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Different types of blog post bring different benefits to your website.

Through painstaking research into all the blog content of one website, I have been able to identify clear patterns that should help you think about ways to plan your content strategy.

In this article I will explain the analysis that led to the results you will see here.

By "different types", I am not talking about formats, such as those described in this post by Chris Lake. I'm referring to four basic categories into which you can group your content.

In this article I will explain the analysis that led to the results you will see here.

Studying the traffic to every blog post of one website, I categorised each blog post as one of four types:

  • Topical: including news as well as blog articles based on timely events that were in the news.
  • Promotional: any blog posts directly promoting the business, but also blog posts extolling the virtues of the services offered by the publisher.
  • Instructional: posts that tell you how to do something, or giving step by step instructions.
  • Knowledge: posts that may be educational but without providing instructional advice.

Diligent publishing over time creates momentum

Before I delve into the nitty gritty of the analysis, here’s a graph showing the momentum of traffic to the blog. This shows traffic each month for 24 months.

Traffic to all blog posts over time
 
What this graph shows is the rising traffic over time as more posts are published on the site. As you can see, in the last six months, more traffic landed on older posts than on freshly published ones.

In order to explain this data more, let’s look at how the numbers were gathered.

The analysis of 422 blog posts

In order to carry out this research, I studied the traffic to 422 blog posts on the Red Rocket Media website. I was looking for the answer to two things:

  1. Which types of blog post achieve the best long-term traffic results?
  2. What proportion of traffic in any given month goes to older content on the blog?

Using Google Analytics, I looked up every landing page URL within the blog. I then exported visit stats for each individual month, for each blog post.

I also recorded the month in which each blog post was published. This gave me a table that showed, for each month, per blog post, how many visits that blog post received, only where it was a landing page. These graphs do not show total page views, only entries where the blog post is a landing page.

In the graph, 'visits on new posts in month of publishing' includes only landing page visits to blog posts that were published in that same month.

Generally, for the first year, the trend shows that most entries to the blog land on new posts. Once those posts age, they attract less entrances. However, in the second year, this changed. Older posts were attracting far more visits than newer ones, in aggregate.

Evergreen content performs better for the long term, but it is the type of evergreen content that makes it interesting.

Topical posts have a short shelf life

As you might imagine, posts that have a time-sensitive nature are less likely to attract entrances to the site over the long term.

The graph below shows only those posts classed as topical.

Topical posts traffic graph
 
The number of topical posts published is rising steeply. By their nature, they gain instant traction on social media as they are promoted and shared.

There is a trend here showing that, over time, more entrances come into the site from the historic posts, but that is also because the volume is constantly rising, so there is more content attracting traffic.

The telling information here, though, is the months with big spikes. In these months, one or two blog posts received a lot of social shares and drew larger numbers of visitors, but these gains were not carried into subsequent months.

Promotional posts show a similar pattern

As you might expect, promotional posts show a similar pattern. February, April and June 2013 had successful posts which did retain some of their momentum in the second months.

Promotional blog posts traffic graph
 
Examples of posts in this category have titles like 'Why journalists are key to content marketing success'.

These types of posts do attract engagement, and they do attract entrance traffic once they are not fresh, but nowhere near as much as the other two types of post detailed below.

Knowledge posts show more momentum

Compare this graph with the Topical graph. Both have a steep rise in the frequency of posts, but in this one the historic posts are stronger much earlier in the momentum cycle.

Knowledge blog posts traffic graph
 
An example of a post in this category would be 'How Google+ Extended Circles work'.

Instructions win hands down

The instructional posts are the strongest of the lot. People tend to search the internet for solutions – trying to find out how to do things – so it’s not surprising that Google tends to like showing solution-based, instructive content.

Look at the amazing difference in the graph. Very early in the cycle of publishing, posts more than a month old were attracting people into the site. In the last half of year two, most of the traffic to the site was coming from historic blog posts – some of the top traffic generators on the site are more than a year old.
 
