Over the years we've learned a lot from our content marketing successes and flops at Fractl, and we continuously use these insights to refine our approach. We recently teamed up with Moz to look at 345 content marketing campaigns that we launched between 2013 and 2016 to pinpoint commonalities among our biggest hits.

We wanted to determine the relationship between how many times a campaign was mentioned by publishers and the content's topic, visuals, and format. First, we defined a "placement" as any time a publisher featured the content. Then we grouped our campaigns into three categories: high success (more than 100 placements), moderate success (20-100 placements), and low success (less than 20 placements). Finally, we took a deep-dive into the data to find patterns and common themes.

We found that although you can't guarantee a viral win, you can add certain elements to your content that will increase the chances for success.

1. Start with a Strong Emotional Hook

Emotion easily made the biggest difference between a successful and unsuccessful campaign, with a strong emotional hook making a campaign three times more likely to succeed.

An example of highly emotional content was our study on The Truth About Hotel Hygiene. While most people assume that nicer hotels have fewer germs, we actually found the opposite. This surprise twist, combined with the "ickiness" of hotel remotes and sinks, made the graphic incredibly popular due to the emotional response it evoked.

One of the most widely shared pat articles on the Internet last year was a comparison list of pets before and after they grew up with their favorite toys. There's a reason "so many feels" has become popular slang on the Internet, as this list makes readers happy at the adorable images, but also sad at the thought of losing aging pets. It's a bittersweet list that more than 350,000 people shared.

2. Audiences are Naturally Drawn to Comparisons

More than half of our top-performing content featured some sort of contrast. Consider drawing a comparison or creating rankings in your content to make people pick sides and cheer for their favorites.

Our Comparing Cortana campaign attracted the attention of smartphone owners who were interested in knowing how their smartphone's virtual assistant stacks up against competitors. The fact that Siri beat its competitors attracted the attention of Apple fans and launched a debate that helped draw a lot of interest to this campaign. This topic also had wide cultural appeal since most people own smartphones.

BuzzFeed is great at drawing college pride out of its readers, and constantly creates lists around the best campuses, mascots, and even the best food. Everyone thinks their college is the best, and will click through to make sure they're properly represented. This article comparing the best foods on college campuses generated a lot of discussion among students who were either happy their favorite campus grub made the list or disappointed they were left out.

3. Pop Culture References Drive Interest

Our top campaigns were twice as likely to include a pop culture theme. Geek themes in particular did well, but pop culture references as a whole drew more interest and helped make less glamorous topics more enticing.

Real estate and personal income data by itself isn't exciting, but we used this data to create a compelling look at which sitcom families wouldn't be able to afford their housing in our Sitcom Cribs campaign. After all, most people who watched Friends wondered how a chef and a fashion coordinator could afford such a huge Manhattan apartment, while the advanced physicists in the Big Bang Theory needed roommates.

This graphic was successful because it catered to more than one audience. You don't have to like Frasier or Boy Meets World to appreciate it, as long as you tuck into Mad Men or the The Mindy Project. Comparing such a wide range of TV shows increased the overall appeal of this campaign.

A site called Pokies.net.au grabbed the attention of superhero fans everywhere last year with their graphic The Many Faces of Superheros. They broke down 20 top heros, from Superman and Aquaman, and showed who had played them on TV since 1943. As soon as audiences saw how few people of color and women were represented, the graphic took off. The timing of the release was perfect, as pressure is growing for Hollywood to cast more diversely.

These are just a few of the content elements we use to position content for success. If you're in a content rut, give them a try and see if your graphic, video, or article performs better because of it.