Optimizing the Past: Content Lessons from the HubSpot Blog Team

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Content drives action.

Content is the best way to reach buyers.

Content is King. (And President and Pope and Queen as well).

So how do you create great content? How do you understand your buyers, create compelling content that educates, informs, and entertains them, and then how does that content drive action and grow business? And what are the implications for ROI?

It’s a subject I’ve written about for more than a decade. It’s one that fascinates me, and judging from the questions I get, how to create great content is something many of you are interested in too.

My Day with the HubSpot Blog Content Team

After ten years on another platform, several months ago I shifted this blog over to the HubSpot All-in-one Inbound Marketing software.

Soon after, I organized a field trip to the HubSpot offices in Cambridge, MA to sit with their blog content team to both learn a bit about the platform as well as to see how they create the great content for the HubSpot blog.

(Disclosure: I am on the HubSpot advisory board.)

HubSpot editorial strategy

HubSpot_content_teamThe HubSpot Blog Content team members sit together and constantly bat ideas back and forth. They know each other’s strengths (if it’s geeky, give it to Ginny Soskey; for feature stories, call on Lindsay Kolowich). And this group dynamic adds a great deal to the resulting posts that each team member creates.

Each day there is a standup meeting where team members talk about what content they are working on and get ideas from the others. I was amazed at how valuable input from others was to the creative process. I work alone and wish I had people to bounce ideas around with!

[Photo L to R – Corey Eridon @corey_bos, Ginny Soskey @gsosk, Emma Snider @emmajs24, Pamela Vaughan @pamelump, & Joe Chernov @jchernov.]

Knowing that there are multiple buyer personas who read the HubSpot blogs, the team crafts content for different levels of knowledge, beginners through experts. They also want to have a mix of content covering the three blog areas of focus: marketing, sales, and agency.

Here’s an important point for turning blog posts into revenue: Every blog post has a call to action. The team has hundreds of offers to pull from, calls to action like download an eBook, attend a webinar, and the like. And because 70% of traffic to new posts comes from email subscribers, “subscribe to the blog” is another popular call to action.

The art and science of driving new business

The biggest takeaway for me was that HubSpot measures everything. They can tell how each of their more than 5,000 blog posts are performing. They could tweak a post (say by swapping out the call to action) and re-measure using an A/B test. All of this constant analysis yields surprises, insights that the team uses to optimize older posts.  

In particular, I was fascinated to learn: 

Over 90% of HubSpot leads come from blog posts that are older than a month.

Over 75% of HubSpot blog views come from older posts.

Nearly everyone I’ve spoken with at other organizations focus only on the latest blog post. That’s what they measure. I’m guilty of this natural human behavior too – I want to know about how my latest effort is doing.

But with 9 out of 10 leads coming from posts older than a month, those older posts are critically important. So important, in fact, that HubSpot has recently started an internal project, dubbed “Historical Optimization,” that focuses on increasing traffic to and conversions from previous blog posts. Here’s some detail of this analysis in a HubSpot blog post titled It’s the end of the month: Do you know where your blog leads are coming from?

HubSpot always wants to know which pieces of content are most likely to aid in getting people through the buying process. What is the piece of content that got people from “unknown” to “known” (because they filled out a form)?

Why did somebody read 20 blog posts and finally on the 21st choose to raise their hands by filling out a form? How did they enter the funnel?

In most marketing departments, it’s the content that gets someone to fill in a form that gets credit for making a sale, even if it is a year later and they’ve interacted with dozens of pieces of content.

A deep understanding of the buyers’ journey

HubSpot digs deeper into the data. They want to understand the journey a buyer takes in that critical “middle of the funnel” period from after the lead form was filled out until they sign on as a paying customer.

For example, as I wrote about in a blog post back in July, 20% of new HubSpot customers in the past three years viewed HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan’s bio page on the HubSpot website. This is obviously an important page in the buyers’ journey as they evaluate the company and its management, but until HubSpot measured for this, they had no idea that the CEOs bio was important content.

During my day with the HubSpot Blog Content Team I learned that content creation is a happy combination of art and science.

My resolution for the next year is to focus much more on the science aspects of content.

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