Popular posts such as 'How to hide your Google+ Circles' have repeatedly attracted traffic, not least because Google clearly seems to think they perfectly answer questions regularly asked by many people.

Conclusion

Does this mean everyone should start publishing 'How to' articles and nothing else? Absolutely not.

If we all did that, these graphs would change because search engines would start ranking things differently again, to cope with all the spam that would ensue.

Your content strategy should contain a mixture of post types. Topicality and time-sensitive newsjacking can help attract short term traffic, instructional evergreen articles will help people find answers over the longer term.

Promotional posts and knowledge posts can be evergreen too and they serve a different purpose.

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Published 13 March, 2014 by Steve Masters

Steve Masters is Services Director at Vertical Leap and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

2 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Liano

Hi i have a question about this topic: getting ongoing traffic.
More specifically , getting it through advertising.

I think AdWords and similar ones are too costly, there are cheaper ways to get clicks on your banner (and consequently new visits).

For example pixel advertising: look at the "million dollar homepage" or StealThePixels.com or similar services, they give you many thousands of visitors for just $100, or hundreds of them for just $1-$2!!
So the price difference is huge.

But i've got a question: is the quality of traffic so high on those cheap services?

over 2 years ago

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Steve Masters, Services Director at Vertical Leap

That's a different type of traffic, Liano. In terms of quality, it really does depend. you could receive clicks from million dollar pixel sites that get good engagement and you may get clicks from Twitter that increase bounces.

I'd say the best approach is to apply logic. Is someone clicking on your link randomly in a collection of thousands of other links really looking for your service? I think not, on the whole.

Searcher intent and relevance have become the two most important factors in both paid and non-paid search, in my view.

over 2 years ago

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Digitt Trendz

Informative Blog post that are useful for visitors and are of their interest get more views than any other.

over 2 years ago

Jay North

Jay North, Spokesperson at My Factoring Network

I completely agree with this article. This would help business owner in writing the content for the blogs.
Thanks for sharing this article!

over 2 years ago

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Mi Muba

You did a perfect analysis of various types of blog post and their success rate. You are right that tropical posts have a short shelf life but it is must to publish them if your niche is news related. Despite having short life it does give momentum to your traffic and does direct the traffic on other type of posts.
Again thank you for sharing such important analysis

over 2 years ago

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Nick Ward

Hi Steve,

Great post, great stats there and I will definitely be adopting your insights. There is so much buzz around blogging circles right now about evergreen content and what is the secret sauce for writing these types of post (which we all aspire to). I have found that my most popular evergreen content on a vintage caravan blog I have is instructional, because people come there to see how I restored an old classic from pick-up to completion. Most of these posts are older than a year, and I now get at least three times as much traffic as I did in the first month of publishing those articles. Studying links to my site over time reveals the longer a good, well-read article stays up, the longer time there is to reach link maturity (pretty obvious really!) and therefore more powerful in Google (have managed to come up first search when typing in a specific restoration term). Have also found that images showing the "how to" steps are really important.

Regards

Nick Ward

over 2 years ago

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Amanda Higgins

This is a great article with some really helpful data. In my experience, the importance of topic variety on blogs is lost with most businesses. Writers typically are comfortable with one type of writing and stick to it instead of exploring other possibilities.

over 2 years ago

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Steve Masters, Services Director at Vertical Leap

That's a good point, Amanda. If a company blog is written by the same person or set up just as a way to talk about what the company is doing, this is a missed opportunity to cater for the audience in other ways.

Nick, your findings match my own. Not all posts successfully bring in higher traffic later on, but some seem to hit the spot. I also think volume over time and slowly building a bit of authority is important.

You can get quick results by heavily promoting things, and Google's 'query deserves freshness' filter will help you get short term gains. These fall off quickly though once an article is not fresh.

over 2 years ago

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Valtira LLC

Thank you for sharing these insights! We've noticed the same impact with traffic to our blog, by focusing our writing on instructional and educational topics. I've been inspired to write a blog post in response to your article and will post it within the next few weeks!

over 2 years ago

Mark Higginson

Mark Higginson, Founder at Out To Sea

Ignoring the fact that visits are a terrible measure of the blog's benefit to a business, if I add up the total visits as a ballpark figure it looks like you've achieved around 39,000 visits over two years to 422 posts.

