Lee Odden

12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging

Lee Odden on Dec 28th, 2015     Blogging, Content Marketing

Content Marketing Lessons LearnedHappy 12th Birthday to TopRank Marketing’s Online Marketing Blog!

In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, which describes the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill as a matter of practicing for a total of 10,000 hours or so.

By many definitions, this humble marketing blog has involved many more than 10,000 hours of practice. While we’ve achieved many milestones from being the only blog ranked the #1 content marketing blog three times by CMI to helping our boutique digital marketing agency reach a worldwide audience, it continues to be a work in progress.

There are multiple dimensions for evaluating a blog’s impact. Here is some statistical trivia about TopRank’s Marketing Blog (thanks to BuzzSumo) representing some of this “practice makes expert” effort.

  • 3,943 posts and 1.9 million words (overall)
  • 1,026 average social shares per post in 2015
  • 1.5 million+ unique visitors in 2015
  • Lists and How to Posts attract the most average social shares in 2015
  • Monday and Thursday are the top days for social shares in 2015
  • Posts with 3-10k words attract the most shares in 2015

Our industry is in a constant state of flux and many companies continue to come in and out of the blogging world. We’ve found blogging to be effective in numerous ways, long before the popularity of social media, content marketing and influencer marketing.

From recruiting to reinforcing customer relationships to growing industry thought leadership to direct customer acquisition, blogging is one of the most demanding yet rewarding marketing investments a company can make. Some of that popularity is measured through social media and to get a sense for what kind of content resonates with our community, here are the top 10 most popular posts for 2015 (by social shares)

  1. 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing – 6,283 shares
  2. Social Media Marketing Management Tools List – Updated! – 4,259 shares
  3. 5 Social Media Marketing Tips for Business – 2,928 shares
  4. Where Social Media and SEO Fit in Today’s Content Marketing Mix – 2,688 shares
  5. 6 Steps to Build a Massive Audience with Content Marketing – 2,674 shares
  6. Content Marketing Tools A to Z That You Can Use in 2015 and Beyond – 2,624 shares
  7. 4 Digital Marketing Investments All Companies Need to Make – 2,562 shares
  8. 25 Inspiring & Actionable Content Marketing Tips – 2,421 shares
  9. Report: True Impact of Social Media Marketing for Business – 2,301 shares
  10. 6 Bad Content Marketing Habits – 2,225 shares

The dynamic of being active in the industry and sharing insights as well as lessons learned is essential of a longstanding blog. Along those lines, here are a few insights you may find useful whether you’re just starting a new business blog or evaluating the direction of your current blog.

12 content marketing lessons I’ve learned from 12 years of blogging:

“Be the best answer.”

1.  Decide what you stand for and aspire to becoming the best resource for your community on that thing. To many companies try to be all things to all people with their blog, emphasizing a “more is better” approach. Specificity rises to the top in all things – especially in social media, search and the offline world.
2. Document your success in a specialty area and then duplicate that success in others. Expand your scope of knowledge and industry thought leadership following your own lessons learned in the process of  becoming “the best answer” for your community.
3. Optimize for answers in your blog content planning. Leverage search keyword data as well as social topic trends for voice of the customer insights you can use in content optimization. You can also monitor questions being asked and answered between customers and your sales and customer service teams. Being the best answer is a continuous effort of understanding the questions your audience is asking and optimizing your answers through content in an info-taining way.

“A blog is only as interesting as the interest shown in your community.”

4. Recognize your community by featuring influencers, internal team members, customers, members of the media, your community, or prospective customers in your blog content. Make lists, co-create, do interviews, liveblog and get quotes for blog posts to shine a light on talent. Becoming influential is great. Helping others become influential is how you gain true influence. Show an interest in your community, engage and recognize. Do that, and you will never run out of relevant topics to blog about.
5. Listen to your community through social media monitoring tools, sentiment analysis of blog comments, and contact forms, using social search tools like BuzzSumo and reviewing your own web and search analytics. Understand what your blog community is interested in and give it to them through blog content.
6. Inspire others by actively engaging on social networks, at industry events and in the right places where your community can participate. Social engagement can be overwhelming for many understaffed business blogging departments. Focus on just a few minutes a day consistently and use tools like social media monitoring or social search to uncover opportunities to poll your community, recognize their interactions with your brand and to answer questions – be useful.

