Successful articles are hard to come by.
But what if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if you knew what made an article successful and how to get there yourself?
With this in mind I interviewed four bloggers about their most successful articles. I asked what does a successful article mean for them, and what made these articles perform so well. Read below their stories about content, promotion, goals and success, and be inspired!
Get inspired by your own community! – by Campaign Monitor
From our friends at Campaign Monitor, Ros Hodgekiss shared with us their most successful article to date: Add a background image to your email in two simple steps. Even though it’s a technical article, with clear instructions and great code examples, it’s surprising to see it on the most popular list, as it covers a very small area of interest.
Still, it has 45 comments and 226 tweets, so it must’ve done something right! :)
Let’s start with the topic, how did Ros choose to write about background images for emails? It turns out it all started with Brian Thies, a regular of the Campaign Monitor forums, who explained his own technique there. As his contribution was appreciated a lot by the forum community, Ros decided to “roll a few of his ideas into the blog post, so his work could get more exposure.”
Also, conversions are not the only success metric for a blog, which means the real value of each blog post is much closer to education than sales:
“We generally don’t look at conversions from blog post to new customer – perhaps we should, but then again, we don’t really think of our blog as a sales driver in the traditional sense. If people get value from what we publish or see us as an authority in email design, that’s satisfying. If they then sign on after, that’s a happy side effect of our work in the blog.”
Strategy and inspiration – a story by Danny Iny
When asked about what makes an article a success, most people first think of traffic, social media shares and comments. But a successful article can be so much more. Next we have four of Danny Iny’s articles, each of them successful for different reasons.
1. 21 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have A Clue was one of the most popular articles on Copyblogger for a long time, and it’s definitely the most popular article Danny ever published there.
The main reasons for which Danny mentions it when talking about successful articles are simple: 1,662 tweets, 539 Likes and 219 comments. However, they are not the only ones. Another, and perhaps more important reason is the fact that this article’s conventional success contributed to Danny good relation with Copyblogger. Because yes, relations are more important than mere numbers.
The article was a start of a beautiful friendship between Danny, the team behind Copyblogger and many other influencers in the online world, a friendship that gave birth to books and manifestos that spread Danny’s name further than one would hope about.
2. A Kick in the Butt from Fake Mark Zuckerberg This is a true story and much more personal than the other articles, and it’s success is measured in the impact it had on the readers. As you can see in the comments, the story helped many of them. It also allowed them to get to know Danny, to get emotionally invested and to see why they should engage and why they should care.
“It’s a general trend, when something gets a lot of social shares, it’s because it’s exciting to them, it’s something they want other people to look at. If it gets a lot of comments, it means the people connected with it personally. And this was a really good way for me to show what I am about. I started building a connection and a relation with my audience, and that’s very important.”
What Danny did here was to first capture the reader’s attention with a paragraph illustrating the symptoms of the problem, then explain the cause of the symptoms, explain where the problem is coming from, give a solution and show how to implement it. This is, roughly, the structure followed by almost all of Danny’s posts, regardless of whether he was inspired to write them or not.
Great content is always easy to read and digest. For that, just as Danny does, you need a clear structure that doesn’t stay in the way of the content.
The power of real data – as told by GetResponse
From the GetResponse blog, Karolina Stefanowicz chose two posts which are successful in two different ways: one got the highest rate of social media sharing, and the other got the most engagement. Let’s discuss them one at a time.
1. Social Sharing Boosts Email CTR Up To 115% [INFOGRAPHIC] by Hanna Andrzejewska, is the result of a research into GetResponse customers and their use of email marketing and social media, research which was first shared in the form of this report.
Its social media success is irrefutable: it was retweeted more than 500 times, pinned 298 times, and it received 146 LinkedIn shares and 122 Likes (so far).
As for the topic, it came naturally after introducing social media integration into the GetResponse system, with some easily observable effects: emails containing social media share icons get better results. They naturally decided to do some research on it.
