You produce content. Maybe even a lot of it. You want people to see your content. You want users to like it, share it and generally interact with it. There are several ways to measure how a piece of content performs, from a click-through to time on page to a link acquisition. Some of these interactions can be valuable, while others are nice eye candy.
For example, a Facebook post linking to an article may receive 200 likes but only two clicks. Some of those likes may just be people who liked the picture associated with the article. In fact, more that half of the people who like a post will never click-through and view any associated content.
Facebook will proudly display the 200 likes as engagements. However, their worth to your firm is questionable and certainly less than a link to your article from a news or educational website. Likes feel good, but links build authority.
Metrics that matter
Two actions that are likely to help drive traffic, and ultimately leads, to your firm's website are inbound links and shares. Both of these help expand the number of people who may see your content. Inbound links also have a direct, positive impact on SEO. Articles that receive links from authoritative sites are more likely to rank well, and in turn become available to an even wider audience.
In 2015, Moz and Buzzsumo combined forces to analyze the links and shares of 1 million articles. The research aimed to uncover whether a correlation exists between content that is shared and content that receives links and to understand what characteristics make articles more likely to receive links and shares.
Among their findings was the fact that the majority of content on any given website receives very few — often zero — shares or links. Most go to one or two outlier articles, which makes statistics like average links or average shares deceptive. To understand how your content is performing, you must look article by article.
The study also found there is no correlation between the number of shares and the number of links a piece of content will receive. This implies that readers share and link for different reasons. Videos and quizzes, for example, tend to receive a lot of shares, but few to zero inbound links. This content is easy to consume and may be quite catchy, but it does not have the lasting value of a piece that contains original research or an unconventional perspective.
As you plan your content strategy, you will need to determine what the highest-value user actions are for your firm. These actions may not always be the same. In some instances you may need shares to help build a wider audience, and in others you may want links to assist with technical SEO efforts.
Why do people share?
According to a study conducted by researchers at UCLA, people are hard-wired to share certain types information. As humans are introduced to new ideas, they are simultaneously attempting to understand what will be helpful to themselves and what will be valuable to others. In the study, initial analysis of an idea activated a certain center in the brain that corresponded with whether that idea would be recommended to others.
As people browse social networks and Google results, they are thinking about whether they find articles interesting and about how they think others will respond as well. The question is, how can you provide ideas these users want to share?
Posts for sharing
It is arguably easier to create sharable content than it is to create content to which other domains will link. Sharable content is likely to evoke a strong emotion — like anger or excitement — or contain a surprise. Lists and quizzes fall into this category. They are easy to digest, often entertaining and may contain a piece of unexpected information. Sharable content is also likely to be highly visual. Moz and Buzzsumo found that “surprising, unexpected and entertaining images, quizzes and videos” have the potential to be widely shared but are unlikely to receive links. Content that receives a lot of shares also tends to be either short, a quick answer to a question, or long, over 1000 words.
Posts for linking
Content is most likely to earn in-bound links if it authoritatively answers a question or provides a new way of looking at a topic. "How," "what is," and "why" posts all tend to do well. Research and opinion pieces are also frequently linked to. A piece that researches a topic deeply and offers an interesting perspective on that research will tend to earn links. Producing link-worthy content takes time. However, the potential returns are also high.
The sweet spot for both shares and likes
A more recent Buzzsumo study has attempted to uncover the formula for content that receives both shares and links. The findings show that earning both links and shares is possible. Here are the posts that are most likely to hit the sweet spot:
- Content that answers questions, particularly “what is...” questions
- Opinion posts
- Research posts
- Political posts
- News posts on a product or industry development
As an attorney, you may be hesitant to jump into political or even opinion writing, and for understandable reasons. This type of post may work for some attorneys but will be out of reach for others. If you are able, for example, to offer a unique opinion on a trending topic, that article will have the potential to perform very well. It will have to be up to you and your firm, however, to determine whether the rewards are worth any potential risks that may come from delving into politics.
The content sweet spot for all attorneys can be found in authoritative, research-based posts and those that answer questions. You can also report on new developments in the law, without necessarily offering opinions.
Buzzsumo found one of the best examples of content that authoritatively answers a question is the Content Marketing Institute's post: What is Content Marketing? Since 2013, the article has received over 2000 inbound links. As an attorney, you can create a series of posts that answer common “what is” questions about the law. Your history with clients can be a guide to the types of questions people are asking.
Research supports a strategy of producing fewer pieces of content, each of which is designed to produce specific results. If the vast majority of articles receive no engagement, then throwing as much content as you can at your readers will not be helpful. A better tactic is taking the time to produce content that will drive traffic and leads to your site.