It’s next to impossible to predict whether a post will go viral. There’s just too many variables. But you can maximize your chances of hitting the big time by employing the tactics in this post. You see, when your content hits all the right notes, your readers will promote it for you. Plus, consistently creating content that “sells itself” will lessen your dependence on traffic sources you have no control over. Dig in to learn how to create the best content in your niche.
Why You Should Care
According to this study by HubSpot, a focus on quality and sharing via social media allowed them to rank for 496 new longtail keywords. This study by Boost Blog Traffic had similar results. When you focus on quality, you produce less content, but each piece of content is more likely to be shared. Influencers appreciate the fact that you aren’t adding to the echo chamber, and your readers are more likely to return for more.
Creating Killer Content—Fundamentals First
You don’t have to be born with an aptitude for content creation to create posts that gain massive traction. The truth is, if you’re willing to learn a few fundamentals, you can put yourself ahead of 80-90 percent of other bloggers in your niche.
How to Write Like a Pro
Let’s start by distinguishing between B2B and B2C.
- Business to business communications are between two businesses.
- Business to customer communication is, of course, from a business to a customer.
Typically, your tone should depend on which type of content you are creating. Keep your tone more casual when writing B2C. You want your prospect to feel at ease—as if they’re talking to a wise friend. In your B2B communications, however, you should establish yourself as a professional entity well versed in your industry.
Follow these guidelines for both types of content:
- Create a winning headline. Whether you’re writing a sales page, a blog post or an informative article, your headline is one of the most important elements on the page. The headline should succinctly describe the content in an enticing way. Use a good balance of common, uncommon, power and emotional words. Common words are the ‘glue’ words that make a headline readable. Uncommon words are the ‘meat’ words that give your headline substance. Emotional words, predictably, elicit an emotional response in your reader. Power words command the reader’s attention.
- It’s all in the intro. The intro is your last chance to catch the visitor’s attention. Keep it short and to the point, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. One more thing: in the intro, you need to establish an expectation. What does your reader stand to gain from spending time with you?
- Use Sub Headings. Always break content down into bite sized chunks. Imagine if the long-form post you’re reading right now where one long treatise on content creation. Would you be reading it? Use as many subheads as you need, but don’t break your content up just for the sake of it.
- Don’t keyword-stuff. Keywords will always be important, but Google is getting smarter. Google understands synonyms, so you don’t have to use your keyword every chance you get. Plus, natural keyword usage is one of the most important ingredients of high-quality content. Write them humans in mind.
Use personal trigger words. “You” and “I” are trigger words that cue your reader to pay attention. You should use these words around important concepts. Sprinkle “you” and “I” throughout your content to keep your reader engaged. Note, however, that these words create a conversational tone, so if you’re writing formal B2B content, limit them or omit them.
- Complexity is for dorks. Seriously, don’t make your content more complex than it needs to be. Unless you’re creating content destined for LinkedIn and aimed at a specific profession, always err on the side of simplicity. The Flesch-Kincaid readability test is a good place to start, and a 6th-grade reading level is the sweet spot. There are many sites online that will grade your content on this scale for free.
- Keep paragraphs in check. Short paragraphs make your content easy to read. Create a new paragraph whenever you jump to a new idea. This will keep your content organized and will enhance flow.
- It’s okay to skip the outro. A lot of bloggers write outros because they think they’re supposed to. Their outros just summarize the article. But readers often skip outros entirely. Why shouldn’t they? Instead of recapping your article, put a strong call to action in this space. If your reader has made it all the way to the end, you can bet they’ve benefited from reading! Cash in on the good will you’ve just generated.
- Use images strategically. Like short paragraphs, images are wonderful because they let you to break your content up. High-resolution photos or vector graphics help your content appear less intimidating. But don’t cram your post full of images just because you’re “supposed” to. Images should be relevant.
- Add pizazz to your text. It’s easy to go overboard with bold, italics and underline. But you should emphasize important points. These formatting elements keep your readers engaged.
- Back it up!When you make a claim, cite your source with in-text links so your readers can check them right away if they want to. This is crucial in B2B communications.
- Avoid redundancies. Redundancies bloat your word count and make your content harder to read. Examples include: “as for example,” “absolutely certain,” “actual experience,” “add an additional,” “added bonus,” “ask a question,” “at the present time,” “basic fundamentals,” “filled to capacity,” “collaborate together,” “completely filled,” “consensus of opinion,” etc. It’s best to cut redundancies in the editing process— If you edit yourself in real-time, you’ll get nowhere fast. It’s not uncommon for professional writers to chop 2,000 words from a 5,000 word document.
