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Dwindling Shares and Backlinks: What Can Content Marketers Do?


Earlier this month, content marketing firm Buzzsumo released their extensive Content Trends 2018 report, which analyzed the effect of 100 million different articles published last year. Unfortunately for anyone trying to market their business with content, the results are less than encouraging.

To sum it up, content shock is starting to take a toll on the ROI of content marketing. Too much competition, combined with platform updates, is leading to drastic drops in social engagement and backlinks. Luckily, there are still many ways to keep your content effective - but you might have to adjust your strategies and set new goals.

How Bad is It?

According to the report, social shares of content are down a whopping 50 percent since 2015. This is mostly due to increased content saturation and a sharp rise in private (or "dark") social sharing through chat apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat. BuzzSumo provides a graph related to content about machine learning to illustrate the typical ratio between saturation and shares:

social shares

Even Buzzfeed and Upworthy, two of the biggest powerhouse publishers in terms of social content, have seen a significant decrease in shares and engagement since 2015.

Perhaps even worse, though, are the statistics related to backlinks. You likely already know how hard it is to attract backlinks organically, but it may be worse than you think: the median number of backlinks for the 100 million articles analyzed in the study was zero. Buzzsumo predicts that over 70 percent of all content is never linked to from a different domain. This means that getting even one organic link from a piece of content could be considered an SEO and marketing success.

A "Flight to Quality"

It's not all doom and gloom, though. There are many publishers who've bucked the downward trends lately, including sites like the Harvard Business Review, The Economist and the New York Times. The report indicates that sites such as these are able to consistently generate shares and links because they're often considered to be the most authoritative and highest-quality sources.

In other words, content marketers can continue seeing great ROI from content if they strive to provide the absolute best content for whatever topic they're covering. At Content Customs, we've been taking this approach to content shock for years, creating content that rises above our clients' competition and allows our clients to truly stand out.

Here's what you can do to create the type of content that continues to get attention:

  • Research-Based Content - The study reports that research and reference content often gets more backlinks than anything else. Sites like Pew Research broke trends by actually seeing an increase in backlinks in 2017. While you likely don't have the resources to produce research content on the level of Pew, providing original, valuable research that can provide insight to customers in your niche could prove very effective for generating leads and backlinks.
  • Long-Form Content - Part of why research-based content succeeds is simply due to the fact that longer content performs better in general. Whether it's research-based or not, you may see more success by creating longer, more in-depth content.
  • Evergreen Content - With so many articles being published every day, one of the best ways to increase your chances of engagement is to create content that will be valuable well into the future. Keeping a mix of evergreen content and up-to-the-minute news-related content in your content strategy may prove very effective.
  • Publish Less - As you might expect, creating long-form, in-depth and extremely high-quality content is very time-comsuming. This is ok, though; as the report points out, many publishers are using their time to create fewer high-level posts rather than pumping out medium-quality content at a faster rate. Not only will this type of content be more likely to get some engagement, but publishing fewer posts can streamline and simplify your promotion strategies.
  • Find the Best Sub-Topics - If you're in a very saturated niche, you'll need to spend some time researching and brainstorming sub-topics that aren't already being covered by another company or publisher. Staying on top of the news cycle in your industry can often provide some opportunities for new and emerging sub-topics that don't already have hundreds of pieces written about them.

Stay Patient and Build Authority

All of the above techniques will help your site build authority, which should be one of your top priorities in content marketing. Having a website that's viewed as an authority about a specific topic will lead to better search engine rankings, more backlinks, more social shares, and most importantly, an engaged audience. Establishing yourself as a go-to source and consistently creating authoritative content takes an incredible amount of planning and effort, though. And while your content plays an essential role in building authority, you also have to consider every other aspect of your business in order to build your brand's image to the point that you're viewed as an expert source.

Not every company can achieve authority status of course, but the ones that do have often succeeded through patience and tenacity. In other words, create your high-quality content plan and stick with it. Authoritative sites are not made by giving up early. Also, don't succumb to chasing viral traffic. Expert, evergreen content in your specific industry will likely prove much more beneficial than going after a topic that's trending but only slightly related to your business.

Keep Promoting (With or Without Facebook)

Just because Facebook engagement is drying up doesn't mean you should stop promoting your content. In fact, with the amount of content being published, it's now more important than ever to actively get your content in front of as many potential customers as possible. Luckily, there are still many great ways to promote your content, and more are emerging all the time. At the very least, if you still want to rely on Facebook, you can always increase your paid promotion budget and narrow your targeted audience.

T.J. Anderson

Posted on 19th March, 2018 by T.J. Anderson

About T.J. Anderson

T.J. Anderson is a Chicago-based content editor and writer, as well as an SEO and marketing specialist.

View all posts by T.J. Anderson