Editor’s note: You may have missed the original article by Steve Rayson when it was published last year. Given the topic’s relevancy today, Susan Moeller has updated it.
Competition for audience attention is fierce. Successful content marketing depends on creating and amplifying exceptional content.
WordPress users create an average of 70.5 million blog posts per month. With other CMS platforms contributing new content, the volume of new material added to the web each day now exceeds 2 million posts.
In this content landscape, social sharing alone won’t push content enough to generate business value.
To reach the widest possible audience, build authority, and drive traffic, content needs both social shares and backlinks.
To build authority & drive traffic, #content needs both #social shares & backlinks. @SusanCMoeller.Click To Tweet
In this post I look at the issues, including the importance of an amplification strategy and content that achieves both links and shares.
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Content and social sharing
Social shares have not kept pace with the amount of content available, and content marketers have felt the impact.
An American Marketing Association survey found brand marketers increased their publishing by 800% from 2011 to 2016, but engagement per post declined by 89% over the same period.
Our BuzzSumo Annual Content Trends Report looked at 100 million articles and found a similar decline in the number of social shares. The average fell from eight in 2015 to just four in 2017.
Social shares of articles are dropping, from an average 8 in ’15 to 4 in ’17 via @BuzzSumo #research.Click To Tweet
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What is amplification?
At its simplest, amplification is a digital connection to content. These connections give other audiences a chance to see your posts and interact with your websites.
There are two primary ways that content is amplified – by sharing a link on social media platforms or by including a backlink. Backlinks can be added anywhere, including the text of an article, an author bio, or post attribution.
Email and messaging apps are also used to share content, but these “dark sharing” mechanisms are more difficult to track because they are often private.
No amplification strategy means a poor return on your content investment
Without the amplification from social shares and backlinks, your content won’t reach enough people to be valuable to your business.
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: It’s not enough to publish content and hope that an audience will find it.
(If you are not convinced, give it a try. I started a personal blog. I told a few friends and family members about it. I posted about it once on LinkedIn. That’s all the promotion I’ve done. Total site visitors to date: 10. If this were a business site, I’d be in trouble.)
As Rand Fishkin says, there’s no prize for hitting publish. Even publishing great, high-quality content is not enough.
Content creators need to think about how and why their content will be amplified before they create it. Why will people share it? Why will they link to it? How will they find it?
Content creators must think about amplification before they create #content, says @SusanCMoeller.Click To Tweet
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Social sharing alone is not an amplification strategy
Social networks are important content discovery platforms. Think about the articles you looked at today, how many did you find via a search engine and how many from a social network?
Social shares matter, but social sharing on its own is not an amplification strategy.
Here are some limits of relying only on social shares to draw an audience to your content:
Most links shared on social are never clicked.
Many people who share the articles don’t even view them, let alone read them.
Social posts tend to have a limited shelf life. If you missed a tweet this morning, will you ever see it?
Social sharing usually declines quickly in the days and weeks after content is published.
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Don’t ignore backlinks
Backlinks remain a powerful, ongoing way to drive traffic to our content.
They are hard to earn, but they stay around much longer than a tweet or a Facebook post, and they are a powerful Google ranking factor.
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Content that attracts shares and links
The ideal content will attract both links and shares. I think that public amplification also impacts dark sharing. A larger audience discovering content via social sharing and backlinks increases the likelihood the URL will be added to an email or Slack channel.
The ideal #content attracts links AND shares, says @SusanCMoeller.Click To Tweet
Our BuzzSumo research has identified five content formats that have potential to achieve both links and shares:
Authoritative content that answers popular questions, such as “what is?”
Strong opinion posts and political posts
Content that provides original research and insights
Content that leverages a trending topic but also provides practical insights
Authoritative news content on new products or developments
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1. Authoritative answer posts
Some of the best content marketing simply answers a customer’s question. This example of simple but authoritative content answers what-is questions. Notice the high number of social shares and backlinks for the piece.
Good answer posts do consistently well when it comes to links but are often overlooked by content marketers. This is particularly true of basic questions. What may seem too basic to you can be helpful to new people joining the industry.
Answering the questions your customers ask remains one of the most powerful forms of content marketing.
Answering questions customers ask remains one of the most powerful forms of #contentmarketing. @SusanCMoellerClick To Tweet
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2. Strong opinion posts
Strong and/or controversial opinions drive not only shares but links. People share opinion posts to be part of a tribe – to show they belong and to support causes or views they care about. These posts also gain links as people want to reference articles in support of their view, as a jumping-off point for discussion, or to take issue with the post.
People share opinion posts to be part of a tribe. These posts also gain links. @SusanCMoellerClick To Tweet
This example of a political viewpoint by Michael Moore and an opinion post on content marketing by Mark Schaefer achieved a high number of links compared to other posts on their respective sites. Michael’s posts typically get a lot of shares (as you would expect) but generally earn fewer than 100 domain links and sometimes less than 10. In fact, his site has a total of 3,900 domain links and over 1,000 of those links are to this single post.
In Mark’s case, this one strong opinion article accounts for over half of all the domain links to his blog.
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3. Original research and insights
Our studies show original research gains both shares and links. The Pew Research Center consistently achieves high levels of shares and links from its published research. Social Media Examiner has a large audience and gets consistently high shares for its content. However, during the last 12 months, SME’s posts have an average of 14 backlinks. A big exception is the annual state of the industry report, which is based on original research. It has become reference content.
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4. Content amplification strategy
Content amplification is so much more than social sharing.
To be effective, we need to think about amplification long before the content is published.
Some tactics to consider are:
Link-building and search-engine visibility
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A targeted email to our audience can drive far more traffic than social sharing. If you have subscribers – or a segment of subscribers – interested in a topic as shown by previous email opens or visits to specific blog posts, a targeted email to promote your post can be effective.
A targeted #email to our audience can drive far more traffic than social sharing, says @SusanCMoeller.Click To Tweet
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Influencers who share links are helpful. But influencers who advocate more broadly for your brand and content have a greater impact. Advocates will mention you while speaking at an event or in a podcast. They will also name you in a blog post on their site or in a guest post for a major media outlet, and they may include your link.
Influencer marketing should focus on building advocates, not seeking influencer shares.
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Search-engine visibility and link-building
SEO and visibility in search engines is a long-term game, but you need to address how to improve your content’s visibility – from the content to its technical factors. Active link-building is one of the best ways to improve your content’s search-engine visibility. The sharing of your content by other sites indicates to search algorithms that your content is valued by others.
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Increasingly we live in a pay-to-play world. Organic reach is harder in search and social. You should consider promoting your content through Google ads or boosts of Facebook posts. Paid promotion is an important part of your amplification strategy.
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Social sharing is not a content amplification strategy. Even high shares and mentions by influencers do not mean your content will gain links, build authority, or drive traffic. Content amplification is as important as content creation, possibly more so. Thus, for every piece of content you need an amplification strategy. Your aim should be to create content that attracts both shares and links.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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