How To Create the Kind of B2B Content Proven to Earn Shares and Links

blog author
Sam Zastrow
Director of Operations

Each year, Buzzsumo uses data from its trending content software to identify the kinds of B2B content that get the most shares and likes.

This year’s B2B content report just came out, and Buzzsumo identified six types of B2B blog posts and articles that consistently outperformed the rest in their research:

  1. Practical Guides and Helpful Content: guides or articles that help B2B people do something or do it better
  2. In Vogue and Hot Topics: unique takes on what’s already getting buzz in a given industry
  3. Research and Insights: data-driven insights that come from unbiased studies
  4. Case studies: using storytelling to show examples of a larger trend
  5. Infographics: beautiful, informative visualizations that are easy to digest
  6. Authoritative news: the latest happenings, served with a certain air of authority

How can you put these findings to work at your B2B? Let's go over some ideas for each type of content:

1. Practical Guides and Helpful Content

Almost any company can create content that serves as a practical, helpful guide to doing something. In fact, this type of content is often central in campaigns based on the B2B inbound marketing methodology.

Create awareness-level e-guides

Depending on your existing content inventory, creating a helpful guide that earns links and social shares can go a couple of different ways.

If you already have a lot of small- or medium-sized pieces of content written for awareness-stage buyers, you can consolidate and connect them, forming a comprehensive guide.

If you don't, you have a bit more work ahead of you. However, the good news is that once you're done with your comprehensive guide, you'll be able to use chunks of it to create new content for your blog and social media channels.

One important note: depending on your business needs, it may be more important to gate the content you put the most time into than to allow it to earn links and shares by leaving it ungated.

Perfect linkedin profile
Social Media Hat's LinkedIn profile guide has earned more than 25k shares.

Generate more specific how-to content (also good for SEO)

Generating "The Complete Guide to XYZ" might be your best bet for earning high-quality links and shares. But shorter, more specific content can also make a big difference.

Creating more specific blog and website content also has the potential bonus of ranking for longer-tail (more specific) search keywords, which are often associated with greater buying intent.

"Tips and tricks" lists go a long way

I love list posts. They're easy to write, and there are consistently a large number of list posts among the top shared blog posts and articles in the B2B space.

To write these types of blog posts, follow this simple blueprint

  • Think of a topic a lot of your customers are looking to solve.
  • Make a list of every possible tip or trick you can think of that would help someone solve that problem.
  • Pick out the most relevant ones. 10 is a good number of list items.
  • Write a few paragraphs of explainer copy for each of the list items
  • Add a introduction and conclusion.

Easy, right?

2. Hot Topics

Creating content around breaking industry news isn't necessarily difficult.

The tricky part is being aware of the trends as they're happening, and knowing when and how to add your business to the conversation.

Use Google Alerts or a similar tool to keep up with industry news

Google Alerts is a free tool you can configure to send you news stories that include one or more keywords each day or as they're published. There are numerous other tools that provide similar services.

Use Buzzsumo to see what kinds of articles are already getting shares

The reason Buzzsumo has the ability to analyze so much share and link data is because they've built software to do just that.

Like Google Alerts, Buzzsumo allows you to track (and search for) content by keyword, but with the added benefit of seeing which articles are getting shared and linked to the most.

Buzzsumo allows you to see what angles and headlines on a news story are performing best.

Add value to the news story when creating content around it

It's not enough to simply rehash the news. To stand out from news organizations and create news-based content that actually resonates with would-be customers, you'll need to provide more value.

The easiest way to do this is with the "what this means" post. By showing potential customers the impact a news event might have on them, you're providing more value than a simple news story might.

3. Research & Insights

For small marketing teams, the idea of conducting research might seem daunting. But even if you don't have the time or money for large-scale research, you can still borrow this concept when creating content.

Consider running an email survey

Collecting your own data might be easier than you think. Online tools like SurveyMonkey make it easy for almost anyone to run their own survey and analyze the data.

