FAQ: Which Type of Blog Post Gets the Most Traffic?
Blog posts come in many forms. They certainly aren’t all created equal, nor are they given equal treatment by readers, social media, algorithms, or search engines. When you’re blogging, it’s a constant effort to figure out what is most likely to work best for any given topic and produce the right kind of content to bring in the traffic you need to survive and grow your site.
There’s no single answer to this question, so my goal is to go through the general types of content and inform you about when they’re best used and their pros and cons.
The Factors that Make or Break Content
Before digging into the specific kinds of content, let’s talk about the general factors that can make all the difference.
Content length can play a very important part in whether or not a piece of content gets picked up and circulated. Contrary to what some people might think, though, longer isn’t necessarily always better.
Personally, I always aim for something in the neighborhood of 2,000 words for a given blog post. But, I also focus on a particular kind of content marketing rather than a variety of different lengths for different types. It’s suboptimal, but it’s a pattern I can work well within, so it’s what I stick with.
Some topics simply don’t have enough meat on their bones to support something that long. This is particularly true of news and trending topics, where you have room for a bit of backstory and the main point you’re making but very little else.
On the other hand, if you’re going for evergreen resources, longer is generally better. The more content you have, the more room you have to hit sub-topics, the deeper you can cover nuances, and the better a resource you can create.
I’m also foreseeing a slight shift towards even longer content in the near future. Why? AI. Generative AI works best for short-form content. The longer the content, the more work it is to make a coherent whole, the more review it needs for consistency and fact-checking, and the more likely you are to slip up and make an embarrassing mistake.
Longer content, then, will likely become something of a prestige item. It says, “Look, we’re not using AI to spam out content; we’re putting real thought into what we’re doing.” Short-form content will be harder to differentiate from the LLM-generated static.
I could be wrong, of course. The content marketing world is very hard to predict even in stable times, and these are far from stable times.
Uniqueness is about more than just not being substantially similar on a word-for-word basis to other content already out there. It’s about having something to say, a unique way of saying it, or a unique way of presenting it.
The internet is packed full of technically unique but uninteresting content. Tons of blogs exist solely to regurgitate the same information as dozens of other blogs, all of which are much larger, more well-established, and better authorities on the subject. You don’t reach the big time by saying the same things everyone else says. You need to bring something special to the table.
For me, that’s often synthesis. I take information, opinions, and thoughts from a variety of different sources and combine them into one. Sometimes, that’s with an end goal of making an ultimate guide, sometimes, it’s for editorializing or ruminating on a subject, and sometimes, it’s for making predictions, but it’s never just the same things everyone says.
This is another area where AI is going to make it much more important.
AI works by choosing mathematically-likely words to follow other words to create sentences, paragraphs, and pages that sound like they were written by people. It doesn’t think, it doesn’t synthesize, it doesn’t have a concept of fact, and it can’t bring new things to the table. That’s a uniquely human trait – for now – and will be increasingly important moving forward.
Timing is also quite important. I’m not talking about specific timing, like what time of day or day of the week you’re publishing, though those do have an impact. I’m talking about the timing of the relevance of the topic.
This is particularly important for trending and news-related topics. When you’re trying to chase trends, you need to be on the ball, getting your coverage up as soon as possible, ideally before the competition. But, you also need to be better than the competition, which can be a challenge.
At the same time, you need to balance speed with content. Fact-checking and actual journalism are super important, too, so you’re not just a rumor mill or tabloid in disguise.
Here’s a good example. Recently, news broke about a 14-year-old influencer and social media rapper, Lil Tay, dying under mysterious circumstances. This news circulated widely across everything from social media to The Daily Mail and was immediately everywhere.
Pop Quiz: If you’re publishing trend-chasing content, do you cover this story?
Many people did. Consequently, they all had to issue corrections when it came out that no, in fact, Lil Tay did not die; her social media was hacked. This thread on X, from a BBC journalist, goes over the burden of proof necessary before they publish such a story. It’s why a site like the BBC is more trustworthy and authoritative than a site like The Daily Mail.
Being first to market is important, but it’s not as important as being correct.
Hey, guess what? AI is making an impact here too. Many thin, low-quality trend-chasing “news” sites are starting to use AI to monitor, scrape, and publish news from Reddit subs and various social media influencers, and they have zero review, which is why they’ve been easily tricked. Needless to say, don’t do this. The AI scraping, that is, not tricking those spam sites, that’s a good hobby.
