What I Learned About Content Marketing by Analyzing 614 Posts

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Can you believe that I’ve published 614 posts on Quick Sprout? I published my first post on April 16 back in 2007.

Today, nearly eight years later, the blog gets well over 700,000 visitors a month. However, considering how long I’ve been blogging, I should have more visitors and ideally a quicker growth rate.

For fun, I decided to analyze all of my posts in order to figure out what is causing the blog to grow so that I can do more of it.

Download a printable cheat sheet of important lessons I learned about content marketing by analyzing 614 posts.

Here’s what I learned:

Infographics do extremely well

Infographics tend to get shared 42.4% more times than an average blog post. However, they receive 129% fewer comments. Additionally, every time I send out an email with an infographic, I receive 28.3% less traffic from emails.

Nonetheless, infographics do well overall. You might wonder why I would say that when most of the numbers point to them doing poorly.

The reason they still do well is that on average, an infographic generates 37.5% more backlinks than a standard blog post.

So, what does that mean? During the first 3 months after being released, infographics typically receive 22.6% less traffic than regular blog posts. Over a course of a year, however, infographics receive 35.1% more traffic.

In other words, infographics are great at bringing in long-term traffic. They continually produce even when they get old, whereas standard text-based blog posts don’t perform as well when they age.

People enjoy reading personal and controversial stories

My most popular posts by far tend to be both controversial and personal. Examples include:

Those three stories have done exceptionally well. I received a lot of hate email and comments from those stories, and in many cases, I may have been wrong, which is fine. But those posts have received more traffic than other posts I have published.

One thing I learned is that people judge you based on the titles of your blog posts. Many people don’t even read the content within the post—they just make assumptions based on the headline.

From a social traffic standpoint, these types of stories do exceptionally well. The one on clothes received almost double the number of social shares compared to the second most popular post on Quick Sprout.

This has taught me that if I want to grow my traffic at a fast pace, I have to write controversial stories that are personal. When doing so, I have to be careful not to cross any lines or offend people. I also need to make sure the content stays educational.

Timing does matter

Over the years, I have tested posting during different days and times. The winner tends to be Monday through Thursday, at 8:00 AM PST. This doesn’t mean that 8:00 AM PST is necessarily the ideal time for every blog, but it is for Quick Sprout.

I’ve tested posting during other days and times, but the 8:00 AM slot tends to perform really well. Monday in particular seems to be the best day of the week, but Tuesday through Thursday are not far behind.

I haven’t experimented much with posting on Saturday and Sunday, but with all of my other blogs, those days tend to be bad traffic days, especially in the business-to-business sector. For that reason, I never post on weekends on Quick Sprout.

Guides rank better than posts (but for a different reason than you think)

On Quick Sprout, guides rank better for head terms. At first, I thought this was because they get a ton of inbound links and social shares and they contain over 30,000 words on average, but that’s not the case.

All of those factors do help, but when I went back to see what caused them to rank for terms like “online marketing,” it was one specific change that I made that caused all of the guides to rank better.

Can you guess what that change was? I added a link to each and every guide in the sidebar of Quick Sprout. Within 30 days, the rankings started to shoot up, and within 3 months, I noticed a huge increase in search traffic to those guides.

If you want to increase the rankings of your high quality posts, add links to them within the sidebar of your blog.

People love data

Out of all the text-based content I wrote on Quick Sprout, I noticed one thing. Blog posts that contained stats and data received 149% more social shares and 283% more backlinks.

This makes sense since posts that contain images such as charts and graphs also get more trackbacks and social shares.

A lot of my blog posts, including this one, start out containing lots of stats and data, so I don’t have to do much more here. Instead, I just have to continue the trend of writing more data-driven posts.

I should also consider hiring a full-time stats guy to dig up data for me to increase the quality of my posts.

The one thing I haven’t been doing is including enough graphs and charts within my posts. For example, this post contains a lot of data, and I could have inserted charts to make the post more visual and easy to understand.

I’ve just been getting too lazy, which is something I need to fix. Failing that, I can always pay someone to go into my posts and add charts/graphs for me.

Descriptive headlines perform better in the long run

I was looking at all of the headlines on Quick Sprout and noticed that some are vague and some are very specific.

