For a year and a half I was responsible for the website and the content on the website at Paid Memberships Pro. And the most important traffic channel for PMPro was organic SEO – basically Google.
To improve our SEO there are two main things we had to do:
- Better organize our content
- Write new high quality content
PMPro had over 900 posts when I joined so one of my main goals was to organize those posts into useful categories called cornerstone content.
While organizing content, we also had to make new, high-quality content. Over 18 months the team was able to create and update 175 blog posts. That’s over 2 posts per week! 🤯
Today we’re going to review these posts, see which categories and post types performed well, and then discuss how to best adjust the content strategy.
Visualizing 1.5 Years of Content
First things first: When you’re working with large quantities of data (in this case 175 posts) you can’t review each item individually. You have to gather data and visualize it. I decided to look at organic traffic (our main goal) and total traffic (which might show useful posts that don’t rank well…yet).
If you’ve never developed a content strategy and looked at the results this might be surprising. But the way being found in search works, it’s all about getting a post onto the first search engine results page (SERP). If you can get onto the first page of Google you’ll get tons of traffic. Otherwise not much will happen.
So it’s really a process of continuous creation until something connects.
Looking at the graph above, you can see the vast majority of posts underperform. Only 30-40 posts were above average, and within that group there’s roughly a dozen that were home runs.
The top 9 blog posts bring in just over 30% of all new traffic. The other 166 blog posts bring in the remaining 70%.
This is a great example of the Pareto principle. A very small collection of blog posts deliver most of the results.
Content Refreshes vs New Content
While most of the 175 blog posts were new. There were some old articles that had a lot of value which we wanted to update. In total, 13 out of the 175 blog posts were refreshes. Many of them were technical topics that helped our users improve their sites.
One of our most popular refreshes from last year was Easily Add User Profile Fields in WordPress. It’s important to keep this kind of content with technical information up-to-date. We also wanted to add additional screenshots and media to make the articles even more helpful. These types of posts help users directly. And, by answering their questions, we’re also improving our SEO—win win.
We also added videos to these posts so our users can find these topics on YouTube. From there, they could follow a link to our blog. This traffic pattern also works in reverse, from the blog to the YouTube channel.
What I’d Change About Content Refreshes
Roughly 7% of all of our blog post work was on refreshes. Now that we have some excellent posts that bring in a lot of traffic I’d increase refreshes to 20%. It’s worth investing time to maintain posts that bring in tons of traffic. Ideally, I would refresh the top 30 posts every year or so.
Categories of Content
Not all of the 175 posts are marketing related. A good chunk aren’t, in fact, and they don’t drive new traffic either. So let’s review those posts and see what we should do with them.
You have to be a customer to see our Code Recipes. Since they are behind a paywall, they will never drive traffic. But these posts are designed to help customers succeed and to provide ongoing value. We generally post one code recipe per week, so the longer you’re a customer, the more code recipes you’ll have access to.
Code Recipes aren’t designed for traffic so it’s not surprising that they underperform. It’s good to have content that increases customer retention. And it sets Paid Memberships Pro apart from their competitors.
Webinars, Release Notes, and Add Ons
The next couple categories are Webinars, Release Notes, and Add Ons. The webinar category is the only one of these three designed to bring in traffic—but it is really dual purpose. We also want to answer customers' questions in the Q&A. And it’s primarily existing customers who view our webinars live.
Release notes are just notes about the latest release of PMPro. And our Add On posts announce new Add Ons or cover current Add Ons more in depth.
These three categories account for 42 posts out of the 175 and almost all of them underperform. Only 4 posts break the trendline. And those were almost all release notes posts about security releases or included some bug that users googled to find the post. These posts are certainly useful in the short term when there are bugs but that’s pretty much all the utility they have.
General, Customer Showcases, and FAQs
Okay so take out the Webinar, Release Notes, Add Ons, and Code Recipe categories which all under performed. We’re left with content that falls into categories of General, Customer Showcases, and FAQs—which did quite well.
There are 84 posts in these categories of which 31 are above average. 📈 These are by far the best performing posts so far. Almost half do better than average and almost all of the home runs are in these categories.
This is where I experimented most with content. We tried:
- A mega guide (this was a home run)
- General WordPress FAQs (another home run)
- Deep dives explaining industry jargon (another home run).
- This one actually came up from our own team not understanding the difference between subscriptions and memberships so it was something I kept explaining internally that we turned into a public blog post.
- Deep dives into business issues like Should You Run a Black Friday Sale rather than assuming what the user wants
- We explored some seasonal topics like writing about dating websites in February
- Creating a list of membership site ideas for our users (this one was one of the top performing posts for the whole year)
- And keeping users up to date about the fees in their business (best blog post we’ve written to date)
We really did try a lot of things and I was surprised by the success of some of these. The membership site ideas was a predictable hit, while the dating article in February still surprises me.
What To Do Moving Forward
When you’re creating content you have to wait 6, 12, or 18 months for it to have ample time to attract links, social posts, and write ups. Only after months is it worth collecting the data to see if the content resonated.
Now that enough time has passed I’d make a couple of changes about content at PMPro:
- Stop doing webinars. They take way too much organizing time and don’t beat the average post. Instead, I would spend that time finding case study clients and writing up those stories. They are all above average posts and help future users trust PMPro
- Write more industry topics and less about PMPro specifically. Most of the top 10 articles were industry topics. I would cover more industry jargon like memberships vs subscriptions, or more tricky topics like how to run a sale for membership sites
- Increase refreshes to 20% (up from 7%). We had a lot of home runs in the last 18 months. Most of them could use a yearly refresh to keep the traffic flowing.
- Combine some of the under performing Release Notes posts. That content is already on GitHub and WordPress.org in full. Instead of having a separate post for 2.10.1, 2.10.2, … 2.10.9, (and on and on) I would condense them down to one post for 2.10. You can probably cut 90% of the release posts and still link to GitHub or WordPress.org for the full information. It would make the site less dense and help users find human readable content. 😀
If you’re looking for a content audit or help auditing your content hit me up. I love digging into the numbers and helping people uncover meaningful data from all of the noise.
And I love helping businesses become more efficient. Why waste time making content no one will see? I want to help you double down on the content that everyone is looking at.