The two digital analytics companies teamed up this summer to analyse what makes content shareable and linkable. They analysed over 1 million articles to find correlations between shares and links and answer all content marketer’s prayers to reveal the truth behind what content really works.
They found in a randomly selected sample of 100,000 articles, almost 50% received two or less Facebook interactions (shares, likes or comments) and over 75% had zero backlinks. In the buzz and flow of marketing intelligence from recent years, this finding shows that the internet has responded to the “content is king” mantra, but not in a good way. Most content created is of poor quality and is simply ignored or it is not being amplified effectively. So it is more important now than ever to create compelling content that rises above the deafening sea of noise filling the ether(net).
Shares outweigh links unanimously, unsurprisingly, as shares are much easier to achieve. The ability to share anything on the internet is now a commodity. Getting links is much harder as it requires much more effort than simply hitting a share button. BuzzSumo and Moz’s research established that highly shared pieces of content did not necessarily achieve links in the same way. In fact, of the 1 million posts sampled, there was no significant correlation between amount of shares and links, meaning people share and link for different reasons. This is crucially important knowledge for content writers when setting targets for their content as they must treat shares and links as separate metrics, and they must be viewed on their own individual merits, because shares and links are not linked.
85% of content published on the web is less than 1000 words in length. Whereas, content over 1000 words long significantly outperforms shorter content with more shares and links. Think about that for a second, 85% of content being published on the internet is sub-standard. This makes content creation exciting again, because knowing this means you can do better than over four fifths of the competition.
Where content achieves a high amount of shares and a subsequent increase of referring domain links is the ‘sweet spot’. This is the holy grail of content, the answer to all content marketer’s problems. The content that sits in the ‘sweet spot’ comes from major publishers through popular domains, something many people knew already. So no life-changing insight there, however, BuzzSumo and Moz do not leave us hanging, they found that authoritative, research-backed content and opinion forming journalism were also in this sweet spot halo.
The research looked at specific domains and compared a larger sample of 49,952 articles from the New York Times and 46,128 from the Guardian.
They found that the correlation between total shares to domain links was lower than when a smaller sample based on a specific content type was compared. They found that opinion forming content achieved a higher correlation of shares and referring links.
They concluded that content which commented on current events with either a controversial angle or engaging approach performed best in achieving links and shares, as well as authoritative writing, and deeply researched/evidence-backed content.
So now you know what content hits the sweet spot, you need to know which format will deliver the best results. Here is the result of detailed analysis on 757,317 posts that BuzzSumo and Moz took at random to analyse content formats with the highest share and referring link correlations.
The content format with the highest correlation of total shares and referring links was ‘Why Posts’ at 0.125, with List posts (0.092) and video (0.091) not far behind. List posts were found to be the most effective content formats to achieve the highest amount of shares and following links. At the other end of the spectrum, infographics were reported to have very low levels of average shares and over 50% of infographics on the web had zero external links. Showing many content publishers have opted to turn to creating infographics out of anything and everything in recent years, which has devalued the potential of infographics as a once promising type of content.
Content length was the last determinant of success and longer pieces consistently produced higher rates of links and shares. The study analysed 489,128 text based articles and found that 85% of content was 1000 words or less, falling into the under-performing category. They discovered that both average shares and referring domain links on average increased in line with a posts length. Long form content gets higher average shares, but emphatically higher average referring links.
The take away points that BuzzSumo and Moz confirmed to increase shares and links were that content over 1000 words and list posts worked best. When they looked at list posts and discarded anything under 1000 words the average number of referring domain links increased from 6.19 to 9.53. Their findings demonstrate that a combination of factors contribute to the overall success of content, with some interesting discoveries about content format, length and type. So when content creation looks bleak, just remember that good quality content rules and that not just any ‘content is king’. We would not suggest writing for the sake of word count, this in fact could produce worse content but make sure that whatever you are writing about has been well researched, displays an original opinion and either informs why or even better can be formatted in a list.
If you want to find out more about the BuzzSumo & Moz report then follow this link to view the 30 page report.