As a content marketer for Bizzabo, a growing SaaS company, it’s often challenging to know if what I spend my day doing is working. I worry about generating more visits and more leads while serving the best interests of our readers.
A year ago, the challenges were even steeper. I knew that inbound marketing was effective. I knew that blogging was a good thing and that it was generating some great leads for us. But I wasn’t sure if blogging more frequently would have a tangible positive impact on our key metrics.
After talking with my team, we decided to give blogging more frequently a shot. We committed to publishing 3 posts a week for one year, and we got pretty darn close to that ambitious goal (averaging 2.5 posts per week).
We were able to grow our readership by 190% in that time. We also increased the number of people who subscribed to our blog by 980%. By publishing quality content so frequently, we learned a thing or two about what makes a B2B blog successful, and what doesn’t.
Here’s what I wish I knew when Bizzabo started this initiative a year ago.
1. You Need To Track Every Blog Post To Get Better
Why does one blog post out perform others? Why did this one post get 10x more social media shares than another nearly identical post? Which writers create the best content? What topics and blog post formats are most appealing to our readers?
If you’re like me, a Content Marketing Manager, you have asked yourself these questions many times. If you’re like me, you have made the mistake of failing to actually keep track of your blog posts after they go live.
This is a huge mistake, and if this sounds like you, stop what you are doing, and go track your blog posts (after this article of course).
In order to better understand why our blog preformed the way it did, we took a page from Hubspot and started documenting our posts.
Each post could only fall into one pre-defined category:
- Tactical: A “how to” style blog post that is 1,000 words or less.
- Deep Tactical: A detailed guide, usually over 1,500 words, designed to provide readers with the last piece of content they will ever need to read on a specific subject.
- Promotional: Usually a short blog post that announces a company development.
- Directory: A list of resources or upcoming events. Usually, these lists include 50 - 200 resources.
- News Update: A short blog post, usually around 500-800 words, about event planning news items readers should know about.
With these categories defined, we went back and labeled each one of the 130 blog posts. We also used wordcounter.net to count the number of words in a post and entered that information into a spreadsheet.
Here’s what our blog post tracking spreadsheet looks like today:
By collecting this data, we were able to analyze variables like category type, word count, and author to determine which posts brought the most views, the most social media shares and the most leads.
Since we were able to collect data from each of the 130 blog posts published, we were able to determine what kinds of posts resonate most with our audience.
We found that in-depth how-to posts (categorized as Deep Tactical) performed best.
In the chart below, we see that the number of views a blog post received was positively correlated with the length of the blog post.
We also see that word count is positively correlated with social media shares, as seen in the chart below.
Thanks to this analysis, we were able to identify the content type that was most interesting to our audience, and have committed to increasing the percent of Deep Tactical articles we produce in the coming year.
This work wouldn’t have been possible if we were not already tracking the performance of each blog post, again showing the value of being a data-driven content marketer.
Track the performance of your blog posts, and use the data you collect to determine what type of content best serves your marketing goals.
2. Evergreen Content Is Pure Gold For B2B Marketers
There is certainly something to be said for riding the wave of a hot industry topic to generate social media shares, blog post views, and new leads. But based on the analysis we conducted, over 50% of all visitors came to our blog through organic search.
This number might actually be much bigger, if some portion of Direct traffic actually is Organic in disguise - as research suggests.
In order to maximize the value of organic search, content marketers should focus on creating “evergreen” content. This is content that will be relevant to searchers over a long period of time. It means that your content will be discoverable longer, giving it more of an opportunity to provide long term and compounding value.
In the chart below, you can see the success the Bizzabo Blog has had in bringing visitors to the website through organic search.
The increase in organic traffic comes from focusing on “evergreen” content in the months leading up to the red arrow above.
The Bizzabo content team identified under served topics related to event planning and set out to write long-form content that would thoroughly answered searchers’ queries.
Search engines rewarded us by ranking the content highly, and visitors found our content valuable enough that they were willing to fill out landing page forms to get more of it.
Writing evergreen content will reward you with lasting and compounding value. First figure out what kind of content readers want to consume, then create this kind of content related to evergreen topics.
