Have you ever spent hours crafting the perfect blog post or landing page only to have it ignored?
We’ve all been there. It’s frustrating.
…But there’s a way out. Well, 13 ways to be exact. But we’ll get to that soon.
One of the biggest frustrations about content marketing is that it often feels like “it” has all been done before. But chew on this…
If you were to choose any topic and “brain dump” 100 or even 1,000 words onto paper, do you know what you would get? Unique content. Those words that flowed so freely from your fingertips are almost as unique as a snowflake. Don’t believe me? Try it out.
Go ahead and dump the words from your brain into Duplichecker. You will almost certainly get a clear result. You can do the same with Copyscape if you have a premium membership. See? You do have something unique to add to the conversation. Now let’s put a little more oomph behind your words.
It takes much more than a brain dump to create a viral post, but my point is that “it” has not all been done before. You can use that same unique voice and perspective to create something worthy of sharing. Simply use these 13 content hacks and you will create a piece that is destined to go viral and bring loads of traffic back to your website.
1. Use People’s Selfish Tendencies to Your Advantage
Ben Hunt nailed it when he said, “They don’t actually care about you or your business for your sake… if they care at all, it’s for THEIR sake.”
So why are your customers so selfish? It’s not their fault. It’s neuroscience.
It can all be tracked back to the Amygdala. Yeah, you’ve got one of those too. The Amygdala is often called the “lizard brain.” It is the part of the brain that’s responsible for tying emotion to events. It’s also in charge of the fight or flight reaction that has kept us alive for so long.
Why is the lizard brain so important? Well, it’s hardwired to take over when it senses danger. And it’s the driving force in almost every decision we make.
“98% of what the brain does is outside of conscious awareness.” Michael S. Gazzaniga
The lizard brain is responsible for:
These emotions are reactions to perceived danger or pain.
The lizard brain’s job is to keep you safe. Fight or flight. But we now have so many more options than just fight or flight. These days, we have products and services to alleviate most of our perceived pains.
Does your product or service alleviate a pain? You may be surprised to learn that it does.
Follow these three simple steps and you’ll be speaking reptilian in no time.
- Identify pain points – In this example from Kissmetrics, we can clearly see how TaskEASY is addressing the pain point of their clientele. What is the biggest drawback of mowing the lawn? For most, it’s not the actual labor. It’s the lost time spent doing something undesirable like mowing. What pain does your product or service alleviate?
- Focus on your customer’s needs – Remember that the lizard brain is selfish.
- GymIt does a great job of speaking to its customer’s lizard brain. They could have led with “Clean locker rooms, spacious facility, etc.” But instead, they chose to address the pain points by answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”
- Use contrast – This part of the brain relies exclusively on visual contrast to make decisions about what is safe or unsafe. Show potential clients what is causing their pain and how your product or service can alleviate that pain.
- Before and After: Before and after images are like candy to the lizard brain. They explain what a customer can expect from your product or service without using words. It won’t work for every industry, but it works for most with a little creativity.
- Use imagery – If before and after photos don’t work, don’t give up. You can still use imagery to illustrate your point. Find something that enhances your copy and it will drive the message home.
ACTIONUnderstand the driving force behind our decisions is the Amygdala. If you want to learn even more about how the Amygdala works, click here.
2. Research Viral Content With BuzzSumo
The good thing about improving upon something is that it has been done before. It may sound like a drawback, but the fact that you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch is a major advantage. Search for examples of viral content and review what those content marketers did right.
- Visit BuzzSumo and sign up for a new account (if you don’t have one already).
- Enter a topic or domain to find the most shared articles (it’ll be sorted by most shares). For this example, we’ll use the broad topic of content marketing.
- Review the list and see which articles are most relevant to your business. Then think about what you can add to the conversation. Remember that you are creating a brand new content piece and not copying anything.
- From the relevant titles to content marketing, you’ll see a theme. These titles clear up confusion or simplify the subject. What can we add to that conversation?
3. Use Analytics and Surveys to Answer These Questions About Your Customer
The average attention span is 8.25 seconds, and 17% of people spend less than 4 seconds on a web page before bouncing. Sadly, the statistics show that our attention spans are only getting shorter as the years progress. So it’s more important than ever to engage your audience from the start.
Here are a few key questions you should answer about your customer before creating any content:
- Who are they? (demographic info)
- What steps do they take before buying a product or using a service like yours? Do they read reviews? Pin inspirations on Pinterest?
- What are their problems?
- What are their fears? What keeps them up at night?
- What are their hopes and dreams?
- How can you help them?
If you have history with these people (i.e. website visits), look at the data to help you answer some of these questions. Check your Google Analytics or other tracking account for the following:
- Where are your visitors coming from (social networks, search engines, etc.)?
- What keywords are they using to get to your site?
