How to Create Quality Blog Posts Consistently. Nine Powerful Insights from Heidi Cohen at SMMW17

Are you producing quality content every week?

Heidi Cohen started a blog in 2010 and set herself a goal of becoming one of Social Media Examiner’s top ten blogs. She produced quality posts consistently every week, often three times a week.

By 2012 her blog was number 7 in the SME list of top ten blogs. This year Heidi was a judge reviewing the top ten marketing blogs.

I was privileged to listen to Heidi share her secrets at Social Media Marketing World this week. Think you can’t produce quality posts every week? Yes, you can.

Here are the nine insights that I took away from Heidi’s session.

1. Be Consistent and Relentless

You have to be consistent as a blogger and you must not give up too early. Content marketing and blogging is a long term game. Heidi shared a chart from Moz showing why bloggers should have grit and be relentless.

why-bloggers-give-up

Mark Schaefer says it takes 30 months to get known in your field. So you must not expect immediate results.

As Jeff Bullas says you also need to relentlessly market and promote your content. You need to get your content in front of your audience.

2. Be Clear on Your Blog Mission

What is your why?

What is the higher level goal for your blog? Be clear on your niche and where you can stand out.

Heidi shared a useful format you can use to define your mission:

We create, publish & share ____ content for ____ audience ____ to yield ____ benefits. As a result we achieve ____ goal.

For BuzzSumo our mission might be:

We create, publish & share original, insightful and practical content for content marketers to help them improve their content results. As a result we build an audience that respects our research and our insights.

For Heidi’s Actionable Marketing Guide the mission is:

We create publish and share key marketing concepts, making the complex simple for marketers and business executives, to educate them and improve their marketing. As a result we build our AMG community.

3. Be Clear on your Audience

Who is your reader? Create a persona to help understand your audience.

It is not always advisable to aim at a very large audience. Heidi says she would rather have stongly engaged readers than a larger audience.

Heidi set out six key questions to ask about your audience:

  1. Who is the one person you are writing for?
  2. Who are they?
  3. Why are they seeking the information?
  4. What specific information do they need?
  5. When do they need it?
  6. Where do they look for similar information?

4. Focus on Your Areas of Expertise

What are your major areas of expertise? What are you passionate about?

This point really hit home for me. You have to be an expert if you are to write insightful and helpful content. Thus you should aim to create content where your expertise overlaps with your audience’s areas of interest.

By focusing on your main areas of expertise you can create the core foundational content for your blog. More on this later.

5. The Opening: The Most Important Part of your Post

A blog post is a three part play according to Heidi.

The first and most important part is the hook: your headline and post introduction.

It has been said that you should spend 50% of your time on headline. That seems a lot, but given only 1 in 5 people read your headline and even less are motivated to read further, you are likely to lose most of your readers at the headline.

Thus, you want a headline to create a sense of urgency, to intrigue the reader, to communicate benefits and to promise value. You can use BuzzSumo to see what headlines have been working in your industry and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser.

Some publishers insist that an author writes 25 titles for each post. Once you have 25 titles you can quickly focus on on the best ones.

Heidi gave this great headline example from Upworthy:

This Amazing Kid Got To Enjoy 19 Awesome Years On This Planet. What He Left Behind Is Wondtacular.

They created a new word ‘Wondtacular’, a combination of wonderful and spectacular. This word made people stop and pay attention to the headline. This post received 17m views.

Once you have the headline sorted, focus on the introduction. This is where you really hook your reader. Heidi shared a great example from Smart Blogger:

20 Ways to Be Just Another Mediocre Blogger Nobody Gives a Crap About

The introduction immediately hooks in the reader with short sentences.

“A troubling thought isn’t it.

You’re slaving away at your blog, but you can’t help wondering if you have a shot in hell of getting anyone to read it.

What makes you any different from the millions of other bloggers hoping for attention?”

Heidi shared another great example from Aaron Orendorff:

50 Best Social Media Tools From 50 Most Influential Marketers Online

“Let’s be honest, social media is a jungle.

What if you could ask today’s most influential online marketers one question: “What social media tool is your all-time, desert-island, can’t-live-without favorite?”

That’s exactly what I did.”

The introduction needs to make the transition and connect the title to the post. It should also contain the thesis, which explains why you should keep reading.

If you were writing a blog post on Social Media Marketing World 2017 what headline and hook would you use?

For Heidi it might be:

3 Mind-blowing takeaways from SMMW17

Wonder what you missed at SMMW17?

Now that is going to get your attention and make you keep reading.

6. Post Body: The Meat of your Content

Heidi recommends having five to ten sections. In this post I have nine.

Each section should have its own sub-heading, and each of these sections should stand on their own with ideally a heading, a data point, analysis, tips, and eye candy such as an image or chart. Ok, I failed on the eye candy.

The headings should also tell the story and make the key points on their own. In the case of this post they are:

1. Be Consistent
2. Be Clear on Your Blog Mission
3. Be Clear on your Audience
4. Focus on Your Areas of Expertise
5. The Opening: The Most Important Part of your Post
6. The Post Body: The Meat of your Content
7. Conclusion: Reel Your Reader In
8. Balance Your Blog Posts with these Five Content Types
9. Be Relentless

Tread carefully with self promotion in your content. You need to build trust and authority. Don’t pitch your product.

7. Conclusion: Reel Your Reader In

Make your conclusion memorable and actionable. Here are five things you want to do in your conclusion.

1. Give concrete advice
2. Make it real
3. Remove obstacles
4. Provide next steps: do not assume they know what to do
5. Inspire them to act

8. Balance Your Blog Posts with these Five Content Types

Heidi outlined five different blog content types that provide balance to your blog.

Foundational

This is your killer content. Establish thought leadership and help search rankings. These posts should be 2,000 words plus. Foundational content types include useful resources, original research, and unique theories. Repeatable annual research and controversial theories like Mark Schaefer’s post on content shock are foundational content.

