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January 10, 2018

The Content Unicorns of 2017: 14 Rare Content Beasts That Came Out on Top

Surprisingly, successful content that performs well is not run-of-the-mill in the industry.

Instead, the successful pieces are content unicorns – rare beasts that you only see if you’re lucky once in a blue moon.

Guillaume Decugis did a study recently on average content shares. (He presented his findings in a Sprout Social webinar).

Using Hawkeye, a new data intelligence tool created by Guillaume and, he found that 84% of all articles published get less than 10 shares apiece.

Less. Than. 10. Shares.

Naturally, the above stats made me curious. Which pieces in our industry performed really well, despite the odds?

I used Hawkeye to analyze top, key sites and find their top-performing content pieces in a recent free training on

I break down this topic into more detail on the Write Blog (including more hair-raising stats about shares for industry pieces), but here is a recap of what I found.

These are the content marketing unicorns of 2017.

Content Unicorns: 14 Pieces That Defied the Engagement Odds in 2017

Content Marketing Institute

CMI, arguably one of the top industry sites out there, averaged a few thousand shares for their top-performing pieces in 2017.

1. “Content Marketing Trends to Watch for 2018”


The most-shared piece was this one, written by founder Joe Pulizzi. It’s a great, insider look at what’s happening right now in content marketing and where we may be headed.

2. “4 Content Marketing Things That Turn Off Your Audience”

This piece by Neil Patel came in at #2. It’s an engaging discussion of what your audience doesn’t want to see in your content.

3. “A Content Marketing Love Letter”

One of my favorite pieces written in 2017 was this one by Joe. It’s essentially his “farewell for now” letter as he steps away from the industry.

Search Engine Journal 

Search Engine Journal knocked it out of the park with their top-performing pieces. Each grabbed over 4,000 shares.

4. “4 Important Ranking Factors, According to SEO Industry Studies”

This is an informative look at which ranking factors you should be giving the most heed right this second.

5. “50 Incredible Women in Marketing to Follow”

There are so many awesome, kick-ass women in content marketing – I wrote this piece to highlight 50 of them, including links where you can follow them.


Smartblogger continued to set the standard for smart, unique content about writing copy. Their top pieces averaged 500-900 shares.

6. “How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed)”

If you think you know how to write a paragraph for online content, this article proves you wrong.

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

This fun, interesting, useful article highlights tips you’ve never heard before to help you write faster. Score.


Copyblogger’s top pieces hovered around 1,000 shares.

8. “20 Types of Evergreen Content That Produce Lasting Results for Your Business”


If you want the lowdown on evergreen content, including how to create it, this is the article you need to read.

9. “Your Content Marketing Won’t Work Without This”

This well-structured argument for the importance of good copy came in at #2 for Copyblogger. (If you want to reaffirm your worth as a writer in the industry, read it.)


Curata’s most-shared posts blew its others out of the water. This one post raked in over 12K shares. The inforgraphic format certainly helped along with the post’s in-depth writing and creativity.

10: “Content Marketing Traits Crucial to Success [Infographic]”

Shares: 12,015


11. “How to Write Emotional Headlines That Get More Shares”

Headlines are huge. Emotional headlines are… huger. CoShedule breaks down how to craft them and why they work so well, drawing on stats they gathered. This post had great reach and raked in over 4K shares.

Neil Patel

Neil Patel’s top-performing post got almost 3,000 shares.

12. “4 Facebook Algorithm Hacks to Bring Your Reach Back from the Dead”

This is a classic Neil Patel post that breaks down each point in detail. You come away knowing exactly how to hack your Facebook organic reach.

Express Writers

Our top posts for the year at Express Writers addressed unique topics – one was controversial, and one was an inside look at our inner workings as a team.

13. “How to Not Be Repetitive & Redundant: 5 Unique Ways to Stand Out & Be a Contrarian Content Marketer”


Our top post calls out copycatting in the industry – a rampant problem contributing to the heaps of average, carbon copy content out there.

14. “A Day in the Life of a Remote Team: How We Work at Express Writers”

This is a fun look at how our remote team comes together as a cohesive whole from locations across the globe. I also offer some insight into how I improved our team for the long haul.

How to Be a Content Unicorn

Unicorn content like the above pieces always have at least one thing in common:

They’re quality, standout examples of blogging and writing.

They’re top examples of research, creativity, craft, and hard work.

If you want your content to get shared and become a content unicorn, you have to commit to better everything. That’s where the ROI lives.

Otherwise, what’s the point?


Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.