How to design a SlideShare that pulls over 1 million views

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A massively successful SlideShare can give your entire marketing strategy a lift. They net you tons of new traffic, and help you rank better for organic search by building up a portfolio of backlinks. They also help you build your brand and amplify your message. You can use them to capture emails and leads, pushing up your bottom line. 

Histogram of slideshare views

But the majority of SlideShares fall flat, while only a handful make it to the big leagues and rake in millions of views. For a lot of marketers, big wins on SlideShare feel frustratingly elusive. A presentation that began as a series of doodles can be as successful as a 100-slide deck and a team of designers.

To cut to the heart of what makes a SlideShare stick, we analyzed over 50 different presentations that received between 500,000 and 6 million views. We’ve collected our learnings below to help you do the same.

Our methodology

When you’re giving a presentation in front of a room, you know who your audience is, and you design your deck of slides accordingly. SlideShare flips the script. Your presentation isn’t limited to the people in a single conference room, but open to the entire internet. Instead of going to your audience, they come to you.

In this new territory, the two most important elements of a high-performing presentation are design and distribution. Nail down the message through great design, and scale it through smart distribution.

To break down design, we mined the presentation of each for insights, focusing on:

  • # of words and their frequency
  • The ratio between images to text
  • Fonts, color choices, and balance

For distribution, we dug into the metrics that SlideShare shares on its site. We dissected the impact of presentations by looking at:

  • Total views
  • Views from embeds
  • Shares, downloads, and likes.

There isn’t a single formula for success on SlideShare, but the highest performing presentations do share common elements. By diving into the data, we can identify the trends and patterns that will help you win SlideShare.

People actually download SlideShares

On average, the total number of downloads was greater than the number of shares, comments and likes combined. 

Bar chart of Downloads, shares and likes by view

SlideShares were downloaded 3.3x as much as shared, 8.5x as much as commented on, and 179x as much as liked. While social share counts for SlideShare give you a good gauge of how you’re doing, downloads show you how valuable people actually find your content.

Presentations with 2M+ views use 47% fewer words

Great public speakers don’t follow a script. They don’t tell a room full of people what to think, but instead allow their audiences to arrive at their own conclusions. That’s ultimately what gets ideas to stick. Great SlideShares work on the same principle. In our analysis, we found that the most successful SlideShares used almost half the words as the rest. 

Ratio of words on successful slideshares
Relationship between number of social shares and words for slideshare

SlideShares between 2m to 6m views averaged 22 words per slide, compared to 47 words per slide for presentations with under 1M views. For reference, a single space page in Microsoft Word is about 500 words.

One of the most successful SlideShares we analyzed came from Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Schmidt’s presentation, How Google Works, pulled in over 3m+ views and is a study on how to say more with less. The most clipped slide in the deck breaks down the pillars of a good company into three parts: 

"How Google Works" slide

The difference between the marketing copy and the deck is the difference between a hapless marketer and one of the most effective CEOs in history. What makes Schmidt’s presentation so successful is it distills an incredibly complex topic—how to build a business worth hundreds of billions of dollars—into language that a child can understand. 

Takeaway: Don’t write an essay. What will make your SlideShare pop isn’t sounding like you ate a thesaurus, but rather aiming to simplify and make things easier for the people you’re connecting with. That’s the key to getting your ideas to stick. 

The Average # of slides for presentations with 2M+ Views is 69

People don’t share presentations that try to cram each slide full of words. But that doesn’t mean you should cut down on the number of slides in your deck. The average presentation with 2m+ views had 69 slides, with many going well over. 

Average number of slides vs views

While this seems to contradict the data that more words lead to fewer views, you have to keep in mind the total length of a presentation and ratio between words to slides. Outside the conference room, a SlideShare can have 100s of slides.

Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends report is the perfect example. The slides are packed with graphs, statistics, and text. 

Smartphone chart from Mary Meeker's report

The 2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update was 3,562 words long and received a whopping 29k downloads on SlideShare alone. With 5.6 million views, this meant that 5% of people who saw the SlideShare downloaded it. 

Takeaway: Outside of the conference room, the length of your presentation isn’t limited to a moderator or your audience. That means that you can and should pack in more slides into your deck. 

SlideShares need at least 2K words

Presentations that crossed a threshold of 2,000 words received nearly 10x as many downloads as the rest. Longer SlideShares mean that you end up needing more words to fill in the blanks—but you should only ever add more words if you’re also adding more slides. 

Bar chart of downloads vs words

42% of views for SlideShares over 1M views come from embeds

The beauty of repurposing a presentation as a SlideShare is that it drastically expands your reach from a room full of people to the entire internet. SlideShares are magically embeddable, shareable, and reproducible. In our analysis, we found that  SlideShares with 1M views were embedded 1.6x compared to SlideShares with less than 1M views. While views from embeds count toward your total view count, they still give your presentation a massive boost. 

Views from embeds and slides bar chart

Out of all the different factors—likes, shares, downloads— the # of embeds a SlideShare received correlated the highest with the Total  # of views. The correlation of total views to embeds was .84—compared to a .64 correlation between shares and views. 

Correlation  of embeds vs total views

HubSpot, the inbounding marketing giant, put out a SlideShare called “The History of SEO” which received around 40% of its traffic from getting embedded on other sites.

Hubspot slide covering SEO

True to form, the SlideShare is repurposed into a blog post on the company’s website—where the original SlideShare is also embedded. The marketing team at HubSpot has since then refreshed the concept in various iterations, from infographic to ebook.

Takeaway: Embedding is one of the most underrated aspects of SlideShares, and also one of the main reasons why they’re so good for distribution. You can embed your own presentation on your blog, which will help it build backlinks and organic traffic. As more people see and embed your presentation, the more organic search grows and the more people you get in front of.

Over 50% of top referring SlideShare domains are overseas

Putting your presentation up on SlideShare is the opposite of catering to a well-defined audience in a board room. But what people forget is exactly how broad that audience is. Analyzing the top referring domains to SlideShare by shares over the past year, we found that 59% came from abroad.

Origin of top country domains by slideshare

By analyzing the top 10 referring domains to SlideShare over the past year, we found that the most popular regions for SlideShares were the U.S., followed by South America and India.

A SlideShare isn’t like watching a presentation on YouTube. You don’t necessarily have to be fluent in a language to follow along. That makes SlideShares an increasingly powerful way of broadcasting your message in an increasingly global world.

According to SlideShare—in a SlideShare of its own—over 50% of people on their website come from outside the U.S. That means that SlideShares are an incredibly powerful way of tapping into new audiences, both at home and abroad.

Slideshare's description of their audience

Fittingly, 25% of the SlideShare’s embeds came from the domain of, a company with offices in France.

Takeaway: Trying to reach new, international audiences on Facebook or Twitter is an uphill battle for marketers. That’s because they don’t know the lay of the land. Use SlideShare presentations to figure out what resonates with people overseas, and take it from there.

Amplify the message

Marketers are always on the lookout for the next big channel of distribution—one year it’s Facebook and the next, it’s SnapChat or Kik.

But SlideShare remains one of the most untapped ways of expanding your reach—85% of marketers fail to tap into SlideShare’s massive audience. It doesn’t seem sexy at first. The presentation element is basically the same as a PowerPoint, and has remained unchanged over the last 20 years.

This simplicity is what makes it such a powerful way to broadcast your message. A slide deck is only a combination of images and text at the end of the day. You can create it from scratch, repurpose it from existing content, recycle it—whatever. It’s how the pieces fit together that’s important.



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