By Syed Balkhi, co-founder of OptinMonster.

As a small business owner, the content you produce may not always get as many shares as you'd like. And while there's a lot to be gained from search engine optimization, it's vital that you aren't creating content for the sole purpose of building links. To maximize value, you have to achieve sharing naturally. As the co-founder of a conversion rate optimization software company, here's what I've found works best:

The "Why" Behind Shareworthy Content

To grasp the "why" behind shareworthy content, think hard about what the purpose of your website is. In most cases, I've found it is to attract attention, engage users, and convert those users into paying customers. You want your website to garner traffic through organic shares.

Seven Tips for Encouraging Organic Sharing

The reason why some brands don't create shareworthy content certainly isn't due to a lack of desire. It's because they don't know how. If you fall into this category, pay close attention to the following tips.

1. Put the reader first.

One of the biggest problems businesses have with creating shareworthy content is rooted in self-centeredness, or a lack of broader awareness. Brands assume their readers are going to be interested in the same topics they are.

For example, an SEO company may learn about a major change in the industry and decide to write an in-depth piece on the technical aspects of Google's new algorithm. This may be a great topic of conversation for an SEO conference, but will it be of any benefit to the average reader?

Instead, your audience will want to know how such changes are going to affect their website. A better piece would be titled, "5 Things Google's New Algorithm Will Do to Your Search Rankings."

When you're preparing new content, consider the reader's interest level on the topic you're about to discuss. This should fundamentally change your approach to creating shareworthy content. 

2. Focus on the headline.

The problem with your current content strategy may be that you're playing it too safe. If you're writing about topics that everyone else is writing about, why would anyone feel compelled to share your content?

You probably need to mix things up a bit. Take the following two titles, for example. Which would you be more likely to share?

  • "How to Haggle for a Used Car"
  • "Here's Why You Get Ripped Off Every Time You Buy a Car"

Readers will probably be driven to click on the second title since it arouses emotion, while the first one sounds too generic. The actual content of both pieces might say essentially the same thing, but the title makes the second one more shareworthy.

3. Make a strong first impression.

According to research, the average attention span of an adult human has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to only 8 seconds today. If you're a marketer, this poses a problem. How can you get people to read your 2,000-word blog post if they can only stay engaged for a few seconds? Most likely, you can't.

Few people ever make it through an entire piece of content; most will read the opening paragraph, skim, and possibly tune in again on the final paragraph. Since that's the case, it's essential for you to make a good first impression in the first two opening sentences. 

If you can arouse emotion, shock the readers or otherwise make them feel good, then they'll be more inclined to share. Treat your first paragraph as if it's the only paragraph that will be read in your entire article.

4. Use visuals to complement the content.

Text is going out of style. Technology has created an overstimulated population that expects striking visuals and gripping videos. 

When selecting or creating visuals, the key is to use images and videos that are original, high-quality, and relevant to your topic. Nothing is more frustrating for a reader than seeing stock photos or clip art that's not related to the issue at hand. This is likely to devalue your content rather than help it.

5. Hire a content writer.

As a business owner, you shouldn't have to personally write all the content that represents your brand. You can write a piece on occasion, but you probably have a lot of other responsibilities on your plate. 

Hiring a professional content writer to handle this component of your digital marketing strategy is worth every penny. It'll free up your time while simultaneously allow you to create stellar content that shines. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

6. Have a dissemination strategy.

Unless you run a massive website with hundreds of thousands of regular visitors, you aren't going to get the number of shares you want simply by waiting for people to find your content. Instead, you need a dissemination strategy that will serve as the spark.

There are many different strategies for sharing and publishing content. Identify the ones that make sense for your business or industry. At our company, we encourage every employee to share new content from their personal accounts. This automatically puts our content in front of thousands of people who then get a chance to read and share themselves.

It's also a good idea to develop syndication relationships in order to publish your content in as many places as possible. Including "share" buttons alongside your content will also remind people to do so. 

7. Always try new strategies.

One of the greatest aspects of internet marketing, social media and content creation is that there's no single formula for success. What works for one brand may not work for another, and vice versa. If you want to be successful and continually grow, then you must be willing to try new strategies and techniques.

The tips mentioned in this article should serve as a starting point. Use them, see what works and throw out the rest. In the end, your strategy will ultimately depend on what resonates most with your target audience.

Syed Balkhi is the co-founder of OptinMonster, a conversion rate optimization software that helps you recover abandoning website visitors and turn them into subscribers and customers. On his blog, he writes about his business experiences and lessons learned along the way.

Published on: Aug 3, 2016