The impetus for the analysis came from HubSpot's release of its new Attribution Report, which now enables us to see exactly which blog posts directly result in leads. In other words, the posts that people become leads because of -- they click through from a call-to-action on a blog post to a landing page, and convert.
I learned some pretty fascinating stuff about which posts our blogs leads are coming from, and because of that, this is an analysis I think every blog marketer should do for themselves. Here's what I did, what I learned, and how you can do it, too.
Results of Our Blog Lead Generation Analysis
I analyzed our blog's lead generation in the month of June. Here's a quick summary of what I learned from that June analysis:
Over 90% of our blogs leads came from old posts (i.e. posts published prior to June).
Over 75% of post views were also of old posts.
Pretty alarming stuff, right?
Turns out our old content is the stuff that generates the real results. As a team that's spends the majority of its time and resources churning out brand new posts every month, these findings were kind of a big deal.
Old Content for the Win
My next question was, why are all these old posts getting all the glory?
So I took a look at the traffic sources of our top 10 lead-generating posts. Where do you think all that traffic is coming from? You may have guessed it -- organic search. In other words, we generate the majority of our blog leads from posts that rank well and thus generate traffic from organic search month after month.
When you think about it, it makes a whole lot of sense. Over time, new posts become old posts that increase in search ranking through views and social shares.
And when you consider where the majority of traffic from our new posts comes from, it makes even more sense. For the most part, 70% of the initial traffic we drive to new posts on our blog comes from email subscribers. And because our subscribers are repeat visitors -- many of which are already leads in our database -- it makes sense why our brand new posts contribute very little to lead generation.
Couple that with the fact that the majority of our traffic (over 75%) is to old posts to begin with, and it's easy to understand why the vast majority of our blog's lead generation is attributed to old content.
This data may seem pretty specific to our content at HubSpot, but if you're someone who has been blogging for a while and has built up a lot of historical blog content, chances are you'd find similar trends in your own analysis.
What Are We Doing With These Insights?
Not only has this new information been eye-opening for our blogging team -- it's also been extremely valuable and prescriptive for the growth and optimization of our blog.
For us, there were two takeaways:
1) We should get more posts to rank in search.
Knowing that the main source of traffic to all those old posts is search, our question becomes, how can we get even more oldposts to rank -- especially posts that convert well? How can we improve the SEO of historical blog posts that rank on page two or three of search results so they move up to page one? That way, we can generate more traffic and leads from posts we know already convert well.
Truth be told, we're still trying to figure out the right blend of on-page and off-page SEO tactics get us there, so we'll save the answers to those questions for another post.
2) We should put more time and resources into conversion optimizing old, high-trafficked posts.
And we are! In fact, it's a lot of what I've been dedicating myself to over the past couple of months. Over 75% of of our traffic is to old posts, but that doesn't necessarily mean that traffic is converting into leads. And because traffic from organic search tends to be made up of a lot of new visitors, old posts with high traffic and low conversion rates are definitely a lost opportunity -- as well as big juicy pieces of low-hanging fruit.
Starting with the old posts that generate the most views month after month, I've been optimizing the posts' calls-to-action (CTAs) and recording the before/after stats to see how the visit-to-lead conversion rates of those posts have improved based on my changes. The new post-level stats breakdown in HubSpot's Calls-to-Action App has also been invaluable for understanding the performance of specific CTAs on specific blog posts.
If you'd like to tackle blog conversion optimization for your own blog, this post has some good tips. There's some great stuff in there about blog SEO as well.
How to Conduct a Blog Leads Analysis Yourself
Build an Attribution Report to Analyze Your Blog Leads
So ... where are your blog leads coming from? You'll need some kind of attribution reporting tool to figure this out. If you're a HubSpot Professional or Enterprise customer, you can use HubSpot's Attribution Report. Here's how you'd build it (more details about using Attribution Reports here) ...
1) Choose a list. Choose "All contacts" for this blog leads analysis. Alternately, if you only wanted to analyze blog leads for a certain segment of your database, you could create and analyze just the contacts on that list.
2) Choose a conversion type and time period. Because we're analyzing blog leads, you'll want "Became a Lead Date" as your conversion type. Time period will apply to the date a contact became a lead, so if you wanted to analyze all leads generated in August, specify August 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014.
3) Choose an interaction scoring type. Choose "By referrer" and "Last interaction." This will show you all the URLs that directly referred people to the page they converted on. Since your lead generation forms likely reside on landing pages, this will include all the URLS of the blog posts that your leads came from -- likely because they clicked on a CTA in your blog post that took them to the landing page where they converted.
That's it! Save your report, and when it's finished processing, export it to Excel. To analyze just your blog posts, filter your report to get rid of any URLs that aren't blog post URLs. Because you've used "Became a Lead Date" as your conversion type, the "Contacts Assisted" column in your export will actually mean "Leads Generated." You can then sort by this column to identify posts that generate the most (and fewest) leads.
Analyze Where Your Blog Traffic Is Going
It will also be helpful to identify which blog posts are getting the most traffic. Depending on your software, export your blog analytics (HubSpot customers can use the Pages App) using the same time parameters you used in your Attribution Report. Then sort by views to identify your top performers, traffic-wise.
Analyze Your Report Data
It's a good idea to merge the data you get from each report (you can do this by using the VLOOKUP function in Excel to add the page view data from one spreadsheet to the spreadsheet with your leads data). That way, you can create a list of your top lead-generating posts alongside the traffic they've received, and then calculate their conversion rate. And you can do the same for your top viewed posts -- reporting on the leads they generated and their subsequent conversion rates.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself as you're analyzing all this data:
What are some common themes from your top viewed and lead generating posts? Does a certain blog post format convert better than others? Are certain subjects better at attracting views?
What are the conversion rates on your high-trafficked posts? Compare them to some of your better converting posts. Are they below average? Those are great targets for conversion optimization!
Before I sign off, a warning: If you find that, like us, the majority of your blog leads are coming from old posts, don't jump to the conclusion that you should be dramatically shifting your resources away from new content creation in favor of historical blog optimization.
Keep in mind that it's not that new posts don't do anything for you. It's just that they don't do much for you right away. New posts become old posts that ultimately rank in search, so scaling back on new content creation will result in fewer opportunities for your content to rank well later on.
No go forth and analyze!
Originally published Sep 22, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017