Ever written a post that you spent a lot of time on, published it, and absolutely nothing happened?
Here are the stats for one of the first long form posts I published on this blog:
A whopping 28 unique views in the first week!
Total social shares? 1. That would be me who shared it btw.
Granted, I don’t have much of a following because I just launched the site, but this is still pretty bad.
The next few posts did much better, with multiple shares on Facebook and Twitter from influencers with large audiences. Two of them had dozens of shares, and one got over 50. This is with no paid promotion and very little traffic or email list.
I saw a spike in traffic, and I expect to gain backlinks and Google rankings over the next few months.
The reason I did better with the last two posts is that I changed my strategy entirely. For the first posts that didn’t do well, I would think of a topic, write it, and press publish. Very little time went into the topic, keyword, headline, or promotion.
The articles that got lots of shares I focused on the 8 things in this article, and the difference was huge.
If you aren’t getting many shares of your content, here are 8 things you might have missed.
1. You Didn’t Pick the Right Topic
I know picking the right topic seems obvious, and you are tempted to skip to #2, but hear me out.
I put this first because it’s the most important thing if you want to get more traffic.
If you are creating posts without thinking about who will share the post and why, you may be wasting your time.
I used to pick blog topics by thinking about what my audience wants to read, or maybe doing a little research. I thought the important thing was to make the article great, not so much what the topic was.
That’s why my first posts on this blog didn’t get any shares.
The truth is that people are busy, and they won’t click a link to your article unless it’s a topic they are already interested in.
Here’s a secret about picking a topic:
Don’t write for your customers, write for influencers. They are the ones who share and give backlinks.
I wrote an article about creating PDF ebooks, because I thought my audience would find that useful. They probably do, but it didn’t get any shares.
When I wrote about WooCommerce statistics, it got tons of shares because the influencers thought that was useful.
If you are writing for your audience, that’s great, just don’t expect lots of traffic and shares. This article is about generating traffic and shares, so write for the influencers.
2. You Didn’t Make Your Content Amazing
So you picked the right topic, what’s next?
There are 2 million blog posts published every day. Does yours stand out?
Before you create a piece of content ask yourself, is this so interesting, unique, or thorough that people won’t be able to resist sharing it?
Brian Dean of Backlinko.com says he spends 20-25 hours on a single piece of content. He only publishes once per month because he takes so much time on each article, but he has one of the most influential blogs on SEO.
I follow a similar path, this post has around 20 hours into it, not including promotion. I publish once per week.
Should you publish once per month like Brian Dean? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on your strategy, and how hard it is to create a piece of content worth sharing.
Every industry is different, and every blog is different. Not everyone has to spend 25 hours on a post to make it shareable.
Chris Lema has a very popular blog on WordPress related topics, and he wrote a new article every day for a while. He increased his traffic and made a name for himself in his industry only spending a couple hours per day.
The point is that what makes content shareable in your industry might be different from someone else.
So how do you make your content stand out?
Brian Dean gives us a few tips from his Skyscraper Technique:
- Before writing the post, find proven content that already has traffic and links.
- Write a better post
- Make it longer, and more thorough
- Make it more up to date, and better designed
- Share it with influencers
Brian has earned over 2000 shares on that article, so he knows what he’s talking about!
This is not the only way to get traffic to your articles, but it’s a good one.
Every industry is different. If you run an online t-shirt store, you don’t need to do the same things as someone in the marketing space.
Look at popular posts in your industry and start there. See what types of content people like to share, and make something amazing on the same subject.
It may take some trial and error, but you’ll get better over time.
3. You Didn’t Use the Right Images
The highest traffic blogs use great images, and lots of them.
Images aren’t just for fun, they need to add value to your content. Your image should be more valuable to your reader than a comparable sized block of text, otherwise you shouldn’t add one.
For example, this post from Thrive Themes has over 800 shares. They use a nice custom graphic for the featured image:
Then in the body of the article, they have more nice graphics and screenshots:
The graphics they use look custom made, and have a cohesive theme. These are not cheap icons or graphics they stole from a random Google image search (don’t do that btw, you can get sued!)
