More blog articles, less growth
Just like many other companies, our client jumped on the content marketing bandwagon a few years ago. Supported by widely spread content marketing statistics and general truths, they started to create an online library of blog articles. In only three years, the company published 1,500 (!) blog articles in Dutch and translated these articles in seven other languages.
Together with its lead agency, the luxury brand wrote about every single topic that can be linked to their products and services. They covered every single holiday, news topic, fait divers, buzzword, and event out there. Multiple times.
Initially, the company did see a positive effect. Their website traffic increased quickly. But while the company continued to publish more articles, their traffic stopped growing. Three years after they started to blog, the blog traffic hit a ceiling. When we stepped in, we even noticed a declining trend in the last 25 months, and more importantly, there were no real sales conversions that could be attributed to any one of these 1,500 blog articles.
Awareness is not enough.
What went wrong? The main issue is that the company only invested in popular awareness topics. Very high-level, BuzzFeed-style articles. The company wrote a lot about popular topics that didn’t necessarily match a purchase intent. They wrote popular magazine-style, short-form blog content. There was no journey in the content. The content was not contributing to sales The company wrote the fun and easy content to create. But fun and easy don’t sell high-end luxury items with an average order value of € 5,000. You need something else.
The reason they focussed on this easy & fun content is simple. They focussed on quantity, not on quality. Many agencies and companies blog with a focus on frequency: “We have to publish 1 new article each week.” But that’s a ridiculous KPI and has no guarantee to see a real return on your content marketing investments.
The journey towards real blog success
The client’s agency asked us to look at their blog performance and tell them what went wrong. They wanted to know which blog topics they had to publish to start increasing their blog results once again.
But we focused on something else.
Here’s the overview of our journey:
- Understand the needs, questions, and barriers in every stage of the buyer’s journey
- Analyze the results and relevance of the existing blog articles
- Label existing blog articles with ‘Kill‘ – ‘Keep‘ – ‘Merge‘
- Create topic clusters by matching the articles we decide to ‘Keep’ with primary keywords
- Extensive keyword research for each article in the topic clusters
- Rewrite every article based on our blog quality checklist
- Delete ‘Kill’ articles, redirect ‘Merge‘ articles and re-publish ‘Keep‘ articles
Step 1: Understand the needs, questions, and barriers in every stage of the buyer’s journey
At Great Scott!, we believe in creating content that converts. In order to accomplish this, it’s important to fully understand the journey that ultimately leads to a purchase. In this particular case, we did three important things:
- Collect frequently asked questions
We asked sales to list all the questions they have to answer to close a sale. They kept track by listing every question they were asked over a few weeks. This gave us the first indication of what people want to know before they buy one of the products/services. We also analyzed live chat conversations and questions that were asked via the contact form on the website.
- Analyze paths to purchase / no-purchase
The questions people ask are only the tip of the iceberg. To dig deeper, we analyzed the paths people followed on the website: which articles and website pages are visited right before making a purchase or a sales appointment? Which articles have a high exit rate? While performing this analysis, we looked for patterns in behavior.
- Analyze search behavior
With tools such as Answer The Public and Ubersuggest, we tried to get a clear overview of the questions people ask. We tried to discover all the quest related to our most important products and services. The FAQs we have from sales, and the Google Analytics data only provide insights into the people we’re already reaching. This search data gives us more insight into the questions the entire market is trying to answer.
This first step gave us a very good idea of the questions we need to answer to remove a buyer’s doubts and generate more sales. That’s a great starting point to start writing new blog articles. But what about the 1,500 articles that are already published?
Step 2: Analyse the results and relevance of the existing blog articles
In this second step, we analyzed the existing articles. With data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and SEMrush we tried to answer questions such as:
- Are people finding this article?
- How are people finding this article?
- How many are reading this article?
- What do they do after reading this article?
We didn’t only analyze the numbers, but also looked into the relevance of each article: Does the article match the questions we found in step 1? Are they relevant if you want to buy one of our products or services?
This analysis took a total of almost 3 weeks and resulted in an elaborate spreadsheet with all the data we needed to complete the next step of the process.
Step 3: Label existing blog articles with ‘Kill‘ – ‘Keep‘ – ‘Merge‘
With the data of step 1 and 2, we defined our action plan and labeled each blog article:
- ‘Kill‘ – all irrelevant articles and/or articles with poor results
Every article that couldn’t be linked to our products, services, or any relevant questions linked to the buyer’s journey of our products and services. Additionally, every blog article with less than 10 visits in 2 years was labeled ‘Kill’ as well.
- ‘Keep‘ – all relevant articles and/or articles with good results
Every article that could be linked to our products, services, or any relevant question linked to the buyer’s journey. We also included top-performing articles, even if they didn’t initially match the insights from steps 1 and 2. If multiple articles covered the same topic, we decided to keep the article that was already ranking the highest in search engines.
