The state of successful content today is dire.

A recent study done by expert Guillaume Decugis, using his new content intelligence tool Hawkeye, reveals that 84% of all articles get LESS than 10 shares.

Only 16% of all articles published on the web get more than 10 shares.

In our industry, this gets even WORSE.

A search in Hawkeye’s Analyze section on the topic “content marketing” reveals only ONE article that’s achieved more than 20,000 shares.

hawkeye content marketing


That’s pretty dire, people…

Considering that we’re talking about an industry with over 42 million results in Google for the topic.


content marketing in Google


The ONLY content that earns links and shares today is standout content—content that people in that topic industry/area are attracted to.

It takes a ton of work to create that kind of content.

But with 84% of content falling flat, it is ZERO ROI to create just another “average piece” of content.

That’s why standout content is so important – and so special.

The blogs and articles that leap into that magical realm of shares and links – and, let’s be honest, rainbows – are the unicorns of the bunch.

To identify the unicorn content of 2017, I used Hawkeye myself, a new content intelligence tool from I looked for some of the best, top-shared, top-performing blogs and articles for the year across various key industry sites.

From Content Marketing Institute to Copyblogger, only a few pieces made it to the very top, most-shared and most-read.

We even took a look at our own site.

This will be the LAST piece published on our blog for the year – see you in the New Year! ? ?

Drumroll, please…

Here they are: the content unicorns of 2017.

content marketing unicorn roundup

The Unicorn Content List: 14 Content Marketing Pieces in 2017 That Brought Magical Levels of Engagement


1. Content Marketing Institute

Most-Shared: “Content Marketing Trends to Watch for 2018”

Current Share Count: 2,456

cmi most shared

CMI’s most-shared article was penned by its founder, Joe Pulizzi (of course). In it, he shares the most exciting and interesting trends he sees on tap for 2018.

A few he mentions include:

  • Original content is gaining popularity – big brands like Apple, Google, and Facebook have made moves to start producing original stuff.
  • Companies worldwide are increasing their content marketing budgets, but plenty of them are still treating it like advertising.
  • Some innovative marketing departments could eventually start creating their own revenue streams from monetizing content.

Overall, Joe says this is the most exciting time to be in marketing. His personal insights and know-how in the industry make this piece a must-read.

Second Most-Shared: “4 Content Marketing Things That Turn Off Your Audience”

Current Share Count: 2,372

This CMI piece by Neil Patel flips the coin and tells you what you may be doing to turn your audience off without knowing it.

A few of the biggest sins include focusing on you, you, you and not your audience; overdoing it with SEO (yes, it’s possible); and churning out as much content as you can, no matter the quality.

The takeaway: If you annoy, overwhelm, or discount your audience, you won’t get anywhere with content marketing.

Runner-Up: “A Content Marketing Love Letter”

This heartfelt piece, another from Joe, is one of my favorites. It truly is a love letter to the industry as he reflects on how CMI was founded and the people who helped grow it to its current standing.

Joe wrote this piece as a sort of “see you later” as he steps away from his role at CMI, but his assurance that we’ll see him at Content Marketing World 2018 feels a little bittersweet.

We’ll miss you, Joe!

2. Search Engine Journal

Interested in for your own content intelligence research? I’ve partnered with the creator,’s founder Guillaume Decugis! You can get free access to it here – for a limited time. Put “Julia McCoy” in the referred by section for a quick approval on your request.

Most-Shared: “4 Important Ranking Factors, According to SEO Industry Studies”

Current Share Count: 4,352

search engine journal article

There are over 200 ranking factors Google takes into consideration when it looks at your site. This article pinpoints the top 4 you can hone in on to optimize your content. Best of all, it’s based on a bunch of data-backed studies – for now, these points are totally up to date and useful.

For the curious, the most important ranking factors are content, backlinks, mobile user-friendly design, and a smattering of technical factors like headings and encryption.

Second-Most Shared: “50 Incredible Women in Marketing to Follow”

Current Share Count: 4,048

In honor of National Women’s Day, I wrote this piece for Search Engine Journal about notable lady marketers making their mark.

Among the exhaustive list of 50 inspiring women, you’ll find social media marketers, brand managers, marketing agency founders, content directors, and leaders of all stripes in the industry. A few names include Ann Handley, Stephanie Diamond, Pam Kozelka, and Joanna Wiebe.

3. Smartblogger

Most-Shared: “How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed)”

Current Share Count: 954


This SmartBlogger article already knocks it out of the park with the headline. (It makes writers everywhere question themselves about a fundamental part of their jobs!)

As it turns out, the right way to write a paragraph online is totally different from writing for print media. Author Mike Blankenship artfully shows you how it’s done (hint: no walls of text!).

