You can’t rely on the same kind of content marketing strategy that you used in 2015. That’s the basic premise of a Buzzsumo study about the latest in content trends.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Buzzsumo, it’s a web service that digital marketers often use to find influencers. The service reveals the most popular articles in terms of social shares for a particular keyword.
It’s safe to say that Buzzsumo knows a thing or two about content marketing. That’s why the study is especially welcome.
In this article, we’ll go over the key findings of the research and offer some pointers about how you should adapt your content marketing accordingly.
Engagement Ain’t What It Used to Be
The study found that the number of WordPress blog posts has grown significantly in the last 10 years. However, page views of those blog posts actually decreased during the same period.
So publishers are posting more content, but consumers are reading less content.
According to Buzzsumo, the number of page views peaked in March 2017. Since then, it has been on a steady decline.
It’s Hard to Stand Out
Buzzsumo also found that content saturation is making it difficult for one publisher to stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Although some topics are certainly more popular than others, those hot topics also generate a lot of content.
As an example, the study found that 10,000 Bitcoin articles were published per week in January of 2017. By the end of the year, that number had jumped to 40,000 articles per week.
As you can imagine, it’s tough for publishers these days to get in a word about Bitcoin.
Buzzsumo also found that, as the volume of content rises, the average number of shares per article declines. The study calls that “content shock.”
What’s the solution? Be better than everybody else. Produce 10x content that Google will recognize as an authority on the subject you’re writing about.
Also, keep in mind that as consumers are faced with information overload, they’ll more likely turn to more specific queries on the search engines. That means you should optimize your content for long tail keywords that will likely give you a high rank.
Social Referral Traffic Has Declined
Remember Upworthy? That’s the progressive website that set the pattern for digital marketers everywhere by posting viral content with clickbait headlines a few years back.
Now, you almost never hear about Upworthy anymore.
Why? In part, because Facebook changed its algorithm so that the feed doesn’t display clickbait headlines as much as it used to.
That’s reflected in the Buzzsumo study. Although there was a rise in Facebook referral traffic from 2014 to 2017, there was also a noticeable decline in 2017.
Expect that downward trend to continue.
Now, there are more referrals from Google than there are from Facebook. That’s also reflected in a study by Shareaholic.
You need to optimize your content so that it gets discovered in the search engines and focus less on viral posts that you think will earn lots of shares on social media.
It’s worth noting that some social sites are still generating social shares. In fact, Pinterest grew as a source of referral traffic towards the end of 2017.
If your marketing strategy relies heavily on imagery, consider using Pinterest as a way to promote your products or services. Apparently, its algorithm hasn’t changed. Yet.
Content Social Sharing Is Down
Overall, content social sharing is down. People just aren’t sharing as much as they used to.
As an example, the most popular BuzzFeed listicle before 2017 was shared 2.6 million times on Facebook. During the second half of 2017, the site’s most popular listicle was shared just 530,000 times.
In other words, BuzzFeed saw about a 75% drop in social shares last year. That’s going to hurt any brand.
It was even worse for viral site Playbuzz. The most popular article prior to 2017 saw 8.6 million Facebook shares. In the second half of last year, its most popular article was shared just 195,000 times.
That’s an even worse drop than what BuzzFeed saw.
Buzzsumo also found that 90% of the content analyzed had less than 62 social shares. Just 1% had more than 2,400 shares, and 5% had more than 300 shares.
Simply put: you can’t go viral on 62 shares. That’s why you need to focus on generating content that ranks in the search engines.
There’s an alternative solution to that. You could line the pockets of Mark Zuckerberg by promoting your content as an ad on the Facebook platform. You’ll have to carve out some money from your marketing budget to make that happen.
Of course, that’s what Facebook wants you to do. Hence, the algorithm change.
But if you think you’ve got some great content that will appeal to people in your target market, it might be worth your while to bite the bullet and promote it on Facebook for a few pennies per click.
That strategy will likely earn your content more than 62 shares if 1) it’s quality content and 2) you’re targeting the right people.
There’s a Rise in Private Sharing
Although social sharing has declined, private sharing is on the rise. More and more people are sharing via email and private messenger groups like Slack.
That assessment is corroborated by a Business Insider article showing that messaging apps are now bigger than social networks.
The point is further backed up by research from GetSocial, a company that monitors dark shares for its clients. According to that study, private sharing in 2017 was twice as large as public sharing.
Are WhatsApp and Viber the new Facebook and Twitter? Maybe.
Wrapping Up Content Trends
You’ll stay busy paying attention to the never-ending changes in digital marketing. Content marketing is no exception.
The strategies that you used to run with back in 2016 probably won’t work anymore. Forget about going after social shares with clickbait headlines. Now, you need to focus on quality, long-form content that ranks well with the search engines.