also need content that delivers value to the reader. You might also look to write about related but more specific topics. Google Trends identifies the top related searches to content marketing as follows:
The bad news is that competition for readers and social shares is increasing significantly. If you are publishing on a low traffic site and you have few influencers sharing your content then you have little to no chance of being amongst the top posts. It takes time to build a high traffic site and in the interim, guest blogging for a bigger site is the most likely way to get your content in the top monthly posts.
The good news is that you only need 86 shares to be in the top 10% of posts. This is very achievable for most people even if you don't secure a guest blogging slot. There is a lot to focus on but some headlines would be:
Start with a practical post that is unique and original, be clear that the reader can learn through the post and emerge with something they can apply. A fundamental prerequisite to a well shared post is high quality content that delivers value to the reader. You can also identify specific but related rising topics where there may be less competition.
It is essential to target influencers in your area and actively engage them. You can do an influencer search in BuzzSumo or find a well shared article and view the influencers that shared the post by clicking the 'view sharers' button.
Research their views, their posts and also view the articles they share. See if you can interview them and include their views in your article. Basically get their attention and seek to engage with them.
You need to distribute and promote your content well, especially on Twitter if you have limited resources to promote your content. Try different Twitter headlines and include images. Get your friends and colleagues to also share the post on Twitter. Also submit your post to relevant sites and share via sites such as Reddit and Scoop.it.