The images are large, and the sizes are consistent. You don’t want a bunch of patchwork thumbnails aligned in different ways, it ends up looking sloppy.
If you don’t have the skills to make your own graphics, or the budget to purchase them, screenshots are an easy way to get free images for your post. Just make sure to attribute them or ask permission from the site owner if necessary.
You might think infographics are played out, and you are mostly right.
They used to be the hotness when they first came out, and you could get shares with almost any graphical data. It’s much harder now, but they still work.
The key is to make sure your data is interesting by itself, then put it in a nice shareable format. I used canva.com to create my WooCommerce Statistics infographic, it works great as a content upgrade.
Infographics are a great way to attract backlinks, you can share it with other bloggers and offer to let them publish it if they include a link back to your site.
4. You Didn’t Craft a Magnetic Headline
The headline is the most important part of your article.
It’s the first (and maybe only) thing potential visitors see, and if you can’t entice them to click on it or keep reading, it doesn’t matter how great your images or copy are.
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
It’s so important in fact, that some copywriters spend more time on the headline than on the rest of the article.
So how can you craft a headline that gets people to click and read more?
Use a Headline Formula
Headlines take creativity, but some are straight out of a formula. For example:
7 Secrets to [blank]
- 7 Secrets to Rock Hard Abs
- 7 Secrets to Lower Your Bounce Rate
- 7 Secrets to Podcasting Success
Here are 10 more headline formulas from Copyblogger.
Browse Pop Culture Magazines
No-one writes headlines better than
trashy pop culture magazines.
Here’s one from Buzzfeed:
We can take that same headline and mold it for our own uses. For example:
- 29 Traffic Strategies You Can Implement Right Away
- 12 Recipes You’ll Want to Try Right Away
- 99 Ecommerce Products You’ll Want to Buy Right Away
See how that works? Physical magazines like Cosmopolitan work great for this as well, just reading the cover is a master class in getting eyeballs on your content.
5. Your Article Was Too Short
Writing a short article and pressing publish may be better than nothing, but it’s not going to get you a flood of traffic
Neil Patel did a comprehensive analysis of how long top-ranking posts are across multiple industries. What did he find? The right length depends on your industry.
Neil’s posts are usually really long, anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 words. In his niche (online marketing) this is what it takes to rank first.
Some industries, like Gadgets, can get away with shorter posts. For example, a site like Engadget has lots of articles in the 300-500 word range. This post about bluetooth speakers clocks in at 263 words.
This makes sense, because people want to see gadgets, not read a long article about them.
The average across all industries is around 2,000 words. Longer form content tends to get more shares, simply because longer posts are more rare.
Length alone doesn’t make your post compelling, but it’s one more thing to help your content stand out.
6. You Didn’t Support Your Assertions with Data, Statistics, and Quotes
Great articles make assertions, and then back those up with data.
For example, look at this post on the Kissmetrics blog:
It starts off with a quote, a statistic, and a data driven assertion.
Quoting experts or statistics lends credibility, and helps to drive each point home. For example, you know that content marketing is important, which is why you’re reading this article. But did you know that 95% of technology marketers use content marketing as part of their strategy? That’s why it’s so important to make your content stand out.
Steven Levitt, co-author of the classic book Freakonomics says:
Data, I think, is one of the most powerful mechanisms for telling stories. I take a huge pile of data and I try to get it to tell stories.
So where do we find data for our blog posts?
Create your own data
People love original research. It’s rare because it takes more work, but it also gets more shares.
For example, codeinwp published results of a hosting survey they did of 4750 people. The results were surprising to a lot of people, so it got a ton of shares.
If you don’t have a large audience, what about calling your friends and colleagues? Even a Twitter or Facebook poll counts as original data.
Use existing data
If you can’t (or won’t) do your own research, there’s plenty out there for you to swipe.
In this post about 2017 WooCommerce Statistics, I used data from builtwith.com. It isn’t a unique place to get data, but I dug deeper and found some interesting things I didn’t see anyone else writing about.
If you aren’t sure where to go, Google is the easiest place to start. Searching for “[your topic] statistics” will most likely bring up multiple posts by other people that have already found statistics. To get original data, find the source links on their data, and search the site they referenced.
