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Content Marketing Study: What Types of Content Perform the Best + Persuasive Copywriting Tips

By Bryce Boyle Hoban
Updated March 18, 2020
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Bryce Boyle Hoban
Bryce Boyle Hoban

Bryce is a Copywriter and Content Strategist with Hook Agency – focused on creating content that attracts ideal customers for our clients' websites.

Have this post read to you in a natural voice, so you can do other things:

The power of words is unmatched.

Think—some of the most important and influential moments in U.S. (and world) history of the world were preceded by words and phrases that forever live on in infamy.

“That’s one small step for a man and one giant leap for mankind.”

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

“Do you believe in miracles?”

When we think about the moon landing, Neil Armstrong’s poetic line always comes soon after.

When we think about the uniting of East and West Berlin into one, we also think about Ronald Regan’s command to the leader of the Soviet Union.

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And when we think about that scrappy team of college kids taking on the big bad Soviets in Lake Placid, Al Michaels’ interjection rings clear in our ears once more.

*I’d like to point out when I chose these three moments in history, the Soviet connection was not intentional. But it was a crazy moment in history, so it stands to reason that some of the most memorable quotes that come to mind stem from this time period #SorryComrades #USAUSAUSA*

Now, I’m not saying that copywriting or copywriters belong on the same echelon as those famous moments or people in history (being the first person to step on the moon’s surface is quite a distant trek from being a content marketer here on earth).

There is also the obvious difference that these were spoken words, whereas copywriting is often read, not heard.

But the point remains: laying words out in the right way—in the perfect order—can be powerful when it comes to getting people to trust you, to believe in you, and to remember you. Whether they are spoken, written, or signed, words can persuade, excite, and motivate.

For businesses, the perfect homepage header can encourage a website visitor to explore other parts of the site.

Snappy, engaging copy on an email will keep subscribers from unsubscribing.

An honest, well-written “about us” page can create a lifelong fan (and customer).

As a content marketer, I’m fascinated by trying to come up with the right content format that really entices the reader to commit to clicking and entering a website. It’s been on my docket for a while to go back and see which types of pieces of content we’ve produced for clients have performed the best.

For example, are Ultimate Guides the click-rate machines we’ve come to think of them as? How about the classic How to posts? Do they produce traffic to websites?

To find an answer to these questions, I dove into the analytics of some of our clients to see which content types perform best.

Study Overview

I use the word ‘study’ here loosely, as studies often coincide with strenuous and elaborate experiments, while I did all this from the comfort of my desk.

But, here is a breakdown of where and how I sourced my info.

First, I chose ten of our clients who we’ve had for quite some time to ensure that the pieces of content I was looking at have had enough time to rank on Google and gather impressions/clicks. I then took the top three posts in terms of overall clicks over the last three months. I also only looked at clients that I’ve worked with for consistency’s sake.

Things to consider – this is a small sample size. They’re also a ton of variables that should be considered, including the fact that each website as a whole is different in terms of its overall SEO performance.

While this is far from an exhaustive study, it’s a good snapshot of why it’s essential to create content with a purpose and why content marketers stick to these tried-and-true formats.

Here are the results.

Which Content Format Slaps the Hardest?

persuasive copywriting

While the types of content are basically limitless, with this dataset, I noticed six distinct blog formats.

Guides – In-depth guides that break down a singular topic (The Guide to the Best Fishing Spots in Minnesota, The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Homes: Decreasing Your Carbon Footprint).

How to’s – I included both traditional How to blogs for this category (How to Tell if It’s Time to Tell if Your Roof Needs Replacing, How to Decide Which CMS Software is Right For My Business) as well as blogs that answer general questions (What is the Best Way to Get Rid of a Grease Stain on a Shirt?). For the most part, those in this category were How-to posts.

Listicles – Just your basic list of information (20 of the Best Siding Colors Today, 5 of the Best Twins Players of All Time).

Versus – Pitting some highly contested industry staples against each other (Reclaimed Wood vs. New Wood: Which is the Better Option?, Twins vs. Yankees: Why the Twins Rule and the Yankees Drool).

