We integrated Quora into our content distribution strategy, here’s what we learned

Six months ago, we looked at both quantitative and qualitative data from our most successful customers. We discovered that our core buyer persona was largely 25–45 year-old execs and founders of fast-growing online businesses with 11–100 employees in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. (You can read a bit more about that process and buyer personas here if you’re into that stuff.)

With this new focus, we looked at our marketing distribution channels to see if they matched the interests of our core market. After some research, we stopped focusing on a number of channels that weren’t performing for us. When looking at new channels to add into the mix, Quora stood out as one of the top channels where we could reach our buyer persona, so we started running a six-month experiment answering questions.

Before investing time in Quora, I recommend taking a look on the site and asking yourself two questions:

1) Are there active topics with strong followings related to your business?

2) Is your target market active?

If both answers are “no”, then invest your valuable effort somewhere else.

When we did our preliminary research, we found a ton of founders (especially in tech) engaging with posts — beyond just promoting their own businesses. We also found that a lot of people were asking about dashboards, KPIs, metrics, goals, and teams, which are the topics we offer value and education for as a company and product. So it seemed like a worthwhile experiment.

Our goals

Primary: Drive direct signups from Quora using social proof

Secondary: Get prospects to our site through upper funnel content to begin their buyer journey

Tertiary: Build brand awareness among a relevant audience

Our plan

We decided to focus on two streams of work:

  1. Asking our customer advocates to answer questions when people were asking for a tool like ours.
  2. Distributing our dashboard examples, KPI & metric examples and helpful blog posts by using them to answer relevant questions.

Our data

We use data to inform our decision making internally, including whether or not to continue with an experiment. So we were paying close attention to whether or not our strategy got us closer to the goals mentioned above. Here’s what we found:

  1. Google + Quora = long-term traffic

On Quora, you can subscribe to topics, follow questions, and follow people to get a feed of questions and answers that are relevant to your interests. When someone answers a question — no matter how old the question is — it gets highlighted in the feeds of people who are following that question, topic or you. For this reason, Quora stats visualization for views on your questions for a typical answer will likely look something like this:

This shows that when you initially post an answer there’ll be a spike in views as it gets highlighted to question and topic followers as they visit Quora. However, views die down and you start getting one or two views on the answer very rarely from then on.

Occasionally though, you will see view stats that look more like this:

Despite this being an older answer, we’re seeing 5–20 views on the answer every day. Why? Google. When you search various terms related to Google Sheets dashboards such as “google sheets dashboard integration” on Google’s search engine, you’ll see this result on page one of the Search Engine Result Page (SERP):

We’re seeing more views here because Google is delivering ongoing traffic to the Quora answer when people are searching for Google Sheets dashboard solutions. Much like how a blog post that’s optimized to target a specific search query will deliver ongoing traffic (sometimes known as compounding posts) as it begins to rank organically on Google, Quora answers will often do the same.

Quick tip: If you want to generate long-term traffic, see if any Quora questions are ranking on page one for your top search keywords. If so, take time to write a helpful answer that points back to your site for more info. Or even better, ask an advocate to do that for you (more on this later in this post).

2) Low volume, but good quality traffic

In terms of the traffic that Quora delivers to our site, it’s fair to say that it’s not significant volume with only 0.24% of our total site traffic coming from Quora in the last six months. However, with our session volumes that’s still a reasonable enough sample of traffic to make it worth looking at the traffic quality from Quora.

Most importantly, the trials that come from Quora convert to paying customers. Based on data I’ve looked at in Mixpanel, Quora is our top contributing social channel when it comes to revenue (using a last-click attribution model) despite contributing fewer sessions than other social channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

To add to this, below I’ve taken a look at traffic quality Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Quora compared to a baseline for our site-wide traffic across the 6 months of our experiment, which I’ve taken from Google Analytics:

New Session (%): Being 13% higher here is perhaps not surprising when channels like Email and Remarketing are included in site-wide stats, as they’re nearly always generating repeat sessions to bring that average number down. However, we’re reaching new people via Quora which is generally important in growth marketing.

Bounce Rate (%): At over a third (36%) below the site average bounce rate, this shows that we’re definitely reaching engaged prospects who find what they’re looking for on the site. Perhaps not surprising given the intent-driven nature of someone looking for answers on Quora and the fact that we believe our target buyer persona is there.

Pages Per Session: At over 30% higher than site average, I see this as another great indicator that Quora visitors are finding information that persuades them to dig deeper into the content they find on our site.

Session to Trial Conversion Rate (%): Since our one marketing metric that really matters is growing trial signups, this is the most important metric here. The fact that the conversion rate from session to trial signup (using a last-click attribution model) is 175% above our site-wide baseline highlights that Quora can be a valuable source of signups for us.

