It is difficult to overstate the importance of headlines. A good headline can entice and engage your audience to click, to read, and to share your content. In many cases headlines are the thing that is shared rather than the article. So you knew that. But do you know what makes an engaging headline?

To help answer this question we analyzed 100 million article headlines. We have set out below our findings from the research including the:

While there is no magic formula for creating a viral or popular headline, there are many lessons we can learn to improve …

In the last three years at BuzzSumo we have crawled and analyzed over 2m ‘how to’ posts. The top posts were shared over a million times. These posts ranged from ‘how to hide your house from Google maps’ and ‘how to fix your sleep problems with science’ to ‘how to be a great lover’. Popular business content included ‘how to look good in Skype interviews’.

The best ‘how to’ posts frequently outperformed other content formats in terms of views, shares, links and conversions. So we decided to take a look in more detail. In this post we set out three steps to create the perfect ‘how to’ post namely:

  1. researching the right questions and topics
  2. identifying where you can be the best answer
  3. using a winning structure for your post

Why “How To” Posts?

Our research reveals that ‘how to’ posts are …

In January 2016 I looked back at the first 16 months of growing BuzzSumo. I thought now, 16 months later, it was probably time to provide a further update on our progress and my reflections on running a bootstrapped SaaS business.

I want to use this opportunity to challenge what I call the Unicorn orthodoxy. I have seen far too many people damaged by the stresses and strains of trying to be a unicorn. I want to set out the case for being a bootstrapped donkey and examine the pros and cons.

Unicorns and donkeys

When you launch a SaaS business, if you are a sad person like me, you will devour articles on growing a SaaS business from pricing to marketing to strategy.  Such reading can be helpful as it helps you reflect on your own business. However, in my experience much of the advice is based on

Forget Paris, I love San Diego in the springtime. I particularly love the Social Media Marketing World event.

It is a great chance to catch up with friends in the sunshine and to learn from the best experts in the field of social media marketing.

I was furiously scribbling notes throughout the event and here are some of my top takeaways.

1. Facebook is the most important marketing platform

Mike Stelzner revealed the results of Social Media Examiner’s latest survey of 5,000 marketers. Two thirds of marketers say Facebook is their most important platform although they acknowledge reach has declined.

facebook-marketing

2. LinkedIn is still key for B2B marketers

The second most important platform in the SME study was LinkedIn. There are also signs that people are spending more time in their LinkedIn feed and sharing a lot more on LinkedIn.  There are now 450m members on LinkedIn but importantly it …

Are you producing quality content every week?

Heidi Cohen started a blog in 2010 and set herself a goal of becoming one of Social Media Examiner’s top ten blogs. She produced quality posts consistently every week, often three times a week.

By 2012 her blog was number 7 in the SME list of top ten blogs. This year Heidi was a judge reviewing the top ten marketing blogs.

I was privileged to listen to Heidi share her secrets at Social Media Marketing World this week. Think you can’t produce quality posts every week? Yes, you can.

Here are the nine insights that I took away from Heidi’s session.

1. Be Consistent and Relentless

You have to be consistent as a blogger and you must not give up too early. Content marketing and blogging is a long term game. Heidi shared a chart from Moz showing why bloggers should have grit …

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.

List25

  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