Customer FAQ

Be the best answer. These posts are 700 plus words and include reviews, product comparisons, how-to posts, customer stories, and answers to customer questions (use Answerthepublic or Bloomberry to find customer questions, or just ask your support and sales teams).

Cyclical

These are regular servings of 800–1200 words. They include reporting the news, regular features, a series, a podcast, and special events such as conference reviews.

Crowd Pleasers

These are about attention and visibility. Get influencers involved, create a guide, use research to surprise readers. I love that Heidi calls these popper uppers. They are your way to get shares and attention.

Long Playing

Keep existing content top-of-mind and make the most of your existing content. Repurpose your content, update content, extend existing content, repromote your content and curate content.

9. Be Relentless

The best content marketers are relentless. As Heidi says blogging is about grit, bloggers are not born they are self-made. You give yourself permission to be a winner.

Can you produce quality content consistently?

Yes you can.

The post How to Create Quality Blog Posts Consistently. Nine Powerful Insights from Heidi Cohen at SMMW17 appeared first on BuzzSumo.

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7 Effective Techniques for Better Email Marketing

Have your email marketing efforts fallen flat?

Do your email messages feel more like messages in a bottle?

Is it possible your subscribers are only sticking around because they don’t want to hurt your feelings?

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t be too hard on yourself.

As you’re about to see, some of the most important techniques for succeeding at email marketing are actually very counterintuitive.

Once you get done reading this post, though, you’ll be ready to put these methods to use right away and turn your email marketing around.

7 Killer Techniques for Your Best Email Marketing

Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Your Ending Line: Start Strong by Finishing Strong (Better Responses, Proven)

We’re going to start this article with the ending of your email.

You’ve probably heard a million times that you need to begin your emails strong. If your subject line is lacking, interest will be lacking and your email won’t get open.

While subject lines are definitely important (more on that in a moment), it turns out that the way you finish an email plays a significant role in its success, as well.

email-closing

As you can see from this research provided by Boomerang, this is no small amount, either.

The bottom three options combined weren’t as successful as the top two by themselves.

So if you’re using anything other than “thanks in advance”, you’ll want to change that ASAP.

2. Mondays Are Rough for Everyone, Including Emails

meme

This probably isn’t breaking news to you, but it turns out that Mondays can make people a bit grumpy. They can also make people less receptive to your email.

Therefore, while you may be hoping to catch your readers bright and early before their weeks become overwhelming, you’re actually setting yourself up for failure.

The case against Mondays is expansive.

For one thing, you’re most likely to make errors in your subject lines on Monday.

Not surprisingly, the more errors in your subject line, the less likely your email is to get a response.

According to Boomerang, which looked at 250,000 emails, those with no spelling errors in the topic subject line received a 34% reply rate.

Those that did have errors were responded to 29% of the time.

On average, each error cost the response rate by 14%.

If there’s no way to avoid sending that Monday morning email, at least consider an extra cup of coffee or a second pair of eyes on it before you hit “send.”

3. It Never Fails: Keep Your Emails Short & Simple (But Just How Short?)

Two common mistakes that will hurt your email marketing efforts are to write too much and to opt for longer words when you’re doing it.

The temptation to do these two things is understandable. You want to make sure you give your reader plenty of information or otherwise plead your case.

You also want to come across as a professional, which might seem like a good reason to use longer, more “sophisticated” words.

Here, again, Boomerang’s research is helpful…and surprising.

email-length-responses

Keep your emails between 50 and 125 words. Boomerang reported a response rate of at least 50% when writers kept to this length.

As you can see, emails as long as 200 words won’t hurt you too badly.

After that, though, response rates begin tumbling.

Another thing to think about in terms of length is formatting. Remember, a lot of people are going to get your email on their phones. If the words are all crammed together, it’s going to be pretty easy for them to take a pass.

Now, here’s where things get really interesting.

When you think of “authority figure” you probably don’t think of a third-grader, right? Sure, they talk a pretty good game when it comes to their bedtimes, but generally speaking, they’re not the most reliable sources of information.

Well, be that as it may, Boomerang’s research found that writing as a third-grader is best for response rates.

This was by no small amount, either.

email-reading-grade-level

If you’ve been doing your best to show readers how smart you are by writing like a valedictorian, you may want to rethink that.

Next time, give your inner-child the keyboard and you could see a 5–10% boost in your response rate!

In case you happened to be an especially advanced third-grader, keep to words with minimal syllables and go with short sentences.

4. Creating the All-Important Subject Line: Best & Worst Words

No article on email marketing would be complete without addressing that most important barrier between you and success: the subject line.

33% of your recipients will decide whether or not to open your email based on the subject line alone.

The first thing you need to know is that three or four words are ideal for email subject lines. Response rates drop by about 2% when you go to the two-to-five range.

After that, though, you’re playing with fire.

This makes sense, of course. 40% of emails are opened on mobile devices. There’s no reason to think this trend is going to reverse, so start shortening those subject lines.

Furthermore, you need to be very careful about the words you decide to use in your subject line.

Years ago, Boomerang did another study. This time they looked at 5,000,000 emails. Here’s what it found were the best and worst words to use in subject lines:

Best Subject Line Words

  • Apply
  • Cancellation
  • Conference
  • Connect
  • Demo
  • Opportunity
  • Payments

Worst Subject Line Words

  • Assistance
  • Confirm
  • Invite
  • Join
  • Press
  • Social
  • Speaker

Do you see any you’ve been including?

Going forward, avoid those last seven words and look for opportunities to use the other seven instead.

Oh, and if you’re sending out a regular newsletter, find another word. According to research from Adestra, that word will drop your open rate by 11.4% compared to the average.

Here are some other industry-specific words you should stay away from and how badly they affected a message’s chances of getting opened compared to the average:

  • Coupon -55.6%
  • Available -58.4%
  • Coupon -64.0%
  • Enclosed -68.9%
  • Application -70.4%
  • Advance -70.7%
  • Free Trial -77.9%

If you want more help crafting great subject lines, check out these 23 examples from HubSpot.

