These days, I spend a lot of my time on blog optimization. I'm constantly trying to figure out how we can fill the top of our funnel with more blog visitors, and how we convert more of those visitors into subscribers and leads.
Because my role is focused on optimization and growth, I try to make sure we're always testing something. After all, if we only do what we know works, we may see growth, but it will only ever be incremental growth. And we have ambitious goals here at HubSpot, so we need to be focused on achieving exceptional growth.
That's why testing is so critical -- it enables you to discover those groundbreaking strategies and tactics that lead to exceptional growth.
Luckily, there are a ton of tests you can run to optimize your blog for clicks and conversions. So, to help you get into the habit of always testing stuff on your own blog, here is a list of things you should try out for yourself. Remember -- what doesn't work for one blog, might work for you!
Note: Blogs are very variable by nature, oftentimes making it difficult to completely isolate the variables you're trying to test. While you should do your best to isolate your variables, keep in mind that your tests may not be perfectly scientific.
Blog Publishing Optimization
Things you can test to optimize your blog publishing activity ...
Is more always better? Test your publishing frequency to identify your "sweet spot." Is there a point at which an increase in volume of posts doesn't actually equate to more or better results? At what point are you sacrificing content quality for the sake of quantity?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Increase (or decrease) your publishing frequency by a certain amount for 1-2 weeks. Then, isolate the number of views you received to those new posts and compare it to the views of the new posts you published during one of your typical 1-2 week time frames. Continue testing until you find your frequency sweet spot.
Do certain times of the day and days of the week correlate with better traffic results? What about how far apart you space your published posts -- does that impact an individual post's performance?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Test publishing at a variety of times. Then export your blog analytics (e.g. HubSpot's Pages Report), sort by time of day and day of week, and analyze trends you see in performance.
3) Content Balance
Which blog content types (e.g. text-only, SlideShare-based, infographics) and topics perform better for you? Knowing this, what's the ideal content balance? In other words, while SlideShare-based posts may perform best in terms of traffic, you probably can't only publish SlideShare posts.
Suggested Testing Methodology: Test different content types and subjects on your blog, then analyze how those posts perform. Map blog content to your various content goals to determine what your ideal content balance is (e.g. X SlideShare posts per month for traffic, X posts per month about subject A to support campaign B, etc.).
Blog Subscriber Email Optimization
Things you can test to optimize the notification emails you send to blog subscribers ...
4) Email Subject Line
Do your subscriber emails generate more clickthroughs when you use a generic subject line (e.g. "Here's Your Latest Blog Post"), or when the subject line matches the title of the blog post you're emailing about?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Test a generic subject line for a period of time until you have a large enough sample size of emails that your test is statistically significant. (Learn what "statistically significant" means for marketers here.) Then, test subject lines that match titles of the blog posts you're emailing about for the same number of emails. Compare the performance (in terms of clickthrough rate) of those emails.
5) Email Timing
For any instant subscriber emails you have set up (i.e. an email triggered every time you publish a new post), email timing will obviously go hand-in-hand with publish timing. For other subscriber email frequencies such as daily, weekly, or monthly digests, timing is a great thing to test. Which time of day and day of the week (for weekly and monthly emails) perform best?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Send a sample of emails at a certain time of day, and compare the clickthrough rates of those emails to a sample of emails sent at a different time of day. Keep testing until you find the time of day and day of week that generates the best clickthrough rate.
6) Calls-to-Action (CTAs) Within Emails
Should you include calls-to-action within your blog emails? Does the inclusion of CTAs distract recipients from visiting your blog? If so, are the conversions you're getting worth sacrificing that blog traffic?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Compare the performance of subscriber emails that include CTAs with emails that do not, using the same sample size of emails. Look at the emails' clickthrough rates and referral traffic to your blog as well as the performance of the CTAs you used (HubSpot customers can use HubSpot's Calls-to-Action App for this). Also, be sure to consider your goals: Which is more of a priority to your team: Traffic or conversion rate? Consider testing different types of CTAs as well.
Blog CTA Optimization
Things you can test to optimize the calls-to-action on your blog ...
7) End-of-Post CTAs vs. End-of-Post Forms
Which performs better for generating leads and conversions: A standard CTA at the end of your blog post, or the full conversion form embedded right there? Test it out, just like we did!
Suggested Testing Methodology: Take two separate posts, similar in subject matter and format, and publish them both at the same time of day and day of the week, one week apart. On one post, use a standard CTA; on the other post, use an embedded form for the same offer you used in the CTA on the first post. Keep the copy on the CTA and the form the same as well. After each post has been up for a week, compare the view-to-submission rate of the CTA and the view-to-submission rate of the form. Check out this post for more details about how we tested it on our own blog.
8) Slide-In CTAs
Slide-in CTAs are CTAs that slide in from the side as readers scroll down the page. They capture visitors' attention without covering the copy of the blog post and thus, being too obtrusive. Does adding slide-in CTAs to your blog posts increase conversions? How does their performance compare to your blog's standard end-of-post CTAs? Should you include one or the other, or both? If so, should they be CTAs for the same or different offers?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Add slide-in CTAs to a sample of old blog posts that still generate traffic. Wait a week or two, and then compare the visit-to-lead conversion rate of those posts to their visit-to-lead conversion rate prior to the addition of the slide-ins. HubSpot customers can also use HubSpot's Calls-to-Action App to look at the view-to-submission rates of slide-ins vs. standard end-of-post CTAs to compare performance. To learn how to add slide-in CTAs to you blog posts, check out this tutorial.
9) Dynamic (or "Smart") CTA Segmentation
Which is more effective: Segmenting the dynamic CTAs on your blog by lifecycle stage, or by persona? Are there other, more effective ways to segment them?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Test a variety of CTA segmentation strategies (click here for some CTA segmentation ideas) across various samples of blog posts to determine what works best for your audience. If you're a HubSpot customer, use the analytics available in the Calls-to-Action App to measure effectiveness.
10) CTA Offer, Design & Copy
How do design and copy choices impact the performance of your CTAs, both on individual blog posts and in the sidebar/top/bottom of your overall blog layout? What about the offers you're promoting on specific posts? Would other offers perform better?
Suggested Testing Methodology: A/B test variations in CTA copy, design, and offer type on individual posts. If you have a tool (like HubSpot's Calls-to-Action App) that offers A/B testing functionality, this is even easier and more scientific. (Learn how to run an A/B test here.)
11) Text-Based, In-Line CTAs
Can you increase conversions by including text-based, in-line CTAs within the copy of your blog articles, like the one you see pictured below? How does the placement of these text-based CTAs impact performance (i.e. are people more likely to click them if they're placed earlier or later in the post)? Does more direct copy work better than something subtler?
Suggested Testing Methodology: Add in-line CTAs to a sampling of older posts that still generate traffic (likely from search). Let them collect data for a week or two, and then calculate those posts' visit-to-lead conversion rates. Compare those conversion rates to the conversion rates of the posts prior to adding the slide-in CTA. HubSpot customers can also create these in-line CTAs using the Calls-to-Action App (check out this post to learn how -- see section on "Magic Copy") and reference the data collected in that app.
What other tests can you run to improve the optimization of your blog? Share them in the comments below!
Originally published Sep 26, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017