3. Build a System to Manage a Growing Content Team
In order to meet the increasing content demands of our audience, and the increasingly ambitious goals of our company, we needed a way to produce more high-quality content. So, we expanded our content marketing team.
At first, managing a team of five writers was incredibly difficult. Writers were working on different schedules and in different time-zones - collaborating was tough, and so was providing timely feedback on an article.
We turned to project management tool to manage the team of writers, and it has helped tremendously. Now, we provide writers with an “Ice box” of pre-approved article ideas that align with our broader company goals.
Writers have one week to finish a rough draft of the article from the day they select it. When done, they drop the article in the “Editing” area and then they pick the next article to work on. Once a rough draft is submitted, we decide as a marketing team when to publish it, and notify the writer when the article is live.
Find a scalable way to manage the content production process in order to meet the growing demands of your audience and company.
4. If You Build It, They Might Not Come: Distribution Is Key
The saying from Field Of Dreams might be true for baseball-loving Iowa farmers, but it’s not true for content marketers.
Over 95% of visitors to the Bizzabo blog discovered the blog through a specific post, far fewer people navigated to the blog homepage and then click on an article that captures their attention.
This means that articles need to be distributed properly in order to attract readers, readers will not simply check-in to read your latest article.
Social media, email marketing, and SEO optimization are all important distribution methods in the content marketer’s toolbox. Aside from search optimization, social media has been the second most popular channel for attracting visitors to the Bizzabo blog.
Through consistently sharing helpful content with our audience on social media, we’ve been able to drive visitors to the blog. We’ve been able to expand social media reach by creating content in partnership with other outlets, and by mentioning influencers in articles and then sharing those articles with them in hopes that they will share the content with their audience.
Facebook is quickly becoming one of our most successful social media platforms for content distribution, though we have found that sharing judiciously is best at driving visits back to our website.
Moving into the middle of 2016, the content team plans to use content syndication as another method of increasing the reach of our work. Platforms like Medium, and LinkedIn Pulse are great ways to share content with an audience who might not turn to our blog for help.
Content that doesn’t have a distribution plan, is usually going to fail. Identify channels that are already working, and optimize them to work even better.
5. Non-marketers Should Have a Voice Too
As the Bizzabo blog grew, other departments became interested in contributing ideas or fully fledged articles to the blog. At first, the feedback from different departments was hard to handle. Afterall, I had a content calendar filled with articles I was excited about, and didn’t want our voice or content to change dramatically.
But eventually, I realized that the Bizzabo Blog should incorporate voices from different departments. Each person at our company could in some way contribute to our content in a positive way, and it was my job to figure out when and how those contributions should be shared.
To keep the submission process organized, I created and shared a simple Google Form. Some people at the company submitted fantastic ideas that the content team got working on right away. Today, people feel more of a sense of ownership over our content now that they know they can contribute anytime.
Some of the key questions we ask people to answer in the Form are:
- What is the target audience for this article (with a pick-list of ICPs)
- Write a one paragraph content abstract (this helps our writers better understand what the story should look like)
- Please list specific resources we should mention if there are any.
Developing a thriving B2B blog is about scaling content production intelligently. By empowering Bizzaboers to contribute to the blog, we are both giving employees a stage to share their expertise (an important initiative in itself), while also making it easier to produce uniquely valuable content for our audience.
Remember that a corporate blog is the mouthpiece for the entire company. As such, all departments deserve a simple way to contribute ideas. Opening up a B2B blog to the entire company can also make it easier to produce quality content.
For readers who are struggling to scale a business blog, my advice is to take a data-driven approach. At Bizzabo the key metrics we focus on are visits, leads, and social shares, so it was easy for us to optimize posts for those metrics once they were determined.
A data-driven content marketing approach will allow you to double-down on content formats that work, while eliminating those that do not.
Content that is evergreen, well distributed, and produced regularly performed best of us, and I suspect it will perform well for many marketers reading this post.
Once, your content production team is comfortable creating consistently valuable content, I encourage readers to open the blog up to the entire company. Your blog can serve as a place to both achieve marketing goals, while also making employees feel empowered and that’s surely a win-win.