Content Marketing, Blogging and Content Creation

Content Lessons Learned From 25 Popular Blog Posts

I’ve been writing Convince & Convert for more than two years, and have produced more than 300 posts. Mostly from me, with some terrific assistance from talented guest authors.

Last week, I was on a content marketing discussion panel (moderated by Jeff Rohrs) at the ExactTarget Connections conference. I was joined by Joe Pulizzi from Junta42, Ann Handley from MarketingProfs, and Brad Kleinman from Online Marketing Connect. At one point we discussed headline writing and what draws clicks within the social media content universe.

Content Lessons Learned From 25 Blog Posts 300x162 Content Lessons Learned From 25 Popular Blog PostsI had some anecdotal stories to share, but I’ve never looked at it methodically until now.

I mined my Google Analytics and put together a list of the 25 most popular posts that have ever appeared on this blog, ranked by total number of page views.

  1. Develop a Social Media Strategy in 7 Steps
  2. The 6 Dangerous Fallacies of Social Media
  3. The 39 Social Media Tools I’ll Use Today
  4. 3 Ways Facebook Is Killing Your Website
  5. 11 Must-Dos for the Serious Blogger
  6. Crushing the Myth of B2B Social Media
  7. 15 Email Statistics That Are Shaping the Future
  8. 7 Ways to Use Social Media
  9. 11 Reasons Your Company Needs Facebook
  10. Social Media Monitoring Tools How to Pick the Right One (guest post by Katie Van Domelen)
  11. 7 Ways to Use Social Media to Create Buzzworthy Events
  12. 13 Observations from South by Southwest
  13. 7 Critical Elements of Your Social Media Strategy
  14. Linkedin – 22 Ways to Dominate
  15. Is Twitter for Business Even Worth the Trouble?
  16. How to Create a Share of Voice Report
  17. Get Shorty – The Elevator Pitch is Dead
  18. Finding Your Mass Influencers Among Your Customers
  19. 4 Detective Tricks to Find Your Customers in Social Media
  20. Does Your Facebook Page Have a Pulse?
  21. Build Your Brand a Social Content Ladder in 5 Steps
  22. Is Starbucks the Most Dangerous Competitor to Facebook? (co-authored with Clinton Bonner)
  23. Is Your Company More Interesting Than My Wife?
  24. Integrating Email and Social Media with Flowtown
  25. 7 Ingredients in the Perfect Twitter Profile

Content Lessons Learned

A few patterns become instantly clear when I look at this information:

Time matters, but not in a consistent way. Of the top 10 posts, only number 4 and number 10 are semi-recent. Most of the rest are from spring 2010 or earlier. Unless you happen to catch lightning in a bottle (#4), the incremental page views stemming from people linking to these posts or finding them on search engines adds up.

Search does matter. By my rough calculation, approximately 50% of these top posts have some sort or relevant, viable search term in the headline (and thus the page title and URL). I’m not counting search terms like “Facebook” because it’s unlikely Convince & Convert will ever have enough juice to rank for such a broad term. I may run a similar analysis and rank my top posts by page views coming from search engines. That would be interesting to see how similar each list is.

The numbers and lists thing works. 15 of my top 25 all-time posts have a number in the headline. It’s human nature, especially for a complex and ever-shifting topic like social media, to want complexities broken into morsels.

The appetite for tools content is huge. Despite the fact that I try to focus my work and my writing where possible on social media strategy and social integration issues, approximately 16 of my top 25 posts deal entirely or primarily with one or more social media tools and tactics. My friends at Social Media Examiner (where I first published #19 and #21) have built a very successful business on this concept.

On a related point, overlap in social media isn’t as large as we (or at least me) thinks it is. #19 and #21 appeared on Social Media Examiner approximately 4 weeks before they ran here, and each generated 1,000 + page views on SME before they generated a single page view here. It doesn’t appear that the SME audience is duplicated here, or vice versa (at least not significantly).

Extra resources are important. I don’t write a lot of posts that include presentation slides, but I’ve done it at least 15 times. On this list #1, #5, #7, #11, #14, #16 all include a presentation, or free social media tool. This is a shocking ratio to me. I wonder if presence on Slideshare has something to do with that? Any SEO geeks want to weigh in on that?

Headline length may be a factor. Here’s the distribution of number of words in each of these headlines:

  • 5 word headline = 2 posts in top 25
  • 6 word headline = 3 posts in top 25
  • 7 word headline = 8 posts in top 25
  • 8 word headline = 9 posts in top 25
  • 9 word headline = 0
  • 10 word headline = 4 posts in top 25

Clearly, I write longer headlines than many other social media bloggers. But this distribution surprised me. 21 out of my top 25 all-time posts have at least 7 words in the headline. Do longer headlines explain the contents of the post better? Is it extra SEO fodder? I’m not certain, but it’s pretty clear that longer works – at least here.