Create the “I Need This” Effect
We’ve all been there. You land on a page that looks like a treasure trove of actionable information. You settle in, prepared to soak up all the knowledge the page offers. It’s the “I need this” effect. The first step in creating this effect with every post is to ask yourself:
- What problem does this content solve for the reader? What pain point does this content address?
- What about my content is unique?
Note: Even if you’re just solving boredom, you’re doing your reader a great service! Think of all those kitten videos!
The first thing visitors do when they land on your site is scan the content. This is a subconscious behavior, and it only takes a few seconds. Think back to a time when you landed on a solid-looking blog post. What did you do first? Did you scroll down to see how long it was? Or did you check to see how many times it had been shared on Facebook? When you do this, your brain is making calculations in the background—trying to determine if the article is a good investment of time and energy. Those first few seconds are crucial.
Let’s look at more strategies for creating the “I need this” effect:
- Add social proof. We’ve written extensively about the importance of social proof here. Take a look if you haven’t! It’s great stuff, we promise. Here, we’ll just say that social proof is pretty damn important. Seeing lots of shares gives your visitors a positive bias when they scan your content.
- Mention niche influencers. Mentioning an influencer makes you look more legit. Seeing a familiar name on the page will make the reader more likely to give your content a fair chance which in turn will increase time-on-site.
Note: you should have some kind of relationship with said influencer before mentioning them. Contact them and let them know they’ve been plugged. If the post is quality, they will share it with their followers.
- Get your voice straight and be consistent. Nothing throws readers off like an article that switches voice mid-stride. Some authors switch to a more formal tone when they explain complex concepts. Don’t do this. You risk alienating your reader.
Remember, that first scan of the page is crucial. If the reader sees that the tone is all over the place, they’ll nope nope nope nope the frack out of there.
Here is a refresher on first, second and third person:
- First person. When you use the personal pronouns “I” or “We,” you’re writing in first-person. First-person creates a conversational feel.
- Second person. When you use “you” to address the reader, you’re using the second person. This, too, creates a nice, intimate feel.
- Third person. When you refer to the reader as “he,” “she” or “it.” You’re using the third-person. This includes referring to the reader as, “the reader.” Here is an example: “The reader will note that this style of writing is quite stuffy.” Some authors use “one” to refer to the reader, as in, “one does not simply walk into Mordor.”
The above examples are used in formal pieces, like research papers, technical manuals and white papers. Some authors use this style on their blog because they think it makes them sound smart. Don’t be that guy.
- Nix the typos. Look, we’re all busy, and editing takes forever. We get it. But you wouldn’t go to a convention, trade show or job interview in ratty clothes, would you? Your readers judge you based on the number of typos on the page, if only subconsciously.
- Don’t write a novel—or if you do, be upfront about it. If you have a lot to say, say so in the intro. On a related note, don’t bury the “good stuff” under tons of personal anecdotes. Be respectful of your reader’s time. Use storytelling strategically.
- Write your intro and headline last. This one tip can boost post quality dramatically. Even if you write a stellar outline, you’ll probably think of something you just have to add when you go to write. By the time you finish, you might forget to update your intro, or your headline may no longer make sense. By writing these two elements last, you have a better chance of getting someone to read the post in the first place.
- Be a storyteller. In this post, our goal is to provide you with a ton of actionable information in as few words as possible. So you aren’t likely to find a story anywhere on this page—hey, it could happen. Nevertheless, a good story is a humanizing agent. In today’s world of social media interconnectivity, you don’t want to be a faceless brand.
I know, I know, we just told you not to fill your piece with personal anecdotes. The thing is, people are hardwired to love a good story. The key is to tell relevant stories. If you’re adding stories to your posts to meet a certain keyword requirement, you’re in trouble. Still, relevant stories add a good deal of ultra-unique content to the page. This is great for SEO.
- Create a culture. When you think of culture, you probably think of your immediate family, then of your neighbors, then of the people in your state, and finally those of your nation. Culture is a collection of beliefs and behaviors shared between a group of people. Of course, culture works on a smaller scale, too. You know those screenwriters in Starbucks with their recyclable sandals? They are part of a culture.
Your blog should have a culture, too. Each page should have some element that ties it to everything else. What do you want to be known for? Your witty one-liners? Your skill at finding show-stopping quotes? Your bad jokes? It’s all good.
