Love them or hate them, Buzzfeed is one of the most successful websites on the internet. Buzzfeed attracts more unique monthly visitors than CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Buzzfeed has several tricks up its sleeve to spread its content far and wide, and you can easily use these tricks on your own website. Here are five lessons to learn from Buzzfeed’s methodology:
1. Make your content easy to read
The average Buzzfeed article is written at a fourth grade level. That’s not to say you need to dumb down all your content in order to have a successful blog. You should write at a level appropriate for your audience, but also keep your language as simple as possible.
For example, Huffington Post, which gets more monthly visitors than Buzzfeed, writes their articles at about a 6th grade level, on average. This demonstrates that there is not a strict correlation between reading level and monthly visitors, but it does show us that simple writing is generally better, unless you’re specifically going after a high-level academic audience. Huffington Post is covering more sophisticated material than Buzzfeed, but they still keep their writing simple enough for a 12-year-old.
2. Use listicle headlines
The majority of Buzzfeed’s most shared articles are listicles. One psychologist theorizes that listicles appeal to readers because their headlines are intriguing and their content is easy to comprehend. They’re also great for sharing on social media and drawing interest.
You can easily adapt almost any blog topic to a listicle. For example, let’s say you run a blog that’s all about tea, and you want to write a post about how tea is beneficial for digestive health. Turn the concept into a listicle, like: “5 Ways Tea Improves Your Digestive System” or “5 Teas that Improve Your Digestive Health.” You get the idea.
3. Connect with readers emotionally
A recent analysis by Buzzsumo, a company that tracks viral content, found that a strong emotional element was one of the four most common features of viral content. Whether you make your audience laugh, feel nostalgic, or even angry, emotional appeals are highly effective and generate more interest and shares.
If you look at Buzzfeed’s most successful articles, you’ll find that most of them evoke some kind of emotion, whether explicitly or inexplicitly. “40 Things That Will Make You Feel Old” tells the readers exactly how they will feel. Meanwhile, “21 Absolute Worst Things in the World” implies that readers will feel a sense of camaraderie and recognition, finding that the vast majority people are frustrated by the same things.
4. Use great visuals
Buzzfeed’s articles often have lots of great images. The article I just mentioned, “21 Absolute Worst Things in the World” has virtually no text and relies wholly on images. This is not to say that you need to eliminate all text from your blog posts and just tell photo stories, but you should be aware that articles with images typically get more shares.
At the very least, the cover photo you use for your blog posts should be eye catching and enticing. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is entirely true, and it’s an incredibly useful concept when people usually make a split second decision about whether they will click on an article. An interesting photo could be the difference between a blog post getting 10,000 views or only getting 1,000.
5. Talk the language of your audience
Buzzfeed has an incredibly detailed style guide. They have extremely specific rules, such as: always put a question mark before an exclamation point when using both to end a sentence(?!), and, when referring to Kim Kardashian as Kim K, don’t put a period after the K. These rules are carefully spelled out to ensure all Buzzfeed writers speak in the same voice—a voice their audience is intimately familiar with.
Standardize the voice of your blog and make sure your readers can connect with that voice. If you have other writers working for you to produce content, make sure you have a style guide to ensure that there is consistency in everyone’s writing. Your style guide does not necessarily have to be as detailed as Buzzfeed’s, but it must cover all the common discrepancies that may occur when writing about your topic of expertise.
Learning lessons from Buzzfeed does not mean you should start replacing your blog content with lists of cat photos. You should continue to produce content on your topic, but do so using the techniques that make Buzzfeed so successful. Focus on headlines, photos, emotions, and simplicity. And be sure that you and your audience are speaking the same language.
Author: Eric Brantner is an online entrepreneur who owns a number of high-traffic, successful blogs in a variety of niches, including his latest venture SleepZoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @Eric_Scribblrs.