The case for (and against) blog articles

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I published my first blog article on May 26, 2017 – almost exactly two years ago from today. Looking at my blog and stats in Ulysses (my writing app), there’s a total of 149 articles (this article will be number 150) and collectively the articles contain some 240,000 words.

While this may sound impressive (and I was quite impressed with myself when I first looked up the stats), I must admit that it’s mostly my ego that’s impressed. If I had to stand back and look at how this helped my business, I’m less impressed – in fact I would have to say that I’ve been doing it all wrong.

Here’s why.

The stats tell the story

I don’t have great stats on my website blog, but I also publish my articles on Medium which does keep great stats. When you go into your profile in Medium and click on stats, you get a graph of your views, reads and fans over the last few days. What not many people know is that you can click on any of those headings (views, reads and so on) and Medium will sort the stories on that heading.

For example, clicking on “Views” sorts the list of articles by the number of views each article got, with the highest views at the top.

And that’s where the penny drops.

My highest-ranking story, with just under 8,000 views, was published on August 11, 2017. My second-highest ranking story has clocked in 6,000 views so far – and it was published on August 18, 2017. Here are the articles that garnered more than 1,000 views and their publication dates:

If you plot this on a graph, it looks something like this:

 
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Keep in mind that I don’t have all the articles listed here – just those that got over 1,000 views on Medium. It turns out I’ve been doing two big things wrong.


My first big mistake

Collectively, these articles were viewed over 29,000 times. The “read ratio”, which Medium calculates as the number of readers that spent enough time on the page to read the whole article, averages out at around 25%.

And yet, my subscriber growth showed no correlation with the number of people who read the articles. It wasn’t even close to the read ratio, people who were arguably very engaged with the article.

My mistake?

 Very few of these articles gave readers a compelling reason to sign up for my subscriber list.

In the adrenaline rush of getting these articles out, and as a new writer, it was painful enough (in the beginning) to write an article. The business reason for writing the article – getting more subscribers – got lost somewhere along the way. 

Of course, I’ve since started fixing the problem. I’m systematically working through each of the articles and giving readers some reason to sign up for my newsletter. But I’m still not doing it well enough, because just “sign up for more like this” is not particularly compelling. I’m working on more enticing offers (like free downloads) which I hope will get me more subscribers.

So lesson learnt, and a fix is on the way. Which brings me to my second big mistake.


My second big mistake

The reason I started writing in the first place was to build a subscriber list. The courses that I’m developing will mostly be sold online, and to get enough sales I will have to have a decent, high-quality subscriber list.

So here’s the problem – and my second big mistake:

 If you joined my newsletter today, chances that you will see my best (and most popular) content are just about zero.

Arguably, the content that could be of most value to you are buried in the depths of 150+ articles. Unless you explicitly went looking for something, you wouldn’t see those most valuable pieces.

 The answer is to get away from the idea of a weekly newsletter, and replace it with a series of educational content sent out every week.

Brennan Dunn is one of the people I admire a lot when it comes to online marketing. His Double Your Freelancing courses are a case study in how to sell online – and I’ve signed up for some of them. Brennan also freely shares a lot of the inside information on how his business works, and what’s inside his courses. 

For me, the penny dropped in his article The anatomy of a six-figure email course. In the article, Brennan describes how to create an evergreen newsletter sequence. In principle, here’s how it works:

 Rather than send out a new article to everyone on your list every week, create a workflow that sends out your best content. Every time you send an article to a subscriber, record it so you don’t send it again.

This kind of workflow is easy to set up with email marketing systems like Drip or ConvertKit. Here’s what the workflow looks like (in principle):

 
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With 12 articles, you have a 3-month sequence of high-value content being delivered to your subscribers. Everyone who joins your list gets the best of what you’ve produced, no matter when they join. And every time you identify a new high-value article, you just add it to the workflow.

Does this remove the need for writing an article a week (or at least regularly)? And what can you do with these new-found insights?


What I’m doing now

If there’s only one thing you should take away from this article, it’s this:

 Add a compelling reason to join your subscriber list to each piece of content you produce. A free report, checklist or ebook is a more powerful incentive than just an offer to join your email list.

In my blog, this is taken care of automatically by the footer that appears below each article – the Beginner’s Guide to the Tornado Method is one of my most popular downloads. In Medium I have to add a specific Call to Action, usually a picture with a link to a download.

To get my most popular content out to new subscribers, and keep growing my subscriber list, I’m adopting a hybrid approach:

  • I will be implementing an “evergreen content workflow” that sends out my best content to everyone who joins.

  • I’m still writing an article a week and publishing it on my blog and Medium – this is how I get most of my new subscribers.

In the process of doing this, I’m a lot more aware of what actually gets people to sign up and writing content that is core to my business while at the same time valuable to my subscribers.

The moral of all of this?

 Never forget the business reason you start doing something in the first place.

Be very aware of the return on your investment with everything you do.

I hope these insights help you build your business faster.