You should have no problem adopting many of them as they are or just modifying them slightly.

5. Your Email Got Opened! …Now What? A Few Strategies

Getting your email opened is half the battle.

Unfortunately, half the battle isn’t enough to make sales or get responses.

By now, you know to keep your email short and sweet. You even know how to finish strong.

Now all you need to do is get the actual content right.

One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is by speaking to one person at a time.

In other words, I don’t constantly mention my many subscribers or write like I’m talking to a large group.

Instead, I take on a personal tone and talk to one person.

If you’re finding it hard to do this because you have such a large list of diverse subscribers, it might be time to segment.

Otherwise, you could have a million subscribers who all feel like they’re just eavesdropping on a message that was clearly meant for somebody else. Obviously, that’s not what you want.

At the same time, don’t confuse personalizing an email with “talking to a friend.” This advice is often given and then people end up wasting the first two or three lines of an email with the equivalent of small talk.

Remember: short and sweet.

This means getting to the point. Your recipient should immediately see why it’s worth reading the rest of the message. The average 9-to-5 worker spends 28% of their week managing email. Do not give them another reason to delete yours and move on.

7. Simple But Tricky: Only Send Emails That Matter

I know that the furthest thing from your mind would be to commit the gravest of email sins: SPAM (a true four-letter word).

That being said, recipients won’t always consider your intentions when deciding what to do with your message.

If they begin feeling like a number, they probably won’t open your email and will eventually unsubscribe if they are a subscriber.

It gets even worse, though.

According to data from Convince and Convert:

  • 21% of email recipients will report a message as SPAM even if they know it’s not
  • 43% of recipients decide if a message is SPAM based solely on the “from” name or address they see
  • 69% will decide based solely on the subject line

Right away, this should tell you that you need to work extra hard to get recipients to trust you. More than half of them are so sick and tired of SPAM that they’ll report you just for having a questionable subject line.

That’s bad enough all by itself. You could easily waste lots of time and money on emails that your recipients look at and immediately think, “Not a chance.”

Unfortunately, SPAM reports can put your IP address on major blacklists. These lists are then used by email services to keep their account holders safe.

If you end up on even 1 of the 12 major blacklists, your IP address will lose approximately 25 deliverability points compared to those with untarnished records. That major hit is going to hurt your ability to send out large amounts of emails at once.

Aside from making sure you write high-quality emails that follow the above guidelines, you can also prime your IP address prior to sending large batches.

Send smaller batches to people you are relatively confident will open them. This will show ISP filters that your IP address isn’t engaged in producing SPAM emails.

Seven Techniques to Make Email Marketing Simpler

When done right, email marketing can be one of your company’s greatest assets.

You’ll have a list of people you can tap at a moment’s notice for information, polling, and best of all, real sales and ROI.

Now that you’ve read my seven techniques for better email marketing, make the most of this list. Continue to research email marketing and stay ahead of trends to sharpen your skills and adapt to the future.

The post 7 Effective Techniques for Better Email Marketing appeared first on BuzzSumo.

Key Trends in LinkedIn Publishing

As you know, at BuzzSumo we love to dig into content marketing data to discover what types of articles perform best. Most recently, we wanted to find out more about long-form LinkedIn Publishing. So we researched more than 228,000 posts published at LinkedIn.com, and an additional 136,000 articles published on other sites.

We shared the research with Content Marketing Institute. Read the full report here.

Here’s the cheat sheet version:

  • The number of long-form posts published on LinkedIn.com has grown substantially since all users were given publishing access in 2014. 80,000 articles were published in 2015; 130,000 in 2016; and if early indicators hold, 2017 will see 377,000 articles.
  • Shares of content published on LinkedIn.com nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016 — going from from 31 million to almost 73 million.
  • In 2016, LinkedIn surpassed Facebook and Twitter for social shares of B2B content in many areas, even when that content isn’t published at LinkedIn.com. This made LinkedIn the primary social discovery vehicle for topics like Leadership, AI, and SEO Marketing.
  • Most people publish short articles of less than 1000 words on LinkedIn.com
  • But, the most shared content is 1000–3000 words long. This creates a significant opportunity to give the LinkedIn audience the type of posts they prefer.
  • How-to posts were the most shared on LinkedIn.
  • Short list posts are also heavily shared.
  • Content published at LinkedIn.com gets few backlinks.
  • You don’t have to be officially designated as an influencer to succeed on LinkedIn.
  • The Five P’s of Publishing on LinkedIn summarize the characteristics of the most successful content. Try creating content that is:
  • Practical
  • Professional
  • Personal
  • Portray a path for change
  • Point toward peak experiences

You can see a recap of our findings in this slideshare:

The post Key Trends in LinkedIn Publishing appeared first on BuzzSumo.

15 Examples of Evergreen Content That Will Win Links Traction & Results for Your Brand Online

Have you spent lots of time and money creating content but have nothing to show for it?

If so, the problem may be that you’re not creating evergreen content.

What exactly is evergreen content?

This is content with a lengthy shelf life that will always be relevant to your readers, your brand, and your area of expertise. Great evergreen content is shared constantly and also does well in search engines.

Below, I’m going to give you 15 examples of evergreen content that you can begin creating right away to grow your links, traction and results.

15 Types of Evergreen Content That Work

Now that you have a fundamental understanding of what evergreen content is, here are 15 types of evergreen content that will work wonders for your site and online presence.

Ready? Grab a coffee (latte, tea — your choice!) and let’s delve in!

1. Cornerstone Content: First, Answer Common Questions

Everyone knows what an FAQ is.

Cornerstone content is like a long-form version of this. It’s a sort-of “Start Here” form of content that will help every first-time visitor become familiar with the subject or market your site covers.

There are a couple of easy ways to come up with cornerstone content.

The first would be to think about the types of questions that you hear a lot from potential customers.

What kinds of questions fill your inbox?

What do people ask you before they commit to your product or service?