- What page are they landing on? Are they sticking around?
- Which pages do they spend the most time on? This may tell you more about their interests.
- Of those who don’t convert, where/when are they leaving? What is their exit point?
And if you don’t know the answers to these questions, it is definitely time to use analytics to learn about your customer.
One highly useful feature of Google Analytics is found in its demographic category. Not only can you see who your customers are overall, but you can see who is doing what on your website.
For example, maybe your customers are split 60/40 male to female overall, but females account for 80 percent of your bounces. This may indicate that your content should cater more to the females. Play around with this feature and you may walk away with some valuable insights about your audience.
By looking at customer behavior, you can get a feel for what makes them tick. If you don’t have history, try surveying your target audience or finding your customer on social media.
Once you understand what makes your audience tick, create something that can help address their pains or make their lives easier in some way.
4. Want 64k Shares? Use Data to Prove Your Point
Do you remember rule number one? “No one cares about you.” Well, they don’t trust you either. Not completely. In order to write something extraordinary, you’re going to need more than just an opinion and a word processing program. You’ll need proof that what you’re saying is true.
Proof can come in many different forms. Here are a few ideas:
- Case studies – Test theories with your own data and publish the results. If you don’t have the time or resources for that, use someone else’s study (and link to them, of course), but be sure to add something of value. Maybe your article includes case studies from various sites to prove your point. Figure out what works best for your content. Just look at all the shares case studies get.
- Social proof – Even if you are the most trustworthy person on the planet, no one wants to hear from only you. Include quotes from customers or thought leaders in your industry. Need inspiration? Check out this collection of quotes from StartupJuncture.
- Poll results – Here’s a super simple way to create interesting content from an unbiased source. Poll your customer or email list and publish the results. Just be sure the questions in your poll address your audience’s pain points. The ultimate goal is to form a conclusion that will help people solve a problem. And remember that poll results can be fun. This image was grabbed from a RockSound poll on the Hero of the Year. Looks like something you’d want to read, doesn’t it?
5. Gather Thoughts and Enough Insight for a Long Post
There are benefits to both long and short form content, but long copy wins for overall conversion and SEO value.
Conversions – When Marketing Experiments tested short vs. long copy conversions, they found that long copy outperformed short copy by a factor of nearly four to one.
SEO – The folks at SerpIQ have done an extensive study to get to the bottom of the short vs. long copy debate. And although there are no hard and fast rules (sometimes less really is more), pages with about 1,500 words seem to win more favorable rankings.
TIPWhen you’re writing a longer piece, flow and readability are more important. To ensure your piece reads well, run it through the Hemingway App and target a “good” grade.
6. Grab Their Attention (and Loyalty) with Guest Posting
There is value to adding quality content on your own site, but guest posting can widen your audience, help build relationships with influencers and build traffic. You may have heard about the benefits of guest posting before, but GrooveHQ has shared results that simply cannot be ignored. Below is a graph outlining the traffic they received from various guest posts on popular sites.
Landing a guest post spot on a popular site isn’t easy, but as you can see, the effort is worthwhile.
In a post for Blogging Wizard, Karol K. shares the results of interviews with 11 bloggers about guest posting pitches. Here are five takeaways from the resulting advice:
- Topic is the most important factor – Make your topic/headline irresistible (use hack #7, but remember you’re writing a different audience than your own.)
- Personalize your email – Tailor every email for each pitch.
- Prove that you deserve the spot – If possible, link to other guest posts you have done.
- Keep it short – Your post length may be long, but your pitch email should be short.
- Proofread – If an otherwise perfect pitch is riddled with errors, it’s still going to be ignored.
TIPSearch Google to find relevant sites for guest posting. BuzzSumo is also a great resource for finding guest posting spots.
7. Use These Tips to Craft the Perfect Headline
Your headline is everything. Without the right headline, no one will read your post, you won’t get a good guest posting spot and you can forget about traffic. Because they are so important, the marketing research community has dedicated a great deal of time on examining what works and what doesn’t.
- Headlines with 8 words perform 21% better than average
- Questions get higher click-throughs
- Negative superlatives “never” and “worst” perform 30% better than average and 59% better than positive superlatives according to an Outbrain study.
And here are a few key findings from Ripenn’s evaluation of 2,616 viral headlines.
- Spark curiosity.
- Use emotional words.
- Use action words.
- Make bold claims.
- Don’t get too formal.
Now let’s use the tips above to appeal to that old selfish lizard brain. Here are three quick tips for crafting the perfect headline:
- Encourage their dreams
Example: How to Win Her Heart in Under 3 Minutes
- Justify their failure to achieve dreams (and show them how to do it right)
Example: Here’s Why You’re Broke… And How to Fix It
- Allay fears
Example: This is Your #1 Best Defense Against Termites
Clever is good, but don’t take it too far. You want to be sure everyone understands your point in an instant.