Goals and Content Types
The goal of your content is also quite important. You need to match the kind of content you’re producing and the goal of that content with the intent of the user when they search for terms to find your content.
This is one of the most complex aspects of content marketing, and it’s something that a lot of marketers either never pay attention to at all or get wrong.
There are a handful of different categories of user intent, and they should guide the way you create your content.
- Navigational. You generally aren’t targeting this for anything but branded searches for your name; these are when people type “Netflix” into Google with the intent of visiting Netflix.com. You’re not capturing this traffic for anything other than your own site.
- Informational. Someone does a search for a keyword with the intent of learning about that topic. The ideal result would be something like a Wikipedia page on the topic or a more casually written guide (sort of like what you’re reading now.)
- Tutorial. This is when someone is searching for a topic with the intent of learning how to do something themselves. They want a step-by-step guide, and anything less won’t satisfy them. Recipes are a prime example of this.
- Commercial. This is when someone is aware of a problem that can be solved with a product, but they want to research possible products before picking one. This is where your comparison posts, review posts, and other kinds of content are a great option.
- Transactional. The user knows about you and your product, knows you can solve their problem, and they’re ready to buy. These are great queries… for landing pages. Your blog isn’t going to be fulfilling this role; your product pages will.
You need an alignment between the topic, keyword, user intent, and your own goal with the content. Any mismatch reduces user interest, engagement, and value. It’s all very tricky and requires a lot of experience to get right.
Alright, now that those are out of the way, let’s talk about the general types of topics.
Type 1: Evergreen
Evergreen content is an excellent type of content. Evergreen topics are topics that users pretty much always have some kind of interest in. Consider topics like:
- How to set up a website.
- The basics of personal finance.
- What the most updated computer hardware to buy is.
- Dieting and fitness advice.
The specific advice will change over time, but the core concepts are always going to be relevant and popular.
Evergreen content generally requires lengthy content. You build a long blog post, and you add to it over time, turning it from a single niche resource into a larger guide into a huge resource that people from all over the internet come to see.
You absolutely need a high level of knowledge and authority to succeed with evergreen content. It’s not an “if you build it, they will come” situation; you need to promote it, you need to build up your site SEO through other means, you need to build backlinks and much more.
The benefit of evergreen topics is that they never go out of style. People are going to be looking for advice on diet and exercise as long as people have bodies. A single great evergreen guide can sit at the top of Google’s search results for years or even decades, providing value to an endless number of people and growing year over year.
They are, however, a lot of work. You need to add to them, refresh them, and keep them updated with the latest information. That PC parts guide is a great example; technology changes nearly monthly, and there’s no single perfect answer to suit every need, so you need to cover a lot of facets of PC building and keep them all updated regularly.
On top of that, evergreen topics are generally quite broad, which means there’s a lot of competition for them. Other people will be out there building their own mega-guides, and you have to compete on a national or global stage. It’s very, very hard, especially if your site is small, your budgets are small, or your authority is low.
You can think of evergreen content as a snowball rolling down a mountain. It starts slow and may need more than a handful of shoves to keep it rolling. Once it builds up to the point that it generates a life of its own, however, it can turn into an avalanche and be self-sustaining.
Type 2: Trending
Trending topics are pretty much the exact opposite of evergreen topics. They cover the news as it happens, whether it’s celebrity gossip, rumors about new technology on the horizon, or just trending interest within a specific larger topic.
Trending topics, since they’re currently or about to receive a spike in interest, often get picked up by search algorithms and social media very quickly. In fact, those algorithms are often engineered specifically to pick up, promote, and then drop trending content in a very short cycle, often measured in days, if not hours.
So, you stand to gain a lot from trending topic coverage. You can get a lot of traffic, and if you’ve set up your site properly, have the right CTAs, and have a good perspective on the topics, you can leverage that traffic into long-term readers, subscribers, and even customers.
On the other hand, trending topics have a shorter half-life than rare radioactive isotopes. Your flash in the pan is gone in a flash as well, and if you haven’t properly captured that traffic, you’re left no better than you started. Toss a bit of food in a pond full of fish, and they’ll swarm to eat it, but when it’s all gone, so too are the fish.
Sites that cover trending topics generally do so in one of two ways.
- They do it very periodically, when it aligns with an interest or when they have inside information, and use it as part of a more robust and largely evergreen strategy to build incoming traffic.
- They do it constantly, publishing 5-50 posts per day on every possible aspect of a topic under the sun, using a quantity-over-quality approach to traffic generation.
The former are more robust, mid-level sites. The latter are your HuffPo, your Forbes, your social media curators, and so on.