Cornerstone content isn’t just great for evergreen reasons; it can also be an effective tactic for welcoming site visitors into your sales funnel.

Another easy approach would be checking your industry’s popular forums. You’ll get a sense for the questions people ask again and again. Or use BloomBerry.com to search millions of questions across forums, reddit, Quora, and more.

A great example of this comes from Kim Komando, whose post, “Buying a New Computer” has garnered 73 backlinks and shows up at the top spot for the Google search, “What kind of computer do I need?”

evergeen-content-example

This is the type of question people in her market ask over and over. She capitalized on it and now has a fantastic piece of evergreen content that continues bringing in new guests.

2. Statistical Long-Form Posts: Evidence-Rich & Accessible

If you’re going to make claims in your content, you’d better back them up with evidence.

Statistics are great for this because they’re precise and easy to understand.

For example, the post, “1% of Content Marketing Articles Receive 30% of all Shares” makes the dynamic between these two things immediately clear.

evergreen-content-example

Steve Rayson could have used words like “most” or “the majority of”, but those aren’t evidence. They also don’t jump out at the eye the same way, something that is vital for earning social shares.

You can compile numerous statistics, too. Check out how Tyton Media leveraged this approach in their post, “51 Insane Web Design Statistics 2017”:

evergreen-content-example

More than 6,500 shares and a post that is full of great evidence-backed information.

3. Show Your Reader What Is Possible with Case Studies

88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations given to them from people they know. That’s a huge number.

You can take advantage of this with evergreen content by doing a case study, which is really just a long-form review. Someone is telling you their experience with a product/service.

You can also highlight the success a certain company has had doing something different as a case study.

For an example, let’s once again look at another BuzzSumo piece from Steve Rayson. His post, “The Future Is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots and High Volume Publishing” is a great example of how case studies can be so effective.

evergreen-content-example

Steve took on a very popular topic in the world of online marketing: how often should you post?

Now, he could have drawn on his years of experience to make his argument.

He could have even used statistics.

Instead, he used a bit of both but also focused on a really interesting example to make his point: how The Washington Post was succeeding by publishing 1,200+ posts a day.

The number of shares he received speaks for itself.

I love case studies because they tell your audience, “Here is how someone achieved the exact results you want.”

As with statistics, you leave no room for argument. Your reader sees that the evidence is in and that it supports a certain approach.

You don’t necessarily need big wins to create a case study, either.

People are often just as interested in reading about how things could go wrong.

This is what Mark Walker did for Eventbrite in “12 Stories of Events Gone Wrong and Lessons Learned”:

evergreen-content-example

The post was so popular that Bel Booker did a follow-up, 10 More Stories of Events Gone Wrong, which went on to earn 250 shares.

4. Infographics Are Visual Powerhouses

Infographics let you compile a large amount of helpful information in a manner that is visually appealing and easy for the reader to quickly get through.

For a better understanding of why infographics are so effective, let’s turn to this awesome infographic from HubSpot:

Of course, beautiful graphics aren’t enough. They’re a requirement, but you also need to include:

  • In-depth research and accurate findings
  • Compelling examples
  • Tight copy — don’t ruin a great infographic by turning it into a novel

In 12 Infographic Tips to Rock Your Content Marketing Strategy, Sharon Hurley Hall gives some great examples of this evergreen content.

Here’s one of my favorites from Quicksprout:

Visually appealing? Check.

Helpful information? Check.

Organized and easy to read? Double-check.

5. Give Step-by-Step Instructions with How-to Guides

When you’re trying to learn a new skill, what do you type into Google?

It depends on the topic, but I’d bet the phrase begins with, “How to…”

This is why how-to guides are such popular forms of evergreen content. Sure, they’re great for SEO, but they also get to the meat of the matter: people want to learn how to do something.

Give this to your market and you’ll always have traffic.

In “How to Lose Weight Without Really Trying, The Whoot put together a massive how-to guide that delivers on its promise from several angles.

evergreen-content-example

Since it was published, the post received a whopping 218.2k shares.

Another hugely successful how-to article on the same topic was done by Avocadu:

evergreen-content-example

More than 100.4k people shared this piece.

Notice, too, that both of these posts focused on specific needs.

Some people don’t have the time or energy to really attack weight-loss right off the bat. That’s whom the first example is designed to help.

People who are more than 200 pounds overweight need to be careful about how they try to lose those extra pounds. For them, that second piece is going to be perfect.

It’s easy to get too general with how-to guides. Just remember that when you try to appeal to everyone, you usually end up appealing to no one.

Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking these guides are only for beginners. You can make how-to guides for every level of reader, which will definitely help with specificity.

6. Publish a Book and Become an Overnight Expert

This one is near and dear to my heart.

When I started in content marketing, I was a college dropout with no degree. I knew I needed something to both draw attention and legitimatize myself to the market.

Although it was an intense undertaking, my book took me from “who?” to “her.”

Once I became a bestselling author on Amazon, people not only sought me out, they were far more willing to listen to me and accept my authority on the topic.

Find an important topic you can cover in a book and Amazon could become your new #1 source of referrals for years to come.

7. Podcasts Can Be Evergreen in Two Different Mediums

Podcasts are exploding in popularity.

What most people don’t realize, though, is that they can give you evergreen content in two areas.

There’s the audio side of a podcast, of course.

However, you can also make show notes and transcripts for your episodes, which then have the potential to get your show ranked, too.

The longer the episode, the longer the transcript and more opportunities you have to include helpful links and longtail keywords.

As with publishing a book, your podcast can turn you into an authority, too. Popularity usually breeds legitimacy.

With The Smart Passive Income Podcast, Pat Flynn took a passion for online entrepreneurship and turned it into a seven-figure business that has evolved into speaking engagements, books and even a number of products.

8. Attract Attention — and Give It — with Influencer Lists

We’d all love to be part of an industry influencer list.

However, you can also gain a lot of attention by creating one of your own.

