10 Content Marketing Lessons from The World’s Fastest Growing Websites

The media world is witnessing the changing of the guard. The new brash upstarts have embraced, integrated and are applying the technology of the social web.

Buzzfeed, Upworthy and the humble blogs of this world are the new content kings. Many blogs have more readers and eyeball traffic than traditional and national magazines.  Newspapers like the New York Times, The Guardian and even the super blogs such as the Huffington Post and Mashable are under upstart threat.

The latest stats are revealing.

Buzzfeed received 154 million unique visitors globally and 100.9 million in the US in the last month. (August 24, 2014 to September 24,2014) according to the Quantcast figures.



Upworthy which only started in March 2012, is a fast starter and has been described by Fast Company as the fastest growing media company in history with 28.4 million unique visitors in the last month in the US and 43 million globally.

That has been achieved in just over 2 years!


Everyone is now a publisher

We are all publishers. And we want to make a dent in the universe but we don’t want to admit it for fear of standing out. Everyone wants to be epic and awesome but it’s never said but mumbled under our breath. Often it’s a silent thought.

No one says “I want to be average

People publish on Facebook and get excited when it gets 100 likes. Teenagers can be overheard saying “that photo isn’t worth sharing because no one will comment or share“. Bloggers are always looking for that post to go viral but just won’t admit it.

So if you want to take the art of blogging and content marketing seriously you will need to think like a publisher not an like an amatuer or hobbyist.

The 10 content marketing lessons

Here are some insights and lessons on what makes Buzzfeed and Upworthy the fastest growing websites on the planet and what you can learn and apply from their tactics to your content, blog and website.

1. Don’t expect home runs every time

We want all our content to succeed every time. But that doesn’t happen and it isn’t realistic. UpWorthy have published a Slideshare presentation that reveals that 56% of their posts don’t break 10,000 views and also reveal that only 0.3% of their articles reach the top level. Over 1,000,000 views!

The reality is that you will only have some of your content go viral or hit a home run.  So you will need to persist.

2. Write multiple headlines for each article

David Ogilvy was famous for having written over 100 headlines for one advertisement. Upworthy have taken this practice and woven it into their editorial process. Their first step and instruction to all their content creators.

You HAVE to crap out 25 headlines for every piece of content”


If you are serious about content marketing this is one of the “biggies”. Learn and keep learning to write the best headlines you can.

3. Large listicle headlines work

Buzzfeed has perfected the art and science of large list headlines, often called “Listicles”. Here is an example. It is something that I noticed in the early days of my blog and it led to blog posts such as “105 Tips to Make Your Blog Rock


4. Test the best ones

When you have written multiple headlines then you need to test them. Upworthy tested two headlines for one article and the difference between them is not just a few clicks but 36 times more views!

The two headlines were:

A Public Service Announcement on Behalf of All White Dudes” vs “Put Yourself in a White Guy’s Shoes. Comfy, Right?

Below is the one that won the popularity contest.


Tools like Buffer and it’s analytics can help you with that testing. Check out their article on how they do that.

5. Stack images in content

Buzzfeed has perfected the art of stacking images in articles. Here is one of their most popular articles of all time with over 15 million views. This tactic is very effective because you are giving your article the best chance to resonate with your audience so it “has” to be shared. If it was just one or two images it would not have received that level of viral traffic.


6. Make it easy for readers to share

If you check out both Buzzfeed and Upworthy, they have a very clever technical tactic that makes it easy to share different parts of the article.

They include hovering share buttons that pop up as the user scrolls down the article. The result according to Upworthy’s research is a 398% increase in traffic!

share buttons

7. Curate the best content

Upworthy doesn’t try and break the news but is on the constant lookout for what works and then curates it. They then improve the framing on their site so that more people see it.

Curation is often underrated and should be an important part of your content marketing.

Buzzfeed does the same.

They see what is pumping and then add their own spin to it.

8. Make it easy for people to like your Facebook page

You have to love the relentless pursuit of squeezing every piece of viral sharing capability out of readers.

Upworthy have two ways they do that.

  1. They add a popup that appears after you have finished watching a video that politely inquires whether you want hang out with them on Facebook. This produced 419% more likes.
  2. Not content with that they also added a hover  banner that asks you to “like” the Upworthy Facebook page. This added an increase in likes of 620%

facebook slider

9. Target a niche, cause or issue

As content marketers we are often trying to reach a broad audience to get that mass appeal. What is interesting to see is that Buzzfeed is tapping into niches and causes because they are often much more passionate about their group.

Here is an example of how Buzzfeed approaches this tactic.

christian college

10. Keep looking for “Epic” content

Trying to be unique all the time will make your brain fry and often means you are reinventing the wheel and you don’t have to. Keep reading and hunting and see what sort of content works well on the web and your competitors sites.

Upworthy sum it up with some tips on what they are looking for.

  • A hero
  • A villain
  • An emotional story
  • An inspiring message


Upworthy have published a Slideshare presentation that provides further insights.

What about you?

What was the most revealing lesson from these ten? What could you take away today and implement? What has been your experience with viral content and what has worked for you.

Look forward to your insights and stories in the comments below.

About the author: Jeff Bullas


Just a guy who is passionate about making a dent in the digital universe. Then you never know what might happen in the real world.
Blogger, writer, strategist and speaker on social media, content marketing and digital marketing.

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This article was first published by Jeff Bullas

1 reply
  1. Tim
    Tim says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Really interesting post. The idea about 25 headlines resonated with me, and it’s timely because I think that headline optimization is the new SEO. With the advent of social sharing, information overload a gripping headline will go a long way to increasing the possibility of getting that elusive viral post. Would love to see you write more on the topic of headline creation.

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