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50% of Your Blog Traffic Comes From 1.94% of Your Posts (Data Study)
You’ve probably noticed that you have a few critical blog posts that perform very well and bring in most of your traffic.
Well, there is finally data to prove this theory. I analyzed 30 SaaS blogs with a range of 119 to over 3,000 blog posts and found that the average blog generates 50% of its traffic from roughly 1.94% of blog posts.
In other words, if you have 100 blog posts on your website, you can expect 50% of all your blog traffic to come from just two blog posts.
This is probably an uncomfortable topic for many content marketers as we work to make each post a success… but that’s just not a reality.
Keep in mind that the SaaS blogs involved in this study have very strong content marketing programs. Just a few of the blogs included Moz, Ahrefs, Intercom, and Oberlo.
Therefore, while this data is neither good nor bad, it does present a few key opportunities that can dramatically improve your marketing strategy.
50% of your traffic comes from 1.94% of blog posts.
While you try to make every post a home run, the reality is that most of your traffic probably comes from just a few blog posts.
Blogs with a higher number of blog posts tend to have a smaller percentage of blog posts that account for 50% of traffic.
Producing more content actually tends to decrease the percentage of blog posts that bring in the most traffic. So the more posts you have, the fewer posts make up 50% of your blog traffic.
Only 23.39% of your blog posts will receive at least 10 monthly visits.
Again, this study included some of the very best SaaS content marketers. Therefore, don’t expect to have a large percentage of posts to perform dramatically well.
The number of posts you produce doesn’t really impact the percentage of blog posts that will receive at least 10 monthly visits.
The study showed that blogs with 100 to 499 posts had an average of 26.32% of posts generate over 10 monthly visitors, whereas blogs with 500 to 3,500 posts had an average of 22.48% of posts generate over 10 monthly visitors.
76% of the highest traffic-driving keywords (for posts that drive 50% of traffic) rank in the first five positions.
If you know that you won’t be able to rank in the top 5 positions, it might not be worth writing an SEO-focused post on that keyword.
Action Items You Can Take From This Data
While the above data may seem grim for content marketers, it’s only grim if you refuse to change. In fact, it presents several great opportunities innovative content marketers can capitalize. Here are a few action items you can take with you from this data:
- Invest in Content Updating
- Invest in Content Pruning/Combining
- Upgrade Your Content Ideation Process
- Repositioning The Content Marketing Pitch to C-Suite Execs
- Balancing Content Quantity vs. Quality
You’ve probably already heard about the benefits of content updating:
- Hubspot increased traffic to old blog posts by 106% by updating old content
- Single Grain increased traffic to their old blog posts by 96% by updating old content
- Neil Patel updates nearly 90 posts per month
Now that you’ve seen that only 23.39% of your blog posts receive at least 10 monthly visits, you might think the answer is to update all your old posts that don’t rank to make them perform better and increase that 23.39%.
It’s a good thought… you definitely want to raise that 23.39% as much as possible. However, in the case study I wrote for Single Grain, you’ll see that the reality is that most posts that don’t take off when they are first published rarely ever perform well.
In fact, the Single Grain study revealed that 45.2% of the updated posts had less than 20 visits per month pre-update. After the update, these posts only increased the total sum of traffic by 14.8%. However, those that already had 20 monthly visits pre-update increased the traffic sum by 85.2% post update.
Therefore, capitalize on what is already working.
Start by looking for posts that were previously your top performers. These posts may have brought hundreds or thousands of visitors at their peak, though they may be steadily declining.
To find these posts, you can go to Ahrefs > Top Pages 2.0 > Compare With: (select a year or two back)
From there, you can sort by “Change” (next to “Traffic”) in decending order, so that it sorts by posts that have lost the most traffic.
As you can see, this post pops up, and when I hover over it, you can see that this post has lost 88,846 monthly visitors.
When I put this post’s URL in Ahrefs, you can see the graph reflects a relatively steady decline in traffic over the years.
Therefore, it’s the perfect candidate for an update.
Once you have exhausted all of your posts that previously performed exceptionally well, consider updating posts that are at the bottom of your 1.94% (the 50% of blog posts bringing 50% of your traffic).
Yes, update the posts that are currently performing well before updating posts that are still struggling to take off.
You can find them by entering your domain into Ahrefs and clicking on “top pages.” (Not “top pages 2.0”). From there, it’s easy to sort by posts that produce the most traffic.
This approach will give you the biggest traffic boost, and the best news is that you’re unlikely to ruin these posts. In the Single Grain case study, traffic decreased by just 21.5% for updates that failed, whereas updates that succeeded increased traffic by 135.8%.
When you’re updating the content, consider adding quotes from industry influencers, new sections (when relevant), and additional case studies/examples. If you have the budget, you can also update the design/graphics and improve the load time.
You may even consider adding a quiz/template/tool to the post. My backlink study of 400 blog posts showed that these additions are link magnets and can help increase the authority (and ultimately the traffic) to these posts.
Finally, once you’ve exhausted your top performing posts in decline, go down the list of the 23.39% of blog posts that produce over 10 monthly visitors. Ideally, try to stay above at least 20 monthly visits.