People are always looking for help knowing whom to listen to. Just about every industry out there is full of “experts” competing for attention.

Of course, it also helps that these lists can be great for gaining links and shares.

After all, if someone was kind enough to call you an “expert” or “influencer”, wouldn’t you want the whole world to know about it?

Take a look at another example from Henley Wing, “15 Experts on How They Develop an Outreach Strategy”:

evergreen-content-example

As you can see from Henley’s post, the other huge benefit of interviewing experts is that, well, they do most of the work.

You get to give your market helpful information right from the horse’s mouth and really don’t have to do too much in terms of adding your own content.

Who said evergreen content needed to be hard?

In fact, BuzzSumo makes it extremely easy to find top influencers in your market. This software doesn’t leave any doubt about it because you see who is actually getting shares and who isn’t.

evergreen-content-example

Take a quick read of that tutorial and you’ll soon be able to find the people in your market who could help you create traction and gain traffic.

9. Reveal the Tricks of the Trade with a Tool List

A similar approach is to compile a list of helpful tools you can recommend to your readers.

You can show them tools they would have otherwise never known about or help them choose between options they were already considering.

The longer your list, the more helpful it has the potential to be. People will even return to consult it over and over again as they continue purchasing new tools.

I love Brian Dean’s list of 2016 SEO tools.

evergreen-content-example

This list, which has garnered nearly 8,500+ shares and shows up on the first SERP for the keyword, “SEO tools” has more than 180 options.

The key here is that Dean also reviews each of them. He provides links to where his readers can use them and gives his honest opinion.

You can even filter the list at the beginning, making it easier to find the exact tools you’re interested in.

10. Give Readers a Peak at Your Library

Some of my younger readers may have a hard time believing this, but before the World Wide Web, we used to have these incredibly useful things called “books.”

All kidding aside, people still read books and I’m not just referring to the 50-shades variety.

My company has had a lot of success ranking for “books for copywriters” and related keywords thanks to my post, “25 Best Books to Help You Learn Copywriting.”

evergreen-content-example

This goes back to the idea behind cornerstone content. When you know the kind of thing your market is constantly asking about, it’s pretty easy to compile a list of books that will help them get their answers.

If you follow my tip about writing your own book, you can even include it in this list.

11. Create a Glossary Readers Can Use Continuously

Speaking of books, you could do your audience a huge favor by giving them a place to go to for all the definitions they need regarding a certain topic.

Vulture recently caught fire with one of these when they published their Stranger Things Glossary.

evergreen-content-example

The combination of this popular topic and a one-stop-shop of all the references and topics covered gave the site 18.5k shares.

12. Warning! Don’t Make These Mistakes!

Did I grab your attention?

Explaining common mistakes in a post will make for a very shareable title. As we mentioned when we talked about case studies, these types of posts can be very popular.

While most forms for evergreen content help readers move toward a goal, this version ensures they don’t head in the wrong direction.

That alone helps it stand out from more common forms of advice. It also grabs attention because it brings up a topic most people may have never considered: that they could be doing something very wrong.

Bright Side leveraged this concept brilliantly in, “15 Mistakes You Should Avoid in Hair Care.”

evergreen-content-example

We all want to take good care of our hair. Most of us have read at least a few posts on the subject, too.

But what if what you think you’re doing is actually harming your hair?

That concern drove 93.5 people to share this article.

13. Give Your Readers a History Lesson

Covering the history of a certain subject is about as evergreen as it gets.

While history is constantly being written, a solid historical post should remain relevant for years to come and you can always add to it.

WIRED has a great post on the history of alt music history that includes this amazing infographic (double points!):

A lot of other people liked it, too. The post has been shared 258.7k times.

14. Write an Annual Post You Can Repeatedly Update

Remember Brian Dean’s list of SEO tools?

Another reason this type of post works so well is because he can continue updating it as time goes on.

By ensuring it never becomes outdated, he’s also making sure this content is evergreen and will continue to earn shares.

15. Interview an Expert for Invaluable Advice

Finally, if you’re at a complete loss about where to begin with creating evergreen content, interview someone.

All you have to do is come up with great questions, something you can do by following the first tip we gave regarding cornerstone content: learning what your market cares about.

As with some of the other forms of evergreen content I’ve covered here, this kind of post provides information your readers can trust. It comes from an expert!

You can also expect that said expert is going to link to this post, too, which means a lot more traffic.

Richard Feloni did this in Business Insider when he interviewed entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk.

evergreen-content-example

Now, it’s important that you pick someone people actually want to hear from and that you cover an interesting topic. Don’t think that that because your expert is doing most of the talking that you don’t have to do your part.

In this case, Feloni picked someone with a huge following and addressed a fairly common attitude: working for the weekend.

The result brought in 10.5k shares.

Get Busy Crafting Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is an investment in earning shares, backlinks and traction that can continue working for you for years to come.

While not all of the 15 options above may be relevant for your purposes, think of a few you can get started on right away to begin increasing your site’s exposure.

Just one evergreen piece done well could drastically change the future of your business.

The post 15 Examples of Evergreen Content That Will Win Links, Traction & Results for Your Brand Online appeared first on BuzzSumo.

How Content Becomes Popular: Lessons from the Hit Makers

Do you ever wonder why certain content and ideas become very popular while others fail to gain traction? Derek Thompson’s new book ‘Hit Makers: How Things Become Popular‘ takes an in-depth look at what makes a viral or popular product. The book doesn’t provide a secret formula for virality, however, Thompson provides a lot of detailed research on the key factors that cause content and products to become popular. Here is my take on the content marketing lessons from the book.

Popular Products are MAYA — Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable

Thompson argues that the products that become popular are a balance of familiarity and newness. He quotes Raymond Loewy, the industrial designer, whose approach was summed up in his acronym MAYA — the “most advanced, yet acceptable” idea.

The theory goes that people are simultaneously Neophobic (afraid of the new) and Neophilic (attracted to the new). Thus new ideas, content or products need to manage this balance and tension. It is not the most innovative or advanced products that become popular but those that blend acceptability and innovation.

