Nine years ago, I came home from a tour in Iraq and went back to my job. I had been gone for a total of about 18 months. Things were different.
The news cycle was faster, social media was hitting the early majority in the Geoffrey Moore sense, and blogs…blogs were everywhere.
We started a blog for our employer, a startup in the IT operations space. What we made, on a platform called Moveable Type in 2008, was a pretty good start, but there was also a lot of red-tape. Some of the newer and smaller startups that had been blogging for a while ran circles around us.
A half year later my employer was acquired. Our new owners immediately began to eliminate redundancies, as they say in corporate M&A. Subsequently, many employees, including me, were let go and granted severance pay.
Not long after that I started this blog and began writing. I wanted to learn and I thought it might help me get my next gig. One of my first pieces that got real traffic was a crisis case study from my former employer, which coincidentally was about dealing with a negative blogger. One thousand people read that post in a couple days, and I was thinking that was pretty good.
Then it got picked up by a crisis communications specialist who asked to run it in his newsletter. In turn, that led to an editor from a PR trade publication contacting me and asking to publish it.
With each one there were more shares, more traffic, more links, and more subscribers. How that all worked was eye-opening for me…and I realized there’s very real potential here. The word “blog” and “blogging” really doesn’t do justice to the process.
Committing to blogging has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. It forced me to learn new skills in digital, it’s made me a better writer, I’ve met interesting people through writing that I’d have never met otherwise, and it’s enabled me to refine a skill that I believe is going very important to marketing over the next few years: audience development.
In my mind, it’s audience development that makes the year-end “best of” roundups. I’ve I can learn a lot by paying attention what’s hot or not on another site. It’s in that spirit, I offer the following assessment.
The 7 Best Performing Blog Posts in 2017
The measure of “best” in this case is unique page views. That’s a relative metric because while the overall readership skyrocketed this year, time-on-page has come down a bit.
Which is better: reach or time? The answer depends. Can you answer one question many people have in a short period of time?
What is clearer was the sort of topics that attracted readers in 2017. Unquestionably, B2B blogging, as a topic, re-emerged as hot. Whatever reservations or prejudices corporations seem to have about blogs and blogging, that is melting. And it’s about time.
Here are the best performers from the past 12 months:
The short answer is ~1,000 words, but you can find a better answer by reading the post (which is more than 1,000 words).
Note: This top post was published in February 2017 and some of the metrics were updated in November and those can be found here: 3 Habits of Highly Successful Bloggers B2B Marketing can Borrow [Study].
The median salary at PR agencies rose to $90,000 from $84,500 last year, while the median corporate salary dipped slightly to $126,000 from $130,000.
This post just keeps coming up! You’ll get it if you read the post.
Not enough metrics and you’re flying blind. Too many metrics and it becomes cumbersome. This post provides metrics to track, but better yet presents them in a framework you can adapt to meet the needs of your organization.
Do you find leads, or do leads find you? Do you make leads, or do leads make you? As it turns out, it a mashup of sorts.
The consumerization of IT was notable because if forced business software vendors to up their game. Similarly, digital trends have forced marketing and PR to change how they do things.
Events are a top source of leads and businesses invest a lot in them. This makes it really important to get the most out of these events – and there is a lot you can do before, during and after the show to better leverage your existing investments in conferences and trade shows.
The 7 Worst-Performing Blog Posts in 2017
Like I said last year, “worst” is relative. None of these posts were real duds, per se, they didn’t match the traffic of some of the other posts.
Here’s the key: low volume = more time on page. Anyone with any blogging and analytics experience will recognize that these two generally move inversely.
So, while few people saw these posts, those that did spent more time reading them.
Here are the “worst” performers from the past 12 months:
Last year an advertising spot during the Super Bowl cost $5 million. What could B2B do with a cool extra $5 million?
When assumptions are right, everything goes smoothly. But when they are wrong, the rest can go horribly wrong.
Everyone is doing “more content” when what might actually make the budget go further is a little planning, creativity and even daring to be different.
Context in marketing is important because it’s not just communicating with a prospective buyer. It is communicating a distracted prospective buyer, who is bombarded by messages.
If marketing could do *just* one thing to build brands and generate leads we would. But we can’t. Whether you measure the first click or the last click, chances are there are a lot of other factors that lead to that moment. This where cutting budgets becomes a game a bit like a business edition of Jenga.
Yet there’s one newer twist to the idea that concerns me: that content marketing shouldn’t just facilitate awareness or leads, but that marketing should actually profit directly from content, or at least generate cash that subsidizes marketing activity.
I’m a big fan of Adam Smith, but I think FCC got it wrong on this one. The internet is a utility and should be regulated like one.
The 7 Most Loved Blog Posts in 2017
If you look at the titles of these posts, you can quickly get a sense the sort marketing philosophy here. No doubt data is important, I’d say 70% of the posts here are data-driven.
However, those marketers that can speak the language of numbers and statistics, without losing their humanity, have a real competitive advantage. People are irrational. Even B2B organizations have a fair share of irrational characteristics.
Passion, consistency, focus, opportunity, humility and some good old-fashioned hard thinking – these are the elements of good marketing reflected here.
I wish I could say that was some masterful pre-planned editorial engineering…but it wasn’t. That’s why analysis remains important.
The only measure for the “most loved” posts selected is my own personal predilection.
Digital skills are important because so much of our lives today is dependent on connectivity. But there’s a characteristic that often goes missing in marketing that counts for a lot more: passion.
You can’t hit the gym once a month an expect to be prize-fighter shape. Content marketing is similar.
Things today compete for attention like never before. Your mobile phone is engineered to making you want to check it compulsively. Social alerts. Long emails threads. Open offices. Focus is becoming a skill.
If you don’t have a PR pro on your content team, it’s time to think about getting one.
Being part of your customer’s narrative is a far better strategy than trying to create your own and getting customers to care.
Many founders, particularly in the emerging technology, have a dire need for business savvy PR talent to help them tell a story. PR is often at its best when it helps a business articulate an idea in order to attract the right attention. The important distinction here is that PR is not the idea but rather it is a vehicle for eliciting an idea.
This is a cool tool for PR pros. If you’re a small- to mid-sized PR agency, or an in-house team trying to juggle the deluge, this is a neat little platform worth your while to scope out.
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What would you like to see in 2018? If you could ask me any question about marketing, PR or social media, what would it be? If you don’t have a specific quesiton, perhaps there’s a topic or trend you’d like to track.
Let me know! Send me a note and I’ll make a good faith effort to give you a thoughtful answer in a blog post.
Thank you for reading!
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20 Golden PR and Content Marketing Ideas that will Outlive 2017