The thesaurus remains underrated. In my social media consulting, I often emphasize with my clients the importance of using powerful, unexpected and unusual words and turns of phrase in headlines – to break through the content clutter. This appears to have worked in the case of #2, #4, #6, #11, #14, #17, #19, #23. In #23 for example – which is about building a dynamic Facebook fan page – if that headline was “Ways to Make Your Facebook Page More Engaging” would it have made this list? I don’t think it would have.

This was an illuminating exercise for me. Thanks to my crack assistant Jess Ostroff for helping with the research. What content lessons do you take away from these results? I’m sure there’s patterns I’ve missed.

(Bart Simpson Chalkboard Generator is Available at AddLetters)

Related
  • http://spreemancommunications.com Amy Spreeman

    This is a terrific resource. Thanks for boiling these down and providing links.
    Longer headlines, eh?

  • http://spreemancommunications.com Amy Spreeman

    This is a terrific resource. Thanks for boiling these down and providing links.
    Longer headlines, eh?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      So it would appear. This is obviously invalid research statistically, but anecdotally it makes you wonder.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      So it would appear. This is obviously invalid research statistically, but anecdotally it makes you wonder.

      • http://twitter.com/psichael Michael Lebiague

        Nice post. For the longer titles I was just wondering what the total numbers are… I mean, I 95% of your titles would be under 7 words, the conclusion would be different.

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          Exactly. Good point. I tend to write long headlines, so this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Hhenry

    Excellent tips! Not only does it teach us how to make our blogs more marketable, but it gives us a list of your greatest hits.

  • Anonymous

    This. Was. Awesome. Thank you.

  • http://askaaronlee.com Aaron Lee

    Thanks for sharing this great blog post Jay, I’ll try to play around with the title and coming up with titles like “Is Your Company More Interesting Than My Wife?” but question is. How do someone come up with creative titles like that? I always try to play around with titles but I end up going for the most “straight forward” blog titles like how to bla bla bla :)

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Next time you do one Aaron, write about 20 different titles. Just for practice. Start with wacky, and work your way back to straightforward.

  • http://www.michaelgrover.com MichaelGrover

    Very interesting and confirms some research I’ve done on InformationWeek.com sites. It stands to reason, though, that older posts would have more page views. Any way to normalize for that?

  • http://jeremyvaught.com jeremyvaught

    Great post Jay! I love the analysis. It’s no wonder you are up to #23 on the AdAge Power150, you are putting out great content consistently.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks Jeremy. I appreciate it. 21 is my high water mark. Trying to crack that top 20 is TOUGH.

  • Anonymous

    Jay,

    Thank you for sharing your results. I go through this process for my blog on a regular basis (number junkie that I am). In some areas, my results are similar to yours. In others, they are very different. All blog owners should do this to see what their community prefers. Every community is different and will respond to different triggers. I hope you inspire others to do this.

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    Your insight on title length is interesting. I’ve always heard the shorter the better, but I tend to get verbose with my titles. I feel like I couldn’t be creative enough or let the reader know exactly what the post is about unless I used 7+ words. Thanks for this research. It’s also tough information for bloggers to get who haven’t had the traffic volume that C&C gets. Thanks much for sharing.

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Jay

    Thank you so much for compiling and sharing your findings. What is interesting when you do look at the articles, more than half are list posts or some sort of how to/advice. It can give some insight into what us readers here are looking for from you and also from social media bloggers as a whole. I know that list posts as well as how to perform very well. Are we, as an online community seeking that free advice to use for ourselves to better our own business and profit. It sounds harsh to say it that way but at the same time, I know the flowtown article was incredibly useful for myself, the agency and also clients.

    I guess pretty much we have known all along that the list post that has relevant, useful and actionable content will out perform many articles as people are not only learning they are practicing it results. Then again, if the list post or the how to was underperforming as far as the advice given for readers then the audience would be be hesitant to return and continue reading other articles.

    Great findings especially about the longer headlines as I tend to be a bit long winded so that definitely is one to jot down.

    @SuzanneVara

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Jay

    Thank you so much for compiling and sharing your findings. What is interesting when you do look at the articles, more than half are list posts or some sort of how to/advice. It can give some insight into what us readers here are looking for from you and also from social media bloggers as a whole. I know that list posts as well as how to perform very well. Are we, as an online community seeking that free advice to use for ourselves to better our own business and profit. It sounds harsh to say it that way but at the same time, I know the flowtown article was incredibly useful for myself, the agency and also clients.

    I guess pretty much we have known all along that the list post that has relevant, useful and actionable content will out perform many articles as people are not only learning they are practicing it results. Then again, if the list post or the how to was underperforming as far as the advice given for readers then the audience would be be hesitant to return and continue reading other articles.

    Great findings especially about the longer headlines as I tend to be a bit long winded so that definitely is one to jot down.

    @SuzanneVara

  • http://www.worob.com/ Worob

    Thanks for sharing, Jay!