3) BUT, there may be diminishing returns :(

Looking at traffic and signups over time, it looks like volumes have actually reduced over time. You can see that our weekly sessions from Quora have slowly declined:

Our signups from Quora follow the exact same pattern. Here’s what we think could be causing this:

  1. More people answering on top performing questions: When you hit a good question which generates lots of views, more people see this and more answers appear. This dilutes the effectiveness and traffic generated from your answer to the question. That means that over time, weekly traffic from those questions drop.
  2. We’ve not hit enough questions that are ranking organically on Google: We haven’t yet been methodical enough about answering Quora questions across all of our top keywords on Google. If we do this effectively, we may see our baseline of Quora traffic increase again over time.
  3. We’re reliant on ‘good’ questions: You’ll see a pretty distinct dip in Quora traffic during July and August as many people are on vacation. During this time there were very few good questions popping up, so we couldn’t sustain our traffic. Towards the end of the line chart you see this recover slightly as more good questions appear.

We would love to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience on Quora, or if anyone has another hypothesis about why our traffic from Quora has shrunk a little over time. We’re still trying to fully diagnose it ourselves.

What best practices have we learned during our Quora experiment?

Based on the six-month experiment we’ve done, here’s the advice we’d give if you’re thinking of doing the same:

  1. Use advocates wisely: It would be hard for me to write an unbiased answer if someone asked “What live TV dashboard tool should I use?” Fortunately, our awesome Customer Marketing Manager, Adele, builds relationships with our best advocates (customers who tell us that they love our product and recommend it to friends) and does everything in her power to amplify their love for us. When these questions pop-up, Adele points our advocates to them and sometimes they will write an answer for us (thanks folks, we love you!), which is so much more powerful than us telling people how great our own product is. However, our big lesson has been not to waste these awesome advocate favors if there’s hardly anyone following the question. Which brings me to the second point…
  2. Choose the right questions: We’ve touched on the organic search questions, and I think that should always be priority number one when it comes to choosing questions. However, when you’re queuing up other questions to answer, there are three additional ways to prioritize them. 1) The more followers a question has, the more views and ultimately traffic it will generate for you. 2) Find questions with fewer than 3–5 good answers, especially if you don’t have a different perspective or value to add. Older questions that are heavily followed will generally have lots of great answers already. If you don’t have anything unique to add, your answer will be diluted generating low traffic. 3) If a topic is popular with lots of followers then answers will be highlighted to more people when they login to Quora. For example, this data visualization topic has been quite valuable to us as it has over 78k followers. So consider targeting a popular topic that relates to your product.
  3. Be useful: Our marketing mission is to be useful to our buyer persona. If we can’t add value to an answer through our knowledge or a piece of our content, then we avoid it. If we can tick one of those two boxes, then we take our time to write a thoughtful answer by pulling out the relevant pieces of the content or structuring our knowledge in an easy-to-understand way. Remember to link back to your site, but add the value before you include a link, and leave the link as an opportunity to learn more towards the end of your answer. I also like to answer questions occasionally where I can add value but don’t have anywhere to link back to. First, because being helpful feels good, but second, you come across as more of a human being than a robotic spammer. :)
  4. Have dedicated Quora time: I’ve found it helpful to have dedicated Quora time for an hour at the end of the day on Thursdays to maintain any momentum and ensure I don’t miss any opportunities. I can generally get through about three answers in an hour depending on depth, but because it’s at the end of the day I can go over if there’s some really great opportunities. We’ve also set up a dedicated #quora Slack channel so we can highlight answer opportunities to relevant folks in the team, and discuss priorities with Adele around potential advocate opportunities as they arise. This has proved helpful.
  5. Integrate it into your content distribution checklist: If you’re like us, you probably don’t have a documented distribution checklist for when you have a new piece of content because it’s tattooed onto your distribution / social manager’s brain (thanks Shannon!). However, if you do have a checklist, add “look for relevant Quora questions.” For example, when we wrote this blog post, which gives advice from successful CEOs and founders on how to run an effective all-hands meeting, we found there were a ton of relevant well followed questions on Quora with very few answers that boosted traffic volumes to this post for us.

What are we going to do next?

While Quora’s not going to be our next big growth channel based on volumes, I think it’s worth the investment of an hour a week based on the quality of traffic and signups coming through. It also fits well with our marketing mission of being helpful to our buyer persona as we think about our broader strategy.

I think if we take a more methodical approach based on our own learnings around organic search and the use of advocates, we’ll generate a nice increase in the baseline of Quora traffic and signups that will sustain over time. So we’ll definitely be taking our own advice moving forward, but the search continues for our next breakout channel. Onwards, and as novelist Claire Cook says:

“If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters — 204 if you’re in Japan.”
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