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Content Lessons Learned From 25 Popular Blog Posts

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Content Marketing
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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 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. 13 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)

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