    @Worob
    PR at Sunrise – worob.com

  • http://buzzmedia.com.my/ David Wang

    thanks for sharing, content with specifc numbers and stats are always great

  • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

    Jay…this is invaluable stuff…and it’s all possible because you are a darn good writer as well. Really enjoyed being on the panel with you.

  • Marijean Jaggers

    I liked this so much I did one of my own. Thanks, Jay!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Nice MJ. Thanks!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Nice MJ. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/LorenMcDonald Loren McDonald

    Great post Jay. Years ago I did a similar analysis of the most clicked articles from my then employer’s email newsletter and found almost identical results. Using numbers, such as “The 10 Tips…” in article titles and focusing the content on practical, how to – rather than strategic thought pieces – is clearly what readers wanted.

    The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    BTW, tried to post these comments from my iPad and couldn’t…

  • http://twitter.com/LorenMcDonald Loren McDonald

    Great post Jay. Years ago I did a similar analysis of the most clicked articles from my then employer’s email newsletter and found almost identical results. Using numbers, such as “The 10 Tips…” in article titles and focusing the content on practical, how to – rather than strategic thought pieces – is clearly what readers wanted.

    The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    BTW, tried to post these comments from my iPad and couldn’t…

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks Loren. Indeed, I think that proves that the numbers thing is more consumer psychology than tech and content-driven. I’ll check on the iPad issue. Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been having some challenges with Disqus lately.

  • Kathy Condon

    Jay, thank you so much for this summary. I was particularly interested in the information you provided for headlines since that has been my focus lately. Like I was surprised like you, the longer did better–I was thinking short and crisp, yet it makes sense when you really think about how search engines work. Glad you took the time to do the analysis.

    http://www.kathycondons.blogspot.com

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

    Thanks Kathy. Glad to hear I’m not crazy!

  • http://www.taglinemachine.com Simon Gornick

    There’s going to come a time – and I’m a little surprised it’s been so long – that the “Top Ten Tips” approach to posts will get a little long in the tooth. While the “how to” format is clearly very appealing, there’s something a tad programmatic about relying on it. Often the how to’s get repetitive and tend towards the obvious. I’m, personally, more interested in those posts that are successful – despite – not having a “top ten list” approach. That, to me at least, suggests quality and creative writing is in play.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I agree. I keep thinking the time draws nigh, but evidently not yet.
      Although, this analysis is from 2+ years of posts. A look at just the
      past 6 months might yield different findings.

      • http://www.taglinemachine.com Simon Gornick

        Actually, Jay, I believe “Top Ten” syndrome remains in full force. Perhaps the reason is as simple as this. If one fills one’s posts with the “How” the writer can spend less time on the “why” which is of course far harder to pull off.

        • http://treypennington.com treypennington

          Actually, people seem to come into the world satisfied with their own “why.” They seem hungry for a shorter path to “how” so they can have “now.”

          I relish in the “why.” The philosophy, the rationale, the psychology, and even the worldview and epistemology, crank my engine big time. Sadly. My solid “why” posts aren’t anywhere near as popular as my “how” posts.

          It’s not that writing “how” posts are easier or simply for the writer; it’s simply the content readers seem to want.

          (PS. Yep, I’ve included Kant and Hume in a post or two.)

          • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

            I know. You’re my favorite Kant-quoting blogger!

          • http://www.taglinemachine.com Simon Gornick

            Part of the problem is the “Top Ten” lis approach. It really gets in the way for me and makes for cookie cutter copy.

      • http://www.taglinemachine.com Simon Gornick

        Actually, Jay, I believe “Top Ten” syndrome remains in full force. Perhaps the reason is as simple as this. If one fills one’s posts with the “How” the writer can spend less time on the “why” which is of course far harder to pull off.

  • http://twitter.com/allanschoenberg Allan Schoenberg

    This is a great list Jay. I’m a long-time reader and first time commenter. This is very helpful for my future reference.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thank you Allan. I appreciate you coming out of the woodwork. What do I need to do to make that happen routinely? ;)

  • http://www.sixfigurerenegade.com Peter dunin

    quality post!you have provided a really good list here,thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/StickyStimuli Yael Davidowitz-Neu

    Great post – I love looking at this stuff! Other observations: – 15 of the posts (and more interestingly, 12 of the top 14) contain numbers in the headline. – 4 contain questions (no overlap with the previous 15) – 3 begin with gerunds (no overlap with previous 19) – 2 use the phrase ‘How to’ (no overlap with previous 22) Also:- 16 posts contain either the phrase “social media” or the name of a social network- 6 posts include one of the following fear-inducing words: dangerous, crushing, killing, dead, or trouble.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Should I be concerned about my fear mongering? ;)

  • Tikyo

    Thanks for sharing your data. Numbers as you said, as well as, strong words such in the #2 (6 Dangerous Fallacies of Social Media) and in the #3 (Ways Facebook Is Killing Your Website) are things that I noted. I find the #2 to be very strong because not only there is a number but also because there are two words within the same title that could be noticeable (“dangerous” and “fallacies”).

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