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.

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?