Thompson uses many examples where companies use familiarity including movies. Most of the top revenue grossing movies of the last ten years have been sequels or have been based on popular novels. There is safety and familiarity in such movies. It has also been argued that popular stories follow a familiar, if not a classic narrative arc such as good versus evil or a hero overcoming a challenge.

In much the same way vehicle manufacturers blend familiarity with newness by changing a car’s style every few years. Washing powders or cleaners have always had new and improved formulas for familiar products.

Familiarity makes you feel safe but Thompson argues there is also a need for newness. As there is a danger that too much familiarity, or too much of the same content, leads to a sharp fall in popularity. There needs to be a balance with newness and innovation.

Thompson argues that the MAYA concept also applies to ideas, as most people prefer ideas they already agree with or stories that they can relate to. Thompson believes that familiar ideas, or content that is simpler to process with less thinking, leads to more liking of the content. He quotes an interesting study where people were asked to either name two things they liked about their partner or ten things they liked. The study found that people liked their partner more if they were just asked to name two things they liked. When asked to name ten things it became harder and they rated their partners lower after the exercise. The same pattern was observed in discussions about politicians.

Takeaway for Content marketers

Content ideas should also build on familiar concepts but add new perspectives. There is a case for doubling down on successful familiar content formats but also updating this content and doing new versions.

Content Doesn’t Go Viral, Not In The True Sense

Thompson argues one of the myths about the internet and marketing is that the traditional broadcast model is being replaced by content that goes viral through social networks. The myth goes that you no longer need mainstream TV or an article in the New York Times, to reach a large audience.

Thompson argues that in fact very little content goes viral in the strict sense of the word. It is rare that one person shares content with two others and each of those shares with two other people and so forth, creating an exponential viral pattern.

Thompson says “Marketers vastly overestimate the reliable power of word of mouth.” This is not to underplay the role of say Twitter or Instagram influencers but rather they are in effect another broadcaster. There is little evidence that what influencers share then gets shared virally eg each person reshares and their followers reshare in turn. This is consistent with our analysis of retweets of tweets by influencers. Even someone with say 500,000 followers may have a retweet rate of only say 20. Thus they broadcast to their 500,000 followers but few of their followers actually reshare and fewer again reshare these reshares.

Thompson quotes Yahoo research that shows “the vast majority of the news that people see on Twitter, around 95 percent, comes directly from its original source or from one degree of separation.” This suggests the way content becomes popular these days is through broadcast diffusion. This is a combination of sharing by multiple broadcasters as well as by individuals. Thompson refers to ‘dark broadcasters’ whereby the content is distributed to many viewers at once by different broadcasters but where this is not immediately visible to people and attributed to word of mouth.

diffuse-broadcast

Many people argue that 50 Shades of Grey, which sold an astonishing 150m copies, was a word of mouth viral success. However, Thompson argues the author had already built a community audience and that the vast majority of the book’s publicity and success only came after the publishing deal with Random House. The New York Times ran a page one story on the deal within a week, the book was also on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, and the author was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today show. Just those four broadcast nodes have the potential to reach over 16m people.

Thompson argues the historic level of success of 50 Shades was down not to word of mouth but to broadcast diffusion, with multiple broadcasts that reached millions of people. The book then became even more popular just because it was popular, which we discuss next.

Takeaway for content marketers

Look at adopting a diffuse broadcast approach to build popularity and awareness quickly. This can involve articles on major publications with large audiences and the use of high-reach influencers as multiple broadcasters.

Popularity Can Become The Product

Simply being popular can increase popularity, it is a tautology but it has implications for marketers. How many times have you seen the phrase ‘bestseller’ used to promote a book or author? Simply being a bestseller implies you will like the product as so many other people do. It provides social proof.

After reaching a tipping point Thompson argues that consumers do not just buy a product; what they really buy is entry into a popular conversation. No one wants to be the last to read or watch, so they buy to participate in the conversation. 50 Shades of Grey is a case in point.

Popularity is also used by algorithms from Facebook’s news feed to Netflix to recommend content, and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy The process of collaborative filtering takes what others have liked and recommends these to you. Thus if ten of your friends have shared an article or bought a movie it may be recommended to you.

Thus in this context it makes sense for companies to invest to get on a popular list or to heavily promote a product so that it becomes the topic of conversation. This is where paid amplification works for larger brands.

Takeaway for content marketers

You want to gain social proof quickly. As a content producer it can be worth trying paid advertising to gain initial traction and social proof. It is definitely worth the effort to get your content shared simultaneously by multiple influencers and to encourage upvotes or shares.

Popular Phrases and Virality

Thompson includes a useful section on the power of creating popular phrases. In broad terms this is all about the power of repetition. Johnson sets out different forms of repetition used by great speechwriters but the core common element is repetition. The examples include:

Epistrophe. The repetition of words at the end of a sentence.

A great example is Obama’s ‘Yes we can.’ This was taken from his 2008 speech at Nashua High School South, here is just a brief extract:

“For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation. Yes, we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights. Yes, we can.”

It is a simple phrase but became powerful through repetition. There many other forms of repetitive devices which include:

Anaphora. A rhetorical device where you repeat a phrase at the beginning of a sentence.

The classics include Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and Winston Churchill’s “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields.”

Tricolon. Repetition in short form triplicate.

An example is Abraham Lincoln “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

Antithesis. Repetition of clause structures to juxtapose contrasting ideas.

Charles Dickens “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Antimetabole. Rhetorical inversion.

“It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” John F Kennedy

Epizeuxis. This is simply, despite the complex name, the same word repeated over and over.

Tony Blair in the UK said his priorities were “education, education, education.”