Once you’ve updated all of the content worth updating, what should you do with all the posts that never took off?
The best solution is to either combine or prune this content.
Content pruning is essential when you 301 redirect an old post to a different, though still topically relevant post.
Another option is to delete it entirely if it doesn’t have any valuable links.
When I interviewed John McAlpin, an SEO expert from Cardinal Digital, he named content pruning as one of the most effective SEO strategies of the year.
However, if you have multiple posts on the same topic, an even better way to handle these posts is to create one mega-post out of several mediocre posts.
For example, Single Grain had several low-performing blog posts on the subject of influencer marketing. Rather than just 301ing them to various other blog posts, they selected the most relevant aspects from each of those posts and created an ultimate guide to influencer marketing.
The individual posts turned into mini-chapters (pulling only the best content from each post – not the entire post), and the guide now pulls in more traffic than all of the original posts did combined.
In fact, it now receives roughly 5,000 monthly visitors.
Upgrade Your Content Ideation Process
While you can’t force every post to be a home run, I noticed that the SaaS companies in the study with the strongest content marketing programs (based simply on my opinion) tended to have a much higher percentage of posts that produced at least 10 monthly visitors.
Therefore, the takeaway from this study shouldn’t be content marketing is luck.
Sure, there is a lot of experimentation in content, but teams with a strong content strategy will see significantly better results.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of a successful content marketing program is their content ideation process.
Given that 76% of the highest traffic-driving keywords (for posts that drive 50% of traffic) rank in the first five positions, it’s not really worth it to create posts that rank lower than position five… at least if your goal is to rank for keywords.
For example, let’s say you offer heatmap software. In this case, your big keyword would be “heatmap software.”
Therefore, consider using a hub and spoke model and internally link to it from other posts on your website that have a lot of links/authority.
However, beyond those core keywords, step away from an SEO-focused approach and instead think about how you can generate a buzz differently.
In fact, many of the posts in this study were original research-based posts or roundups.
Buzzsumo is a great example of a SaaS company from this study that produces a lot of non-SEO focused content.
In fact, almost all of their top-performing content is non-SEO focused.
Therefore, it might be helpful to step away from a solely SEO focused strategy and instead think about how you can produce original data or studies on a hot topic. The Buzzsumo Top 10 Youtube Influencers of 2019 post is a great example of how you can collect original data that is just laying around and create an original and interesting post.
Even if you can’t produce a study, bring something new and insightful to the discussion around a key customer pain point.
In addition, while this study focuses mainly on traffic generation, it’s important to remember that traffic volume doesn’t necessarily correlate with conversions. Sure, a higher volume of traffic will increase sales if the page is already converting, but not all traffic is qualified.
Therefore, include some bottom-of-the-funnel posts like case studies, comparison posts, and software list posts.
Repositioning The Content Marketing Pitch
Getting buy-in from leadership is a challenge for content marketers. However, it’s easy to see why.
We typically pitch executives with this idea that content will be able to achieve massive results in an effort to get them to buy into it. You might even show them case studies, like how Groove grew their business to $5 million ARR through content.
However, once executives see that there is no ROI from about 76.61% of your work, they will probably shut down the program and say either:
- You aren’t a good content marketer or
- Content marketing doesn’t work
However, the reality is that neither one of those is true. In fact, every SaaS company from the research I did has a strong content marketing program, though they still only had an averaged of 23.39% of posts generate at least 10 monthly visits.
Therefore, it’s important to set accurate expectations with your executives. Show them these statistics to cover yourself and let them know that a lot of it won’t work. However, show them the dramatic results of the 1.94% of posts that do hit. Show them case studies like Groove. Just don’t expect results overnight or for most posts to be successful.
Balancing Content Quantity vs. Quality
Looking at these statistics, you may be thinking about how you can increase content output. After all, it appears rather random which posts take off and which ones don’t.
You’re quite right… it often is random which posts hit and which ones fail.
However, the reality is that even blogs with high quality content strategies often face a time when they have to scale to grow. When this happens, they usually turn to hire freelancers.
Enter the content scaling issue.
Even if you hire fantastic freelancers, you have to systematize the process. While systems and processes are great for growth, they often cause creativity to be sacrificed.
For example, you might want to do a roundup on how email marketers increase open rates, or you might want to do an original research post that analyzes internal data on email open rates.
However, if you’re expected to produce four posts per week, you can’t possibly keep up this level of quality, and most freelancers won’t be willing or trained enough to do it for you. Thus, it’s easier to just give them a target keyword and word count. Even if the freelancer is phenomenal, you’ll start to lose the authoritative posts that really grab industry leader’s attention, and the quality begins to slip.
Nonetheless, this study’s data shows that a higher quantity of quality posts will give you an advantage.
So what should you do?
If you can afford to have a really great content marketer in-house, that’s the best. However, if that’s not in the budget, focus on hitting a monthly target goal of X strongly unique posts per month. Then, hire talented freelancers to do any keyword-based posts for you.
Just remember that if you write too much content, you’ll probably end up scraping most of it. So only write as much as you have good ideas.