Statistics – A roundup of some interesting statistics. Not every company will have a need for these posts, but if there is high search volume and low difficulty, this post can most certainly slap (Tea Around the World: 50 Surprising Tea Drinking Statistics for 2020).

Trends – posts that work great for businesses that operate in an ever-changing industry (12 Siding Trends to Consider For Your Home Remodel).

The Findings

The pie-graph below depicts all 6 of the aforementioned types of content in terms of which were most prevalent in the dataset.

How to’s and listicles together make up over 70% of the data—an impressive figure, for sure. However, it doesn’t necessarily tell us how effective they are in terms of how much traffic they rake in. And, the fact that there are more How to and listicle articles might just be because we write more of them for our clients.

Though, there is something to be said about the fact that these two blog styles are most prevalent. Perhaps those are the kind of questions or information that consumers tend to ask more often than say, ‘Vs.” posts.

But, let’s take a look at each category in terms of their traffic share—or which types of content bring in the most potential customers.

The Average Percentage of Total Traffic Over 3 Months

The percentages indicate each type of posts average traffic share for all ten clients.

Versus – 30%

Trends – 30%

Listicle – 14%

How to – 10%

Stats – 6%

Guides – 5%

So, while Versus and Trends posts had the least amount of representatives overall in this study (just one apiece), they dominate when it comes to traffic—each of them bringing in 30% on average for their websites. Wowza.

Listicle and How to’s are in the middle, at 14% and 10%, respectively. Stats and Guides then bring up the rear.

Thoughts on these results (percentage of traffic) when combined with the total number of each type of post:

  • In the past, we haven’t written a ton of Versus and Trends posts, but it is something we are starting to place more emphasis on—and for a good reason. While it’s a small sample size, both the Versus and Trends posts performed admirably. All you need to do is find one high volume opportunity, execute on the post by providing insight and well-written content, and you may have yourself a prized cow that brings home a lot of the bacon hamburgers for your site (hamburgers are website traffic in this metaphor).

 

  • Listicles and How to’s can and should be the backbone of any good content strategy. Not only are their typically ample keyword opportunities for them, but when done right, they will perform well.

 

  • I’m a little skeptical of how Guides seemed to perform in this study. Mostly, because internally at Hook, we’ve published some extensive, detailed, and lengthy guides that perform exceptionally well (hopefully, this will be one of them). And, while we have created some successful guides for clients, a couple of the ones in this study were written for sites that already had a lot of well-performing content. Essentially, they were up against some steep competition for traffic share. So, I’m not ready to cancel guides. Not by a long shot. Finding a good topic with high monthly searches, a low keyword difficulty, and going HAM on it will often be worth the effort.

 

  • Just like Versus and Trends, Statistics had a very small sample size, making it difficult to draw a conclusion from the study. Though, I wouldn’t waste too much on a big stats post unless there was ample keyword opportunity.

Have you noticed similar trends in your content marketing strategies? Which types of content perform best on your sites? Leave a comment and let us know!

Capitalizing On Your Traffic — Persuasive Copy Tips to Keep Readers Engaged

persuasive copywriting

Once you get users to your site, how to get them to stick around? How can you create your own “That’s one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind”?

Here are some persuasive copy tips that will help minimize your site’s bounce rate, keep your users on your site for longer, and drive conversions.

For some additional tips on persuasive writing, check out this blog post from my colleague and man who can grow a great beard, Cole Anderson.

Start Things Off on the Right Foot (and Keep That Quality Throughout)

A little piece of me dies every time I come across an article that has a lazily written and boring opener.

A poorly worded, grammatically incorrect, ‘bleh’ first couple paragraphs is a great way to tell your reader, “Hey, I’m just writing this for the sake of having content on my site. I’m just trying to rank for this keyword. I don’t care about helping you find an answer to your question or providing value. I just care about SEO.” As soon as they read it, they’ll bounce and look for a different article that gives off the vibe of being higher in quality.

Google and other search platforms have gotten smarter in terms of making websites earn their rankings. It’s not enough to just create a post that involves a keyword and publish it. That post also needs to be written well and devoid of spelling and grammatical errors.

When you take the time to craft an engaging, interesting opener, it will also encourage you to keep up that quality throughout the rest of the post.