Your site shouldn’t look like a collection of disparate articles. You aren’t Ehow. No, you’re an authority in your niche. Your site should have personality, and that personality should stem from your culture.
This can get dicey when you have many people writing for you. One solution is to create a detailed writing guide. Cracked.com has hundreds of writers, but their voice is fairly uniform.
- Avoid clickbait headlines. Nothing turns a reader off faster than clickbait tactics. Many marketers use such tactics to ramp up click-through-rates. But at what cost? By doing so, they’re increasing bounce rate and reducing time-on-site. Additionally, if you use clickbait tactics, you’ll have a hard time recruiting social media influencers. Why alienate your allies?
Your headline must be congruent with your content!
- Create a solid balance between evergreen and trending content. Evergreen is better for SEO, trending is better for relevance. You need both. Use a service like BuzzSumo to find trending content in your niche. Then create something better.
Since you’re an authority in your niche, you know your evergreen topics. But it can’t hurt to create a mind map just in case. A mind map is an incredible brainstorming tool. You will probably come up with a few topics you hadn’t thought of!
Hack the Traffic Game
Now it’s time to feed the fire. Coupled with high-quality content, these traffic generators can put you on the map in a hurry.
- Advertise. If you have the budget, you should consider advertising your content. Firms like Outbrain and Sharethrough use sophisticated algorithms to display your content on already popular sites. Even better, the ads are contextual. So if you’re writing a post about kittens, your ad might show up below another article about kittens. When done well, the consumer doesn’t feel like they’re being advertised to. These networks typically charge per click.
- Tap into social media. In our post on social proof, we talked about how to gain traction on Reddit by using neutral domains to promote your content. But you shouldn’t stop there. You or someone on your team should regularly scour the social landscape for up-and-coming sites. Of course, the ol’ standbys are still useful. Let’s take a look:
- Twitter. Ideal for short, snappy links. Use one or two hashtags per post. If you combine a lead generation card with a pinned tweet, you end up with a feature box on your Twitter profile. Twitter will save the leads as a .csv file you can export whenever you want.
- Facebook. While they have lost users due to privacy concerns and aggressive advertising—let’s be honest, who hasn’t been assaulted by multiple Teespring ads?—Facebook is still a force to be reckoned with. Create a group and use the lesser known features such as “Save for Later” and “Interest Groups” to curate quality content. This will help you attract active users.
Facebook’s “empathy” system will give users a way to express a broader range of emotions than they can now. It’s likely that marketers and business owners will use this system to find negative feedback faster.
If you need more business insights, you can download your entire Facebook history. To do so, navigate to your settings and click “Download a Copy.”
If you create an app for Facebook, you can advertise to your users within Facebook.
- Google+. Google can’t seem to decide on its feature set. For instance, Google dropped Google+ links from the local pack listing in local search. Who knows what they’ll do next. Nevertheless, Google+ shows promise for B2B marketing.
- Pinterest. Pinterest can provide a flood of traffic if your visual content matches up with the site’s demographics. Custom content performs best. You can add one URL to each image you post.
- Instagram. Instagram is a great way to give your company a more personal feel. Upload behind-the-scenes images.
- Vary content length. There’s no magic formula for content length. However, according to BuzzSumo, long-form content gets shared more often. Creating content of varying length can help you attract a wide range of readers. Experiment with short news-based content, videos, infographics and case studies.
- Don’t ignore SEO. Google may be putting more emphasis on quality, but SEO is still important. Make sure on-page elements like image alt text are filled in and be sure to link out to existing content on your domain. While you’re at it, link out to authoritative sites too. If you handle these SEO elements each time you create a new post, on-page SEO is more manageable.
- Go after longtails. Google is putting more stock into longtails, too. Longtails are the phrases that people type into Google when looking for specific information. By incorporating these phrases into your content in a natural way, you scoop up traffic your competitors miss. Let’s say you sell hand-made furniture. Trying to rank for “furniture” might be a fool’s errand. But you would have a much better chance of ranking for “hand-made furniture made in USA.”
Secret: when consumers search with longtail key phrases, they’re ready to make a purchase.
- Embrace guest blogging. Guest blogging isn’t dead, but it has changed. A post on a popular site can bring in traffic and it can help you build brand recognition, but you don’t always want to go for the do-follow backlink. Mix it up.
