Let’s begin with my personal assertion: I believe that from a user perspective, Content Generation & Sharing is the primary purpose of the internet. Current SEO Trends have shown that the power of content is increasing as Google learns to interpret it more effectively. How we generate and share that content is one of the most exhausted topics in our industry, but it is incredibly relevant. Questions like: What makes great content? and How do I blog? are incessantly buzzing across the web.
SEOs all want great rankings for their clients, but to maintain SEO best practices while simultaneously creating excellent content is not their prerogative. The resulting conflict between content marketing and SEO is ongoing. They must connect their SEO practices to their content strategies. Some of the unifying qualities of great content have been identified thanks to copious research & discussion. To me, there are 10 characteristics that stand out. When they are applied to content, these characteristics have been shown to increase the shareability and quality of the content. For ease, I divided them into 2 different categories: Linkability & Viral Potential.
Linkability characteristics are the content qualities that have been shown to increase the potential for quality link acquisition. The four unifying characteristics of the most linkable content are just a simple set of qualities that, should our content have them, it will improve our chance to acquire links from credible outside sources. These are the characteristics that can greatly improve the linkability of your content:
1. Easy to Understand: Most major newspapers are written for a fourth grade reading level. This makes the news easier to share among people who read it. We need to think about our content in the same way. Writing for everyone, as opposed to writing for a targeted group, will greatly increase the linking potential for our content.
2. Unique: This does not mean “rewriting” in any sense. To use uniqueness to your advantage, it must be in terms of value. It is okay to answer the same question as another post. If you answer the question by presenting a new, unique value that the original post did not provide, it can significantly impact the linkability of your content. The best content presents unique value, even if the topic is old.
3. Newsworthy: Is anyone interested in the topic your content is focused on? If you want to write articles about finding nursing homes in Sri Lanka, it is not likely that many people will be interested in reading it. However, if you follow news trends, and use our search tools to your advantage, finding newsworthy topics becomes simple. To me, being newsworthy is generating content that is current & relevant enough to be covered by an actual news outlet.
4. Easy to Share: Should the previous three qualities be there, ensuring that your content is easy to link to is critical. We should be making content easy to translate to social media and user-driven news sites like Digg & Reddit, and ensure that content is optimized to rank for your target kw (i.e. article focus). If a user likes your content, but you do not have the proper sharing buttons and whatnot, they’ll move on to more content. This is especially true of StumbleUpon users (I know from experience).
It does not take much common sense to see the value of having content that achieves these qualities. However, These four qualities do not guarantee that your content will be shared and linked. They are simply the unifying characteristics of the most linked to content based on a large sampling of content across the web. Should your content meet these characteristics, it certainly will increase your potential to be linked, but it does not guarantee it. That is why you must continuously generate good content. Eventually, someone might notice what you are creating, and it could take off. You never know what content people will see and fall in love with, and the internet is undeniable proof of that. Content that goes viral shares several unifying characteristics of its own that have been laid out in this study I love to think about.
Creating viral content is a dream of every online content generator. This can’t be done without understanding the Characteristics of Viral Content. Going viral and having your credibility as a content creator validated by millions, if not billions of people is a dream that most content fiends have. It is our equivalent of being an internationally recognized celebrity. South Park’s creators even made an entire episode lampooning viral content and it’s subjects. That says something huge about viral content, and the “theoretical YouTube dollars” (to quote South Park) viral content can make. There are several known practices you can apply to content that can give your content the best opportunity to go viral.
1. Address the topic thoroughly. Many content generators simply have not done the research required, or do not have the experience to address their topic thoroughly. Others may be lazy. I won’t point fingers. In any case, to not thoroughly address the topic you have chosen is a cardinal mistake if you want your content to be received well. Whether you are making a video, writing a blog or creating images, should you not address the topic thoroughly (video length, word count, etc.) your content may get views, but will not receive significant shares compared to thorough content.
2. Inspire & Convey High – Energy Emotions. Awe, anger and anxiety are emotions that people tend to share. Whether you are dropping jaws or inciting fury and panic, the drive to share your content will increase exponentially with the amount of high-energy emotion you can inspire and convey. That does not include: sadness, grief, melancholy, malaise or any other number of ‘subdued’ emotional states. To convey these emotions will get people to view your content, but they will probably not share it. Compare the viral video for “Powerthirst” (Warning: Language) and it’s number of views to the sharability of this tear-jerking ASPCA commercial. High-energy emotional content is shared exponentially more often than subdued, calming, or sad emotional content. If everyone is ‘okay’ with your content, it is unlikely that you are doing anythingworth talking about. To put it as a great quote: “Well-behaved Women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
3. Provide Practicality – Be Useful. This is somewhat abstract. However, look at the popularity of How-to videos and you immediately understand the importance of providing practical and useful content. Of course, humor is useful (laughter is the best medicine), which is why seemingly useless, but amusing content is still shared. But providing a practical piece of content like “Will it Blend?” is a great way to help someone decide if they should by a BlendTec™ Blender (The answer is yes.) while simultaneously being incredibly funny. Sites like (Warning: Language) BadAssoftheWeek.com (Funny Articles about Incredible people from history) also provide this type of practicality, while simultaneously being incredibly hilarious.
4. Be Interesting. Common-sense, I know. More difficult than it seems. Being interesting is not something everyone can do. Creating interesting content takes serious effort, and if you do not put time into making sure others find your content to be captivating, you’ll see a wonderfully high bounce rate, I’m sure. I can’t teach you how to be interesting. I might not even be interesting. Only time will tell. (obligatory apology for cliché usage)
5. Be Surprising. As a content creator today, it can be difficult to find an element of surprise when so much has already been created. However, if you can, adding surprise to your content will only help increase your chance to go viral. By breaking a great news story, or making a revolutionary discovery, you could generate a lot of surprise. On the other hand, you could also be the creator of “The Exorcist Scary Maze” video. Either way: Surprise!
6. Author Reputation: With the recent incorporation of Google Authorship, the importance of who created or shared the content has increased significantly, validating the hypothesis of the importance of authorship to content. For the content generators who have been working on their content for years, their reputation and authority greatly increases the prevalence with which their content is shared. It is important, if you want to become credible as an author, that your content aspires to a high standard. Everything that you attach your name to affects your credibility as an author.
Should you be applying all of these principles to your content generation strategy, you’ll hopefully see an increase in the amount of time people spend viewing your content. The more time people spend viewing your content and linking to it, the more credibility and relevancy Google will bestow upon you, resulting in an improvement in your SERPs. Great content IS great SEO, and trends for generating great content are SEO trends unto themselves. There are websites that I have followed over the years, and watched them start as fledgling efforts (not much more than sitemaps) and turn into incredible, content-rich sites that draw hundreds of thousands of followers on a daily basis. The value of their content is the sole factor in what propelled their sites to their current status.
But there is an x-factor of content that supersedes all of these content tips. The quintessential quality of the most successful sites I have seen and loved is the most obvious: Humor. The funniest content hass the most views and the most shares. The internet bestows incredible value on those who can consistently be gut-wrenchingly funny. If you want to guarantee that you will eventually go viral, you better be flippin’ hilarious. It’s your best chance.