A recent HubSpot study of blogging data from over 15,000 companies produced some interesting conclusions. It found that compounding blog posts (those that drive increasing website traffic over time) account for 10% of all blog posts, but produce 38% of total blog traffic.
This is certainly the case for the Rapidan Inbound blog. In the first 6 months of 2016, 5 blog posts accounted for 45% of the total traffic (not just the blog) to our website. The most recent of the 5 posts was written on April 6, 2015 and the oldest was written on June 13, 2013. Our own experience confirms HubSpot's research showing the value of compounding blog posts.
While you never know which of your blog posts will be your Stairway to Heaven, the HubSpot research shows that there are steps you can take to increase the odds of a blog post going viral.
Characteristics of compounding blog posts
While you can never predict with certainty which of your blog posts will be compounding, the HubSpot research showed that most compound posts have common characteristics.
- Compounding blog posts are evergreen. The content of a compounding blog post will be just as relevant in 2 years as it is now. Hopefully, someone will be reading this post 3 years from now and have no idea why a reference to Ryan Lochte is an example of what's not evergreen. To future readers, Ryan Lochte defined the term "ugly American" in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Examples of evergreen topics might be How To Increase Productivity Through Automation or How To Sell Management Consulting Services Without Really Trying (one of our compounding posts.)
- Compounding posts cover broad topics and are tactical. Rather than being targeted to a narrow segment, compounding posts typically appeal to a broad range of readers. They offer tactical advice on how to do something or on why something is important. For all the consultants who avoid giving away "free consulting," you might want to rethink that position and create tactical posts on some of the broad issues you come across.
- They answer common questions that your clients and prospects frequently ask. In many ways, this is a restatement of the previous bullet point. But tackling those frequently heard questions in a blog post will increase your chances of producing a consistent traffic generator.
How to structure a compounding blog post
Now that you know what a compounding blog post is, here are some tips on how to structure them. Remember, you're writing about broad, tactical topics that are evergreen in nature.
- Use words in your title that reflect how people search for content in search engines. HubSpot suggests using words like “How”, “What”, “Why”, and “Best” in your post titles. The HubSpot study found that compounding blog post titles typically have between 6 and 13 words in the title.
- Answer commonly asked questions. It only makes sense that if you're hearing a question all the time, that people are probably searching for the answer in Google. Here's a suggestion - take the question you hear most frequently and write a blog post about it. There's a good chance that the post will produce traffic over time if you write and promote it well.
- Structure the post so that it can be easily scanned. Use bulleted lists, headers, images, graphs and links to more information. Structuring a post with these elements reflects the way people consume content on the internet. They scan it, looking for bite-sized chunks of information that give them what they're looking for. If they see enough of those bite-sized chunks, they will go back and read the whole post.
- Offer a step-by-step approach in your blog post. A good compounding blog post is like an owner's manual - people can go back and refer to it as they attempt to work through a problem or answer a question that they have.
Another interesting characteristic of compounding blog posts is that they are short, but thorough. You don't have to be Tolstoy to write a good compounding blog post.
While it's important to target compounding blog posts in your inbound marketing strategy, there are good reasons to write posts that are more narrowly targeted. For example, a post that is targeted to a small audience like CEOs of manufacturing companies might not produce a large amount of traffic, they may produce high-quality traffic that is likely to buy from you. But a handful of good, compounding blog posts can provide a long-term source of organic traffic to your website.