That's an average of 92 visits per post. Only around 1-in-4 people read what they click on. Each post has therefore been read in full by maybe 23 people. Is this worth the cost of writing them?

about 2 years ago

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Steve Masters, Services Director at Vertical Leap

That's a fair analysis, Mark, but the numbers only consider people entering the site through the blog posts and ignores others who read blog posts during a session.

The problem of producing content that doesn't get read by many is one faced by everyone in media. Magazines contain articles that don't get read as much as other articles - that's par for the course.

The challenge for content marketers, I think, is coming up with the right stuff for the right reason. Is a blog post there for credibility? To boost the website's relevance to a search phrase in order to improve search visibility? To impress potential customers? To get a direct enquiry?

The numbers are all relative to the goals. Some blog posts will be read by thousands of people while some will be read by a handful - that's where the trial and error of experimentation helps, I think.

about 2 years ago

Danny Ashton

Danny Ashton, Founder at Neo Mam Studios

Sorry for the very late comment - 6 months is like 6 years in the digital world.

It's certainly interesting analysis - but I can't help but think that any sort of post analysis like this could come up with any conclusion that we wanted to.

I believe that traffic per month - especially on such low numbers - (As Mark Higginson stated - an average 92 per post) - can't give us any real meaningful conclusions beyond - more blog posts generally increases the number of total visit/sometimes.

My preference would be to look at the figures that are outside of our control - which for most cases is social shares or editorial placements (as long as we are not buying/manipulating either)

Looking at your blog I see interesting numbers on social via Buzzsumo - https://app.buzzsumo.com/top-content?type=articles&result_type=total&num_days=360&general_article&infographic&video&guest_post&giveaway&interview&q=redrocketmedia.co.uk&page=1

I would love to see a study based on purely social metrics and then see what kind of conclusions come out that relate to the categories of content.

Personally I like to keep content analysis simple -
Did it perform on social (above 100 social shares over 3 months)- Nope
Did it earn any editorial placements - Nope
Result = Crap remove and be wary of producing such content in future.

But I can certainly see the benefit of understanding type - but sadly I don't think it's as easy as just producing a certain type like "How to's.".. and then unlocking your audiences dreams and desires.

In my experience - internet users are far more savvy than many of us in the industry give them credit for.

over 1 year ago

Mark Higginson

Mark Higginson, Founder at Out To Sea

Hi Danny, you might like my piece about Coca-Cola's content marketing over on Sparksheet in that case. Ashley Brown, who ran the site at the time, vociferously disagreed that 'shares' were the metric that mattered. I made it clear I'd used these as the only publicly checkable information available.

http://sparksheet.com/should-coca-cola-quit-its-content-marketing-journey/

over 1 year ago

Danny Ashton

Danny Ashton, Founder at Neo Mam Studios

An interesting read.

From our experience working with large brands - the amount of red-tape to achieve anything meaningful is going to be hard especially with an $81 billion brand at risk.

One point that might have been mentioned in the comments somewhere but this situation particular situation could be an example of mediocre content pushed by large promotion budgets which artificially pushes the lowest action (Likes) but never converts to anything more meaningful (shares/views.)

The approach we take with content is to keep the hardest action as the key metric for success - in our case it's a high end publisher taking time out of their day to cover the content.

But shares are important to understand what is naturally being shared with all things being equal - no promotion. How else do you know what your audience likes?

Content marketing is still a new discipline- even with hundreds of staff and the kind of budgets Coke can throw at it - it's going to be hard to push it beyond shiner versions of the "dead" corporate websites.

Which I think is actually good news as it means that companies without the restrictions of a hundred year brand and with the right mindset can compete toe to the tow with the big corporate entities - at least for now.

over 1 year ago

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