Content marketers are writing, reading, and sharing tons of articles about their work and their industry. With the help of BuzzSumo, we checked which articles were most shared so far in 2016. The results draw a very interesting picture of how the content marketing industry looks and what bothers it this year. Here are the articles, together with our observations and conclusions.
AJ Agrawal (interviewing Andrzej Stawarz)
The title of this article, which got the biggest amount of shares so far, is a bit deceiving: while the title promises “content marketing advice”, what it actually gives are a couple of tips on how to embed visuals in your content marketing.
The tips (quite good ones, in fact) are provided by Andrzej Stawarz, CEO of Visual Hunt – a startup that deals with visual content. Which nowadays immediately brings up the question: is it an honest expert interview, or a hidden type of sponsored content? The article does not mention any sponsorship, so we surely don’t question the integrity neither of the writer nor of Stawarz, but the sad reality is clear: you can’t read an article today without thinking “who paid for this?”. And that’s a yellow card for the content marketing industry.
Moz’s Rand Fishkin “Whiteboard Friday” enjoys extraordinary popularity (rightfully, one must say). And in this episode Fishkin focuses on content marketing for B2B businesses. Moz’s blog always walks on the thin line between SEO and content marketing (often advocating that well-planned content marketing is actually the best SEO marketing strategy one can have), and this time they took it deep into the content marketing territory. Is it a sign that content marketing is indeed, as many say, the new SEO?
A big spotlight on the main worry of the content marketing industry for 2016: traffic, traffic, traffic. It’s all about traffic. Bloggers, publishers and content marketers are scratching their heads, trying to find ways to increase traffic to their content. Ian Cleary is not indifferent to this need, and advices readers on how to get more visitors to read their content.
Another article reflecting the rise in interest in content marketing among the B2B industry. TL;DR – slightly later than B2C firms, B2B are learning the great attributes of content marketing. Is 2016 the year in which B2B will take over content marketing.
Harvard Business Review
Despite constant claims that “video is the new king of content”, this is the only representative of video content in the list. This short video tries to explain what makes certain pieces of content go viral or not. TL;DR: emotions. Between the lines, you can read the same message that is clear from Ian Cleary’s “How to get 1000 visitors” – content creators are dying to know the secret formula for content that will break the internet and bring them traffic.
Another one that touches the thin line between content marketing and SEO, and touching also the question of “how to create content that will bring me lots of visitors”?
Joe Pulizzi in an article that joins the “10x content” trend: a motivational text about how to create great content that will make people actually want to enter and read it. Side note: Chapeau bas to Pulizzi for the headline – BuzzFeed would have been proud!
A ranking of content marketing articles cannot be complete without at least one article from HubSpot, the company that took content marketing to a whole other level. This useful guide, typical type of content for HubSpot, helps HubSpot’s readers find the right length for every type of content they create.
Then again, reading between the lines – what question does this article actually come to answer? The reason why people want to know the ideal length of different types of content is, you probably guessed – traffic. Writers, publishers and marketers, in their search for the ideal piece of content, want to know the ideal length that will make their content more shareable, more visible, more readable.
The biggest surprise of the list! This article gives new life to the already-ragged buzzword “story-telling”, just a fraction of a second before we can’t listen to it anymore. Great article for those looking for a study case of local content marketing combined with offline activities.
4 tools to create interactive content – but a post that is not at all interactive. Joins the trend of “Writes that content marketing is all about video/graphics/interactive content – uses no video / image / interactive content in his posts”. The leading listicle in this list, which is in itself a surprise, given how much we are told that “listicles work”.
There is much we can learn from reading these 10 most popular articles – both about the content marketing industry, and about the kind of articles that gain popularity among it:
Articles that address particular problems are the most popular: forget about telling stories, forget about appealing to people’s emotion. At least in the content marketing industry – rationality wins. 8/10 in this list take one problem and tackle it. Write it down, Joe: if your article’s headline starts with “How to”, you’ve already done half the job.
Generating traffic and visibility is the biggest challenge for content marketers: here’s an amazing fact: of the eight articles in the list that discuss a particular problem, all of them discuss ONE problem – generating traffic.
In one way or another, all the eight articles are about tools and techniques to create content that gets easily shared and generates traffic or to distribute this content in a way that will generate the biggest possible traffic. Disguised in many ways, the bottom line of all of these articles is “we want people coming to read our content”.
That’s no surprise, taking into consideration results of the recent research conducted by Boost the News, according to which online content loses 90% of its traffic merely a week after publication. With so much content posted online, the competition is tight, and content marketers are struggling to bring results.
Forget everything you’ve been told about content marketing: content marketing blogs and how-to’s are out there in numbers that we can’t even count. The tips and trends look quite similar in all of them: “tell stories”, “use video”, “use interactive content”, “write listicles”. But looking at these 10 most popular articles actually tells us something else: while they all talk about using different types of content, in reality they all focus on text essays. Only one of the articles took the form of a video, and only one of them the form of a listicle. The rest – plain text.
We’ve learned our lesson: stop listening to the buzzwords of content marketing. In the end, everybody’s doing the same stuff.
Company blogs are the new powers: 4/10 of the most popular articles actually come from company blogs (HubSpot, Moz) or from companies that also offer services (Content Marketing Institute). It means that company blogs are getting ever more powerful, and they’re chasing the traditional content providers. Online publishers, don’t say we didn’t warn you!
B2B is taking over content marketing: it’s not only that company blogs are rising as THE main content empires; we see a trend in which B2B companies are taking the lead in content creation. Two of the articles in this list discuss this phenomenon, and we can only join the chorus. What effect will this have on content marketing in 2016? It’s not up to us to tell :)