If you create content for a website or blog, you’ll want to produce popular articles that will drive a flood of traffic.
But the process can often be frustratingly hit and miss. This is because there are a huge number of variables involved – what you write about, how competitive your chosen keywords are, how you promote your content, how accessible the content is, and so on.
While there isn’t a fool-proof formula for creating popular articles, some types of content are typically more ‘popular’ than others. Here are five article types that you should be firing…
1. ‘Lists’ are still your best friend
The best websites and blogs all use pillar articles to drive traffic to their sites. These are articles that are designed for longevity and are typically as relevant today as they will be in six months time.
Lists seem to work the best and you’ll see these popular articles everywhere – Top 10s, 34 ways to…, 5 steps to…, 8 things you didn’t know about… etc. Even this article uses the ‘list’ format.
Putting together a top 10, top 50 or an A-Z in your topic can create a powerful resource that’s (a) good for driving traffic to your site and (b) good for building links.
Some sites base the majority of their content around the mechanic. Others, like my old site TechRadar.com, have come to appreciate that lists have real pulling power and list posts can remain popular articles over a lengthy period of time.
2. ‘Review’ something
People love reviews. They want to know whether things are good or bad before they buy. Think about how reviews affect how you choose films to watch, books to read, phones to buy or services to subscribe to. Now provide that service to your web visitors. In an interesting way.
Think of this service as buying things your readers are interested in so that they don’t have to. Point out problems and praise benefits to give readers the information they need to make an informed decision.
Reviews don’t have to come with a score either. They can be reconfigured as previews, hands-on articles, comparisons, even round-ups. All of these (if approached with care and attention to detail) can become popular articles.
3. Solve people’s problems with a ‘How To’
‘How to’ articles make the web go round. How do I fix a sink? How do I patch a pair of jeans? How do I play a better game of FIFA on the Xbox?
Again, whole sites are often devoted to answering these sorts of questions – ehow.com being a well-known example. In fact, while some of eHow’s content is disappointingly shallow, the step-by-step approach it uses is certainly effective.
You simply start with your problem and reach a solution to it in ‘X’ logical steps. This might be 3 steps. It might be 23. It depends on the complexity of your problem (and the depth of the solution).
Teaching somebody how to do something is one of the best ways to drive traffic and ‘How to’s that solve difficult problems are always popular articles with readers. They might even come back again for more advice.
4. Write a case study
Up next on our list of popular articles is the case study. This content format is effectively the ‘how I did’, an excellent companion to the popular ‘how to’ tutorial.
A good case study explains a process (much like a tutorial) but shows what effect it had when implemented. It’s a useful way of showing the effectiveness of a product or service.
Case studies can show how “the ABC Traffic Formula boosted website visits by 67%” or “how product X outclasses product Y in a business environment”. A tutorial shows you ‘how something is done’. A case study shows you ‘what happened next’.
5. Tell people how we got from ‘there’ to ‘here’
Compare. Contrast. Put something into context for your readers. This could be a product history, timeline or comparison.
Why does whatever you’re writing about matter? How does it compare to older products or previous events? You can see this format everywhere – sports pages comparing recent results to older ones; the history behind a new product; or the background to a recent event.
How to write popular articles
Ultimately, the best way to write popular articles is to construct a content strategy based on what your readership wants.
You can use your website analytics to discover your most popular topics, article types and the keywords that web searchers have used to find you. You can also explore which articles have been shared the most on Facebook and Twitter, or conduct polls to ask directly what your audience wants to see more of.
Finally, here’s a question for you. What are the most popular articles on your website and do you know why?