Do you ever wonder why certain content and ideas become very popular while others fail to gain traction? Derek Thompson’s new book ‘Hit Makers: How Things Become Popular‘ takes an in-depth look at what makes a viral or popular product. The book doesn’t provide a secret formula for virality, however, Thompson provides a lot of detailed research on the key factors that cause content and products to become popular. Here is my take on the content marketing lessons from the book.

Popular Products are MAYA — Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable

Thompson argues that the products that become popular are a balance of familiarity and newness. He quotes Raymond Loewy, the industrial designer, whose approach was summed up in his acronym MAYA — the “most advanced, yet acceptable” idea.

The theory goes that people are simultaneously Neophobic (afraid of the new) and Neophilic (attracted to the new). Thus new …

What is the ideal frequency for publishing content? In my view is there is no ideal frequency as it depends upon your site, audience and objectives. However, you can adopt different content strategies from high frequency publishing through to Jay Baer‘s advice that you should only publish when you have something worthwhile to say.  In this post I want to focus on the “less is more” content strategy.

You can drive higher shares, gain more links and attract significantly more traffic using a ‘less is more’ approach. Yes, you really can drive more traffic by publishing less content. It is not magic as I will prove below.

Brian Dean of Backlinko has executed this content strategy to great effect. Brian has published just 53 posts over the last five years, less than one a month. These posts have driven nearly 4m visitors to his site. The average shares and

Medium has become a popular online publishing platform. It is a new breed of social journalism site, effectively a blog host featuring a hybrid collection of amateur and professional authors, publications and exclusive blogs. Medium is not without its problems, as its CEO, Ev Williams discussed in a blog post but it is estimated that it now has over 60 million monthly visitors. We decided to take a look at content on Medium and specifically the content that gains shares and links last year to see what we could learn.

Summary of Content Shares and Links

We looked at a total of 132,000 Medium posts. This was made up of the 11,000 most shared posts published each month in 2016, broadly the top 25% most shared posts. The average total shares for these 132,00 posts was 379. Total shares include Twitter shares, Pinterest shares, Google Plus shares, LinkedIn shares

Syed Balkhi is the founder of OptinMonster, the powerful lead-generation solution that converts millions of abandoning website visitors into subscribers and customers each month. Syed is also the founder of List25, the popular entertainment site, viewed by over 400 million people each month. List25 combines interesting and intriguing facts with the innate human desire to rank and list things. One of our favourites is 25 compelling facts you should know about David Bowie.

We talked to Syed about some of the the challenges he faces and how BuzzSumo has helped him grow his audience for both sites.


  1. Making data-driven decisions: “For List25 our challenge is to create content that we know will be good and which will resonate with our audience. Often we have a hunch, but hunches are not good enough. We like to make data-driven decisions. With BuzzSumo we can see the data on content

I was idly running some searches on BuzzSumo last week when I noticed some patterns for LinkedIn content. I decided to explore it a little further by analysing the most successful headlines and topics. I have shared my findings in case they are of interest when developing your LinkedIn content strategy.

This post covers:

  • Popular headline phrases
  • Most impactful headline words and topics
  • Learning from LinkedIn Influencers
  • Learning from non-influencers
  • Learning from long form posts
  • My takeaways

LinkedIn is a unique social platform with its strong B2B focus. In my previous research I have found that LinkedIn audiences like practical content and industry trends. The site is also very career focused, with many users using the site to find jobs, build personal networks and learn how to be more successful. Thus it is quite different from say Twitter or Facebook, and hence we would expect a different content focus.


We have been reviewing the best B2B content of the year with our friends at Uberflip. In this post we highlight some of the best individual examples and also the six most successful B2B content formats. We hope this will be helpful and provide some inspiration when developing your content strategy for 2017. We will be discussing the research and our findings at a free webinar on Wednesday, December 7th. I hope you can join us.

Our approach

Trying to identify the top B2B content is clearly a subjective task. This year we have focused on B2B content that has been well shared and/or has gained a large number of links. Both shares and links are important in content amplification. Shares can particularly help visibility and content distribution while links tend to help authority, search engine rankings and longevity. The number of links referred to throughout this article are …

“Data-driven storytelling is poised to be the next big trend in content marketing.Harvard Business Review, October 2015.

“Data-enhanced storytelling is rapidly reshaping both content and advertising.” Adweek, January, 2016.

There is a growing interest in data driven stories. A new breed of journalists are uncovering and telling data-driven stories facilitated by access to large datasets and easy to use data analysis tools. Content marketers and SEO teams are also drawn to data-driven stories by evidence that research and data based articles attract more links.

In this post below we explore the five core narratives for telling stories with data, namely:

  1. Trends. For example, how smartphone ownership is increasing or decreasing.
  2. Rank order or league tables. For example, the politicians getting the most social media coverage or which areas have the highest crime rates.
  3. Comparisons. For example, how one company is performing relative to another.
  4. Surprising

We have recently been pleased to support our friends at Technology for Marketing on their new report: The Science of Content. The report explores the content that resonates in ten different industries. Luke Bilton, will be presenting the report at the TFM event on Thursday 29th September 2016, at Olympia in London, which includes speakers such as Joe Pulizzi from CMI. You can get your free ticket to the event here.

Content is an investment in building an audience

Once you look at content as an investment in building an audience you understand the importance of understanding your audience and audience centered content.

As part of this process you also need to understand the content that resonates with your audiences from content topics and issues to content formats and headlines. You also need to understand the influencers they respect, the networks where they hang out and where content gets …