“How to Write Faster: 10 Crafty Ways to Hit 1,000 Words Per Hour”

Current Share Count: 589

1,000 words per hour?! Sign me up. This article divulges 10 ways to increase your writing speed without losing quality.

It also may or may not talk about using your bladder (the power of pee) to write faster (no lie: I’ve done that, and still do – and I didn’t learn it from this article), plus tons more unique tips you’ve never heard before.

4. Copyblogger

Most-Shared: “20 Types of Evergreen Content that Produce Lasting Results for Your Business”

Current Share Count: 1,125

copyblogger most shared

This post is evergreen content… about evergreen content.

It contains everything you need to know about creating timeless posts with an extra-long shelf life. Here are a few of the best evergreen post types to try that are mentioned:

  • How-to posts
  • Data and case studies
  • Lists and listicles
  • Encyclopedic content (think comprehensive histories, glossaries, and ultimate guides)

Needless to say, this post is packed with suggestions and ideas to help your next content asset go the distance.

Second-Most Shared: “Your Content Marketing Won’t Work Without This”

Current Share Count: 730

copyblogger top shared post

This headline is a burning statement that immediately makes you want to know what “this” is.

Well, it’s copy. This article explains what copy is, why you need it, where you need it, and when you need it. It’s very straightforward, but the message hits home.

5. Curata

Most-Shared: “Content Marketing Traits Crucial to Success [Infographic]”

Current Share Count: 12,015

curata most shared

This Curata infographic has the most shares out of all the blogs on this list.

Why? Well, for starters, it’s an infographic – a well-documented winner for engagement. But, it’s also creative, which helps a ton.

It shows you “the anatomy of a content marketer” and breaks down the skills you need to succeed in this industry. It’s visually fun, informative, and easy to share!

Just a few of the traits Curata says you need:

  • Wit and humor
  • Street smarts
  • Strategic and creative thinking

6. CoSchedule

Most-Shared: “How to Write Emotional Headlines That Get More Shares”

Current Share Count: 4,154

coschedule top shared

The headline is one of the most important parts of any blog post or article. The folks at CoSchedule took data from their massive headline database and analyzed what makes a headline shareable.

The answer? The more emotional value a headline has, the more it gets shared.

This piece delves deep into the whys and explains how to craft great ones for your own content, too. There’s a ton of valuable information and analysis here, so it’s no wonder this is their most-shared piece.

7. Neil Patel

Most-Shared: “4 Facebook Algorithm Hacks to Bring Your Reach Back from the Dead”

Current Share Count: 2,826

neil patel top shared

Facebook’s organic reach potential for brands and businesses has long been on the decline. It’s no longer a given that you can reach your fans and followers with your content for free.

In the face of this problem, Neil Patel offers “hacks” that can help:

  • Use preferred audience targeting
  • Post more videos
  • Only share your best content
  • Use the “Invite to Like” feature

Of course, in typical Neil Patel fashion, he shows you exactly what to do for each hack with detailed screenshots and guidance. Since this has been a huge topic of discussion for marketers, this post is incredibly valuable.

8. Express Writers

Most-Shared: “How to Not Be Repetitive & Redundant: 5 Unique Ways to Stand Out & Be a Contrarian Content Marketer”

Current Share Count: 731

express writers top shared

It’s easy to see why this was our most-shared post in 2017 on the Write Blog. In it, I take a firm stance on a problem in the industry: copycatting. In the process, the post gets super controversial.

The funny thing is, I also urge you to create and publish your own controversial content.

Along with in-depth, long-form content; building engaged communities; and a firm commitment to consistently standing out, this is how you create content and a brand presence that gets noticed in the best way.

Second-Most Shared: “A Day in the Life of a Remote Team: How We Work at Express Writers”

Current Share Count: 405

Our second-most shared article for 2017 is a big curiosity-satisfier if you’ve ever wondered how a completely remote team bands together successfully.

Along with divulging how our management team works day-to-day, I also talk a lot about the re-evaluating and restructuring I did within our ranks that contributed to better client satisfaction and a more supportive team vibe.

It’s no wonder this “inside look” was so popular with readers.

An Ending Look: What Does It Take to Create Unicorn Content?

If you want your content to be as outstanding as these unicorn content pieces, you have to put in the effort.

Standout content doesn’t just magically happen, no matter how much we wish it would.

Turns out, unicorn content is not a result of wishing.?

Instead, it’s the result of a potent combination of brainstorming, planning, preparation, strategy, research, time, investment, and hard work.

If we all doubled-down on our content game, standout content wouldn’t be so rare.

Take inspiration from the above blogs and strive for better.

Here’s to 2018 – let’s make it the year of the unicorn.

content marketing unicorn CTA

We're hiring writers and editors!Apply Now