Bill Gates famously said that all the way back in 1996. As true as it was back then, it is certainly true in the marketing world today. Content marketing is THE trend of the online marketing sphere right now.
Because of the widespread availability of the internet and the steady improvement of platforms like WordPress and Tumblr, nearly everyone is a content provider these days. For all of the benefits that provides us as a society, content shock is a very real symptom. Even with something like Save and Pocket, I'm never going to get around to reading everything that looks interesting I see shared on social media, even in my own industry. There's simply too much.
It's getting increasingly more difficult to stand out from the crowd as a result of content shock. Sometimes exceptional content can get buried beneath content that isn't as interesting. How could that be? One reason is because of lack of promotion and amplification.
I own a link building firm, so links are my primary concern. Having said that, I do believe in social media marketing. Social media is fantastic for pointing users to content, or at least it can be when used properly. When I say used properly, I mean that certain types of content are more likely to be shared than others. Not only does this content get shared more often, but more shares can potentially lead to more links. I've said it before here: social media and link building complement each other quite nicely.
The following types of content are typically the most shareable:
The internet is tailor made for the sharing of information and ideas. Consequently, online debates are pretty common.
Some online debates have a bad habit of devolving into a nonsensical exchange of degrading nicknames: these debates are ordinarily found in the comments section. This is not at all the kind of debate I'm talking about. I'm talking about a well-moderated debate, using a handful of experts/influencers.
Thoughtful debates can be great traffic generators, especially when the discourse is relevant to a hot issue. The television news audience has been dwindling for years, and newspapers continue to fold. A majority of people get their news and opinion online now. One of the reasons online news is thriving is because of the webs democratization, the capacity for anyone to report or offer an opinion. This is why CNN has wholly embraced Twitter, even though doing so has made them the target for late night comedians.
Should you choose to have a debate on your website, pick a topic that is currently on the forefront of your audiences collective mind. Then, pick a regular contributor on your site and a few others in your niche. At that point, have a debate, presidential style. Only instead of throwing it on the airwaves, transcribe it to the internet. Nixon might have greatly benefitted from this in 1960.
The best way to get links and shares is to make sure the questions are not your own, or at the very least not all your own. Ask for user-submitted questions at the top of your page. If you choose to use a certain users question, that user is more likely to share and/or link to your moderated debate. Your debate participants are almost certain to link to the page as well; they want their readers to see what they had to say.
Why it's shareable
They inspire participation, especially in the comments section
Debates are usually timely, and relevant to a hot topic
Showcases two or more different opinions, which appeals to a wider audience
If BuzzFeed has taught us anything, its that users enjoy taking quizzes, especially if the quiz informs them of their likeness to popular television characters. This is more like a pseudo-Meyers-Briggs test, and these can be immensely shareable. The more traditional "test your knowledge" quizzes have sharing potential as well.
Anything that allows users to participate on your site is more likely to spark shares and links: quizzes are all about user participation. A quiz is even better because users will want to show their social following that they are a brainiac (if they ace it) or that they have the capacity for self-deprecation (if they fail it). I constantly witness both types of shares in my feed.
If you want links from your quiz, make sure the quiz is relevant to your niche/industry. If you ever wants links as a consequence of ANY kind of content, make sure it is relevant. Google is a stickler about that.
Why it's shareable
Quizzes require user participation
A good quiz baits a users ego; tests that users brain power
Quizzes are enjoyable and fun
The New York Times reported in 2013 that good news spreads much faster on social media than bad news. As this report affirms, this is in direct opposition to the old media mantra of "If it bleeds, it leads". Social media is more "If it's sweet, it tweets".
I'm not saying you shouldn't stay informed about developments in troubling events around the globe, but as an SEO seeking shares and links, turn that frown upside down.
Users want to read inspiring content. Just ask the content team at Upworthy. No one wants to be the kid at the social media party that keeps piling on the horrific news; everyone wants to be the life of the party. Being the life of the party means reaching deep into your pocketful of sunshine.