Sure, you may turn out more content if you hurry through a piece of content, but that actually may hurt you in the long run if the content is written poorly.

Don’t Make it About You, Make it About the Reader

Nothing new here, but it’s worth repeating: Don’t be selfish when it comes to your content. Content that is too salesy is a great way to turn off readers. Make sure you’re providing actual value and addressing the problems that the reader may have.

When it comes to any CTAs you may have in the content, a light one, in the beginning, is fine, but save the more heavy ones for further down the page.

Benefits Over Features

Not all your copy is going to be in the form of a blog post. What about service pages? Or the homepage copy? Instagram posts on a product or service? How can you ensure that the copy you write in those places persuades? Even once you get to the CTA portion of a piece of content, what’s the best way to get the reader to take action.

The key to writing good sales copy is to throw away excessive references to features and to instead focus on the benefits of those features.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a new laptop, and you come across a landing page for the new product from a popular brand. Which copy do you think would be more compelling when it comes to his product:

Description A: Our engineers have been busy, working hard to allow for graphics up to Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655. Meanwhile, our 16-inch model is capable of graphics up to AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory.

Description B: We’ve revolutionized what high-quality graphics mean. Our talented team of engineers have been working hard to bring you the best laptop experience with the clearest, most crisp picture quality you’ve experienced—whether you’re working, watching your favorite TV show, or just browsing the web.

Graphic capabilities include: 

  • Intel Iris Graphics 655
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M (For Our 16-inch model)

Description B here is the likely winner, as it clearly illustrates the benefits (clear picture quality no matter what they are doing). But, it also includes the features for those that are interested in the nitty-gritty.

Use Interactive Storytelling

This is something I’ve been experimenting with quite a bit lately. When I say “interactive storytelling,” I’m not talking about choosing your own adventure, Goosebumps-styled content (though that would be pretty baller if you could pull it off).

Instead, I’m referring to including light commands in your writing to get the reader to actively participate in the content.

For example, because we have a lot of clients that are home builders, I’ve included copy like this in the content:

“The kitchen is an essential part of any home. Today, homeowners not only prioritize functionality in their kitchen, but they also are looking to create enough space and features for entertaining guests.

Go ahead and take a look at your kitchen right now. What are some details you really like, and what are some that you’d like to change or add? Perhaps you like your kitchen cabinets, but the space could use a new backsplash. Maybe you’re still in love with your sink, but your stove just doesn’t cut it anymore for your cooking needs.”

Including these little interactive blurbs is a simple yet effective way to add some more engaging copy into your content.

Use Your Own, Unique Images as Opposed to Stock Images (When Possible) 

This obviously isn’t a copy suggestion, but images play an important role in gaining trust and authority for your brand.

Now, it’s not possible to use your own images for every single piece of content you put out there (I have a couple of stock images in this post, as you can see), but for non-blog content (homepage, service page, about page), it is a must.

Call me shallow, but when I’m perusing a website and notice that they have stock images of attractive office people yucking it up in a conference room, I immediately think a little less of the brand. Sure, I understand that not every business has the time and resources to take high-quality images of their own, but it is well worth the investment.

We recently decided to create our own “stock images” of us at work and scenes of our office. They turned out great, thanks to the photography skills of our talented web designer Zach Morin, and you can see them on our main pages as well as in some of our blog posts.

There is just something about seeing real people (sorry to all the stock image models out there) in an authentic setting that adds a level of trust to a brand’s website.

Parting Thoughts: Take Your Content Strategy Seriously

If there is one thing you take away from the guide, it’s that the more intentional you are with your content, the better it will perform, and the more it will persuade. As a result, your brand’s image will also improve, as well as make you more money by helping convert new customers and keeping old customers around by offering more value.

Here at Hook, we take content strategy seriously for our clients and ourselves. And I implore you to do the same by practicing persuasive copywriting techniques, as well as thinking critically about the style of content you’re publishing.


 

Watch this quick video to see how savvy businesses save time and hook better leads:
 

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Bryce Boyle Hoban
Bryce Boyle Hoban

Bryce is a Copywriter and Content Strategist with Hook Agency – focused on creating content that attracts ideal customers for our clients' websites.

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