Takeaway for content marketers

Creating a repeated phrase that you own and which is associated with your brand can be very powerful. There are many examples from great copywriters such as L’Oreal’s repeated phrase “Because you’re worth it” and Mastercard’s rhetorical phrase “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”

Quality Matters But So Does Distribution and Promotion

Creating quality content such as a great song or a great article is not enough for it to become popular. There are simply too many good songs and articles around. Quality is a necessary but not a sufficient attribute to become popular. Nobody will beat a path to your door. You need distribution and amplification.

If you can advertise heavily to make your product familiar then this will help increase your product’s popularity. Thompson argues this understanding has led to unprecedented promotional expenses for movies. In 1980 the major studios spent less than 20 cents on advertising for every $1 of revenue earned. Now Thompson argues they spend 60 cents for every $1.

However, no amount of advertising or exposure can make bad content become popular. Distribution is a winning strategy to make a good product popular but it is not reliable way to make a bad product popular. Thus popularity requires a minimum level of quality.

Takeaway for content marketers

If you have high quality content then advertising and promotion makes sense to build familiarity with your target audience. I think there is also an argument for more regular content production to build your own audience, which also taps into the familiarity point above.

Community Distribution

Distribution is not all about advertising or traditional broadcasts to large audiences. The Internet and its social networks do provide forces of amplification, extending messages to larger audiences. Whilst it is rare there are examples of viral community distribution.

Thompson argues that a smaller, densely connected audience beats a larger, diffuse group. He uses Tindr as an example, arguing that it piggybacked on tight networks that already existed, such as popular fraternities and popular sororities that had relatively well connected and trusted networks. These dense and trusted networks are the closest to true viral networks where people will reshare. By getting existing connected networks to adopt your product you can gain from community distribution.

In much the same way the best opportunity you have for viral distribution is your own network. Your own trusted audience is more likely to reshare your content. In simple terms your network is your power.

Takeaway for content marketers

Look to make meaningful connections with dense, well connected networks, where you can add value. Also continuously build your own network and trusted audience as they are most likely to share your content.

The Reader as a Popular Product

Thompson says he has learnt from experience that most readers favourite subject is the reader themselves. We have seen at BuzzSumo how titles with ‘you’ in the title can resonate with audiences. Quizzes that tell the reader something about themselves are also very popular — as someone said, they’re like trying to pass a mirror without looking in it. In this way content about psychology, self-improvement and personal productivity have become very popular.

In some ways the very process of sharing can be actually about the person sharing. It is part of the process of defining who they are, the causes they care about and the tribes they belong to. In sharing them, they double down on familiarity and popularity.

Takeaway for content marketers

Can you create more content focused on the consumer themselves. Get personal. If you reach one person and they connect with it, they’re more likely to share it with their tribe.

Content Discovery

Thompson argues that in 1920s America the volume of book publishing created a discovery problem and new organisations emerged to solve this. These organisations curated and recommended content such as the best new books.

We have a similar problem now with the volume of content being published. The power of discovery has been shifting more recently from major news brands to discovery platforms such as search engines and social networks. Thompson argues that Facebook has become the most important source of news and information in the world.

Takeaway for content marketers

For many years marketers have focused on search engine optimisation and this remains an important content discovery platform. However, social platforms are growing in importance and are overtaking traditional platforms as the way most people consume content. So in the absence of content going viral you need multiple influencers to share your content. Traditional broadcast platforms from large magazines to TV also remain important in getting consumers to discover your content. You need a multi-pronged approach in the same way films are promoted in multiple ways through advertising, TV interviews, reviews, etc.

There is also increasingly a gap for trusted curators of content.

Summary

There are few mysteries anymore about what content is popular, which articles are resonating with people and which ones are being shared. You can find examples with the most basic BuzzSumo search, for example, the most shared articles about Donald Trump this week. The question is how you are using this knowledge to improve the popularity of your own content.

It is useful to reflect on many of the issues set out in Thompson’s book such as the MAYA principle, familiarity, and diffuse broadcast to improve your content marketing. Make it personal, connect with the right multiple influencers and tribes, invest in promotion and it might just go viral — at least in the content marketing sense.

The post How Content Becomes Popular: Lessons from the Hit Makers appeared first on BuzzSumo.

Are You Forgetting About Middle of the Funnel Content?

Are you creating great content and seeing no return? Are you baffled because your content performs great on social and generates a lot of traffic to your site, but results in high bounce rates and low conversion rates?

Your problem may not be your content or the way you are promoting it. Your problem may be a lack of middle of the funnel content. If your site doesn’t bridge the gap between introductory content and decision stage content, how do you expect your audience to make that leap?

I’m sure you have great content and your products / services page is superb, but none of that matters to your audience. Your audience thinks in one mode, and that mode is ‘what can you do for me today?’ Therefore, you need to provide valuable, educational content at every stage of the funnel. You’ve grabbed the attention of your audience, now you need to keep it. Let me provide an example from my own life.

Working Out While Working Through the Funnel

Do you exercise at home? Have you ever burned a few calories with Jane Fonda or found yourself sweating to the oldies with Richard Simmons? Maybe you’ve hit your max with Jillian Michaels? My personal favorite at-home trainer is Shaun T. He created the Insanity and T25 workouts, which I highly recommend. It’s a great, full body workout. The best part is I can do it in my own home, on my schedule.

I will admit, I have not always been a fan of at-home exercise tapes, DVD’s or streaming services. As a college athlete and lifelong gym enthusiast, I thought working out at home in front of your TV was a laughable form of exercise — particularly for someone in their twenties. What changed my mind? Middle of the funnel content.

As we all know, the hardest part about working out is actually getting to the gym. We all lead busy lives. At the end of a long day it can be a struggle to stay awake for primetime, let alone have the energy to workout. And waking up an hour early to workout? I don’t think so. This is the predicament I found myself in a few months ago. I shared this problem with a few of my colleagues, in the hopes of finding a solution. They suggested I ‘make more time for myself’ or ‘go running at my local park.’ No. I am not a magician so I can’t wave a magic wand to ‘make more time’ appear, and I have watched enough Law & Order to know that running alone in the park is how you get murdered.