As a side note, AI is making trending topics harder than ever to capture. It used to be that relatively few sites had the resources and time to spend on the rapid-fire content creation process necessary to capture and keep up with trending topics, but using AI to generate most of it means it’s more accessible than ever, devaluing the entire strategy.
In many ways, trending topics are the opposite of evergreen. However, when used together, they can be part of a robust content marketing strategy.
Type 3: Controversial
Controversial topics are topics with a stance. They exist not to inform but to engage, and more often than not, they do so using negative emotions. They make people angry and raring to go, they make people fight and argue in the blog comments, and they stir up verbal slap-fights that cascade for days.
The benefit of controversial content is that it immediately captures a lot of interest and engagement on social media, and people will be arguing about it for as long as you can keep egging them on.
That’s about where it stops.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of downsides to trying to leverage controversial content. A lot of the controversial topics you can pick are things where both sides are very, very vehement in their stance, and the fights can get very heated. Seeing racial slurs and attempts at doxing in the comments is just the surface of the problem.
In the worst cases, controversial content can lead to people turning on you. They’ll try to dox or DDOS you and your site, harass you on social media, and cause all manner of problems.
On top of that, controversial content often doesn’t actually result in meaningful customers. The people there to argue aren’t putting their money where their mouths are; they’re just posting. Sometimes, for some topics, you can leverage it by selling something, but often, people reject that as a transparent attempt to profit off the division.
Type 4: Linkbait
Linkbait topics are pretty useful, but they aren’t directly as impressive as something like evergreen content. There’s some overlap, though.
Linkbait topics and linkbait content are interlinked. The topics will be things that are often evergreen, but the content is something more like a product than a blog post.
For example, a topic like “finding blog post topic ideas” can lead you to something like a robust topic ideation app with a free trial. The relative audience looking for it is smaller than the audience looking for just informational or tutorial content on topic ideation, but the people who also write about those topics might find your tool and link to it.
Links, as we all know, are incredibly important for building your site overall, so linkbait can be very useful.
The trouble is, linkbait is rarely just a blog post. It’s usually something you need to put more effort into, like coding up a calculator, building free tools, or presenting information from a larger evergreen post as an infographic that can be shared.
Linkbait can also overlap with other kinds of content. Controversial content can be aimed at getting people to link to it and respond to it, and very robust guides can build links as much as traffic.
Which Kind of Topics Are Best?
This is a tricky question to answer because they all play their roles.
Personally, I think the most important thing to do is build up a mixture of all of the different types.
- Use the occasional controversial post on a light-hearted topic to get your name and URL circulating on social media.
- Use trending topics to hook in large amounts of immediate traffic you can then try to capture in other ways.
- Use linkbait in the background to help build up your backlink profile and the general SEO weight of your site to make everything else that much more potent.
- Use evergreen topics as the bulk of your content to build a broad library of content that snowballs over time, using the other three as infusions to kick-start them.
In the short term, investing in trending topics can be valuable, but it’s a lot like gambling. Sometimes, your trending posts don’t go anywhere. Other times, it’s like a Vegas jackpot. There’s no predicting it, just creating opportunities for it to happen.
In the long term, evergreen content is the most robust if you can invest in creating and maintaining it. I believe that if you can only invest in one kind of topic, evergreen is the way to go. Results are slow, but they’re enduring, and they build up over time.
Is Traffic That Important?
Before capping off this post, there’s one thing I need to mention, and that’s the folly of traffic. Many people think about blog traffic as the end goal, but it really isn’t. One of the biggest issues currently facing newsjacking, trending, and journalistic sites is a lack of monetization and engagement. They get tons of traffic and links, but nobody who visits has any intent to buy anything, subscribe, or benefit the site in any way. Those sites try various techniques to capture interest, like paywalls and subscriptions or display ads, but they really don’t work all that well. It’s a challenge that will only grow worse as time goes on.
Traffic is important, yes, but the quality of that traffic and the way you can leverage those visitors into your CTAs is even more important. I’d rather have a site with 100 visitors per month when 90 of them make purchases than I would a site with 100 visitors a day when only one of them makes a purchase.
One thing I do know, though, is that if you’re struggling to come up with topics to cover, regardless of the intent, the format, or the type of topics, you’ve come to the right place. I created Topicfinder as my own personal tool for my content marketing agency, and over the years, it has served me well. Now, I’m releasing it to the public with a free trial so you all can try it as well. I think you’ll love it, so give it a try.
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