The key is to find unique data points using the same sources, not just regurgitate the same thing someone else already wrote about.
7. You Didn’t Make Your Post Scannable
We work hard to make our posts read with a sense of cohesiveness and flow.
The problem is that most people don’t read your post, they scan it. As a result, we need to make our content scannable.
The Nielsen Norman Group found that very few people read a post word for word:
79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.
What should we do about this?
- Use bulleted lists
- Highlight important words
- Use meaningful subheadings
- Short sentences and paragraphs
Someone reading your post is looking for specific information, and they don’t have a lot of time. They will scan the post for the information they want, read that section, then move on.
If you have a literary background, you my have a hard time writing for the web. People don’t read the same way online as they do in a book.
To make your content more consumable, don’t write your post like a book.
Write in a friendly, conversational tone.
Use short sentences, lists, images, and subheadings.
8. You Didn’t Share it with Influencers
Hitting publish is not enough to get shares if you don’t have a large audience already. You need to tell people about it.
Here are a few ways to get people to share your content.
- Email your list, and include pre-populated share links to make it easy for them to share.
- Contact people/companies you included in your article, and tell them about it.
- Spend a few bucks on paid advertising to boost your article on social networks.
- Email people who have shared similar articles.
The first 3 are self-explanatory, but let’s talk about #4.
People who have shared similar articles are likely to share yours if it adds value to their audience.
Brian Dean explains how to find people to share your article:
1. Use ahrefs.com to export all of the links pointing to your competitor’s content into a spreadsheet. Tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer will also work. [If you don’t want to pay for ahrefs.com, just Google your topic. You’ll find plenty of sites.]
2. Weed out referring pages that don’t make sense to contact (forums, article directories etc.).
3. Go to those sites and contact them from a contact form, or find their email on their About page.
4. Tell them about your article in a friendly, non-pushy way.
This technique helped Brian get 17 backlinks:
Out of 160 emails I landed 17 links: an 11% success rate.
This same tactic can be used to get shares and backlinks. One thing that has worked well for me is contacting friends or acquaintances in your industry, and ask them to help you out. You’ll run out of friends though, so eventually you’ll have to send cold emails.
Cold emails have a pretty low success rate, so the more personal you make it, the better.
It may seem like a lot of work, and it is. Did someone tell you this was supposed to be easy? :p
Let’s look at some examples of great blog content that has earned a lot of shares.
WP Site Care
WP Site Care created a fantastic post about their favorite WordPress plugins. It got a ton of shares because it wasn’t just another roundup post, it was valuable information based on extensive experience. The post uses great images, it’s really long, and it’s highly shareable.
Thrive Themes Blog
Thrive Themes has a fantastic blog, it’s clear they spend a lot of time and money on it. This post on content recycling earned them over 500 shares. The post has very practical, actionable content for anyone with a blog. Because it’s so actionable and useful to so many people, it’s also very shareable.
Chris Lema focuses more on editorial pieces, his posts don’t usually have a lot of images. He has established himself as an expert, and gets a lot of traffic and shares based on that.
This post on announcing pricing changes earned him over 500 shares because it was timely and opinionated. Many people in the WordPress community were talking about the subject of pricing at the time, and he made himself a part of that conversation. People are more likely to share if you are providing value to a conversation they are already having.
This post on 100 big brands that use WordPress has almost 700 shares. This is a question that WordPress freelancers and agencies come across all the time when talking to clients. This post is an easy share because it answers that question thoroughly and concisely.
I recently shared this post by Justin Jackson called “Why I Bought Your Software”, and I noticed many other people sharing it as well. It tells a great story on what it’s like for a customer to buy your product. It’s well written and gives a great perspective on selling digital products.
The point of these examples is to show that there is not a single formula that works for everyone.
Using great images, and writing in long form has proven successful for many blogs. Others can get away with shorter posts with no images, it all depends on your industry and your strategy.
It may take time to figure out what works best for you, but always focus on making shareable content. Too many people write content for content’s sake, and expect the traffic to come naturally. That won’t happen.