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If you invest in content marketing, you have to invest in understanding how that content performs


By Jon Davie, UK chief executive

October 27, 2015 | 4 min read

Nobody cares about your content.

A new study says most online content gets ignored

I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, but that’s not just my opinion. It’s a fact.

Because a study published last month found that 50 per cent of all content posts on the internet receive fewer than two interactions – likes, comments, favourites, retweets or shares. And more than 75 per cent of content posts attracted absolutely no links at all – not a single person was motivated to post a link back to the original source.

The report, conducted by content analysis platform Buzzsumo and SEO consultancy Moz, reviewed 1 million content items across more than 600,000 different websites. The study was designed to look at the correlation between shares and links – to understand why content gets liked, commented and linked to.

But the main correlation that the authors found was a pretty depressing one – that most content gets no shares or links at all. “What we found is that the majority of content published on the internet is simply ignored when it comes to shares and links,” they wrote. “The data suggests that most content is simply not worthy of sharing or linking.”

Digging further into the study reveals even more about the dynamics of content on the web. Of the million content items in the sample, three-quarters had fewer than three referring links. But the most linked-to post in the sample had more than 43,000 links. Engagement on the web is clustered around a very small number of pages that are highly viewed and highly shared. The vast majority is just floating around in the cloud – digital flotsam and jetsam, unloved and unread.

Which raises the question – how do you get your content into the highly prized one per cent? The obvious answer is simple: produce better quality content. That’s definitely part of the equation. But even that’s not enough.

Different content formats show different characteristics. Quizzes can generate hundreds of thousands of shares, but hardly any links. The listicle – that editorial staple of sites such as BuzzFeed and Upworthy – performs well in both likes and shares. But the format that showed the highest correlation between links and shares – the best overall performance – was long-form articles of more than 1,000 words.

This finding goes against almost everything that we thought we knew. For years, agencies have been helping clients create bitesize content – snackable formats designed for mobile screens and social streams. When was the last time your brand published a 3,000-word article, or a 25-page white paper?

If there’s one thing the Buzzsumo/Moz study highlights above all else, it’s the appliance of science to the art of content creation. Even the most successful publishers don’t hit the jackpot with every piece of content that they post. But they do measure the performance of every post – allowing them to tweak, test, optimise and iterate.

If you’re investing in content marketing, you have to invest in understanding how that content performs. Because if you’re not interested in making it relevant to your customers, why should they be interested in reading it?

Jon Davie is UK CEO at Zone. He tweets @JonDavie

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