The fact that the infographic was based on real data relevant to the blog’s audience is perhaps the most important factor in its success. However, both choosing a popular subject (the relation between email marketing and social media) and the way the post was promoted had a big impact on the final numbers.
2. Rate the New Email Creator and Win a T-shirt! by Karolina Stefanowicz is, as she says herself, all about people. Following a new tool’s release, Karolina asked for the users’ opinion and offered in return a small gift.
However, this time the word was spread differently: instead of a strong social media focus, GetResponse used a special newsletter. If usually a newsletter contains up to 5 blog posts, this one was only an invitation to rate the new tool, and it worked perfectly:
It’s worth noting that this was the first time GetResponse asked their newsletter subscribers to join a discussion, and the high engagement results proved them once more how effective email marketing is.
Also, there is the matter of the incentive. Do you think the invitation would have been as successful if there would’ve been no T-shirt offered as a prize? Here is what Karolina thinks:
“I know that the incentive was important (people love getting freebies and they really asked about the T-shirt), but really I think it was the combination of the incentive and the email directly asking about people’s opinion AND the completely new feature that started some controversy, too.”
What is the most surprising thing about the second article is that, even if the traffic was only half that of the first one, the engagement rate was nearly four times as big. And of course, the chosen promotion method, the incentive and the call to action all have something to do with these results, but so does the fact that the audiences are somewhat different.
Helping the audience – the team behind MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein, from MECLABS, helped me with the most successful posts from three blogs:
1. Optimizing Copy: The 7 most common copywriting mistakes we see marketers make by Paul Cheney is one of the most popular recent posts on the MarketingExperiments Blog,
2. Social Media Marketing: Tactics ranked by effectiveness, difficulty and usage by Adam T. Sutton gets a lot of traffic on the MarketingSherpa Blog, and
3. Lead Generation modality map for complex sales by Brian Carroll is popular on the B2B Lead Blog.
The traffic and social media numbers are a sign the posts did better than many others on the same blog, but for Daniel they are not a true measure of success. And this because he considers all posts on these blogs to be successful, as they are fulfilling their purpose of helping marketers do their jobs better.
But still, there are many blogs out there who manage to help their audience while selling something at the same time. So how about that? How about measuring success in how many of your readers convert?
Daniel says: “Blogs shouldn’t sell. Focus on helping your customers, not selling. Because people do not pass around a sales pitch. They do not come back every day to read a sales pitch. And a sales pitch doesn’t go viral. Sure, some commercials have, but it’s because their content was just so darn good and they didn’t shove a product down your throat (29 seconds of “Waaaaaaasup”, 1 second of a logo).”
Let’s go further, what do you think made these posts perform better than average? Daniel believes it’s a combination of three factors:
- “They focused on a pretty big pain points (copywriting mistakes, mapping lead gen, effectiveness of social media marketing) for their respective audiences of marketers.
- They made clear, straightforward promises (7 mistakes, social media marketing tactics ranked, a lead gen map) in the headlines.
- In two instances they backed up their blog post with data and research (experiments from MarketingExperiments and research from MarketingSherpa respectively). In the third, the author himself (Brian Carroll) has enough authority that his collective experience put into one modality map is likely viewed as equally valuable to the audience.”
So, there you go. A great article focuses on big pain points for its audience, it makes clear promises and it’s based on solid research or the authority figure of its author.
Success, however, depends on how you define it, and it doesn’t have to be measured in traffic, social media, engagement or ROI. It could simply be helping your readers do a better job. Which sounds refreshing, don’t you think?
“The first key to creating successful content is thinking about how you define success.” Danny Iny
If there’s something I’ve learned while interviewing the bloggers, is this: don’t be tricked by the common definitions of success, just think about your own goals and define what success means for yourself and for your blog.
Of course, success could mean traffic, building relations, credibility, or perhaps all of the above, but it could be something entirely different. And whether it is helping others do their job, being recognised as an authority in your field of expertise or just the good old high conversion rates, if you have a great story to share about a successful article, we are here to listen. Give us a sign!