- ‘Merge‘ – all relevant articles with poor results
Every article that could be linked to our products, services, or any relevant question linked to the buyer’s journey, but had poor results. This label also included duplicate content, very short articles, or similar articles to the ‘Keep‘ articles but with lower rankings on SERP. These articles were used as an additional input to optimize the ‘Keep‘ articles.
Our selection process was very strict, resulting in keeping only 109 of the initial 1,500 articles. That’s approx. 7% of all the blog content they published.
Step 4: Create topic clusters by combining the articles we decide to ‘Keep’ and relevant, primary keywords
Once we decided which articles we decided to keep, we matched them with the insights of our keyword analysis. Each article was appointed a primary keyword (with high monthly search volume) and a set of related keywords (with low monthly search volume).
To add more structure to the content, we decided to create topic clusters. In a topic cluster, there is a “pillar” page, acting as the main hub for an overarching topic. Other content pages that are related to that topic link back to the pillar page and to each other. These links help search engines to detect your pillar page as an authority on the topic, and over time, this page may rank higher and higher for the topic it covers.
Each topic cluster was linked to one of our product categories. The pillar page featured as a buyer’s guide to this specific product category and addressed the main questions: “How to buy <Product Category A>: Everything you need to know”. All the other blog articles answered specific questions about price, quality, origin, trends, competitors, alternatives, etc. All these articles were linked together and combined, they answer all the questions, related to a specific product category.
Step 5: Extensive keyword research for each article in the topic clusters
As mentioned before, each article was matched with a primary keyword and a set of related keywords. These keywords are the result of the keyword research.
But keyword research is more than just a list of words you want to rank on. In this step, we combined all our insights to complete the keyword research. We looked for specific questions and search queries, linked to the product category and the blog article’s topic. We also researched the average length of the top 10 articles that are currently ranking for our primary keyword, the linking structure of these articles, etc. Our goal in this step is to fully understand what our audience’s search intent is, and why the top 10 is currently ranking for the keyword. This information provides us the final piece of the puzzle to start writing.
Step 6: Rewrite every article based on our blog quality checklist
We decided to rewrite every article. In step 2 of our process, we discovered that the quality of the articles was poor. The articles weren’t optimized for SEO and often lacked detail, structure, and a story. There were no calls-to-actions or any link to relevant content and product pages.
Additionally, we still had the content of the 442 ‘Merge’ articles that needed to be integrated as well.
For each article, we created a detailed briefing for the copywriters and website managers based on our blog quality checklist. The briefing focused on three specific objectives:
- Get higher visibility in search engines for our set of relevant keywords
- Generate more quality traffic on our blog articles
- Trigger clicks to product pages, sales, and showroom pages
- Our briefing included various elements such as:
- Start each blog article with the question we’re answering
- Provide a 100 word summary to the question in the introduction
- Add a bullet list with the structure of the article
- Add at least 2 call-to-action buttons to the relevant product category
- Use all relevant keywords at least once in the article
- Add at least 2 relevant images
- The article’s length should be at least the average length of the current top 10 articles ranking in Google for our primary keyword
- And so on…
For more inspiration, you can download our blog quality checklist for free.
With these specific instructions, the copywriters were set to write 109 quality blog articles
Step 7: Delete ‘Kill’ articles, redirect ‘Merge‘ articles and re-publish ‘Keep‘ articles
In the final step, we updated all the ‘Keep’ articles to the new version. The ‘Merge’ articles were redirected to the relevant ‘Keep’ articles since many of those URLs were shared previously on social media or on partner websites. By doing this, every URL received a new destination.
Finally, we decided to delete all the ‘Kill’ articles. A bold move, but since these articles had no relevance whatsoever for our client’s business, there was no point in keeping these articles.
Our approach had a major impact on the blog performance results of our client. This impact was clear on three key levels after only 6 months:
Higher visibility in search engines:
As the chart shows, we outperform our direct competitors on a competitive set of non-branded keywords. It took almost 5 months to pass our biggest competitor, confirming once again that organic search is a long-term strategy. But after 6 months, we generated almost twice as much visibility as our key competitor.
This increased visibility is a direct result of our improved rankings on the primary keywords:
Increased quality traffic on blog articles
Our increased visibility in search engines resulted in more blog traffic.
Our 109 optimized blog articles generated 42% more sessions than the 1.500 original articles the year before, in the same timeframe.
But the number of sessions wasn’t the only improvement. Since we are now answering the key questions of potential buyers, the quality of our blog traffic improved as well:
- 42% Increase in traffic
- 53,9% drop in bounce rate
- 17% increase in pages/session
- 41% increase in session duration
Content that converts
Ultimately, the client wants these blog articles to contribute to sales. We focused on integrating the entire buyer’s journey into our blog articles and provided various CTA’s to relevant product website pages, sales & showroom pages, etc. In only 3 months, traffic to these commercial website pages doubled.
But more importantly, this entire approach generated more sales. The total revenue, generated from blog articles, increased with 62% only 6 months after we started rolling-out our new strategy.
Our client’s revenue increased by 62%. Not by writing more blog articles, but by deleting 93% of them and only focussing on the 7% that really made a difference.