The vague ones such as “How to Become Rich” receive on average 44.7% more traffic from emails. But from a social sharing perspective, headlines that are more specific receive 29.1% more social media shares.

When I looked at the long-term data (over one or more years), I found that posts with descriptive headlines tended to rank for more long-tail terms and received 65.2% more traffic overall.

In general, when I follow my own headline rules, I tend to get more traffic. Now I just need to do a better job sticking to them.

Conclusion

If you want to grow your traffic, don’t just crank out more content. Instead, take a step back and analyze everything you have written in the past.

What’s worked well for you? What hasn’t? Those two simple questions can make the world of difference. Why? Because you should be focusing your efforts on content that drives traffic and sales.

What else can you learn from analyzing your own blog?

Comments

  1. Stephanie Manley :

    I love this data analysis, and how you show to go for the longer term traffic instead of the quick shot that you get when you release a blog post. I am curious, do you think we should all play for long term traffic?

    I post recipes, I have tried infographics from time to time, but they don’t tend to do well for me. Maybe I will do a better sampling of them though, it is very encouraging.

    • I love long term traffic! So Neil my husband I are were talking about you last night (we’re normal, non-stalkerish people) and anyhow were amazed at how many blog posts you crank out. 614! Stunning. How do you get it all done?

      Infographics just get Pinned. Again and again. Pinterest people in particular seem to love em.

      Personal and controversial stories keep me hooked to any blog and get me to actually read instead of just skim! Who doesn’t love a good story?

      And you nailed it. Monday’s are our bread and butter. I love Monday post days with just like you said, Tuesday through Thursday not behind.

    • Stephanie,
      I think we should all pay through hard work and toil — nothing else really. Thanks for all the support. Keep working on those infographics and you’ll find it gets easier 😉

      Laura,
      Thanks for all the support. I keep a pretty strict content calendar and I am very passionate about writing.

      • Really great post sir ! And Hats off for Quicksprout’s wonderful 8 years successful. Fingure’s crossed for more bright-full and successful years ahead.

        As always enjoyed reading your one more post…

      • Shubham Kumar :

        Hey Neil,

        What about your last post about “How to make $100,000 per month”.What have you decided to choose from those three options?

        Btw, I found this post very helpful and i must analyse my data.

        Thanks
        Shubham

    • Ricardo Dias :

      Neil, I am Brazilian, and I am always following your blog to keep me updated on the digital market. Thank you, and congratulations! Do you use any online tool to build infographics blog? If so, what? Thank you very much!

  2. Chris Finnegan :

    Hey Neil,
    I’ve found infographics to be a useful backlink driver for SEO clients. Great to see your stats back this up.

    The posts with the most backlinks for me are an SEO tool, and local directory list with ranking data.

    I haven’t done any real controversial/personal posts, but by the sounds of it, that’s something to work on.

    Thanks for the detail in this post!

    Cheers
    Chris

    • Chris, try out posts that are controversial or personal — I am sure you’ll like the results. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. I appreciate that you’re able to be controversial without being negative or critical of other people. That’s a real trick to achieve, but I think it’s also one of the reasons you’ve built such a strong brand.

    I’m also impressed at how often you’re able to relate actionable advice. You’d think that you’d run out eventually, but you never seem to run out of ideas of new tips.

    You’ve inspired me to do some more analysis of my own site. I’d be happy to get 70,000 visitors per month, much less 700,000! 🙂

    • Randy, thanks for all the support. I think the trick is to focus on data and less on personal attacks — that really resonates with people in my experience.

  4. manish Kumar :

    Congrats big bro for 614 post 🙂 I guess I have read most of them and tweeted 🙂
    Thank you so much for all stats and guidelines

  5. William Zimmerman :

    Neil,

    Awesome Post!!

    Love all the sections. In my opinion, reading the NY Post Headlines is great way to constantly improve your headlines too.

    Hope you are doing well!

    All the Best,
    Bill Z

    • Bill, the Post does a great job of having catchy headlines. It’s definitely a good blueprint to follow.

