The secret behind high-performing blog posts

The secret behind high-performing blog posts

The hit or miss nature of blogging is something that’s all too familiar to content writers: sometimes your post is a smash hit that boosts traffic for life, and other times it’s just a temporary blip on the radar when it comes to generating visits.

But why do select posts outperform others by so much? HubSpot conducted a massive study on blogging data from over 15,000 businesses, and the results were enlightening.

We found that a portion of posts, called “compounding” posts, comprised only 10 percent of all blog content, but accounted for 38 percent of all blog traffic. Compounding posts are distinctive because  they actually surpass the initial number of views they get at publication over time, whether or not they’re blockbusters when they first go live.

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This is compared to the other 90 percent of posts, called “decaying” posts, which do just that: decay in value over time.

To get a better understanding of how blog posts compound, we computed growth rates of nearly 2,000 compounding and 18,000 decaying posts from top performing business blogs.

The effect of compounding posts on traffic is astounding: six months after publishing, they can be expected to receive two and a half times as many monthly visits as at publication. We computed that over their lifetime, compounding posts deliver six times as many visits as decaying posts.

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To help you get the most out of your blog, I’ll go over the key findings from the study and tell you how to use them to your advantage.

Picking a great topic: the broader, the better

In an effort to identify what kinds of posts were most likely to compound, we divided blog posts into three different buckets by topic: narrowly focused posts, topical posts, and broad tactical posts.

Narrowly focused posts cover niche topics that appeal to a small subset of your audience. While they are a great addition to the mix because of their value for niche audiences, these posts generate lower overall traffic, and rarely compound over time.

Topical posts focus on current events (see: “newsjacking”). These are fantastic for a boost in traffic in the short run, but decay rapidly over time. This makes sense when you think about it – when the topic you’re hijacking becomes old news, so does your post.

Broad tactical posts attract ongoing attention, and are the most likely to become compounding posts because they cover topics that appeal to a larger audience. If you want to drive traffic in the long run, these are your breadwinners.

These posts often include product reviews, breakdowns of processes, and instructions on how to diagnose practical, mechanical, or health-related issues. As they generate more traffic, their search authority increases, meaning an accelerating cycle of traffic and search hits.

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In summary, if you want to generate the most traffic for the longest period, stick with broad tactical posts. These are relevant to a larger audience, and are more likely to compound in the long run.

Attract strangers with a smart title

When crafting your title, think about what people are looking for, and position your title to match the search and suggest an answer to the search query. For instance, most people search for answers using phrases like “the best product for xyz”, or “how do I xyz”. Your blog titles should reflect common search phrases, and, of course, the content should provide useful answers.

For composition, there were a select few words that were very common in successful compounding posts. These included “How” (11 percent), “What” (five percent), “Why” (three percent), “Tip” (three percent) and “Best” (four percent). Words like “your” (10 percent) relate directly to the visitor’s own problems.

When addressing length, the top performers had 6 to 13 words in the title, and those with 14 words or more had significantly fewer views. Shorter titles can also pull in substantial traffic, although they don’t perform as well as mid-length ones.

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As a side note, don’t forget to optimize for search engines! How well a keyword matches with a query is 25 percent of a search engine’s consideration when calculating your ranking for a search. For the vast majority, it is better to optimize for “long tail keywords” (a phrase, usually three plus words, e.g. information on marketing automation”) than “head terms” (generic, 1-2 words, e.g. “marketing automation”).

Long tail keywords comprise 70 percent of search traffic, and are tremendously easier to rank for than head terms.

Master your content structure

After creating a topic, title, and goal, you need to decide how to structure your post. You want the piece to be easy to scan, enticing people to want to read it. A typical compounding blog post will have images, bolded headlines, bullet points, answers to the reader’s question, links to other information, and will be short in length.

These are all important qualities because they deliver easy readability without compromising value. Images add visual content to break up text, and diagrams or side-by-side photos can illustrate a point much better than text. Bold headlines and bullets make the piece easy to skim, and links give the reader additional materials or background information if they’re interested in pursuing it.

Finally, finding a sweet spot in length is critical and we recommend you review your most popular posts to determine the ideal word count for your blog. While no one has the patience for a 2,000-word post, nothing is worse than reading a post of less than 200 words, which is barely even long enough to cover the topic.

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Make your content move the needle

Your blog is a powerful tool in the top of your funnel, and is responsible for generating a large portion of your traffic. At a fundamental level, it drives business, and should be an area of extreme importance when considering content strategy. If you want to maximize the value of your blog, compounding posts provide a fantastic way to boost traffic, and are a great first step in improving your bottom line.

For more information on compounding blog posts check out our full report, which provides a wealth of strategies and statistics that will help your blog deliver in a big way.

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