How To Make Your Content Go Viral

Content marketers are always looking for the secret formula when it comes to creating content that has the potential to go viral. How often do we hear our clients say “I hear what you’re saying but will it go viral?”

We know there isn’t a quick and easy fix when it comes to creating engaging content that converts, but following some recent findings from Hubspot and Buzzsumo & Moz, we have a better insight into the secret formula which can help propel your content into the viral stratosphere.

Long Form Content Drives The Most Engagement

After analysing thousands of their own blog posts, Hubspot found their longer form content with word counts of 2250 – 2500 earnt the most organic traffic, links and social shares. This was also true of the extensive study conducted by Buzzsumo and Moz in which they analysed 1 million articles to identify the correlation between shares and links.

Their findings also revealed that long form content ‘consistently gets higher average shares and significantly higher average links’. This is fantastic news for content marketers who need to convince their clients of the benefits of thought leadership content, which is often, by its very nature long form content.

There is clearly some value in wordy white papers, e-books and reports if the word count increases its link earning potential.

Headlines Of 11 Or 14 Words Get The Most Social Shares

You don’t need to be a Pulitzer winning journalist to understand the significance of a strong snappy headline. Hubspot found a ‘positive correlation between headlines of 8 – 12 words gaining the most shares on Twitter’ whilst headlines that were 12 or 14 words acquired more Facebook likes on average.

So which particular words in this magical headline are more likely to convert, I hear you cry? Well it appears readers have a strong liking for numbers with Hubspot recording an almost 19% uplift in tweets with Buzzfeed inspired headlines like “17 ways to make your content irresistible.” Using ‘How to’ in titles almost always drives shares, but it’s the words ‘infographic’ and ‘template’ that drives the most social shares.

Bear this in mind when you are creating guide content with practical templates for readers; articles with the word ‘template’ in the title are shared 114% more on Twitter. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the fantastic headline analyser tool from Co-Schedule; simply pop your headline into the toolbar and you will be scored on your word count, keywords and sentiment then provided with practical tips on improving your headlines to increase your CTR.

The More External Links Your Content Has, The Greater The Organic Traffic

This goes to show the importance of effective outreach and link building to your content marketing strategy. Hubspot found that their posts with over 300 external links received the most organic traffic.They also noticed those posts with a significantly larger number of links also performed better on social media, receiving much more social shares than those posts with less links.

So although there is no definitive proof of social shares impact on Google rankings, Hubspot at least confirm they do have an indirect impact on link earning potential. What does this tell us then? As well as executing an ongoing link building strategy, you must invest some time executing a social media strategy that will support and amplify your link building content.

Listicles, Quizzes, Videos And Research Led Journalism Gets The Most Social Shares

This one comes as no surprise to marketers on that seemingly never ending journey to produce viral content for our sometimes (read often) demanding clients. With pressure to create content that will pass the ‘Buzzfeed’ test, marketers usually opt for linkbait listicles, quizzes or videos but the Buzzsumo study indicates that data led journalism drives an equal amount of social shares.

Overall they found that for list posts and videos, there was a higher correlation between sharing and linking. Coincidently, infographics, long the go to for frazzled marketers, appear to be losing some of their appeal as the study showed they received less shares and links in comparison to videos and listicles.

The majority of the infographics they studied had no external links and very little social shares. Perhaps this is telling of the public’s waning appetite when it comes to infographics, or maybe it’s more indicative of marketers’ overdependence on poorly created infographics. Opinionated and research backed content produced by columnists at leading publications like The New York Times or The Guardian tended to see significantly higher average shares and links; perhaps due to their focus on current and trending news.

From this at least we can conclude the importance of authoritative thought leadership content, particularly when steeped in trends pertinent to your industry and wider society as a whole.

Content That’s Personal Gets The Most Shares Whilst Content That’s Helpful Gets The Most Links

Contrary to what most marketers tell their clients (and themselves I suspect) most of the content published on the web fails to get links and shares. Buzzsumo and Moz looked at a sample of 100,000 posts which had a very small number of social shares and then looked at a bigger sample of 750,000 posts where more than half had no backlinks at all.

This could imply that a mountain of uninspired content is being churned out on a daily basis and suggests that good content struggles to cut through all the noise, perhaps due to a lack of amplification. So how can marketers ensure their content doesn’t disappear down the rabbithole? By producing engaging and useful content that users will willingly go out of their way to link to.

The study suggests that people share or link to content for different reasons. The content we choose to share is often a reflection of our passions, likes or dislikes and requires minimal effort. Hence you will see Change.Org petitions and animal videos being socially shared in their thousands if not millions. Linking to content however, is a much more considered effort and one that takes a certain amount of time to do.

Often users will link to content if they think it will be useful for their friends or peers and provides some added value to a post they may be writing. These behavioural differences emphasise the importance of effective content amplification and outreach as part of a watertight content marketing strategy in order for your hard earned content to reach its full link earning potential.

Although both the Hubspot and Buzzsumo/Moz studies provide no guarantees when it comes to producing viral content, hopefully their extensive findings will go someway to helping marketers fine tune their content marketing efforts to increase their links and social shares and ultimately keep clients happy.

Letitiah Obiri is an experienced and seasoned freelance content marketer and copywriter, who has worked with some of the UK’s biggest brands including Tesco, Hiscox, Hilarys Three Mobile, TK Maxx and Littlewoods. To see content marketing campaigns she’s implemented and managed, check out her portfolio and follow her @thedigitalchic for musings on content, digital, social, freelancing, start-ups and small business.

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