I began searching for ways to supplement my weekly workout. After combing through countless nutritional guides and articles about exercising from your desk chair, I found a five-minute ab routine by Shaun T. It was a free instructional video and it fit my needs perfectly. The download didn’t even require a form fill.

I started to use the video on a regular basis, sometimes multiple times a day. It was quality content. As I found myself using the video more and going to the gym less, I wondered if I should purchase a subscription to the full workout package. At this point, I was still skeptical.

Could I really cancel my gym membership and make a purchase decision based only on five short minutes of content? No, but before I completely ruled it out I wanted do some research.

Logically the first place I went for information was Shaun T’s website shauntfitness.com. The website was simple but the content offerings were robust. The site featured two membership options: free and premium. The free membership included workouts and weekly fitness challenges, and the premium membership included workouts, weekly fitness challenges, a training camp, nutritional guide, and access to their community.

Before signing up for either membership, I decided to look at the associated social media pages. I was pleasantly surprised. Their Twitter and Instagram feeds, instead of ads, featured encouraging quotes and tips to help people on their journey to health and happiness. Their Facebook page featured the same encouraging content as well as weekly, and sometimes daily, workout videos that ranged from five to twenty-five minutes in length and covered a wide variety of exercises.

I decided to sign up for the free membership and incorporate the workouts into my daily routine. Unlike other subscription services, I did not find myself bombarded by emails to upgrade my membership. I only received quality, relevant content.

After roughly thirty days of using the free membership and Facebook videos (not to mention the five-minute ab routine), I made the decision to cancel my gym membership and subscribe to Shaun T’s premium membership.

Middle of the Funnel Content Influenced My Purchase Decision

So what made this all possible? Middle of the funnel content.

I was originally attracted to the Shaun T brand by the five-minute ab video (top of the funnel content), but even after repeated use I had no intention of making a purchase. It wasn’t until I discovered the free membership and additional videos (middle of the funnel content) that I was persuaded to make a purchase.

Companies sometimes forget the important role middle of the funnel content plays in the buyers’ journey. Just because a visitor is on a blog post or landing page does not mean that buyer is ready to make a purchase decision.

How to Make Middle of the Funnel Content a Priority

Companies need to always provide value and education to their audience, from the time they attract a prospect at the top of the funnel, to the moment they make the decision to become a customer, and at every touchpoint in-between.

Middle of the funnel content can sometimes be hard to identify. Below are some tips to help you make sure you are bridging the gap for your audience and not asking them to jump to conclusions.

These are the three places I most commonly see companies forget about middle of the funnel content.

Email Campaigns

In the experience I described above, I provided my email address to receive a free membership to an online video library of at-home workouts. I thought the content offer was a fair exchange for my email address. I also appreciated that they did not clutter my inbox with incentives to upgrade my membership.

This experience could have been improved if they asked what muscle groups I wanted to work on or what exercises I was interested in learning more about, and then tailoring the content to those interests. If I was only interested in discovering new ways to tone my core, but instead received a series of videos on squats and arms, I could have been deterred and unsubscribed.

Similarly, you should create email campaigns and workflows that follow your customer’s interest and nurture them from lead to customer.

Tip: Next time you create an email campaign, ask yourself: is this person ready to buy after opening this email, or does he or she need more information?

Blog Posts

Blogs are the voice of your company. They are typically a semi-casual form of communication between you and your audience, allowing you to provide education on a product or service, comment on a hot button issue, assuage concerns or misconceptions, or highlight ways in which you provide value to your customers. Yes, blogs are wonderful — but they rarely influence a final purchase decision.

Blogs are typically TOFU content and should be treated as such. Why? Because even a beautifully written, education-rich blog post can result in a bounce, if it ends with a call-to-action asking the reader to buy now.

Tip: Try to create a spider web of content. I’m not saying trap your audience, on the contrary I’m suggesting that each blog post should be written with the intention of expanding on the topics discussed in additional posts or pieces of content (tools, ebooks, worksheets, etc.)

For example, if you work for a fashion merchandiser and you write a blog about the three hottest fashion trends this season, your next three blogs should expand upon each of those trends in more detail. Once a visitor has read both pieces of content, that visitor will be better educated on the topic and thus in a better position to make a purchase decision.

Influencer Marketing

Companies commonly forget that in most cases one post by an influencer is not enough to persuade a purchase decision. Influencer marketing is a two-step process.

Influencer Content + Relevant On-Site Content = New Lead

Influencer content is the first step to educating a new visitor about your brand. You need to nurture that new visitor and provide content related to the original post that grabbed his or her attention. Introducing a new prospect to your brand then immediately asking that person to buy is too aggressive. You need middle of the funnel content to bridge the gap and educate your audience.

Tip: Ask yourself these questions each time you create or manage influencer content:

  • How does this piece of content relate back to my brand and my product / service offering?
  • Do I have a piece of middle of the funnel content to link back to?
  • Do I need to create a piece of middle of the funnel content to link back to?
  • If new visitors consume the influencer content AND the on-site middle of the funnel content, will they understand the products / services my company provides and how they can provide value to their life?
  • Did I educate my audience with this content?
  • Did I provide value with this content?

Create a Strategy that Includes Middle of the Funnel Content

Now that you understand the importance of middle of the funnel content, begin to strategize.

Content creation does not need to be a linear process. If you already have a great bottom of the funnel piece of content (case study, demo video, customer testimonial), then work backwards. If you have a blog post that generates a lot of traffic but has a high bounce rate, think of ways you can expand on the topics discussed in that post.

Content strategy is like a choose your own adventure game — it doesn’t make much sense if you introduce the hero then talk about how she saved the kingdom with no information in-between.

Have fun with it! You will inevitably go down roads that lead to success, as well as some dead ends. Develop content, learn from your mistakes, and always create a path that includes the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel content.

By Katie Schieder, Arc Intermedia Inbound Marketing Manager

The post Are You Forgetting About Middle of the Funnel Content? appeared first on BuzzSumo.