A few things to keep in mind if you do go in this direction:

  • Before you do anything else, identify the goals of the survey
  • Keep your survey short, simple and focused
  • Don't use open-ended questions
  • Send multiple reminders
  • Consider offering an incentive for completion.
video marketing statistics 2016
Wyzowl's State of Video Marketing Survey is a great example of a company using a survey to create remarkable content.

Get the most out of your data

A good set of data can go a long way.

  • Each data point can become a social media post
  • A few data points grouped by topic can be made into a blog post
  • The survey results as a whole can be made into a gated premium content offer

This makes it all the more important to identify goals before you even consider setting up a survey.

If you can't get your own data, use a reliable 3rd-party and add value

First hand data is ideal, but the next best thing is still pretty good. People will still link to and share data presented by a third party, as long as it's presented authoritatively (more on this later).

New third-party data also presents an opportunity for your business to add value specific to the needs of your customers. Identifying actionable takeaways for your audience is a must.

4. Case Studies

Usually when we talk about case studies in the context of digital marketing, we're talking about a consideration-level piece you can make downloadable behind a gate.

In this case though, "case study" refers to a piece of ungated content that examines a single case or small number of cases that illustrates a trend writ large.

Example list blog posts make for light, shareable case study content

The easiest way for to create case study content is to identify a problem your customers might have, find other companies that are doing a good job solving that problem, and list them out with plenty of visuals to support your talking points.

10 examples of shockingly excellent customer service
American Express used the Case Studies strategy on its Open Forum small business blog.

Think like a journalist

If you do want to go deep on one particular case study, approach it like a journalist would: with the goal of making the story as interesting and unbiased as possible.

Remember, this type of content is very different from a traditional marketing case study, which is usually created with the goal of helping close leads.

The kind of case studies that earn links and shares should leave your audience dazzled by the story, not dazzled by your company.

5. Infographics

Infographics combine the viral capacity of data-driven insights with the natural shareability of great design.

Infographics aren't new, and as a result there are a whole lot of crappy ones being created every day. But when created intelligently, infographics are still a proven recipe for earning shares and links.

Find a good designer

This probably goes without saying, but you'll need to find someone who can create something that's visually impressive to make hay with infographics.

Many of best infographics are now created with HTML5, which provides users with a more interactive performance. Generally, the more you can do visually, the better chance you have.

UPS infographic
UPS created an interactive infographic on small business tech adoption.

Take a unique perspective

It's easy to create a crappy infographic on a tired topic. The infographics that get the lion's share of shares and likes are the ones that cover a fresh topic, or present a relatively unknown side of something more pervasive.

6. Authoritative News

It's easy enough to parrot the news of the day on your blog, but B2B marketers that create truly shareable news content do it with an air of authority.

Using design and copy that conveys authority is a known best-practice among conversion optimization types, and it's a principle that should extend to your B2B content as well.

Use authoritative words in your headlines

News sites know their stories are more likely to be read and shared if they include words like "officially" or "confirmed" in their headlines, instead of presenting them as just another report.

You might have noticed I did this in the title of this post by including the word "proven."

Link to (or at least reference) authoritative sources within your content

One big takeaway from this year's B2B content report is that if you can use data in your content, you should.

When outlining your content, make sure to add data points from authoritative sources to each point you plan to make.

Conclusion

Although many of the top B2B articles from 2016 were from news outlets or large companies, even the smallest of marketing teams can learn from six categories of B2B content that outperformed the rest:

  1. Practical Guides and Helpful Content: guides or articles that help B2B people do something or do it better
  2. In Vogue and Hot Topics: unique takes on what’s already getting buzz in a given industry
  3. Research and Insights: data-driven insights that come from unbiased studies
  4. Case studies: using storytelling to show examples of a larger trend
  5. Infographics: beautiful, informative visualizations that are easy to digest
  6. Authoritative news: the latest happenings, served with a certain air of authority

Want to learn more about SEO and lead generation? Check out our guide to content marketing with SEO.

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