Did you know that there is a certain type of blog post that makes up 10% of a blog's repertoire, but are responsible for generating 38% of total blog traffic? If you do the math, that means just one of these special posts brings in the same amount of traffic as six regular posts.
In a recent study, we investigated these standout posts, which we call “compounding posts," and discovered that they're found in all types of business blogs. Yep, even yours -- you just have to know how to find them.
To give you some more information on what these posts look like in real life and what kind of effects they can have, we decided to dive into our own blog data. Using this information, we can work toward increasing the number of compounding posts we have in our arsenal.
Before we dive into the data we have, let's do a quick recap of what compound posts are in the first place.
What Are Compounding Posts?
The signature characteristic of compounding posts is that they eventually surpass the initial traffic that they generate soon after publication. Compounding posts may not necessarily be blockbusters when they’re first published, but their structure and substance are so relevant that they continue to deliver value and grow traffic organically -- no additional marketing needed.
Here’s a real life example of one of HubSpot’s compounding blog posts. Starting in November 2013, you can see traffic increasing and surpassing the initial traffic the post received in its first month. Sometimes traffic dips -- so it’s not a constantly growing line -- but overall, it consistently exceeds the initial traffic it received. These posts are amazing assets to blogs because they just build more and more traffic to your site without you or your team needing to expend any further energy.
So what actually makes a post compound over time? To paraphrase the research report, compounding posts:
Authoritatively answer the reader’s question. These posts answer the common questions you receive from customers. Chances are there are lots of people searching for the same questions you hear daily. Position your post as the authoritative answer to their question(s).
Cover a broad topic and offer tactical advice. If you’re trying to create a compounding post, write for as large as possible a segment of your potential customers. That means the post needs to cover a topic that has mass appeal. Broad tactical posts include product reviews, breakdowns of processes, or instructions on how to diagnose an issue.
Are titled in a way that reflects common SEO best practices. Compounding titles contain words that suggest certainty and utility, such as “How”, “What”, “Why”, and “Best” -- and it’s no coincidence that people often search for ‘how to do x’ or ‘what is the best y’.
Are structured to make information more easily digestible. The post should be laid out in an organized matter, with images, bolded headlines, links, and bullet points that orient readers and allow them to quickly digest information.
For more details about compounding posts, check out the entire study.
An Analysis of HubSpot’s Compounding Posts
Now that we’ve defined compounding posts, we can share what we found when we reviewed the archives of HubSpot’s own blog. It turns out that 14% of our blog posts compounded 12 months after being published, just slightly over the 10% average we found in the study.
Generally HubSpot receives a large amount of traffic upon initial publication, so our compounding posts aren't necessarily standouts in the first couple of months after going live. However, as time goes on, the majority of traffic we receive is from older compounding posts. As we found in our historical optimization experiment, older posts generating large amounts of traffic can be a blog’s bread and butter.
What Do HubSpot's Compounding Posts Look Like?
Okay, so we found compounding posts. Now what? We wanted to understand what unifying characteristics our compounding posts had.
Where are they being shared? How comprehensive or wordy are they? And are there clear topics that gets shared more than others?
We pulled social share data of over 660 of HubSpot’s compounding posts and segmented the shares by each post’s total word count. We discovered that the longest posts (those with over 2,000 words) received more average tweets, LinkedIn shares, and Facebook shares, Likes, and comments. (This nicely ties into our recent editorial analysis where we found our deep tactical posts are more popular.)
In general, posts with 1,000 or more words receive more social attention, but we also found that very short posts (those with fewer than 250 words) perform better on social media than posts with 251-1,000 words. Typically HubSpot’s short posts are infographics or promotional posts about recently launched ebooks, which more naturally lend themselves to be shared socially.
However, longer posts are clearly the social winners for the HubSpot blog. We calculated that posts with 2,000 or more words generate 4.3X the social shares generated by a post with 501-1,000 words.
So how does the social sharing data compare to overall visits?
Well, once again, it’s clear longer posts are HubSpot’s best performing posts. Interestingly, our short posts, which get pretty high social sharing numbers, do poorly when it comes to average visits. So while our short posts are good at getting shares, they don’t necessarily generate a huge return in visits for us.
We were curious if topics had any impact on the number of social shares a post generates, too. Our most socially shared compounding blog posts are related to content marketing, design, and branding. These are also our top-performing topics in terms of total average views.
Finally, Twitter is the primary source for sharing across the board. LinkedIn, which targets our readers' business contacts, often outranks Facebook shares. Since we are a B2B company, it makes sense our content would be shared out to our visitors' professional contacts on LinkedIn rather than their personal network.
What We’re Going to Do
So how will this data help HubSpot make editorial decisions? Exposing and then finessing what is most likely to compound will allow us to get more bang for our buck with posts. So based on this data, we’ll:
Focus on writing longer, more comprehensive posts that are tactical. Content marketing, branding, and design are also topics we know our readers want.
Continue to produce great, short posts that feature infographics since they generate a lot social shares and are relatively easy for us to create. But, we’ll look into how to better share that content so that people feel compelled to click links and read our posts.
Track our promotions on Twitter and LinkedIn and see which brings us more visits, and higher quality leads and MQLs.