Why your content probably sucks

Anyone can create content, very few have the skills to create great content. Here are some insights which may help you up your content game.

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Content is a marketer’s most valuable asset, but while most businesses nowadays understand why content is important, very few have the skills to create content that is of any real value. Consequently, there’s a lot of crap content out there.

In a piece of research published by BuzzSumo and Moz last year, it was revealed that:

  • 50% of content receives fewer than 8 shares
  • 70% of content is never linked to

These statistics lead us to believe two things:

  • People/businesses lack the skills to create good content, and/or;
  • People/businesses are not good at promoting content

For many of us, these numbers will not come as a huge surprise; consider how much content we come into contact with every day, every hour, every minute, even. How much of that content do we take time to look at, let alone share? The answer, probably, is very little.


And there’s no sign of the content avalanche slowing down anytime soon. In a global report into attitudes around digital content strategies by Accenture Interactive, it was revealed that some 80% of organisations are producing ‘moderate or enormous amounts’ of digital content and assets, with 90% expecting output to increase in the next two years.

With these numbers in mind, what can businesses do to increase the effectiveness of content, stand a better chance of being heard in an increasingly noisy environment, and ultimately stop wasting valuable time and resources on creating subpar content? According to some pretty in-depth analysis by the good folks at BuzzSumo and Majestic, this:

Focus on original research

Original, data-driven research generally gets noticed, shared and linked to much more than any other type of content.

“It has been clear for some time that original research and associated reports are much better at acquiring links than say list or viral content. This was confirmed by our analysis of content with high shares and links, the content format that appeared most consistently as we filtered articles was research based posts.” – Steve Rayson  at BuzzSumo

There is no debating the effectiveness of a good piece of research, but collecting data is only half the battle. For a piece of research to gain traction with its intended audience, it needs to be brought to life with insightful stories, useful takeaways, not to mention thoughtful, audience-appropriate design. Crucially, all this counts for very little if the content is not amplified and shared in all the right places.

Be more than just relevant

Keeping up to date with relevant industry goings on is important for any business, that much is obvious. However, while content built around trending topics can perform well on social media, it tends to have a very short shelf life and does little to attract links.

To maximise the effectiveness of reactive content, it needs to have some added value, in the form of insights or practical tips. In other words, it needs to be more than just another news story.

As an example, the report points to an article about Pokemon Go – How Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses – which generated 100k social shares and links from over 800 domains – wowza.

The success of this particular article was attributed to the following factors:

  • Good timing – the post was published on July 11th, when there was a huge amount of buzz around Pokemon Go.
  • Clever targeting – unlike most of the Pokemon Go themed content being published around that time (and there was a lot), the business-centric story was an interesting angle that appealed to a massive audience.
  • Added value – by including case studies and data backed insights on how local businesses could leverage Pokemon Go to improve sales, the article offered something of value to its readers and delivered on its promise.

Of course, not every article that ticks these boxes will generate as many shares and links, but by applying the basic principles, content stands a much better chance of being seen and shared.

Answer important questions

The humble question and answer post may feel a bit outdated, but the research shows that such content tends to attract both shares and links. And unlike trending topic or news-related posts, question & answer content (what is, how do, where are, etc.) can continue to attract attention long after being published.

As well as possessing evergreen qualities, it is possible to scope out which questions are asked most frequently, by conducting  keyword research first – this takes away any guess work. Additionally, Google Insights for Search tool can reveal the popularity of certain questions over time, while AnswerThePublic.com (other tools are available) is generally great for discovering questions you may not have considered. The key to question and answer posts is to provide the ‘best’ authoritative answer, in an area where lots of people are asking the question.

“The real takeaway is not to ignore the power of simple posts that answer questions. If you are an authority in an area you should have these cornerstone answer posts as they tend to attract both shares and links. They also have longevity and continue to attract links over time.” – Steve Rayson  at BuzzSumo

Creating great content is easier said than done, as the mountains of never-to-be-seen articles, infographics, videos and whatever else that exists across the internet will confirm. While the insights covered above will not guarantee success, they should help offer some food for thought when next sitting down to review your content strategy.

Unfortunately there is no magic formula for creating successful content. It is a process that requires precise planning, creative and original execution, a lot of amplification, and usually a little bit of luck.

For further insights, check out the full report on the BuzzSumo blog.

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