“Great content isn’t great until people find, consume and act on it.”

7. Use search, social and target audience data to inspire content themes, topics and keyword optimization. Topical relevance is as important as keyword relevance for blog content discovery. Far too many companies focus entirely on content creation without considering blog content promotion. Make sure the blog content is what your community is actively looking for and talking about on the social web. Being relevant in this way will fuel inbound traffic and social sharing, which will attract even more blog traffic.
8. Empathize with your readers and create relevance through context and content that is meaningful. Learn the content preferences of your audience from topics to visuals to what devices they most often use to consume your blog. Go beyond thinking about your blog as a marketing tool and consider what would be the best experience for your readers.
9. Continuously review blog content promotion efforts and traffic sources to optimize performance. Conduct SEO, Content, Social Media and Conversion audits on your blog at least quarterly. With specific goals in mind for your blog, you should be able to tie blog performance back to goals. Performance is not just contribution to marketing, but the ability of your blog to satisfy the information needs of your community.

“If you want your content to be great, ask your community to participate.”

10. Identify the distinct audiences of your blog and create ways for those specific communities to contribute. Content co-creation can inspire promotion and improve blog quality. Most blogging efforts within companies are understaffed with high expectations. The most effective way to scale quality blog content and promotion is to involve the very community you’re trying to reach in the content creation.
11. Develop a mix of specialty post and recurring posts that allow you to attract new contributors and co-creators as well as a platform for return contributors. Content is a great relationship builder between any constituent audience and your brand whether they contributors are prospective clients, members of industry media or potential business partners.
12. Recognize contributors in a meaningful way. Share quantitative performance as well as qualitative feedback. People will work for a living, but die for recognition – as long as it means something.

Thank you to our community for being supportive of TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog over the past 12 years. Thank you to the candidates and companies that have taken that important step of following TopRank Marketing’s point of view on marketing through our blog and then engaging as an employee or customer.

I can’t tell you how many people have approached me over the years or who have sent letters and emails to say they’ve been reading our blog for years and that it has helped them in their marketing careers. It is very satisfying to know that something like a blog can both help you grow your business but also positively impact your industry.

A BIG THANKS to the TopRank Marketing agency team of blog contributors in 2015 including:

  • Ashley Zeckman, who has made a huge contribution in 2015 with over 75 posts including the most popular post of the year. This is the first time someone has published more posts than me  and it feels great!
  • Ben Brausen for consistently publishing helpful Friday news roundups. (54 posts)
  • Josh Nite who has raised the bar on TopRank Blog content and has inspired the rest of us to improve our writing and content quality. (13 posts)
  • Alexis Hall who has shared posts on client side marketing, marketing automation and has helped with livebloging. (11 posts)
  • Evan Prokop who has found the time to share his SEO expertise and help with liveblogging. (11 posts)
  • Debbie Friez who has done a great job with sharing her social media marketing smarts and liveblogging. (7 posts)
  • Michael Bak who has shared his online advertising expertise for search and social media. (5 posts)
  • Leila De La Fuente who has shared a mix of digital marketing expertise including online advertising, search marketing and ecommerce. (4 posts)
  • Joel Carlson who has contributed several highly useful social media marketing posts. (4 posts)
  • Caitlin Burgess who has jumped right into one of the toughest types of posts not long after coming on board at TopRank Marketing. (3 posts)
  • Nick Ehrenberg who has published some very popular social media marketing posts. (3 posts)
  • Jolina Pettice who is the busiest person I know at our agency (besides Susan Misukanis) and still found time to contribute (1 post)

What does 2016 have in store for TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog? A long overdue re-design, more contributions from the fast growing team at TopRank Marketing and even more useful insight to help our community become smarter and more creative marketers that can achieve real business results.

Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting and being a part of our community!

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About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.