Is Your Corporate Blog Performing? How to Look at It Like a Writer Would

A chain of dental offices had a blog. Like most companies, they put one up because their marketing agency told them to. And it worked: Their website gets over 1 million hits over the course of a year, hundreds of thousands a quarter.

Here’s the wrinkle: More than 60% of their posts were things like advice, home remedies, reviews of toothpaste, how-to type content. If you looked at the Google Analytics to see how well those types of posts were attracting readers and keeping them on the site, you would be stumped. They performed horribly. Maybe folks don’t want to feel “talked down to” by their dentist?

So the real stumper, from a business perspective, is this: If 60% of posts were performing poorly, how was this website getting so much traffic?

In truth, more than half the traffic was coming just from their #1 post. It was an honest review/comparison of braces and the new Invisalign.

A full 2/3 of their traffic came from their top 20 posts. Looking at the titles and topics, a few patterns emerge:

  • People have A LOT of questions about braces.
  • People want to know about which dental procedures are best: Braces vs. Invisalign, dentures vs. bridge work, and so on.
  • People want information more than they want advice, at least when it comes to what’s bothering them about their mouth.

Looking at the analytics revealed these and other patterns. But finding them took more than just seeing which posts performed best, or seeing what topics attracted attention. It requires an ability to see common threads running through seemingly dissimilar topics, to know how to filter the data to bring those threads out, and to make educated guesses about what the causes are behind those emerging patterns.

I would argue that it’s really important to look at those analytics from a writer’s point of view.

Looking at Your Analytics the Way a Writer Would

Whenever I’m given Google Analytics access to one of my clients’ websites, I’m ecstatic. Not many writers can or would say that. I love discovering things, and discovering what to write about, and how.

And I can offer something unique in return, simply because I am a writer. When I look at the numbers and the posts’ titles, I bring my “writer’s eye” to the text, so to speak.

Of course, I can’t train you to have this “eye’ — not in a single article, at least. But I can show you the kinds of exercises that could get you there.

For example, look at these fictional post titles and try to see what some pattern might be:

  1. 9 Case Studies in White Glove Service
  2. 8 Big Takeaways from the Big Research Company (BRC) Industry Report
  3. Subscription Services: Industry Leaders Share Insights
  4. Flash Sales Sites: Where Are They Today?
  5. 10 Tips for Marketing Your Widget on Zero Budget
  6. New Report Shows That Millennials are Changing the Widget Market
  7. How to Protect Widgets During Transit
  8. Creating a Customer Experience Around Widget Sales: The White Paper

OK, so these could all be posts for a company selling widgets, or widget-related services. (Indeed, some of the titles are adaptations of posts I’ve actually written for clients!) But beyond that, what do we see?

Here are a few things to take note of:

  • Three post titles begin with a number. This is pretty common. It would be interesting to see if post titles with numbers are doing well overall. (Your pageviews should tell you this.) It would also be worthwhile to see from where they are bringing traffic. My guess would be that number posts do better via social media than, say, search.
  • A lot of these posts hold out the promise of “expert” material and advice. Case studies, white papers, industry reports, insights from experts… Many of these posts hold out the promise of hard-to-find or cutting-edge information. Only one mentions the word “tips,” and only one explicitly says “how to.” If I were in charge of this blog, I would lean more heavily on expert advice and reports, and shy away from “the basics.”
  • More than one post focuses on sales and/or marketing. This might well be significant if these posts have high pageviews or time on page.
  • The unstated audience seems to be smaller, mom-and-pop widget companies. Notice some of the telling signs: A focus on white glove service. Marketing with zero budget. Creating a customer experience. Paying special attention to shipping. These sound like topics that would resonate with a smaller mom-and-pop operation, or a small boutique. If that’s not the audience here, there needs to be a change in topic and tone.

Here are some other things I would want to know to develop this analysis:

  • Which posts are leading customers to white papers or other gated content? What about product pages? What is their bounce rate like?
  • Are there differences in the numbers between traffic from social media and traffic from search? What about direct links? Guest blogging opportunities?
  • Where are readers going after they read a post? Are they going away? Reading related topics? Going to the contact form?
  • What do the worst-performing posts look like? Would they make me doubt any of the hunches I had above?

It takes time to get an eye for such patterns. But it is worthwhile. And many times, a hunch you have about what content resonates with your audience can be investigated by looking at your analytics.

This advice doesn’t just apply to corporate blogs either — any blog with suitable traffic could be analyzed this way.

And there is much more to it, of course. But hopefully, I’ve got you thinking. If you want to learn more or just want me to take a look at your blog, shoot me a comment or an email — and don’t forget the love :)