Remember that guest blogging goes both ways. Invite other authorities in your space to guest post, too. Think of it this way: when someone guests posts on your site, you can bet they will put their social media machinery to work promoting their post—and by extension, your site. Just screen candidates well.
- Create Quizzes. Everyone likes learning about—and thinking about—themselves. Are you iOS or Android? Gryffindor or Slytherin? According to Christine Whelan of the School of Human Ecology, quizzes make us feel good because they create the feeling that someone is interested in us. Who doesn’t like that? According to a study conducted by BCG Perspectives, Millennials care most about themselves. Shocking, I know. But the implication is clear: quizzes should become even better traffic generators in coming years.
Quizzes are inherently viral. When someone finishes a quiz, they’re struck by an inexplicable urge to share their results with others. What’s going on here? The quiz takers want to compare their results with those of their friends. Why? Because it’s fun, that’s why.
Combine the inherent virality of quizzes with social media and you have a reliable traffic generator. Quizzes show your readers that you can do chill. They humanize your brand.
- Post to LinkedIn Pulse.LinkedIn is the largest social network for professionals. Building a following on Pulse can drive traffic to your site, but it can also boost your profile within your industry, which is a solid benefit. Plus, posting to LinkedIn can help you forge strategic alliances that will bring in massive traffic in other ways.
- Be ‘that guy’ who does interviews. Unless you’re the absolute authority in your niche, you should be out there interviewing people. There are a few reasons for this:
- Other people’s content. Interviewing experts gives you extra material for your post. Remember: long-form posts get shared most often. Get the expert’s analysis of your industry—or whatever—in his/her own words.
- Unique content. The expert’s interview will add a ton of unique content to the page. This will help Google differentiate your content from everyone eles’s, which can help you rank higher.
- Yes, this is becoming a theme, but it’s important: the expert will have an incentive to share your post far and wide. It’s all about incentives, folks.
- Leverage Schema Microdata. Microdata formats make it easier for search engines to find and categorize your content. It helps that schema produces better rich snippets than competing technologies.
- Don’t forget the email marketing. Sometimes it feels as if marketers are focusing on content marketing so much they’re letting older marketing techniques slip. Maintaining and building an email list can provide you with a strong uptick in traffic regularly. Keep this in mind:
- Don’t blast your subscribers with constant messages. Be wary of subscriber fatigue.
- Don’t use bait-and-switch subject lines. Sure, they might increase your open rate, but your subscribers will drop your emails in Gmail’s dreaded “Promotions” tab.
- The ideal subject line length is ~50 characters.
- Don’t use emoticons and other symbols in your subject lines. Keep it professional.
- Keep emails short. Your subscribers are busy people.
- Decide ahead of time what you want to link to. Devote each email to one or two links. If you put too many links in your emails, you’ll look like a spammer.
- Make your site mobile friendly. Have you seen the “Mobile Friendly” moniker beneath Google results? This label appears on mobile devices and denotes a responsive site. According to an Ericsson Mobility Report, there will be 22-billion mobile devices connected to the Internet by 2020. Make sure your site scales for mobile devices.
- Conduct a speed audit. If your page takes over three seconds to load, you’re in trouble. According to Internet research firm Akamai, 47 percent of consumers expect a page to load within two seconds. Further, 40 percent of users abandon a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.
- Comment strategically. Few sites pass on Google juice in the comment’s section, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore this Web real estate. Let your opinion be heard! The comment’s section is a great place to brandish your expertise and gain a bit of brand exposure.
- Create a presence on YouTube. YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. Tools like Content Samurai make it easy to create quick videos. With a dedicated YouTube channel, you can send a steady stream of traffic to your site.
Just remember: quality is everything. If all you’re just contributing to the echo-chamber, you won’t get noticed. When you publish, add keywords in the title, description and tags area. Longer descriptions perform better than short ones. Always link to your site early on.
Here is a nifty trick for dealing with annotations: place one annotation in the first 20 percent of the video and another in the last 20 percent. This will prevent overlap and prevent viewer burnout. Many YouTube marketers plaster their videos with overlapping annotations. This kind of shotgun marketing doesn’t work. Your main priority is to gain subscribers, and people won’t subscribe to you if you’re nagging them with annotations.
Finally, don’t make your videos any longer than they need to be. Ask yourself, “What problem am I trying to solve with this video?” Solve the problem and end the video. This will make it more likely that people watch your videos all the way through, which will help you rank higher.
What’s your take? Let us know in the comment’s section below!
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