Content marketing, especially in B2B, is still one of the crucial elements of the marketing strategy. But to do it right, you’d want to know what works and what doesn’t. And not just what worked 5 years ago but what is effective right now.
BuzzSumo, a content research and monitoring tool, decided to dig a little deeper into the previous year’s best B2B content. They also developed some tips to help create the best possible B2B content.
For this deep dive, they developed a list of common B2B topics, then analyzed the 52,892 articles with the highest social engagement for those topic areas.
Below you’ll find the highlights of their data and some hand-picked insights that can help you create better content.
Benchmarks for the Best B2B Content
In addition to looking at content in the study through the lens of social shares, BuzzSumo evaluated the lasting impact of the content using their Evergreen Content Score. It’s a value calculated based on timing (the article must be at least one month old), social engagement (total social interactions) and backlinks (how many pages link to the article).
Only articles with a high Evergreen Score were included in the study.
Top B2B Headline Phrases
Since headlines are one of the most critical parts of your content, BuzzSumo wanted to know which headline phrases performed the best for B2B content in 2018. They found the following phrases performed well:
- “The Future of” – 156 times
- “How to use” – 132 times
- “Need to” (without “Know”) – 92 times
- “How to Create” – 73 times
- “Here’s How” – 67 times
- “You Need to Know” – 52 times
So how might you use this information to your advantage? Start brainstorming ideas with these phrases in mind. Think, “what does my audience need to know?” or “what is the future of my industry and how does it affect my audience?”
You might consider looking at some of your older or under-performing content to see if any of it can be reframed with one of these headline phrases.
Article Length of Best B2B Content
The sample included content of various different lengths.
Of the 52,000+ posts, you can see the number of posts of each length below:
- Short (less than 1,000 words) – 39,136
- Medium (between 1,000-2,000 words) – 10,688
- Long (between 2,000-3,000 words) – 1,868
- Extra Long (more than 3,000 words) – 1,202
The number of short articles appearing on the list was significantly higher than all other article lengths. So it would seem that most B2B publishers are still publishing articles less than 1,000 words, despite data showing that longer-form content performs better.
However, the study showed that of these top performing pieces, articles with 1000-3000 words had an advantage in producing higher evergreen scores, social engagements, and backlinks.
Fewer people in the B2B space are writing medium and long content, but those that do are at an advantage for content performance.
Best B2B Article Types
Not all content types are created equal. So BuzzSumo broke down the content and categorized them under the following types:
- “Success” in title
- “Guide” in title
So how did each of these types perform compared to one another?
Video and Infographic content were more evergreen — with higher backlinks and social shares over time than all the other content types.
The best content type by the number of shares is the “Success” articles, beating out the other content types by nearly double the number of shares.
The best content type by number of backlinks are those with “Guide” in the title, gaining an average of 10% more links per article.
Best B2B Articles in Each Category
More than just a bunch of fun stats, here are some tangible examples of the best-in-class content in each category. Below, three of the top articles in each category.
One of the most popular content types, historically, “how-to content” is aimed at teaching readers to do something.
How-to articles are popular because they are utilitarian. They give the reader something tangible–something that solves a problem they have.
Some of the most popular examples from this past year were:
- Microsoft Windows on AWS: How to Bring Microsoft Apps to AWS – Shared 25,502 times
- How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences – Shared 12,089 times
- How to Become a Sales Networking Superhero – Shared 3,520 times
Everyone loves a good infographic. They take lots of information and arrange it in a way that’s easy to digest visually. Although they can be resource-intensive to create, they can pay off big time.
Some of this year’s most popular examples are as follows:
See the full infographic from Marketing Profs here, which managed to gain 968 shares.
See the full version of the above infographic on Entrepreneur, where it accumulated 902 social shares.
The above infographic was also published on Entrepreneur and managed to get shared a total of 795 times across social media.
One of the great things about Infographic content for B2B, often you can have them produced through a partnership with another brand. This lowers the initial investment in creating the resource and can even gain more exposure with partner cross-promotion.
It’s no surprise that video content is incredibly popular. Moreover, its popularity in the world of social media is only growing.
Although video can be the most resource-intensive type of content, studies show that it often has the best ROI.
Here are the top 3 pieces of video content from B2B publishers this year:
- Why Every Organization Needs an AR Strategy (via Harvard Business Review)
- Try This Simple Technique to Always Remember the Names of People You Meet (via Entrepreneur)
- 6 Simple Strategies to Drive More Traffic to Your Content (also via Entrepreneur)
At this point, you may be realizing that Entrepreneur has been mentioned quite a few times throughout this list. If you’re looking at B2B companies to study, it would seem they are a great place to start.
Although “Listicles” have had a bit of a bad rap for being cliché or overdone, the simple fact is people still read them like crazy. So no matter how you feel about this content type, it may be a compelling format to add to your content strategy.
Below are some of the top B2B list articles from this year:
- 5 Clever Interview Questions to Uncover Candidates’ Hidden Strengths – Shared 12,599 times
- 10 Key Findings From the Ponemon Institute Value of Artificial Intelligence in Cybersecurity Study – Shared 3,205 times
- 5 Brands Doing Great Long-Form Social Videos – Shared 2,660 times
As a bonus, the most popular numbers appearing in list articles.
The most popular number in list articles is five by quite some margin. For B2B content, shorter lists perform better than longer.
Understanding what content is performing can help your business reach new heights with your content.
If you feel stuck or lack ideas for what to do next with your B2B content and efforts, you have more than enough above to start producing content that is proven to perform.
PS. Isn’t it ironic that one of the easiest to produce types of content (listicles) is about one of the hardest to produce (long-form social videos)?
“5 Brands Doing Great Long-Form Social Videos” was one of the most shared list-type articles.