We all put a lot of time into creating content. Planning, researching, writing, reviewing, editing, and publishing. All of this takes time and effort. That’s why it can be so frustrating when those pieces of content ‘flop’. You push them out via social. They get no likes. You track the keywords you have optimised the post for. They don’t break the top 100. You carry out link outreach. You get no responses.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are some types of content that tend to perform much better than others. If you focus your efforts on creating more of these types of content, you will start to see better results.

1.      List posts (but specifically, recognition list posts)

List posts are an absolute staple of successful content plans.

Do a quick search for almost anything and you can almost guarantee a list post will be lurking somewhere around the top ten.

If you want more success than your regular list posts – things like ‘Top 5 things to do in Auckland’ for example – try a recognition list post.

Find me someone who doesn’t enjoy recognition. Bloggers, writers, video creators, email marketers – all of us love recognition for the hard work we do and making it onto someone’s recognition list is a great way to attract links, shares, comments, and likes.

The premise of a recognition list is simple. Find a bunch of people who are amazing at what they do and include them in a list post, talking about why they are good at what they do and linking out to their website.

Recognition List Post Example

The creation of a recognition list is less simple. There is a hell of a lot of work that goes into creating a recognition list post. Hours of research, writing the content, and editing are just the first part. We recommend finding a topic where you are likely to be able to find at least 100 people. Anything smaller and your chances of attracting the links, comments, likes, and shares goes down.

Once you have created the post, the work really begins. Don’t do what most people do and simply share you post with your 50 followers on social media. Put a plan in place and do this properly. Get a spreadsheet together with all the people on your list. Populate their contact details – whether it’s an email address, Twitter handle, or Messenger – add them all into your spreadsheet and draft together an email or contact message to each and every person in your list.

When the replies start coming in, build a relationship with those people and you will quickly find that the links, social shares and likes start to pile in.

2.      Create an in-depth guide

We have definitely seen an increase in the creation of in-depth guides over the past couple of year. Brian Dean of Backlinko has had a lot of success with this tactic but many have followed suit in our industry including Moz, HubSpot, and Quicksprout, who all produce some really high quality and in-depth guide for our sector.

But what is it that makes these guides so good?

The depth of content is the primary reason these in-depth guides are so popular and attract so many links and social engagement.  Each of these guides is tens of thousands of words long and are packed full of actionable tips. They are also often targeted at all levels of experience as the content builds from beginner to expert.

In-Depth Guide Example

The goal of these guides is to create the ‘ultimate’ or ‘definitive’ guide to a topic so that when someone is talking about that topic, either in their own blog, on social media or in a presentation at a conference, they are able to link to your guide and say, ‘this is all you need’.

Just like recognition lists, ultimate guides are not easy to create. They are even more time consuming than recognition lists and can take tens, if not hundreds of hours to create. They also have other costs associated with them including design and development. If you cut corners, you simply won’t get the results your efforts deserve.

Creating an in-depth guide is definitely a long term strategy when it comes to ROI. Don’t expect to see immediate results, however as more and more people discover your guide, watch as the links start to add up and people start citing your guide more and more.

If you are thinking of creating an in-depth guide for the first time, I would urge you to pick your topic wisely. Don’t start too big. Trying to create ‘The ultimate guide to SEO’ would likely take up hundreds of thousands of words and you would be competing against some really big hitters. Instead, why not focus on a niche area of SEO, for example, ‘The ultimate guide to schema markup’. Whilst this will involve a lot of work and thousands of words, it’s a much more manageable topic and one you could see great success with.

Once your guide is created, the work will once again begin as you need to get your content out there. Use tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush to find out where similar posts are already linked and reach out to those sites to let them know you have created a new, definitive guide and you would love their feedback. Start a conversation and see where it takes you and hopefully, the people you reach out to will see the value in your content and start to link back to your guide as well as, or better still, instead of, the content they are already linking to.

3.      Create original research for your community

What’s the one thing we all want more of when we create content? Data, right?

Whenever I am writing a new piece of content, I usually want to verify what I am saying and back this up with relevant data. Finding that data can be pretty tricky.

Consider our own niche – SEO. I am constantly looking at sites like HubSpot, Moz, and Buzzsumo for relevant data when I am creating my blog posts. That’s because I know these guys put a lot of focus on original research and producing content to help digital marketers like myself to gain a better understanding of my audience. They also know that lots of people like me will link to that content so it’s a win-win.

In-Depth Guide Example

What you need to do is become the data creator. Identify gaps in your industry where there isn’t any original research. Something your community will find helpful. Then look to create a piece of original research to answer the biggest questions being asked in your niche.

There are a number of ways to conduct original research. Reach out to experts in your field, analyse data and pick our relevant trends, conduct in-person testing or carry out a poll or survey. Once you have the data, it’s time to get to work.

Don’t simply present the numbers. Create useful graphs and tables that highlight the main findings of your research and make them easily shareable, or better still, include an embed code.

If you want to take things an extra step, use that data to create an attractive infographic, helping you to create another highly shareable piece of content as infographics are one of the most linked to pieces of content out there.

The key to success is to create original research that answers the most popular questions in your niche. Don’t simply copy what someone else has done or create data that doesn’t answer any questions.


The one thing all three of these content pieces has in common is time. The time it will take you to create any of the above content pieces is significant and should be carefully planned and researched before committing potentially hundreds of man-hours to create something that doesn’t meet the needs of your audience.

Take the time to communicate with your audience and find out if there is a demand for the content you are considering creating. Better still, get their input before you start creating as this is likely to get their buy-in early in the project and make them much more likely to engage once the content piece has been created.

Share this story