We often think of content marketing as a creative or artistic pursuit — and it is. But, as it turns out, there’s also some pretty impressive science behind successful content marketing. If you want to build brand awareness, generate more ROI, and inspire more conversions, put on your lab coat and a pair of those ugly safety goggles and dive into the science with us.

Vanity Metrics Might Matter

Count those likes and shares as much as you want.

It turns out that social shares — what many marketers consider to be vanity metrics — might actually carry some scientific weight. BuzzSumo and LinkedIn partnered in a study that discovered that shares actually correlate to a piece of content’s success.

When people share your content on social media or through other channels, they’re sharing your brand with their audiences. More brand awareness can lead to better brand visibility and, ultimately, more conversions.

In that same study, they discovered another surprising fact: There’s no correlation between social shares and backlinks. In other words, just because a lot of people have shared your content on social media doesn’t mean that you’ll get lots of backlinks from other sites.

What Can We Learn From This?

It’s okay to track social shares if you want to better understand your brand’s visibility. Additionally, you can’t rely on social shares to generate backlinks, which can help with brand visibility as well as search-engine rankings. Instead, you must treat those two metrics as separate and promote them accordingly.

Controversial Content Doesn’t Necessarily Drive Backlinks

Many marketers use controversial content to inspire discussions and generate backlinks. The research shows, however, that newsworthy and forward-thinking content actually brings in more links than controversial content.

However, the study also revealed that simply posting the news won’t earn backlinks. Too many other websites do just that. Instead, the posts in the study that earned the most backlinks focused specifically on authoritative and well-researched assertions.

What Can We Learn From This?

If you want to generate more backlinks from other websites, skip the controversy and aim instead for forward-thinking articles that include lots of data to back up your claims. Data-rich articles often draw backlinks from domains with high authority, such as educational sites, which can boost your position in the SERPs.

Headlines Still Matter — But in a Different Way

You’ve long heard about the value of a killer headline, and that piece of advice still rings true. According to the research, however, two specific types of headlines perform better than others:

  1. Data-driven headlines get more shares and backlinks. Go ahead and put a number in the headline. It gives the article more credibility and attracts more eyeballs.
  2. Power words can help generate conversions. In terms of B2B content, the headlines that drew the most attention included words like “leader,” “success,” “power,” “future,” and “trends.”

According to LinkedIn and BuzzSumo, these two factors act as signals to B2B audiences. They let the readers know exactly what they can get from the article, which makes those headlines more clickable.

What Can We Learn From This?

Optimize your headlines to include data-driven assertions and power words. You can’t do this with every piece of content you create, but you might use these strategies with cornerstone content and other big pieces.

Just make sure that you source your data from reputable websites (or from your own research). Additionally, use power words sparingly. If they become too common, you’ll just look like you’re trying to game the system.

The Best Post Types Vary By Industry

If you want to connect with your audience, share the types of posts that gain the most traction.

You might have heard that a certain post type, such as a listicle or an infographic, performs better than everything else. The research doesn’t bear out that assertion.

In their study of 40,000 top-performing marketing posts and 40,000 technology posts, LinkedIn and BuzzSumo discovered that the most-shared post types varied considerably between the two industries.

In the marketing sphere, the posts that garnered the most engagement were how-to, top-10, guide, list, and infographic posts. Among technology audiences, however, there were far fewer discrepancies between the different types of posts.

What Can We Learn From This?

If you want to succeed in content marketing, you have to do your own research. The post types that work for one industry might not work for yours. The only way to find out is to experiment with different post types, then track the metrics to figure out which ones receive the most engagements, shares, and backlinks.

It looks like data-backed research can have a major impact on a creative, artistic medium like content marketing. If you’re not paying attention to the science, you might fall behind your competitors.

Of course, working with a digital marketing agency like Media Shower can help you gain momentum. We’re experts at creating data-rich, informative articles that get shared and drive conversions. Get a free trial to find out for yourself.