Why it's shareable
With all of the negativity in the world, everyone is looking for a pick me up
In turn, everyone wants to share positive content so they can brighten up the days of their followers/friends
Everyone enjoys a happy and/or inspiring story
Infographics are hard to make. Correction: GOOD infographics are hard to make.
I'm a fan of infographics. Back in the day, there was a something of an infographic arms race, and that led to a slew of poorly designed and hardly educational infographics. Everyone just wanted the link equity. The game has been (mostly) cleaned up at this point.
The reason it's a little bit easier to get social shares with infographics is because very few really have the time/resources to put together a good one themselves. It's not guaranteed that your data analysts studied advanced graphic design in school, or that your graphic designers have been properly trained to analyze data by research professionals. Putting together a great infographic is a team sport. So rather than make an infographic themselves, niche influencers and webmasters may simply be more inclined to share your awesome work.
Why it's shareable
No one has the time to make their own infographic, so they will highlight yours instead
They are both informative and visual; that's a win-win for internet users
They're often a meaningful and easy share
This is in the same vein of infographics. It's easier to earn links with video content mainly because no one wants to put forth the effort to produce a video themselves. Even if they did have the creative vigor, they might not have the capital to transfer idea to camera. Instead, a webmaster will host a link on their site that will point to a video, should that video be linkworthy enough of course.
Like infographics, if you're going to produce a video, put in the maximum effort. There are so many videos out there: if yours is subpar, no one is going to notice. Or worse, you might be a laughing stock.
Why its shareable
Like infographics, no one has the time or energy to make a video of their own
Like infographics, they are both informative and visual
Videos are uniquely compelling compared to written content, and they're easier to consume
A lot of writers despise putting together list content, but they do it anyway. That's because lists work.
If you run a backlink report for their top albums of 2013 list, which featured Vampire Weekend at number one, you will find this:
Lists are easily digestible and informative, a perfect combination for the social media age. The aforementioned BuzzFeed not only is in the quiz game, but they're in the list game as well, and its done wonders for their visibility and branding.
Why its shareable
Lists are easily digestible. Users only have to read one piece of content instead of several
They typically inspire readers to offer their own opinions
Readers know exactly what they're getting
Earning the Links
Everything I've mentioned to this point is shareable, but how do you earn the links on top of the shares? By creating the best content you possibly can: content that is unique; content that fills an information gap in your niche; content that users in your niche want, but they didn't know they wanted it.
That's not so easy. Trust me, I know. Anyone who says link building is easy is deluded. Thankfully, there are a few tricks that can attenuate the burden.
Appeal to niche influencers/webmasters. Link to them in your listed content. Make sure to flatter them, when they deserve it.
Make a list of websites who would likely consider linking and inform the appropriate people upon publication. Be tactful and polite.
Create incentives and rewards for those who do link to you. Lets say a user gets 90% or better; have a linkable badge for them that they can place on their site.
Foster user-participation. For a debate, let users ask their own questions, and highlight the questions that are user-generated.
Share, share, and share some more. Don't just Tweet it the once and figure everything is well and good; share your content multiple times so that you increase the chances of drawing eyes and clicks.
Leverage any relationships you have. Email or Tweet at the people you know and politely ask them to share out/link to your content.
Make it user friendly. Design the page so that the social sharing buttons are visible and an embed function that will provide a link (if applicable).
Put in the work. It's easy to tell content that was the end result of tireless work from content that is not. Users and readers are far more inclined to help amplify content that is the result of such due diligence.
Honestly, any of these tips will work for any of the types of content I listed earlier; these are just examples.
No matter what form your content assumes, it is crucial to promote it. I don't care how outstanding or valuable your piece of content is: if you don't put forth any energy to attract users, the content will be worthless. You have to find ways to direct people to go your way. Under-promoted content will always underperform. Why be an underperformer when there are so many great promotional tactics out there?