TIPWhen you have your best headline, run it through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. And then make it better.
8. Hook Readers with a Powerful Opening Line
After you’ve hooked them with the headline, your job is to convince them to actually read the article. Grab attention. Get them to the second sentence. Then the third.
The only difference between the first line hook and the headline is that you must deliver on your headline promise here. If you have asked a question in the headline, get as close to the answer as you can in one line. Curiosity is important because you want them to continue reading, but this is also a place for substance.
Don’t wait until the end of the article to make your point or ask for action.
People spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold (what you can see without scrolling down). Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold.
TIPHere, also try using CoSchedule’s headline analyzer on your first line. It’s not designed for this, but it can be helpful. If you are using emotional and power words here, you probably have a decent opening line.
9. Use Testimonials Whenever You Can
You can spend all day talking about how great you are, but it doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as one simple quote from an unbiased source. Testimonials and quotes add credibility to what you’re saying.
Bright Local’s annual consumer survey has found that more consumers rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions than ever before. A staggering 92% of users read online reviews, and 40% form an opinion based on reading 3 or fewer reviews.
Reviews are slightly different than testimonials or quotes, but these results prove what we know to be true. People will not blindly trust you at your word.
There are times when customer testimonials are appropriate and other times when it would be best to quote (and link back to an industry influencer). Use whichever is best for your content.
TIPLook for industry influencers to support your message. You can do this through a Google search, searching social media sites for people who have large followings and contacting them directly, or using websites and services that help match you with influencers.
10. Use Images, Video, Sub-headlines and Design Elements to Break Up Text Blocks
There’s a sad truth that will hit you when you start creating content. It’s one of the reasons why we have to work so hard to capture and keep their attention.
People don’t want to read.
And you can bet that people really don’t want to read blocks after blocks of text. This is why sub-headlines and lists are so important. But they can’t always do the job alone. Especially not when your post is the recommended 1,500 words or more.
You need other elements to break up the monotony. Images, video and design elements all work well. And while any image is better than no image, please avoid the dull stock photos. You know the one with the man drawing dialog boxes on a whiteboard? Please don’t.
In the example below, you may see one of those cringe-worthy stock images, but you’ll also see great examples of breaking up text with other elements.
TIPYou can still use stock images for posts, but try to find images that aren’t overused. When you’re searching through stock photo websites, skip through the most downloaded images to find something unexpected.
11. Use a Keyword Density Tools to Evaluate Focus
In the old days of SEO, people counted keywords like they were dollars. Keywords still have a place today, but they definitely play a more subtle role. We’re not going to cover best practices here, but a good keyword density tool can be a great ally.
And looking at keyword density is not all about SEO. It’ll help you determine whether your piece is as targeted as you intended. For example, if you’re writing a post about content marketing and “kitchen sink” is your top keyword, you may want to make some edits. You’ll also see if you are overusing a particular word or phrase, so it can help with flow.
The following screenshot shows what happens when I run this hack through SEOBook’s keyword tool.
12. Craft a Compelling Call to Action
Why are we in this content marketing game? Is it for fun? Maybe a little. But it’s ultimately about attracting leads and bringing people into your sales funnel.
If you are following these content marketing hacks, you are going to create a piece of compelling content that inspires action. Next, tell people what you want them to do. Just don’t forget to tell them what’s in it for them. That lizard brain is stubborn.
There are two ways you can go wrong with a call to action (CTA). You can be too subtle or too confusing. Here are a few tips for getting it right:
- Keep it simple. According to Unbounce, 9 times out of 10, you only need to ask for a name and email address. The more information you ask people to give you, the greater the chance is that they will bounce.
- Focus on one contact method. You may notice that there aren’t any phone numbers on many landing pages. This is not by accident. And it may not even be that the company doesn’t want to talk to you. It’s because they want to focus your attention on the form or button… and nothing else. When you give people options, you may as well be giving them an out.
- Foster curiosity. There should be a certain sense of wonder about what will happen after they click the CTA button.
- Create anticipation. Describe what happens after they click as favorably as possible. Promise a reward of some sort, even if it’s just the benefits of getting your newsletter.
TIPPay closer attention to the CTA’s you encounter on the web. Which elements stand out? What do you respond to?
13. Share Your Post with the World
Now that you’ve created a masterpiece, share it with the world! Start by creating a list of every person or website that was mentioned in the piece. They may want to help you spread the word. At the very least, they will want to read what you wrote about them. The more eyes you can get on your work, the better.
Next, look for similar content on the web and see who has linked to or shared it. If your piece adds a unique take on the conversation, as it should, they may want to share yours too.
And of course, you will want to share your content on your own social networking sites in hopes that your audience will find it helpful and share.