Lessons from a Top Performing Content Marketing Blogger

Posted August 24th @ 6:16 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

I’d like to share some lessons I learned becoming a Top Performing Blogger for the Content Marketing Institute.

During July, two of my Content Marketing Institute posts were in their Top 10 most shared posts. 

  • Later, the the Content Marketing Institute created a 3-year compilation of my book recommendations and reviews, The Essential #BetBooks Reading List for Content Marketers. It contains capsule descriptions of over 50 relevant nonfiction books for content marketers, helpfully organized by topics. You can download, embed, or view it on SlideShare.

Learning from previously successful guest posts

The Top Performing Blogger recognition sparked my interest in taking an in-depth look at the 27 guest posts I’ve shared on the Content Marketing Institute blog. My goal was to identify the common characteristics of the most popular posts. This would help me:

  • Self-improvement. Analysis of my previous posts would help me to build on and, hopefully, surpass my previous most popular posts.
  • Share my findings with other bloggers. The Content Marketing Institute is a sharing community of content marketers from a broad spectrum of specialties and experience levels. Besides their blog, the Content Marketing Institute community is reflected by Content Marketing World, the fast-approaching largest content marketing event in the world as well as their weekly #TweetChats.

Equally important, by analyzing my top performing blog posts and comparing them with blog posts by the experts and top performers whose opinions I value the most. This permits me to identify areas where I can improve my own blog posting performance.

As Joe Pulizzi said in a recent phone conversation, “Content marketing success is a process of continuing evolution and improvement.”

Identifying my top performing blog posts

The starting point was to open the Blog Post Tracker I created to plan and track my Content Marketing Institute blog posts. (See How to Organize Your Blog Content with A 3-Step Post Tracker.)

I created it using using Mindjet’s MindManager mind mapping software. Click the graphic to the right do view a larger PDF of the mind map.

This would allow me to look for characteristics the most popular posts shared in common, as well as other lessons.

For simplicity, I divided the posts into 3 levels, using markers to indicate their relative popularity:

  1. More than 1,000 social media shares
  2. 400 to 999 social media shares
  3. Less than 399 social media shares

Lessons in blog post popularity

Although I will undoubtedly continuing to analyze topic popularity in greater detail in the near future, the following lessons are immediately apparent:

  1. The market speaks. In many cases, topics that I considered extremely important, like 7 Reasons to Hire a Former Teacher For a Content Marketing Job, although popular, weren’t as popular as I had hoped. Likewise, my biggest case study in the power of content to sell in a competitive environment, This 7-Step Content Marketing Plan Earned an $87 Million Paycheck was popular, but didn’t attract the attention I felt the topic warranted. A final example: when I was writing Worksheet for Turning Your Pivot Points into Stories for Better Content Marketing, based on lessons learned from Todd Wheatland’s The Pivot: Marketing Backstories, I was sure it was “Pulitzer Award” quality.  (I guess not.)
  2. Blog posts gain impact when visually reformatted as LinkedIn SlideShare presentations. On two occasions, moderately successful blog posts were far more popular when made into SlideShare ebooks and presentations. For example, my original 12 Months of Content Marketing Ideas for SlideShare post attracted a healthy amount of traffic. But, when the Content Marketing Institute reformatted it as a SlideShare presentation, it became their most popular Slideshare for over two years. (It’s now Number 2.)
  3. Transparent benefit and utility. Not unexpectedly, many of the most popular blog post titles address into obvious market concerns and promise a structured approach to achieving their goals or solving their problems. Sometimes, the power of opposites to engage by arousing curiosity is employed, i.e., the 1 Idea/2 Months of Content, example earlier in this post.
  4. Tools add impact to words. About a third of my blog posts included checklists, worksheets, and templates to not only engage readers, but make it easier for them to take the next step. The blog post comments frequently mentioned the checklists and worksheets as welcome additions.
    • At a time of decreased time resources and the ever-increasing productivity demands, even a simple 1-page worksheet can help break a complex project into simple, easily-addressed tasks.
    • Likewise, checklists, like my Content Marketing Checklist: 22 To-dos for SlideShare Success, helps readers monitor their own progress, saving their co-workers time and helping them remedy the problem on their own.
  5. Writing is just part of the blogging process. Maybe it’s just the way I work, but, often, I often spend several weeks thinking about blog posts and sketching out the content plans for a blog post, before I begin to write. In addition, writing often doesn’t start until I’ve spent a day-or-two creating the checklists and worksheets. Once I have created the checklist, it becomes relatively easy to write the blog.
  6. Familiarity builds readership and drives traffic to earlier posts. As the number of published blog posts has grown, there is a definite trend to increased popularity and social media activity for my latest posts. In addition, there is often unexpected social media referrals to earlier posts.
  7. I’m often asked, Does it get any easier? The jury’s still out on that. What has happened, over time, is that it may not be easier, but I am far more comfortable with the whole process. Basically, I’m better at anticipating rough spots in the blogging process and preventing them from derailing the entire process. More on this to come!

Disclaimer. I have based the social media numbers in my mind map on the current social media counts. However, about 3 years ago, the counters appeared to have returned to zero due to a hosting situation. This impacted several of my earlier posts, some of which had attracted hundreds of Tweets.

The lesson, of course, is to develop an independent system for tracking the performance of your blog posts, to preserve the integrity of your data.

Thank you and an invitation

Thank you, if you’ve ever commented, Liked, Tweeted, ReTweeted, or shared one of my blog posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. And, if you have any comments, questions, or takeaways from the lessons I’m compiling from my Content Marketing Institute guest posts, please share them as comments, below. And, don’t be shy about suggesting future topics you’d like me to address in future Content Marketing Institute blog posts!

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