SEO and Content Marketing in 2016: What Worked and What to Implement Next Year

2016 marked the spot for changes in content marketing, and it brought some exciting revelations that some of us didn’t see coming.

For starters, we all know that the competition has stepped up its game when it comes to effective marketing. Because of that, we have all had to step up our skills, consistently refine our strategies and some of us had to do a little rebranding to get ahead of the pack.

Now is the time to pat ourselves on the back for a year of amazing work. It’s also the perfect time to reflect back on what we’ve learned in 2016, what significant changes there were, where we should improve, and then prepare for the exciting changes to come in 2017.

Shares, Links and Follows Help Us Pinpoint What’s Working (and What Isn’t)

Identifying the top content out there is subjective. We get that.

However, when you look at the shares, links and follows, you can tell which content types perform the best with today’s audiences and which content types were serious flops.

Shares help with visibility and distribute content more efficiently to the public. The more someone links to a particular site or post, the better the authority ranking for that site will be too.

One thing that is interesting is the categories and formats of content that were shared, linked and followed the most.

6 Content Formats and Categories that Outperformed

  • Practical Guides and Helpful Content: People are utilitarian. They want to learn, utilize what they read and feel smarter when they step away from the screen. Practical guides and content that was more “how-to” driven outperformed the competition.
  • Trending Topics: Don’t cringe. Trending topics are what’s hot and get your site attention. Zombies, Donald Trump, and anything controversial always gets eyes swinging in your direction.
  • Research and Insights: People want you to look at the data and break it apart for them so they can digest it quickly. They don’t want to do the legwork. They want you to give them the data so they can walk away feeling like the brain of the operation.
  • Case Studies: Case studies are not used enough, but when they are, they perform well. They examine a particular topic and dive deep tearing it apart at every turn. They tell a story and show real-life examples that readers can relate to.
  • Infographics: Yes, infographics are still compelling in today’s content marketing world. Infographics are excellent for getting tons of information out there, and they are more likely to be shared than a wall of content.
  • Authoritative Industry News: Who doesn’t like their news? When you share authoritative posts on industry news and break it up so that people understand what to expect from it, you’re giving them something valuable. In return, you get plenty of shares, likes and follows.

3 Real-Life Examples of Content to Learn From

Sometimes it takes looking at the best to understand what is expected of your site in the future. These three posts were top-performers, according to BuzzSumo’s numbers. They received significant likes, shares and their following grew because of their content.

1. TechCrunch: “Everything the Tech World Says About Marketing is Wrong.”

Catchy title, isn’t it? TechCrunch crushed it with this post.

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It reels you in and makes you stop in your tracks thinking: “What? What is wrong?!”

Catchy titles that are slightly controversial get shared. People want to be told they have been wrong all along and playing off the conspiracy-theory-like thoughts gains attention.

If we had to select a category for this one to fall under, this would be the “research and insights” category.

It’s not just the catchy title that earns Tech Crunch social props. It was the content too. It had plenty of trends, brought its expertise in to add to the statistics, and the post was incredibly in-depth, which made for an excellent read.

Okay, so how did it do on shares?

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Look at the engagement received from a single post. It received more than 18.1k shares just on Facebook. That is a ton of activity.

2. Forbes: “How Much Do People Trust Your Content”

Forbes likes to make you think. That is why the title of this post was excellent.

When you read that title, you stop and ask yourself just how many people actually trust your content.

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In this post, Forbes dives deep into the stats about Millennials and how they believe what they read online. They discuss how today’s audience is overly suspicious, and how to attract the latest readers that want to work with only the official sites.

It even provides you with insight on how to do just that, by sharing tips and then giving examples of how to implement each one.

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When it came to social interactions and shares, Forbes rocked it. It received more than 368 shares on Twitter. For Facebook, engagement was up to 24.3K.

The post itself has had more than 25,000 views on the Forbes website, and those views don’t count the social shares.

That’s quite impressive for a post that makes you question your reliability and authority in an industry.

That’s the point, though. When you make readers question what they think they know, they want to read, learn more, and walk away knowledgeable.

3. Adweek: “These Marketers, Content Producers and Entertainers Under 40 Are Shaping the Industry”

This is an excellent way to pique someone’s interest. It is telling you how younger people are driving today’s marketing — and that’s big.

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Adweek’s post was insightful and let you meet influential, inspiring people that can help you shape your latest content and product marketing strategies.

The post itself features VPs like Nick Bell from Snapchat, the VP of advertising for Facebook, and the founder of the Dollar Shave Club.

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This particular post focused on a niche group. What makes it interesting is that despite the fact that it was highly targeted, the post still received more than 16K shares on Facebook and more than 1.2K shares on LinkedIn.

What We Can Learn from the Best Performing Content

We know what categories of content perform the best. We also have seen some examples of top performers that are rocking it on social media. So, what can we take away from this?

3 Key Take Away Points to Implement in Next Year’s Strategy

1. Pique Interest: Use a header that asks a question or sparks an emotional response from the get-go. Regardless of content category, you need to get noticed — that is what a headline is for.

2. Research and Insights Sell: Do you notice how these favorite posts were insightful and had plenty of research? They showed their authority by adding in the stats and backing them up with their industry knowledge.

3. Newsworthy: These sites also took news from the industry and expanded upon it. They didn’t just report what everyone has already seen; they took that industry innovation and rolled with it to provide you with the main points so that you could actually learn something.

2016 was full of exciting changes. While some of them made content marketers cringe, others were excited about the new trends.

We know that more trends are coming, and most likely 2017 will be a big year for content. Things are rapidly changing in this industry as more young individuals become interested in content, news and social media. People want to read, they want to learn, and they most definitely will share what they find worthy.

Now is the time to harness what we have learned today and implement a new strategy for 2017 that uses what 2016 taught us, and what we have seen from the people that crushed it this year.

Get Started with Your Own Content Strategy for the New Year

One thing I’ve worked hard at is to stay on top of innovation. I constantly revamp my business’ strategy, and my team is up-to-date with the latest trends.

I even created individual mentoring just for our writers, and launched new resources tailored to our audience. This year was a big year for new resources launched: my podcast, book and Twitter chat launched. I saw success with all of those things. My podcast made it to New & Noteworthy in iTunes: my book made it to No. 4 bestseller, and my Twitter Chat made it to No. 5 trending on Twitter.

The ROI is real, with great content marketing. When it’s built for your audience, sometimes all it takes is consistency and perseverance to create content people will truly love—and freely share or link to.


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Julia McCoy is a bestselling author of So You Think You Can Write, podcaster and an expert content marketer. She’s also the founder and CEO of Express Writers, a leading online content creation agency, with more than 60 content writers and strategists. Julia leads her team to serve hundreds of worldwide businesses with the highest-quality content for their online presence. Follow Julia’s blog.

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