  6. How do you manage all these things?
    amazing!!

  7. Hi Neil,

    i liked this post as i like others. this is my first comment on your blog. this comparison is great but it would be greatest if you would like to update it and add social sharing time and trends as well.

  8. Hi Neil,

    This is great information! I too, have noticed when I put pictures or graphs on my posts that the traffic and backlinking is very heavy.

    Just yesterday, I filled a post with past victories and how to use them correctly with picture proof and my traffic increased 274% over my standard posts.

    Your blog post today clears up that phenomenon for me very nicely with information to bolster the claim! Thank you for sharing this, I am looking forward to finding more graphs and charts for my blog posts. 🙂

    John Pate

    • John, people tend to enjoy visual content because it’s easy to scan and look through. Thanks for the feedback.

  9. Great stuff, as always. It is interesting that while we try to grow our businesses and brands, the personal stuff always seems to resonate.

  10. Srinivas Venkataraman :

    Thanks for sharing your insider data.

    This should be highly useful for every site owner.

  11. You are amazing..hope my blog will get same traffic some time.

  12. You are amazing

  13. Thanks, Neil, for another insightful post. 614…that’s a lot of biog posts!

  14. Olan O'Sullivan :

    Great post Neil!

    When you talk about infographics. Would you suggest including them in the body of a blog post or posting them on a dedicated page?

    Thanks,
    Olan

  15. Interesting thoughts Neil!
    I like the idea about posting stats and data and also style of your headlines.
    And I am trying to use them in my posts when it’s possible.

    About infographics.
    I saw you were posting a lot infographics lately and it’s great that you able to get statistic! I think infographics are great, but the might be pricy to produce for some people.

    Thanks,
    Yaro

    Thanks,
    Yaro

    • Yaro, I started off with a pretty lean budget then grew it from there. I think it’s important to scale and not jump in with a huge budget to begin with.

  16. Susan Sharma :

    Thanks for the tips. I enjoy reading your blog posts.

  17. Mihai Pintilie :

    A conclusion from your blog post is we have to work really hard to see good numbers in the analytics. Really hard work.

  18. Michael Bely :

    Hey Neil, thanks for the analysis.

    As regards posting on weekend, I find it interesting that when I worked full-time for a company the only days I could read some blogs or browse the Internet not related to my work duties were weekends.

    So it all makes me think that readers manage somehow to read blogs during their official work time or at least workdays:)

  19. Neil,
    As always thanks for your insights. I also get a lot out of your Definitive Guide Series and the University.
    Keep up the good work!

  20. Deepak Kanakaraju :

    Having data in the blog posts is one trick that I have used to grow my blog. When you are a blogger, people are not looking for opinions – but content curation and comments on the curated content.

  21. Infographics are shared on different websites. And the website sharing your infographic always links back to your site.

    This way they generate backlinks.

  22. Info graphics are powerful, but they have to reflect accurate data. One while there was an info graphic explosion just for the sake of having one in a post. You’ve got to use them when it’s appropriate. Wouldn’t you agree?

  23. I love reading your insightful information. I love it more when I apply what I have learned and see growth. Analytical data is super addicting. There is always room for improvement.

  24. gaurav khurana :

    sometimes i wonder you publish almost same kind of content.. but still you have lots of content to share on how to progress.

  25. I remember the day when I saw your Ferrari post in my inbox. Curiosity made me open it. And I was positively overwhelmed by what I read there.

    Thanks for outstanding content, Neil.

  26. Great post Neil. I am curious. Can you reference a source for creating embed codes for infographics?

    Thanks in advance!

  27. Great article,it also interesting that will helps for write an essay for my site.This is great information for content marketing.Thanks

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  29. Andre Hospidales :

    I think infographics are so effective for the web because people generally hate to read long posts but if you pack all of that info into an infographic, chances of people digesting that information are much higher.

  30. Hi , hanya ingin menyebutkan , I menyukai ini pasang .
    Itu inspirasi . Terus posting!

  31. Abhishek Dharmik :

    Thank you Neil, For sharing such an interesting blog post. I fully agree that infographics are one of the best ways by which you can easily build quality backlinks without even creating new content every day…. Always love to read your blog posts… Keep sharing such Informative blog posts… 🙂

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